Sunday, 3 September 2017

Let's read Basic D&D: Learning to play Dungeons & Dragons games

Two core books come in the Mentzer Red Box, the Players Manual and the Dungeon Masters Rulebook. One is admonished in capital letters on the Players Manual: READ THIS BOOK FIRST. Exclamation Point. The DM Rulebook states the same emphatically: READ THE BOOK NEXT!

Learning how to play Dungeon & Dragons games

Games. Plural.

The Preface and How to use this book on the inside cover tease the newcomer with everything that awaits new players to D&D. The Preface by Frank Mentzer, dated in my copy as February 1983, set out with a prompt: a roaring dragon! It sets a narrative to the famous Elmore box cover. Frank hopes to set the expectations of the reader about they hold: a game that is a tool to create epic adventures. He promises fun, but only after an investment of "a few minutes to learn the basic rules, and another hour or two to play a full game." A hobby awaits you as become more experienced. Miniatures, expert rules, and "lots more."

The bottom half of the inside cover is the most ubiquitous section of every technical book you've ever read: How to use this book.

We are introduced in this section about where to start. Page 2 of course, Start here. How a regular game is played in groups and eventually you'll need a Dungeon Master. Important sections lie ahead: Characters and Playing with a Group. The new player is told about the path ahead. Level 1-3 are covered in the Basic Set, Set The BECM is outlined by levels: Expert, 4th-14th; Companion, 15th-25th; Master, 26th-30th. The Immortal set is conspicuously missing. There's probably a story there I'm not familiar with, comments are welcome.

Start Here

The accustomed three-column layout begins and the reader is set on their first adventure and introduced to three of the most important tools of D&D: a pencil, a piece of paper, and the twenty-sided die.

The "strong hero, a famous, but poor fighter" is the role the reader is given. The vehicle for learning to role play. The fighter, day by day, explores the unknown for monsters and treasure. Why? To become more famous and more powerful!

The reader learns the game mechanics for a role begin with abilities, the first game noun. Three abilities are introduced as the reader is set forth on the adventure:

17 Strength
11 Dexterity
 9 Intelligence
And here I think we get to the root of all powergaming going forward into history. "Nearly the highest possible!" the reader learns of the fighter's Strength ability. A fighter doesn't need a high Dexterity and a fighter "often isn't very smart" so we set forth the idea that Intelligence is the fighter's dump stat.

Page 2 and we start to see how presentation sets the expectations going forward. By 1983 the game is six or seven years old and at it's height in popularity. The seeds of the Moral and Satanic panic are being sowed in Richmond, Virginia with the suicide of a young man and in California as the first reports and false allegations of abuse at the McMartin preschool are surfacing.

Posted by caffeinated at 6:59 PM in d10

Let's read Basic D&D: The Prologue

My friend and player in WFRP Roger Brasslett picked up a near mint copy of Basic D&D at GameHoleCon last year. Signed by the legend Frank Mentzer!

What a prize! 

I've been thumbing through it for months and recalling the genuine suppression of all things D&D in my parent's house in the 80s. I can't recall when I expressed interest in the game, but it was certainly not welcome by my mother; my father was probably ambivalent. It was 1983 or 1984—the irony not lost—that I recall getting DragonRaid, a Christian witness RPG. As I recall it was heavy on the catechism of Christian witness and included a cassette tape. And yet, even DragonRaid was a target of the Moral and Satanic Panic of the 80s. I don't recall the specifics, but DragonRaid was soon removed.

So it must have been 1984 that I picked up my own Red Box. My parents began building a house in the country and I quietly played to learn the game. I'm certain I hid it somewhere in the three bedroom duplex our family of six shared. Where in the shared room with a bunk, amongst my own stuff and one of my younger brother's items I don't recall.

Today, in possession of the game that set me on my journey to always the GM rarely the player, I want to reacquaint myself with the Rules as Written. What do I assume are the rules? How does the game introduce the tropes all of us so often take as canon? How does the pre-teen and teen gamer, steeped in a period of oppression of fantasy read and develop expectations of play?

Forewarning: I'm not an educator. This is going to be about as raw a personal impression as you get. In 30+ years life teaches people in subtle ways about life.

Don't look for safe spaces, X-cards, or validation in this series. While some might argue words are violence, I don't subscribe to the idea. Sticks and stones break bones, but "Words are wind," it is somewhere oft written. But words can set expectations and reading the opening introduction of Basic D&D by Mentzer, those expectations are clearly set. 

Next, we meet Aleena, Bargle, and some of the words that cement D&D tropes all the way back to the beginnings. 

Posted by caffeinated at 11:44 AM in d10

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Day 31. What do you anticipate most in gaming for 2018?

Cubicle 7's release of a new edition of WFRP in the 1E/2E setting.

That is all.

Posted by caffeinated at 11:11 PM in d10

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Day 30. What is an RPG genre-mashup you would most like to see?

Is there any RPG genre-mashup better than Shadowrun? I think not.

What about media mashups? How about Harry Potter or Near Dark in WFRP using the Realms of Sorcery or Night's Dark Masters supplements?

What about rebooting media mashups like TMNT&OS and After the Bomb in Savage Worlds?

Posted by caffeinated at 8:00 PM in d10

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Day 29. What has been the best RPG Kickstarter you have backed?

I don't back many RPGs, speaking to the specific RPG concept. However, The Complete Elmore book was very well run by Larry and his partners. Delivered almost on-time and complete.

I backed Numenéra to spite the haters. Delivered complete and almost on-time. Beautiful book and artwork.

Were either of the above run better than others? Probably not. Kickstarter is full of risks and I am very careful about backing anything not already completed or at least resource complete.

I backed Dwimmermount, but we won't discuss that as anything other than an RPG Kickstarter because I know, have met, and support JaMal. He is good, honest people and he was going through some serious emotional upheaval in his life. No one that criticized him would want the same thing in their own life. No one. Except sociopaths.

Posted by caffeinated at 8:00 PM in d10

Monday, 28 August 2017

Day 28. What film/series is the biggest source of quotes for your group?

Is there just one film? Probably only a couple of series.

In no particular order:

  1. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  2. Conan the Barbarian (1982)
  3. Game of Thrones
  4. The Lord of the Rings

That's probably the entire catechism for all of us.

I also believe this leans into my theory: don't make a D&D movie. These are the D&D movies. Frankly, Conan the Barbarian is a D&D movie.

Posted by caffeinated at 8:00 PM in d10

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Day 27. What are your essential tools for good gaming?

  • Dice
  • Core Rules and major supplements, e.g., D&D's Core Three.
  • Pencils
  • Paper
  • Graph Paper
  • Beer
  • Water
  • Tablet, e.g, iPad
  • WiFi

We tend to skip snacks and soda these days. We'll share a bomber or two of craft beer (22 oz.) instead.

Posted by caffeinated at 8:00 PM in d10

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Day 26. Which RPG provides the most useful resources?

I have a limited set of games I turn too. One will have seen that during the month.

But I'm going to go to a game mentioned, but not detailed much: Twilight:2000.

In Twilight:2000's heyday, the set of resources for player and GM alike was large. I recently purchased the complete set of v1.0 rules and supplements from Marc Miller's Far Future Enterprises. The nearly 30 supplements, sourcebooks, and scenario modules provided a civilian gamer's Jane's Defense Guide to all things late 80s US and Soviet Bloc military with a peek at experimental and concept weapons.

The almost 50 Challenger magazine articles rounded out the core material and kept the game fresh.

And yet it would be a disservice not to tip my hat to D&D's own Dungeon and Dragon magazines and deep library of supplements. Simply none can compete in volume and history.

Posted by caffeinated at 10:30 PM in d10

Friday, 25 August 2017

Day 25. What's the best way to thank your GM?

The answer here could be so self serving: material things.

Instead I think that it's a softer mix of attributes. Honesty and Engagement.

In the former, speak up when either there's a moment for player agency, e.g., the random insanity may not be very engaging for me, let me pick one. Or just saying: that session meandered, here's where I think might have looked for something different to happen or where it just fell apart.

In the latter, I find character journals and Play by Posts between sessions very satisfying. If I don't start them, light the fuse yourself.

Being thanked for the hours of fun and story work is very rewarding as well.

Posted by caffeinated at 8:00 PM in d10

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Day 24. Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more.

More an imperative than an interrogative.

Pay What You Want  (PWYW) publishing is an awesome entry to getting started on OBS.

I had to think about this one because I mostly only hear about these faux-altruists in the media I consume and I've usually never heard of them, so let me look around, I'll be back.




There's too much, let me sum up: I don't have one. Yet. I'll pay attention more.

Posted by caffeinated at 8:00 PM in d10