Monday, March 31, 2014

Say Hello Before She Runs Away

My wife just wrote her very first blog post, What do you mean my title sounds "date-rapey." I'm not sure but I have a sinking suspicion that she's writting about my blog.

Anyway, go say hi to her over at her brand new blog: Lamentations of a DM's Wife!

What's Going On?

We're playing here:

And these guys are waiting on you

So we can fight these fuckers

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Playing with You is a Full Contact Sport

When I started playing Dungeons and Dragons in my mid-twenties the people I played with fell into two categories: people who had played since they were eight and me. So my first games were filled with the sort of devilish intrigues that many long term games tend to suffer from as players attempted to out smart one another and the Dungeon Master at the same time. They moved quickly from one plot to the next while I sluggishly made my way through the game feeling like my feet were in quicksand.

I was robbed, murdered, and on one occasion sold as a slave to a rather large and rapey hobgoblin. I lost a half dozen characters to their plots as I learned the game and drank my weight in wine while they told me the wonders of the world they were opening up to me. I listened as they spoke and made notes on how they played. After a while I was even able to predict where they were going and how they were going to try and screw me over. Some called that time "paying my dues" but I prefer to think of it as the time when I played with a bunch of assholes.

I killed the first of their characters in the fall by lining my coin pouch with poison and not telling them. The second died when he tried to bump me into a corridor to check for traps and I moved out of the way. Sessions came and went and I dropped their characters with an ever increasing frequency - often without them knowing I had engineered their deaths.

At some point during all of this I started playing with Kid Icarus, Step-up, and Biggboy. They were fun and I didn't have to be so quick on the trigger. Hell, they never tried to steal from me nor kill my characters (unless it was really funny). So I stopped killing my fellow players for several years, and then I met the tres amigos . . .

Setting the Woods on Fire.

The five of us made our way to the edge of this dungeon with heavy Gygaxian overtones that was located out in the middle of some ancient and holy woods. The Dungeon Master was sipping Doctor Pepper and I had a strong suspicion that it was spiked with rum as he looked over the top of the Monster Manual and said, "There's a bunch of elves standing guard around the dungeon's entrance, smoking and wearing biker jackets. They're giving you lot the stink eye as you approach."

Conversations were had as I finished my character and started drawing him. At some point money seemed to be changing hands and we were told to head on down. The elves seemed happy that we had paid them and I was happier that our rogue had stolen back our entrance fee and more.

Enter a room, kill a few skeletons, get raped by a dresser; the dungeon hadn't held any surprises for us so far but the Dungeon Master was slurring his words and I could see our deaths around every corner. It was the cleric who spoke up first though, allowing that we'd collected a fair amount of treasure and our fighter needed abuse counseling since his sexual assault at the hands of a 1200 year old dresser. So we turned and headed back the way we'd come only to find that the bikers at the top had discovered our rogue's theft. 

They were pissed and looking to get back what was owed them plus twelve pounds of flesh. So I slipped back as the rest of the party charged forward and made my way through a side chamber we'd explored earlier that took me closer to the entrance. The sounds of combat were echoing around me and the Dungeon Master kept trying to make me feel bad as the elves were making my companions look like the 76ers.

The elves were finishing off the last of the party as I slipped through the exit and into their camp. I kept an ear on the combat as I loaded up two of the light horses with as much of their shit as I could and mounted a third. I then lead us out of camp, but my luck had run out as the first of the elves came out the entrance and sounded the alarm. 

I turned about in my seat and fired an arrow right through the back of his neck. He garggled on his own fluids as I spurred the horses on towards town. Behind me I could hear the elves shouting and the distant beat of hooves as they made after me. So I did my best impression of Janet Reno and started throwing each of my fifteen bottles of alchemist fire I'd purchased into the woods as I raced to safety. With any luck the drunken Dungeon Master would remember that this place was holy to them and I'd make it out.

My luck held as I broke the tree line and I never looked back. When I made it back to the party's safe house I stowed away the horses and brought the chests into the living room (nice place, even had some lovely window treatments that the cleric had spent weeks fretting over). I sat on the couch and counted my loot: 230,000 gp; 1,500 pp; 450,263 sp; 7 magical rings; 10,000 gp worth of assorted jewels; and 1 magical dagger.

The Dungeon Master said, "You've got enough money to cast True Resurrection ten times over and there's a temple of Exalted Goodness just down the road so if you'll just deduct that money we'll -"

Hold on now. I'm not doing that. His mouth dropped and everyone stared at me. No, what I'm doing is building myself a great, big, fuck off tower inside the walls of this here city and I'm going to take some correspondence courses.

"Correspondence courses? What the fuck are you going to study?"

I'm going to become a wizard and then I'll resurrect them.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

[Tripping Your Social Justice Trigger] Spanking

Raising children is filled with these moments where you will be completely and totally at odds with random strangers because of how you handle your children. One of the really hot button issues is spanking. On one side of the fence are these people who passionately believe that laying a hand on your children is not only a good thing, but should actively be done because refusing to do so is denying your child a proper and good upraising. The other side holds that you should never lay a hand on your child no matter what they do because the act of performing violence on your child is such a violation of the parental trust that you do irreparable harm to kid's psychological well being.

I sit in the middle at this point in raising my child because he's not even two yet. Sitting down with him and telling him that he's done wrong does neither of us any good at this time because he doesn't fully understand nor does he care about my reasoning. We could talk till I was blue in the face and he'll still try to put something in the furnace and set the whole house on fire (hopefully not intentionally, but again we're early in his life). So at this time I spank and teach him what not to do. 

Now as he gets older and is more fully able to understand what I'm saying we will be moving over to a time out chair. We'll not be sending him to his room because he's just going to play with his toys. Having a chair where he can't get down and play is the best punishment I ever got when I was a child because nothing, nothing is worse than being in the middle of all the action and not being able to participate.

I know that this isn't normal fair for this blog but I'm a father before I'm a blogger or a gamer; and on this occasion I just needed to get this off my chest. I'll be back to my normal fair tomorrow. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Perfect Timing.

Screen cap from my Google+ feed tonight.

 That's some funny shit right there!

Burn It to the Ground and Salt the Earth.

Last night I was talking with an old friend and we got to speaking about his campaign that he's been running for the last year or so. Now my friend was convinced that he'd worked himself into a corner as a Dungeon Master and was seeking my advice to remedy his situation.
"The problem isn't that I don't have a story - I've got two hundred modules and a notebook full of ideas - it's that I can't challenge them. I let them use all of the books and they've min/maxed me to the point where I have to throw a damned Tarrasque at them to make it worth while and I'm half afraid they'd kill it."
I get calls like this every so often and the Dungeon Masters involved in these sorts of predicaments from my area and they usually want me to do either one of two things: come in and kill all their players for them; or give them a way to do it that doesn't smell like limestone. In this particular situation he already had the dynamite in hand but wanted to avoid coming across as a flustered prick incapable of dealing with his players ambitions and avarice. 

So we sat about talking out the complexities involved in robbing your players of their magical gear without them feeling like you're cheating them of something they've earned. He came up with contrived situations that smelled like traps from half way across the state and followed that by meandering his way through magical items that were given to their opponents that were far more powerful only to add at the end, "But they'll probably kill them and then I'll be in even worse shape."

Well, then it's time to burn it all down and salt the earth behind you.

"What do you mean?"

There are times when you're still having fun as a Dungeon Master that it's not only okay for your players to get the best of you, but preferable. This isn't one of them. They've pushed your game to the point where you're not having fun so it's time to push back and make it fun again for you, because I guarantee they're not having fun either. To do that we're going to strip everything away from them, piece by piece, and they're going to know what's happening. We'll start on the periphery with NPCs they know. 


Who's their favorite? Who do they like to talk to the most?

"That'd be Maggie St. John, she's a retired pirate who runs this little bar in -"

We're killing her and hanging her body on the front of the bar. Take it as far as you're comfortable with but over her head needs to be the words, 'Your Sins Are Remembered.'


Because that's the first step. After that we'll work our way through each of their contacts with variations on that message being scrawled above their dead bodies. 

"Okay. I can do that."

Good, because the next thing is going to make you uncomfortable. Whenever the players next leave their home base you're going to plunder their treasure horde. And after they get back and have their bitch fit, you're going to rob them in their sleep of their favorite magical gear.

"I don't know, that's going to piss them off."

That's the point. You want them mad and you're going to give them a target. Find someone they've wronged in the past. The long lost sister of a villain they killed and pissed on back when they were first level works, but you'll have someone they've wronged who wants revenge by this point. Either way you start dropping clues that this person is out there and that they're the one gunning for the players. 

Make the journey to her something special - lots of traps and a forgotten temple somewhere out in the wilds is just mundane enough to keep them from realizing how far you're going but still special enough to feel different since you don't use them. Let them think they have the upper hand, and just before they kill her, have her start a self destruct sequence. They'll want to run and you have to let them run, it's better even if they gate home, because home's about to be wiped off the map as she's just finished a magical ritual to bring in a mad god with an axe to grind against their city. 

"Fuck. I can use this."

Don't pull your punches, because you only have one shot at pulling this off.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Did David A. Trampier Just Die at the Age of 59? [Updated]

Death Notice Screen Cap 3/27/2014
According to the Southern Illinoisan obituaries a David Trampier died Monday, March 24, 2014 at the age of 59. He was being seen at the Helia Heathcare in Carbondale, IL when he passed.

The age is correct for David A. Trampier, famed Wormy cartoonist and Dungeons and Dragons illustrator, and the location matches his last verified area (see Leaving You Behind, The Mysterious Vanishing Act of David A. Trampier for more). I've reached out to a couple of people who knew him but at this time I have yet to receive confirmation that this is the same man.

Here's hoping it isn't.

Thanks to JustinH for the heads up. 

[Edit -- 3/28/2014] It has been confirmed that David A. Trampier has died. According to sthorne, owner of Castle Perilous Games and Books, David suffered from a stroke several months ago and doctors had detected cancer (no word on what type) shortly before his death. What makes this all the more sad is that after years outside the hobby Trampier had agreed to appear at the Egypt Wars convention less than a month ago. 

Tom Wham!, Trampier's former brother-in-law also believes it was the same Trampier.

[Edit -- 3/28/2014] Lots of people are saying goodbye to Trampier across the web and social media. Let's say goodbye together.

End of an Era by Stefan Poag

End-of-the-week Trampier by Anthony Simeone

Trampier by Jason Zavoda 

RIP Dave Trampier by Joseph Bloch  

Tagged Trampier  by Infravisions

David Trampier, 1954 -2014 by  Christopher Helton

Dave Trampier, Wormy Artist, Passes Away by sthorne 

Trampier Passes by Morrus (EN World) 

Shot, Shot, Shot! Taverns for the Win.

One of the reoccurring themes I've noticed in stories about the creators of Dungeons and Dragons is that they tended to hang out in bars after work talking about the news of the day - whether that was the latest game to cross their radars or the newest political scandal. So it seems that a natural extension of this in the game would be the Tavern.

And why not?

Up until the advent of the internet and smart phones you went to the bar to meet people and get into incredibly stupid situations with a high potential for death. Speaking just for myself I've had knives pulled on me in bars, dodged chairs flung from across the room, been hit on by gay men and transvestite hookers, and insulted a biker gang for their pussy-assed bikes.  So it makes sense to me that walking into a smoke filled bar looking for trouble would lead to adventure - but in many ways those days are over.

Today when you walk into a bar you can see everything because there is no smoke to obscure the vomit stains on the walls or the blood on the floor. You can hear everybody too, because no one's talking; they're all too busy surfing the internet on their phones and playing Candy Crush. So it's not surprising that newer players bitch about the tavern concept because it a trite, played out methodology used by tired old Dungeon Masters.

Yeah, well, I'm a Dungeon Master who uses fucking taverns because I still remember when they were fun. I remember getting blind drunk while my roommate got in a fight with a three hundred pound body builder and I finished both their drinks before I left the bar with the body builder's girlfriend. I remember trying to ride an ox that a drunken cowboy had ridden there and tied to the front of the bar on a five dollar bet. I remember watching two girls beat the shit out of a guy who'd been fucking both of them.

I run my taverns like the bars I remember.

I have nice places where you couldn't get drunk without getting kicked out and nasty, disgusting dives where if you don't have a knife or a gun they give you one at the door. I have bouncers and barmaids who give as good as they take and I bring in all the people who sat in those bars I used to frequent. And yeah, I have a lot of drug dealers and gangs that crop up in there because I've seen a lot of them.

What I'm saying here is that if the taverns you're using in your games aren't exciting then you have no one but yourself to blame. Bars, taverns, saloons and the like are where adventures started for centuries because where alcohol and people looking for trouble meet bad things happen. So stop running trite, boring shit and crank up the excitement. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Get It Together EN World

Any more I might as well just research everything that interests me on my own and stop visiting EN World because I'm beating them to the punch more and more often. Hell I beat them on breaking the Morgan Webb story (see D&D Live Game at PAX East: Guest Player Revealed for more) by nearly twenty-four hours. Which is a ridiculous margin when you realize that they're a clearinghouse for Dungeons and Dragons news that just copied and pasted the announcement off Wizards' homepage and I spent time researching her and putting her in context for people who might not know who she is.

Now I fully understand that when it comes to indie publishers that it's hard as hell to get their information from a central source. So I'm fine with making the effort to follow those companies and creators through social media; but when it comes to a website that is supposed to be bringing you "Daily RPG News and Reviews," and who focuses almost exclusively on D&D, it kind of pisses me off when they suck at it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I'm Already Drunk, So Tell Me More about Your Livestock.

Worship at the alter of the Horse Gods
 Over the years I've found myself occasionally dove tailing down into the most esoteric of avenues in an attempt to mine some new territory where no one else has gone, or cares to explore. Usually it's a waste of time as I find myself just as disenchanted with the subject matter as everyone else who has avoided it like the plague; but lately I've been looking at beasts of burden in relation to Dungeons and Dragons and I'm actually fascinated by the subject. Yet this fascination does not have me ready to create a series of rules on the matter through which to torture your players ("Oh let's see, you're riding a Tennessee Walking horse? Well they can only travel fifteen miles a day before they begin to have issues so if you want to keep it healthy you'll have to double your travel time to Oklahoma City . . ."), instead I just want to talk for a few moments about the differences between horse breeds. 


One of the things that I'm learning is that each breed of horse has more benefits and disadvantages than just the color of the coat and the length of their mane. There are horses that are only for show and that can't be ridden for long distances. There are work horses who can pull tones but would fight you if you were fool enough to put a saddle on them. Then there are horses that can sense danger; that thrive in harsh environments, and some that need constant care and supervision. 

That there were such differences was surprising to me because all the horses I had ever been around didn't need any of that. A ready supply of water in the form of a pond and plenty of grazing land seemed more than enough. I've been around a dozen or so breeds so I had foolishly allowed myself to believe that all horses were so hearty. 

Then there's the war horses. By and large the majority of war horses are light breeds designed for speed and maneuverability over hulking beasts of burden that seem to dominate fantasy literature. Which only makes sense because you're not going to use the horse to run over your opponents like you would with an elephant; rather you're going to use them for the natural height advantage and for the increased speed they'll provide you. 

Granted you want something that will be able to handle all of the armor you're wearing and the bullshit you're loading them down with, but I think that's a mistake. If you look at the some of the greatest horse breeds - the Appaloosa and the Arabian for example - you'll find that they gained their greatest renown for how they were handled in combat by lightly armored, highly mobile riders. So while the game has you wanting to ride off into combat armored to the hilt like the Paladin and charging in with a Heavy Warhorse the smarter strategy is to ride a Light Warhorse and wear light armor so that you can move like a champ and gut the dork in armor.

There's a big difference between the fantasy and the reality there and I tend to like the reality better. It's more evocative of the Robert E. Howard tales that dominated my youth and that still influence how I think about combat. There's also my love affairs with the Apache, Comanche, and Mongol that push me more towards the light warhorse than his heavier counterpart. 

Arab Warriors on a Hillside by Adolf Schreyer
Mechanic wise there isn't a lot of difference. Between the Light Horse and the Heavy Horse you only have ten additional feet of movement for the Light and two additional points of strength for the Heavy. Essentially there is no real difference between the two and only your preference matters. Fuck you might as well say I like gray horses and El Cid rode an Arabian so I'll take a Light Warhorse for all the good it does you.

There's just not enough there to make any choice you make meaningful in relation between the light and heavy horses. 


Telling all ya'll it's a Sabotage!
With ponies the game completely threw up it's hands and said, "Fuck it. We're just going to make them smaller horses for the small creatures to ride." And while that's one way to play it, they were so wrong to do that! 

There are ponies that make any horse smaller than a Clydesdale look like a chump. They're used for hauling heavy loads down narrow roads that would send trucks toppling down the cliff side. They've got breeds of ponies that survive in swamps and marshes that would break your horse's leg with their first step into the muck. There are breeds that full sized adults can ride and that are used today to help shepherds fight off rustlers.

I'm really amazed at how versatile the pony is and it kind of shocks me that they're so bland as they exist in the game. I mean you could take four breeds of pony and have enough variety to match most everything you could encounter in the game. I'm still processing a lot of this information and I find myself wondering why these two are treated so blandly in the game - well in most every game I've ever played actually. 

Why are we missing an opportunity to have some meaningful differences between these breeds? Is it because we're worried about the added complexity to our games? Seriously asking here guys.

Monday, March 24, 2014

D&D Live Game at PAX EAST: Guest Player Revealed.

This morning it was announced by the Wizards of the Coast website that the 'mystery guest' at the Live D&D game at PAX would be none other than Morgan Webb. Webb, for those of you who never had the pleasure of watching TechTV or the nails-on-the-chalkboard discomfort of suffering through G4 was the co-host of the phenomenal X-Play alongside the brilliant Adam Sessler

Webb during her tenure on the Screen Savers
During her time on X-Play Morgan Webb matured from an awkward young woman who was slowly becoming comfortable in front of the camera into the self-confident leading woman who helped keep X-Play afloat during the initial merger with G4 and even after during the long, slow dying of the last gaming channel on television. As was the case with everything at G4 things became less and less about technology and gaming and more about the superficial looks of things. 

Morgan Webb was featured in magazines, such as FHM and Maxim, where the focus was more on her petite body than on her ability to talk about games and to be involved in the intelligent discussion of a hobby she had been a major part of for the better part of a decade. As more attention was focused on her physical beauty the howling chorus of self-important fanboys came out of the woodwork to deride her for not being a "real gamer."

Webb from her FHM shoot
They attacked her for being beautiful and for her cheerful presentations on X-Play. They screamed that she was ruining a show that saw its greatest successes while she was a co-host alongside Adam Sessler. Then Sessler was fired by G4 and within a year the show itself was cancelled. 

Since the spring of 2013, when X-Play was cancelled, Webb hasn't done a lot in front of the camera. Instead she became a consultant with Blizzard and mostly kept a low profile. So it's slightly surprising that she would decide to walk into PAX and take such a high profile position. 

Webb's character for the event: Morgaen
I'm excited to see where the game goes with her involvement. If her past is any indicator of her future then this will be an enjoyable game that raging neckbeards everywhere will wail and nash over. 

I hope she kicks ass during the game. God knows she can't be any more lost then the rest of the guys.

Webb, coming to kick your ass at PAX

Let's Cast the Last of Us Movie

Earlier this month it was announced that the amazing game Last of Us would be made into a movie. As thing have developed there are some really encouraging signs beginning to make their way out into the public arena: Sam Raimi is involved as a producer; Neil Druckmann, the Creative Director for Last of Us, is writing the script (see Screen Gems to Distribute Sam Raimi- Produced the Last of Us Movie for more); and the movie appears to be following the same story as the game (see ‘Last Of Us’ Movie Release Date, Cast & News Update: Film Plot Confirmed to be a Direct Game Adaptation for more).

So I decided to have some fun cast the movie's major players: Joel, Tess, Ellie, Marlene, and David. If you've played the game, or seen one of the play throughs on You Tube, then feel free to play along. Just through me a link in the comments and I'll add you to the bottom of the page!

Casting the Last of Us


Before I watched True Detective I would never have thought about putting Matthew McConaughey into a role that required as much from it's lead as Last of Us will. His growth as an actor over the last decade, however, has proven him more than capable of handling someone as complex as Joel. His most recent role as Rust Cohle in True Detective also proved that McConaughey is fully capable of pulling of the sort of dangerous, slightly unhinged nature of someone who's lived in Joel's world.

My alternative choice for this role would be Liam "I'm going to kill you and everyone who looks like you" Neeson. Liam's recent roles in Taken, Non Stop, and the Grey have proven that he's able to handle the sort of intense physical and emotional roles that a character like Joel would require. 

McConaughey as Rust Cohle in True Detective

When casting Tess you can't just go for a pretty face. The actress has to be able to pull off a role where she's both one of the most dangerous characters in the game and incredibly vulnerable at key times.

If I could pluck any actress from any time to put in this role I would have chosen Segorney Weaver from ten years ago - but now she'd come across as far too old when juxtaposed along side Joel.  So out of the actresses available today, in the right age range, I would go Charlize Theron. Charlize proved to the world that she could play the sort of unbelievably brutal and emotionally complex character she would be required to perform with Tess when she starred as Aileen Wuornos in Monster.

Theron as Aileen Wuornos in the movie Monster

While it would be casting to type, picking Ellen Page for this role seems like a no brainer. In role after role Ellen has proved that not only is she capable of pulling of the teen disenchantment with everything, but she's able to pull of a depth that few actors would even attempt. She has repeatedly pulled off similar roles throughout her career and has the naturally self-assured attitude that Ellie spends the entire game showing off.

The only alternative to Ellen Page, to my mind, will be a complete unknown. Unfortunately for me this role has been talked about a lot since the news of the movie broke and it's almost universally accepted that Ellie will be played by a new comer to the movie industry. 

A shame.

Ellen Page

For a role like Marlene you need to have someone who can not only put out that long, pained look of having to deal with a life that's really unacceptable but you also have to have someone who can pull off the depth of a woman that's constantly having to make difficult and impossible choices. While it would be easy to cast Halie Berry or Jada Pinkett Smith in this role, I think those women would be wrong for the role.

Instead I think that we should continue with our group of highly talented actors and bring in Taraji P. Henson. Nominated for an Oscar in 2008, Taraji not only can act amazingly well, but she has the look that Marlene has to pull: strong, confident, yet world weary. 

Taragi P. Henson looking vulnerable.


In a world filled to the brim with fungal-zombies, corrupt militaries, and human hunting survivors it takes a special kind of evil to stand above the crowd - and David not only stands out but makes all the other evils pale in comparison. In a role that requires the actor to not only be great, but to be smooth and cunning in all that he does one name stands out: Gary Oldman. Oldman has made his career playing complex characters vacillating from the kind and charming towards the vile and cruel. Casting him in this role would be easy.

The only alternative to Oldman that comes to mind is Daniel Day-Lewis. Daniel is renowned for his ability to disappear into a role and make you believe that the character is real. He's a brilliant actor and if you could get him to agree to be in this movie you'd be well off. 

Gary Oldman looking at you with those come hither eyes.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Absence Makes Something, Something, Something . . .

My Grandma's turning 85 this weekend and I'm heading up the mountain for her birthday festivities. So I'll be back Monday with more stuff.

Until then,
Charles Akins

Friday, March 21, 2014

This is Why I Still Read Penny Arcade.

I know that there are people out there raising hell about things Mike and Jerry have said (see Of Dickwolves and Things for more) but I don't care. They have consistently put out an amazing comic that has only gotten better with age. And if I'm lucky, then my son will be this wonderful and he will burn the heavens as he lays waste to his enemies.

I am counting down the days.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

She Asked Me to Tell Her a Story

I was sitting in the room watching the tail end of yet another defeat for my beloved Bears when a girl started crying outside my window. I could hear a boy talking to her and decided that it was in my best interest to ignore them; that is right up until he screamed at her. It was a dangerous, guttural scream that had me out of my seat and down the hall before I knew I was moving. I leapt down the stairwell and kicked open the fire doors, What's this shit?

He was standing over her like some sort of predator, his hand raised and a snarl on his lips. "Who the fuck are you?"

I'm the god damned light brigade you mouth-breathing fuckhead. 

"Yeah, well mind your own fucking business."

You bring that hand one inch closer to her and I'll mind your ass in the grave. 

He stared at me as I stood there looking at him. I counted the seconds, trying to decide if he would press me or if he'd break for it. The moment hung in the air and then he dropped his arm down and said to her, "So you fucking this asshole too?"

If she was god knows she'd have cum for the first time in her life. 

"Fuck you!"

I charged him and he ran. Really? You're not even going to make a go of it then you fucking yellow bastard!

"Fuck you, fag!" he shouted at me as he made for his car. I stood there next to the crying girl and watched him peal out of the parking lot screaming at me the whole way. By the time I finally looked away the girl was curled up in the fetal position on the concrete. 

There now, darling, I said as quite as a mouse, it's all going to be okay. Only it wasn't okay, not right then anyway. She cried as I picked her up in my arms and carried her to the lobby. We sat there for a long time as she told me all about Ricky; about how things had turned sour. He'd never hit her, but something seemed to snap in him today and he was just about to - then she cried again. Hours passed as she talked her broken heart away until finally it seemed like all of her tears were done. So we walked back to her dormitory where she kissed me on the cheek.

Walking back home I found that the cool autumn night reminded of fall on the mountain; where I could listen to the coyotes play in the hills and smell the leaves still smoldering in the evening air. Not here though. Here all I could smell was the hot stink of the sewers. 

A melancholy mood seemed to take hold of me as I walked along the quad and lit my cigar. By the time I made it back to the dorm my roommate had already arrived and was long since asleep. Sleep wasn't coming for me though, and it seemed I wasn't alone. 

The phone rang at 3:30 and I jumped to the reciever. It's three thirty in the morning, either you or someone I know had best be in trouble. 

"I'm in terrible trouble," came her pouty voice from across the continent, "I can't sleep at all."


"Tell me a story."

I smiled as I said, Did I ever tell you about the time I went grouse hunting and caught a bull?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Expanded Dungeons and Dragons News from GAMA.

This morning (see Dungeons and Dragons News for more) I posted put out a bit of information coming from the Game Manufacturers Association trade show, or GAMA for short, and I wanted to take a few minutes and expand on what we've learned in the intervening hours and to put some of those points into context.

The Starter Set
"D&D presentation showing off gorgeous D&D starter set box" I'm Board! Games
After reading a few different first hand sources who attended the GAMA show the Starter Set is going to be a White Box. This appears to be a homage to Original Dungeons and Dragons and the 1974 White Box - which is a nice touch. It seems to be part of emerging pattern of behavior from Wizards of the Coast over the last few years.

Previously, Wizards of the Coast seemed to treat older editions of Dungeons and Dragons as though they were something to be ashamed of and forgotten entirely. That changed with the release of the Red Box Starter Set for Fourth Edition. Suddenly we started getting classic products available again in pdf format through the Dungeons and Dragons Classics website. We've seen recent Encounters Series that have been compatible with Third, Fourth, and Fifth edition. The playtest packets even went so far as to make it a point of running classic adventures, such as the Keep on the Boarderlands' Caves of Chaos,  with the new edition rule sets.

In many ways it's as though the people running Wizards of the Coast woke up and realized that one of the great failures of the Fourth Edition was their insistence that old views and products weren't relevant to the game anymore. It created bad blood and drove people away from the game, myself included.

I am encouraged by this change in philosophy and hopeful that it continues as the product launches.
"Opinion: The 5e 'white box' Starter will be more like the 4e Starter Set than the Pathfinder Beginner Box . . ." I'm Board! Games
The Fourth Edition Starter Set has been maligned for a number of reasons (not the least of which was it being part of the Essentials Line), but some of this criticism has been simply because it wasn't what we wanted - whatever that was. I've gotten a couple of questions about what the actual difference between the Pathfinder Box and the D&D Box entail. These two videos should answer all of those questions. First we'll look at the Dungeons and Dragons Red Box:

Contrast the Red Box with this short presentation by Erik Mona and the Pathfinder Beginner's Box:

The Three Books

Wizards of the Coast has confirmed now that there will be a Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual. They still have not announced a release date for any of the books or the Starter Set it seems that the leaked information from Barnes and Noble's website (see Release Date for Next Leaked for more) is shaping up to be pretty accurate at least as far as was shown. 

There has been little information released on the actual look of each of the books as cameras weren't allowed during the presentation but that hasn't stopped some people from doing their best to imagine the covers:

Player's Handbook Cover by @NewbieDM
While that's not necessarily bad I'm hopeful for something more in the vein of the action oriented Advanced Dungeon Master's Guide than the static pose that graced the Forth Edition Player's Handbook. Maybe we'll get lucky and the cover will be somewhere in-between. 
"D&D Presentation: no multiple PH's . . ." I'm Board! Games
In many ways it's a relief to know that there aren't going to be five or six Player's Handbooks being published but in others it doesn't really matter. We all know that more classes, races, backgrounds, feats, spells, and other gaming ephemera are going to come out in the countless supplemental books that will be published after the core grouping. So this isn't really a win or lose statement. 
"Monster Manual. Pretty! "All the iconic monsters are there." I'm Board! Games
By contrast this statement has far more weight in it. When Fourth Edition first came out the Monster Manual was missing several of the old standbys, most notably the metallic dragons. Leaving them out isn't a cardinal sin, but it's a bit like going to see a baseball game and the right fielder is left off the roster. Yeah, you can play, but . . .

One of the major points that keeps coming up in discussing these books is how beautiful the covers are. That was something that was lacking in many Fourth Edition books as the creatures seemed to become far more cartoony than beautiful and as a whole the artistic style just wasn't as inspiring as previous editions (though clearly a three legged hog covered in leprous legions would be more attractive than the Third Edition core book covers).

I'm excited to finally see these covers when the pre-orders start launching. By the way, I'm betting that the pre-orders for the Starter Set will launch by the end of next month and the Player's Handbook will follow by the end of the following month. 

"What would Gary and Dave do?"

It tickles me to see that this is their guiding philosophy, even if it is just lip service, because what that line says to me is: make the game fun first and foremost, the rest will follow.  

Here's hoping they succeed because I'm really looking forward to the launch at this point.

Your thoughts?

Dungeons and Dragons News

  • Word coming form the GAMA convention is that the Starter Set is a boxed set and that it is "gorgeous" according to Morris over at EN World. 
  • Pictures haven't leaked online yet but from Twitter comments I'm seeing it should be out there soon. 
  • The three main books are confirmed 
  • Beholder will be on PH
  • There will not be the multiple PHs as existed with Fourth
  • Guiding principle has been "What would Gary and Dave do?"
  • "Live from : D&D Presentation: No edition wars. They will still print 4e until interest goes away. Do whatever rules, enjoy this story" -- I'm Board! Games twitter feed.
  • All the iconic monsters will be in the Monster Manual, unlike the Fourth Edition MM that omitted some of them for later MMs.
It's interesting that we're going with "White Box" rather than say a wood grain cardboard box or a red box to draw on the connections with previous editions. I really want to get my hands on it so that I can tell more about it at this point.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The New Living Campaign?

Does anyone know what the new Living Campaign for Dungeons and Dragons will be?

I mean to say that if past actions are able to predict future outcomes then we can assume that the Living Forgotten Realms will be mothballed when Dungeons and Dragons hits in August. After all, they did the same with the Living City and Living Greyhawk when Third and Fourth premiered. So what will it be?

Personally I'm hoping that they chose something that's a real fan favorite - like Boot Hill. What about you?

I Still Miss You.

I was laying in bed next to this crazy woman who had convinced herself that we were in love with each other when the phone began to ring. I looked over at the wall and watched it shake itself free from its bonds to strike against the floor, knocking the receiver free. From across the continent the tinny voice  of a girl I'd loved for longer than I knew how to breathe called my name, "Charlie? Are you there? I really need to talk to you."

I walked over to the phone and laid my head against the cool tile. This is Charlie, how may I direct your call.

"Stop being funny. I'm in trouble."

I picked up the receiver and walked over to the refrigerator to pour myself a glass of punch, What seems to be the problem darling?

"I think that my roommate is trying to poison me."

I snorted out a laugh, Be serious now, kid. 

"I am damn it. I came into the room two nights ago and she had made these brownies for me. She even had a big sign up with hearts and everything on it."

Sounds nice.

"I haven't stopped shitting since."

So she's a bad cook, that doesn't mean she was trying to poison you.

"You've got to believe me, Charlie, she's trying to kill me."


"Because I told everyone that she's so bad in bed that after a boy fucks her they beat off for half an hour with kerosene to get her stench off of them."

That might be a good reason to hurt you, darling, I said through a laugh that woke up the crazy bitch. So how's that fine ass doing?

"Still growing," she said with an audible pout, "how's that tiny dick of yours?"

Still saluting in the morning and writing me letters at night about the awful places I've been sticking it. She giggled and the phone grew silent as I counted her shallow breaths.

"I miss you."

I miss you too. Don't wait so long to call me again. 

"I won't."

Monday, March 17, 2014

Dude, I Didn't Know You Were Real.

I was sitting down in a China Hut back in my hometown reading the Burning Wheel system book when a tall, goofy looking kid walked over to me and started talking to me. I looked over my glasses as he started telling me about his Vampire campaign that's been going on and started asking my advice when I interrupted him.

You've got the wrong guy. You're looking for my brother, Poot. 

"You're not Poot," he asked me a bit embarassed. 

No, I'm his brother, Charles Akins. 

"I didn't know you were real."

I looked back down at the book and said, Yeah, I'm real.

"Look, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you but I've been hearing about you for years and I just kind of assumed that you were made up."

Why would you think I was made up?

"It's the stories people have been telling me."

I sat the book down at that point, figuring that this was about to become a more involved conversation. What sort of stories have you heard?

"Did you really kill your entire party by convincing them to kill each other so that you could take the treasure for yourself?"

It's not like we had been playing together for very long . . .

"Did you really use your heal checks to kill off other players?"

Yes, but they were evil.

"That's now what I heard. I was told that you killed them one by one and claimed that they had been bitten by ghouls and were turning a bit pale so you had to off them before they took the rest of you down."

Ghouls are evil.

Thank You!

Even Jenna-Louise Coleman thinks you guys rock!

This morning I broke the 100,000 view threshold and hit 1,500 comments on the blog. I cannot express how cool it is that you folks read me and are engaged enough to leave a comment. It really helps me keep writing and I hope that you find more things worth reading each time you come by. 

Thank you all for reading, commenting, and sharing my posts with your friends on Facebook, Redit, and Twitter. Thank you!

Charles Akins

My Ten Favorite RPG Products of All Time.

Whenever it comes to any list of ten greatest role-playing game products you're bound to find people saying things like, "But you didn't include my really obscure favorite product that was only produced for one summer by this blind, Irish immigrant on 14th St. in New Orleans. It totally predated all of your mainstream bullshit by, like, 150 years. You're fucking lame, dude."

I'm going to stop you right there, hipster. I make no pretense at knowing every esoteric book attached with the hobby - nor do I have any intention of wading through the muck of games like FATAL to prove my geek cred - but that doesn't mean that I don't want to hear about your favorites. So write your own lists and leave me a link in the comments (I'll add your link to the bottom of the page) or leave me a comment down below telling me about some of your favorites that I've missed and why they rock.

That's the fun part of lists like this: you get to tell everybody about your favorite products and hear about their favorites in return. So here's mine:

The List

10.) Rifts Sourcebook #1 by Kevin Siembieda: This book was one of the first rpg books that I bought where you were encouraged to go far beyond dungeon room A12-c3 and its orc guarding a chest filled with dirty rags and smutty magazines. This book taught me that your players can be easily fooled by gigantic robots into overlooking the real threat, and that deception wasn't something that should be done only by your enemies. It taught me that the bad guys can hit and run and that winning a fight can sometimes be the worst move you can make.

9.) The Rythlondar Chronicles: I've never really been sure who wrote the majority of these but I'm eternally grateful that they did, and even more so to Risus Monkey for making them available to the world again. This Chronicle is an eye opening look into the early days of the hobby and into the beauty that comes when you remove yourself from your expectations for what a game should be and just create the game you want to play. Since I first found the pdf version of these Chronicles I've read them a half dozen times and every time I read them I find something new.

8.) Greyhawk Adventures by James M. Ward: This was my introduction to the world of Greyhawk. It's an easy read and there is so much inspiring material here that even ten years after starting running in the world of Greyhawk I'm still able to read it and bring something new into my game. I'd gush some more about this product but once I start I'll never stop.

7.) Carcosa by Geoffrey McKinney: This setting book burned up the OSR blog-o-sphere and the rpg forums years before I became involved in rpg blogging. What made this book so controversial? The Sorcerous Rituals where virgin sacrifices and the blood of imaginary children dribbled down cruel blades as vile gods were called back from the void that spawned them. 

That people who wax on for days about Lovecraft and Howard got so damned up in arms over this book has always mystified me. This doesn't glorify the darkness that permated their worlds; instead it is a refreshing reminder to step away from your modern sensibilities and to remember that evil should be cruel. It pushes you away from the greys and dulled moral equivocations that wash our daily lives and for that I cannot express how great a book this is.

Since I picked up this book in pdf I have continuously regretted not purchasing it in hardback. It is a fantastic resource that will give you a world darker and crueler than your vanilla dreams have room for, and it will spawn villains that will haunt your player's waking moments.

6.) Rifts Ultimate Edition by Kevin Siembieda: I picked this book up because of its cover and for the next five years I disappeared into its world of made up terms and nebulous game play. I traversed the multiverse and learned that the only reason I should ever be stuck in one world is because I find it interesting and not because it's the only place I can go. I learned that if playing a cyborg dinosaur sounds cool then I shouldn't waste my time lamenting the idea and instead should play the hell out of it. 

People knock Rifts for its lack of balance and for the continuously creeping power grab that makes each new supplement more powerful than the last; but they're missing the point of Rifts. This isn't a game where everything should balance like Fourth Edition and you should always feel safe in the idea that every encounter is going to be perfect for your level. Rifts is a game where you imagine a cool idea and chase it; it rewards cleverness and ingenuity and it punishes the dull and boring. This game kicks ass.

5.) Monster Mythology by Carl Sargent: I picked this book up because I had already encountered Sargent's works and had figured out that I could trust him to put out a consistently good book. This did not disapoint me. I found more gods to populate my imaginary worlds with then I could have imagined existed in this game. It changed so much of how I thought gods should behave in my worlds and how their temples and shrines should be done. Fantastic book and I've read it from cover to cover nearly a dozen times over the years.

4.) Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide by Gary Gygax: This book has been one of the greatest resources I've ever read when it comes to role-playing games. Time and again I have found myself wondering how I should do something as a Dungeon Master and Gygax has given me the answer through this book. If you haven't got a copy of it I cannot recommend you getting a copy enough.

3.) Iron Kingdoms Character Guide by the Awesome People at Privateer Press: I bought this book in the spring of 2005 because I kept finding their models and thinking they were amazing. When I opened the book to the first page of text I found myself wrapped up in this world and I haven't let go of it since. 

I brought Ogrun, Gobbers, and Mechs into my games. I created currency trading and brought railroads, long rifles, and globe spanning conflicts to the forefront. I have dragons that shake the world when they enter play. I have devils that do things in my games that make Carcosa seem tame.

I have read this book cover to cover a dozen times since I bought it and I love it every time.

2.) Warhammer Fantasy Role Play by Games Workshop: I picked this book up after hearing about it for nearly a year and it was everything I had hoped for. There are rules that drive me up the wall and character creation makes me want to vomit - but the world that this game inhabits captured my imagination. I bought the Gotrik and Felix novels because of this book and my mind exploded with the Konrad Saga. 

I have had vivid dreams that walked beside me during my waking hours expressly because of this book and I am so thankful for it. This book makes me want to be a better Dungeon Master and it makes me want to be a better storyteller. Leafing through its pages makes me want to be a better illustrator and if you can find a book that does that for you in this day and age then god damn it, it had better be at the top of your fucking list.

1.) Heroes of Horror by James Wyatt, Ari Marmell, and C.A. Suleiman: This is a perfect book. From cover to cover everything within this book is useful and in spite of being put out during the height of third edition it is not really a system exclusive book as I have used it in every game and system I've played.  For me there is not one wasted page, line, or chart. I can not stress enough how amazing this book is or how useful it has been for me  nor do I find it possible to fully encapsulate its impact. 

Just buy this amazing book and be better for it. 

Other Great Lists!

Top Ten Gaming Products by faoladh over at the Ongoing Campaign

Ten Favorite RPG Products of All Time by

Death Bat's Top Ten Favorite RPG Books by

My Ten Favorite RPG Products of All Time by David Brawley over at Tower of the Archmage

My Ten Favorite RPG Products of All Time by Patrick Henry Downs over at Nerdwerds

Closing Comments.

Due to the influx of spam comments on Dyvers I am closing the comments. I'm not currently doing anything with this blog, but I don'...