Friday, March 30, 2012

We Win Total Victory for Six Months

Consider this:
In between July 2012 and some time in 2013, the only version of Dungeons & Dragons that will be on game store shelves (other than in the clearance bins) will be ... First Edition.

July 17, 2012 will indeed be a cold day in Hell. And we will be warm.

More OFFICIAL considerations about 1e

This is part 2. Look at the prior post "We are Officially Official D&D" before reading this one.

Perceptions are real. Indeed, some might say that our only contact with reality is through perceptions. The color I call "blue" might not look like your color "blue," for all we know -- all we know is that we're consistent about our personal blue. The Holmes Basic rules were in a blue book. This much almost all of us would agree to, with the exception of the usual contrarian element.

I mentioned in my last post that WotC has left the door open for First Edition gamers (and possibly by extension the rest of us) to claim a much higher level of credibility with mainstream gamers to whom "official" matters. Our existing community, of course, is almost by definition immune to "official," although many (including myself) are attracted by "shiny."

We now have an official WotC book that is also shiny. Or, at least, we will have one eventually, we're told. Fair enough, it's been over thirty years that we've been using out of print books, delays don't exactly kill us. Plus, we're old enough that a month passes as fast now as a day once did. Remember how summer vactions used to last forever? I do.

The question is whether we want to claim that "official" mantle, or whether life has been better in the shadows. Before retro-clones, we were all to some degree or other possessed of ancient books of lore, books you had to know where to find (okay, ebay isn't far, but it's not the corner grocery store, either). We were all adepts and initiates, because it's not exactly easy to pick up the books and learn OD&D or 1e. 2e was easier ... maybe that's why the 1e players have a history of kicking sand in the faces of B/X players and 2e players, even now that the percentage difference in our ages is de minimus and the similarities of the games pale beside the gulf to 3e and 4e.

Retro-clones, to a degree, divided the community. Most of the furor over it has died down now that the novelty of the SHINY NEW (but not official) rules is no more, and the world didn't end, and there are some new modules out there. But retro clones did change the community by making it a bit less mysterious, a bit less arcane, a bit less ... something.

That's all I have the time to write at this moment, but I have in mind several related thoughts. Officialness, shininess, the mystery of an adepthood as opposed to a mainstream gamer-community. There's something in there to be used, although I don't think I've really seen it take shape yet.

We are Officially Official D&D

OODD (Official Old D&D?)

I have no idea whether Wizards of the Coast really intended to do this, but they have, psychologically at least, given the mantle of official authority to AD&D First Edition. First Edition isn't the flagship product of the OFFICIAL D&D company, nor is it really and truly being sold as OFFICIAL D&D. However, it is all of a sudden an OFFICIAL product again now that these reprints will be coming out (in July, at this point).

I can't afford $150 or whatever it is, so I don't really care one way or another about the reprints themselves, qua reference books. I think it's a nice gesture by WotC, I think they will do it at their normal level of production value, which is lower than the original books of early TSR and higher than that of late TSR. I think it's foolish to set expectations on them any different than "what they always do." But it's an extremely nice gesture, one that allows them to make some cash in between their "new" editions, and one that will make them plenty of money. Their financial interests, their desire to unify the D&D splinter communities, and their desire to have a product in between 4th and 5th editions all happen to dovetail nicely with a benefit to us. They just transformed the old school renaissance into an officially sanctioned approach to gaming.

Nobody loses, and people outside the USA probably actually gain slightly, now that the books are going into those markets where the original books are pretty expensive. We gain street cred with those we might want to invite to a game, since these books are a recent printing from the OFFICIAL D&D company, which means that old school gaming is now officially OFFICIAL. And that carries considerable weight with many people who are quite sane -- just like others might throw salt over the shoulder, dislike rap music, or avoid buying/reading anything that was printed within the last decade.

WotC, whether their actual books are useful, or used at your table or my table, or whether the bindings fall apart or they are coated with a substance that causes Anthrax ... has just given us a huge amount of OFFICIAL.

So, having discovered that I'm potentially an official "reprint gamer" as well as an oldschooler, I'm thinking over what the next steps of the "OSR" might ought to be. On the one hand, one of the games has now been crowned as an OFFICIAL product, no matter how far down the totem pole it it -- it never used to be on the totem pole at all. On the other hand, the other games in the OSR don't have that same officiality at this point. Officiality is a good new word, btw, quite apropos in this situation where there are actual degrees of what is "official."

There's a fork in the road here, and the question is whether or not we want to pick it up.

Friday, March 23, 2012

This is excellent.

I'm still not doing so well at my own creativity at the moment, so it's time to start showcasing cool stuff that other people have-done/are-doing.

Online hireling generator at This just got posted at K&KA, probably other places as well, and it's worth playing with. To really get the benefit of it, you'd need to be using a computer at the gaming table, which I don't (and I know many others also don't). Nevertheless, you could print up a bunch of pre-gens very quickly.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Cannibalistic Innkeeper

In addition to the venerable classical tradition of serving the loved ones of one's enemies to one's enemies ala Titus Andronicus, and all the way up to the liver and fava beans of Hannibal Lecter, one has the trope of the D&D innkeeper who Shanghais adventurers and other visitors from the rooms of the inn, and serves them for dinner.

I ran across this reference while reading a novel, and looked it up on the net ... it looks like it's totally, thoroughly unsubstantiated, but it's super D&D:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Effects of videogaming

There's an article in the dead tree Wall St. Journal today, page D1, about the effects of video gaming, including World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, etc. The article is fairly positive about the effects, which can apparently include faster decision-making, a better ability to multi-task, and even (in a test of surgeons) better success operating on patients.

One minor downside, the article notes in passing, is that "A meta-analysis by Iowa State University psychologists ... shows violent videogames make people more prone to aggressive thoughts and less likely to care about others."

So, basically, the action/violent games are excellent at building a better, faster, sociopath. Um ... I'm not sure that the article's generally upbeat tone is entirely justified.

I found it interesting, since a similar accusation was leveled at D&D after the "D&D is Satanic" craze began sounding a bit crazy and shrill. The study mentioned in the journal was described as independent from the "companies that sell video and computer games." The way the article downplayed the potentially negative effects of these games made me wonder if the newspaper was quite as independent from those companies as the research was...