13 November 2010

Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali's "Debris of an Automobile Giving Birth to a Horse"
I'd been wanting to see Salvador Dali's works for a long, long time now, and had ever since I'd seen those banners with the moustached man staring down at me from lampposts.

"I'd like to go see that, " I'd say to my girlfriend.
"Yeah, me too!", said she.

And we put it off for a while. But it's hard to put off going to see one of the most striking, original, and creative artists of the modern age when the museum he's in had free admission yesterday. So we gathered ourselves up and went.

Let me tell you, actually seeing the pictures is a beautiful thing. How can you get a true sense of the detail that went into some of the enormous (easily 12+ feet tall) paintings through a computer screen or a book? It loses something ethereal and undergoes a transformation from an actual artifact of dedication and passion to a pedestrian image, little more than a postage stamp. It's a damn shame more people can't go out and see real art.

Speaking of damn shames, this excursion made me realize two things. One: How coarse I feel. Not because people around me are so fancy, or so enlightened when I am not, but because I felt like yelling at people to quit standing two inches in front of the painting so that nobody else can see it, or to move your ass, you've been standing there trying to look smart for ten fucking minutes or the always delightful, Will you quit goddamn giggling at breats, you pre-pubescent shitheads? It's never felt more bizarre to be outside of my comfort zone, to be honest with you. The only time I'm around real crowds is when I'm on active duty, and it's a different feel of a crowd. Sure, people are, as they say, gaggle-fucking around, but everybody has a purpose. You're not standing in the way because people need to get by, and if people need to get by, you all part like the damn red sea to let people through. I guess it has to be something in the training that makes you other-centered. Even if you're a selfish prick, you can at least realize that you're not the greatest thing out there. Hopefully.

The second thing I realized is that people are shallow and stupid and do not deserve a great artist like Dali. People would offer their silly-ass conjectures about what this painting "means" and what this is a metaphor for, like great art can be reduced to trite banalities and crass gestures. There isn't any sort of meaning of life hidden in art, there isn't some sort of greater spiritual message in beauty. "C'eci ne pas une pipe", catch my drift? This picture is a picture. It is what it is. Dali's most famous image, the Persistance of Memory, do you know why he called it that? Do you know why it was made?

Was it a comment on how memory isn't as persistant as we think, with the clocks representing the breakdown and inconsistency of that most rigid construct itself, of time? Is it a metaphor for how everything is flexible and flowing no matter how we decide to categorize it?

Let me tell you.

Dali was painting a landscape, and then wanted to add something a little more unusual to it. He then thought of adding soft clocks, painted them, and asked him what his wife thought of it. She said that anybody who saw it would never forget it. Thus the name. That's it. That's all the meaning you get.

Like my girlfriend said, "People need meaning. Art does not."

08 November 2010

Empty House!

My friends Jeff and Steve had spent the last couple of days at my place, a tiny two bedroom loft in midtown, and I have to say, the place feels empty already without them. Sure, there wasn't hardly any room left with the two of them sleeping in the living room/dining room area, but what do you need the space for? My girlfriend and I have our bedroom, my brother has his, and then the two of them camped out in the middle room, and we still had enough space to walk to the bathroom and the kitchen and back. Plenty of room for five people!

They're great fun. They're loud, they take up a lot of room, and they eat a lot, but they bring a happy glow to the household- except for my girlfriend, who pines for the quiet. Always the extrovert, I can't fathom not enjoying a bit of noise. We played a long-lasting round of Descent, wherein I almost defeated them as the Overlord- I'll skip the description unless you're fans of the game. Me and Jeff discussed the differences in our respective services, especially pertaining to organization and command heirarchy, with a good bit of friendly joking, of course. Silly grunt, you can't out-joke a Seabee. ;)

In other news, I seem to have sprained my big toe. It now hurts to walk, which is awful, since I have a habit of roaming the house and jumping and stuff when I get excited. Which happens an awful lot these days. It's a good habit, I suppose, since it helps to be a little active and besides, laughter is supposed to be good for your heart.

The only downside to hosting guests is that it takes a lot out of your free time, and I haven't had much time to post or to have quiet moments, which makes this blog suffer. Hopefully now that I'm down to just work and class, I'll have a couple more interesting thoughts to share with the world, and keep on keepin' on.

Side note: Does anybody else find "meta" comments about the state of one's blog to be entirely boring and self-important? I feel like I'm putting on airs, like there's somebody out there who's an actual fan of this author's boring, stream-of-conciousness thoughts. Which is absurd, of  course, but that's how it feels.

01 November 2010

The Level Grind

Alex Schroeder on my last post:
I think that the reason D&D works the way it works is that as you go up in levels, the game itself is supposed to change. Ordinary men going through a military career will end up as veterans on 2nd, 3rd, or 4th level. Some rare commanders will reach 5th level. But adventurers will want to fight trolls, and giants, and dragons.

More hitpoints is what allows adventurers to proceed to the next type of D&D game, going toe-to-toe with tough brutes.

As they gain even more levels, hit-points start to loose in importance as magic items and spells, and the appropriate defenses gain in importance. Now you want to go up against nagas, and mindflayers, and beholders. No problem!

To me, that's the D&D secret nobody told me about: Every level range has a different "feel" to it, appropriate encounters, strategies, tactics, items, concerns, and so on.

The mental disconnect only happens, I think, if you take your level 8 fighter and fight bandits, or fight alongside henchmen. If you don't want the level 8 fighter to shine like a madman, like a prince of Amber, like a hairy foot god of war, then it's easy to point your finger at the hit-points. An alternative point of view might suggest that perhaps the adventurers should not gain more than a level or two in the first place. That keeps them within the level range where fighting bandits and goblins and remains a cause for caution.

I don't think that one way or the other is intrinsically better than the other way of playing the game. I do think, however, that the default rules imply a certain progression through the monster manual, if you like. Conversely, if you limit hit-points, I think you will have to massively change monsters. I'm not sure whether just reducing hit-points is appropriate enough. My guess is that higher level monsters also need to have their melee attacks reduced, otherwise an unarmed mind-flayer isn't just dangerous because of his mind-blasting and his brain-eating, in addition to that he'll also be a fearsome melee fighter (which he is not, with the default rules).

The entire thing is an interesting thought experiment. I'm not sure I'd want to go there, however, because personally, I like the changing nature of D&D as you go through in levels (and I therefore accept side-effects like knights being infinitely superior fighters to squires and henchmen, etc.).

 I'd like to start by saying that I agree with the spirit of this entire remark. There's really nothing wrong with the game as written, and it's a lot of fun to play as a level 8 Fighter and be a powerhouse of death and be tough as nails, able to slay a band of lesser men with only a couple of scratches to show for it. Similarly, I agree that the feel of the game changes dramatically, and not necessarily for the worse. Low-level campaigns are ones where the cauliflower-eared fighting man reigns supreme, and the most deadly threat is the sword in your back, but high level ones are where wizards are the deadly ones, and even the most staid of fighters are brandishing +4 Vorpal Greatswords and have quivers full of Arrows of Dragon Slaying and stuff.

I suppose the most fundamental disconnect comes, as you say, when you have to look at the monsters and realize that what is portrayed as a weak, but mentally powerful mind flayer can wrestle men to the ground and beat them to death with their bare hands, or when you realize that the sort of threats that require a 6th level party can nearly decimate a kingdom. Or when you realize that you're going to have to hit a fiery dude fifteen times with a sword to get it to quit trying to eat princesses. Or when you realize that your fighter can get straight chomped on by a troll a good four times and still get up and smack him with yet another axe chop. It's not particularly interesting, especially when you consider that, despite claims to the contrary, hit points as written are entirely toughness and not some sort of "strength of will and luck" and stuff. When's the last time you had to rest for a day to recover one point of your luck?

Regardless, I don't think there's really a reason that we have to throw out higher levels just because it's tied to health. I can't think of a less impressive fighter than one who never gets any better at dodging as he levels, and only learns to take a punch better. A man like that is a guile-less butcher, not a warrior. With just an easy tweak (perhaps applying the THAC0 as a bonus to Armor Class, and then halving hit point gains after level one?) you can make a fighter that's dodging and weaving as well as getting more grizzled and hard to kill.

And see, it's cool that D&D isn't really meant to emulate sword and sorcery fiction- it's sort of a science-fantasy game, with fire and forget spells and everybody trying to wear as much armor as possible and a high death rate and exploring dungeons created three world-spanning armageddons ago. It's a very cool feel for a game, but it's not the only one possible by any means. With just a couple of tweaks, you can make it into a more historical game, where killing trolls and dragons means that you're planning out a major invasion that would be the focus of a campaign in and of itself, instead of a session of hack and slashery made possible because you've got 80 hit points and seven +12 axes or whatever.

But I digress. Again.

30 October 2010

Health and D&D: Part Two

The man on the left is about to suffer 1d6 damage.
Let me lay down some heresy real quick today. 

The problem with hit points isn't that weapons do too much damage, or that regular joes have too few hit points, or even that zero hit points shouldn't equal death because that's not how it works in the real world.

The problem with hit points is that they scale shittily. And here's how.

A level one dude, let's say a Fighting Man rolling a d8, has roughly four hit points. That's enough to take a good whack from a mace or a sword and go down. Much like warriors in real life, he's going to avoid letting his enemy strike a telling blow that will fell him. This man is cunning and clever enough to survive these trials and tribulations and acheives level two. Suddenly, the man has 8 hit points- twice as many as before. In a single level, he's doubled his hit points, and at level three, he gains another roughly 4 hit points, to a total of twelve. By the time he hits level four, a Fighting Man with average constitution and average luck will have managed to attain 16 hit points- he's four times as tough as he was before. His possible range of hit points is between 4 and 32.

That's kind of silly. 

It would be interesting if Fighting Men gained a small bonus to health, similar to the +3 bonus they gain instead of an additional hit die after a certain level- what if the first die were the only one rolled? What if all they ever got was the first hit die, and after that they gained a bonus to armor class, or a flat reduction in damage taken?

Hit points act like a sign, "You must be thiiiiis tough to enter!" And that's not cool. It honestly surprises me that in an old-school revolution where dungeon masters and players alike cry "Challenge the players, and not the characters!", that there would be hubbub about skill systems but none about leaning on stacks of hit points to deal with problems. I exaggerate, of course, but really- it means that certain challenges aren't doable unless you have passed certain in-game requirement.

You must be this tall to hug giraffes.
What if health and level were totally disconnected? What if you never got more health, but instead just gained your other class features? Would you have to continue to play cautiously even when just facing more "boring" foes like other humans, and goblins? Would monsters have to be redesigned and rethought so that a challenging fight consisted less of ever-increasing super powers and more so there's a reason that a stupid race of fat cannibals can exist? 

Would we ever have to make players go in a goblin warren ever again?

29 October 2010

Health and D&D

Just a flesh wound?
Much greater bloggers than I (Alexis and JB from The Tao of D&D and B/X Blackrazor, respectively) have a minor disagreement (possibly) over how tough low level humans are, and what the possible ramifications are.

I talked it over with my buddy Tony, and we came to the same conclusion that Alexis did; humans are pretty tough to kill, overall, and not even your average firearm will kill a man in one hit. This is a fairly common fact, actually; firearms simply do not kill men frequently. They wound, disable, and stop. I heard a story once that the reason that the US military switched to 9mm bullets as opposed to the (unspecified) smaller calibre pistols they had used beforehand was that the 9mm bullet would stagger even the largest and most berserk of attackers, and drop them when hit in the center of mass.

And as for the common 5.56 round used in M16s and M4s, it has a similar purpose. It's common knowledge that older rifles had a significantly larger round to produce more stopping power and increase range, but many people question why we would use the smaller round when it has less killing power.

The answer, of course, is that we're not trying to kill the people. Which sounds silly, but we're really not. We're trying to disable them, so they quit fighting. The smaller round means that we can carry more ammunition on each and every soldier, so we can disable yet more enemies. It's beautiful. The fact that the rounds fragment and tumble is entirely irrelevant.

It makes intuitive sense that medieval warfare would be the exact same way. Combat is not to the death, but to the disable. If you've stabbed a man in the chest, as long as he no longer wishes to fight, it doesn't matter if he'll make it or if he bleeds out. You've defeated him, and now it's time to move on.

So I guess my position is somewhere in between. I don't see a problem with 1d4 hit points, when you consider that zero hit points doesn't mean death, it means disabled, and that a man can be brough back from near death with medicine, time, and a little luck. And I don't honestly see a problem with zero level humans having more hit points, although I've never particularly been a big fan of hit points as health. You can look at my house rules for wounds for a little bit on this. I've long been toying with the idea that only hit points at first level are actual "health" and that maybe you only get the one level of actual hit points and everything else just adds, I dunno, some sort of other toughness type thing and it's only a flesh wound until you get to actual health. It's what I was trying to do with a simple wound system, anyways.

But before I digress further, I have a busy day ahead of me- gotta look at some new houses (I'm moving!) and then go to class before they scratch me off the roster. I already paid, so I have to go sometimes.

This is an interesting enough topic to potentially get two parts.

24 October 2010

Running a Game Using Chainmail

I think it might be the fault of Scott (from Huge Ruined Pile), but I've been wanting to run a game using the Chainmail rules for the past week or so.

It's not an easy task, since I've never once run a game of oD&D with the "Alternate" rules that have become the d20 standard, let alone with a system that I've never used before, and that I'm having a hard time grokking. But I've got a couple of excellent resources, thanks to his post, and it can't be that hard when you've got multiple documents to pore over and then congeal into a mass of working rules knowledge. Kind of like that shit that gathers on top of your shower drain after you've had a long day's toil (and lemme tell you, after a good, hot day in the desert, you gather quite the pile), I'm hoping that if I search and read and bend my mind enough, I'll get enough understanding together to maybe set off the spark in other people.

After all, if you can't get enthusiastic about a game, how can you expect any of your players to follow that enthusiasm? They're not going to carry the game for you, no matter how very cool they are.

The game itself will probably be over some sort of VOIP connection, possibly Skype or Mumble if we can figure it out, and we might even have a campaign wiki to keep track of notes and stuff. I fully expect it to be more use to me than to them, since I fully expect to devote more of my time to writing articles and stuff than I expect anybody else to.

DMing- for when you have more spare time than you know what to do with.

23 October 2010

Mail Bikinis

What really gets me here is that sullen looking dwarf. Sure, there's a fairly "well-endowed" woman in a mail bikini, but he's only moderately interested.

Maybe he'd be more interested if she got him another beer instead of waving those arrows in his face and getting grit in his brew?

I also like that little spiky hat. And the spear on his back.

It makes sense to me that tiny people would carry spears, especially when you consider that human-sized people carried confusingly long spears against our human-sized adversaries, and we didn't even really have to. I'm thinking about the sarissa, naturally, which formed the backbone of the army that Alexander used to conquer an altogether enormous chunk of the world, especially considering that nearly none of it wanted to be conquered and that Alexander was using a more or less traditional army. Sure, he could speed around the world on horseback and bring his elephants but his poor phalanxes would be left in the dust. And what's a conqueror without his phalanx?

But I digress.

Enjoy the image.

22 October 2010


The Karkinos
An intelligent race of nearly man-sized crab creatures, measuring nearly ten feet from side to side and standing roughly six feet tall. They have two pincers where the hands would be on humans. Their left pincer is small, longer, and more dextrous, but their right pincer is larger, tougher, and more powerful. When fighting they tend to use either attempt to grab their foe with their larger pincer and tear at their soft bits with the smaller, or use the larger pincer as a shield and the smaller as a sort of dagger or spear.

Karkinos, or Crab-Men as they are commonly named, tend to congregate around harbors and wharves, attracted by the cast-off, rotten fish, as well as the barnacles, algae, and seaweed. They also enjoy the activity of human life, which they are intensely interested in. They are content to merely observe, however, as they cannot meaningfully interact with humanity- they are unable to speak, and are able only to make broad gestures and hope they can be understood.

Scholars have determined that the Karkinos language is nonverbal language, consisting of pincer waving, eyestalk wiggling, leg shuffling, and mandible waving. It is therefore unable to be utilized by humans, who lack most of the necessary appendages. Attempts to communicate using human emulations of their language has been a universal failure. It has a written language, oddly enough, which is generally carved using the tough mandibles of the crab-men. It, too, is entirely alien and remains that way despite the best attempts of academics.

Crab-Men are almost entirely passive with humans, and there have been cases where Karkinos have dragged the bodies of shipwrecked sailors onto land, only to disappear again before the sailors can mouth their gratitude. Some sailors claim to have seen the Crab-Men cities and claim that they are made of coral and algae, while others maintain that they are made of enormous slabs of stone. No reputable source has been able to verify if the intelligent Karkinos have cities or if they live a nomadic lifestyle, and no Karkinos has seen fit to answer either way.

21 October 2010


According to dictionary.com, the word of the day today is coruscate.

I'm thinking of the open sea, and the way it glitters and shines. And of sea-raiders who slice the sea open with their narrow skiffs. And how they'd see nothing but endless, shimmering waves for days.

I'm also thinking about how early people thought that the sky was made of water, since it was blue. No idea what they thought clouds were, but that's just fine. The point is: What if the glass holding back the sky got cracked? What if the sky was literally falling?

What if the entire world is just a floating disk in the middle of a peaceful ocean, with water above and below the world, and to every side, and nothing can get in or out of the world except through magic or steady patience and a willingness to potentially destroy all the world's life. Demons and gods alike would be fishmen, drawn to the world because the sun disk is the only source of light nearby, and they both need and covet the light. Are there other disks? Is travel possible or would the pressure kill any land-dwelling life on contact? Does the sun rotate around the world or does the world itself spin? What if the sun really was pulled by a god's chariot and when it was down it was merely underground, and it was possible to see where the sun went at night and what sort of beings would be nearby?

Perhaps it would be demons, and every night the demons are trying to trick or slay the sun-god's burden, trick him into laying it down so the demons can finally really feel the warmth and dryness instead of constantly being banished outside of the world. Perhaps it would be the trickster god (a mainstay of any pantheon) who merely wants the disk because it is hard to attain, and to attain it and hide it would be a fine trick indeed.

Maybe the moon finally caught up to the sun?

16 October 2010

Low-Level Play

What I am about to say will not shock anybody who's gamed with me over the past, what, ten years? But I must press on.

I love low level play in Dungeons and Dragons. There! I said it!


Not for me are the bizarre tales of level 32 Fighters dual-wielding the Hammer of Thunderbolts and a +5 Sword of Dragon Slaying, tackling a squadron of githyanki pirates riding spider eaters, nor of level 25 Wizards reshaping the world as they see fit. There's nothing wrong with that game, of course, but it doesn't do it for me.

What I like are the tales of the little men. I have a copy of The Decameron, an interesting hodgepodge of stories told by a group of tale-spinners from the year 1348, full of tales of clever rogues, vengeance, and humor. The stories involve common men and women who find themselves in unusual situations and (generally) get the better of a more dull-witted rival through deception and cunning. It's a fascinating read, and extremely enjoyable. I recommend that you take a peek. It's worth every penny of the $7.95 I paid for it at Borders. Seriously. It's awesome.

It's the same way in roleplaying games. The story of how Napoleon conquered a good chunk of Europe is pretty interesting, and similarly with Alexander and Genghis Khan. Masterful conquerors, valiant warriors, and interesting people every one of them. But they're not interesting because they were powerful- what's interesting is what makes them tick.

For example, knowing that Alexander had an awful temper and was prone to hot-headedness is interesting- you can imagine what it'd be like to meet this warrior-king. We've all met fiery, passionate, driven people before, and we can relate. His megalomania and paranoia are interesting. Who hasn't felt like they ought to be the ruler of the known world? Who hasn't wondered if there aren't secret conspiracies amongst us? The fact that he conquered so much of the world is interesting, and the accounts of his battles are interesting, filled as they are with brilliant strategies and incredible insights.

But you'll notice that this is all historical. This actually happened, with regular people. Interesting, larger-than-life people, yes. But regular people nonetheless. Genghis Khan didn't have to have a magical sword, enchanted greaves, or a wand of fireballs to ravage the world with his hordes. He did it by being smarter, meaner, and tougher than anybody around him.

And that's how D&D should play. You can be the roughest, toughest, meanest motherslapper in town. Cool. But you're still going to need to be smart to get ahead. You can't lean on your magical weapons, armor, scrolls, potions, and staves to carry you through. You can't plow through an army of level 1 soldiers, because they're "merely" wearing plate mail, mounted on mundane horses, and wielding "boring" lances. That's insane, and that's just not right.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't get tougher, or that you should always face the same enemies in your games. I'm not saying you shouldn't progress, or that if you're playing a different way then you're wrong. I'm just saying that there's no reason that "mundane" is boring. There absolutely isn't. Nothing could be more exciting.

09 October 2010

Joesky's Rule, II

In honor of my last post, which some may think makes a "blah blah blah sound", I present this little tidbit that I used last game. I call it, "The Players are Awesome" rule.

Don't take the name the wrong way, since players have to earn it. Sort of. They're not awesome by the simple virtue of being players, or of being "heroes" (a notion I find abhorrent to the very nature of low-level play in general.)

It means, simply, that when your players roll well, or even when their foes roll poorly, let the players feel a little awesome. When your players roll a natural 20, even if you don't use critical hit rules, let them do something awesome. Let their dagger pierce their foe's eyeball, blinding them for a little while. Let their greataxe cleave chop through their foes. Let the zombie's clumsy paw get turned around and let the player pin them to the ground and get a bonus to their next attack.

Let them do something totally awesome when they roll well. They deserve it, and it makes the game 200% more fun, more exciting, and more organic. Fighting isn't a series of cleaver blows back and forth. It's a dodge and weave and counterstrike and parry.

Don't be afraid to use it against them, either. After all, their enemies deserve it too.

Natural 20, bitches!

Pandering a Game: Doomed to Fail?

It's always seemed silly to me for a company to try and pander its products to people who aren't the target audience, and to try and be something that it isn't.

Let me explain with a short preface.

I've got nothing against any edition of the game, per se. Several of the choices made in the name of D&D4 are a little silly, sure, and very many of them are misguided or just plain dumb. But it's not a bad game for what it is. It doesn't have any more than superficial similarities to Dungeons and Dragons, but that's not the point.

The point, and this is something I posted in a blog comment last night, is that trying to market something like role playing games as board games and video games is doomed to fail. And here's why.

Role playing games aren't goddamn board games. And they're not video games.

Board games are something that you can pick up and play, and then put away again. They're always the same, so there are strategies you can use to overcome the static obstacles or the other players, depending on the game. The rules always stay the same, unless it's a game like Nomic where the rules of the game are that the rules change. But Nomic is a complex example. For us, the archetypal board game will be Monopoly. Everybody knows what Monopoly is. The rules are always the same, the objective is always the same. You need a group of people, the board, the playing peices, and the dice. And then you play for a pre-determined amount of time until somebody "wins" and then the game is over.

I have nothing against fantasy-themed board games. As a matter of fact, on my floor right now is a half-played game of Descent: Journeys in the Dark. It looks similar to this:

It's got board peices, and cards, and little figurines, and static character sheets and stuff. It's like a game of Diablo, or like an entire D&D campaign squished into one 2-5 hour sitting.There's nothing wrong with this game, because it knows what it is. It's not trying to be a grand roleplaying game, because it's certainly not. It's a small-scale tactical miniatures combat game with a fantasy veneer. And it's great fun. But it's not a roleplaying game.

And video games are pretty awesome as well. When I'm not at work, running errands, spending time with my girlfriend, or writing, I'm generally playing something with my brother, my cousin, or both. One of the games we've been playing recently is called League of Legends. It looks like this:
It's bright, and colorful, and features explosions and magic missiles and all kinds of interesting stuff. It's a great game about tactics and teamplay, since if you don't work together and utilize your character's abilities to the utmost, then you're going to lose. And it's really great fun to pit our team against theirs, and see who comes out on top. Sure, character customization isn't the greatest, as you can only choose from a handful, but combine that with the items you can buy from the shop, and you can find a playing style that closely matches your ideal, and then utilize that to steal victory from your foes.

But board games and video games aren't roleplaying games. I know it sounds obvious, but if you state the inverse, it becomes: Role playing games aren't video games or board games.

I know it sounds crazy, but I think it really bears repeating. Role playing games aren't flashy. They don't have static challenges to overcome. They shouldn't require specialized equipment, like dungeon tiles and twelve thousand miniatures and sixteen "splatbooks" or "expansion packs" to play the fucking game. They don't need art on every page, and they don't need to keep making modules and campaign settings and other extraneous horseshit to tell you how to play the game. We don't need you to package games without the fucking dice and instead give us fifteen metric fucking feet of fucking tiles.

We want you to make a game that doesn't require a computer to do the math for us, and a game that lets us
1) Understand the system in fifteen minutes
2) Expand it ourselves
3) Make a character in under a fucking hour
4)Make shit up
5)Ignore stuff without worrying that it'll "break the game"

D&D has succeeded marvelously on all those points, constantly, right up until its last edition. An edition that is so bad that not even half of the people who were playing 3rd edition bother to play it. Great job, folks. Way to know your target market. See, you could read over the book and understand it on the first read through of just the player's section. You know that you need to roll 3d6 and pick a class and then buy stuff, and that you roll 1d20 to attack and 1d6 for damage. Done. That's seriously it. Everything else, you either make up, or maybe roll underneath your attribute on a 1d20. The system is over. I seriously know everything I need to know to run a game of Labyrinth Lord, Swords and Wizardry, or whatever right now. No prep time.

4th edition is horrible about every one of those. And make no bones about it, those are the important damn parts. The system itself is complicated, and has the important bits spread across nearly 200 pages. You can't hardly expand it, since making anything up other than a single power or magic item would mean that you have to figure out what the right damage range is, whether the magic item should be level 15 or 14, whether the spell you just made up should do 1d8 or 1d6+1 and whether it renders the other attack spell irrelevant... horseshit. Let me just make stuff up. I crave a looser system where I haven't got to whip out a calculator or understand what the holy fuck [W] + 2 means in an attack power, or how goddamn far five squares is, or what the holy flippin' difference between shift an opponent three squares and move an opponent three squares means. Holy shit, I thought we were playing a role playing game!

Good god, how I've digressed.

If you read until the end, I'll be surprised. Not even I read this far. But let me end this with just a quick statement:

"If you want to make a good role playing game, don't punish the creative people. We're the ones that keep the game going, not the idiots who don't know how to play without reading a module."

07 October 2010

Tombs of Nebimute: Session One, Part Two

Once the scarabs were smashed, they next attempt to decide whether to flip either of the switches, and if so, which one. They're trapped in a relatively small area via the aforementioned portcullis, and are unable to retreat. Takeno and Ralph discuss which lever to pull, if they should be pulled separately or together, and what their likely function was. Were they traps? What is the meaning of putting levers and tripwires behind a secret door? Why is it so dark? Should they be more cautious?

While the other two are deep in discussion, Hafiz gets antsy and cuts the discussion short by yanking both of the levers at the same time. The room immediately begins to fill with sand, dropping from the top of the long, cylindrical room, and the other door slides open.

They wisely decide to leave the filling room and go to the open door, being careful to go around the tripwire. While they're crossing, three zombies come from the newly opened doorway- one exiting immediately, and two becoming tripped up on one another, scrabbling to exit the room. The zombies are withered, decrepit things, more akin to uncovered mummies than the traditional freshly dead, but blackened, preserved skin sticks to bones as well as meaty flesh.

Takeno sticks a torch into one, and then the zombie misses its attack horribly, allowing the samurai to grab the zombie by the arm and wrestle it to the ground. Hafiz settles on his own target, and Ralph begins the crossbow barrage in vain. The zombies are quickly slain, and they reach the hidden room.

In the room is a chest and a lever. Takeno excitedly opens the chest, as quickly as possible, and I ask him to roll 2d6. He rolls snakeyes! I inform him that there is 200 gold in the chest, and everybody's cursing him. I laugh, perhaps a trifle maliciously but hey, they could have won up to 1200 gold from the chest!

By the way, opening the chest has released a cloud of purple gas, make a saving throw vs poison. The intrepid samurai fails, and he loses 1d6 CON, for a new total of 10. I tell him not to mark it off his character sheet, and to instead take a note. In his frustration, the samurai kicks the chest, and I jokingly ask him to make another saving throw. He complies, but succeeds. Can't fail all the time, right?

It's at this time that we're all tired, and besides, Ralph's player has to go to work in the morning and it's already getting late, so we call it a night. I look back on the session and think:

What worked well?

  • Letting players roll most of the dice. The only time I touched dice was during combat. Determining what side of the portcullis the rear guard was on, figuring out how many zombies were in the next room- I asked the players to roll dice for me for absolutely everything. It was glorious.
  • Making up the dungeon as you go along. I know it's not for everybody, but if you can strike a balance between adding things as you think of them and obeying a self-imposed ruleset and style, you can invent fairly colorful and realistic worlds without any forethought or planning. I know I didn't have any. 
  • Letting the players determine the setting and their relationship. The first post goes into more detail about it, but essentially, you let the players decide where they're going and what they're after, by virtue of what is essentially free association. It's not for those DMs who thrive on pre-planned adventures, unless they like changing them on the fly, and it's not for people who insist on having close control of their stuff. But if you want a quick challenge to your creative and improvisational skills, nothing comes close to having the group of people you're trying to entertain make up the night's entertainment for you.
  • Variable Weapon Damage. It works. Takeno's player was looking at the page-long description of weapons, and I told him not to bother, as I'd changed everything. This was met with approval, as nobody really likes looking through lists of weapons and deciding whether one extra point of damage is worth an extra three pounds and nine gold.
What didn't work?
  • Having to get up in the morning. Nobody likes having to cut a session short after only a couple of hours, but our work schedules aren't really flexible and there's not a whole lot any of us can do about having to come in extra early sometimes. 
  • Regular Vancian Magic. Without any sort of explanation about how interesting and bizarre J. Vance's works are, or anything about the implied setting that the characters wouldn't know or likely discover through regular play, Vancian magic kind of sucks. Hey, you get two spells today. I encountered that with our wizard, who had never played a game with Vancian magic, and she wasn't happy. I don't really care if it's the way things have always been done, or if Jack Vance wrote it that way. He didn't have young wizards running around discovering spells, he wrote about mighty sorcerers who already had researched a thousand spells. And D&D isn't really about mighty sorcerers, especially not at first where the limitations of Vancian magic come into play.

04 October 2010

The Tombs of Nebimute: Session One

When Tony sees how I've spelled that, he's going to flip his wig. But regardless of spelling, it was a good session last night. We had Takeno, the devious wandering ronin, Abdul-Hafiz, cleric of the Protector, and Ralph the crossbow-wielding spellslinger, and the very first thing I did was ask Takeno, since he was sitting across from me, how he knew Hafiz. He decided that he found him, naked and penniless on the streets of a city and took him in and clothed him. I then asked Hafiz how he knew Ralph, and he said that he was riding on one of his many camels when Ralph asked for a ride. Hafiz refused, but Ralph impressed the camel-rider with his spells and was allowed to ride in the end. And then, Ralph knew Takeno because once, when wandering through the forest, Takeno attempted to kill him but was stayed by sorcerous means. Takeno knew nothing of magic, and so was interested and delighted to find that the battle's cause was unintentional.

So we have three distinct characters in the first ten minutes of play, see? Hafiz is a pious, well-off cleric from pseudo-Arabia with perhaps a taste for danger, Takeno is a well-meaning but occasionally extremely violent samurai, and Ralph is a wandering wizard with little purpose or guidance.

That's one of the better tricks of the trade, really: Ask your players not how they know each and every other member of the party, but how they know the guy next to them. In fact, ask your players everything you can. You're not the only one playing the game after all- imagine how awful movies would be if only one actor really acted!

In keeping with this spirit, of course, I asked after we'd determined who was who and how they knew each other, I asked them where they were going and what they were doing and what they were after and how they were getting there and so we come across the story of three stolid men after an artifact of incalculable power- an Amulet to control the Undead, hidden deep in the desert wastes in the Tomb of Nebimute! Takeno bullied a map out of some townsfolk who didn't apparently know the value of what they'd had, and the three of them rode camels directly to the enormous obelisk in the center of a circular plaza, obscured by sands. The closed doorway sits in front of them, an oblong semicircle of smooth, solid stone. It must be forced open, as it hasn't been opened for many years. The sun is setting on our intrepid adventurers as they work on opening the door with a crowbar, and the winds begin to howl, sending stinging sand on our adventurers' faces.

When they enter, they come across a long, smooth, 20'' wide passageway made of blocks of limestone, sloping gently downwards. Though there are scones in the walls, they are unused. Takeno, the de facto leader of the party, shouts down the passageway, and though only a faint shuffling sound can be heard in response, decides that the best part of survival is caution, and instructs his sorcerous companion to light one of his many torches he is carrying and toss it down the slope. He does so, and the torch lands with a thud.

The party then decides to use a wedge formation to look for wall traps, and has Hafiz and Takeno on either side of the passageway at either wall, and then Ralph in the middle as lookout, armed with his deadly crossbow. The passageway slopes down uniformly until they come across a slight seam, as though the entire block pattern had shifted down an inch or so. A tap reveals a hollow sound, causing the suspicious Takeno to request for the cleric to bash the wall with his great hammer. Repeated smashings cause one of the blocks to wiggle slightly, as though not as solidly impacted, so Takeno bashes it in. Hafiz humbly suggests that they remove it, and lo! It comes out!

Hafiz makes another suggestion, this time that Takeno, "put his hand in there."
Takeno: "Fuck that. I poke my crowbar in there."

Crowbar poking hits some sort of mechanism, which clicks ominously, and repeated strikes cause the mechanism to complete its function. I pause. The wall across from you drops down slightly, and then slides into the wall across from you. A secret door! They enter.

In the roughly 20x20 room is a door across from them and an open doorway. They carefully cross the room, but spot a shimmering gleam about halfway through. Not a misty shimmering, nor a "semi-invisible" shimmering or even a glassy shimmering, but a tripwire. Ralph actually guessed it immediately, so kudos, right?

Anyways, they carefully track the wire to either side of the room, checking to see if it goes all the way from one wall to the next. It does, so they go underneath and try the door. It's not budging, and there's absolutely no way to interact with it- no doorknobs, no handles, no pushbars, nothing. So they go in the open doorway.

In that room, of course, there are two levers and an ivory statue on a two foot cylindrical pedestal, depicting  man being devoured by scarabs while alive. The scarabs have inset gems in their carapaces. In their infinite wisdom, the adventurers decide to smash the statue above the muttering of their wizard. Upon smashing, the statue's scarabs come to life, hungry from possibly centuries of unlife.

Thinking quickly, Takeno and Ralph decide to use their torches to herd the scarabs (since we reasoned that most animal life is afraid of fire and scarabs aren't an exception) into Hafiz's hammer range, where he would take them out as quickly as possible.

More to come- watch for it!

03 October 2010

The New Game

After we got Jeff back from drill, we set out to roll up some characters. I intentionally kept the house-ruling to a minimum, using only the following modified rules:

Practically spartan by my standards! But I thought it would be important, since we're planning on trying out the Rotating DM Hat trick, where we each run a session or two and then switch out. Maybe more of a short arc for each DM, so that we accomplish something and then when the campaign reaches a natural lull (for example, after the dungeon's cleared we go back to town and rest up, invest in some real estate, fix our armor, and set our sights on the next goal; this would be an ideal time to switch up the DM and get some "fresh air" into our adventuring.) 

The DM hat. Singing optional.
But keeping houserules to a minimum is helpful when you're switching like that and is, as I understand it, one of the reasons that AD&D had such a strictly defined ruleset- it makes life easier when the default assumption is that you'll be taking your character from one world to the next with a minimum of translation. But there's no reason that a similarity of rules couldn't be contained by one group, especially with the world as murkily defined as it currently stands.

After all, there's nearly nothing defined about it except what will be defined during play, such as the fact that Tony decided to be a pseudo-Arabian cleric whose name translates into "Servant of the Protector", thereby indicating that there's A) A pseudo-Arabic culture and B) A Protector-Diety of some prominence in that culture. Depending on how the game goes, it could either be a Zoroastrian-style Protector versus the Defiler, or it could even be a polytheistic religion worshipping the Protector, the Mighty, the Sage, and so on as personified manifestations of human nature. Or maybe not. That's the fun of organic gameplay, if you ask me- it suits perfectly the players and the Dungeon Masters, since we're the ones making it up on the spot.

Let me introduce the current cast of players, as it stands:

We currently have myself as Dungeon Master, T. Hamingston as a desert nomad Cleric, Allison as a sage Wizard with powers of trickery and warfare, and a proud Samurai adventurer. It's shaping up to be a pretty good party. When I play, I think I might be a Dwarf or and Elf- despite my disdain for race-as-class (and not for the reasons you think, more than likely), they're useful and valuable allies in their own bailiwick. The Dwarf is a powerful warrior in his own right, hardy and capable and possessing of useful underground perceptions, and the Elf is both a fighting man and a scholar of the arcane arts, and has keen senses in his own right. We'll have to see, I suppose, before the dice are rolled and the die cast. Even the lowly Theif isn't out of the question!
What does this mean for the poor Aremorican Addendum? Well, the game will still go on, the next time Tony's girlfriend comes over, but it'll be totally separate, especially since they'll be my "guinea pig" group and then we'll have a much looser organization, with each rotating Dungeon Master bringing different ideas and specialties in the game. Like a Theives' World game, roleplayed. If you will.

01 October 2010

Swords and Wizardry

I don't think I've made a secret of my love for Swords and Wizardry and in fact, with Jeff staying up at my place for a while I've been thinking about trying it out. There's just something about it that's terribly attractive to me. Maybe it's the cover art?

Might be the cover art.

Regardless, I've been wondering what, exactly, the differences between Swords and Wizardry, S&W Whitebox, and Labyrinth Lord are. I've heard that the differences between LL and S&W are minimal, and if that's true, what difference would the Whitebox make? It says that it only uses the material from the 3LBB, which is nice, but on a practical level, what does that mean? Would I gain more from trying out the Whitebox version than trying out "core" S&W?

Questions, questions.

30 September 2010

No Ideas?

This has been me for the past what, week? Great ideas while at work, awesome ideas while trying to sleep- I get home and sit in front of my computer and nothing comes out. I hate when that happens.

I don't have nearly the same beard as the guy who makes the comics, which are from ToothpasteForDinner.com.  If you haven't already, you should check them out, they're fairly silly. I like silliness.

In related news, I'm picking up my friend Jeff to take him to drill this weekend, and hopefully we can get a little bit of gaming in. Maybe. One of the best games of Labyrinth Lord was played with him. He's a creative guy, and full of energy and enthusiasm, even though my girlfriend doesn't like him for some reason. He's a fun guy to be around, and we need lots of energy to play role-playing games right.

Maybe it'll help knock me back into full creativity mode. Or maybe it's gone forever.... forever.... forever....

24 September 2010

Derivative Demihumans

There's nothing inherently wrong with being derivative. It's popular for a reason, and that reason is that, somewhere, it has a deep and enduring meaning for people. Like elves, for example. People have long since believed that there's a fey people who live in the woods, who want almost nothing to do with us. Fairies, you know? There's something in the woods because it's dark and mysterious, and dark and mysterious places have dark and mysterious people.

And the same goes for dwarves. Caverns look like they're made by something, look how smooth and vast they are. They're dark and mysterious, so we can extrapolate what dwarves are: They're hard workers, since carving out a cave is hard work. They're somewhat stern, since it would take a good dozen dwarves a long time to carve something so elaborate and gigantic. And, of course, they're mysterious and want little to do with humans, since we almost never see them and certainly aren't invited into their homes.

Orcs, goblins, and all of that tie into the civilization vs savagery sort of theme that most games seem to work on. The civilized races are pretty, and friendly, and work together. The ugly guys are mean, and bloodthirsty, and they're too stupid to work together or work on anything other than domination.

Too ugly to farm?

Which kind of makes sense. If you've got a race of weak, "pretty" people, they'd have to be good at building walls and buildings and agriculture to get anywhere. If you're strong and hearty and good at battle, you probably don't have much time to build walls and stuff, since your culture is based around warfare, raiding, and constant seiges.

But what doesn't make sense is that despite the fact that even the pseudo-fairy elves have warfare, that orcs and goblins should have agrictulture. Even if we use the classic sense of the extremely Tolkien goblins, what in the hell do they eat when they're just running around caves? Surely there's not enough blind cave fish to feed a whole colony of insane, wretched beasts. Where are their underground mushroom farms? Where are their blind cave cows? Where are their trading routes, to trade with other wretched cave goblins? Everybody has both warfare and agriculture, even the historically insane Assyrians. You know, those guys who used to flay their enemies and put the skins on pillars, and stack human heads in piles hundreds high. Those guys had some regular joes who farmed dirt and forged chains and stuff.

Of course, you could make the argument that since the evil humanoids are nomadic, they don't need agriculture. That's what the Mongolians did, after all. But they also had horses. I don't pretend to be an expert on history, or agriculture, or anything of that sort, but it seems to me that a race of people whose primary habitat is "dark and smelly caves" isn't much of a nomad. Far be it from me to tell you how to run your game of course, but it's an interesting thought experiment.

Ogre Slam-Dance

Ogres listen to Slayer. A lot.
For some reason, the idea won't leave my head, and it's crowding out my other thoughts, including the thoughts related to blogging.

So I imagine: Ogres in a mosh pit, screaming at the top of their lungs like demons, ramming into each other, throwing each other around, a circling seething pit of ogrish sinew. The wandering adventurers come across them, assuming the worst, but the ogres, for their part, gladly invite the players in.

Of course, they might not "invite" them gently. A possible case of cultural misunderstanding? To a dude eight feet tall and built like a brick shit-house, gently could involve all the grace and care of flinging the worried onlookers right into the midst of the circle pit. Or it could involve the headbutt, a common Ogrish greeting amongst equals. It could involve a chorus of bestial, gleeful screams, delight at new participants into what was already a rip-snorting party.

Ogres live a harsh life, but adventurers who don't speak Ogrish lead harsher ones sometimes.

20 September 2010


Snicker snack, motherslapper!
I remember when I was but a boy, and my father came home with the animated Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings movies (it was the mid 90s, so Peter Jackson hadn't even started on the Lord of the Rings movies yet.) If you've never seen them, they're pretty good if you keep an open mind. They're designed for children, so everything's vaguely anthropomorphic and yet undeniably awesome. The goblins whose mouths open directly to the cave floor is a nice touch, as well.

I mean, shit, this is what D&D really is to me. It's about being the little man, being careful because over there is a mountain full of goddamn goblins and they're living underneath a dragon's motherslappin' cave and by the way, there's also a hideous deformed mutant guy living in an underground lake. Badass.

And then there's Smaug. When Bilbo decides to talk to him, I remember distinctly Smaug toying with him for his own amusement, because apparently everybody in Middle Earth has a damn riddle fetish. After Smaug decides the dude's a smelly-ass human, he goes off to burn Lake Town to the ground. But not before bellowing that his teeth are spears, and his wings hurricanes and his breath is death and all of that. I think I have the video link, in case you haven't seen it. For a nearly immortal, unkillable dragon, he sure likes to brag. And man, is he bad at riddles.

Good at breathing fire, though.

But that's something that I think is really cool, and that's dragons with personalities. I'm intentionally ignoring the color-coded dragon scheme, because I think it's absolutely retarded and doesn't explain anything at all. Sure, dragons can have adapted to their preferred environment, so that a red dragon lives in mountains and volcanoes and a blue dragon could live in a desert, but that doesn't tell you a damn thing about their personality any more than the fact that I live in a forest or in the plains would.

But before I digress, I'd like to talk about dragon personalities a little. The way I see it, dragons would have an extremely long-term approach to life. They've got nothing to do, they live for nearly forever, and their only real goal is power. They'd more or less ignore human intrigues, as there's nothing really they can provide to them. I imagine dragons living a solitary life, with separate dragon politics that the ruled might not even be aware of. For instance, were you aware that you're currently in the realm of Abronaxus the Green, and that he comes every roughly 200 years for his tribute? Do you think the current ruler, Viscount Grehm knows that?

He's about to find out.
The other idea I like is that dragons would necessarily domineer other groups. The currently popular idea is that evil humanoids will serve those bad, bad dragons, with humans and elves and dwarves bravely standing up against the cruelty by fighting the dragon. And probably getting killed, too. The only smart response to a supernaturally smart, long-lived, extraordinarily powerful fire-breathing despot is servitude. A dragon's servants aren't evil or stupid, they're practical. That guy is providing you protection from whatever other minor enemies you have at the tiny cost of setting aside some of your people to make sure it's happy. I mean, hell, that's not a bad deal, especially considering that dragons wouldn't likely desire much other than to have their pride soothed by the little people they've claimed as their own, something to eat, and some treasure. That's less than some human rulers demand, to be honest. Failure to bring the dragon these things, of course, would result in a swift, flaming death. Or at least while he's awake. While the dragon's sleeping, maybe the wizard's been creating an entrapment spell for the great wyrm, or maybe the finest blacksmiths in the land have crafted a great muzzle, to stop his deadly fire. The tyranny will end before it has a chance to go on forever!

Or maybe it takes the opposite tack- maybe the dragon is heralded as divinity, with dragons being the primary recipients of worship in the kingdoms. Makes sense to me. After all, people give the entirety of their lives over to mythology they never see, people they've never met, and abstract ideals, so belief in a dragon-oriented society would necessarily be strong and devout. Here he is, the absolutely divine representation of our gods. Hell, he could even be their god, making claims that in times past, he was involved in the Great Creation, or that he was one of the Firstborn, the first dragon to crawl out of the Primordial Egg and lay claim to the vast dominion he's held since the beginning of time. He might even be telling the truth.

If you don't believe him, you and him can always have a word.

Abronaxus will see you now.

18 September 2010

Wizards with Swords

For my next stab in the dark at game design, there has to be wizards with swords.

Thou shalt kick ass.
That's really all I have to say. It's badass.

I read a post on Enworld the other day about some guy in 4e who wanted to have a wizard with a sword and dude totally had to pick up three feats to do it "right." That might be the craziest thing I've heard in a long time. It makes you wonder, why are people so afraid of houserules and making stuff up? If it was me, I'd be like "Fuck it, man, go ahead and have a sword."

When my buddy wanted to play a minotaur, we essentially just had him roll up a Fighter, and then decided that he was big and had horns and stuff. If it turned out to be important that he was a Minotaur (which it didn't, as he didn't survive the first level), I suppose we could have made something else up. If the guy decided that he wanted to have the stats of an Elf, that would've been cool, too. I wonder how malleable, as a thought experiment, the classes really are? It's kind of the tack I went with the Aremorican Addendum, where the classes are just classes and there aren't any non-human races, but by renaming and rejiggering the classes, it doesn't quite have the same impact. Plus, there isn't really an Elf class, but that Marksman never quite had a good niche with me, and it could use a bit of reworking...

Maybe not quite dual swords, but still.
We could give the Marksman the Elf's perception, and then give it nature magic and combat abilities on a one-to-one ratio, but then again, I've entirely done away with Vancian magic for the time being. It's due to be re-included, but then progress on an appropriate name has stalled it somewhat. The new Marksman could have perception and tracking and then archery bonus stuff and that could be enough to give it a good niche. Let him be the scout type character, looking around and stuff. People do seem to enjoy the scout/tracker aspect of the Ranger and the Elf, so it might even be the right way to go. Hell, it's my favorite part, too!

So on my to-do list for the Addendum:
1) Add some Vancian Magic (maybe a wizard class? who can use swords, even.)
2) Change the Marksman into a Scout and give him perception abilities instead of just straight archery bonus.

Well, shit, I'll sleep on it.

Alright, Mr. Rude.

Somehow, fautus left a comment which isn't showing up on my blog, which is fine, because it's still in my email. Here it is, his response to my post yesterday:

There are two problems here two start with: 1) egregiously offensive claims of superiority, and 2) rhetorical fail. 

1) Egregiously offensive claims of superiority

You don't get to decide what "fantasy" is. If you don't like a RPG, fine, say so, but you don't get to claim that it is or isn't fantasy. Similarly, you don't get to say that you (or you and your mates, as is usually the case in the OSR) are the arbiters of what is or isn't role-playing; you don't get to say you're better at it because you don't roll dice for intimidate. That's rude.

2) Rhetorical fail
The piece of text you quote (from me) above is my response to a strong claim made in the OP, that D&D 4e is only about combat because all the rules are about combat. My response was to point out to the OP, and to Paladin in Citadel, that D&D 4e has more non-combat rules than OD&D, and that by the rhetoric of the original post, OD&D is more about combat than 4e. As an example I gave stealth and social skills checks.

There is no claim intended that this makes D&D4e better, or that you can't adjudicate stealth in a system without stealth rules. It's a response to a rhetorical claim, pointing out how stupid it is. That is all.

The logic of the OP and Paladin in Citadel was:
1) a game that is only about combat is not role-playing
2) D&D4e rules are entirely about combat
3) therefore D&D4e is not role-playing

Putting aside the extreme rudeness of claiming to be able to define what role-playing (or "good" role-playing is), this rhetoric is bullshit, because it's obvious on an even cursory examination of any D&D rule system that the further back you go, the more combat focused the game gets. Hence my comment about a glorified wargame with some acting tacked on.

Now, it seems that in response to this there is an alternative claim being made, that the more non-combat rules there are, the less the game is about role-playing.

To which, I say - shifting the goalposts much? I also say - what is with this OSR obsession on setting the boundaries of role-playing for everyone else? And I also say: if you can't see how to turn a skill or stealth check into a role-playing opportunity you're not being very imaginative. And I finally say: if you make up a rule on the spot to adjudicate stealth or social checks (morale, anyone?) then you aren't running a system without rules for stealth - you're running a system with arbitrary, shit rules for stealth. Which simultaneously hoists you on your own petard, and gives you a shit stealth resolution method to boot.

Finally, I didn't say "it's not fair to tell me that just because I disagree with you, I'm wrong." I said it's rude to tell me that because I disagree with you I don't understand the game, which is exactly what Paladin said. It's a hallmark of the adolescent debating style of the OSR, incidentally. But that's another story. 

Firstly: You're confusing two different things. One, my claim that 4th edition isn't fantasy, and two, my claim that relying on the game mechanics to tell you what to do in every situation isn't the same as freeform roleplaying.

On the first point, sure, I'll concede that it's not very nice of me to say that 4th edition isn't fantasy. But it certainly doesn't feel like fantasy to me. Of course, this is entirely irrelevant to the discussion at hand, so you'll have to pardon me if I don't feel like defending my differing tastes in fantasy.

The second point, of course: I certainly can claim that relying on game mechanics to tell you what your character is doing isn't roleplaying, because it isn't. It's that easy. See how fun that was? It's really a fairly old argument, if you weren't aware, and very famous. Essentially, when the dice determine the outcome of a situation that one could have handled with "role-playing," then it's not roleplaying any more than rolling up your characters' stats is roleplaying. Hell, I'll even go so far as to admit that if you roll "Interrogate" and succeed, you can roleplay out the scene where you successfully interrogate the guy. But you'll notice that regardless, when you're roleplaying you're not rolling dice. The dice and you are on a separate level of play, if you will, and your social interactions don't need to be affected by the dice.

And this is beside the point. You're arguing that because I said that game mechanics aren't needed to tell you how to roleplay, that therefore I am the absolute judge of roleplaying. That's a very rude claim to make. I don't believe that adding more systems weight to the game to handle things that don't need mechanics enhances your experience, and I certainly don't believe that it's a shit resolution. You don't need rules for everything, and there are some things that, when they have rules, are a little bit silly. To use your example of stealth, I fail to see how asking the player where he hides and then deciding if the guardsman on patrol sees him is a shit resolution system. It's almost the exact same thing you do when you roll dice, except that it cuts out the part where there's random chances of failure and success and replaces them with actual thought.

I know it can be hard to think that other people have different opinions, and it can be hard when some of them aren't nice people, or when they're having a bad day. But see, it's for sensitive souls like yourself that I find every other sentence being "but that's ok," or "I've got nothing against GAME X but I dislike SYSTEM Y." In this case, it's "I don't like having systems for social mechanics, stealth, or anything else that can be handled without dice." It's really that simple.

In your system, for example, we'd roll opposing SOCIAL dice (or whatever), and then the highest guy would win the argument, or something. Then, sure, you could roleplay out what happened according to the results of the dice, but why bother with the results of the dice? I know you're probably going to take this out of context, but older editions of D&D didn't have systems adjucating social interactions or roleplaying or whatever because you don't need game mechanics for them, not because they're ignored entirely. You could argue that older editions had more combat focus by the comparitive number of rules, but honestly, I'm not sure that's true. I have the 4th edition books, and the entire Monster Manual, most of the Player's Guide, and an inordinate chunk of the DMG are entirely about combat, terrain, and powers. But I digress.

One more bit, then I've got to go: It's entirely fair to tell you that because you disagree with me that you don't understand the game, because what we're disagreeing on is whether or not older edition games are primarily about combat, and whether the newest edition of game is combat focused. These aren't really up for debate, as the documents are still around, and able to be inspected. As a comparison, I've read complaints on various forums about the length of combat in 4e. Does that or does that not speak to its focus, that people are unsatisfied with combat resolution because it takes up nearly the entirety of play?

As a final thought: If I've missed anything, feel free to let me know. As I've said before, I welcome your thought, but try and make them a little more mature next time. I'm tired of having adolescent arguments with people who don't understand the difference between my opinions and facts.