Archive for category R!

Excuses Excuses

Ok ok so it has been a while again.

Illness, injury, work load, working on improvements to the house, life obligations, friend obligations and more.

Ok and lets add Dr Who’s new season and Flash and Arrow dropping on NetFlix. Just for complete disclosure.

Needless to say there is a lot going on in life right now and while the blog here is a pleasure it had to take a back seat. I will still have things going on this weekend so I have to put the blog off until next week.

The plan for next week is to do a review of an awesome gift I have received. The Wheel of Time RPG. Done in the d20 system for D&D 3.0.

Now then while you wait for a full on blog post I want to ask folks out there a question about the d20 system for D&D 3.0. There were a lot of licensed and original settings created using it. When we talk licensed we have to talk about things like

  • Wheel of Time
  • Red Star
  • Star Wars
  • Farscape

And in the other category you might want to think about games that made versions of themselves in d20 like

  • Guardians of Order – Big Eyes Small Mouth
  • White Wolf – Trinity setting (Aeon, Aberrant, Adventure)
  • White Wolf – World of Darkness
  • TSR?? – Gamma World

As to original settings, there were dozens with one of my personal favorites being Spy Craft.

Now then with all these products basing themselves out of the same SRD (System Reference Document) and supposedly tied by the OGL (Open Game License), you would think that they all would be balanced and play well with each other. Welllllll that was not really the case. Folks tried but… yeah… did not always work that well.

So I was wondering if any of the readers out there have ever done cross overs, or super crossovers and just tossed balance to the winds and said screw it if you can find a character class and race bring it to the table and lets rock?

I did it a few times with a few game groups and it got… strange… quick. What happened to you?

Ok so thats it for now. Gimme the dice, I gotta see if I can roll up another excuse from the d18 table of excusology table…

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Epic Adventures

Good gods. Three weeks without a blog post. Ok while I will take full responsibility for not putting a serious priority on the blog, well, so goes life. I wont try to list all the personal and work things going on that took higher priority in that time frame. And I will not make excuses for putting my oldest friend first next weekend with his reception party for his recent wedding. Nor for putting my wife first and taking her on a vacation to the coast while we make our way to said reception event. So to my loyal reader/s who show up with regularity and read every one of these posts, now you know whats up. And if someone got me a job posting these things and creating wild and crazy ideas for adventures and worlds, well then and only then would I be here on a permanent basis. 🙂

So with all that out of the way, we can ask the usual type of question, what the hell does he mean by Epic Adventures?

So Epic Adventures, also known in some parts as Adventure Paths are a series of adventures and encounters set up to bring a group of player characters in a level based game setting from level one up to the top levels of play. The first example that I am aware of (please note that I say aware of, because there are likely more out there that I dont know of as this is a fairly cool concept) was Castle Greyhawk. This was originally published back in 1988 by TSR for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. It was intended to be a series of comedy adventures in a single castle that you could bring your players back to from time to time to unwind a little from more intense stories. However if you really cleared things out and did not mind creeping through humor all the time you could make it from level one to level 20 or so depending on classes by the time you cleared all the levels under the castle. While the next was not intended to have you start at first level, you could with a little tweaking make it work and that was The Ruins of Undermountain also published by TSR, this time in 1991. What made Undermountain and its sequel/add on  was that it was not designed to be anything more than a serious dungeon crawl adventure. However with good work by a good DM you could make it an ongoing campaign.

Later on you would see things like the Shackled City campaign that was originally published in series in Dungeon magazine in 2003, The Worlds Largest Dungeon published in 2004, and a TON of adventure paths set up by Piazo for Pathfinder. The later offerings went past meeting in a bar and starting up a series of raids to gain levels. They plotted a story, gave NPCs background and gave characters a reason to keep things going.

Dont get your undies in a bundle that I am not mentioning your favorite module series. While nearly every game system out there has published adventures that take a story-line over multiple modules (DC Heroes, Star Frontiers, Marvel Super Heroes, and all generations of D&D to name a few) there are a lot of notable exceptions (Champions, GURPS, and SLA Industries once again to name a few). But the reason I am not bringing them up right now is because while they may tell a story over a few adventures, they are not epics that can get characters from the start of their career to the very top of their game. There are also a few publishers that have made a full story-line out of their entire publication series, but only if you pay attention (Shadowrun and the original World of Darkness (all five main games) make great examples here). This last concept is usually referred to as a Meta Plot which means that not mater what you do or where you go you are playing in the same story line.

Now then these epics all have one really big challenge. The players. If they go off the rails of the story/adventure the GM has set up before them, well things go pear shaped really quick. Or at least they can. If the person running the game has prepped for their players to run out at just about any part of the game, then things will not go off the rails at all really.

For myself I happen to love epic stories. However I also happen to know that every group I have ever played with likes to go outside the lines of the story and may want to chase down very minor plot threads that could seem like a waste of time in the overall plot. Actually I have had game groups run from the main plot right at the get go. And while it will occasionally get frustrating, I have a method of working around that. I call it the Epic Clock. I put down a time line for things to happen in on the main plot. If the characters get involved then sure they are the chosen ones. If they run from it, well then whomever else becomes the chosen ones will either save everything or things will get messed up without them. This also means though that the characters can get involved at any time. Either being at the right place at the right point in the time line, or by finding a sub plot of some kind that leads them back into the main story/plot. Also I have a distaste for just setting up modules as offered for an epic. In recent times I have taken some old D&D modules (Basic, AD&D and AD&D 2nd ed) and put them into series so that they create an epic. All of these modules are fairly easy to modify into Pathfinder so I dont have to change too many NPCs or monsters in extreme ways. Or I just build my own out of whole cloth.

Now then dont think this keeps me from running one off nights, or even one off series. But having a over arching epic, and a timeline gives me something to run everything against.

I dont do this too often but I would actually like to hear from readers on this topic. Do you like one offs, epic stories, meta plots, timelines or just what in adventures? Just reply to the posting and let me know.

Ok signing off for now, so gimme the dice, I need to roll a d10000 to see how big the next adventure is…

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Not feeling the love… Unofficial Review #15

Hey there readers. So I have spoken up a few times about my dislike of G.U.R.P.S. For those of you that don’t know what the heck I am talking about G.U.R.P.S. is an RPG game engine created by Steve Jackson games. And the acronym name stands for Generic Universal Role Playing System. Now then while this article will not be a game review as such, it is going to be more along the lines of a rant.

First things first though. Remember that this is all my opinion and this game may be the very thing you have been looking for all your life. So take me with a grain of salt until you go over the game yourself. The materials published by SJG do have some very strong points, and their other games have been on my play list for a long time.

So let me start out by talking about what I think that SJG has done right with G.U.R.P.S. They worked very hard to make a scale-able universal game engine. In some respects they failed miserably but we will get to that later. Next comes the fact that they have licensed more properties since the game was released in 1986 than any other game engine that I know of, even to the point of licensing other games. The setting supplements that they publish usually have a ton of detail and fluff that can be used with just about any game engine. They make awesome reference material. To be perfectly honest if it was not for the game engine itself I would be hard pressed to find better material. And even though I don’t like the game engine I still have several of the books they have published to use as reference material. The engine is also point based, which should put it high on my list of great games. I love the design control that a point based system gives you, but that love falls apart when the engine becomes unbalanced.

Now then the things I do not think that they have done well revolve all round the game engine itself. I really have three major bones of contention. And while two of them can be worked around (one easily and the other with some serious rules shifting) fixing the third would just kill the game engine and you might as well use something else. And since I don’t feel like surprising anyone by saving that big one for last, lets just start there.

My big and unassailable issue comes from the games stats system. As most gamers will know the stats are the mechanic that you use to define a character in their broadest and bluntest strokes. There are engines out there like Champions that have over a dozen stats to give you clearly defined lines for what the basic character is capable of without skills, tools, powers or anything else. And then you have games like Big Eyes Small Mouth that uses only three stats and each one is very broad. The game mechanics let you refine them further to detail things how you like. G.U.R.P.S. however uses four stats, and three of them define physical traits. And these stats are used to define the majority of the other skills and characteristics that a character can develop. Now then this may work really well in a strategy game, but in an RPG I personally like to establish a baseline for the mental aspects for the character that have nothing to do with their raw intelligence. Now then while G.U.R.P.S. does have positive and negative traits that you can use to gain more of that level of detail, and has a disadvantage system called Quirks that you can use to give some cool little details that can really define the limits of a characters personality, you still have to face off with the fact that your strength of will is going to come down to an intelligence roll. And I don’t know about you but the number of people I know of with a high IQ, well they are not always the most strong willed. When it comes to scaling of the stats I also have a problem. The stats run from zero to twenty just fine. Very scale-able. Very much running up to peak human. However if you get into the truly heroic or superhuman the scaling goes a little, or even more than a little, out of whack. So much so that they had to create a separate point cost system for strength that you can kick in after a value of thirty for cost savings. This problem comes into play even if you are creating an elephant. Disproportion of costs so that you can build what you want. It ends up meaning that in any setting you will have stat values that don’t make sense for everything from animals to aliens just to try and balance the game play and point costs.

The second issue that I have with the G.U.R.P.S. game engine is an item that they put in called an Unusual Background Cost. Now then whenever I have played G.U.R.P.S. I have tossed this thing out. This is an additional cost that you will pay for your character to have something that is uncommon or unusual in the game setting. So if you are playing a spy game and everyone is building characters with 200 points and you want to be able to do minor magic the game master can charge you up to 50 points so that you can do minor magic. I find that lazy as (four letter word starting with F and ending with K). Personally I would call that a cause for a disadvantage. A reason to have the character hunted by gods only knows how many agencies and religious groups. It is something that I can use to build deeper stories and it gives me a reason to add weird stuff into the game. And if I don’t want that in a game I say NO. Really easy just say that the setting does not support that. End of issue. I mean, seriously… what… the.. FUC… is wrong here. So ok as I said this is the easiest to fix, just throw the dumb ass rule out. However it bothers me to think that game masters need to have a stick like this to either enforce the world they want to use, or have absolutely no ability to say no to players when it will screw up the setting. SIGH… ok… moving on…

Third issue that I have is the way that skills and powers get built out. Just to give you a quick basic way to go about things…. lets see here… Ahh yes. Most folks can relate to fights in RPGs, so lets take a look at punching someone. First we need to know your DX (dexterity) Punching is covered by Brawling so we put points into brawling. But I want to use martial arts so that means I now have to use my Karate or Judo skill which defaults to Brawling that defaults to DX. But if I have a specific technique I may have advantages I have to purchase and then a technique skill that is based off of Karate that is based off of Brawling that is based off DX. Now then if I want to be really good at that one technique, I just really want to use my Martial Master Plucks the Flowers punch better than anything else, and my character concept would agree that everything else I do in a fighting style sucks… I still have to buy up my Brawling and then my Karate and then my technique because I cannot exceed my base skills by more than a certain amount. Ok so my thinking here is how many people might you know that can cook one thing really well, but they destroy everything else? Or can draw one image over and over but then have problems with stick figures? Or or or or or… Now then the sad thing is that powers are built in the same way. Be they magical or super human, they do the game bloody thing. And if you have a power you need a specific skill to use it (back in first edition you also had another step in there where you had to roll one skill to hit something and another to hurt it on top of paying for the actual power to do anything with). This can be fixed, to a degree by cutting out middle skills, removing prerequisites and a few other things. But if you are going that far do you really want to use the engine anyway.

Now then I freely admit that I have not played G.U.R.P.S. since third edition. I have heard that they updated several things but it is really hard to get past twenty years of annoyed and try again.

Overall how would I rate the game I have ranting about, just remember this is for the WHOLE enchilada of G.U.R.P.S. not just the main rule book or any one supplement, this is an all or nothing…

  1. Fluff – 5/5 – They have some cool stuff
  2. Crunch – 0/5 – I really dislike these rules and I… I just cant
  3. Mod – 0/5 – Oh you can mod the hell out of it, you have to, then it still wont play well
  4. Fun – 2/5 – Some of the supplements really rock, when used with another engine.
  5. Total over all score 7/20 – You have my sympathy if you play this game.

Ok so let me finish off this crap sandwich here. I have never been impressed with G.U.R.P.S. I quit even trying after third edition. While the game engine, to me, is one of the worst with all the flaws, the supplemental materials, worlds, settings, references and so on are almost all awesome. And when they get a licensed product they treat the materials with respect and go into levels of detail that really impress me. And I know the game system has been hideously successful over the last 30+ years, where games that I find more balanced and playable have fallen to the roadside. So maybe I am an outlier, and maybe its just that SJG has more money to toss at marketing and slightly less expensive books. I really don’t know. So as I said, take me with a grain of salt.

Anyway, peace out, play well, and gimme the dice, I need to find out how deep this rabbit hole of skills goes…

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Getting into Character

Howdy all, another week, another blog post 🙂

So I have run around talking about world building, games, reviewed a few things and ranted about others. Ya gotta ask from time to time what the hell is he going to talk about this time.

Well what I really want to talk about is finding and getting into your character.

Why do I want to talk about this? Well, from my perspective there are hundreds of table top RPGs out there. And about two years ago I wrote a very short article about choosing a game to play. But I looked over my posts and while I have mentioned using music and settings and a ton of little things that you can do to get into a game, or character I realized that I have never talked about actually choosing a character to play.

Now then regular players of any single game will usually end up having a favorite that they always play, a favorite that they never get to play because the people they play with dont allow that rules supplement to be used, or they have a non-favorite that they frequently play because they are really good at it, or they have a character they are stuck with because the party needed one. For new players they will either be dropped into the middle of selection and just given free reign, or they will have friends and mentors who guide them to a type of character that is easy to learn the rules with. And then with time and practice they get to see what they might like, and develop favorites.

Some people never do develop a favorite. They enjoy exploring concepts and ideas and the latest thing they have seen on tv/cable/video games/movies/convention/that hot chicks tattoo, or wherever. And personally I think that concept players actually are playing their favorite. It may seem like a flavor of the moment to others, but in that moment, they are playing the coolest thing they know. So it kind of balances.

Now then for the folks that are not concept players… really… how do you pick your favorite. Let me blow your mind for a minute here. At its peak, when you include third party publications Wizards of the Coasts D&D 3rd Edition, had at rough estimates, over 1000 character classes that could be played. You have over one thousand options just to start playing a character. And then if you have a path for the character to grow in mind you have the ability to multi class. Meaning you can add more than one class together at a time to make something more unique. And if you wanted to absolutely useless you could make every one of your twenty base levels a different class, meaning by the time… yeah… ok you see it there, that damned big number. Ok so Minds blown a little right? Now imagine you are playing a point based game engine like GURPS by Steve Jackson Games or Champions by Hero Games. No classes. No restrictions. Build as you see fit in the points allotted. Totally free form.

So again, really, how do you pick your favorite?

Well, really, regardless of the genre you just need to answer a few questions and you can get right to it. I know that everyone is going to have their own way to do things in the end but here is a method that I have used in the past and I know it can be helpful.

Questions –

  1. Do you have a character from a movie or book or comic that just fits and you love and want desperately to play something just like them? If yes then make that character. Please do try to give them an original back story of some kind because we all know the story of Conan the Barbarian by now. But other wise, if you want Conan make freaking Conan. If you do not have a preexisting character you want to bring into your game, then go to the next question.
  2. What do you find the most fun to play in a game? This can usually be broken down into a few really big ideas. Physical Power. Skills. Esoteric Powers (this can be magic, psi powers, holy powers, super powers and any number of others). Toys and Gear. Speed. Combat Skills. Charisma. A combination of the above. I usually find that if I rate these seven items on a scale I can get an idea of just about any character type.
  3. What sort of backstory do you like? Money (lots of or lack of its still money). Mystery. Race. Gender. Weird. Basic every day until the adventure starts. Again if you set these up in order of importance you can really get a quick outline of a background.
  4. What is it that you want to drive the character forward? The Past. Money. Adventure. Justice. Balance. Quest. Gods this place is boring. Shank a Bitch. That last one used to be called something else. Thanks to the ladies in my life though it got changed.

So did you notice how nothing in those questions talked about a genre? Thats because if you like a character concept  you should be able to move it from genre to genre. It does not have to be the same character, but it can be a theme in what you play.

If I build with these ideas you will see the following happen.

  1. Skills, Toys, Combat skills, Speed, Esoteric Power,  Physical Power, and Charisma floats it either bottoms out or hits the top.
  2. Mystery, Race, Money, Weird, Gender. Basic everyday life does not usually show up at all in my idea of fun.
  3. The Past, Gods this place is boring, and Shank a Bitch. These are the drives I have the most fun with usually.

Now then if I was going to look at that list, and I was playing a D&D game, I would be looking for a Rouge, maybe a Bard or Monk. Who came into their skills and training from an unknown location and likely an uncommon race for the area the game starts in. They are either running from something, or out to kick some ass, or maybe both.

When I use that list playing Shaowrun I usually end up creating some sort of Rigger with a few extra items you wont find on a regular character template.

If I go into Champions I have some unusual mutant martial artist that may have a bit of a Batman complex mixed with a Punisher attitude. But they wont talk about why.

The fastest way to do something like this is to only pick one or two items from each question and make a really focused character. Then add things as you grow them. If you are used to building this way then you can do like I did and mix and match you your hearts content.

I will freely admit that this is a process that is not for everyone. Some folks may like using something like the Life Flow chart in Cyberpunk by R Talsorian, or the background generator in Palladium Games books (even though it wont help you really pick a character it will give you a background for one). Or if you want to go to real extremes using tables to create backgrounds I would suggest looking into Buttery Wholesomeness, a supplement for White Wolfs HOL game, or if you are ready to search for them, Task Force Games put out three books in the late 80’s under their Central Casting blazon – Heroes for Tomorrow, Heroes NOW, and Heroes of Legend (supposedly system neutral but if you are using their stat bonus’ for characters you create you have best be using a percentile system).

So did this blog post really lead anywhere. In a zen kinda way, yes. By now you should know that there are a ton of different ways to come up with a character. Using whatever system you prefer, whatever method strikes your fancy. The only thing I would suggest is that you make a character you like, to play in a game you like, that represents a genre you like, with people you enjoy spending time with.

Be what you want to be, dream or nightmare. Here, all things are possible. Just remember that as in any other world, your choices will have consequences.

What does that mean? Well I have a feeling I will go into it in a later post about playing villains in a hero setting or something like that.

For now, gimme the dice, I got to see what happens when I roll up a half dwarf half giant using the 3.5 D&D rules… because I can.

Peace out, game on, and have fun while playing nice people 🙂

 

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Game Settings

Ok so yeah I am teasing everyone by not just jumping in to World Building 109 and closing out the series. That is going to be a slightly longer than usual post and I am trying to build things up so I can cover everything I want with less than my usual grammar errors and not be quite as stream of thought as I usually am.

Now then the title of this article may be a little misleading to some. I am not talking about worlds here, but the settings we set up for individual game sessions. The tavern, the house on the hill, the local graveyard and so on are the topic of the day.

Depending on the person running the game your settings can be as simple as – You step out of the hallway and into a really big room with all sorts of wall hangings and a throne – all the way up to – As you are coming toward what looks like the end of the hall way you note the flickering of lights that you have come to associate with multiple torches. There is a scent of some kind of incense in the air that just barely covers the smell of worn and ill treated cloth. As you cautiously enter the room ahead of you, you can see the tapestries that cover the wall, once well made but now filled with mildew and rot surround a dais and throne. The flickering light you noted in the hall is coming from braziers on either side of the throne that give off an oddly colored smoke. Which may be the source of that incense you smell.

Now personally I enjoy adding as much description to things as possible, but I really dont see anything wrong with either of those descriptions. The first one is something I would use with a group that just wants to get in and hack and slash their way through the game. The second I would use for a group that wants to roleplay more and also for a group that wants to investigate everything.

I was going to put a link in for a manga-ish graphic novel series called King of RPGs but the Wiki sort of sucks and I cannot find one by the author himself that is not really a sales page. KOR is the only place I have seen setting up the setting go, in my opinion, too far. I mean when you need to set up a tent so you can add a dry ice smoke machine and have coolers set up with different sealed items to bring the correct scents to the game space and you brought your friends constrictor snake to put onto the game table with the minis so that you can have an accurate representation of the big bad monster snake… yeah… a bit far.

Also I have talked about music in games before, and I really feel like having a bit of well selected music can really enhance the game session. Adding music though you really have to consider the setting and the music you want to use. Its hard to mix things together unless you really know your group. Cranking up I am Iron Man with a fantasy setting may not be the best, unless you know the group loves rock, loves the song, or you just need something a little more intense for that Iron Golom that just crested over the trees. I can say that with all the streaming music apps though that you really want to have a plan going where you do not have commercial breaks as they can completely kill a mood.

Now then normally in an article like this I sit back and stress that every game, and every gamer is different. And that everyone needs to do what they enjoy or are comfortable with or whatever. Never feel pressured into doing something you dont want to do in a game. I would in this instance though like to suggest, that instead of thinking about yourself. You think about the group you are gaming with. Establishing a setting, be it the way a game master does it for the players, or the way the players establish their own presence in a setting, can have a serious impact on everyone who is playing. I know that many game tables have a mix of players at them, some wanting to roleplay until the world ends and some wanting just to get to the next combat. And that can be a hard mix to balance if you are trying to establish a setting. So make sure you have out of game conversations to really see what everyone wants. It may actually be possible to add a lot of detail in things like online blogs or classic blue booking to give the more detail oriented players what they need, and keep the time at the table fast and furious for the combat junkies. Then again other things may be needed.

What I am trying to get to here, really, is that the single most important setting in any game, ANY game, is the communication setting between whomever is running the game and the players. If that setting is get in, game get out, that is fine, just make sure that everyone has agreed to that setting. If the setting is tell a rich in depth story with every detail milked for the most dramatic and emotional response… again make sure everyone has agreed.

I am not going to drop a link in here but almost two years ago I did an article about sound tracks and theme music if you want to know my thoughts on that topic in more detail.

For the moment though I think I have the point across. Communicate. Build settings that you as a GROUP can get the most out of. And have fun damnit.

Ok now gimme the dice I need to see if I can pickpocket myself without me noticing…

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Buying Games Online

Ok so its not a world building moment nor is it a game review. Thanks to the holiday season and the chance to play with a little gift cash, I of course got games with some of it. And this is about that experience.

So anyone who is a gamer or knows a gamer knows that there are a few ways to get games. Go into a local game and hobby shop, a book store, maybe a comic shop, and then ordering online. Now then some people will tell you all about the convenience of ordering online. Some will talk to you about the cost savings versus cover price. And all those things are truly possible. And in the case of board games or boxed sets then you may very well see a quality product at your door.

The thing that makes me edgy about going online to order games though is that you are going to be relying on someone you have never met, to ensure the quality of an item you have not seen with your own eyes, that they will package it in a manner that means you are getting your new game all in one piece, and that it will actually get to your door and not be delivered into some other state.

Am I paranoid about these things. You betcha 🙂

Let me give you the example of my latest online game purchase. Being a table top RPG player I ordered from Amazon. But since I ordered a few things that were out of print I ended up actually ordering three books from three different vendors. Now then I start out a little nervous but these were items I wanted in my games collection… again in a couple cases. So my order ends up having one book from Amazon itself, one from Vendor X (not naming them directly), and one from Wayne’s Books.

So the king of dance swing, Amazon, actually fulfilled my order from the local depot, or so it seems as it only took two days to get here by USPS. When it arrived I opened the mailer envelope. Inside I see my book. Oversized 8×10 or so book format like a magazine (for those of you who remember them… heh) The mailer is one of the plastic, heavy sealing, padded bags. And that was it. USPS had shoved it into my mail box and ran. So I take a look and there seems to be some damage around the edges, and with the cold weather there was a little curl…but nothing too bad. SO I took my new book and read through it a bit… and it all seems ok. But this could have been shipped much better, with out adding much cost to Amazons shipping process. More on that later.

Vendor X… Well their Amazon listing for the book they sold me said near mint condition on the book. But they were selling it at a fairly low price. They sent the book in a paper envelope with a small padding structure inside. The book was much lower in quality than they had it listed for, and if it was not for the fact that I feel I spent what the books quality was really worth I would have sent it back and asked Amazon to consider some sort of financial reprisals. I am still considering it because they charged me six bucks for shipping and forgot that I could see the stamp on the envelope that said “Media Rate”, and having worked in shipping I know that with the cost of the envelope included, I was wayyyyyy overcharged for shipping.

Now then to Waynes Books. I was not surprised after I got the book that they not only have their own website and store, but that they have been at this for a while. The book I ordered from them was listed on the Amazon site as being – Very Good – quality. When I got it I would actually say it was more Near Mint. I was expecting bad pages, roughness around the edges, a slightly discolored or damaged cover. And instead I get something that has a slight crease in three pages. If the quality grading scale they use is that strict. I like them a lot. Actually getting to my book was kinda fun and it showed me they have a lot of respect for the product they send and the people they send it to. The book was first wrapped in a plastic media bag. Like the kind you store comic books in. That was then padded with a layer of cardboard that was slightly larger than the book. And then a little more cardboard that was smaller. This collection of material was then put into a plastic padded mailer envelope. Someone was going to have to do some serious work to damage that book. They also used “Media Rate” for shipping and it took a few days to get to me, but for a quality book and quality shipping like that I can wait.

Now then on Amazons web site both Vendor X and Waynes have 99% satisfaction ratings. Both have 4.5 stars overall on reviews. So mayhap with Vendor X I just happened to get the wrong guy or someone was having a bad day or who the heck knows. I can say however that the next time I go game hunting I will likely look at Wayne’s site directly first. And may just go to them right off the bat and order from them. Because with their first effort for me. They impressed me. I cant say it better than that. Amazon did a so so job, and Vendor X got the only 2 star review I have ever left someone… they got two stars because they got me the right book, I can use it, and I know I dont have to go back to them. For me leaving a one star review means that I have actually sent something back, along with comments regarding our next steps with the lawsuit I am initiating.

So yeah this has been a somewhat ranty post. And that was the intent. Ya see this is the kind of situation we get ourselves in when we dont have well supported brick and mortar stores. You have to go online, and trust that what you ordered will in fact be what you get. And you have to be ready for it not to be so you can play the return and send me what I want game… over and over again. With an economic power like Amazon backing the stores that sell through them I can understand giving a bit more trust… because if Amazon pulls their support or offers a bad review from their own perspective… that could be the first or last nail in a vendors coffin.

In the end what I really want to say is pursue your hobbies and your joys. Chase the games and titles and such that you really want. But just be ready to have to either fight for it, or be totally surprised by how good it comes out.

Ok so gimme the dice, I gotta see whats on my collection list that I want to pursue next…

Peace and games to all in 2017, next week a return to world building… or a review… may have to roll for that one…

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Used book stores

Ok so I have talked about chasing down old and out of print games before. I have talked about my methods of going after them and all the fun that you can have if you are a fan and you really find something good. Well this is likely to be a short post, however I wanted to take just a moment and say WOOOOHOOO in regards to one used book store in particular.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I look for classic RPG’s and things that are on my list of games I have played but are no longer in my library all the time. Of late I have been jonesing a lot for some of the stuff I played in the way back times but have not seen for a while. In the last year I have found three of those games, and I have found them all in one store.

Torg, and Paranoia second edition from WEG, and Gamma World third edition. I found Gamma World yesterday and was very surprised to find a boxed set with not only the original rules but all the printed supplements that usually get lost from the boxed sets, a GM screen from second edition and the GM screen for 3rd edition with the added adventure supplement all in the box and all for only forty bucks. When I hunted on eBay or Amazon for the box set for second or third edition Gamma World I usually find incomplete box sets for about a hundred bucks. Paranoia I found for seventy, and even though the book inside the box was a little messed up the last time I checked for it online it had been going for about 120. Torg, well since it had the complete master deck set of cards I had been expecting it to go for over 200. They had it for thirty. All in all several great deals.

And I said it was all from one store. So this is my big plug and I hope that gamers looking for out of print material start hitting them up. Half Price Books in Redmond Washington. Not everything they have is a steal like that when it comes to classic games. They have out of print modules that you can find in PDF format online for 3-5 bucks for anything from 15-50, so for me those are a no go. But the Forgotten Realms Horde boxed set for fifty… that might be worth thinking about.

Anyway I am not sure what is going on right now with Half Price but their stores (at least the ones that I go to) seem to be getting an influx of gaming materials lately. So I want to thank whoever has been selling off their stuff, and to Half Price for not going full collectors market price on some really cool things.

Does this mean that I am going to do a Gamma World review in the near future… maybe.

For now though just gimme the dice, I gotta see if this kinda luck keeps rolling crits.

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Game Companies, why oh why have you changed?

Yeah I know folks are still waiting on a review for No Thank You Evil. I hope to make that my next post.

Right at the moment however there is something that has been on my mind about companies that make RPG’s for a while now. I call it the One Engine Problem.

So at least in my area there are very few published RPG books (yeah that means printed with bindings and all that, not the digital copies) where you can find an company with more than one game engine. I mean if you go looking for Fantasy Flight Games you may find their Star Wars RPG and their Warhammer 40K game Dark Heresy. And they are one of the few who has more than one game engine. WOTC has D&D 5th, with occasional books being published from the older versions (so that sorta counts as more than one game engine). Piazo only has Pathfinder. Palladium, Chaosium, Post Human (or is that supposed to be one word) and so many others have only one engine. When a publisher has more than one engine it seems like most of the places that carry games will only carry their biggest name game.

So here is the thing… I can hear a lot of people saying “So what?!” out there. “I can find a lot of stuff on PDF, or order it from the publisher directly if I want some in print.”

Here is my so what. I… I guess really I miss the 80’s for RPGs.

Back when TSR was in its hey day they had all sorts of regular games, each with their own game engine. D&D, Star Frontiers, Gamma World, Boot Hill, Top Secret, Top Secret SI, Marvel Super Heroes, Amazing Engine, and a small string in the early 80’s of mini RPG games sold as one offs. West End Games hit the ground running with Paranoia and before the 80’s ended they had added Ghostbusters, Star Wars, and Torg, but they kept on coming with new systems and new ideas even after they merged with Humaniods and eventually passed. And even Steve Jackson Games was in there with more than just GURPS.

I can understand from a business perspective, the 80’s were full of money, expansion was crazy, no one wanted to specialize. More was better. Everyone went crazy and then the top blew off. So then game companies started to specialize, or get bought out. And so the number of games dwindled. Now online companies are bringing many of them back. Digital versions of so many older games. And a few of them are coming up with new material… but only a few.

I would really love to see a new publisher that comes out with four or five game engines and works to support them all. Digital or print. Actually the heck with that if I were to have my druthers I want it all in print…

Sigh ok so it was a bit of a rant… and it rambled.

Gimme the dice, I need to chase a game engine.

 

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Drive Thru RPG data breach

Sorry if this causes a double post for some but I am putting this on my blog as well as on Facebook. I think it is important enough to warrant that kind of communication.

I got notification this morning, and confirmed it with Drive Thru that they have had a security breach and approximately half of the customer data as been stolen. The breach affected the payment information and account information (not including site passwords) for anyone purchasing items between 7/6/2015 and 8/6/2015.

They are not giving out any more information than that at this time. Personally this is why I shop online only with prepaid gift cards and have ongoing fraud protection. I am going to include below a copy of the letter they sent me, and the information form their Q&A page regarding the breach. Just so anyone who is interested can read up on what they are telling us.

What this letter does not tell anyone is that One Book Shelf is what was breached, not one specific site of the eight they show on their web page. One Book Shelf is the parent behind – RPG Now, Drive Thru RPG, D&D Classics.com, Drive Thru Cards, Drive Thru Fiction, Wargame Vault, and Ulisses Ebooks.de. I know from personal experience that any account information you may have with any of these sites is shared between all of them.

I can say I appreciate them letting me know, I do not think that contacting the FBI and asking what to do next is the appropriate reason for not disclosing to their customers faster that something happened though. The fact that direct notification was not given to anyone who had not shopped on their sites in the last month annoys me as I think other customers would like to know that something happened. However, given the fact that banks, major retail stores and other online sites have taken months to notify anyone, if they ever do, they have positive progress here in my book. All in all, keep shopping online, but do it in a way that makes you feel safe about your information and payment data.

Now gimme the dice, I need to roll up a new password.

***************************Notification Email ***************************

Dear customer,

I regret to inform you that one of our servers suffered a security breach which may have compromised your credit card information.

You are receiving this email because you made a purchase (or attempted to make a purchase) on our site using a credit card between July 6th, 2015 and the morning of August 6th, 2015. There is a 50% chance that hackers were able to collect your credit card information. We recommend that you contact your credit card issuing bank and ask them to replace any cards that you used for charges on our site, and also look over your most recent statements for any suspicious charges.

Our technical team has identified the issue and has secured our servers. Our websites are once again safe to use.

Information such as your name and email address were potentially compromised as well.

Login passwords are stored encrypted with a one-way hash and cannot be decrypted. You do not need to change your account password, but you are more than welcome to do so on your Account page at any time if you wish.

We are truly sorry this incident occurred and sincerely regret the inconvenience it causes you. Navigating credit card company call center menus is no one\’s idea of a good time.

Security has always been our top concern and up until this incident we were proud of our security record at DriveThruRPG.com. We will continue to do everything we can to keep our marketplace secure going forward.

More information on this is available on this page:
http://support.drivethrurpg.com/entries/69850204-Credit-Card-Data-Breach-Q-A

And on the DriveThruRPG Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/DriveThruRPG

Thank you for your patience and loyalty.

Best Regards,
Steve Wieck
OneBookShelf

*******************************Web Page Q&A from the link in email********

Credit Card Data Breach Q&A

Jeff Montgomery
posted this on Aug 10, 4:23 PM

Please find below a list of common questions about our security breach with their corresponding answers:

Q: If I made purchases at DriveThruRPG prior to July 10 but did not store my credit card information on your site are there any steps I need to take?

A: No. All Login Passwords are stored encrypted with a one-way hash and cannot be decrypted. You do not need to change your account password but are more than welcome to on your Account page at any time.

 

Q:What should I do if I made a purchase between July 10th, 2015 and the morning of August 6th, 2015?

A: We recommend that you contact your credit card issuing bank and ask them to replace any cards that you used for charges on our site.

 

Q:If I store my credit card information at DriveThruRPG what steps should I take?

A: We suggest you contact your credit card issuing bank and ask them to replace your credit card. We have no evidence that these numbers were compromised. It would not have been easy to un-encrypt the stored numbers, but we cannot rule out the possibility.

 

Q:Do I need to reset my login password?

A: No. Login Passwords are stored encrypted with a one-way hash and cannot be decrypted. You do not need to change your account password but are more than welcome to on your Account page at any time.

 

Q:Is it safe to shop on the site?

A: Yes. Our technical team has identified the issue and secured our servers. Our websites are once again safe to use.

 

Q:What if I used account credit, or a gift card, or checked out using PayPal for payment?

A: Your transaction was not affected. There’s nothing you need to do.

 

Q:What are you doing to ensure our safety in the future?

A: Everything we can. Like all e-commerce sites, we are subjected to intrusion attempts on an ongoing basis. We use a comprehensive set of measures to maintain site security. We are PCI compliant for credit card processing.

In this case a hacker found a crack in our defenses and got in. We have fixed the intrusion point and will continue our ongoing work to keep our site secure against such attacks.

 

Q:Can you give me details of the breach?

A: For security reasons there are elements that we will not discuss. The main things the hacker accomplished were using our server as a platform to launch DDOS attacks on other sites and also swiping credit card information as we processed it from July 10th to the morning of August 6th.

 

Q:Why did you delay contacting customers?
A: We reached out to both the FBI and our credit card payment processor, and were awaiting contact from them so that we could consult with them on the best course of action to take.

Q: How could ​you let all this credit and debit card information get accessed?

A: This unauthorized access is a crime, and we are taking it very seriously. While we can’t provide specifics because the investigation is ongoing, we are working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation on the matter.

 

Q: Should I ​contact you to see if my credit or debit cards were affected?

​A: If your card was among those that were potentially affected, then we have already sent you an email about it. If we did not send you an email, then yours was not one of the cards that were potentially affected.​

Q: How do I know if my card information is stored.

A: To check your card information, just navigate to your Account page using the tab at the top of the screen.  Then, in the Account section, click on the link to Update Stored Payment Information.  The next page will display any stored information and you can change or remove your card information using this tool as well.

Q: How can I tell which card number I have saved with you?

A: To check your card information, just navigate to your Account page using the tab at the top of the screen.  Then, in the Account section, click on the link to Update Stored Payment Information.  The next page will display any stored information and you can change or remove your card information using this tool as well.

 

Q: Can you give me more of the nitty-gritty tech details?

A: For passwords, we store as a salted hash, so those cannot feasibly be reversed. The reason we said 50% likelihood of being compromised is because we have two load-balanced webservers, and only one of them was compromised. Unfortunately, it is impossible to tell which webserver you may have been routed to, if you were one of the customers who checked out during the affected period. Credit cards were stored in an encrypted format; however, for us to be able to send them along for future purchases we have to be able to decrypt them, so it is possible that the hackers could have done so as well. However, we have no evidence indicating that the attackers breached our database. We are just being extra cautious in letting you know that it is a possibility. And even if they did, we do not store CVV numbers, so just having the credit card number would be of very limited use to a potential hacker.

Q: What if I have other questions that aren’t covered here?

A: Go to http://support.drivethrurpg.com/requests/new and submit your question there.

***************************************************************************

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Version 23456432

Ok so bit of a rant here.

Games, movies, tv series, books and just about every form of entertainment you can imagine is subject to someone coming along later and going, “Nahhh, the original was fine but lets do things this way now and put the same name on it to capitalize off of the old version and see what we can do about making more money.”

When this thought comes along in the gaming environment it usually means that the older version is not going to be supported any more by the publisher. That means no new material from any official source. And since they hold the copyright and title, that is all on them.

One of the biggest examples of this that you can see in the annals of game history is the evolution of Dungeons and Dragons. From the basic rules, to Advanced D&D, to second edition, to players option (yeah most of us who played through it considered the players option books to be AD&D 2.5 but woe be to anyone who suggested that to someone from TSR). to D&D 3.0 and 3.5 (thank you WOTC for buying up TSR and keeping the game going), and then on to 4.0 (ungh) and then now on to fifth edition. For D&D the changes have been rather extreme after the shift from first to second edition. After that it was no longer about updating the rules, but making something that they thought they could sell better and get a bigger audience into the gaming scene (Sorry WOTC but you know its true).

Now then up until the digital outbreak of books online a few years ago, when a publisher made a change like this they had little choice but to abandon the old material completely, and just print the new stuff. The investment in continuing to print or reprint old materials was just too big. Now though publishers can pull all that old material out, scan it, and keep selling the classic materials online to anyone who wants to still play it, or flash back to a set of rules or an adventure that they played way back when. And thank you WOTC for jumping out there and making so much of our past gaming pleasure available to us all. Now to get the rest of you publishers on board. 🙂

So where is the rant, where am I going with this post, well… here…

So to all my fellow gamers out there. To all of you who have bemoaned that your favorite game system is no longer being published, to all of you who have cried out that you “Have to change to a new system”, or bitched because the new stuff your favorite game system is using just does not match up any more. I have to say, WHAT THE HELL IS YOUR PROBLEM!

Since table top RPGs have been coming out people have been using this little thing called  IMAGINATION. Yeah that’s right IMAGINATION. That thing you use to dream up what your characters will do, or to describe to players what the dungeon was like, or to enhance the tales you tell of past adventures. Why in the HELL would you stop using it when someone stops publishing your favorite game? Why don’t you just keep playing? Come up with your own adventures? Come up with your own worlds? Make your own additional rules? Why do you have to have the latest from someone just to keep doing the things you enjoy so much?

I can understand for something like computer or console game because unless you keep hardware around that works with the old software you just cannot keep playing. And then there are usually only so many endings in any of those games so you can only play the same exact thing over so many times. In that case you really have to update if you want to keep playing. In movies or TV yeah its a remake, or a new “envisioning” of the old idea (I mean how many versions of Sherlock Holmes have we seen in the last decade alone). And if you want more of your character you need to adapt unless you are writing your own fan or slash fic (and while you fans are awesome some of you scare the crap out of me).

The only reason I can see that someone might not still use their favorite table top RPG is because they sold off all the old books (or more charitably all your copies burned up in a fire that cost you so much you may never recover, and for those in straights like that you have my condolences) and you cannot get to a used book store, find a digital copy online, borrow a book or two from other players, find a game store with old stock, hit an auction site like eBay or some of the Amazon markets, and I am sure that there are other ways to get old books back that do not have you selling your soul, or your young (tempting though it may be at times).

Seriously though folks, just because a publisher comes up with something new, you do not have to buy it, you do not have to play it, and you do not have to toss out your favorites just because they did.

Encourage them to make the old stuff available (no strong arm tactics please) so that you can still support them. Get some of your creative friends to publish something online that you can use. DO SOMETHING, that keeps you in touch with the things you enjoy, and quit bitching about change. Yeah it would be nice if the games stayed the way you love them forever, but seriously these things are being published by companies, and companies need to find ways to make money or they die. New things bring an influx of new cash, and that means they can keep doing what they enjoy, and that is creating games.

Ok, rambling rant a players over…

Gimme the dice, I need to make a THACO check on my fifth level halfling

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