Dungeons & Dragons 4.0 – Sort of a Pen, Paper, & Dice Game

Adventure Atari 2600
This post is brought to you by Adventure for the Atari 2600. Don’t get eaten by the… seahorse? Ostrich? I think the main character would be the best Con outfit ever. The Adventure square, the original fantasy game hero…

There have been a lot of whispers as of late about there finally being a new edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and how people feel about what has been announced (or just rumored). There are plenty of things that are making me gape and cringe, one of them being the attempt of Wizards of the Coast to try and make AD&D a pen, paper, dice, and laptop game.

It sounds cool to have an online community to access resources and have discussions. It seems WoC is planning for this to be a place to either print out all of your materials or just plain play. Your mouse is your dry erase marker and avatars are your miniatures.

How do we feel about this? There is no need to look at each other or interact… just look online!

This is what I see happening…

“You encounter a roving band of rogues. Wait a minute while a print it out. Or better yet, log in and we can all see the map over the internet!”

“Cool. It’s like a LAN party. Can we play Doom?”

“If we’re just going to play on the internet, why did we drive to your house?”

“For the cheetos and mountain dew, duh!”

“I have those at my house. Why did I drive if I didn’t need to? I could be playing naked. I want to cast magic missile… naked!”

“Dude, that’s creepy. But I see your point. I could be home, playing World of Warcraft and this game at the same time.”

“Why don’t we just all play World of Warcraft instead?”

“Good idea.”


“Uh, no. Not a good idea. But, what you do in your own house is your business.”

Scary stuff, huh? It sounds like a lot of the things WoC is removing, changing, or adding are an attempt to lure the MMORPG crowd into the AD&D fold.

Any thoughts on this?

Role Playing is Playing a Role

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Pools of Radiance Japan
This post is brought to you by AD&D: Pools of Radiance for the NES, or should I say Famicom? This screen shot is inviting heroes to step up in New Phlan. Really, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

I recently started role playing again, and as much as it feels like sitting in that comfy divit in an old chair, I think maybe I picked the wrong chair.

A game master (aka GM or DM: one who runs the game) puts forth a framework in which to operate our imaginations. By playing in their game, we are accepting to follow that framework alongside the imaginings of the fellow players. The GM provides the world and our tasks, and we provide the heroes.

I realized that is my problem with this game I’ve recently joined. We didn’t provide the heroes. We had to fill in most of the lines on the character sheet- like our starting equipment, but we didn’t get to pick the name, sex, race (eg: elf), class (eg: wizard), or background (recent & far past) of our characters. Since we are a sum of our experiences and genetics, that sort of sums up the whole personality of the character we’re playing. We didn’t come up with our role to play while role playing.

At first, I saw it as a challenge. Play a character you would have never come up with on your own. I thought it would be kind of closer to acting in a play. I thought it could be fun.

And it is a challenge, so much so that not only do I feel like I don’t relate to my character in any way, I feel like I don’t know what my own character would do in most given situations. If given time to think I might come up with a list of things he might do with reasonings, but I don’t exactly have that luxury while playing in real time. It’s getting frustrating.

I love characters. If you would ask me why I write fiction or read it… why I play the video games I do or like the movies and shows I watch, it’s the characters. I admire the way they are developed through the story, their interactions through dialogs and gestures, and seeing how they grow and change. In a good story, you get to know the characters as if they’re real people and feel interested and invested enough in them to care what happens to them.

Is it such a stretch to think that the reason I love role playing is coming up with and playing a character? I love being the GM to make up and play many roles. Players only get to be one, single hero. I’m feeling like I’m fitting into my role like it’s a few sizes off, and it’s no wonder. I didn’t come up with or chose it. The one bit of creation that a player is allowed is their character, and I was denied that chance.

And so, it’s no wonder I’m thinking of leaving the group. It makes me sad because the players are top-notch. I really like playing with them a lot.

And the GMing isn’t so bad either, it’s just that he inadvertently took away my favorite part of role playing.

A lesson learned, I guess, but it’s a lesson I already learned once before.

In Milford, MA there used to be a gaming store called The Gamers’ Guild. I was in a game once where I was only allowed to play if I took on an existing NPC (non player character). There were two I was able to chose from. I selected the one I thought would be more fun based on her class.

Then, I tried to develop her as a character through playing her. I was told that my character wouldn’t do this or say that. I found out my character had a history and personality and relationships that I wasn’t aware of. Every time I tried to speak or act, I found myself defending my actions to one player in particular. In short, I found out that this wasn’t my character.

Yet again, they were a group of pretty awesome players, but it wasn’t allowed to role play, I was just a warm body rolling for a NPC of someone else’s imagination.

So, I feel like I don’t want to mess up the game by quitting. I also don’t want to stop playing with these neat people, but I’m fast losing interest in trying to play this character. For all of you thinking I should just kill him off, the in game situation makes even that very difficult.

Should next week be my last game? I can overcome any number of other game flaws if I enjoy playing my character, but without that, I’m not sure anything else is enough.

I think it may be time to take up the mantle of GM once again.

FourmRuler & Writing is Born

I attribute my writing to a natural result of reading so much, but the internet surely played a large role as well. I started writing once upon a time in the (then) magical land of Compuserve. Sure, before that I wrote long posts and emails and even sort of ‘message role played’- but it was just communicating thoughts and words. It didn’t occur to me that I was writing stories, poetry, and essays.

The lame story of how I figured this out was an encounter with a luser with the handle of “ForumRuler” mocking me even though he didn’t know me. I was about ten and not going to let it go. I had a “Well, I rule more than you do.” attitude and online persona. We went back and forth and finally he threw the gauntlet down. He challenged me to a contest of words. The rules were that we write a poem about our own awesomness. Who ever wrote the better one would be the true forum ruler. I think he was expecting an easy win because I was “Huh… never wrote a poem before”.

We were working something close to real time, both online, so I wrote:

You first hear footsteps,
Then the smile,
You know you will be dead,
In a little while,
You say why me?
You whine and run,
But you know what will happen,
She is the one,
She is the one I say,
The one you despise,
She is strong and charming,
and she is wise,
Whom is she you say,
Why has she come?
It doesn’t matter,
Your life is done.

He admitted it was ‘not bad’ having posted four lines of clever ‘roses are red I rule ‘n stuff’ and I never heard from him again. He probably had to change his handle and start over. I, on the other hand, found it very satisfying and started writing for the sake of writing actual works for the first time.

Notepad and I would sit down and write poems, story lines, dialogs, beginnings, middles, ends, and scenes. I wrote about taverns without ever have been drunk. I wrote about dueling with swords and sorcery, even though I’d never fenced. The real bits were always in the poetry and the characters. I only wrote about emotions, motivations, and interactions as I understood them. This was the a part of writing I fell in love with.

My true motivations for writing were somewhere between escape and expression. I felt better after all the jumbled thoughts in my head came out and made some sense on paper. Those thoughts didn’t have to be me, they became characters in far off worlds with much more important things to accomplish. They had much bigger trials to face.

The stories in my head were no longer just bedtime stories to myself after closing my eyes. They bore some sense of importance that I might one day get them down properly and share them with others.

You Can’t Pwn At Pong

Mario Bros Atari
I’m only twenty-something, but I still am not sure I feel right saying ‘pwned’.

It feels a bit unreal to have gaming be the younger cool. It seems like just yesterday, I was my little brother’s age and getting flack for the same reason he’s considered awesome. I feel like the same people who will wear Mario Bros. shirts now might be the same ones who poked at me in school for video gaming. Part of me wants to reveal the poser they are. I would ask them:

In the first level, do you go down the pipe for the coins? You do? Now why would you do that? There’s a barely hidden one-up that you miss if you go down the pipe. 100 coins equal a one-up. Do the math.

They look at me blankly, thinking, “Up-whats?”.

Am I still allowed to use the word poser?

Across the room, nestled between cd video games and Super Nintendo cartridges are little rectangle bricks that belong to no Nintendo. One of them even says “Mario Bros.” on it.

People think Mario, they think Nintendo. It’s hilarious how many games people remember as being exclusive classics for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System originated for the Atari, early PC, and even old Macs.

You just can’t pwn at old video games. There was no typing to other players in a multiplayer environment. Even when doors and muds came about in BBS land, I don’t know about you guys, but I remember there usually being 1 node for one person to play at one time. In Legend of the Red Dragon, when you killed someone in the field and were interviewed for what you said after kicking ass, no one ever uttered “Pwned!”. They would have looked at the screen, backspaced a few times, and totally “Owned!” you.

Legend of the Red Dragon

I also feel I don’t really pwn, because I don’t play Halo. To me, Halo is just MIDI Maze, Wolfenstein 3d, Doom, Quake, Duke Nukem, Heretic, Hexen, or GoldenEye 007(etc.) all over again… in space… with more jumping. Wait, System Shock was in space (with zombies even). So yeah, just with more jumping. I know people will raise their fists at me, but to me Halo has been repeated so many times that I shrug.

I watch my little bro in his headset screaming ‘Dude! Let’s super jump.’ and just ask, “Why is there so much jumping?” and feel kind of old.

I don’t mind feeling out of touch with pwnage. What is kind of sad is that I’ve stopped being as excited by new video games. I’ll say, “That’s kind of cool.” or “That’s pretty neat.”, but for the most part, I just feel like I’ll never be as excited as I was when video games were still new with leaps and bounds in their advancement. I didn’t even have the money for them, but I had plenty of time and an obsessed uncle.

Don’t get me wrong, I roll up my Katamaris and I play my voice acted RPGs, RTSs, and TBSs. So, maybe I’m just not a shoot ’em up kinda gamer.

This is not the case, because I’m not all about the MMORPGs. Instead they horrify me. The amount of time (or cheating) you have to invest to have a good time just boggles my mind. In addition, it’s kind of like I say when I see someone play Halo and I say, “Why is there so much jumping?”, with these it’s, “Wow, why is there so much running around?” Sure, there’s always been world map trekking, but this is insane. It used to be a few steps to the next town or a few random fights, now the random fights *ARE* the game. The intimacy of you, the characters, and the plot has been sacrificed to hack and slash with a subscription fee.

If you are reading this and like Halo or your MMORPG of choice, good for you. I mean, I’m obviously old and not so cool, so don’t listen to granny here.

I will keep saying “In my day…”, but that’s okay too. The best part about it is that now I have the resources to find all the old games I missed and try them out with the PC and emulator. Then I’ll snap shot the screen shots that amuse me and put them away for future posts. I know old games are not without flaws, but their flaws were lack of budget and technology to back them. I am floored by the mediocrity of today’s games. We have the tech and budget now, but where is all the fun game play and awesome writing? Creativity used to outpace the ability to convey it, now that the money and tech are there… where has it gone?

I am glad that there are exceptions. I just wish they were more the rule than the exception. At some point I’m hoping I’ll see it come back around and people will learn that eye-candy and hack and slash just isn’t enough.

Pure pwnage needs something more to back it up.

Waywards Wandering – Chapter 4: Knowing Everything, A Screen Shot For Every Post

AD&D Pools of Radiance screen shot
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Pools of Radiance (PC version) – Unlike the NES version of this game, the Commadore 64, Atari St, and PC versions allowed you to customize the character portraits and map icons. They also supported trans gendered characters. :) This dwarf is hot!

I’m changing the post format so I will be giving you a screen shot of something wonderful every post (likely a video game scene). I was dedicating whole posts to many at a time, but why not hoard them and let them trickle out so you may appreciate each one like the work of art it is?

Now continues the story of a large walking lizard and his pet monk. Click here to see all of the story so far.

– – – – –

That morning Kanji and Deathwish stood outside the temple packed for the road. They were now well rested and well fed. Father Salane was also generous enough to donate supplies and a small sum of money from the temple stores. Father Salane in turn charged that they help rid the world of its ills and watch over Lashea.

Where is she? At this rate we’ll loose the whole morning, Deathwish had begun the morning in high spirits but was fast growing irritated as his shadow grew shorter.

Kanji started to open his mouth in Lashea’s defense, but quickly stopped. Kanji could imagine that leaving home for the first time was difficult, as he remembered doing it himself many years ago. He could understand why Lashea was late, trying to say goodbye to everyone and everything she knew perhaps forever.

On the other hand, Deathwish wouldn’t understand such a comment if Kanji had made it, since he never got a chance to say goodbye to his home before being torn from it and plunged into this world. Kanji stood as Deathwish paced, silently praying to Brihaad. He opened his eyes when he finally heard the temple doors open and slam shut.

“Sorry I’m late,” huffed Lashea jogging to Kanji’s side, “I underestimated how long it would take me to pack,” On Lashea’s back was a huge, bulging backpack that looked as if it were about to rip under the strain of its contents. Packed aside it was her large sword, on top were rolled blankets, and pots and pans attached jangling at her side. From her belt she sported three large belt pouches which jangled and bounced off her thighs as she jogged up to her new companions.

“What’s that horrible smell?” she asked coming to stand by Kanji and Deathwish.

Kanji sighed and glanced at Deathwish, not even having to hear his unhappy thoughts. He then smiled at Lashea as kindly as he could manage and pointed at her back, “Um, what’s all of this?”

“They are my things, of course,” replied Lashea, confused.

“Lashea,” Kanji put on a gentle tone, “we’re going to be traveling a long way on foot. You’re not going to want to carry all of that. I’m sure there are things in there that you don’t need.”

Lashea bristled at what she interpreted as a condescending tone. She strode up to Kanji, and purposely looked down at him at an exaggerated angle being a full head taller than the monk, “I think I’m more than capable at determining what I do and don’t need. All I have are my clothes, books, bedding, money, food, eating utensils, dishes, pots, soap, hairbrush-”

Two rules: you carry it. If you can’t, you leave it behind without complaint, Deathwish turned away and started walking down the steps of the temple, his claws clicking on the stone, pulling his cowl into place.

Kanji looked up at Lashea, “Just consider how you would fight a monster so encumbered.”

Lashea merely stared at that point, brows furrowed, arms crossed, “Well, I’d put the pack down of c-”

While the monster waited for you to be ready! Speaking of monsters waiting for people to be ready, let’s get a move on, shall we?

“I’ll be back in a minute,” Lashea muttered, her face bright red with anger or embarrassment, Kanji was not sure. She turned around and rushed back into the temple. Kanji heard a chuckle coming from up above and looked up to see Clavus laughing and shaking his bald head.

“Be patient with her, you two. Remember, none of us started out knowing everything. That took some time.”

Kanji digested the irony of his words and realized they were likely aimed at the annoyed Deathwish who walked, talons clicking, back up the temple stairs. Kanji smiled and nodded at the plump priest and waited for Lashea, Deathwish remaining silent and managing to stand still.

Waywards Wandering – Chapter 3: Would Fall

Just in case you didn’t notice, the navagation bar above now sports a “characters” tab. This is to help you to keep track of the major characters in stories. This way, even if I get sidetracked and don’t write the next part of a story for awhile, you don’t need to reread what has come before to get a refresher on who the main players are. I’ll do my best to keep it up to date.

Speaking of next parts, this is the third chapter in a novel I’m writing called Waywards Wandering. You can click here for the first chapter, or click on the Waywards Wandering catagory link above and scroll down to where ever you left off.

As always, comments are welcome! This is not a final draft by any means, so criticisms could be very helpful.

Thanks for reading!
– – – – –

Lashea Fallenwood held her bastard sword firmly with both hands in spite the slickness of her sweaty palms. Calluses had formed over the blisters that had first formed when she had been left at the temple with the monks of Brihaad many years ago.

“Are you well, sister? Would you rather we continue this when you are less tired, perhaps?” the bald, round-faced priest smiled and mocked as he circled with his mace held firm in his right hand. Lashea forced herself to ignore his comments as she knew he was trying to goad her into loosing focus.

Not this time. Lashea has been practicing, studying her master hard. She was surely beyond his tricks, even if they were tried and true in the past. Lashea allowed a small, sideways smirk to appear on her fair-freckled face.

Today is my day. The clerics will come for his wounded body.

Without giving Clavus the benefit of a reply, Lashea stepped forward and swung her heavy sword down in a mighty arc is if to cleave the middle-aged monk in two. Clavus started to move forward and to the side, to strike at Lashea’s now exposed stomach. Lashea’s smirk broke into a grin as she knew he’d fall for the bait, thinking that she was enraged and unbalanced. Lashea reversed her momentum, not having thrown everything behind that swing, and brought her sword sweeping to the side, one-handed to cut off Clavus’s advance.

But rather than strike him as Lashea has expected, the sword passed through air as the monk took to the air and leapt over the low swinging blade to kick Lashea square in the face. She fell back and somersaulted, landing in a crouching position. Blood trickled down the side of her face, bringing out the fierce green in her eyes as she glared at her master. Clavus stopped his advance to let out a light-hearted chuckle.

Lashea ran, full tilt at the apparently distracted monk, stabbing strait at his solar plexus with her oversized blade. The monk parried it aside easily with his mace and kicked out, hitting Lashea’s hand. To her credit, she did not loosen her grip on the sword. Instead she swept out her right leg hoping to trip the off balance monk.

Not only did her use of martial arts not catch her master off guard, but it allowed him to again leap over Lashea’s low blow and score another series of strikes to her already bloody face with his fists.

This time, however, her master did not come out unscathed as Lashea was able to bring her sword to bear and swing in time to place a deep gash along one of his forearms.

Sensing an advantage, Lashea let out with a series of swings and thrusts. Though her attacks were slightly slower than the monk’s dodging, it also did not allow Clavus a chance to counter-attack without risking loosing a limb. Lashea had him backing into a wall of the training hall. She hoped to back Clavus into a place where he could no longer dodge, but he surprised her by turning after one such dodge, and running at the wall and up it several steps. He spring-boarded off the wall and launched himself at Lashea with an outstretched foot. Surprised, she barely dodged the attack, not having time to bring her sword around. She retreated several paces breathing heavily.

Again they circled each other. Clavus’s arm was bleeding more freely now, but he still maintained an air of superior calm. Conversely, Lashea face sported only a few minor wounds, but she struggled to not show her excitement. Never had she scored such a hit. She felt an urge to rush in claiming victory, and yet she recognized that time was on her side as her nose bled but a bit, but Clavus’s arm would weaken him the longer they circled one another.

Lashea also recognized that any mistake would be enough for Clavus to end the fight as he had so many times before, with Lashea on the floor of the training hall and Clavus admistering the healing powers of Brihaad.

Out of the corner of her eye, Lashea saw a door open to the training hall and Father Salane, the high cleric of the temple, walked in. He was followed by a diminutive robed figure, who Lashea did not recognize.

Sensing the opportunity for an audience in high standing, Lashea, swung her sword above her head and in back of her waist one-handed, handing it off to her opposite hand. She then brought the sword back in front of her to two hands. The gesture did nothing to phase her master, if anything he seemed even more amused as a wide grin adorned his lips through the display. Lashea had expected this reaction and was not distracted by it. She allowed her display to give her momentum into a series of wild swings, linking one-handed and two-handed styles. This was a routine she had been practicing in the private of her own chambers for months, never near her master. In training she had allowed him to continue to believe she was still too weak to handle the great sword one handed for more than a few seconds. If this took her master at all by surprise, he did not show it, being there to parry, dodge, and even slip in a few attacks of his own! Still he did not score a hit either which allowed Lashea to continue with some measure of pride and keep her mounting frustrations at bay. She was beginning to tire, but was inspired to press on.

Her audience murmured at her change in style. Lashea again allowed her smirk to surface, and even indulged in another glance over towards the door as she and Clavus began to circle each other again.

Lashea couldn’t help but let her guard down a moment as she saw another figure had since entered, and he sported a thick, green tail trailing out behind him!

  * * *

Lashea, her humiliation complete, allowed herself to be introduced to Kanji Takimura and Deathwish, two adventurers, the former a monk of Brihad from the Eastlands. Lashea was not very tall herself, and yet the top of this monk’s head placed barely at Lashea’s neckline. Even so, he handled himself with the grace of a practiced warrior. He had also revived her after the conclusion of her mock-battle with brother Clavis, a conclusion which Lashea did not remember.

However, Lashea assumed it had not ended in her favor.

“Lashea was orphaned after the plague swept through our fair city some ten years ago. Alas, our temple was unable to save almost a hundred in that breakout,” explained father Salane a bit sadly, “Since then she has been one of our finest students, being one of the very few sisters to bear a Sword of Brihaad!”

Lashea was able to stand a bit straighter at that. It was true that very few of the holy order at all were able to handle the large bastard swords that Brihaad was often depicted holding. Even fewer were the women that could train their muscles the kind of endurance necessary to control the blade’s heavy swings for very long. Lashea had been brought to the temple as an angry, a vengeful spirit without a foe, having lost her parents to the sickness. Every other weapon they placed in her hand was often soon in too ill of a condition to use, as she broke staves, dented maces out of balance, and shattered lesser swords. When they placed the large blade in her hands she swung the sword about and nearly toppled over much to her own embarrassment. The sword forced her into discipline as she had to learn to control the awesome power of each thrust. In turn she learned to control her own wild flashes of anger with the same smoldering patience. The fires of her anger forged her fierce ability with this weapon, and it turn it taught her many things about the dual nature of justice. Just as she had to bide her time with this weapon to reap its rewards, so too would she have to wait for the right time to avenge her parents and put an end to the evils of this world, in service of The Great Protector: Brihaad. Brihaad would give Lashea the power she needed to fight the cruelties of the world.

Lashea suddenly realized in her recollection that she was staring at her sword and had not been listening to the rest of her introduction.

“This, Lashea, is entirely up to you whether or not you decide to accompany these two on their quest into the Eastlands,” Father Salane was saying solemly, “We know that it is a long way to ask you to go on your first journey, with strangers no less, but know that you would be in fine hands. These two were the slayers of the Lord of the Undead to the north in recent times, but also have been party to many great deeds to the present. Above all, they are followers of Brihaad. Kanji is a monk, meaning that he has been trained to use his body as his weapon. Deathwish here, if you look beyond his appearance is actually a paladin. Though you walk a slightly different path as a acolyte priestess, you would learn much from them, Lashea, much that we cannot teach you here in the temple.”

Lashea’s breath was stolen as she was looked at expectantly by the high cleric, a large, imposing looking human-reptile, and a small, serious monk. She was compelled to yell in affirmation and run to pack her things. Yet much to her own surprise, she protested, “What about the rest of my training? Beating master Clavis and learning more of the priest-powers of Brihaad and…”

Lashea was cut off by Salane’s waving hand, “You are more than ready. You more than demonstrated that this afternoon in the training hall.”

Yeah, you would’ve had him if you hadn’t gotten so distracted by my good looks.

Lashea suddenly drew out her sword and spun about at Deathwish’s mental communication.

I’m over here. No need for another demonstration. I think you can swing that thing around well enough for now.

Lashea’s jaw dropped as she regarded the scaled, armored humanoid waving at her and speaking directly into her mind. She then suddenly remembered herself and picked up her mouth and put away her sword. She stood up strait and nodded.

“I would be honored to accompany such fine warriors.”

Continue to Chapter 4