Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Wealth of Printables

The recent release of S. John Ross’ HexPaper Pro reminded me how much the technological advances of the Internet Age have enhanced our collective gaming experiences. It wasn’t too long ago – in what I like to call the “Golden Age of Roleplaying” (the early 1980s) – that some of us purchased pre-printed character record sheets and hoarded graph paper given our limited resources and lack of home publishing technology. Today computers, printers, and the internet give us seemingly unlimited access to printable game accessories (paper minis, graph/hex paper, maps, adventures), PDF and print products available through online e-storefronts, and to a worldwide community of fellow gamers.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Gamer’s Gambit Demonstrates Store Ideals

Everyone has their ideas about what makes a good Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS). I particularly value a friendly staff, comprehensive inventory, and plenty of play space, all of which goes a long way to cultivating a sustained and diverse play community. I’ve visited many games stores in my 35+ years in the adventure gaming hobby as a player and writer. Even where I live now, on the medieval frontier of Northern Virginia (the medieval side) I’ve discovered several game stores, some closer than others, that hit the marks quite well (though some, always the closest, seem to have a habit of closing after just more than a year in business). My family recently had an excellent experience at an FLGS, this time while on our annual pilgrimage to visit family in New England, and it reminded me what makes for a successful FLGS.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Solitaire Board Games on my Radar

I’ve talked about solitaire roleplaying game adventures and solo wargaming before, but not a whole lot about solitaire board games. Although the common perception places “games” in the realm of activities engaged with groups of people, I feel solitaire gaming across the broad spectrum of the adventure gaming hobby has value, whether to satisfy the urge for an interesting interactive story (“Curling Up with Solitaire Gamebooks”), teaching rules and introducing a setting (“Solitaire RPG Tutorial Adventures”), or any number of other beneficial applications. I’ve often lumped solo board games in with my occasional broad overviews of the state of solitaire gaming: “Celebrating Solitaire Play” and “Solitaire Play Addendum” come to mind. For whatever reason – my introversion, a lack of a stable gaming community, my slowly-increasing misanthropic tendencies – I’m exploring more solo board games these days. It certainly helps that I’m seeing more solitaire offerings in this field on my gaming radar.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Adapting Games for A Play Community

It’s not winning the game that makes the game fun. It’s playing that makes the game fun.”

I’m reading Bernie De Koven’s The Well-Played Game in which he focuses on the “play community,” a group of people willing to play games together, striving not for the triumph of the win but for a positive, satisfying play experience. “The nature of a play community is such that it embraces the players more than it directs us toward any particular game,” he writes. “Thus, it matters less to us what game we are playing, and more to us that we are willing to play together.” I’d recommend the book to anyone willing to more deeply examine their relationship, dynamics, and shared goals with those who join them at the gaming table no matter what the game. Although it discusses “play” as a more free-form concept, its many insights can apply equally well to adventure games (as opposed to more rigidly organized games like sports, with more strictures in terms of rules, requirements, and referees). In that pursuit he encourages play communities to embrace the freedom to change a given game so we can play well together. Members of the adventure gaming hobby have a long history of adjusting their games to best suit their own tastes and sharing them with others, but we might consider becoming more sensitive to individual players and groups depending on the participants and venue of particular games.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Random Encounter Motivations

Monsters serve as the default antagonists in Dungeons & Dragons and its derivatives (primarily many games developed in the spirit of the Old School Renaissance or OSR). They’re the focal point of the entire hack-and-slash mentality: kill the monsters and take their stuff. The character advancement structure of these games encourages this kind of play. Fighting and killing monsters not only earns experience points for the deed but points based on the value of treasure plundered from dead monsters (an aspect of the game’s design I’ve examined before). Certainly elements like the “Monster Reactions Table” can mitigate these presumptions. Yet a creature’s own motivations might affect how they react when encountering adventurers just as much as the adventurers’ openly displayed intent. This becomes particularly important for randomly determined creatures – as “wandering monsters” or in randomly generated dungeons – who don’t always have motivational cues based on a particular location. For instance, in a published scenario, four orcs in an evil wizard’s guard room have an assumed role to keep adventurers out, sound the alarm, and try to kill or capture intruders; but four orcs encountered as wandering monsters don’t have such clear cues regarding their motivation and hence their reaction to meeting adventurers. What if – before rolling on the “Monster Reactions Table” – we consulted a “Creature Motivation Table” to determine their intent when they stumble upon adventurers?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

All the Emperor’s Men

Half the fun is playing around
with the miniatures....
After enjoying Daniel Mersey’s Victorian skirmish rulesThe Men Who Would Be Kings – I had some inspiration to adapt them to other periods for which I have miniatures. Although it would have been easier to start with the French and Indian War (FIW) or American War of Independence (AWI) considering their historical proximity to the original rules, I decided to try porting them to Star Wars to use my collection of 25mm painted miniatures and engage my son’s immediate enthusiasm. I have modest numbers of stormtroopers, Imperial army troopers, Rebel troopers, bounty hunters, and a few other models that could muster into appropriate units, plus a host of terrain to simulate desert, forest, or other environments. And I have a more-or-less willing opponent in the Little Guy, whose interest in Star Wars seemingly waxes and wanes with the moon’s phases but otherwise enjoys playing with Daddy’s toys (though he’d prefer to play during the Clone Wars era...). So I set out to customize The Men Who Would Be Kings for Star Wars miniatures.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Summertime Gaming Can Reinforce Lessons

Today’s the last day of school on the medieval frontier of Northern Virginia...the medieval side. (Alas, our school board thinks starting school the second week of August, putting the first term SOL testing right before the December holiday break, will increase SOL scores instead of focusing on paying teachers decently and letting them teach instead of handle bureaucracy....) Already last week summertime recommendations started coming home: a list of recommended “series” books for summer reading, a 22-page handout with math problems to solve, a list of educational websites to visit, a page of “dice games” that are really just math exercises with dice, and a thick, door-stop-sized reading/writing workbook someone ordered but apparently didn’t use all school year. All this comes slathered in the repulsive stigma of homework, something the seven year-old Little Guy has grown to dislike and resist throughout the school year, more so in these final weeks before summer vacation. So what’s a parent to do? I’m turning to two things we know and enjoy: fun themes and games.

The Little Guy – and most elementary school kids, I suspect – maintains a host of interest in various media properties: Minecraft, Transformers, Pokemon, Star Wars (particularly Clone Wars), Godzilla, Doctor Who. Interest in them waxes and wanes, but they sometimes help him engage in educational activities disguised as fun. (I’ve blathered on about themes in games before in “Introducing Newcomers to Games: Theme & Mechanics.”) Just the other weekend we caught him sitting in bed reading a Star Wars book aloud to our cats (granted, they like hanging out in his comfy bed anyway, but apparently reading was a bonus). We’re embarking on a first-edition Star Wars Roleplaying Game campaign at his insistence; so far he’s enjoyed accurately adding up the results of numerous d6 rolls, especially when tossing handfuls of dice when using a Force Point. He reads all the powers and attacks on the cards when we play the Pokemon collectible card game.