Apr 30, 2009

A PSA, and a salute to teh funneez!

For those of you who are blissfully unawares, there is an "indie: webisode series out there chronicling the travails of the competitive gaming circuit called GOLD

They are in need of donations and sponsorships to continue pushing out episodes, and have made an appeal to that purpose. See the interlude episode. I made my donation, and look forward to joining the short but sweet list of patrons, but my broke ass will not be able to support them single handedly. Please consider dropping a dime, or 20 pound sack of dimes on them to encourage this excellent web series.

As this will be the final post of a busy make-up week here at the TPK, please enjoy some of the wonderful expressions of the human and in-human condition so lovingly rendered upon the intarnetz.

Apr 29, 2009

Not a review, more like a "READ THIS" mandate.

As my lemming-like attention span drifts from fantasy to science fiction, I have been re-arranging my bookshelf for inspiration. While doing so, I found a dust covered gem that I feel deserves to be not only praised, but pushed out into the masses once more.
This book is quite simply, one of the best books I have ever read. I would rank it alongside Heinlien's Starship Troopers, Haldeman's Forever War, Or even Keith Laumer's Retief and Bolo books.

While certainly not for everyone, it is easily accessible to even casual reader, lacking the impenetrable frosting of "hard Sci-fi" technobabble. This is very much a character driven story about a man who wishes more than anything to just die, but is thwarted repeatedly by his own trauma splintered personality, in the form of "The Machine".

Whenever he tries to lay down and die, the machine takes over and does whatever is necessary to MAKE him survive. My puny reviewer superpowers do this no justice, in print it is very compelling. As an aside, this author also wrote the novel (which later became a cheesy horror movie) Leviathan. I highly recommend this story to any fan of science fiction. I have even considered basing a campaign around this story - who doesn't want to be a power armored infantryman?

There you are, 5 minutes of your time netted you one of the greatest (IMO) books of our time. What are you waiting for!?

Apr 27, 2009

Looking for reccommendations - C'mon, you KNOW you want to give one :)

Fantasy role-playing, while holding a reserved place within my heart of hearts, my true passion is Sci-fi. I all but stopped reading fantasy novels shortly after high school. In their place, I discovered science fiction, and the literal universe it opened up before me.

With one of the fantasy campaigns I am involved in falling apart due to a number of factors, I was looking for a palate cleanser. Something new, yet somewhat familiar. Something with decent character development, interspersed with John Ringoish buckets of bug hunting gore.

Normally, I would default to Dragonstar, but honestly, I want total sci-fi this time, not just elves in space. Without going into boring details, I am looking for a good military science fiction RPG. Space opera is fine by me. It must have (in no particular order):

  1. Aliens. Lots of ugly, nasty, friendly, stereotypical, aliens.

  2. Guns. at least 50 ways to fling...bouncy balls of yellow light!

  3. Ship based and ship to ship options. I want to be able to let them travel the stars at will, and still be able to jump them with snub-fighters whenever the sensors guy is sleeping at the wheel. - This is BIG. Most of the systems I have dealt with so far failed miserably in this regard, i.e. dogfights were tedious and boring.
  4. A rulebook that won't cause spontaneous anheurisms.
  5. Did I mention the guns had to be REALLY big?
  6. Playable AI Robots. Humaniform, sentient dump-trucks, concubots, the whole shebang.

Optionally, Mecha and dragons (in mecha suits? hmmmmm.)

I have been eyeing Star Wars: SAGA edition, but haven't met anyone who has played it yet. Soooo, I figured I would turn to the geek elite and see what else is out there.

My concept is a Para-military privateer and "salvage" company helping to police the fringes of known space. Simple, and compelling, as they try to do their jobs in a changing political landscape.

As an aside, and possibly an excellent compromise, is anybody familiar with the CORTEX system? Firefly with a different name might be just what the Dr. ordered.

Or how about WH40K - Dark Heresy? Anybody have some first hand experience with that?

So how about it? What would you reccommend, oh wise and benevolent readers? What universe should my players roam for fun and profit?


Apr 21, 2009

Celebrating my 100th post! With little more than a sorta-funny story.

A milestone, but it helps the miles go by...right?

I apologize to my readers for the lull. I spent so long trying to think of a brilliant internet changing piece of gaming wisdom, that I let too much time slip by.

As such, I still haven't even figured out what I will write about yet...thinking....hold on a moment.

I got nothing :)

There's been too many backyard projects, and sick kids to game :(

So tell me, oh wise and powerful audience, have any of you had an awesome gaming moment? Please feel free to replace awesome with embarrassing, insane, unbelievable, retarded, incredible, or any other adjective you have, as I plan to live vicariously through anything posted up :)

Meanwhile, this motivational poster sums up my current 4E group to a T...

I remember, as a player all those years ago being bored whenever my brainless half-orc fighter wasn't smashing and /or breaking things. It's not that I was a shallow player, it's just that I figured the character (with his harsh barbaric upbringing) wouldn't whine or grabass around on the road between points in need of stabbing or violence.

The DM always gave me a hard time between battles for not taking the initiative and "DOING something". To him, I wasn't role-playing. I was simply there for the board game that we played for 1/3 to 1/2 of each session. I told him this wasn't the case, but he called me out one game.

Here I am laying on the floor with eyes closed listening to what the rest of the party was doing.

"I assume Haarnsgaard the cursed (me) is just sitting there, doing nothing?" asked the DM.

"Nothing out of the ordinary" I reply.

"And just what is the ordinary?" Asked the DM.

"Sharpening my Zweihander, polishing my armor, cleaing my boots...maybe airing out my codpiece...?" I reply.

"Donny...do you WANT to play this game?" the now pink faced DM asked me.

"Of course, why do you ask?" I answer...feeling the beginings of annoyance.

"You don't seem to care about the party. You don't converse with them. You don't seek out quests or story elements, you are just THERE." He said, anger beginning to form CAPS from his words.

"Well, I don't think that it would be conducive to the party for me to get in the way of what they were already doing when I joined the group. Besides, they don't like me (in-game) and are constantly dissing me and not being very friendly. Are you asking me to be more active?" I asked.

"YES! I want you to play your fucking character! You spent two days making this meat-sack, the least you can do is use it like it's supposed to be used!" He's pissed now, and everyone else is just looking around or finding ways to excuse themselves for "air".

"Okay, when it's my camp watch, I want to do some role-playing...is that okay?" I ask.

Placated, the DM agrees. 10 minutes later, the group is passing the night in camp, when my shift comes up. I tell the DM that I wait for everyone to be sleeping peacefully, so they cannot see what I am going to try and do. The DM is curious, so with no objections from the party, he agrees that they are all asleep.

That's when my NE half-orc fighter draws his sword, and falls upon his sleeping companions. The only other tank, a Dual class fighter/cleric was sleeping without his armor, and the mage/thief and bard were out of spells from the previous battle.

Ironically, the players thought it was funny as hell! As I killed each one, I listed my grievances against them - the scorching from a fireball, a missed heal, a stolen coinpurse, all meticulously maintained in my notebook.

After butchering them (I took a total of 7hp damage) I burned their bodies and packed up all or my new gear. The DM was apoplectic. I thought he was going to jump across the table at me. He ordered me never to come back again, to which I asked "why?".

The group rallied around me, and reminded him that he wanted me to "role-play" and that he knew what my character was. I'll also note that the party was 2 elves, and a human raised by them. He backed down, but refused to let me carry the character into the new campaign.

Was I a dick? Maybe a little :) I think of this little story whenever I end up DMing for a mixed group of races and alignments. (drow and sun elves!? Shield dwarves and duergar!?) Of course you can justify almost any combination of races classes and alignments, but sometimes we don't even do that. Yet...how many games have been set completely in a single tavern common room? You know, an adventuring party forms, they banter and party away - knowing that they may face their deaths in the lair of a dragon...only to all die at the hands of the party rogue who poisoned their drinks at the dragon's behest.

A one room campaign...indeed :)

Haarnsgaard the cursed
NE Half-orc fighter 8
STR 18/21
DEX 12
CON 17
WIS 10

One last thing, does this look like a min/maxed character to you? :P

Apr 10, 2009

We've all heard of furries...but SCALIES!?

It's Friday, and to help us all get past Wizardly asshattery, and Dead gaming icons, I would like to point out an overlooked modern fantasy novel series that my wife finally got me to read.

Here you will find the author's website with writeups of his first 4 novels. I found these to be quite entertaining. To summarize with extreme prejudice:

A Dragon, who can shapeshift flawlessly between human and dragon forms lives the perfect life of a billionare playboy on a family owned island off of the coast of Florida. He's lonely though, and hasn't seen or heard from another of his kind in decades, since his father died. Mom was killed by AA fire from a submarine during WWII. One night while eating late night pleasure boaters, he scents a female in heat...And head off to Jamaica for DRAGON SEX!!!

This intense and painstakingly described DRAGON SEX was (to say the least) not what I was expecting, that's for sure. In fact, what surprised me was that my wife though it was pretty hot. Did I marry a closet scaly? Being the good husband I am, my leather scaled suit arrives next week, though I still have reservations about the tail...stingers yes, but this? What's next? Vibrating claws?

Let me say that again DRAGON SEX!!!
(that just feels good to say!) WTF!? I have gamed forever now, and never have I even considered a dragon in...well...you know. After all, all of that odd begetting happens off-stage. I mean, wow. I couldn't imagine trying tp RP a dragon who wants more than anything to add a half-orc barbarianess to it's tally sheet. This is too much like the Book of Erotic Fantasy for my taste. Any of you have the ahem, "pleasure" of owning that tome? Got it for the articles, didn't you :)

This brings us to another, similar topic. Does anybody actually go that far? I remember reading a blog by Dungeon Grrrl for awhile, where sex was a regular part of the game, but just thinking about it is making me uncomfortable...I mean theoretically...Consenting adults and all...wow...How DO you reward XP for that? Calculate armor classes? Grapple checks?

If Modern day dragons and their mating practices (delivered in detail only Laurell K. Hamilton could touch) is your thing, these are highly reccommended. If nothing else, the D20 modern inspiration is well worth the cost of 15 dollars worth of paperbacks.


Sorry, I just had to get that out of my system :)

Apr 9, 2009

Go on - Do it. Google "D&D torrent" I DARE you.

As a slight follow up to yesterday's spleen venitng, I have found that I have just a tiny bit more.

Now that we know that Wizards of the Coast has beaten the terrible PIRATES OF TEH INTARNETZ, we can all breathe safe knowing our hobby has been saved from having free copies distributed to people who either horde them obsessively or actually use them to play.

Wait a minute! I "accidentally" googled "D&D Torrents" and got 147,000 hits. Lessee here, a 20Gb torrent containing every single book in print, all 1E, 2E, 3E, and 4E....all the green ronin stuff...Kenzer & Co....Necromancer games...hell, they even have scans of the dungeon tiles and poster maps!

So what is stopping me. Notice it's not a question. What is stopping you? (that one was). I'll tell you what is stopping you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodwill_(accounting)

It is the knowledge that doing so would harm the company that makes the things that you support and like. It is the emotional investment, that as a FAN of the product, represents the sum total of all of your time spent and houserules made.

Piracy is a fact of commercial life. Having once been a design/QA department head that worked directly with a Shenzhen manufacturer, I can attest to the low prices for product. Problem is, your manufacturer lies. For every 1000 scaffolds they built for us, they also built 250 more (using our steel) to sell under their own brand name in direct competition. Their government loves it, so it was unproveable. It was a fact of life.

Wizards needs to suck it up. I bought books BECAUSE they were from their people. I bought books BECAUSE they were D&D specifically...And now? I don't know. Despite the "illegality" of downloading their books, the penalties are laughable. So now we are back to goodwill, how much do YOU have left?

IF you are feeling like me, you have noticed Paizo and White Wolf are both having sales...decent sales. If you are like me, you also noticed that they are also available as torrents. Oddly enough, there isn't even a temptation. Figure that one out Wizards, and you win.

Also, RIP Dave Arneson - You seemed like a cool guy, you get the benefit of the doubt. Where are the Fracking horny chinchillas when you need them? Steve Jackson is waiting.

Apr 8, 2009

If Webster's adds "Blogtroversy" this year, I am killing all of you, and then myself.

Seems to be in fashion these days! Okay bad joke.

Okay, maybe not all of you. Okay, maybe not myself either - but still.

No really, please don't have me arrested...I'm too young for Sodomy!

Alright. Back on topic BAD CAFFEINE!

Tell you the truth, I'm glad Wizards did the whole "PDF thing" I was getting tired of reading Dave Arneson posts. Too many people in my bubble fighting cancer right now. Hopefully we'll hear Steve Jackson was gang-raped in his hotel by a pack of chinchillas, so we can move on from this one.

In any event, I got nothing else to talk abouton a rainy Wednesday, andI haven't had a good rant in awhile...so here it goes.

To Whom it may concern,
Wizards of the Coast Boardmembers, et al.

Greetings. I am Donny the DM, and I run a little blog called the Fine Art of the TPK (it's awesome - see the actual words are capitalized, but not the little ones?) I would like to write a scathing letter to you that will be posted all over the Internet and make me famous, but I don't have the skill or patience.

Upon consulting FOXnews, I feel I am sufficiently pissed off to forgo skill, and indefinitely postpone patience. I can now continue.

Now, to the point. Could you guys (and gals?) please do your fucking jobs? If any company I have ever worked for had PR issues like your does, head would have fucking rolled several times now. As a fan, watching the edicts of your chicken-innard readers at the street level has left me rather mystified. I mean, we all have these stereotypical head images of stupid corporate hacks elevated by politics over qualifications right? Do you guy's have them too? Never mind, that was rhetorical.

Consider this conundrum. If YOUR decisions are viewed by your fans AND critics as short minded stupidity, are they? If not, why does the perception exist? Are you doing anything about it? Do you care? Why(not)?

I don't even know who most of you are, how many, or even what you really look like, but my mental imagery of your group is not very flattering. You see, all of you are wearing the proverbial ass-hat. There is more than a passing resemblance to a certain stubborn, 4 legged beast of burden as well. Why is this? I am after all a fan.

My issues with you are myriad, the whole 4E release thing (Don't get me wrong, love the system), Free PDF's with book purchase OH WAIT! NM :), the putrid GSL, the long wait for an only slightly less putrid GSL, DDI - speaking of which where is my fucking online tabletop? The word "Facepalm" accurately describes the feeling each of these brings. All together though, they make me want to stab myself in the face with a no.2 pencil.

To make matters worse, you give us fans nothing. I'm not talking about free schwag. I'm talking about some fucking good-will. I mean FUCK! Give me SOMETHING to shut these Pathfinder pricks up with! Would it hurt to get some fucking positive press here? Who the hell is your advertising guy? If he is in arms reach, bitch slap that idiot please. For crying out loud, donate some materials to the the US ARMY. Send a basic set to every library in a state, SOMETHING! Instead, I have to listen to "OGL this" and "Paizo" that, and "true D&D" all over. Do you people even care?

Another conundrum: If you DO care, or do any of these things already, why does the world, much less a group of a hundred or so "geek elite" that watches your every move not know about this?

Caring for your customers/fans involves a lot more than producing product and raising cover prices. It takes more than gouging us for the "privilege" of having non-random minis, or losing our favorite magazines (and no a fucking E-zine doesn't fill the hole). It even takes more than driving away some of our favorite 3PP's or stealing (YES STEALING) the PDF's we have legitimately purchased through your authorized retailers (FYI - I have 2 - You owe me 32 bucks and change).

No. What it has taken for me, was the realization that you have gone from a gaming company that made me feel like a fan, to a corporate subsidiary that treats me like a customer. A meaningless scratch on a quarterly revenues sheet. Have you checked the boardroom closets lately? I'm half convinced Lorraine William's is hiding in it, complete with life support chair, dispensing advice to all comers. Are you too close to see history repeating itself?

Far be it for me to just shit all over you and not offer a towel. In the last few days, I have heard a lot of talk on the RPGBN regarding how THEY would do it better. A few choice tidbits are:
  1. Include card stock high quality power cards with the purchase of a dead-tree product. Other items included mini's, dice, even card stock character portraits. This gives me a reason to prefer the physical product over the pirated product.
  2. PDF's should be available at an absolute minimum of 50% less than physical books. Why? If you cannot answer that - immediately apologize and shoot yourself. You are officially too stupid to live.
  3. Make ALL legacy D&D products available either free, or at a substantial discount. We're talking 2-5 dollar range. High quality full size scans. You have any idea how much I would pay for digital scan of my Ruins of the Undermountain maps? Trust me, you need the goodwill with the legacy gamers. There are more of them out there than your focus groups are taking into account.
  4. Plastic softcovers instead of cardboard. Trust me, it's cheaper and more durable.
  5. Less art. Even if it affects the page counts (which lowers production costs anyway). Another possibility? A lower cost artless or B&W version.
  6. Stop using Amazon. Yes they are convenient, but they are also killing the book industry. I would buy directly from you or authorized retailers, why stick another finger in the pie?
  7. Errata. You FUCKS did it again with 4E. No sooner do I buy the damn books, an EXTENSIVE errata change is released (2 more since then). It's not open for discussion, at the very fucking least, you owe me an updated PDF. Insult to injury? I bought a second set of core I books that included the new errata, only 3 MONTHS LATER they DIDN'T. I sent them the hell back. Lost sale.
  8. FREE web content. Free add-ons and errata for the books we purchased from you was a GOOD thing.

I doubt any of you will read it. If you do, you'll insult my lineage and intelligence, blah, blah, blah. However. I WILL find a way to procure my PDF's. I will also stop purchasing your products via retail. E-bay or amazon used will be fine. I will tell anyone and everyone I meet while gaming the same. I hold no illusions that this will bring you to your proverbial knees.

Last conundrum: If you have a vocal ex-customer who WANTS to be a customer, but demands that you use your fucking brains before he is willing to continue a relationship you...what do you do?

There are a lot of games out there. I want to know why YOU think I should spend my precious time playing yours.


Donny the DM

PS. Anyone else got anything to add?

Apr 3, 2009

So many kings, but only one crown...What's a gamer to do?

All kidding aside, I have a few questions for you. Even if you decide not to comment, think about it.

A.) WHAT is role-playing, what is ROLL-playing.
B.) Which edition does each best, and why?
C.) Who decides which is which?

Last week, I asked how I could get my players to actually Role Play, that is spend the session in-character. Based on the feedback provided, fewer groups do this than I had thought. Those that did, tended towards closely knit groups that have known each other forever, or PbP games.

Is actual in-character RP the ideal or the norm? I would speculate that it is the ideal. It would follow that the term ROLL playing was coined by an elitist douchebag trying to fire someone up on a messageboard somewhere. I wonder if he played diceless too. Google ROLL playing, and it immediately asks if you really meant ROLE playing. While I feel that google is an evil blight on our beautiful intarnets, they have a point.

So is the stigma against ROLL playing due to tossing dice? I can only assume, as the rest of the google results show that this isn't a topic many folks get into. The exception being the flame wars on the messageboards, but I don't give a rat's tiny little pucker about them, so I need to bring in the experts...You guys!

So where does the line blur between the two?

Is it NOT okay to ROLL the dice when ROLE playing? If so, then why?

Should we all just be playing AMBER of WUXIA?

What says Role-playing more, proficiency slots or skills?

Can anyone pick out actual D&D RP rules in any edition that makes them superior to all others? Why are they superior?

Since being a ROLL player or a munchkin is so terrible, should I send my players so inclined packing? You know, for the good of the game?

While there is a little bit of snark in there, these are genuine questions. Personally, the only game that has actually encouraged me to ROLEplay was the various World of Darkness campaigns I have been party to. Why this is, and more importantly, why I am not still playing these is a question for which I have no answer, D&D just feels right : )

I am also curious about how much of this is simply "It's my team". Example: the Cubs are a terrible team. Folks who have been waiting for them to go all the way have been born, lived, and died waiting - and yet, there are still rabid fans made all the more hardcore...Is that what has happened to us, have we all made ourselves too hardcore to move beyond our comfort zones? Has geek cred become elitist douchebaggery in disguise?

I mention this as a slight aside, learn from my mistake!

I went to a (will remain unnamed) FLGS last Saturday to purchase the new Dungeon Delve. I hadn't been to this particular store before, so i wandered a bit and noticed a complete lack of 4E stuff. I asked the guy behind the counter, and got (I shit you not) a sneer, and said, "We don't carry that crap. If you are new to the game, and need training wheels, we have an in-house Pathfinder game 3 days a week." Then it dawned on me that the place was a 3.5/Pathfinder SHRINE! I won't sidetrack any farther that this: His reason for making the decision was his own, though he said he felt "betrayed" and all that noise we are all familiar with. He finished his rant with a beautiful, "I won't sell a product designed for idiots that should be playing video games anyway"...

I was floored. Yes, I got kicked out. No, I did not set a good example. Elitist Douchebaggery? Yes - X2 in this case. Welcome to rule number one, "people who throw stones make visible targets."

In any event, I am interested in YOUR opinions. I see this "assumption" a lot. Every one's team, err, I mean game is the bee's knees. The editions and games change, but all seem to have claim to the superior RP game. So which one is it and why?

Apr 1, 2009

It's april fools day...and I got nothing.

FOOLED YOU! Just HAD to look didn't you : )

Enjoy some luvin from my vast collection of shinies and OCD placators.

Also, I saw something this morning that has changed the way I look at the world...I shit you not. Just follow the rabbit