Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mandatory Metallica, er, Podcast: Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff

If you're the sort to listen to podcasts (or even if you aren't, really) and you're not listening to Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff, you should rectify that as soon as possible. Ken Hite and Robin D. Laws, two of the most erudite and inventive gaming writers working today, sit down for an hour every week and talk about, well, stuff. It's mostly gaming-focused, but they do branch out into other topics like movies, food, time travel...

It's easily the best gaming-related podcast I've ever listened to. Episode 21 (the most recent) opens with a 30-minute discussion of how to be a better player that I think should be mandatory listening for every gamer - player and GM alike. Even if you don't agree with what they have to say (I myself am no huge fan of Laws' approach to what makes game rules "good"), there's always plenty of interesting food for thought to chew on. Here's one, also from the most recent episode, roughly paraphrased:
[Talking about the holy grail of old school play, the sandbox free of any built-in story.] "The GM designing his dungeon says to himself, 'These four rooms will be less dangerous, this fifth room will be super-dangerous.' You're telling a story with your dungeon design!"

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

...Just when you thought you were clear of solipsistic "year in review" blog posts! Muahahaha!

Well, hello and happy 2013! December, as always, was a bizarre combination of hectic and reflective, and this time around proved quite fruitful for me in terms of thinking about the state of my hobby, both in the year just gone and the year to come. So, if for no other reason than posterity's sake, I'm going to scribble a few lines along that subject. Feel free to move along if this sort of self-reflective musing holds no interest for you.

In many ways, 2012 was a tough year - with my very real brush with death topping the list in that regard - but it was also a great year for gaming. It turned out, quite unexpectedly, to be one of those watershed years where I pause to reflect on what I want out of gaming and how to get it. I ran some great campaigns and - for the first time ever - found myself successfully running more than one gaming group.

The year's biggest RPG frustration for me was Pendragon and the Solo GPC. About this time last year I stated my hope that we'd be coming up on the finish of the campaign by early 2013, and that hope really couldn't have fallen flatter. Part of this failing was due to forces beyond my control - between health issues and job crunch issues, there were about four months out of last year where I really didn't do any gaming at all - but in other ways, Pendragon has been a victim of my gaming success.

That is to say, when Des and I embarked on the Solo GPC, I was involved with precisely one (1) gaming group and it was a group that counted itself lucky if we could manage to meet once in a calendar month. Starting up another campaign wasn't just easy, it was almost a necessity in order to scratch my gaming itch. Now I've got a weekly face-to-face group, a weekly online group, and various and sundry side projects all bubbling away in addition to the Solo GPC! Des and I have made solemn vows to set and stick to a regular schedule for Pendragon this year, so that hopefully by 2014 things really will be wrapping up once and for all!

But if falling behind on one campaign is bad, I really couldn't be happier with how things otherwise stand. Google+ Hangouts have allowed me to reunite with my friends/gaming crew from the high school/college days and we've been having all kinds of fun. Currently we're about a half-dozen sessions into a fantasy campaign set in S. John Ross's "Uresia: Grave of Heaven" setting (utilizing the new, systemless 2nd edition, of which I need to write a review for this blog). We started out with Pathfinder (in keeping with my Final Plan for System Mastery), but have just switched over to another of the systems in my trifecta, Savage Worlds; I discovered that Uresia's just a bit too off the "bog standard fantasy" scale for me to comfortably cludge it into Pathfinder, so I've gone with a lighter and more easily-modded rules framework. (I'm still digging Pathfinder, though. There's some talk, after the Uresia campaign wraps, of either me running a Wilderlands sandbox with Pathfinder and the 3.5 Wilderlands boxed set or of my fellow GM Alex running one of Pathfinder's Adventure Paths. So we'll see how that all pans out, but in the meantime we all seem to be quite satisfied with Savage Worlds for our fantasy gaming needs.)

I'm also quite looking forward to kicking off the new year with a new campaign for my tabletop group in the form of some Cthulhu by Gaslight action. The new edition of same came out early last year, so how could I resist? Gaslight was, once upon a time, my favorite Cthulhu era to run, and it's nice to be coming back. I'll even finally be using my Golden Dawn supplement from Pagan Publishing, purchased way back in the murky mists of the mid-90s! I've added a couple new players to the group and they're both brimming with promise, so hopefully this will be one for the memory books. I'm even thinking of recording the sessions and posting them as actual-plays, so keep an eye on the Obsidian Portal page linked above if that's something that holds any interest for you.

So all in all, I really can't complain. We'll get Pendragon back on course and otherwise it's full steam ahead, continuing one of the most gaming-prolific periods of my 20-year history in the hobby. Not too shabby, really.

Oh, and keep an eye out for forthcoming posts looking at the state of my increasingly-vibrant-yet-still-atrophied miniatures hobby as well as some actual Pendragon updatery - as little as we've been managing to play, lots of interesting events have been afoot!
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