Monthly Archives: January 2012

The First Adventure

As I may have mentioned, the first game will held on February 10th. The group has been talking via e-mail about character options, asking good questions, and even discussing the adventure options (since I put it out there). As the poll shows (and discussion confirms), there are few low-level adventures as iconic as B2: Keep on the Borderlands. Adventures that I own, anyway.

However, several people have played it. Several times. My last campaign (a D&D 4E campaign, by the way) was based on a lightly modified version of Keep on the Borderlands. So, as a group, we decided it would not be the best low-level adventure to use. The low-level portion of the campaign will instead use a series: U1: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, U2: The Danger at Dunwater, and U3: The Final Enemy. This will have the added benefit of advancing the characters naturally through the low-levels so they’ll be at the correct level for the mid-level adventures.

The group consists of a mix of veteran players, some of which have familiarity with Basic D&D, some not, and a newbie. It will certainly be a good mix of opinions when I approach the task of writing out how the various editions play.

Categories: Random Thoughts

Need a balanced party?

Since the game hasn’t started yet (February 10th will be the first session), the players who are participating in the Doctor Strangeroll campaign are doing what players do: planning their characters in advance. The Basic D&D aspect of this greatly amuses me, as that game is so simple, planning mostly involves deciding what class to play and what weapon you’re going to wield. There are no skills. No feats. Hardly any decisions of any kind to be made during character creation.

So far, for 6 players, I have three whose first choice is thief. Two others’ first choice is elf, and one is dwarf. There are a few magic-user second choices. Notice anything missing?

Oops. No Cleric.

I could be mean and say nothing (too late if any of them read this blog, and I know at least one of you do 😉 ). Then when a whole lotta dyin’ is goin’ on, the results will speak for themselves. Granted, a Basic D&D cleric isn’t going to be doing much healing at level one. Or level two. So, aside from turning undead, they’ll only be missing out on another heavy armor wearing front-line person who doesn’t attack quite as well as a fighter. Again, at first level, it won’t make a difference.

Fortunately, Basic D&D (and AD&D, too, for that matter) has a built-in solution: HIRELINGS!

It’ll be darn hard not to give any hireling clerics names like Brother Maynard, Durkon, or Friar Tuck, though (the first two moreso than the last one, though). Maybe I should name them after Catholic saints? (Francis, Damian, Rene Goupil…)

Categories: Random Thoughts

Low-Level Adventure Poll

Even though I don’t consider some of these old enough to be Classic or Iconic adventures, I’ve include every low-level adventure I own in this poll, with the exception of the Paizo Adventure Paths and the World’s Largest Dungeon. They’re really too large in scope for the purposes of the Doctor Strangeroll Campaign.

Sadly, it doesn’t seem like the pictures I attached to the poll linked correctly. If you can’t decide without the pictures, just Google the adventure title.

Categories: Poll | Tags: ,

AD&D Back in Print!

This probably isn’t new to any of you who read this blog. But here it is: Wizards of the Coast is reprinting the AD&D Core Books (that’s the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual) with commemorative covers. These books will only be available through hobby channels, so you should be able to find them at your Friendly Local Gaming Store (but not at The interior will be exactly the same as the original books from the late 70s. A portion of the sales of these books will be donated to the Gygax Memorial Fund, established to immortalize the “Father of Roleplaying Games” with a memorial statue in his & TSR’s hometown of Lake Geneva, WI.

I’ve made no secret of my distrust and sometimes contempt for Wizards of the Coast in the past, so I will also make no secret of the fact that this is the most exciting thing (to me) they’ve announced in the last 4+ years. Bravo!

You can be darn sure I’m going down to my FLGS ASAP to make sure I’ll be able to get my copies there.

Categories: Random Thoughts | Tags: , ,

Gary Con IV

Next Sunday, January 29th, Event Registration opens up for Gary Con IV, the annual celebration of gaming in Lake Geneva, WI held in honor of Gary Gygax. Convention attendees are like a Who’s Who of TSR staffers, and the events range from OD&D (run by Tim Kask no less!) to Pathfinder and D&D 3.5 (some of which are being run by Skip Williams). Frank Mentzer is running AD&D, Jim Ward will run Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World. It’s fantastic. As you might infer, there’s a focus on Old School games.

Actually, that’s kind of misleading. “Old School” means many different things to people, but one common definition is “Let the dice fall where they may!” or killer GM! At Gary Con, it’s more like an out-of-print game convention. One of the official groups affiliated with Gary Con is the Dead Games Society, who focus exclusively on out-of-print role-playing games. Of course, there are more than just role-playing games being played at Gary Con. I hear Frank Mentzer plays Ticket To Ride every year on Sunday morning with folks. There’s a 4-table Grand Prix run over the weekend complete with a track that takes up those four tables. There are wargames aplenty.

I am running four events this year:

DGS Presents: Ghostbusters – Bustin’ the Con

Event ID : 120301
DM Name : Hans Cummings
Game system : Other
Game Type : Role-Playing Game
Duration : 3 hours
Start Time : Thursday-8:00pm
Maximum Players : 6
Tickets Left : 6
Description : Ghostbusters International has just opened a new office in Indianapolis. To drum up business, the main office has the boys (and girls) in grey doing promo work at a Gen Con! It was supposed to be easy, boring: signing autographs, hosting a Q&A, but some pesky poltergeists showed up and the last thing they want is an autograph from Doctors Venkman, Stantz, and Spengler (or even Zeddemore).
Event Cost : 4 Points
Date Added  : 11/14/2011
Table Number : Unassigned

DGS Presents: Paranoia – Soylent People are Green

Event ID : 214403
DM Name : Hans Cummings
Game system : Other
Paranoia, 2nd Edition
Game Type : Role-Playing Game
Duration : 3.5 hours
Start Time : Friday-2:00pm
Maximum Players : 6
Tickets Left : 6
Description : Former HoloVid Star-turned News Anchor Teena-O-MLY has been taken hostage by a group of traitors who have assumed control of a section of the Food Vats. Your task will be to eliminate the traitors, return control of the Food Vats to the Computer, and rescue Teena-O-MLY. Your friend, The Computer, will ensure you are properly equipped to deal with all obstacles in your path.
Event Cost : 6 Points
Date Added  : 11/14/2011
Table Number : Unassigned

DGS Presents: Star Wars – Imperial Entanglements

Event ID : 314402
DM Name : Hans Cummings
Game system : Other
Star Wars (WEG D6, Revised & Expanded))
Game Type : Role-Playing Game
Duration : 3.5 hours
Start Time : Saturday-2:00pm
Maximum Players : 6
Tickets Left : 6
Description : General Airen Cracken has been captured by the Empire! While the Star Destroyer transporting him was seriously damaged by a Rebel Strike Force, they were unable to effect a rescue. The Star Destroyer limped to the nearest port, the Nebula Star Resort and Casino. Your Strike Team has been assembled to infiltrate and rescue General Cracken while the Stormhammer is vulnerable.
Event Cost : 6 Points
Date Added  : 11/14/2011
Table Number : Unassigned

As you may have guessed, all three are being run under the banner of the Dead Games Society. It was kind of cool to have my events listed in the same section as all the VIP games. Maybe it’s because I got them in so early, but I think it’s because they’re affiliated with the Dead Game Society and I have built up points in the system for having come to Gary Con three yaers and run several official events each year. It’s a smaller convention, more intimate than Gen Con, and far less intimidating for people (or spouses) who are curious about gaming, but shy away from getting involved with Gamer Mike, the guy running Brandar the 80th-level Vampire Barbarian god-King who will DEVOUR YOUR SOUL ARRRR GRRRR YOUTOUCHEDMYDICE DIEDIEDIEDIE.

Not that any of us know anyone like that or have ever encountered Gamer Mike at Gen Con.

Gary Con is my “play” convention. That is, I get to play more games and spend the entire convention having fun. That’s not to say Gen Con isn’t fun, but it’s more of a working convention for me now. I still get to play a game or two, but I can’t spend the whole four days of Gen Con gaming anymore. As Submissions Coordinator & Publisher Relations for the ENnie Awards, I have work to do at Gen Con. Part of it is just walking around the Dealer Hall, talking to various publishers. Wednesday afternoon I have to help set up the booth. Friday afternoon and evening are tied up with the ENnie Awards Ceremony. The last two years, I’ve been behind the curtain, running the slideshow trying to keep up with Kevin Kulp’s jokes (yes, anytime the slide advancement gets screwed up, that’s my fault). Sunday morning and afternoon I have to walk the Dealer Hall some more soliciting submissions from publishers who wish to submit products for the next year while they’re at Gen Con (it saves them shipping costs and gives the new judges something to work on right away). After that, I have to tear down the booth. I also feel I should work at least one booth shift. With the average length of a convention game being four hours, that leaves me time for an average of a game a day, ’cause (and here’s my dirty little secret) I schedule time for meals, sleep, shopping, and bathing.

There’s very little shopping at Gary Con. There’s no ENnie Awards duties for me to perform, so it’s my Play Convention and Gen Con is my Work Convention. I highly recommend coming up to Gary Con. It’s a nice little vacation, especially if you have fond memories of the older games. The first time I played AD&D with Frank Mentzer back in 2009, I realized that even though the game was old and out-of-print, that was no reason not to play it. It’s the GM that makes a game good. Good GMing transcends any system problems. Give it a try. You’ll be surprised.

Categories: Random Thoughts

New Header Graphic

It should be self-evident since it’s one of the first things you see upon reaching this site, but I have a new header graphic.

Wesley K. Hall, the man responsible for the naming of this blog, whipped up a suitable header graphic. While the camel & pyramids were nice, they were the default for the template I chose to base this blog on, so this new, custom graphic is much more suitable. Sadly, I haven’t figured out yet how to get the tagline to NOT cover up his helmet.

If you don’t get the reference, it’s an homage to Major Kong riding the atomic bomb from Doctor Strangelove.

Categories: Random Thoughts

To Gazetteer or Not To Gazetteer

As I impatiently await a solution to the very heavy question of “How will I move the furniture I don’t want out of the game room?”, I struggle with an equally weighty question: “Should I offer the Gazetteers as a player resource during the Basic D&D phase of this campaign?”

The various Gazetteers (of which I only have the five pictured…maybe six if I’m forgetting one) were released as Known World supplements giving DMs greater detail about the Mystara Campaign Setting for Dungeons & Dragons. They, the ones focusing on Dwarves, Elves, and Halflings, in particular, also gave alternate character classes, such as a Dwarven Priest. The Orcs of Thar offered rules for running an entirely monstrous humanoid campaign.

Obviously, The Orcs of Thar is outside the scope of the Doctor Strangeroll campaign. But for players not used to the restrictions of Basic D&D, i.e. having their class be “Elf,” or “Dwarf,” or “Halfling,” the additional options in the Gazetteers might make them a little more comfortable with the older rules. I don’t know how it’ll affect the power level of the game, though. I’ve never known anyone who used the Gazetteers. By the time they came out, I was pretty much only paying attention to AD&D myself, so I ignored them. Of course, now that I’m going back and looking at them, acquiring them for the first time from the secondary market, I know what I’m missing. There was a lot of good fluff in those old books. I could easily see myself running several campaigns of Basic D&D using the nothing but the Rules Cyclopedia and the Gazetteers. It’s still a very good game.

Have any of you ever experienced D&D with the Gazetteers? Or known anyone who has? I’m interested to know what people’s experiences are.

Categories: Random Thoughts

Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition

First, the New York Times announced it. Then, Wizard of the Coast confirmed it: the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons is in development. I’ll get to my personal feelings in a moment. First, for this blog and the Doctor Strangeroll project, all it means is a little bit more built-in longevity. I expect 5E to be available by the time I run a group through three Classic adventures using Basic D&D, AD&D, Pathfinder, and D&D 4E. If it’s not actually out yet, then I’d wager playtest rules will be available at the very least (and yes, I signed up for playtest info). If they’re not, well, we’ll just revisit these adventures when 5E IS available.

Now, I’ve never made any secret of the fact that D&D 4E wasn’t my favorite edition, and I don’t hold high hopes that D&D 5E will reclaim the Favorite RPG Crown of my heart. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to prefer more rules-light systems. Honestly, I don’t see D&D moving in that direction. I’ll bet most people who play D&D and love it enough to actively participate in a playtest prefer systems with a lot of “crunch.” Those who don’t have probably already moved on to other systems and Hasbro/WotC will have a hard time getting them to switch back.

There are myriad website that are going over the various announcements line-by-line and interpreting them for you. I’m not going to do that because I’m not a news analyst. If the new game is good and fits my needs, I’ll probably play it. If it’s too complex, or I otherwise just don’t like it as much as an older edition, I won’t. It’s that simple.

Categories: Random Thoughts

How I Got Started

While I put together a gaming group and my gaming room, there actually isn’t much to talk about regarding the old adventures I might run, since I don’t know which I might actually run. I can talk about how I got started playing role-playing games.

It was around 1982 (yikes, 30 years ago!). One of my friends rode the bus with me. His mother was a nurse who worked the early shift, so she’d drop him off at our house on her way to work. As I recall, the bus didn’t show up until about 8 AM in those days and he’d get there at 6 AM. I wasn’t a rude kid, so I got up early enough to spend that time with him. One day, he told me about this game to which one of the kids in his neighborhood introduced him. He showed it to me. It was in a magenta box and had a picture of a warrior and wizard facing off against a dragon. The game? Dungeons & Dragons.

I was hooked.

My recollection is we played it every morning and whenever we got together on the weekends (I’m sure it was actually more infrequent than that). We tried to get all our friends in on it. As soon as I saved up enough allowance, I ran out and looked for my own copy. This was in the days where you could find D&D in toy stores, hobby shops, and even grocery stores (I think I bought my copy of Monster Manual II at Kroger).

I couldn’t find a Basic Set right away, or thought I didn’t need it since we had his, so I bought the Expert Set. Eventually, and the time scale is really fuzzy after 30 years, I bought my own copy of the Basic Set once the Library copy (yeah, we had the D&D Basic Set in our Public Library) I kept checking out started to fall apart. The Basic Set I have pictured was out of print though, so I ended up with the Mentzer Revision (the red box upon which WotC based their new starter set for D&D 4E).

Purists will say I was mixing and matching two editions, but there was really so few differences in play between the two, we never noticed. In fact, we also started buying up the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books and mixing those in, as well. On some level, I understood they were different games, but it all looked the same to me. I didn’t understand things like encumbrance or even how experience points worked. I interpreted 100 XP + 1/HP to mean that your character gain hit points from defeating certain monsters.

You know what? We had a hell of a lot of fun playing those games we didn’t fully understand.

To this day, I find the artwork of Erol Otus and Larry Elmore to be far more evocative than the modern D&D artists. There was something weird, something organic about Erol Otus’s stuff, something fantastic.

Over the years, I switched to AD&D fully, but I still bought the D&D stuff. I don’t think I ever played an elf or a dwarf as a class once I figured out AD&D, but looking back, I appreciate the elegant simplicity in those rules. I treasure my copy of the D&D Rules Cyclopedia and wish I had a second copy so when I start this project in earnest, I could have a table copy. I thank my lucky stars I was able to get a PDF version of it before WotC pulled the plugged on all their PDFs. It’s been invaluable for adventure prep; I ran a Rules Cyclopedia D&D game last year at Gary Con with 6 enthusiastic players.

* None of them had signed up for the game. All my per-registered players were no shows. When these guys saw I was running basic D&D, they became excited and called their friends over to join in. Frank Mentzer even stopped by and watched a round of combat. I can only imagine what was going through his mind to watch a table of men play the game he and his friend Gary created so long ago.

Now, thirty years after I started to play D&D, I’m preparing to embark upon a new campaign, with the same (or nearly so) game I played then.  It’s going to be epic.


Categories: Random Thoughts | Tags:

I Kan Haz Moar Reviews!

I have copied & updated a handful of reviews I had over on Amazon, since they were fantasy RPG-related and seemed pertinent. They’re mostly the same text as I had on Amazon, though I have additional thoughts from experience since it’s been YEARS since any of those reviews were written (D&D 4E had just come out when I wrote the review of HackMaster Basic). You can access them from the Reviews link at the top of the website. You don’t even have to go to the Reviews page!

Categories: Reviews | Tags:

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