Tuesday, April 6, 2021

A Contentious Hobby

 The moment we want to believe something,

we suddenly see all the arguments for it,

and become blind to the arguments against it.”

George Bernard Shaw

I’m reading Jon Peterson’s The Elusive Shift: How Role-Playing Games Forged Their Identity and cannot help notice similarities between the early debates about aspects of the hobby and the arguments gamers still have about those same issues today. These go beyond the foundational tensions between storytelling and game mechanics one expects between roleplaying games’ early adherents, the wargaming and speculative fiction communities, from which the hobby coalesced. They seep down into the minutia of nearly every base concept of early Dungeons & Dragons...concepts that have over time continued to provoke debate. The adventure gaming hobby community seems just as contentions now as it was 40 years ago; except now, instead of printed APA fanzines and house-organ magazines, most folks argue their points in any number of blogs and forums online (each with its own bias and self-supporting echo-chamber mentality).

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Paper Romans in Germania, Part III

Romans trimmed, scored,
and ready for glue.
I’m still sending my paper Romans into the wilds of Germania on the wargaming table...and I’m still printing, pasting, trimming, and prepping additional forces from the Peter Dennis’ Wargame: The Roman Invasion, AD 43-84 (for imperial Romans) and his Peter’s Paperboys website (for Germanic tribesmen). I’m also considering various ways to play a campaign, though that’s fodder for another article. But since I’m back to making more paper soldiers I thought I’d offer some insight into how I construct and store these wonderfully rendered armies.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Editions & Incarnations

 Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend – or a meaningful day.”

Dalai Lama

Looking over my roleplaying game shelves I realize I have – during my almost 40 years of gaming – bought into several new editions of games I enjoyed and even tried a few new incarnations for favorite settings. So many roleplaying games over the years have released subsequent editions and some classic settings have even seen new incarnations with improved presentation and original game mechanics. I expect it’s part of the gamer experience, choosing to invest in a new edition or incarnation of a favorite game. Sometimes I explore these only to return to the tried-and-true original game. Other times I check out new incarnations mostly to see how different publishers approach some of my favorite game settings.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Paper Romans in Germania, Part II

 Upon the field of battle the chief is bound in honor not to let himself be surpassed in valor, and his retainers are equally bound to rival the valor of their chief.”


Last time I documented my immersion in wargaming ancient Romans against Germanic tribes. I had everything ready to begin gaming: lots of reading to put everything in historical context; some starting forces of good-looking Peter Dennis paper soldiers; a set of familiar rules to try; even Roman numeral dice. During my historical and rules reading I’d taken breaks to construct my paper armies. I’d assembled two forces: a Roman expedition consisting of legionaries, auxiliary infantry, and a commander and a Germanic force of barbarian infantry, light infantry archers, light cavalry, and a chieftain. Just enough for a game as I glued, cut, and based more paper soldiers for future engagements.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Paper Romans in Germania, Part I

Quinctilius Varus, give me back my legions!”


In my last post I mentioned my recent interest in wargaming ancient Roman conflicts, specifically those on the Germanic frontier, to find some temporary respite from the pandemic and my own internal issues. The journey grew into one of the more satisfying diversion strategies to keep my mind off various anxieties and help me relax. Like abandoning one’s self in a good movie for two hours or getting absorbed in a good book, immersing ourselves in an entertaining activity can help us escape so we can face life’s woes with renewed energy and a fresh perspective. Goodness knows I have plenty of diversions at hand – roleplaying games, board games, miniature and chit-and-hex wargames, plus books both fiction and non-fiction to read and re-read – but I have many interests to tempt me into new endeavors, even among these existing forms. So I embarked on a journey back to ancient Rome, on the frontier with Germania Magna along the river Rhenus (Rhine), perhaps at the fortress town of Moguntiacum (Mainz, which I’d visited long ago on a family vacation), preparing my Roman soldiers to sortie into the dark Teutonic forests.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

WEG Memoirs: The Interview

In my futile attempts to find solace from the pandemic and my own internal issues I’ve immersed myself in wargaming ancient Roman conflicts, specifically those on the Germanic frontier. I’ve always maintained an interest in ancient history (among numerous other historical periods). The Roman Empire remains one in which I’ve dabbled on and off over the years to varying depths. Though I’ve never been to Rome I’ve visited several site on travels in my misspent youth, including Trier, Germany (ancient Augusta Treverorum, capital of the province of Gallia Belgica), the Christian catacombs in Salsburg (Iuvavum), and the reconstructed auxiliary fort Saalburg in Germany. As a pandemic diversion I ordered several books to set me on a path to wargaming engagements from this period: Peter Dennis’ Wargame: The Roman Invasion, AD 43-84 (supplemented by some PDF downloads from his wonderful Peter’s Paperboys website), Daniel Mersey’s A Wargamer's Guide to the Early Roman Empire, and two Osprey books (also illustrated by Dennis), Teutoburg Forest AD 9 and Roman Soldier vs Germanic Warrior: 1st Century AD. So between history, paper miniatures, and game rules (including Bob Cordery’s The Portable Wargame and Developing The Portable Wargame and Neil Thomas’ One-hour Wargames) I’m all set up to fight a few ancient battles defending the borders of Rome from the Germanic barbarians.

But all this evokes an episode from my roleplaying game past. In this case, oddly enough, all this focus on ancient Roman history reminded me of my interview for an editorial position at West End Games way back in the spring of 1993.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

A Brief Design Exercise

Goodness knows I have enough on my game-design plate at the moment, but some recent inspiration sent me along (yet another) engaging tangent. I experimented with designing a compact fantasy roleplaying game location as an exercise with multiple goals. I wanted to develop a situation built around a map, combining my admiration for Dyson Logos’ cartographic creations and Michael Prescott’s Trilemma Adventures (and, in a way, the cribsheet gamemaster aid in S. John Ross’ Slimes in Blossom Grove). I hoped to challenge myself to create a set of scenario conflicts without presumed solutions, attempting to achieve some small degree of Ross’ high-trust design ideals. And I expected the exercise to produce something contributing to the content of my eternally-in-development Infinite Cathedral setting. What emerged became The Courtyard of Okov.