Tuesday, September 29, 2015
In preparing to attend Nuke-Con Oct. 2-4 in Omaha, NE, I’m assembling a host of materials: signs for my numerous events, adventure components (scenario, character sheets, tent cards, handouts), rulebooks, compact miniature wargaming bits (tanks, terrain, reference cards). I managed to order two portrait-oriented Lion Flip-N-Tell Display Book-N-Easels to compliment the stand-up landscape portfolio I’ve had for years. These work really well as double-sided sign holders, with the portfolio format allowing me to easily change signs as needed. They also fold flat for easy packing and transport.
In trying to devise interesting information for signage to inspire guest-table conversation I thought I’d offer a brief outline of some of the projects on my immediate “to do” list. I regret many of these have languished for years, set aside when real-life jobs consumed my energy and then when my full-time parental duties took over my life; but with the Little Guy in kindergarten full time now, I have a little more time to focus on developing and completing game projects for publication.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
When we consider the role of a game referee – whether a gamemaster for a roleplaying game, the owner of a board game, or an actual referee in miniature wargames – several key elements emerge as necessary to provide a positive game experience. A referee serves as a host, teacher, and arbiter of game rules; learning the skills required to excel at each of those diverse roles helps make a more satisfying experience for everyone.
I’m reading Jon Peterson’s Playing at the World (yes,
I’m still not finished...it’s 700 pages long!) and contemplating
my own experiences as a player and gamemaster. I realize the role of
a game’s referee – and the degree to which the referee shares
involvement with the players interfacing with the game system – has
changed across time and different gaming forms. In the earliest days
of wargaming the creators of the Kriegsspiele used the concept
of a wargame as a training tool for upcoming officers; the referee
not only owned the game components, but knew it well enough to run
the game for others who did not possess a working knowledge of the
game mechanics beyond their role as military decision-makers. Most
miniature wargames later followed an iteration of this model: the
referee provided the game components and was familiar enough with the
rules to both run the game and offer assistance to those who didn’t
know them. The earliest roleplaying games focused on the gamemaster,
who usually owned a copy of the rules and therefore understood them
well enough to not only run games but shepherd new players through
the character creation process and in-game mechanics. Board games
leveled the playing field in terms of knowledge of the rules
(something Avalon Hill began in its two-player board wargames without
a referee), though someone still has to own a copy. Throughout this
history three roles emerge for the referee, all of which contribute
to a game’s overall success:
|Hosting, teaching, refereeing, or scheming?|
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Mongoose Publishing recently released a playtest PDF for its latest edition of the venerable Traveller roleplaying game...charging $20 for the privilege of perusing, playing, and helping to improve it. It’s an opportunistic strategy I’ve seen before – with all three slightly variant flavors of Fantasy Flight Games’ iteration of a Star Wars roleplaying game – and don’t particularly like, even if publishers have internal financial justifications for it. The news of yet another edition of Traveller raises the issue of whether gamers need new editions of classic games.
Tuesday, September 8, 2015
My five year-old son, the Little Guy, has asked this question occasionally around the game table, usually when I pull out some historically themed game appropriate to his level (in its original form or, more likely, in a streamlined “quick-start” format). It’s a valid question. Kids his age like to have everything categorized in black and white. They don’t have the experience or wisdom to discern varying levels of gray in everyday issues. Their views can change with time – the Little Guy went through a phase where he didn’t like Star Wars much, but now he’s “back into it” – but they like having their world defined by yes or no, black and white, not long-winded discussions of the gray areas like Daddy’s prone to offer.
Part of our dilemma comes from our personal connections to various
historical conflicts. We’ve played the WWI version of Wings of
War (now Wings of Glory) and the Little Guy has expressed
interest in trying the WWII version. Both historical games present
problematic aspects of the bad guy issue. His great-great grandfather
served in the Kaiser’s medical corps in the Great War and witnessed
first-hand the terrible price war exacted on soldiers’ bodies and
minds. When a friend sent me the B-17 Flying Fortress plane for the
WWII Wings of Glory, the Little Guy naturally asked if it was
a bad guy or good guy plane. The question inspired a short discussion
about serving one’s country; we have various relatives who served
America in WWII...including one with the 8th Army Air Corps in
England working as ground crew for bombers heading into Germany,
where other distant relations lived and survived air raids before
fleeing west in the face of the ruthless Soviet military juggernaut.
Two of his great-grandparents quite literally (and fortunately for
us) missed the boat on returning to Nazi Germany.
My great-great Uncle Martin (left)
playing chess during the Great War.
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
In dabbling with the Old School Renaissance (OSR) and retro-clone games I’ve come full-circle back to my original adventure gaming roots. I started on Basic/Expert Dungeons & Dragons (the Moldvay edition, often called B/X D&D) and, after exploring many modern interpretations of the classic games enabled by the Open Game License (OGL), still prefer its concise, streamlined, yet easily adaptable form. B/X D&D remains my favorite of all the different versions of D&D and all the OSR retro-clone offerings available today. I enjoy a few OSR games on their own – rather than for the evolutions they bring to OSR retro-clones – particularly the Barsoom-inspired Warriors of the Red Planet, sci-fi retro-clone White Star, and Barbarians of Lemuria (arguably on the fringe of the OSR retro-clone scene). But when it comes to swords-and-sorcery fantasy roleplaying, I default to B/X D&D.