Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Break from Gaming--what do you do when the gaming doldrums strike?

I just did a scary thing: I folded my Expeditions in the Northlands Campaign.

No, its not some Halloween trick. 

All of the players got an email tonight. No more Friday night roleplaying down at the FLGS. I feel oddly relieved. In the past, I'd get a bit upset whenever a campaign I was running folded or just petered out. I couldn't help but think that all of that prep work and time may have been for nothing. 

But tonight: just relief. 

My heart just wasn't in it anymore, even the initial excitement of converting to Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG wore off really fast. The first clue of this feeling came when I realized I wasn't preparing for the game in between sessions. I just didn't feel like it, even though I've had the time.

I feel like perhaps if I was part of a group as a player, it might help kick the gamer doldrums I've been feeling as of late. Or maybe I just need a break, and focus on other things. 

It wouldn't be the first time. To finish my master's degree I had to dump gaming all together for about six months around two years ago. There's been a couple times before that, when life got too busy or there was a summer or two in between college semesters when nobody was around.  

I've also been reading a lot lately. I've been getting more pleasure from reading a good book than at the gaming table (well, I'm supposed to, I'm a writer). That could be contributing to my feelings. 

Still, it's kind of weird. For the last 25 years, since I started playing, I've usually been all gung-ho about running something. Now I'm not. 

I do have a lose plan for catching up on painting miniatures. But for now...

...its time for a break. 

So what do you do when the "gaming doldrums" strike?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

When did gaming get so complicated?

I'm probably looking through the lens of nostalgia here, but I remember when I was younger, it was so much easier to game and have a good time. You showed up and played. That's it.

Somewhere along the way, unless I've had a dedicated group, it seems sometimes that the stars have to align for everybody to show up for a given session. You throw in conflicting personalities, strong opinions on the editions of rules, and endless other distractions, its really amazing any tabletop gaming gets done at all.

I remember how D&D 3e made it seem like you needed all of those accessories (miniatures, battle mats, etc) to play the game. Suddenly, if you didn't have the right miniature, you had to find it and paint it. That slowed down prep time. Yeah, I know that doesn't apply to everybody, but to me the game became more about what was on the tabletop rather than what was going on the player's minds. I'm not sure how it happened, for years my players and I were simply happy using the figures from boardgames like HeroQuest or DragonStrike. WotC's brilliant marketing I guess.

Yesterday I went to my FLGS, Treefort Games, and saw a Pathfinder game in progress. The GM had connected his laptop with a computer monitor so he could run the game. I can't blame him, from what I've seen of Pathfinder, you need a computer to keep track of all of the rules. At it looked like they were running a pretty high-powered campaign. I don't think any of the characters has scores less than 12, with the highest being 20. They were all around 6th level, but had +15 bonuses to their die rolls.

I occasionally use a laptop, but mainly to play music. It sits off to the side while I run.

I've been in games where all of the players have their laptops out at the tabletop. I find it very distracting.

Perhaps I'm just getting older. But I remember the days when all you truly needed to play was a couple rulebooks, some pens, and some paper, a handful of friends, and you were good to go.

Anything else was just decoration.

Friday, October 25, 2013

When do you call a game off?

Tonight I was set to run a game of Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. It'd been kind of an "off" day as it was. But when I arrived at my FLGS, to my horror I'd taken the folder with both the adventure and the character sheets out of my binder a couple weeks ago, so I wouldn't have to carry everything on a trip I would be taking. 

Only one other player had showed up, and he hadn't slept because of his odd work schedule.

I thought about running something on the fly, but just didn't have it in me, not without the character sheets. So I called the game off.

It turns out this probably was a good thing. As I spread the word of the cancelation, I discovered that a player was still about an hour away, having to fight through at Atlanta traffic, which has been pretty crazy lately. So I saved him the stress of going through that. 

That's the first time I've called a game off in a long, long while. I feel kinda bad about it. But I don't think we where meant to play tonight. 

So when do you call a game off as a GM? 

Or when do you not show up as a player? 

Monday, October 14, 2013

What's Your Ideal # of Blog Posts Per Day, Week, or Month?

How much do you think is too much? Or too little?

I'm speaking to both blog authors and readers out there.

Various blog ranking sites have told me that I should be making posts at least once a day. Readers want to keep up to date on your latest news. In the OSR Blogosphere, there are those, like Timothy Brannan over at the Other Side Blog, who post about once a day. He's got quite a few followers. But then you've got Tenkar's Tavern churning out 2, 3, or 4 posts a day--it's hard to keep up sometimes as a reader.

Then you've got bloggers who post only about once a week--many of those come published authors.

It's been over a year since I've started d20 Dark Ages, and lately I've been wondering what to do with it. At its height last spring, I was getting around 7,000 page views per month. It plateaued then declined after I left G+.

I feel like I need to offer readers something besides my witty ramblings about gaming. I don't want to churn out material just to churn out material to boost my page views. I'd rather publish quality over quantity--stuff readers will read and enjoy. In the past, I've been good at hammering out a blog post in about a half hour, daily. But at times I'd run out of steam.

Lately I've been pondering the direction d20 Dark Ages should take. So any input will be greatly appreciated.

So what's your ideal number of blog posts? How many is too many... or too little?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Has it really been five years since 4e "ruined everything?"

This occurred to me the other day: D&D 4e came out in August 2008.

Really? That long ago?

It's been almost four years since I got frustrated, halted my 4e campaign, and sold all of the books.

4e pissed me off! I'd been deceived by WotC! They said it'd be better that 3.5e! They said the mathematics would "even out" and no one's character would get overpowered! Even worse:

I wasted about three months running 4e, and it turned out that myself nor my players liked it!

The outrage! The deceit on WotC's part! I'd spent a few months promoting 4e, thinking my players would enjoy it. I bought all three of the corebooks, an equipment guide, and even subscribed to DDI. Man oh man did I feel burned when the paradigm shift came during one session:

I don't like this game. It's really hard to challenge player characters because characters are hard to kill. Once the players realize this, then what's the point of playing? 

This revelation came after a 4-5 1st and 2nd level characters trounced a 7th or 8th level black dragon straight from the Monster Manual, a solo creature. The PCs trounced the dragon. About half ended up bloodied, but that was easily fixed by "second winds" and magical healing. Then they went on their merry way. The dragon had been a random encounter in swamp, something (in older editions of D&D) they should have run from.

What happened? My die rolls were decent but the dragon just couldn't match the overwhelming combined powers of the PCs. Not even its acid breath weapon had much effect. Something similar had been going on in other encounters. The monsters and PCs would "dance" around the battle mat, using their powers to "push" or "pull" each other for about an hour like WWE wrestlers, then the PCs would win.

Sure, 4e pretty much took care of the "15 minute adventuring day" (which I'd never experienced, by the way), but ended up making characters hard to defeat. The initial fun we had playing 4e, trying out the new system, lapsed into boredom once the players figured out how to combine their powers to always defeat the monsters with little risk to themselves.

After taking another look at things, I realized that 4e is about as opposite from my philosophy on gaming as one can get. I don't think you're supposed to create your own adventures with 4e. I don't think it's meant for that. Sure, DMing is somewhat easier than 3.5e, but only if you handed what you're given by the published books. Even worse, because of all its concern over balance, it encouraged what I call passive gaming, where all participants just sit back and wait to be entertained, instead of being proactive and making their game their own.

I'll go into more about passive gaming and why it can have a negative impact at the tabletop in a later post, as well as better defining the term and what I mean by "negative."

I'm not upset anymore. My group when back to playing 3.5e. I'd have rather run AD&D 2e or one of the many retroclones out there, but that wouldn't come until the last year or so.

Overtime I realized that 4e just wasn't for me. After running that abortive 4e campaign, no amount of marketing or persuasion could get me run or play 4e again on a regular basis. I did play a session of D&D Encounters a little over a year ago. I had fun, but I felt like I'd just played a fast-food version of D&D. Still, it was better than not playing anything. 

Now 5e is on the horizon. At some point, I probably will try it. WotC is certainly trying to "unite the clans" buy saying it'll work with any edition of D&D. But there's so many other options out there now where I can get my d20 fix. Swords & Wizardry is one, and recently I've "upgraded" to DCC RPG, both of which align pretty much with my philosophy of gaming.

Have I ever explained my gaming philosophy of gaming? If I did, it must have been in one of my earlier posts on this blog--which I can see few people read. But that is a topic for another time.

In the five years since 5e came out, things have moved forward. Just as they always will. For some, 4e did ruin everything, fragmenting the hobby. But out of all that the OSR really took off as did Pathfinder. Players started questioning the fundamental reasons why people play D&D and what exactly is D&D?

And I think that is a good thing.

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