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Jeff's Gameblog
Wednesday, 7 July 2004

Topic: Books
I swung by the library tonight and picked up Word Freak, a tale of one journalists voyage through the world of hardcore competitive Scrabble. I'm only up to about Page 20 and I'm amused by the similarities to my own gaming circles. It seems human nature is the same no matter what fringe hobby you wander into. The Scrabble community has its own mix of nerds, social rejects, weird genii, and basically normal people with a slightly quirky hobby.

One startling difference is the way that it's so easy to tell the casual player from the hardcore Scrabblite. The casual players are drawn from the world of ordinary tabletop diversions. Scrabble, after all, is firmly wedged in the popular conscience as a family game. Lotsa regular folks play it. Since D&D is a less mainstream of a game, it's sometimes hard to see the forest for the trees. It's easy to assume that because someone plays D&D that they are a hardcore gaming machine. The fact of the matter is that much evidence can be found to support the notion that most folks play D&D with the same casual commitment that other people play Scrabble or Monopoly. It took me a long time to realize that I was a member of the hardcore enthusiasts. It didn't occur to me until very recently that I have always measured myself against the standards set by the the people most devoted to the hobby. Here I am with a mile long list of dubious gaming credentials and I still chide myself for being a lightweight. It took the first couple of chapters of Word Freak to help me understand just how deep I am into this hobby.

Talk about a lack of friggin' perspective! Just the fact that I GM moves me up a notch on the Geek-O-Meter. Heck, I could just about build another version of the Gamer Purity Test by rattling off the points of contact shared by my life and the hobby. Let's list just a few items, shall we?
    I've had subscriptions to three different gaming publications.
    I was an RPGA member back before free membership.
    I've attended 5 or 6 different game conventions, most more than once.
    I've GM'ed at a con, more times than I can remember.
    I've played in D&D tournaments.
    Heck, I've written two D&D tournaments.
    I've played more incarnations of D&D than I can keep track of.
    I've owned literally hundreds of games. Still own many.
    I've been a playtester.
    I've submitted an article to Dragon for publication. (The fact that it was rejected as "too wild an idea" but basically the same article got published a few years later still burns me.)
    I've been published in an APAzine.
    I'm active on various RPG internet forums.
    I maintain a gaming-related website.
    I write daily in a blog devoted primarily to gaming.
    I have a room in my house set aside for my hobby.
    Etc, etc.

Despite all this evidence, I still usually think of myself as a young punk in the hobby. I guess this comes from two big sources. First of all, I hang out with a fair number of grognards whose pedigrees are even longer and more colorful than my own. I'm so deep into the subculture that someone who played Chainmail with Uncle Gary back in '73 looks worthy of emulation. Secondly, I consider being a published and respected RPG author to be really damn cool. Since I'm such a hack GM and lazy writer I pretty much consider being a published RPG author an unattainable goal. Yet it's still there. That, to certain extant, keeps me humble.

Posted by jrients at 9:26 PM CDT

Topic: Books
Cyborg Commando books 2 and 3
Over lunch today I finished The Ultimate Prize, book 3 of the Cyborg Commando trilogy. I hate to come down hard on the authors, but man this stuff was pretty dang bland. For the most part it didn't really go anywhere. In this book we finally get a close up look at the Master, the evil alien overlord directing the xenoborg invasion, but he never interacts with the heroes. No lightsabre duel, no taunting heroic prisoners, nothing. The growth ray used on the insects doesn't really accomplish much, as the giant insects don't accomplish much of anything. The only good thing about The Ultimate Prize was the look at life for the refugees trying to survive while wandering the alien infested midwest. Parts of that were genuinely heartwrenching. Still, on a scale of one to ten, I give this trilogy a solid kick to the jimmy.

Posted by jrients at 3:06 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, 7 July 2004 3:08 PM CDT
The Mystery of the Fourth Templar
Topic: Books
Bleh. Looks like Tripod ate another blog entry. Every time some like this happens I wonder if I shouldn't look for another free blog host. Google owns a blog site, right?

Called my local library today. They're holding their copy of Stefan Fatsis's Word Freak, a look into the world of competitive Scrabble. I'm interested in taking a peeking into another gamer subculture.

The nice librarian also initiated a interlibrary loan booksearch for two other books I'm interested in. The first is the omnibus edition of Storm Constantine's Wraeththu trilogy. If I'm seriously considering paying real currency for the Wraeththu rpg (should it ever see commercial release), then I ought to take a shot at reading the background material.

The other book I'm hoping to get my hands on is D.B. Pritchards's Encyclopedia of Chess Variants, the most comprehensive book on the subject. I'm hoping to find info on something called "Valentine's Chess", which I know nothing about save that one of the pieces is called the templar. I want to do a little article for the Chess Variants pages outlining the history of alternate chess pieces designated by the word templar. The Cv pages has two such variants, Pete Leyva's Palace Revolution and Jack Cheiky's Geodesic Chess. I've found another chess templar, described by George Jellis in his article Theory of Moves. Frank Truelove's list of fairy pieces seems to indicate that a fourth templar can be found in Pritchard's Encyclopdia under Valentine's Ch[ess]. The three known templars are all different pieces, though they are united in the fact that, as befitting a templar, they are all a knight with an additional move of some sort. Valentine's templar is an enigma.


Posted by jrients at 1:25 PM CDT

Topic: RPGs
There's a great thread developing on the RPG.net forums discussing games with good social mechanics. I have often thought it would kick mucho ass to play a game with a set of social mechanics as intricate and exciting as its combat system. One idea put forth (notable examples of which include HeroQuest and Universalis) is to have the same engine drive both social and combat mechanics. I'm not convinced that this method is the best solution, but I see it as an interesting step in the development of games with meaty social subsystems.

Posted by jrients at 11:05 AM CDT
Tuesday, 6 July 2004

Got a new fanmail for the Erol Otus Shrine today. It's always nice to hear from another Otus fan. This particular fellow was kind enough to point out an error on the Monster Cards page. I had an umber hulk labeled as an otyugh. Duh! What a newbie mistake!

Posted by jrients at 9:07 PM CDT

Topic: Chess Variants
I decidely earlier that 6 Islands Chess would have at least two of its own subvariants, as played in the two elf courts. Today I altered my initial set-up graphic to create an initial array gif file for the Elf Queen's version of 6 Islands Chess. The positions of the king and queen (and their attendant pawns) are flipped, putting the queen (the royal piece in this version) more toward the center of the board. I haven't made up my mind as to what to do regarding the castling rules. The easiest solution would be to omit castling altogether. To allow the queen to castle would be to give more mobility to an already superior piece. I kinda like the idea of retaining castling for the king despite its reduced status and off-center position.

Posted by jrients at 4:14 PM CDT
Presenting Gygaxian Chess and Draconian Chess
Topic: Chess Variants
Gygaxian Chess

Draconian Chess

Posted by jrients at 1:41 PM CDT
Well, poop.
Topic: Collecting Games
Looks like someone else is more serious than I am about acquiring Tom Moldvay's Seren Ironhand. I can't justify more than ten bucks for an old module that is probably well written but maybe not even really compatible with D&D. Best of luck to whoever gets it.

(Of course, I'm seriously considering buying the Wraeththu rpg at full retail sight unseen. I'm not sure why I think Moldvay's adventure is only worth $10 but I can stomach the idea of dropping $40 or $50 on an rpg that may be an utter bomb. Maybe it's cause at least I'd be getting a brand new shiny book. Maybe it's because I like to root for the underdog.)

Posted by jrients at 12:36 PM CDT

Topic: Chess Variants
The ideas for the 6 Islands Chess flavor text keep bubbling up into my consciousness. I really need to seriously tackle a first draft of my Chessvariants.com entry.

Meanwhile, another insane chess idea has sprung into my head. As a Gary Gygax fan and World of Greyhawk booster I'm pretty much required to like Dragonchess, but I'm not really a fan of 3-D chess variants. Thus is born my new idea Dragonchess 2-D, a two dimensional translation of Uncle Gary's nifty variant. As a prelude to Dragonchess 2-D I have started work on a smaller undertaking that I call Gygaxian Chess, which is basically the middle Dragonchess board pulled out from the 3-D set-up and played as a separate game. I'm stripping out some of the D&D-esque window dressing for Gygaxian Chess. For example, Dragonchess refers to rooks as oliphants and knights as unicorns. All fine and dandy for a chess variant that exists in the World of Greyhawk, but for the Chess Variant pages I think this sort of stuff can be dispensed with. That's the attitude I took with Enochian chess, with the result being a better chance the game will be enjoyed and played by chess variantists.

Posted by jrients at 12:08 PM CDT

Topic: Collecting Games

So one of my longterm automatic eBay searches finally panned out this week. After looking for over a year and half, a copy of an old third party module has come up for auction. I don't know much about the adventure, other than it was authored by one of the unsung heroes of the hobby, Tom Moldvay. As I type this bidding is up to a whopping two bucks and a quarter. Maybe I can walk away with this puppy for cheap.

Posted by jrients at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 6 July 2004 8:59 AM CDT

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