29 September 2020

The 38-year old Dungeons and Dragons campaign

Robert Wardhaugh, a history professor at the University of Western Ontario, has been running a Dungeons and Dragons campaign for thirty-eight years.

The campaign setting sounds rather interesting:

"Being a history professor and always loving history, I wanted to create a world where I was able to use the history of our world. My world is an alternate Earth, so you can be Roman, you can be Greek, you can be Sumerian, you can be Babylonian, you can be First Nations," explains Wardhaugh.

I’m really quite impressed by this accomplishment. It’s one thing to have played various role-playing games—including some extended campaigns—for many decades. (I’ve been playing, off and on, for almost four decades now.) But to keep the same campaign going for so many years it truly remarkable. 

Also, I was amused to learn that this campaign is based in London Ontario. I grew up in London—it’s where I learned to play role-playing games, and where I ran various AD&D and MERP campaigns (as well as dabbling in numerous other games) from around grade five until the end of high-school. (I would not describe London as an especially exciting city—it’s definitely the world’s #2 London—so it may be easier to keep a game going there over many years than, say, Toronto.)

This is a great accomplishment. I’m envious of Wardhaugh for what sounds like an amazing campaign. But I’m depressed when I realize that, should I keep my current Greyhawk campaign going for another 38 years, I’ll be dangerously close to the “venerable” age category for humans! 

21 September 2020

Some Classic Dungeons and Dragons Settings to Return?

Dungeons & Dragons will be revisiting several classic campaign settings over the next few years. During the closing panel of D&D Celebration 2020 yesterday, Wizard of the Coast's Ray Winninger confirmed that D&D's upcoming slate of publications will include several classic settings highly requested by fans. "I can tell you that there are three of the old settings that we're working on right now that you'll be seeing in the next year or two, including some that the fans have been asking for a very long time " Winninger said during the "Inside the D&D Studio Panel." Some of the more highly requested settings from fans include Greyhawk, Spelljammer, Planescape, and Dragonlance, all of which were seminal and influential settings for past (and current) generations of players.
Personally, I'd love to see Greyhawk in print again. It's my favourite 'classic' TSR setting, and the one that I’ve been using as DM in my most recent D&D games. However, I worry a bit about how it would be handled by the current team at WotC. I'm not too keen on some of the post-Gygaxian history for the setting (especially the break-up of the Great Kingdom). I rely primarily on the 1983 box set for my setting information. Nonetheless, I think that the recent Saltmarsh book was quite good, so perhaps a resurrected Greyhawk will be handled well.

My favourite ‘unusual’ setting is Planesape. I’d love to see a new version of it. The great thing about Planescape is that you can combine it with pretty much any other setting (Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, homebrew #978, etc.). But it also has its own very distinctive style and ethos. (And Planescape: Torment is one of the greatest computer role-playing games of all time.)


Kudos to the Watchmen

HBO's 2019 mini-series, The Watchmen, won the Emmy for best limited series (along with 10 other awards) tonight. 

I don't watch award shows (I think it's been at least 30 years since I watched one all the way through) and generally don't care about them as they typically do not track genuine excellence (always remember: the execrable "Forrest Gump" beat out "Pulp Fiction" for best picture in 1995). But I'm delighted that this excellent series, one of the best ever created, received this recognition and consequently will enjoy a wider audience.

11 September 2020

Grognardia resurrected

Some readers might recall the blog Grognardia, which played an influential role in the rise of the "Old School Renaissance" over a decade ago, along with publications like Fight On! and Knockspell, as well as "retro-clones" such as OSRIC and Swords & Wizardry. (Out-of-publication editions of D&D and AD&D, of course, were discussed even before the "OSR" became a thing at sites like Dragonsfoot.) 

In 2012 new posts abruptly ceased appearing at Grognardia. After eight years, though, the blog is back, and in a big way (with, among other things, a two-part interview with Jeff Grubb). 

I don't always agree with the views expressed by James Maliszewski but his posts often are interesting to read. I'm glad Grognardia is back. 

02 September 2020

Herbert West, Health Inspector

And so, another autumn term begins! I start teaching tomorrow.

I (thankfully) will be teaching online. My university is pursuing a "hybrid" approach to instruction during the 2020-21 academic year, with roughly 60% of teaching purely online, 20% a mix of online and in person instruction, and 20% in person (with everyone wearing masks, staying 6 feet apart, etc.).

Reading the various memos from the administration on the reopening of the campus over the past couple of weeks has led me to think that their plans for in person instruction are as grounded in reality as this piece:
"Arkham Board of Health Feedback on Miskatonic University's Draft Plan For A Safe Campus Reopening."

Anyhow, best wishes to all the teachers, professors, and students out there. Stay well!

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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who lives primarily in Toronto but teaches in Milwaukee (sometimes in person, sometimes online).