Tuesday, March 21, 2023

New Inspirational Music

 Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”

Victor Hugo

As I continue designing and writing a new medieval fantasy roleplaying game setting I constantly remind myself how much music motivates and inspires me. Simply having relevant music playing in the background makes me more inclined to sit down and focus on developing game material. Fantasy fandom – from roleplaying gamers and wargamers to those who immerse themselves in literature and online media – sometimes argues about the nature of medieval elements. Can we have ethnically diverse elves, dwarves, and halfings? Must we adhere to the miserable health and social conditions that plagued medieval Europe or can we just play around in a relatively carefree renfaire environment? How much fantasy do we mix with our historical inspirations? So it’s no surprise my own tastes in medieval-themed music runs the spectrum from purely fantastical to authentically historical. Two sources of new music help fuel my enthusiasm for the current project: the soundtrack to the first season of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and a collection of releases from the British medieval instrumenttroupe Trouvere.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

WEG Memoirs: The Mos Eisley Diorama

 You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”

Obi-Wan Kenobi

Now and then I post the photo of me running the Star Wars Roleplaying Game at a large, boxed-in diorama of Mos Eisley starport at a convention. During my time at West End I built the diorama from scratch and set it in a custom-made box for transport. I subsequently hauled it around to various conventions, even after the company went bankrupt. It’s sat in the basement or storage for many years now, but occasionally I pull it out, dust it off, and take some photos of it with the 25mm Star Wars miniatures I still have. I’ve featured the diorama and figures here before; head over to “Schweig’s Gaming Roadshow Gallery” and scroll down (though I’ve posted a few photos again here). It’s a relic from my West End days that still stirs feelings of nostalgia for a time when running demos on a visually appealing table helped promote one of my favorite games.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Culpeper’s Toy Soldier Exhibit

 Culture arises and unfolds in and as play.”

Johan Huizinga

On February 4 we visited the Museum of Culpeper History for a Sons of the American Revolution ceremony honoring African-Americans and Native Americans who served in the American War of Independence (AWI). I appreciate these opportunities to learn more about different aspects of history and how they affect our appreciation of our modern world. After a brief overview of the service these oft-overlooked groups gave fighting for freedom, a descendant of Revolutionary War officer Captain Phillip Slaughter spoke about his enslaved servant Spencer accompanying him on campaign in New Jersey, Valley Forge, and elsewhere, taking care of horses and the mess and otherwise supporting Patriot armies in the field. The gallery was packed – the previously planned outdoor ceremony was moved indoors given the forecast cold weather – and we luckily found a spot to stand in a corner of the Civil War gallery next to an exhibit of Civil War toy soldiers made in France. It reminded me I hadn’t taken any photos of these game-related artifacts before, and returned later that week to take pictures for my own reference (and to share) lest the exhibit change in the near future.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Capacity for Conventions

Running the Star Wars RPG with
convention guest Timothy Zahn, 1993.
I was cleaning out a filing cabinet a few weeks ago and came upon some old signs for convention games I ran in the distant past. I allowed myself to slip into nostalgia for the days when my calendar held annual sojourns to various game conventions within driving distance, where I’d go and run a full slate of roleplaying games and, in later times, miniature wargames (usually designed for kids and hobby newcomers). Most provided inspiration for numerous stories I’m wont to share when the mood strikes, I’m emboldened by some liquid refreshment, and I have a willing (or at least politely tolerant) audience. They’re great memories. But life marches on, obligations to home and family take precedence, and I’m certainly not as young and energetic. I’m not sure I have much capacity for running convention games any more, though goodness knows in my blind and foolish optimism I occasionally muster the energy and give it yet one more try.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Tower of the Faceless Clock

Or Challenges Extracting Rules Text from Solo Adventures

My discussion of the difficulties extracting system from setting in roleplaying game supplements reminded me of an abandoned project. It was an experiment to design a programmed solitaire adventure (with numbered paragraphs, like the
Choose Your Own Adventure books) to present a specific setting without reference to a specific rules system. Having written plenty of solitaire tutorial adventures intended to teach game mechanics along the way, designing one without considerations for typical rules – how to run combat, procedures for skill checks, how to make saving throws, etc. – proved challenging.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Extracting System & Setting

 If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun.”

Katharine Hepburn

For most roleplaying games the mechanics and setting remain bound together. Extracting one from the other often proves challenging from a game design standpoint and dubious from a marketing perspective. Few game systems exist entirely apart from any given setting, though they claim (with different levels of efficacy) to operate with any genre. Over the years various games have released as standalone rules sets – Steve Jackson Games’ GURPS, Chaosium’s Basic Roleplaying (BRP), Hero Games’ Hero System, S. John Ross’ RISUS: The Anything RPG, even West End Games’ popular D6 System – with varying degrees of success. Some emerged from existing games, like D6 from the Star Wars Roleplaying Game and BRP from favorites like Call of Cthulhu. These find some success among pockets of gamers willing to do the legwork to adapt them to their original settings (though some, like RISUS, make this quite easy). Yet few products have made their mark as settings extracted from or produced without rules systems. Such oddities require a delicate touch, a very generic approach to anything smacking of rules, and finesse in inspiring gamers to undertake the work adapting them to a favorite game system.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

RPGs’ Band-Aid (R) Issue

 Band-Aid: A trademark for a type of adhesive bandage.”

The Associated Press Stylebook

When I mention I’ve written for roleplaying games to average folks unfamiliar with the adventure gaming hobby (often called “mundanes” in fandom parlance) the inevitable reply almost always amounts to, “Oh, D&D.” Recent discussions about Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast drastically changing the Open Gaming License (with the advent of a new edition of Dungeons & Dragons) have noted we have many roleplaying games with various mechanics and settings, all of which have the potential to provide a satisfying game experience given the confluence of good gamemasters, players, and inspiration. It reminds me of the Band-Aid brand name falling into what some might consider a “generic trademark” usage in our society...yet many mundanes, and even some in the hobby community, use the specific brand name “D&D” when they mean roleplaying games. Words matter. I encourage people to get in the habit of using “roleplaying game,” “RPG,” and other equivalents when they don’t specifically mean D&D.