Dungeon Crawl Classics: Gaming Like It’s 1982

Man Out of Time

Yesterday I had the privilege of playtesting a Dungeon Crawl Classics level 0 adventure under development by my friend Steve Bean, the man behind Steve Bean Games. It was my first time playing DCC. We all had fun with the adventure, and as with so many of Steve’s creations, it’s gonzo and thought-provoking at the same time. I won’t reveal anything about it except to say it’s tailored to the Umerica setting first seen in Reid San Filippo’s Crawling Under A Broken Moon blog & ’zine.

Though I’d played with three of the four folks at the table before, this wasn’t my normal weekly group. As fate would have it, the house we played in was a stone’s throw from the house where I played The Arduin Grimoire way back in 1982 as a high school freshman. I found myself thinking back to Saturday afternoons of long ago and how playing Dungeon Crawl Classics echoes the feel of those sessions. Read more

From Star Trek to The Lord of the Rings: Getting Started with Tabletop RPGs Based on Books, TV and Movies

Just as Kleenex has become shorthand for facial tissue, Dungeons & Dragons is the name everyone associates with tabletop roleplaying. But it’s not always the first RPG people play. In fact, an unscientific online poll I ran three years ago suggests that about 40% of gamers are introduced via other games, and it looks like that trend is increasing.

Of those, many come into the hobby by way of games based on and licensed from specific books, TV shows, or movies. This trend may also be on the rise, as the ongoing sales success of Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars beginner boxed sets suggests. Read more

Going Beyond D&D

The Giant at the Table: Dungeons & Dragons

D&D casts a long shadow in the tabletop roleplaying world. It’s the original RPG, it’s been around for over 40 years, and it’s the most popular. On top of all that, the OGL (Open Game License) introduced in 2000, gave rise to a huge number of games built around the core D&D mechanics, and eventually gave rise to the OSR movement. These underpinnings are usually referred to as d20, because a twenty-sided die (d20) is rolled to determine success or failure, but they also share other features such as character attributes and use of classes and levels.

There are many advantages to sticking with d20 mechanics: You’ll always be able to find players for a d20 game, because so many gamers are familiar with them. Aside from D&D you can delve into 13th Age and Pathfinder, as well as Swords & Wizardry and many other retro clones. Learn one and understanding others is straightforward.

But what if you’re looking for something beyond D&D and its kin? Where do you start? Read more

On Sabbatical

My day job has become my day, night, and weekend job. Between that and family, I have very little time left to devote to gaming, and even less time for maintaining this site. So in the interest of sanity, I’m going on sabbatical for an indefinite stretch. Read more

The Minimum Viable Campaign: Getting Started

Whiteboard notes from a software planning session
The best way to create something complex is to work your way through the basics first

In the software development world, the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) approach has gained mainstream acceptance because it works. MVP dictates that your first release of any software product should incorporate only those capabilities that are vital to the success of the product. By releasing only those key capabilities, you can validate your initial assumptions about what works for customers, get your product to market faster, and avoid wasting time building features nobody really wants.

Managing the development of software projects has made me acutely aware of the power of the MVP approach, and over time I have adapted its core principles to my tabletop roleplaying campaigns. I call this MVC, for minimum viable campaign. Read more

Photographing Minis: The Aukey Ora 10x Macro Lens

It’s been a long time since I’ve painted miniatures. Recently my interest has become rekindled. At the same time, my collection of decades-old minis has been taking a beating because my boys are using them in the D&D campaign I’m running. What better time to photograph minis I painted two and three decades ago, before they succumb to the ravages of small hands?

On Amazon I found the well-reviewed Aukey Ora 10x Macro Lens. I popped it on my iPhone 6+, set up some minis on the kitchen counter, and started shooting.

Read more

Planning a Post-Apocalypse Campaign: The World Without Us & The Knowledge

Maybe it was a zombie apocalypse. Perhaps an alien plague wiped out civilization. Or it something we engineered ourselves. Regardless, most of humanity is destroyed.

What happens to the buildings, bridges, and dams when we’re not there to look after them? How long will concrete and steel resist armies of vines and rust? Which animals will rule over the ruins we once called home?

And when humanity rises from the ashes, how will it climb slowly back up the technology ladder? What will humans need to know to protect themselves, grow crops, and reconquer nature? Where will we settle, and what hard-won knowledge will we recover first? Read more

Tales from the Loop: First Impressions

An Unexpected Game

Matt, one of the two primary GMs in our group, supported the Tales from the Loop Kickstarter, spurred on by the splendid Simon Stålenhag art from which the game germinated. The rules are still being polished, but he and the rest of the group started playing with the latest PDF from the Kickstarter. They really enjoyed the first session.

Originally I wasn’t all that interested in the idea of playing as a teenager in the ’80s. I’d actually already been a teenager in the 1980s, and I wasn’t sure visiting an alternate Swedish sci-fi mystery version of it would be very compelling. After hearing about their characters and the fun the rest of my group had with the first session, I was intrigued. Then I got an unexpected opportunity to play. Read more