24 October 2020

Forty Years of Playing RPGs

Today I am 50 years old. *sigh*

Finding myself in a reflective mood, I decided to go for a long walk yesterday. (It also was likely the last warm day in Toronto for 2020, so I wanted to take advantage of the t-shirt weather while it lasted.) On my journey I discovered a tree with eyes and a hidden gargoyle. I always delight in discovering such things. 

Since I received the Dungeons and Dragons Basic Set (the Holmes edition with ‘chits’ instead of dice) on my 10th birthday, today also marks four decades of my involvement with role-playing games. I can’t imagine what my life would’ve been like without this crazy hobby. So thanks to my parents for their gift (even though, I’m sure, they regretted it many times during my teenage years).

What better way to celebrate this occasion than with a “Magic Missile” beer while wearing a “Magic Missile” shirt? I believe I do 5d4 +5 damage!

I hope to keep playing RPGs for another 40 years. Sláinte!

23 October 2020

Lenard Lakofka RIP

Another legend from the early days of D&D, Lenard Lakofka, has passed away.

In addition to the “L” modules, Lakofka helped to shape the world of Greyhawk: his “Lendore Isles” were incorporated into the setting, and he described many of the deities of the Suel people. And of course there is “Leomund’s Tiny Hut” – both the spell and the column in Dragon.


22 October 2020

My Favourite Games these days

In case anyone is curious, here are my current favourite role-playing games (in no particular order):

Mythras (including Lyonesse). 

I’m playing in a Mythic Babylon campaign right now, and look forward to digging into the (very thick) Lyonesse tome over the next couple of months. I have some ideas for a Lyonesse campaign that I might sketch here. (I should also mention that one of the best campaigns in which I ever played used the Mongoose RuneQuest II system, which is an earlier incarnation of Mythras [very similar in terms of core rules]. Here is my log of about two-thirds of that campaign.)

Crypts and Things

This excellent game draws upon my Swords & Wizardry house-rules.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (and OSRIC).

The old reliable warhorse.

Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition (including the Adventures in Middle-earth variant system). 

I hope to return to my Greyhawk campaign using D&D 5e soon, as well as finish up the log of my recent epic Middle-earth campaign.

Against the Darkmaster

This is a quasi-clone of MERP, ICE’s old Middle-earth Roleplaying game. It has been shorn of MERP’s explicit Tolkien references, and introduces some rather cool refinements and additions to the system. I plan to write something about this exciting new game very soon!

Call of Cthulhu

Yeah, “old reliable.” My favourite system for one shots and short campaigns. Alas, I haven’t played it in over two years. I would like to run either a Cthulhu Invictus or a Dreamlands campaign someday.  

(I’ll add a new section on the right with links to these games in the next day or two.)

19 October 2020

Dragonlance brouhaha

It looks like we may be spared another twee Dragonlance trilogy: “Dungeons & Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast is facing a lawsuit from Dragonlance co-creators Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman over scrapped plans for a book trilogy.”

I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that, as a teenager, I enjoyed the original Dragonlance trilogy. I also owned a few of the modules and enjoyed the interesting maps and art at the time, but never managed to run or play them. Even just reading the adventures, though, I could tell that they were designed to compel the players to certain predetermined outcomes (what we today would call “railroading”). I preferred the more “open-ended” format of the earlier modules.

As the years went by, I came to view the success of the Dragonlance novels and modules as quite unfortunate. The setting’s success altered the default aesthetics and adventure philosophy of AD&D. The game moved away from the “Gygaxian” (or “Vancian”) swords-and-sorcery ethos that had characterized its earlier “Golden Age,” wherein outcomes were not predetermined, and no player characters were “essential” to any overarching plot. (Of course, DL was hardly the only factor that contributed to this change – the ouster of Gary Gygax no doubt played the most significant role.) 

By the late 1980s I had stopped buying AD&D products altogether. (I regret this somewhat, as it meant that I missed out on Planescape and some of the other cool 2nd edition settings. I did pick up some D&D Gazetteers and the Rules Cylcopedia, but those were my first “nostalgia” purchases, as they seemed “retro” even then: they reminded me of my “early days” using the classic Moldvay/Cook Basic and Expert D&D rules, and X1’s “Known World.” But I digress…) 

Anyhow, I really should let go of my decades-long resentment of Dragonlance. That water has long since passed under the AD&D bridge. If others prefer their fantasy schmaltzy, so be it. It harms me not. Hopefully fans of the setting will get their new trilogy is due course.

15 October 2020

Netflix Developing Conan Series


Perhaps inspired by the success of its series The Witcher, Netflix is developing a new fantasy series featuring everyone’s favourite barbarian, Conan of Cimmeria. The details, alas, are scant at this stage

Hopefully this new series, should it actually come to fruition, will draw primarily on the original stories by Robert E. Howard. It’s frustrating that no “Conan” film or series has actually used the original source material. (For the record, I am quite fond of the 1982 film. But the main character is not REH’s Conan!)

Back in 2018 I reported that Amazon was developing a Conan series. Interesting that it’s now in Netflix’s hands. I guess Amazon is focusing on its Middle-earth series instead.

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