Tuesday, June 10, 2008

five links

Amazon version of the DMG Inspirational Reading List - incomplete but still awesome

The Innovation Party - An interesting technique I'm considering trying out

Star Trek Starship Tactical Combat Simulator On-Line Database & Archive - One of my favorite fan sites of all is back up and running! Yay!


The Year The Hobby Died - I wish I could laugh this off.


  1. Sett and I agree about a lot of things. He is missing an important thing about this change in edition.

    The previous edition still can be legally published and supported.

    Not only that but it has been successfully to resurrect even older editions.

    So while the latest game to be labeled D&D will continue to be the #1 Brand in the market. There are no laments in my corner.

  2. Anonymous11:44 AM

    Rob, did "The day the music died" really prevent anybody from playing rock´n roll?

    It´s as metaphoric as the original song.

    Real men can cry, and so do I cry for the end of this golden age.

  3. Anonymous11:45 AM

    I can't help but to also chime in on Sett's funeral dirge for the hobby.

    IMO it's the always present dark side of Grognardism. It's the side that has trouble appreciating that things can and do change, sometimes for no reason at all, yet still have it's own merits. It's just plain wrong to me to always be looking at the way it was done before as the only possible way to have fun. A new edition of D&D that is different from the past is not the end of RPGs, as a hobby, as an industry, or as an entertaining pasttime for friends. It's just the appearance of something new and different from its predecessors. Folks are free to like or dislike it, but to attribute things beyond individual taste to the health and attitude of the entire hobby
    1) incredibly premature
    2) Kinda antagonistic to those who like, play, and have fun with 4e

    As Rob points out, the past is not dead and gone for those who want to continue to have fun that way. Even better, there is now one more way for folks to approach RPGs and find out what they like about it.

  4. Anonymous1:17 PM

    There's a full copy of the DMG appendix N Recommended Reading list here:


    -some guy named sam

  5. The original is a terrible, whiny, overlong nostalgia-fest. Richie Valens and the rest were awesome, but their death didn't keep me from growing up around rock music (for that matter, Jimi Hendrix being dead didn't keep me from growing up specifically listening to his rock music).

    As Rob points out, the past is not dead and gone for those who want to continue to have fun that way. Even better, there is now one more way for folks to approach RPGs and find out what they like about it.

    Pretty much. I've been amused by the really long threads on RPGnet about the "essential D&D" and how 4e is or isn't it. I like the "is" POV, based on the idea that essential D&D amounts to "a smushed together mass of fantasy stuff we like right now", but watching people try to argue other people out of playing a new version is not new, but still funny.

    But what do I know? The first system I worked through was TMNT, the first game I played a ton of was Shadowrun.

    (My first memory of being handed Red Box Basic by my sister, then looking through it -- "Oh, hey, thi cleric thing looks cool. That girl's holding a mace, so she must be a cleric, right? And they cast spells and hit stuff...oh, wait...I don't get to cast a spell at first level? Well, that sucks. Stupid game.")

  6. Oops. I dropped a key word there. The original song is all those things. :) Not original D&D, say, which is definitionally not a nostalgia fest, nor particularly whiny.

    Incidentally, I always loved the painting -- it's either Elmore or Parkinson, and I can't ever remember which -- of a group of adventurers proudly standing around this maybe 5-6-foot-long dragon they've just killed, and have hung up. That always felt very basic D&D to me. When half your party can be killed by lucky shots from house pets, it's a huge deal to take down a dragon that's about the size of a Great Dane.

    (I believe this was a Dragon Magazine cover.)

  7. A thought on "golden age" -- I'd posit more of a golden age now, because I can go buy basically the entire D&D back catalog as super-super cheap PDFs. I recently picked up Birthright and Planescape for about ten bucks, total, because I was always sort of curious about those settings. Similarly, anyone can drop a couple bucks to get the red box, to get the (sixth printing of) the original, original D&D books, to pick up super oldschool adventures, and so forth. I think it's great that Wizards has made their inventory available this way, as it (1) gives them a continuous, long-tail income stream that requires basically no support from them and (2) gives new players who don't want to hunt all over the place and shell out big collectors' money the opportunity to read through, experience, and play every edition of the game.

    The D&D Cyclopedia (which I am still a huge fan of) is six bucks -- so if you want to run that game /and/ have each player have the core book, that's a super-cheap buy-in for everyone, even if they want their own personal copy. Definitely easier than ten years ago when I had to track down a used bookseller who had one in reasonable condition.

    To me, that's more golden-age prone than what's gone before.

  8. Anonymous1:45 PM

    alex, weren´t you the guy who didn´t play a lot of D&D?

    "As background, I've barely ever played any D&D in my life, and always found AD&D 1e and 2e uninspiring, and D&D 3e fiddly as hell."

    That´s what you said. So, enjoy your Disco music.

  9. Yeah, I didn't play a lot of D&D. I played the second-generation rock and roll that is Shadowrun. That said, I'm now going back and checking out a bunch of first-gen D&D stuff because it's available and it's cheap -- almost dangerously so, given how low the price points are and how I don't even have to, you know, go anywhere to get copies of them. That feels much more "golden age" prone than ten years ago when I had to track down a used book seller to find a Cyclopedia.

    To put it another way, the barrier to entry for people who didn't buy the books when they first came out is drastically lower. For the price of one core book, I can equip my entire play group with the books they need to play. Thus, I can choose my favorite edition of (say) D&D, be it original, red box, cyclopedia, 1e, or 2e and easily game in it. Ten years ago, that was a pain in the ass.

    I give red box / Cyclopedia D&D a ton of credit for being accessible, and it looks like way more fun than third or second edition ever did. Historically, I just happened to find Shadowrun before I ran into the Cyclopedia, or else I might have played a Cyclopedia-based game.

    What I don't get now is the complaint that the 3e-4e transition is somehow the end of an era that stretched from classic D&D onward. I am awfully tempted by Red Box / Cyclopedia D&D, but the horrendous mess of 3e was super-offputting to me, and starkly dissimilar from its roots (not bad in general, just bad for me). I think the core case I'd make is that the discontinuity occurred well before the current edition shift, so I don't understand the "end of an era" stuff. That era "ended" a while ago.

    (...and can still be bought for cheap as PDFs. I reiterate the absolute awesomeness of that. It made me so happy when I saw that Wizards was doing that.)

    ((And to generation-fix myself, my post-nostalgia music wasn't disco; it was Metallica. Make of that what you will.))

  10. The "innovation party" is something I relied on (albeit without an obnoxious catch-phrase) heavily in the 80s, in particular ... me and my buddy Ken would set aside evenings and just heavily brainstorm our games, or sometimes devote entire nights to (for example) monster creation or stocking our library of odd magic items. I still use a lot of the material from those days :)

  11. sam, S. John: thanks for commenting on one of the other items on today's list!

    Everyone else: I reserve the right to mourn the passing of an era. It's not the end of the world and I plan on rocking out with RPGs in the future, but let's be honest here. 4e may be a great game but some of it is a huge break from 35 years of the D&D that preceded it.

  12. I'm not actually saying it's not a big break from the past, but I guess it doesn't seem like a /bigger/ break from the past than the 2e-3e transition, which saw the passing of wonky inverse armor classes, baroque effects of attributes on the game, weirdass custom subsystems rather than a relatively unified core mechanic, and other things that had held for quite a while, and saw the addition of Feats, which my first-blush reaction to was "Hey, video game combo moves."

    In my world of watching the editions since first (which is when I was first exposed to the game), the transition to second felt pretty smooth, and the transition to third felt like a significant jump. The transition from third to fourth feels perhaps on par with that from second to third, both being far more significant than the transition from first to second.

    I mean, there's no such thing as badwrongmourning or anything, so I'm not saying not to, but I guess I thought that people playing 3e haven't been playing "classic" D&D for a long time (or, more concisely, it feels like people are mourning about eight years too late).

    (After all, my at-a-glance response to the flagship new setting for 3e, Eberron, was "Hey, they made a Fullmetal Alchemist game. Interesting." Good stuff, but not so much classic oldschool.)

  13. Sett,

    Fair enough. I see where you are coming from now.

    I understand the sadness people feel when "Things aren't just the same anymore" having undergone that myself recently with the NERO LARP.

    I forked off early on my own RPG path both in the way I played AD&D and switching to more rules heavy system. So changes in the World's Most Popular RPG had little effect on me.