That’s easy: friends. Apart from my wife, I can’t think of one real friend I have that I didn’t meet through role-playing games. To me, that’s Gary Gygax’s true legacy: the creation of a huge network of friends and colleagues so many of us share. Without the influence of role-playing games, my life would be unrecognizable. I wouldn’t even begin to guess what I’d be doing, who I’d be hanging out with, what my job would be. It has, quite literally, informed every aspect of my life.
Monthly Archives: August 2015
I’m sure Vin Diesel will be a popular choice for this one and Stephen Colbert, too. I haven’t actually heard Robin Williams talk about D&D, though he was a huge fan of The Legend of Zelda (hence his daughter’s name). So, I’ll give a shout out to Jon Favreau. I’ve been a fan of his since he played Rudy’s friend in… Rudy. Of course, he’s more famous now as the director of Elf and Iron Man. He credits D&D with helping develop his imagination and storytelling skills. From the L.A. Times in 2008:
Some filmmakers get their start making shaky home movies, others catch the bug in a high school drama class or maybe through an art institute where they put paint to canvas. Favreau has more of an eight-sided education.
“It was Dungeons & Dragons, but I wouldn’t have owned up so quickly a few years ago,” Favreau said sheepishly.
“It’s rough. It’s one of the few groups that even comic-book fans look down on. But it gave me a really strong background in imagination, storytelling, understanding how to create tone and a sense of balance. You’re creating this modular, mythic environment where people can play in it.”
Maybe there should be a new Hollywood respect for eight- and 10-sided dice and a talent for troll tales: Robin Williams, Mike Myers, Stephen Colbert and Vin Diesel have all professed their passion (past or present) for the role-playing game.
“It allowed me to not tamp down my imagination; I think there’s a tendency to turn that part of you off,” he said.
“Every kid has imagination, but at a certain age, that spigot gets turned off. I set it aside in high school. I really couldn’t do it now,” Favreau said, shaking his head. “There’s something in my heart — there was such a stigma to it.
“When I was young, it was exciting, but as I got older it felt like it was keeping me from progressing. You’re social in your small circle, but it’s asocial to the wider world.”
Okay, so that’s a total cop-out. After all, I don’t offer new rules, game reviews (well, rarely), or news. I tend to go to ENWorld for that. I’ve been going there since it was Eric Noah’s 3rd Edition D&D News (or whatever it was called in those days). I’ve been there long enough that I lost my original log-in somehow and had to start over (though it has always been JediSoth). Still, despite the years, I’m barely above 1,000 posts in the forums (joined August 2003 (the second time), 1022 posts = average of 85 posts/year). I’m a Professional Lurker.
The game of my youth: AD&D 2nd Edition. By the time 3rd edition came out, I had a measure of system mastery, I could run it in my sleep, and I felt comfortable creating rules content for it that wasn’t unbalanced. I played 2nd edition for its entire life cycle, though I didn’t truly appreciate some of the settings (like Planescape and Spelljammer) until their time was long gone.
Of course, no game is truly dead as long as you still have the rules and can still play it. I play multiple, so-called “dead” games each year at Gary Con, but with the advent of 5th edition D&D, I doubt I’ll go back to 2nd edition AD&D for any reason. 5th edition captures the feel of AD&D for me, and if I was to run it at a convention, I would stick with 1st edition AD&D (though the two games are similar enough mechanically that new players wouldn’t even notice) because it’s what everyone thinks of when they think of the classic version (BECMI, B/X, or Rules Compendium D&D, aka “Basic” is fantastic, too; I would run that again before I run AD&D).
Cross-genre mashups are my favorite, particularly for con games. Games run at conventions, typically one-shot, action-packed scenarios, are perfect for going gonzo and trying out things that you might never attempt in a long-term home game. Consider the following: A Call of Cthulhu game based on a “reality” TV series. Saturday Morning Cartoons cast as Superheroes. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen with 70s or 80s movie/TV icons. Call of Cthulhu on Gilligan’s Island. A KISS Superhero game. Something that sounds silly for a “serious” weekly game can be perfect for a 3-4 hour convention game where people need to grasp the concept quickly and have near-instant immersion. High concept games are fine, but when you have less than 4 hours to hand out pre-gens, explain the rules & background, and accomplish something during the game, you need all the help you can get.
I don’t really have a favorite inspiration. I’ve taken inspiration from television, film, literature, video games, life, and more. I’ll take inspiration anywhere I can get it and I’m pretty shameless about adapting and idea from one medium for my games. To me, the important thing is not WHERE one gets inspired, but WHAT one does with it.
This question is better answered by someone who dives deep into rules minutiae and loves it there. I don’t. Rules discussions bore me to tears, though I understand the need for games to have rules and have those rules be well-tested. I’m sure whatever I answer here, there will be someone who can explain at length why it’s not revolutionary and why I’m wrong and should feel bad.
BUT, I’m going to go ahead anyway. Damn the torpedoes!
I remember the days when the only way a PC could affect the game world was with a successful attack or skill check. Then came the Brownie Point (and by extension things like Hero Points, Fate Points, Force Points). By whatever name you call it, it was a limited reserve of points the characters could spend to do something extra, be it give themselves a bonus, reroll a failed attempt, or even “break” the rules in some way. Brownie Points, from the West End Games Ghostbusters RPG, by the way, were my first exposure to this concept.
I don’t use House Rules that much because, these days, I rarely play a system for long enough to need to tweak the rules as written. Back in the days of AD&D, though, we had lots of house rules. The house rules I used most were to remove gender restrictions on ability scores and race/level limits. I found when players planned for a long game, most would not considering anything other than male humans because of the restrictions (other than for thieves). Once the restrictions were gone, there was a much greater diversity of characters. If I had to run AD&D again, I would remove the race/class restrictions, too (though not the alignment restrictions for Paladins; they have been and always shall be Lawful Good).
I’m going to be pithy here and just say “the one I’m playing with my friends.”
A good GM and group can overcome the issues of most game systems. When I look back at games I’ve played, I remember what we did as characters, not the mechanics of the game. The perfect game is the one in which I can have fun. That’s it.
My perfect gaming environment is one which eliminates distractions for the GM and players (i.e. no TVs and video game consoles in the room), has convenient shelving for relevant game books, and walls covered with evocative art. My game room at home (with its Geek Chic table, Keurig, and mini-fridge) is close. Ideally, I’d like a built-in sound system (instead of the kludge of speaker wires I have now) and a drop-down video screen (I like ambient sounds and I play opening crawls during Star Wars games; I’m sure a GM-usable video screen could come in handy for other visual aids from time to time).
Granted some of those things (video screen) are purely luxury items and not strictly necessary to run an excellent game. But, that’s not what this question was about. :p
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