A collection of rambling posts about gaming, running, and politics. (and, in 2009, photography.)

Sunday, January 31, 2010

I need someone to make this happen

I have a new standard for blogs and feed readers.  I need to be able to tell my feeder the following:

"Okay Feed Reader, I want you to follow www.lukeandhisdog.com* but I want you to show me only things that are tagged dog or luke, but not donna or house, but I do want to see house stuff if it also is tagged with dog.  For all other tags, I want to see them, unless I disallow them."

Does this already exist and I'm just blind?  This seems relatively easy, and would keep me from feeling like I need a blog site for game stuff, and a blog site for baby stuff, and a blog site for picture stuff, and a blog site for general insanity, and so forth.

*  I just made that up, I didn't even look to see if it exists.

Hey, is this a post about gaming?!

Hello World!

I haven't talked a great deal about gaming lately.  I've been busy.

Lately I've begun to feel the gaming itch again, and have talked about doing some Shadowrun, and thought about doing some more D&D/fantasy gaming.  I'm going to dump my thoughts here about D&D and running a game of it.

I spent a goodly bit of time talking about 4e during '08 and some of '09.  We ran it right when it came out, and by and large, we all enjoyed ourselves.  I developed some gripes about it, and as I recall, I grew a bit frustrated that combats became so long, and seemed so.. constricted.  Bear with me here.

I wavered back and forth between enjoying the openness and lack of 'constricting rules' with old school 0e/1e D&D.  Combat is short, somewhat narrative, often fatal.  I won't get sidetracked here with long discussions about the merits of old school gaming vs new school gaming.  Combat in 4e is longer, very tactical, with tons of options, but all of them are printed.  So to further clarify, in old school combat, the players have lots of creative room, if they're the creative type, to describe what their characters are doing, their only limitations really being their own imaginations and the box that the GM makes them work inside of.  In 4e, the players have tons of options for their characters, but they're all in the book.  There are few or no "calls" by the GM, and tons of rules searching and debate.

But this is all kinda background and staging.  I'm actually going to try to talk up 4e.  Here's what's on my mind:  4e combat is lively and fun, and full of options.  Narrative and descriptions are and have always been critically important elements in role playing.  We've all played with a bad GM - "There's a long hall and some lizard men, roll initiative!", "Okay you killed the lizardmen, you open the next door and there's a room with some goblins, roll initiative!".  The player's narrative is just as important as the GM's narrative.  Even with the most descriptive GM in the world, if the players sit around the table each taking turns with "I hit the goblin" , then it's simply a boring exercise in rolling dice until the GM says you're done.  Its an easy trap for anyone to fall into.  The same is true with 4e.  "Okay, I use my 'Elemental Whirlwind' power, its a daily." , it is just as boring.  It reduces the narrative game of D&D to a poker game in which you're simply "using" what's in your hand until its time for the next hand.  Perhaps Magic the Gathering is a better analogy.  I'm sure someone somewhere "role plays" magic, but its a card game.  D&D /should not be/ a card game.

Again though, its somewhat easy to fall into the rut of just naming off powers, letting someone else take their turn, ad nauseum.

My other gripe had to do with the rationing of magic items, and how magic items seemed to be generally castrated to me.  They were "special items", not magical.  Magic implies some sense of amazement and wonder, perhaps an air of mystery.  4e magic items are simply special equipment that confers bonuses.  Perhaps this was my own fault - did I not "magic them up enough"?

So, just off the top of my head, today I'm kicking around the idea of running old school adventures through 4e.  I'd be inclined to retool "magic item distribution", and maybe just old school it.  The matter of role playing combat is really Social Contract territory, and I think would simply need to be agreed upon by the players involved.

Alright, that's it for me, I'm going to go flip through my printed copy of Keep on the Borderlands.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Who Writes These Things, Seriously....

If one wants to be careful in this day and age, and not get raped or robbed, or have a kidney stolen and be left lying in an icy bathtub with a note from European Organ Black Market thieves, one has to pay careful attention to their actions.

For instance, it  has come to my attention that I could be the target of gang violence by flashing my headlights at another car.  Additionally, gangs are coming up with more and more complicated schemes to trap people in their nefarious plans.  Most recently, by putting fliers on car windows, leaving life-like babies in carseats by the side of the road, or even using old women to plead for help.   Now, I don't know about you, but as soon as I see a flyer in my window, or a baby by the side of the road, I hit the gas!  I'm not falling for one of those tricks!  And if I see some old woman yelling for help, let me tell you - I'm going the other way!

So really, who writes this stuff?  These things don't just pop into existence.  They have an origin, someone sat down and came up with this, and typed it up and sent it out.   Some of it is simple urban legend.  The "flashing your high beams and getting shot" thing has been around since at least the early '90's.  Obviously, urban legends have been around for a long long time, but the newest sub genre, the "Gangs preying on stupid white people" is particularly annoying, and in my opinion, racist.

While it could be argued that some urban legends are just morality stories, these gang related ones just seem to heighten the old "white people are afraid of black people" thing, but more than that, they reinforce a negative racial stereotype.  These folks have never heard of Occam's Razor.  In these stories, gangs seem to have ties to nefarious mustache-twirling comic book villains.  They launch hugely complicated schemes to trap people, instead of the old method of simply hitting someone over the head when they're not looking.

 White people are apparently so afraid of black folks, or street gangs, that they're willing to believe almost anything.  It would be a fascinating social experiment to see how much people would be willing to swallow.  "Yes sir, gangs are posing as real estate agents, and selling homes to people, and then once the home has sold and the deal is closed, they use a copy of the key that they made to break in to the house to rob and rape everyone!"

So if you know the dude who's writing these things, let him know that there's a beautiful woman in the hotel lobby that wants to buy him a drink.  Don't mind her faint eastern European accent.