The new and improved defender of RPGs!

Friday, 23 March 2018

An Interview with Rob Kuntz (Part 2 of 3)

Here's part 2 of our interview with one of the Founding Fathers of D&D: Robert J. Kuntz!

See part I here!

4. What did you think of the Old School Renaissance when it first started? What do you think of what it has become now?  Have you looked at or played many OSR games? Do you have any favorites?
In terms of the OSR culture, what do you think about it? Do you think it's too exclusive? Not exclusive enough? Too nostalgic? What do you think that people who weren't actually there most consistently get wrong about the "Old School" era and style?

A: You pose many questions regarding that so I will answer them all as one.  Where there isn't an answer for any specific, just consider it not important in my view.

First, I am an originator of that era (1972-1974) so I have no stream to look back upon to thereby qualify that I am this or that by modern day, removed from the source, standards ("old school" or not); and neither does that matter, in retrospect, as it is ALL about design to me now as it was then. 

The ethic--call it what you will--is inherently wrapped up in design; and what is being positioned as a "school" is concerned with (or should be concerned with) this latter point alone.

The concern promoted and extolled by the originators was a DIY ethic of open design features, and this can be tracked all the way back to the original game and its accompanying products, letters and fan magazine quotes and articles, roughly 1974-1977 for the OD&D ethic.

So, nothing has changed in me or through me as a designer with the advent of such a modernized movement; and neither do I track it closely because designers either come together and compare notes or they do not.  And I guarantee that BitD I had no time, proclivity or want to have knowledge of every designer, their design attitudes, their products, published or not.  I learned of these through play-testing, or by buying a product and playing it, or through speaking with designers about design at conventions, the latter being more likely and preferable back then as face-to-face allowed designers to make cases as to why their designs differed from those preceding them.  Folks might also be aware that I created the Three Castles Award which awards for "best RPG design" and is presented at North Texas RPG Con every year.  During the time when I was also empaneled as a judge for TCA I was impressed with a couple of designs, like Stars Without Number and Jeff Dee's Cavemaster.  If I want to keep up on current market offerings or designer projects--which IMO do not change the latitude of entrenched RPG design too much these days--I read reviews or, better, listen to a few trusted voices.

A point, above, touches on "design differences" and was an all-important point of the original ethic as it is, again, wrapped up in the idea of design originality.  We (Gary, myself and Arneson) were not of the mode, so easily found then as now, that proclaimed we were in a contest to see who could be the most ordinary.  If that had been the design attitude back then D&D/RPG as we know it would not have been born. Capturing that design attitude and maintaining and progressing it--fully understanding what it means both personally and professionally--is very difficult if not foreign for many who class themselves as designers. So if there is a "wrong" from that perspective it would be in continuing to link your design attitude(s) to a narrow set of rules, especially when one considers the open form of the original ethic.  There's also an obverse side to this--the moral compunction--because some designers produce crap and only rise above that when they decide one day not to continue producing crap and move away from a group (or school) and set out on their own odyssey.  And here I come full circle back to Arneson who originated the now classical ethic but also maintained a "design differences" attitude.

5. Do you have anything to say about the current handling of D&D by Wizards of the Coast? What do you think about it? What do you think Gary Gygax would think about it?

A: WotC has positioned its D&D brand as a big ship in a smallish pond.  That it has a heritage much bigger than that in being the first company to produce an RPG is, IMO, a simplistic plan which sides with "first and foremost" (thus it sides with the market) and does not expand too much upon the design horizons so easily accessible to them.

This has been a problem since the earliest TSR days.  TSR attempted to "ride" the success of D&D with other RPG designs (their titles are extensive) but made the same mistake as their board game precursors by adhering to linear models that could be understood as having little difference in their base designs from one offering to the next.

This is a consequence, really, of either having created a sound and easily executed design in the first place or of complacency due to marketing strategies which ultimately forced TSR when upon this course to compete with itself through its different RPGs.  The idea of playing different games (in TSR's case, game 'genres') would have been suited best with different systems for each but that would have required possible market instability, and so TSR would not sidle away from what was currently working for their bottom line.

This left TSR with its most supported and best performing game, D&D; and now we fast forward to the present.  Now as then the independents and smaller companies are leading the charge in design differences for RPGs because their stakes are a "no loss" to them in the short or long term.  Because of this, and just as it befell TSR, WotC has sacrificed its RPG design preeminence for brand preeminence alone.

I believe that's a short-sighted philosophy, this TSR model of putting all of your eggs in one basket.  It also tends to hint at many things: entrenchment of R&D, marketing leading design, short-term profits and stability versus long term concerns, and others, all of which can be dumped into the category of "cyclical".  One could also call it the repeated "safe bet".

Their move to 5E is the first (though very late in coming) sign of displacing this linear model because the game can be scaled to suit the needs of player groups wanting different levels of complexity.  That realization is important since it either points to a market push-back due to lost revenues which caused a correction to occur; or, WotC got some design traction back after drifting astern for too many years (in fact both might be the case, with the correction being the 'design traction').  I have a "wait and see" attitude regarding which of the two, above, I choose to believe in in the long term.

In the short term all seems to be going well for them.  Gary Gygax would have said two things about it:  If you enjoy what you are playing, play it; and, I play my own designs.

6. Will your upcoming book on the History of D&D have any really big bombshells? Anything you think will really surprise people or that hasn't been revealed in the previous books on the history of the hobby released so far? 

There will be many surprises for some; there's a lot of different types and degrees of subject matter included in it:  design oriented, personal accounts, gamer-oriented accounts, stories and RPG and wargame reports (some with original maps and/or diagrams) never before accessed, and much more.  Its parts also include the greater span of the LGTSA's history and activities that sets the stage leading up to the advent of Arneson introducing the RPG concept to us in 1972.

Therein will be found a very detailed account of the first RPG game ever played by the LGTSA members and Gary's and the LGTSA's immediate and sustained reactions to this.

For another, there will be a very detailed account of Don Kaye.  Who is Don Kaye? Heads shake in wonderment.  He was Gary's childhood friend and the co-founder of TSR.  He was also my friend and gaming buddy; and his story will be told through the latter lens, as he died early in TSR's history and he, and his impacts, have been forgotten about ever since.

The book has way more fan and designer oriented slants and also, in my view, will be more humanistic than other books to date which are in many cases disfranchised from that perspective due to their authors' isolation in regard to the holistic matter:  I was there after all and am one of the few remaining people on the planet that can forward different and/or convergent points of view on the subjects I forward, clarify or expand upon.


Stay tuned for part 3 in a couple of days!


Currently Smoking: Neerup Billiard + Peterson Wild Atlantic

Thursday, 22 March 2018

DCC Campaign Update: At Least I Still Have My Vanilla Ice Poster

Last time, Heidi, Sami and Vizi had been sent by BOLT-0 and the Time Dinosaurs to stop the Dimension Bugs from making their way through a pocket dimension into the regular space-time and devouring it all.
The Vegomagus and the Catboy, meanwhile, were busy with Historical Jesus, trying to "find" Chocolate Jesus, who had been eaten by Mongo.

"Hey Historical Jesus, do you guys have a toilet here? Some laxatives?"
"Are you unwell?"
"I'm a catperson. I have so many parasites you wouldn't believe."

(This, according to catboy's player, is how he imagines his character)

-"We have no time for this. We must find Chocolate Jesus. He may have fallen to the dark side."
"I'm sure he has!"

-"Hey Historical Jesus, do you think it could be G.O.D.'s will for me to get a book that teaches me Magic Missile?"

-"By the end of this, Chocolate Jesus won't be chocolate."
"Holy shit."

-While searching for Mongo, the catboy comes across a door marked "Do Not Enter".
"I can't resist! Curiosity..."

-Inside, he finds a Korean Jesus, who's frantically filling out paperwork.
"What you want?!"
"Um, nothing really.."
"Go away. Very busy!!"

-Black Jesus barges in.
"Catboy, get the fuck out of here! Don't you go bothering Korean Jesus; he's the one who gets all the work done around here!"

-The Catboy finally finds Mongo, having forgotten that Mongo thinks of the catboy as his pet.
"Oh shit."

-While being squeezed and cuddled by the giant man-child, the Catboy notices an equally-desperate bunny being squeezed in Mongo's other arm.
"Where the hell did you find a rabbit, Mongo?"

-The catboy's plan is to feed Mongo laxatives to get him to poop out chocolate jesus.
"I guess I better open the bottle for him, because it's probably got a child-safety lid."
"Ok, roll."
"I fail."
"You can't open the bottle."

-The catboy shoots the bottle, scaring Mongo who destroys a priceless statue for no reason and runs away.
The shot also scared the Vegomagus (who's temporarily blinded because the strong lighting in the Sun disrupts his cybernetic eyes); the Vegomagus casts Animal Summoning reflexively.
"Historical Jesus looks at you both as if he's realizing he's made a terrible mistake."

-"Historical Jesus, dost thou haveth--"
"Art thou mocking me?!"
"um.. no."

-"Do you have Restore Vitality?"
"You know he probably does, but he's just an asshole."

-"Art thou saying that Mongo hath EATEN Chocolate Jesus?"
"Well... yes."
"So the laxatives were for Mongo?"
"And thou thought that this would restore Chocolate Jesus?"
"If thou wast eaten by a giant, wouldst thou come back after he evacuated? Or wouldst thou just be a pile of crap?"

-"You're not going to punish Mongo, are you?"
"No. Mongo is an innocent, but he must be handled more carefully... wait, is that a rabbit?! Where did he even get that?"
"He named it Carl."

-"We must take care Mongo commit no more atrocities."
"Yeah. Also, he's about to shit himself."
"Oh no! Take me away from here, please!"
"Oh yeah, I forgot that you're totally blind right now. Does that mean you're sense of smell is like augmented?"
"Oh god!"

-"Your mission here is done. Go in peace, to love and serve others. And fuck off."

-Vegomagus and the catboy were about to go when suddenly they hear weird TARDIS-noises, and find themselves in the Kirbyesque time-palace of the Time Dinosaurs!

"You mean Bolt-zero, right?"
"Yeah, but that's a zero at the end of your name."
"Hey, you're right! He should be called bolt-zero!"

-"Your son is Bolt-1, pronounced 'bolt-one'; so you should be bolt-zero"
"I AM BOLT-0!"
"Heh, we're pissing him off."

-"Look, we were busy doing stuff together. We don't want to go on a mission."
"It's not that!"
"He's just mad about the bolt-zero thing."

-"Are you with Captain Harry?"
"Aren't you violating the laws of time by bringing us here?"

-BOLT-0 has to explain to the Vegomagus that no, you can't use Time Dinosaur parts to summon regular dinosaurs.
"Which one?"

-"I'm trying to annoy BOLT-0 to get him to send us away faster."
"You know that you're probably just making it all take longer, right?"
"Hey, it worked when we did it with Jesus, right?"
"Yeah, true. Go Team Useless!"

-"So the Dimension Bugs are like... dimensions, and bugs?"
"we're getting used to this!"

-"BOLT-O could you write me a book about magic missile spells?"
"He can't write anything, he's just a giant head!"
"Maybe he has telepathic powers?"
"Maybe he has tiny robot hands??"

-"The Vegomagus and Catboy are comic relief in a party of comic relief."

"We know what you're up to, robot!"
"Yeah.  No deal. Here's where you say 'rats'."

-The rest of the PCs were in an interdimensional hallway with weird gravity, when suddenly they see two figures appearing out of nowhere.
"You realize that it's the catboy and the vegomagus."
"Ohhh. Fire!"

-"Why the fuck did Bolt-0 send you?"
"He thought you were all dead by now."
"He must be wanting to handicap us."
"They can work as cannon fodder, I guess."
"Yes, my porcupines can be cannon fodder!"
"You know he wasn't talking about the porcupines, right?"
"I know, I'm just trying to put up a good face to mask my hurt."

-The PCs move on to a vast grand hall, positioned with weird gravity perpendicular to their point of entry, that reaches down toward a huge energy web on one end, and a distant stone altar on the other end.

-"Vegomagus, do you have a fire spell?"
"No, but I can make light!"
"If I asked if you had a water spell would you try to lick me?"

-"I have a grenade. We could throw that at the web?"
"I could have a porcupine shoot quills!"
"You aren't helping your cause, Vegomagus."

-"So, are we supposed to destroy the web?"
"I don't know."
"BOLT-0 didn't actually tell us anything about how to end this!"
"BOLT-0 told us nothing!"

-"Do I see heat signatures from the web?"
"I forgot you could do that."
"With my cyber-eyes I can see heat, radiation, night vision..."
"But you can't see love."

-The giant energy-web is full of regular dimension bugs plus one really huge dimension bug.
"We should kill them."
"We should kill them in groups... to maximize the experience points we gain."

-"I could get Vizi's laser-sword and fly over to cut the web."
"That's assuming you could take my laser-sword!"

-"Hey Sami, can I wish for more wishes?"
"What? Do you think the Cleric is a genie or something?"
"But we can pay her for wishes!"
"No, that's not how clerics work."
"That was her old job!"

(how Sami's player imagines her)

-"I guess I'm going to shoot the web."
"Me too."
"wait, there's weird magical patches on the ceiling."
"Weird... how?"

-"Can you get me up there Heidi?"
"Me too?"
"Not with your porcupine."
"OK, I'll tell him to stay here."
"Now I just don't think I want to take you. The porcupine was just an excuse."

-"Are there any traps on the floor?"
A moment later, one of the PCs is hit by a spring trap designed to toss him into the gravity well leading to the web.
"Oh, wait, I guess there are traps."
"So, the catboy isn't really a thief at all, is he?"

-With Vizi on the roof (which has its own opposite gravity), the catboy shoots the patch nearest him and it comes to life, turning into a creature of pure darkness like the one that had almost killed Vizi back in gallery earlier.
"Oh shit!"
"Well, Vizi, you could always just step back and fall 60' down..."

-Heidi shoots at the blackness, and ends up hitting Vizi.
"I did 12 damage to him."
"Oh wait... does my deed die count?"
"In that case I did 16 damage to Vizi!"

-The 'darkblobs' try to hit Sami.
"I have Sanctuary!"
"Oh, right! Then it hits Vizi instead and drops him."
"Another Sanctuary casualty..."

-"Guys, help!"
"Don't worry, my balls are coming!"
"For fuck's sake, say Force Manipulation Balls!"

-Heidi grabs the darkblob enveloping Vizi and tears it in half.
"Yeah, I was pretty sure I was going to hurt Vizi too."

-While everyone else is fighting, Catboy starts putting makeup on.
"What the hell are you doing that for?!"
"To look better!"
"Imagine a cat. Now imagine a cat with makeup on. How the fuck does that look better?"

-Vizi gets enveloped by a darkblob again.
"Are you even trying to pull yourself off?"
"hehe, pull myself off!"
"You're trying but the darkblob has a very strong grip."

-"Doing another Force Manipulation, Vegomagus?"
"It's what's working for him, as much as anything ever works for the Vegomagus."
"That's generous of you."

-"If I had Magic Missile I'd be killing them all!"
"I don't think so, they're literally made of Darkness."

-"You hit for moderate damage."
"He's moderately successful!"

-"Yay, I'm only the second most useless party member!"
"It would be really hard to set the bar lower than the Catboy."

-The Vegomagus hits another darkblob with a Force Ball, killing it.
"You're getting dropped by Team Useless, darkblobs!"

-The regular darkblobs having been vanquished, the party ends up getting to the altar and facing the Boss darkblob. It turns out to be a darkblob version of Mu!
"What?! Why?"
"I'm going to fire a forceball at him, that would probably be cathartic!"

-"BOLT-0 never even told us what to do!"
"Bolt-zero told us nothing!"

-"Can Locate Object locate our reason for being here?"
"Can it locate my will to live?"

-The back wall behind the altar has a strange pattern of non-euclidian geometric designs.
"This seems to form into some kind of a planar gateway."
"So you're saying we should break it?"

-"OK, no one look at me while I cast this!"
"Why would we want to?"

-"Hey you guys, you left me way back here... is anyone going to pick me up?"

-"Heidi it's your turn to pick up the catboy."
"No way, its yours."
"You lose."

-"I wonder what Mongo is doing right now..."
"What the fuck makes you think about that at a time like this?!"

-The PCs go down a side-corridor and reach a room with a pit of trash. While investigating said trash, a real-life living Mu surprise attacks them!

-"Wait... Sami?! Is that you? My love you've come back to me!"
"Oh man it's an alternate timeline Mu..."
"Just a second, let me kill Heidi and then we'll finally be together forever!"

-The Vegomagus rolls a 1 on a spellcheck, and now the corridor has no friction.

-Vizi slips from the frictionless corridor and falls into the trash pile, on top of a bunch of "Boyz 2 Men" posters.

-This alternate-timeline Mu is a Thief, rather than a wizard. He hits Heidi for 3 points of damage.
"Oh no, Sami, quick heal Heidi, even though I'm way more damaged and you can't be bothered to heal me."
"Vizi is butthurt."
"Well, I was 12hp down and Sami said I was fine, but Heidi gets a paper cut and suddenly she rushes to save him."

-"What the fuck, Sami? Suddenly you're on Heidi's side? After all we've been through?"
"We need to kill this Mu and loot his body, quick."

-"Wait, Thief-Mu, what did your Heidi do to you?"
"He was a selfish asshole."
"Well yeah, but I mean, wasn't your Heidi a 'pacifist'?"
"No, he was a Libertarian."

-"so wait, you guys are from a different timeline than me?"
"I don't know this guy..."
"That's the catboy."
"And where's Laquanda?"

-"I guess our team was a lot better than your team, thief-Mu."
"Yeah, ours constantly fucked everything up."
"Oh, so about the same, then."

-"Sami, babe, will you take me back now?"
"Hell no!"
"But I'm your little Mu-Mu!"
"Fuck, he must have come from a really disturbing timeline."

-"We were in love! I gave everything to you. You seriously mean in this timeline we weren't in love? What about when you lost both your arms and I had to bathe you?"
"No, obviously! Look, arms!"
"Well, they grew back!"

-"I think we just need to find Laquanda. She was vital to our becoming a couple in the first place!"
"Man, now I really want to meet this Laquanda!"

-"Hey thief-Mu, can I take some of your posters?"
"Only the Vanilla Ice posters."
"Eww. What the hell, I take one anyways."

-They move on, taking Thief-Mu with them.
"Thief-mu is searching for traps, looking around carefully, he's acting like a proper thief. So it's a totally new experience for the catboy."

-"So were you and Heidi always enemies, Mu?"
"No, Heidi and I were kind of friends at first, then he read that Ayn Rand book and everything went to shit."

-"Wait, you guys call him Bolt-zero in your timeline?"
"Yes we do!"
"hehe, we're teaching thief-Mu wrong as a joke."

-The PCs find the key to the gateway, and end up facing the lair of the chief Dimension Bug Intelligence. It spews out these acid attacks, and Vizi takes massive damage. Heidi also takes a few points of damage.
"Sami, I need you!"
"Coming, Heidi"
"god damn it!"

-In the end, Vizi proves the hero, making a critical hit that doesn't do any damage but following it up with a second crit that kills the Dimension Bug leader.

-With the pocket dimension fading, BOLT-0 teleports the team out of there.
"We made it, Sami my love! And now I'm going to win you back, and make you love me again like---"
"He vanished!"
"Thank goodness."

-"At least I still have my vanilla ice poster!"

-"BOLT-0, return out to our timeline!"
"Wait, he still has to pay us!"

-No sooner have they returned, Anema kidnaps the catboy, teleporting the two of them away.
"While you were gone, the relationship between Anema and Fabritzio has not improved."

-"She has a crush on the catboy! We need to find them, quick!"

-The heroes rush off to try to find the catboy, leaving the Vegomagus (who is blind in the sun) in the hallway alone.
"Guys? Hello??"

That's everything for this session. Stay tuned  next time to see if the PCs can repair the relationship between the spirit of the Sun and the rebel biker-wight so they can finally get to the Crown of creation.


Currently Smoking: Dunhill Diplomat + C&D's Crowley's Best

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

RPGPundit Interviews Rob Kuntz, Part 1 (of 3)

Robert J. Kuntz is one of the founding fathers of the hobby. He began playing D&D in the second ever game of the Greyhawk campaign, DMed by Gary Gygax, in 1972. His character was the fighter Robilar. Within a year he was one of the first people on Earth other than Gary Gygax to be running a Greyhawk campaign, with Gary Gygax as one of his players.  His material in that campaign had an influence on Castle Greyhawk and many other elements of the Greyhawk campaign. He was one of TSR's first six employees. He co-authored the Gods, Demigods & Heroes sourcebook (and later Deities & Demigods), and contributed to the module Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.

He was also the first player ever to successfully beat the Tomb of Horrors.

His current publishing company is Three Line Studio.

1. Would you care to give my readers, those who may not be well versed in the old-school history of D&D at least, an introduction? Who are you, why were you important, and what are you up to now? 

A: Well you have framed the question most interestingly!  I will take a slightly different tack in answering, that to expose why and I am still important and without going into Narcissists's reflection mode.

That importance lies specifically in the province of a personal "design history" and thus is an incomplete summary at best as I am not dead yet nor am I inactive on that particular creative front and others, quite the opposite.  The real defining point for me as a creator is to have accumulated ranges and degrees of knowledge via my experiences, my many and varied journeys in design, and that these inform me of what I have done and thus what there is to improve upon, or avoid, for future Odysseys.

For concrete historical examples--my publication and industry achievements in a nutshell--one might refer to my company's link, from my bio there.

As far as what I am up to, any interviewer opens a Pandora's Box with that question.

Including this interview I have no less than 10  projects going on and at different stages for each:  they include RPG matter/adventure design,  designing an AD&D tournament, a screenplay, consulting material for a film, two books on design theory, a nifty boardgame, a detailed, and recent, pitch for a comic book series to a person of note in that industry, a forthcoming interview with Casus Belli, managing the business affairs of Three Line Studio with my wife, Nathalie (which we consider a project in itself!), and the most pressing, finishing a book on D&D History (as yet untitled, I call it THE BOOK) that I have been contracted for and that will be published in about 6 months.

I recently released an updated version of my GENCON VIII tournament module, Sunken City, along with the major debut of the El Raja Key Archive DVD, an electronic accumulation of 1,000 images of texts, maps and manuscripts that had been preserved (scanned) over ten years of auctions and date as far back as 1971.  Following that I released Dave Arneson's True Genius, the first book written on the man, and which examines and describes the RPG core system he created, this via a systems thinking view.

I have recently returned from AthensCon where I was a special guest.  While there I did a workshop on D&D wherein pre-RPG game system models are compared to Arneson's/OD&D's model, a panel discussion/Q&A, and ran two adventure sessions based around one of my Castle El Raja Key's redesigned levels, The Lake Level.  Everyone had a blast with it and the convention was really great, one of my better cons since Lucca Comic and Games.  I'll be returning there next year to run the aforementioned AD&D Tournament that I'm designing.

2. I'm going to want to know more about what you're working on now. But it can't be denied that you're also one of the living Founding Fathers of RPGs.
 So, to look a bit at the early days first: how did you get into RPGs? What were your early play experiences? What work or contributions did you do yourself in old-school RPGs?

A: I met Gary Gygax and his family in 1968.  That began a long and fruitful student-teacher relationship between us.  In mid-1972, and as the last editor of the Caste & Crusades Society's newsletter, the Domesday Book, I published an article in issue #13, Facts About Blackmoor, by Dave Arneson.  This was the first of two Fantasy-themed articles to appear in that issue. DB had until that point been an avenue for articles on Medievalism including a pre-publication version of Chainmail (Gygax and Perren) before its final, and updated, commercial release through Guidon Games.

Whereas one of the articles was a miniatures battle report, and in installments, deriving from a Tolkienesque campaign being run by Walter J. Williams using the full Chainmail rules (with the Fantasy supplement), Arneson's was more intriguing.  He provided a map detailing the village of Blackmoor and the upper-works of its nearby Castle Blackmoor, and with a list of the village's/near-surrounding area's inhabitants.  This is the very first indicator to what we in Lake Geneva (the LGTSA) were to learn in November of 1972 about what Arneson and his players were involved in, which was essentially the historical advent of the RPG in the Twin Cities.  When Arneson and David Megarry ran us through our first RPG in the Village, Castle and Outdoor of the Blackmoor milieu, this in November of 1972, we were bowled over; and this event began the furious correspondence between Arneson and Gary that led to their partnering in creating the first commercial RPG, Classic Dungeons & Dragons.  I stress first commercial because Arneson and his group had soundly laid down the architecture for the first non-commercial RPG via Blackmoor about 1.5 years before we experienced our first comprehensive adventure in his campaign-world.

From there the concept's direction starts to fall more under the purview of Gary and the LGTSA as we go about play-testing it from our end (late 1972-early 1974).  It starts with 10 pages of redefined rules (Gary's preferred mechanics), pretty much what we see today as an inverted pyramid scaling, this without unsettling or changing Arneson's systems architecture (the mechanics are in fact the sub-systems).

In that mix I became the primary play-tester as "Robilar" and within 4 weeks (very early 1973) I had also created my own castle--Castle El Raja Key--for Gary and others to play in and for me to play-test the concept from another angle.  Gary then conferred the co-DM mantle for Greyhawk upon me in late 1973 and we merged many parts of my levels and ideas into Greyhawk even as I was creating my own FRP World, Kalibruhn, from the top down. I was going "gonzo" with the idea at the time, and a lot of that is covered here.

After the publication of D&D came its supplements, notably Greyhawk which sold 9 copies for every copy of D&D that was sold (at a 90% clip).  My most noteworthy contribution is the use of the polyhedral dice as hp determinants for each class.  That came about during a phone call between Gary and myself as we were struggling to balance the classes for our release of Greyhawk--in OD&D all classes had d6's for hp determination.  I pointed out that magic-users should get 4-sided, thieves and clerics 6-sided and fighters 8-sided, and so was born that sliding scale.  There are other contributions that cut across a lot of design areas, but that's an important one still in use to this day.

I do get into much more detail about those days and our experiences--IFW, C&C Society, LGTSA, TSR--in my upcoming, "THE BOOK".

3. And have you been gaming ever since? If so, had you continued to be involved with the RPG hobby as a whole this whole time? If not, what brought you back?
Also, what do you think of the current state of the RPG hobby? Is it better now than in the old days, or worse, and in which ways? 

A: Well, yes.  I never stopped.  I ran several companies, Creations Unlimited, Pied Piper Publishing and now Three Line Studio.  I have been online since 1996.  That was with the Greytalk-L. I was on Dragonsfoot for, errh, about 11 years, had a Q&A forum there but it really outlived its usefulness.  I also had my own forum for PPP, now closed and archived, and I even subscribed to theRPG Site, yours, but I rarely get away from the Ruins of Murkhill these days.  I also have an old blog, Lord of the Green Dragons, retired, and a newer blog, Lake Geneva Original Campaign, but I don't post there as much as I have in the past.  Too busy with so many projects. I lost count of words written at a million and volumes of work sold at 3 million.   It's been quite a ride; and the taxi meter's still running.

Current state of the RPG hobby/industry, depending, is either fluid (hobby) or median (industry).  I would say that the hobbyists are taking the chances with newer designs and betting the line on their gut feelings, just as Arneson and Gygax did.  The established industry RPG companies have less inclination to do that, but that has traditionally been the case with the establishment, which is why they are called "the establishment".  Whether that is good or bad--which is a rather limited view for a summary and perforce skips to a generalized position--also depends on what lens one is viewing that through:  hobby or industry.  There's much variation between the two which makes for many interpretative POVs.  I personally feel that we have sometimes, in both realms, become trapped in a cycle, but that's my designer side speaking.  The market loves sustained and established, slow moving cycles and for obvious reasons.  This dovetails into to the establishment view, of course, and therein lies the rub between cycle design and original design, the latter being what the OD&D RPG was all about.


Stay tuned for part 2, probably in the next couple of days!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Egg + Gawith's Navy Flake

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

The History and Rule of the Clerical Order!

Today's RPGpundit Presents is a special kind of supplement for Lion & Dragon. It's pretty much entirely fluff. Though of course, you could end up using it in any of your OSR games. 

In RPGPundit Presents #24: The History and Rule of the Clerical Order, you will get a 19-page PDF providing a short history of the evolution of the Clerical order, the body of warrior-monks blessed with the power to perform miracles in the name of God, and tasked to fight heathens, heretics, and supernatural terrors alike.

You'll also get their complete constitution. All the rules they are bound to follow.
You see, in a Medieval-Authentic setting, Cleric characters should have ENORMOUS privileges. They would be the living embodiment of the power of god. They are living saints and would be treated with astounding respect.
But in turn, they would be deeply restricted by all kinds of personal and social rules; rules of faith, rules of the order's relationship with the church, and rules that would handle the order's relationship with the secular world and its Kings.

With this sourcebook, based on real medieval rules for religious-knightly orders, you can integrate an authentic kind of set of strictures to your Cleric PCs.  The rules contain a variety of possible adventure hooks relating to Clerics and the challenges that can invariably rise up with their obligations to their order.

So, be sure to check out The History and Rule of the Clerical Order on DTRPG, or on the Precis Website!

And while you're at it, be sure to pick up the rest of the great supplements in the RPGPundit Presents series:

RPGPundit Presents #1: DungeonChef!

RPGPundit Presents #2: The Goetia  (usable for Lion & Dragon!)

RPGPundit Presents #3: High-Tech Weapons

RPGPundit Presents #5: The Child-Eaters (an adventure scenario for Lion & Dragon!)

RPGPundit Presents #17: The Hunters (an adventure for Lion & Dragon!)

RPGPundit Presents #21: Hecate's Tomb (an adventure for Lion & Dragon!)

Stay tuned for more next week!


Currently smoking: Brigham Anniversary + Image Latakia

PS:  Because it wasn't out yet before, here's RPGPundit Presents #23: Uncanny Creatures and Objects of the Middle-Northern Wilderlands in Spanish!  You can also get it in Spanish in the Precis site!

Monday, 19 March 2018

If I'd Come up With Gender-Fluid Elves I'd Be Called Homophobic

I have to ask, who at Wizards came up with this idea that Elves are now Gender-Fluid and can change sex every day?

Because I'm pretty sure that if I had been the one to suggest this, I'd have been accused by the entire Outrage Brigade of being homophobic. Or Anti-LGBT, or whatever.

And the Brigade might have a point.  It's not exactly enlightened to decide that if there's one race that is gender-nonbinary it's the one consistently depicted as the most stereotypically effeminate. And let's face it, popular depictions of elves (D&D and in most modern fantasy) is of them as a girly-boys already.

I'm betting that the person who made this policy up is not in fact an LGBT person. It's either a totally straight white male desperate to ingratiate himself by pleasing his new leftist masters.  And indeed, the lead designer on this is known soyboy Jeremy Crawford, who recently got humiliated coming at me claiming "I did not know him" about my time working on 5e, wherein I pointed out in return that he did not know me because I was working directly with his boss, and he was too low on the totem pole for me to ever interact with him.

But it could also have been written by someone in his staff (I'm assuming he still has one or two people actually lower ranked than he is).  And in that case I wouldn't be surprised if it's a woman (straight and probably also white) who is pretending that this is about Social Justice but is really about the well known fact that women (especially of a certain social class) fantasize about male homosexuality  (so much so that most of the erotic gay literature in the world is sold to straight women, not gay men), and the notion of gender-shifting for these fangirl 'fag-hags' plays right into THEIR shipping and crossgender fantasies, with the concern for inclusion being cover for that.

And if you aren't convinced that this whole thing is a perfect case study of a meaningless gesture that also has the effect of unintentionally revealing prejudices about LGBT folk, let me make it plainer: It wasn't the Dwarves who can change gender. Or the orcs, or ogres. It wasn't the ugly or manly races. Nope.

It was the prettyboy-race of swishy forest twinks.

Doesn't that seem like an inherently problematic and toxic assumption about LGBT? And if it had been me who thought of it, and not WoTC, they'd all be saying its homophobic.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Poker + H&H's Chestnut

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Classic Rant: Real Magick ON RPGs: How I Got my Albion Softcovers

On the evening before I left home for a trip back to Canada, I found a note from the postman: there was a package waiting for me. I was pretty sure it was the Dark Albion softcovers from Amazon that I'd been waiting for.

This was a problem. I knew for sure that if I didn't pick them up somehow, it would be impossible that they'd still be around in a month's time. The Uruguayan postal service just doesn't work that way.
Unfortuntely, to get someone else to pick it up, I'd need to fill out an authorization sheet, with their ID number, AND leave them a photocopy of my own ID card.

Here was the problem: it was 7pm when I got the notice. Every conceivable place that might have a photocopier was closed. Furthermore, I was about to go to a Masonic meeting I couldn't avoid, which would last until about 1am, and then hightailing it out of town the next morning at 6.45am, long before any of the aforementioned photocopier places might open. Such are the complexity of living in a latinamerican country.

So, I quickly messaged the friend of mine who would be watching the house, and got his ID, and filled out the form. Knowing it was a longshot beyond that, I quickly did an invocation of my own augoeides, or tutelary spirit (what is often called the "Holy Guardian Angel" or "HGA" in modern magick). Having invoked, I then shifted myself into the astral plane, creating a mental image of the area that I was about to go to, the neighbourhood around my Lodge. My goal was to see if there was any direction, indication, of anything within about a 2 block radius that would be open and have a photocopier (a highly unlikely prospect). I immediately got a sense of the spot one bus stop beyond my regular stop to go to Lodge.

So off I went. I knew there was in fact a grocery store there, but was absolutely certain (having gone often) that they had no photocopier. As far as I recalled there was no other shop there except a florists, and certainly nothing that would give me cause to have any expectation of a postiive outcome.
So when I got off the bus, I look over at the opposite corner and see that there is in fact a very small kiosk (the sort of place that sells cigarettes, cookies, only very basic stuff). It seemed impossible to me that this place, that I'd never stepped into, would have a photocopier, but it was really the only credible chance. And in spite of having never even merited my notice before now, the moment I stepped off the bus the corner kiosk seemed to jump to my attention, as though astrally illuminated.

I stepped in, finding the usual (fairly meager) selection of basic necessities this kind of third world answer to the convenience store tends to have: newspapers, some sweets, flasks of booze, a small fridge with cold drinks, nothing fancy. There was a young woman at the counter; I asked her "this may sound really strange but do you by ANY strange chance have a photocopier?"

I swear to Christ this next bit happened exactly this way: the young lady grinned as if overjoyed that I had asked, saying "why yes we do!" and she stepped out of the way, waving her hand the way a game show presenter might when Pat Sajak just told you that you'd won a new car, and there right behind her counter there was an apparently pristine small size photocopier. It was as if years ago on some whim the shop owner had thought it would be a great investment for his little shop to have, only to have had it laying there untouched since that time because who in their right mind would even imagine a corner kiosk like this one would have a photocopier? 

So there you have it. I got my photocopies, left them at the house for my friend with my authorization for him to pick my mail up, and headed off into the sunset (actually, the sunrise, but whatever).

And today, my housesitting friend sent me this:

Magick, baby!


PS: here's the kicker:  about a month ago I needed to make some photocopies in that area again, and so I went to that store. The guy at the counter there said that they don't make photocopies, and haven't in years.

(Originally Posted August 20, 2015)

Saturday, 17 March 2018

I Never Thought Godhood Would Come This Easy

Them, when I Trigger Every SJW Swine in the RPG Hobby at once: "How can we take down the Pundit? I know! We'll call him The Final Boss of Internet Shitlords!"

Me: "Wooooo! I did it!! SUCK IT, MILO!!"

And all this just because I disagreed with their notion that people who don't play RPGs (and maybe even dislike RPGs) should get to be policy-determining members of the RPG "Community".

In other words, I said "D&D should be for people who play D&D".

Who knew Godhood would come so easy?


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Oversize + H&H's Chestnut

PS: of all the swine I've been dealing with, my favorite so far was this one guy, "Darren Steele". 
He demanded that we go to private DMs to talk, because he "didn't want this to be about ego or point-scoring". 
He did this AFTER he posted a link to a Youtube video he performed himself where he basically CALLED ME A NAZI IN SONG.

PPS: Before anyone tries the joke here too, don't worry, I'm sure Milo won't take my statement about him 'sucking it' literally. He can tell I'm being metaphorical because my cock isn't black.