Monday, October 25, 2010

To the Sources!

One of my passions in life is Christian theology. Lately, I’ve been reading on the history and theology of 17th century Christian Orthodoxy (riveting, I know). One of the things that struck me as interesting is seeing what happened to inspiration during that era. The passion, drive, and enthusiasm of the 16th century (with its ad fontes return to the sources of biblical Greek and Hebrew, a return to the writings of the church fathers, and an unprecedented Reformation and counter-Reformation) were replaced with a somewhat dry and lifeless systematization of doctrine. The 17th century thinkers didn’t necessarily deviate from what had come before them, theologically, but their somewhat doctrinaire approach to the theology of their predecessors was a marked change from what occurred just a century before. Renaissance had been replaced with cold rationalism. Thus began the “scholastic” period of that era.

In the same way, it seems like the roleplaying industry has entered into a “scholastic” era of its own. Gone are the wild and wooly days of blazing new trails. Gone are the days when you enthusiastically figured things out as you go. Gone are ingenuity, motivation, and zeal. They’ve all seemingly been replaced by “systems.” Complicated systems which, though they may work just fine, nevertheless appear to those of us from the previous era as somewhat hollow and lifeless.

In thinking through both, I can’t help but conclude that the fault lies with becoming overly self-referential. The theologians of the 17th century weren’t so much using the sources those in the 16th century used, they were using the theologians from the 16th century themselves as sources. So, instead of going back to Scripture and the earliest church fathers, the theologians in the 17th century just ended up citing the conclusions of those just one century earlier.

In the roleplaying game industry, we became exceedingly self-referential in the 80s. By the late 80s, gamers  weren’t so much using the sources Gygax and others used, they were using Gygax & Arneson themselves as sources. So, instead of going back to Howard, Lovecraft, Moorcock, etc., the gamers in the 80s just ended up citing the conclusions & methodology of the desingers of D&D.

The result, inevitably, became a bland and somewhat lifeless experience for many. Worse, we forgot what they said and did in those early days and started going along with additional systemization which really just took us further away from the roots of the hobby.

That’s one of the things I love about the OSR (especially since “Renaissance” brings to mind a return to long forgotten sources). When I see retro-clones, I see us going back to the original sources. When I see new and exciting products like Lamentations of the Flame Princess I see those deeply steeped in the sources which inspired D&D blazing creative new trails. That’s what we need in the RPG industry today. Ad Fontes!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pen and Paper Gaming in the 21st Century - GamesU 2009 - Keynote

Interesting take on the RPG industry by Erik Mona, Publisher at Paizo and general fan of old school games/gaming. He addresses the history, challenges, and opportunities that lie before those of us who are still playing and enjoying pen & paper RPGs. It’s a time investment, but well worth it in my opinion to get an insider’s view of things, one of the few insiders who has worked for the largest two companies in the industry.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Whys and Wherefores of House Rulings

House rules have long been a part of our beloved hobby. They likely started because OD&D, especially just the LBBs, were incredibly rules light. Those first dungeon crawlers didn’t have rules on things they needed, so they invented rulings on the fly. That worked quite well and encouraged folks (rightly) to rely upon the ingenuity of their DM and the creativity of their players where house rules were needed.

As D&D got more complex, house rules seemingly took on a new life. Whereas before, house rules were used to fill in lacuna in the written rules, now they were increasingly becoming used to reject written rules that just didn’t work well for individual DMs and players, depending upon the preferences of the particular gaming group. The more complex the incarnation of D&D, the more common house rules replacing written rules became. Again, this worked beautifully as long as everyone was aware of the preferences of the group in which they played.

Something that’s been bothering me lately is running into people (online and in my FLGS) hiding behind house rules who simply don’t know the written rules at all. As stated above, I have absolutely no problem with house rules. I use them and my group loves them. However, we at least try to learn the written rules and have our own rationale for why we do what we do. But I keep encountering folks who claim to have played since the 70s who reject the written rules in favor of their own rulings, without knowing why or what they’re rejecting.

I hate to keep picking on “DM Vince” from the Roll For Initiative podcast (a podcast I generally recommend and really enjoy) but he’s a perfect example. The other two hosts, Jayson and Nick, have a great grasp of the AD&D rules. When they differ from them, they know the written rules and they know why they opt for their own rulings instead. Vince, on the other hand, never seems to know any single rule, as written, but you can always be certain he’ll just do things his way under the mantle of “old school” gaming. That’s fine as far as it goes. Nobody has to be an expert to play and enjoy (A)D&D. However, he has not one, but TWO podcasts wherein he discusses (A)D&D.

Again, I don’t mean to pick on any one person. I’m just finding that lots of folks do what DM Vince does: decide against using written rules without knowing what they are or why they’re doing it. By all means, reject the rules as written in favor of your own rulings, but at least know what you’re rejecting and why.

Okay, rant over.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

To Kill or Not to Kill?

In reading through many gaming blogs recently, I’ve noticed two attitudes concerning PC death that I consider to be somewhat extreme: one largely represented by old school players and one largely represented by new school players.

Some old school players almost seem to take pride in killing off the PCs. When you read their session reports it’s as if they feel their job as a DM hasn’t been accomplished if they don’t somehow manage to achieve a near TPK. For them, the presence of monsters guaranteed to kill players or insta-death traps are a badge of honor which proves to their players and readers alike that they are card carrying Gygaxians. I was listening to an episode of the Roll For Initiative podcast recently in which they were discussing deadly traps. One of the hosts, Jayson (a more or less by the book kind of DM), asked another, Vince (a self described “evil DM”), about how he handles situations where his players cleverly figure out how to avoid a death trap he’d placed in a dungeon. Vince’s response? He just changes it on the fly to ensure it does what he’d originally intended. In addition to that being all too “railroady” for me I find the PC death philosophy behind it somewhat objectionable. Players aren’t there just to be killed off.

However, there’s another extreme in the new school which I find equally frustrating. This philosophy makes PC death almost impossible. Not only do new school rules typically allow a player to take much more damage before dying (with stat inflation, allowing them to go into negative hit points before real death, etc.) but DMs in the new school have become so accustomed to fudging rolls in favor of their players that death in the game is only something that applies to monsters or NPCs put into the party for just that purpose.

As far as I see it, there’s a happy medium here. I’m not there to kill the PCs but I will if they do something foolish or if the dice fall that way. That most commonly happens with low level PCs but it’s always a danger. Still, if I set out to get a TPK, I can. Every time. Even if it means fudging in favor of the monsters/dungeon. But let’s face it, that’s not fun for the players or the DMs (at least, not for me). Play the game, let the dice fall where they may, and let your goal be having a good time not being an “evil DM” out for your players’ blood.

By the same token, taking the threat of death out of encounters simply neuters the game. Adventuring is supposed to be dangerous. To a degree, casualties are going to happen without a DMs “help.” To consistently fudge the rolls in favor of the PCs is just as bad as consistently fudging them for the monsters. Let the polys fall where they may and let the players learn, through trial and error, through life and death, what they can and can’t do. I find that this style of play is much more enjoyable for everyone.

Still, it’s your game, play it as you will!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Soundtrack to Your Campaigns

Like many people who played D&D in the 1980s, I was a died-in-the wool metalhead. In fact, most of my gaming friends were. As a result, when we played, we often had music going in the background. Usually, we listened to speed/thrash metal like Metallica or Megadeth. However, we were also big fans of some of the more iconic metal bands of the 80s (Dio, Ozzy, etc.). Recently, I heard the song Flash of the Blade by Iron Maiden. Wow, did that song bring back memories. Surprisingly, not of junior high or high school, but of gaming. I can recall, in vivid detail, certain things that happened in our campaigns well over 20 years ago…memories sparked by little more than a guitar riff.

As the years rolled on, I occasionally tried to incorporate more “atmosphere appropriate” music into my campaigns. I recall a failed attempt to use a cassette of renaissance music I’d purchased in a used tape bin. I tried some of the music from TSRs own LPs First Quest (anyone remember those?). I tried some stuff from bands like Tangerine Dream which produced evocative synth music. Ultimately, none of it really worked. The only thing that ever felt really appropriate were film soundtracks but those had the added drawback of reminding us of the movies from which they were taken (still, I’ll always relish charging into battle to Anvil of Crom or Carmina Burana).

In thinking about this stuff lately, I can’t help but wonder what folks are using these days, especially with the advances in technology and the ready availability not only of music via MP3s but also sound effects. What sorts of music/audio do you use in your games to enhance the ambiance?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Class Multiplication

I’ve often seen old schoolers talk about stat inflation when it comes to successive versions of D&D. Those with experience with later editions will no doubt find that things really do develop rather quickly. As soon as one jumps from D&D to AD&D the average number for ability scores goes up by 2 (according to the Rules Cyclopedia). Hit points likewise tend to increase. Then, in 2nd edition, a whole host of alternate rolling methods were introduced, bringing with it more stat inflation. Now, it’s not uncommon for players not to roll stats at all, but rather to assign them using point buys or stat arrays, bringing with it yet more stat inflation.

While these things are bothersome to me, something that’s been getting under my skin lately is class multiplication. It seems that with each successive version of D&D we see more and more classes. While I personally think the addition of thieves was a good idea in order to capture a popular trope which was missing in the game (although, it wasn’t difficult to get by without them), I can’t say I much like what many newer RPGs are doing (and forget about keeping track with the addition of “prestige classes”!).

For example, just before I quit playing Pathfinder (I apologize for always using Pathfinder as an example, but it’s the only modern fantasy RPG I’ve played in the last year or two), Paizo announced the addition of several new classes with the advent of their Advanced Player’s Guide: Alchemists, Cavaliers, Inquisitors, Oracles, Summoners, and Witches. The next book Paizo will be releasing is Ultimate Magic, which will see yet another new class in the form of the Magus (a wizard/warrior hybrid). This officially brings the number of classes you can play up to 18! I can’t help but wonder when (if) the number of classes will top out.

One of the things I appreciated about 2nd edition was that it sought to put an end to class multiplication. Yes, I know that people enjoy classes like the barbarian or the cavalier from 1st edition, but 2nd edition ditched them. Why? Because, properly speaking, barbarians and cavaliers are really little more than specialized warriors. So why not play a warrior from the frozen plains as a barbarian? Why not play a warrior who excels in mounted combat as a cavalier? Why the need for new classes? That is, of course, how 2nd edition handled these classes. True, the addition of specialized kits from TSRs line of “The Complete * Handbook” of splat books probably isn’t very popular today (among old schoolers and new schoolers alike) but I at least appreciated the fact that TSR saw a potential problem and tried to handle it (even if their “solution” was just as complicated as the problem they sought to avoid).

One of the things I’m enjoying about getting back to our roots is ditching so many of the extraneous classes. Not because I don’t like tropes such as witches or oracles but because I think those tropes can be attained using the core classes, with a little imagination and roleplaying. I’m quite certain that there are inventive DMs and creative players who enjoy the new classes. However, the more I dig into our history, the more convinced I’ve become that the multiplication of rules/classes was little more than an accommodation to inept DMs and unimaginative players.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Why I’m Rooting for Paizo

While it’s true that Pathfinder’s massive Core Rulebook (or rather, my wife’s reaction to it) is the reason I came into the OSR, I have to say I still appreciate the materials Paizo produces for Pathfinder. Also, I happen to believe that Paizo’s success is promising for the OSR.

What success, you ask? Well, according to ICv2’s findings, Pathfinder is now tied with D&D 4E in sales. That’s pretty impressive given that WotC puts out roughly 4-5 books for every 1 book that Paizo publishes. A game only 2 years old competing neck & neck with D&D? That would have been unthinkable before Paizo! While many folks have challenged ICv2’s data as anecdotal, Lisa Stevens, CEO of Paizo Publishing, has confirmed ICv2’s findings with Paizo’s own figures.

I, for one, think this bodes well for the OSR. Why? Because it demonstrates several things key to our success…

(1) People aren’t just going along with edition changes as was largely the case in the past. Pathfinder’s success demonstrates that people are willing to play “older” versions of D&D unsupported by the current license holder.

(2) No more widespread brand loyalty. People aren’t just buying whatever WotC happens to put out. They are being more discerning in spending their gaming dollars. The fact that an ever increasing number of people are willing to spend their hard earned money on fantasy roleplaying game products not published by WotC is promising for Mythmere, Goblinoid, et al.

(3) WotC finally has some real competition. Rivalry is great for the industry, it drives the frontrunners to produce higher quality materials. In my opinion, it may also cut down on the “let them eat cake” attitude displayed by WotC in the past. Maybe, just maybe, this means that WotC may reprint some of the older things which appeal to us, or at least offer PDFs for sale.

(4) Viable competition also causes industry leaders to ponder what they can do to gain the edge, perhaps including marketing to our niche OSR market. WotC has seen this as is evident with the release of their D&D essentials starter set. Sadly, their idea of marketing to us is limited to pretty boxes. Paizo has picked up on the fact that more and more players are taking an interest in old school style (not just old school trappings), as is evident with products such as their sandbox style adventure path, Kingmaker, as well as their recent announcement that they will be producing an introductory/basic version of Pathfinder.

(5) Paizo already supports the OSR to a degree. Erik Mona is the driving force behind their publication of the pulp fantasy publication, Planet Stories. He has mentioned, time and time again, his love for and desire to serve old school gamers with future Paizo publications.

If nothing else, this news demonstrates that mainstream players now have viable options. If someone gets tired of the D&D 4E system, perhaps they’ll take a look at Pathfinder or some of the older editions of D&D before abandoning the hobby. Even if those of us in the OSR don’t see any gains, it’s good for the overall industry at the very least.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Target: OSR

I’ve posted previously about the return of the D&D red box (or, the cover at least). In that post, I mentioned that folks in the OSR may be, at least partially, the targets of the new WotC  D&D Essentials Starter Set. Since then, I’ve wondered if perhaps I was wrong and that maybe children were the primary intended audience.

However, I recently saw the advertisement for this product (posted above). I now have no doubt that we, or at the every least, our children are WotC’s targets for this product. Just watch the video. The backdrop for the ad is a pseudo-80s heavy metal song  and, as many long time roleplayers well know, gamers and metalheads often shared the table in the 80s. Likewise, the entirety of the video is made up of old school art & imagery, superimposed with things like graph paper (a far cry from the technology pushing ads we’ve seen in recent years from WotC). Finally, take a close look at the final shot: the new red box with the back of module B2 (Keep on the Borderlands) behind it. Strange, given you can’t play Keep on the Borderlands using 4E (although, I am curious as to what the hermit’s “Daily Power” would have been…/sarcasm off).

This version is apparently a marketing tool based upon the submission of a contest winner (which is even more overtly old school).

Thanks to 3d6-in-Order for posting the ad.  

New Arrival

My copy of the “X” in “B/X” arrived in the mail yesterday. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated the fact that the mail carrier folded the package in half and shoved it in to my tiny apartment-sized mailbox. Oh well, thankfully it was only the book (while I’d like to have the box and module as well, I don’t have the cash to spend on it right now) and it was only in there for about 30 minutes or so before I rescued it. I’m looking forward to reading it through completely.

I’ve had Moldvay's Basic set for quite a while now, complete with box and module. I somehow managed to pick up a near mint (both books inside were mint, the box is slightly damaged on one side) copy on Ebay for $11.00 a while back. The owner said a relative bought him the set but he and his friends had already moved on to AD&D, so the set was never used, it just sat on his bookshelf for decades. Since I only bought the book this time, I’ll just keep it with its little brother in the Moldvay box.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Railroading Players Into the Sandbox

As regular readers of this blog already know, I share the OSRs dislike of railroad style play. I don’t think players should be forcefully steered in one direction or another. I firmly believe in giving players real and meaningful choices which impact the game and the world around them. As far as I’m concerned, players are masters of their own destiny.

However, I’ve been wondering lately if there are any redeeming qualities to the “railroad” style of play. Perhaps that’s the wrong way of putting it. Even the terminology is repugnant to me (and probably also to you). Instead, I’ve been wondering about the limited use of plot-driven adventures under some circumstances.

Recently, I’ve been having trouble getting across to my new players just what a sandbox style of game truly is. They are constantly looking for that one adventure hook which will get them into the thick of the game. I’ve explained that we’ll get into the game no matter what they do but they just don’t seem to get it, quite yet.

For example, my players were recently part of a mercenary party traveling to the coast. One of the players got it into his head that I wanted him to uncover a plot to ambush the party from within. He spent the better part of an hour seeking to root out the non-existent conspiracy and was extremely frustrated that he couldn’t figure out what I wanted him to do. Of course, I didn’t want him to do anything…except enjoy himself.

So, I’m working on a sort of D&D version of the nicotine patch. For the time being, I’m giving my players the types of games they’re used to, slowly weaning them off the railroad style, while getting across the point that they really can do whatever they want. One helpful way to get the point across is to reveal to them (in game) that the world around them lives and breathes, responding (or not) to the decisions they make. For example, in our last game the players were traveling through the forest and opted not to investigate some tendrils of smoke curling into the sky above the treeline in the distance. Later, in town, they discovered that some goblins had attacked and killed some homesteaders, including the very man the players had been intentionally looking for.

This has been, by far, a much more successful approach in introducing them to sandbox styles of play than innumerable conversations on abstract gaming philosophies. Railroading players into the sandbox. Who knew!?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Child’s Play

My perceptions could be off but it seems to me that BECMI (aka, Mentzer) D&D isn’t all that well liked in the old school community. Sure, there are people (like me!) who began playing D&D using Mentzer’s rules but even those folks tend to prefer playing other versions of the game.

One of the arguments I hear frequently is that BECMI D&D is synonymous with “kiddie D&D.” I think the fact of the matter is that all editions after Holmes was enlisted are geared toward reaching children as well as adults. Tim Kask, the first full-time employee of TSR, has related that Holmes was brought in to sterilize D&D and make it less scary for children. Still, I’m not sure why Mentzer’s rules tend to act as the lightning rod for the “kiddie” criticism.

Of course, that’s not a new criticism. I spent the first six months or so of my gaming life working my way through Mentzer’s rules only to find out that the older kids (aka, high shcoolers) preferred AD&D. Basic D&D, we were told, was for kids.

So what is it about BECMI/Mentzer that people dislike? Why is that the edition people tend to associate with kids?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Basic Pathfinder?

There’s been some discussion generated over on the Paizo boards regarding the news that they’re working on a Pathfinder introductory set. They’ve asked for feedback from their fans (imagine that!) on what they’d like to see in such a set.

I’ve been surprised at the number of people requesting an old school/rules light version of the game. Not because I think old schoolers are few and far between but because I had no idea just how many seem to play Pathfinder despite their personal preferences. I freely admit to liking Pathfinder and Paizo as a whole. I see them as legitimate successors to the spirit of what was once D&D (albeit, buried under the barnacles of complexity). If a large/established company is ever going to work at brining the spirit of old school gaming back to the mainstream, I firmly believe it will be Paizo.

The encouraging news is that there seems to be an immense interest in having the intro game be more than just an advertisement for the Core Rulebook. Folks are asking Paizo to consider actually creating and maintaining a distinct line of gaming materials that are fully compatible with, but considerably less complex than, the full-feathered Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. In essence, they’re asking Paizo to follow the old TSR model of a “basic” game and an “advanced” game.

I played Pathfinder until recently. While I did enjoy some sessions I have to admit that the system is tremendously complex and games easily devolve into searching the rulebooks for this or that obscure directive as opposed to actually playing. Add to this the incredibly complicated minis-oriented/tactics heavy combat and I knew the system wouldn’t work for me long term.

I’d be lying, however, if I said I wasn’t intrigued by what may come of this. I, for one, would be ecstatic to see Paizo succeed in this endeavor.

Friday, October 1, 2010

D&D vs. AD&D

In reading through the D&D Rules Cyclopedia (1991) I came across this helpful summary of the differences between RC D&D and AD&D (p. 291):

·         AD&D characters tend to have higher ability scores, especially if some of the optional character generation rules are used. However, ability score bonuses are generally gained at a score of 15 instead of 13.

·         AD&D characters usually use different dice to roll hit points (for example, fighters roll d10).

·         AD&D game clerics get spells at first level, and often start with two or three spells.

·         The AD&D system separates character class and character race. Different class and race combinations are available (e.g. dwarf fighter/thief).

·         The AD&D alignment system adds a Good-Evil axis to the D&D game Law-Chaos axis, allowing greater detail (Lawful-Good, Chaotic-Neutral, etc.).

·         AD&D game spells are more complex. While one or two elements of a D&D spell may vary by character level, any and all elements of an AD&D spell (range, duration, effect) might vary in this way. AD&D spells are also more likely to have multiple effects or reversals.

·         AD&D game magical items are more complex; many have three or more separate functions.

·         The systems have different combat round time scales (affects encounter pacing).

·         The AD&D system uses a 10-point armor class scale.

·         The AD&D game weapons inflict different damage against larger-than-man-sized opponents than against smaller opponents.

·         Equipment prices and encumbrance numbers are different between the two systems.

·         Some D&D optional rules (Fighter Maneuvers, Weapon Mastery, and so on) have no equivalent in the AD&D system.

While I was aware of these differences, I thought it was nice to have the “official” listing as per TSR. It’s proven to be helpful as I work to determine which incarnation of (A)D&D I’ll ultimately choose as my main system.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

From Wargames to Roleplaying Games and Back Again

Lately the use of minis in roleplaying games has been on my mind. When I first began playing in the mid 80s we just didn’t use them in the game. We engaged in what I call “narrative combat.” The DM would vividly describe the scene, the position of the monsters, etc., answering the players questions when necessary. The combat was more like a movie reel in our heads and less like a game of chess. Oh sure, sometimes we’d buy a Ral Partha mini or two if they resembled our characters, but apart from perhaps showing marching order when entering a dungeon they had no real use in our games. They were there for flavor or fun but not much else…and we liked it that way.

It seems to me now that the most dominant games on the market today, namely D&D 4e and Pathfinder, require minis for combat. I’m sure there are plenty of people who find ways to work around it if they find that style of combat distasteful, but the systems themselves seemingly necessitate them (with attacks of opportunity, 5 foot steps, flanking bonuses, etc.). The element I find disheartening is listening to players as they engage in those styles of play. In the games I’ve observed at my FLGS, gone is any sense of narrative. The focus is completely on the battlemat and game mechanics. It used to be “I stumble backward fumbling with my pouch to retrieve my spell components, trying to stay out of the path of the charging orc.” Now it’s “I five foot step here [pointing at the battlemat] so our fighter can get the flanking bonus and I cast defensively.” I’m afraid the roleplaying has turned into boardgaming/wargaming.

The people I’ve spoken with who are sympathetic to the OSR generally blame D&D 3e. However, I think the preoccupation with elaborate tactics requiring minis in D&D goes back a bit further, to AD&D 2e. Specifically, to the Player’s Option: Combat & Tactics book. I bought it when it first came out in the 90s but after going through the book once it sat on my shelf unused (and still does). In hindsight, I see that book as almost a blueprint for how combat would work in fantasy RPGs post 2000.

I’m quite sure there is a way to use minis, and minis-oriented combat, while retaining descriptive combat. Like most things in the game, it requires a capable DM. Sadly, it seems to me, the newer systems almost seem to assume that the DM is an incompetent schlub so they add in more and more rules/mechanics to make up for his/her inability/lack of creativity.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Attack of the Clones

I’ve spent the last few weeks downloading copies of the various retro-clones on the market. I’ve been reading through everything from Swords & Wizardry to OSRIC (and everything in between) in an attempt to find the one I want to use. The difficulty, thus far, has been twofold: (1) An illogical brand loyalty. (2) Realizing just how deeply new systems have impacted my thinking.

When it comes to brand loyalty, I’ve always been a D&D fanatic. While I sometimes used other rpgs as temporary diversions I always returned to D&D. It may sound strange, but not playing D&D, even when it is ostensibly a D&D rules set, is really sticking in my craw. There’s just something about looking down and seeing that familiar TSR logo (in any one of its incarnations) looking back at you. It is totally irrational, I know, but that subjective pull just won’t seem to go away just yet. Anyone else experience that? I’m hoping that, in time, the retro-clone logos/covers will take the place of those old TSR covers in my mind’s eye as being representative of great fantasy rpgs.

I’m also coming to grips with how deeply I drank from the waters of the new school of gaming. For example, I was working on a dungeon the other day and found myself asking lots of questions: (1) Why do the monsters get more powerful as the players delve deeper? (2) Why don’t the monsters ever attack and kill one another? (3) Why don’t the monsters trigger the traps? (4) How do the monsters navigate the locked doors? Etc. My need to have everything explained, up front, is a habit that will die hard. Don’t misunderstand me, all of these things will likely be explained as the players explore, but I think that’s sort of the key. Allowing players, their decisions, their exploration, etc., to root out the answers. I think, inevitably, deciding all of these things ahead of time will likely lead me to railroad my players in certain directions to find the answers I’ve predetermined. Better, I think, to have several potential answers in mind and let the players find it out for themselves (or not, as their actions determine things).

At any rate, as I navigate the waters of the OSR, one thing is certain…I’m having a blast!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Begging, Borrowing, and Stealing from The History Channel

I’ve recently been watching, and immensely enjoying, a television show which has given me some great ideas for crafting some fun dungeons. It’s a show on the History Channel called Cities of the Underworld. Wiki defines the premise of the show as exploring “the subterranean environment and culture beneath various civilizations.” Programs have featured everything from the torture chambers beneath the stronghold of Vlad the Impaler to the tunnels beneath Portland where unwary travelers were abducted and taken into the slave trade. It’s been a wonderful source of inspiration, not only to spruce up traditional dungeons, but to add in some subterranean fun your players would never expect. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend checking it out (there are some episodes on Youtube if you don’t have access to the History Channel).

Monday, September 20, 2010

Redeeming Canned Worlds

As I stated in my first few blog entries, I’m new to the OSR. One thing I’ve noticed is that old school gamers generally eschew the pre-generated worlds created by TSR and their offspring. Indeed, apart from Greyhawk or Blackmoore (since Gygax and Arneson could do no wrong in many peoples’ minds) it seems they’re almost universally rejected and even looked down upon. I believe that much of this likely has to do with what TSR/WotC eventually did with things like Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms (e.g., railroady modules, limiting other product choices, etc.). Still, I believe these settings can be redeemed and wisely used in the OSR.

I appreciate the want, even the compulsion, to create your own setting (what longtime DM doesn’t?). I understand that all these pre-generated worlds will have things we don’t like about them (as does the real world). But because my free time is limited these days, I still enjoy using the worlds crafted by others. That doesn’t mean I’m afraid to change things at will (e.g., “I don’t care if this is Krynn, you have a war party of orcs in front of you. What do you do?”). That doesn’t mean I need to use their modules, or if I do, to run them as suggested (e.g., “That’s right, I said Drizzt is dead in this timeline.”). It doesn’t mean I need to mindlessly plunk down my hard earned cash to buy every book published for the setting, useful or not (despite my completist tendencies). It simply means that I have a place for the PCs to adventure, explore, and generally ransack as they see fit.

I think that last point is key when an old school gamer contemplates using canned worlds. What the players want to do should be honored. Their goals and desires should never take a back seat to a DMs storytelling endeavors. In fact, the story should emerge as a result of what goes on in the game, dictated by the choices of the players, not the “top down” approach of all too many modern DMs who decide ahead of time what will happen, forcing (or tricking) players to comply when necessary. If you can do that in a canned world, great (I suppose fans of the settings overly infatuated with “canon” might not enjoy such an approach)! If not, perhaps avoiding them is the wise thing to do.

For my gaming group, we’ve always enjoyed the tension of playing in a world created by someone else, but ultimately shaped by our choices and actions. One of our best Dragonlance campaigns ever was when my players actually stopped the war of the lance, shifting the focus to my players and their quest to rediscover the olds gods and away from the “Heroes of the Lance.” One of our best Forgotten Realms campaigns took place during the Time of Troubles but had absolutely nothing to do with it. Unexpected? Yes. Fun? You betcha!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What Ever Happened to Immersion?

Yes, yes, I know we all play roleplaying games. But one thing that has been missing in most of the games I’ve played since returning to the hobby has been…well…roleplaying. Our games used to run something like this…

DM: Okay, you remove the steel grate and drop your silk rope down the shaft. After a second you hear it land at the bottom with a splash. Extinguishing the parties torches, you peer into the darkness as your eyes begin to adjust to the velvety blackness. The dank smell of mold assails your nostrils and you can hear the faint sound of dripping water. What do you guys do?

Dwarven Warrior: I’ll go down first. I sheathe my sword, slide my shield onto my back, and slither down the rope…but only halfway! Do I see anything with my infravision?

DM: Nope, it looks like the floor is covered with cold water but you can’t tell how deep.

Dwarven Warrior: Okay, I slide down the rope slowly and see if I can reach the bottom. I yell up at the others “Don’t drop me boys, I’m almost down.”

Halfling Thief: “Ha! If you didn’t eat so much you wouldn’t have to worry!”

Dwarven Warrior: “Quiet runt, or I’ll eat you next!”

DM: As you reach the bottom of the rope you dip your feet into the water and find that it’s only ankle deep. The water seems unusually cold and you’re standing in what appears to be an old sewer of some kind. The walls are hewn from a grayish stone which is now saturated with water and largely covered with bluish-green algae. There is a small tunnel to the north. It’s large enough for you to walk through, but your taller companions may have to stoop a bit. [DM rolls some dice] You can faintly hear the sound of splashing water coming from the corridor the north. In short order, the splashing grows louder as whatever it is seems to be speeding toward you. You can now hear the sound of clanking armor and a voice barking guttural orders.

Dwarven Warrior: “Come on guys, we’ve got company. Hurry up before I take ‘em all myself!”


You get the idea. I’m not the greatest player in the world and I’m certainly not the greatest DM but we enjoyed being as vivid as we possibly could. It really helped with the immersion and fired our imaginations. The role playing was actually fun. It wasn’t something we skipped over just to get to the combat. I don’t know if the emphasis upon description and RPing are features or hallmarks of old school gaming but in every single game I’ve participated in since returning to the hobby about 6 months ago, they tend to go more like this…

DM: Okay, you see a hole leading into a sewer. What do you guys do?

Dwarven Warrior: I’ll go down first. Do I see anything?

DM: [rolls dice] Nope.

Dwarven Warrior: Okay, I slide down.

Halfling Thief: [Yelling from the kitchen] Where is the Mountain Dew!?!

DM: Okay, you’re in the sewer. [rolls dice] You hear some orcs running toward you. What do you do?

Dwarven Warrior: Hurry up and get down here guys I only have half my hit points left over from the last fight!


Granted this evidence is anecdotal since it relies on my personal experiences over the last six months. Still, I’ve played with close to six different groups in that time. On several occasions, the DM says he’s been playing since the White Box or since AD&D was first released. What’s the deal? I’m beginning to wonder if my gaming groups as a kid were just filled with oddballs or if people just don’t play that way anymore.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lessons from History: The Death of TSR

I was recently reading Ryan Dancey’s account of TSR’s demise. He (I think rightly) summarized the downfall of TSR as follows: “I know now what killed TSR. It wasn't trading card games. It wasn't Dragon Dice. It wasn't the success of other companies. It was a near total inability to listen to its customers, hear what they were saying, and make changes to make those customers happy. TSR died because it was deaf.” He sharply contrasts TSR’s approach with that of Wizards of the Coast: “At Wizards of the Coast, we pay close attention to the voice of the customer. We ask questions. We listen. We react.”

Since the release of the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons, I can’t help but wonder if WotC is now following in TSR’s footsteps, forgetting the lessons of the past. Indeed, witnessing the current events at WotC is like reading the history of TSR in the mid 90s: laying off/disenfranchising employees responsible for past success, a new edition with floundering sales, modeling significant portions of D&D after other types of non-rpg games, a severe fracturing of the customer base, competition nipping at their heels (and surpassing them in some cases), flooding the market with more product than anyone is buying, etc.

TSR became hopelessly locked in a failing business strategy due to an unwillingness on the part of their leadership to listen (and acquiesce) to their customer base. They adapted the attitude of “we know better than you” and, as a result, their customers abandoned them. Likewise, before 4th edition was even released (and despite the fact that long time fans were bemoaning the changes) WotC had already wed itself to the new system (hence the 4th edition “trailer” narrator promising “the game will remain the same”). I’m hearing echoes of yesteryear. Here’s hoping that WotC will recognize what happens to those who ignore their customers.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ornithology of Old School Gamers

One of my favorite issues of Dragon Magazine was released in 1989. I know that for many gamers that’s a year that will go down in infamy since it marked the release of 2nd Edition. Issue 144, however, had nothing to do with that. It was a “humor” issue packed mostly with gag articles such as “Cheating Made Easy” by Jefferson Swycaffer and “Cheating Made Even Easier” by Spike Jones. Both articles had my gaming group testing their theories, filing our dice to roll 6’s every time, etc. (nevermind the fact that our whole gaming group was doing it together, in the same room, making the “loaded” dice useless…we did it for fun not to actually use in games).

One of the articles in that issue fascinated me to no end: “Field-Guide to Game Convention Ornithology” by Skip Williams. In the article, Skip went through all the different types of gamers, categorizing just about every type you’d encounter at a convention or even just around your kitchen table. It held my attention because it was the first time I’d ever seen such a taxonomical approach to gamers. In reading, I learned about rules lawyers, Monty Haul players, and all the rest. It was uncanny how the article absolutely nailed every player in my gaming group.

Recently, I’ve been wishing I had an article like that to “decode” the various species of “old school” gamers. I’m constantly running into folks (mostly at my FLGS) that describe themselves as “old school” gamers who seem anything but. Here’s my taxonomy…

Oldus Geezerus: Gamers who describe themselves as “old school” simply because they’re advanced in years. Nevermind the fact that they began playing modern games (the modern way) just last year, if you’re over 30, the Oldus Geezerus says you’re “old school.”

Gamus Geneologicus: Gamers who describe themselves as “old school” because they’ve been playing since the White Box (or, fill in whatever ancient edition you like). Nevermind the fact that they currently play 4E, according to the Gamus Geneologicus they’re “old school” because they’ve been playing various iterations of D&D since the early 70s.

Crabbius Maximus: Gamers who describe themselves as “old school” because they hate the current edition of D&D supported by the current license holder(s). So, those who cling to 3.0, 3.5, or even Pathfinder are “old school” because they reject what is currently “new school.”

Neverus Satisfiedus: A close cousin to the Crabbius Maximus, the Neverus Satisfiedus refuses to acknowledge games printed in this decade as “old school” (because old wargamers consider chainmail players new school, who consider white box players new school, who consider Holmes players new school, who consider Moldvay players new school, etc. etc. etc.).

Ancientus Collectionis: Gamers who describe themselves as “old school” because they take pride in only playing old or out of print games. Often mistaken for the Crabbius Maximus or the Neverus Satisfiedus, the Ancientus Collectionis nevertheless relishes his tattered collection(s) of old books and knows you have to play games at least two decades old to be genuinely “old school.”

Gygaxius Originalis: Gamers who describe themselves as “old school” because they enjoy playing the game the way it was originally envisioned by Gygax (and sometimes, if they’re charitable, also Arneson). For these players, Gary’s rule is law (especially his rules about there being no absolutely binding rules).

I’m sure there are lots of others out there as well as various “mixed breeds” of those noted above. Like the article that inspired it, this post is just supposed to be fun. I know there are no hard and fast rules for what qualifies as “old school.” So, what kind of “old school” player are you?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Return of the Red Box

So I went in to my FLGS to pick up a sparkly set of pink polyhedral dice for my wife, who, you will remember, recently agreed to try out some rules light rpgs.

As I thumbed through the Pathfinder adventure paths (I’ve heard some great things about Kingmaker and wanted to see what the hype was about) I spotted something out of the corner of my eye that almost made me drop the Pathfinder books. There, on top of the WotC section of books was Frank Mentzer’s “red box” basic set for sale.

I’ve already written about my love for Mentzer’s edition of D&D so I won’t repeat that here. Needless to say, if they were released today, I’d buy them all again in a heartbeat; my copies have worn exceedingly thin over the years. Of course, as I approached the box I noticed it wasn’t what I was expecting. First of all, it was published by WotC. Second of all, it was 4th edition D&D. Apparently, it was their new “starter set” aimed at bringing in new players (and dare I say, lapsed gamers who remember owning the set this one was manufactured to resemble).

Still, I considered buying it. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of 4e but, to be honest, I really wanted the box. It looked a fair bit sturdier than the ones I had as a kid and, while I still have the books, the boxes were crushed from one too many moves a long time ago. But this one box could house all of my BECMI books (it’s a nice size, for those who haven’t seen it). I deliberated but ultimately couldn’t justify spending the money for a box (since I’d probably just end up chucking the 4e contents inside). In addition, I swore off any WotC products once 4e was released (persnal choice, not a judgment on 4e fans).

As I drove home I couldn’t help but think about the box. It seems that someone in the know has taken notice of the OSR and decided we’re worth marketing to. Yay for us.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

To All The Games I’ve Loved Before

Since 1986 my friends and I have played a variety of games. We had fun with each and every one of them but, for the most part, they just acted as a brief distractions between D&D campaigns of one stripe or another. Following are a few we enjoyed most…

Elfquest: Yes, we played the Elfquest Roleplaying Game. We loved the comic and thought it would be fun to play Cutter and his wolfrider clan as they fought for survival in the hostile world of Two Moons. Our main campaign was one where one of the players changed canonical history by stopping the burning of The Holt. Our struggle became one of dominance within the forest competing for resources against the savage encroaching humans. This game never stuck, really, but we tried it time and time again.

Marvel Super Heroes: We played both the basic and advanced versions of the game. We always enjoyed the change-over from equipment dependent characters (in D&D) to super powered mutants (which is generally what we played). More often than not, playing Marvel became an excuse to create knock-offs of our favorite comic book heroes and/or to fraternize with the spandex-clad super-heroine hotties. My favorite story-arch involved our characters being contacted by Professor X to rescue his X-Men from the mutant-hostile nation of Genosha. Good times.

Robotech: We were children of the 80s which meant we loved the Robotech cartoon as kids. As pre-teens, it just made sense to try out the rpg. We enjoyed the heck out of it at first, but killing Zentraedi got old rather quickly. Still, we ended up shoe-horning other play styles (especially horror) into this system. My favorite series of games was right after a friend had seen the movie Night of the Comet. He took the concept and set it in space. We ended up exploring a gigantic city-like space ship populated by flesh eating space zombies. It was a blast.

Star Wars: We played the original D6 version of the game. We had a blast and it really stretched our imaginations. My longest lasting Character was Cain, a former Crimson Guard imperialist turned smuggler. But he was more Snake Plissken than Han Solo.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: This was long before the TMNT were the pizza-munching, “Cowabunga” yelling, stereotypes they became in the 90s. The rpg was based around the comic which was much darker than most would imagine. This was another one that never stuck long terms but we had some really fun one-offs. My favorite character was a porcupine who escaped from a governmental genetic engineering research facility. In what other game can you play a bipedal porcupine dual wielding Desert Eagles?

Thieves' World: More of a setting than a system, I know. We loved the books and thought we’d love the rpg. We didn’t, really. Although, we once made characters of ourselves set in the city of Sanctuary (literally, we played our teenage selves). That was fun since the name of the game was not so much “thrive” as “survive.”

There were others but these became the “go to” games when we felt D&D burnout creeping in. Sometimes our forays into these other systems would last just a week or two, other times months or even a year. So, what games do (did) you play to take a break from D&D?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Arguing Myself into the OSR

If you’ve been reading my previous posts you know that despite the fact that I’ve been gaming for nearly a quarter of a century most of my gaming history consists of Silver Age D&D and beyond (Mentzer’s Basic D&D, 1e, 2e, 3e, 3.5e, Pathfinder, etc.). I’ve played lots of other games in lots of other systems but each one seemed to lead me further and further away from the old school roots of the hobby.

In considering the OSR there were several concerns I’ve been thinking through. Below are some of the initial objections I had and some of my own conclusions.

The Nostalgia Factor: Do I really want to return to the roots of D&D, warts and all, or is it just some misguided attempt to recapture my youth?

My Conclusion: Yes, I want to return to the roots. It isn’t, however, some ill conceived attempt to feel young again or assuage some gnawing wistfulness. I love my life now and have no real reason to want to recapture my youth (I’m only in my 30s). In fact, lots of things happened when I was younger I’d never want to recapture. But when it comes to gaming, I want to recapture the fun I had when I first started playing which means returning to the way I used to play. Thus far, I’m finding that the way I used to play (and the way I want to play again) is best supported by the earliest incarnations of D&D/AD&D (and their various clones).

The Curmudgeon Factor: Do I really prefer the older editions of D&D/AD&D or am I just opposed to change/learning new systems?

My Conclusion: I think most people are opposed to change to a degree. Still, the fact that I willingly switched from basic D&D to AD&D, then 1st edition to 2nd edition, then 2nd edition to 3rd edition, then 3rd edition to 3.5, then 3.5 to Pathfinder (with lots of other games sprinkled in) shows I’m not averse to change. In fact, switching from my most recent system of choice (Pathfinder) back to early editions of D&D or AD&D will be more of a change than anything I’ve done in a long time. Sure, it’s going back to something I once knew well, but its returning to something I haven’t been involved in for over twenty years. Truth be told, It’d be easier to stick with more modern games (since the systems are fresh in my head, the games are more readily available/supported, players are easier to find, etc.) but I’m out to find fun not a trouble-free experience.

The Completeness Factor: What about all the “holes” in older systems of D&D/AD&D? If I’m going to have to house-rule on things not included in the early editions of the game why not stick with a version which already has the rulings included?

My Conclusion: Assuming that older versions of the game have “holes” in them has been sounding more and more like circular reasoning to me of late. I’ve been unconsciously setting up more complex versions of the game (especially 3.0 and beyond) as the standard, then looking at the alleged things missing in older versions of D&D/AD&D and thinking them inferior on account.

But the more I think about it the less compelling I find that line of reasoning. If Wizards of the Coast came out with a version of D&D tomorrow that included complex rules on eating, bathing, shaving, smoking, etc., that doesn’t mean it’d be correcting “holes” in previous editions. Why? Because folks like me who’ve gone on to later editions of the game never needed such rules in the first place. In fact, I think we’d argue that they unnecessarily complicate things. Nobody needs such rules on a regular basis, and if they do come across a need for them, a quick house rule does nicely. I don’t need thousands of extra pages to sift through to handle things that will probably never come up in my games.

In short, just because something is more complex does not mean it’s necessarily more “complete.” Sure, it may have more rules, but are those rules necessary? In looking back at the thousands of pages of rpg materials I’ve accumulated over the years, I find that the books that tend to be most well-worn are my Basic D&D and 1e materials. Not because they’re older but because they saw more use when I played those systems. I have books from 3.X and Pathfinder that I looked at once, when I first bought them, but never again. They sit in pristine condition on my shelf because I never use them. I just don’t need them. The bottom line is that I’m finding that having rules for any and every situation just complicates things because: (1) I won’t use most of what’s presented. (2) When those rare situations may pop up it slows game play to find them. (3) A simple and agreed upon house ruling keeps things running smoothly and, most importantly, gets us right back to the game (and to the fun!). (4) Huge tomes filled with complex rules tend to turn people away from the hobby as opposed to bringing them in (my wife, for example, as noted in my previous post).

I have some other issues I’m still working though but most of those are just because of my own idiosyncrasies as opposed to being based on gaming philosophies. Also, I’d be remiss without expressing my thanks to James over at Grognardia for answering my email and helping me work through some of these issues!

Into the Age of Silver and Back Again?

Now I know that many people will argue that I was already immersed in Silver Age Dungeons & Dragons. I started with Mentzer’s rules, I was enamored with the art of Elmore, etc. While that is absolutely true, I’d still argue that the way we played for the first couple of years was very much reminiscent of Golden Age “old school” games (of course, that’s a judgment in retrospect, since I’m convinced that “old school” gaming has more to do with how a game is played as opposed to which game(s) are played).

After about 6 months of playing with Mentzer’s rules, we went on to play AD&D. It should be noted that we went on to AD&D because we thought that’s what we were supposed to do not necessarily because that’s what we wanted to do. Among the gamers in our area there was a predominant stereotype that real gamers played AD&D, not one of the “intro for kids” basic editions. We did enjoy AD&D immensely but I can’t say we had more fun than with the basic version we’d been playing (with the exception of no longer playing races as classes, a change we all enjoyed). Regardless, from 1987-1989, AD&D became our system of choice.

In eighth grade, things changed for us dramatically. You see, we never really ran modules. It wasn’t because we didn’t want to, we really wanted to, it’s just that we were grade school/junior high kids and after spending our allowances on the AD&D hardback books we didn’t have the money to invest in the modules (at least, not on a regular basis). So, we continued just making up our own adventures, modules, and campaigns and never felt like our games were lacking anything; that is…until junior high.

At that time, a friend in our gaming group picked up a copy of the book Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. He read through it in a few days and was raving about how amazing it was. He loaned me the book and after devouring its contents I was equally enthused. How great was this!? Books prominently featuring Elmore’s art on the cover that read like an epic game of D&D complete with the classes, races, spells, and things we’d become accustomed to. Our imaginations were ablaze and immediately our style of gaming changed. We went from being underdogs striking out into the dangerous world around us to make some gold to being heroes (or Raistlin-like anti-heroes) of epic proportions. Not necessarily a bad change, of course, but a change nonetheless.

One thing that did change for the worse, in my opinion, was the element of detailed plots in our games. I’m a big fan of having compelling story as a backdrop to any D&D campaign but we took things to the extreme. We no longer wanted to just kill the monster plaguing the rural town or clear a dungeon in the employ of a local noble, we wanted to save the world. And so we did…time and time and time again. In pretty much every campaign, in fact.

The problem was that we wrongly took the Dragonlance novels as being a blueprint for how the game should be played. Instead of just reading and enjoying the books our games became pale imitations of the yarns spun by Weis and Hickman. This wasn’t the authors fault, or even TSR’s, it was ours.

As a group, it really did have a deleterious effect on our gaming experience. As DMs, we were no longer out to let the players do what they wanted, how they wanted, we were mostly out to tell epic stories while doing our best to incorporate the PCs in our predetermined plots. Sandboxes were out and railroads were in. The players would do what the DM wanted, the question was, how would the DM get them to do what they wanted while making them think their choices really mattered? For me, that summarized our play experience for years to come. We still enjoyed our games but something was missing.

I’d again like to emphasize that I don’t blame the authors or the publishers of the books. The same thing could have happened if we’d read Tolkien or any other popular fantasy author. The problem wasn’t necessarily with the published material it was with the gamers (in this case, US!) who took Dragonlance as being a blueprint as opposed to just fun supplements.

Ultimately, I found this style of gaming rather unsatisfying. I kept thinking there was something missing. So when 1989 rolled around and 2nd edition was introduced, I immediately jumped onto it thinking that the more complicated mechanics would fill the void. I made the same assumption with 3.0 and 3.5. Finally, I thought perhaps a change in setting was necessary so I began playing Pathfinder in their setting (Golarion). I was going through the motions but I always felt something was missing. I just had less time to think about it because I was so busy learning the ever more complicated mechanics of the systems I’d “upgraded” to.

Then, about 6 months ago, a miracle took place. My wife of eleven years finally agreed to try out role playing games. It’s always been something we’d talked about and she promised she’d try it someday. Well, that day finally rolled around. So we sat down and I pulled the Pathfinder Core Rulebook out of my bag.

Her jaw dropped as she stared at the book in unbelief. “How many pages is that thing?” she asked. “Over 500” I said sheepishly. “Forget it,” she said, “that’s way too much effort to learn a game.” “Oh, don’t worry, only the first half is important for players” I assured her. “Still,” she said, “any game that needs that much explanation to have fun won’t be fun for me.”

And there it was. Just like that I’d realized what my games had been missing since the 80s…FUN. Well, that’s not absolutely true, I did enjoy myself, but fun was no longer the raison d’etre behind playing. Intricate plots, complicated character development, and detailed campaign plots had become the driving force. In some cases, mastering pure mechanics had become the motivation.

Now I’m not knocking plot, character development, or even complex game systems. If people enjoy them (and I know they do!) more power to them. However, it took my wife’s unexpected reaction to remind me of why I should be playing the game: to have fun! Not just passing enjoyment. Not just an occasional decent game. Not just gaming to continue a hobby I’d been engaging in for over two decades, but to have fun. Many people can and do have fun playing the way I did in the systems I did, but that just wasn’t the case for me anymore.

So, here I am, a catechized Silver Ager beginning to rediscover the roots of our beloved hobby. I’m still working through the implications of leaving behind the complicated systems I’ve picked up over the years as I fight my way into the Old School Renaissance. It’s a bit of a mess, from the perspective of an outsider, but I’m looking forward to sorting it all out and having some real fun in the process!