Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Happy Birthday TTRPGS!

 Everything that exists is in a manner the seed of that which will be.”

Marcus Aurelius

Many in the tabletop roleplaying game community have been writing and talking about the 50th anniversary of the release of the original, three-little-brown-books edition of Dungeons & Dragons in January 1974.* I do not own any of those primordial rulebooks, but I’ve seen bits of them and reimagined versions released under the Open Game License (OGL); my own preference remains the Basic/Expert D&D editions from the early 1980s, perhaps a more clear, organized expression of the core concepts expressed in those original little books (and even then I as a 12 year-old spent every moment of an entire weekend reading and trying to comprehend the Basic rulebook). While the rules for original D&D aren’t always clear or accessible (certainly by today’s standards), we cannot deny they represent the first published roleplaying game. We celebrate D&D’s release as an inceptive moment in the adventure gaming hobby; the event represents the birth of tabletop roleplaying games as a form of imaginative entertainment. So while we commemorate D&D’s birthday, we also say “Happy Birthday!” and, I would add, “Many happy returns!” to the tabletop roleplaying game hobby.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

The Lost Reference Library

 I do love perusing the dictionary to find how many words I don't use – words that have specific, sharp, focused meaning.”

Geoffrey Rush

Way back in second grade, after I had so much difficulty learning to read in first grade, I remember my teacher stressing to us the importance of using the classroom dictionary. The maxim seemed simple: if you saw a word you didn’t know, get up, go to the shelf, and consult the dictionary to learn its meaning. And we rarely bothered. Getting up, paging through the thickest book we’d ever seen, and rummaging around just for a word we didn’t know or to check spelling seemed like too much effort. These days, of course, we have online resources, spell- and grammar-check, and auto-correct. They’re great if we actively take advantage of them to improve our vocabulary and knowledge, but it’s far more tempting to simply rely on auto-correct to spell words properly (and reliance on that often leads to new problems).

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Jaquays’ Mos Eisley Map

 Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.”

Carl Sagan

Jennell Jaquays passed away on January 10, 2024, after battling Guillain-Barré syndrome. I never met her, never corresponded with her. She left behind a rich, enduring legacy of work for the roleplaying game and computer gaming industries as well as advocacy work for LGBTQ rights. Although I have a few vintage copies of Judges Guild materials, they don’t include Jaquays’ Dark Tower and Caverns of Thracia (something I should remedy for my collection of “old school” Dungeons & Dragons material). But one piece of her artwork served as a major inspiration for me: the amazing full-color, double-sided 17x22 map of downtown Mos Eisley starport and the infamous cantina included in the first Star Wars Roleplaying Game adventure Tatooine Manhunt.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Fighting A Plague of Droids

During the New Year’s holiday our family played Star Wars The Clone Wars Game – A Pandemic System Game. It combined our enjoyment of Star Wars and games – and my particular admiration of cooperative games – in an immersive experience ridding the galaxy of battle droids, planetary blockades, and iconic prequel-era villains. The rules and procedures took a little while to understand; various elements draw on the Clone Wars themes, sending players across the galaxy pursing different strategies as turn-by-turn the overall tension increases. Designer Alexander Ortloff adapted elements from Matt Leacock’s innovative Pandemic mechanics to produce a suspenseful and immersive game experience evocative of the Star Wars: Clone Wars cartoon epics.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

New Year Blues

 Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.”

Benjamin Franklin

I enjoy the December holidays with their festive meals, gifts, and occasions to gather with friends and family; but I don’t care much for the far more sobering New Year celebration. Aside from cutting short the yuletide celebrations (those “12 Days of Christmas” that supposedly last until Epiphany), it heaps upon us even more obligations – to reflect on our accomplishments and advancements of the past year, to set goals for ourselves in the new one, to prepare for the austerity, culling, and organizing of the severe winter months – all onerous propositions after such extravagant indulgences of the holidays.