Thursday, November 19, 2020

Journal Entry 1

 It's been more than a year since I last signed in.  I live in the midwest, in a town I won't divulge here.  Let's call it New Texas since I have come to think of almost everywhere surrounding me as some sort of strange mirror world of the old West.

My name is Joe.  I am older than middle-aged.  No family.  No kids.  I had plenty of friends, good friends going all the way back to my youth but almost all of those lived on one coast or another.  Sometimes I wonder if any of them are still out there and the notion warms me.  I don't dwell on the idea for long because it might tempt me to wander off looking for them.  In some ways having fewer connections was a lucky thing.

There was a crazy shift in the political landscape.  People just got mean.  Nobody wanted to talk.  Everyone wanted to shout.  Everyone was lining up to buy a gun.  Total insanity.  Then came the virus.  That came on quick.  Before you knew it the sickness was everywhere.  Things broke down.  People tried to ride it out for awhile.  Later, a few months later, there was a few weeks of crazy violence.  Men driving around in pick-up trucks with flags and rifles and hauling the neighbors they didn't like or whose things they wanted out into the street.  Thankfully the perpetrators of the lynchings soon discovered that guns and not even masks were any protection from the illness.  Anyone that could catch it, did.  Anyone who did catch it died, usually within a day, maybe two.

I survived to this point for a few reasons.  

First.  I lived in a forgotten part of the old town where almost all of the stores were long since closed, their spaces boarded up and for sale and for lease signs in the windows for so long they had become more of a fixture for the town than the original stores they replaced.  I had a cheap, two-bedroom apartment over an empty law office that had been offered for lease for at least the last six years.  My place was reached by a back door at the top of two flights of iron stairs that rose up the back of the building in a zig-zag from a small back parking lot.  There was a narrow hallway that spanned the length of the building front to back on the second floor.  In this hall, there was a little alcove where the property owner had installed a washer and dryer mean to be shared with the neighbor.  The neighbor in this case was a businessman who leased the place so he would have a spot to land and work when he was in town, working at the company's main headquarters, which was further towards the center of town.  He was a nice guy, a few years older than me.  He was thinking about retirement.  I was lucky in that he was out of town when the virus hit and never returned.  Things fell apart so quickly.  So I had no downstairs neighbors.  No landlord to come looking for me and no neighbor upstairs either to negotiate or share with or to accidentally draw unwanted attention.

Next, there was a small corner grocery at the end of my block which was a narrowly packed row of buildings nearly connected into one mass.  The grocery closed when the virus hit and the reports of the nut jobs driving around with guns hit the radio.  I had supplies of my own.  I had what I'd decided to stash when news of the virus first hit plus I had everything in the neighbor's pantry.  I admit I was selfish and maybe a little ruthless but early on I had a sense that things were going to slide and continue to slide and the best option was holing up for a very long time.  Months if I could manage it.  

So one night I climbed out a window onto a flat section of roof and made my way from roof to roof to the roof access above the grocery store and I broke in.  I was honestly surprised that no loud alarm went off.  I assumed that some silent alarm was probably being sent to the police, if any were still out there listening for that kind of thing.  I propped the door open with a brick and I left.  I went home.  That day I stood vigil, watching between the slats of the window blinds for the police, the owner, a neighbor, anyone.  I had a little excitement when one of the pickup trucks full of gun-toting patriots slowly rolled past.  They didn't spare so much as a look in my direction.  They were probably headed downtown where there was a pawn shop, bars, and more interesting places to loot and people to harass.  The next night I went back with a big box and a red filtered flashlight.  I spent eight hours carefully, quietly emptying the place across the rooftop.  I had plenty of food.  Plenty of pop, beer, liquor, and cigarettes if I wanted them to,  Stacks and stacks.

Lastly, I assumed the worst.  After my break-in was ignored I decided in for a penny, in for a pound and I broke into the neighbors place too.   He had some nice things.  Best of all he had a large collection of books.  This was good both as a means to pass the time and because it meant he had an impressive collection of bookcases.  Some of these I dismantled and used the wood to board up most of the upstairs windows.  I did this from the inside.  Almost all of my block and the neighboring blocks had been boarded up for years.  I added my very own FOR LEASE sign in the windows facing the street in front and the parking lot in the rear.  For all intents and purposes, my place became just another locked up, empty and boarded up, run down dusty old nothing of a place above a similar such office space downstairs.

Even during the normal days before everything happened, I might not see a single soul walking on the street outside of my place for two, three days in a row.  After the break-in and the truck driving by it got quiet.  Not necessarily quiet in the city beyond but in the immediate area, quiet.  It was a month before the power began to become unreliable.  I had the advantage of having my stolen stash of a hundred or so batteries, more than enough to keep my old cd player and radio going.  I listened to the news from the world outside quietly, with an earphone.  I made it a point to keep the lights out.  Most of the power off.  I kept my head down and I didn't leave the upstairs apartment area again for four solid months.  One hundred and twenty-one days to be exact.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Dungeon Masters

First of all.  How bad am I at keeping up with this blog?!?  Gee wiz.  I need to organize my life.  Its not like I'm not busy.  Here are projects I am either currently engaged in or wrapping up for publication.

Cartography - This year I've done six maps for clients.  One map is a full sheet on parchment.  Huge.  That is an interior illustration for a novel for a client who is a published screenwriter and author with shows on Netflix, etc...  Pretty excited about that one.

Self Publishing - The Tomb of the Good King  This is a compact but exciting stand alone dungeon adventure that I will self publish on RPG now this month.  April.  Phew.  Gotta make that happen but its written and the maps are done.  All I have left is the cover.

Online Campaign and Youtube Channel - We just finished recording session nine of my online B/X campaign on my RetroDM youtube channel.  RetroDM is about old school homebrew for games like Basic Dungeons and Dragons and AD&D with demos, discussions and examples of campaign play.  I have a little over 60 subscribers now after only about 2 months of having the channel.  So working on that several times a week.  Considering upgrading or expanding to doing a twitch broadcast of the game.  That might be fun.  Also thinking of taking recordings of our live play games and my ramble youtubes onto a podcast channel.  That might also be fun.

I think the missing piece is bring it all together with this blog.  A surprising number of the OSR community members still enjoy reading print in blogs.  Its a nice way to post and keep a record of projects and thoughts.

So.  This blog post is supposed to be about Dungeon Masters.

Specifically, I wanted to take a moment to share an observation about Dungeon Masters in the wider community.  Man.  What a competitive bunch of people. 

I just watched a great creative talent and leader one of the communities to which I belong basically pack up his stuff to stop sharing because he wasn't feeling happy with the response he was getting.  Man.  I sure hope he feels differently after he gets to take a couple of days off, because I admire and love his work.  He does some of the coolest stuff. 

Now I also do cool stuff.  I'm not the best at cartography and art but what I can do I'm solid in.  Because of this sometimes I run across people that kind of throw some snarky jazz my way because of this stupid overly competitive thing some DM's have going on.  Also, sometimes I'll join a community and someone is super active posting cool stuff and then I'll post some stuff and all of the sudden its like the other guy whose work is amazing and better than mine by far will just stop posting.  Like they just got bumped out of pocket because of some goofy jazz that I've posted. 

So.  Dungeon Masters.  You've got to stop being so uber competitive with these other creative people who are also DM's.  First.  There are always going to be fifty other DM's that are better at some aspect of the hobby than you are, no matter who you are.  This is the ocean we all swim in as creative people.  Its not about who is the bigger fish.  Its a big ocean and you get to be the coolest fish you can be in it and still share that ocean with all the rest of the fish.  Also.  That dude that you sometimes feel discouraged by because of this or that reason, their cooler youtube channel or larger following or more awesome artwork or cooler miniatures that they paint - whatever it is - probably admires YOU just as much for something awesome that YOU do better than them.

Its like some of these DMs.  Not all the time but sometimes.  Its like there's this unspoken comparison and competition or need to build some kind of a pecking order that happens in these communities when really, there is plenty of room for everyone to share and be creative and innovative.

Sure.  We all have things we might want to improve in and that's good.  Even so, take some time to appreciate yourself and all the creative cool stuff that you already CAN do well.  Dungeon Masters, you are already pretty cool, creative people hosting fun games for your friends.  Embrace that.  Feel good about that.  When we learn to feel good about ourselves and accept ourselves for who we are then all that crazy pecking order, competition stuff kind of fades into the background.

Sure.  I want to be about to share the enjoyment I have in this hobby in our online communities but even more I want to read about and learn from all of your great experiences and ideas too. 

As to the DM that is taking a break from sharing his stuff, I understand.  Sometimes you just need to take a little break from the online community.  That said, man I hope you come back real soon and post more of your material.  It is SO good.  Some of the most enjoyable stuff I read online.  Don't worry about views or responses.  Its all kind of random anyway.  Some posts get a great response and some don't.  Just keep posting and keep being you and over time you'll build the following you want.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Back in the Saddle

Well, here I am, back in the dungeons of the Vintage DM.

Sorry for the long silence.  Life happens and then you get back to doing the things you like.

Here we are in March of 2020.  I have a small book project on the table for the coming months.  I have two huge client maps I am working on.  I invest a good two to three hours into each map, every day.  These are full sheets, so 22" x 30" maps and they are hand drawn.  That is an insane number of mountains, hills and little trees. many tiny trees.

Still, so excited to have maps to do for clients.

I finished two others up - both village maps earlier this month.   One I even painted with watercolors and it turned out great.  Looking forward to doing more of those.

I have a new youtube channel up.  There seems to be a lot more potential interests in my maps and art and writing than there ever has been.  So this greatly motivates me to put myself out there again.

I am also feeling much more confident now, which helps.

Well looking forward to occasionally writing something here again.

I have plenty to talk about but I'm not sure right now how much I want to share.  Man, there is some wack and fucked up shit going down behind the scenes at some of these small press publishing companies. 

I stay out of it - but man.  I could write an entire book of my own just about THE CRAZY.


Have a good week everyone.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

The Village of Gallowsthorn

Using Inkarnate to do simple ISO maps of the villages and settlements on my regional map. This is the village of Gallowsthorn. Back during the bad old days of the Kingdom of Asmogar there was a prison here where they used to inter and execute those who fought against the Wraith King. The prison is just a ruins now although one of the wizened old hanging trees can still be seen out front.
There is a comfortable Inn in the small village, The Rosethorn Inn, which was built before the Kingdom of Asmorgar and has been the only tavern and Inn within the village for nearly three hundred years.
An overgrown old segment of road, now a barely visible trail leads off to the Southwest where another tumbled ruins from the Kingdom of Asmorgar sits.

Hate for the OSR?

Over the last year or so I've been somewhat perplexed by the hate being sent online in the direction of OSR writers and game designers.

It seems to me that a few isolated instances of bad behavior by a few bad actors has been used to try to throw shade over the entire thousand or so people who have been involved in OSR fandom and creativity from the beginning.

I don't believe for a moment that the motivation at the core of the anti-OSR movement is based in some altruistic attempt to create a safe haven from the mean, bad wrong, exclusionism of old white men and their dungeons and dragons hobby.  The anti-OSR movement is about identity politics.  Namely it is about labeling people as insiders versus outsiders, good people versus bad people, with the goal in mind of ripping the hobby out of the hands of the people who were there all the way back at the beginning so that some younger, more "enlightened" group, namely the handful of actors at the center of the anti-OSR movement can become the money makers and gatekeepers of that segment of the hobby.

When you step back and watch the anti-OSR crowd play out in their own forums they are more about social dynamics and who is "in" and who is "out" in certain social circles than in anything regarding the creation of cool RPG games or campaigns based on the original rules of dungeons and dragons.  In fact very little of anything that is being produced, if anything at all, has to do with the rules from basic dungeons and dragons or 1st edition D&D - which was what the OSR movement was about in the first place.

I think that one of the things that sticks in the craw of the anti-OSR leadership is the fact that most of them cannot share a direct personal experience where they were growing up in 1976 to 1982 when RPG's were in their infancy because they weren't even born at the time.  As someone who was there and lived through the infancy of roleplaying games and early RPG clubs, I can say from direct personal experience, that we were one of the most inclusive and safest havens for people from different racial, cultural and sexual backgrounds of any social group in high school or college at that time.

Our circle of gamer friends included men, women, people who were black, hispanic and asian and several friends who were out of the closet gay or lesbian (to those of us in the game club, where they could be themselves) who were still in the closet elsewhere in their lives because of the general intolerance of the times.

The D&D kids were very welcoming.  We were the punk rock kids.  We were the metal kids. We were the goth kids.  We were the art and theatre and the band kids.  We were the math and computer nerds.  We were, together, all of us, the social outsiders of our age and we stuck together and forged bonds of friendship which have lasted for more than thirty years.

I would ask anyone in the leadership of the anti-OSR movement making spurious claims about how it was all a bunch of mean old white guys from the beginning one question.  Were you even alive and old enough to be playing in an active dungeons and dragons group or club back in 1980?  If not, what are you basing your comments upon other than a bunch of made up garbage about events happening in a time and a place when you weren't even born?

It is with some relief that I can say that I've seen the following of the anti-OSR movement slowly dwindle over the last few months.  Part of this comes from them eating themselves alive in hateful back and forths about who is more self righteous and woke.

The OSR was always about a fandom for the original, simple roleplaying games from the period of the late 1970's through the 1980's.  It was always about writing alternate rules, new dungeons and adventures and material for those out of print rules sets.  Period.

The OSR was never about excluding anybody from any walk of life from contributions of their own ideas and materials.

With this one caveat.  As with any writing or creative endeavor, it IS possible that any writer or artist may find their work not well received because it is poorly written or poorly executed or just poorly received by the audience.  While the OSR is very inclusive, if your bag is writing Furry sex roleplaying material, your work is going to probably only be of interest to a very small subset of the OSR community.  Why?  Maybe because its just not fitting into the core hobby interest of that group - which is 1970's and 80's vintage roleplaying games and not Furry fandom or sex roleplaying games.  Now there is a pretty huge furry fandom culture out there where that particular kind of RPG might find a wider audience.  Which is cool and awesome and have at it.  But don't walk into the Star Trek fan club with your game about Star Wars and get all offended when none of the hard core Star Trek kids have any interest in your Star Wars stuff.  In the same way if you want to hang out with the OSR kids then at least bring games and adventures written for those 1970's to 1980's era games with you to the club meeting.  Otherwise your exclusion has zero, zippo to do with your race or sexuality and everything to do with you bringing completely off topic material into a hobby group.  Like...bringing your passionate love of RC airplanes to the model train club.  Take your RC airplane stuff to the RC airplane club where it can be appropriately appreciated.  You won't get very far waving your RC airplane in the air screaming against social exclusionism and unfairness at the model train club...the people there who would otherwise be happy to have you join them to talk about - model trains- (go figure) will just look at you like you are completely bonkers.

So.  The OSR crowd will keep writing adventures and dungeons and zines for the hobby that they love no matter what crazy arm waving and hate spewing the anti-OSR crowd is throwing their way.  Because after all...we put up with a lot of bullshit from the jocks and the popular kids going all the way back to high school when we were the punk rockers, metal heads and goth kids in our D&D groups back in the day and we survived all that rash of BS and hate without any problem, thanks very much.

Maybe when this particular subset of the woke crowd figures out that we were woke twenty years before they were even born, they will come play D&D with us and stop throwing hate.  Like I said.  The D&D kids were always one of the most accepting groups at school, even thirty to forty years ago when it all started and there will always be an open chair for the new kid who wants to play at the long as they aren't taking a huge verbal dump on one of the other players at the table.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Town of Bolgrad

Bolgrad is the only significant town on my current adventure map.  There are several other smaller villages, much smaller really compared to Bolgrad and I plan to do these Inkarnate maps for each of them.

Bolgrad is situated on a tall plateau left behind by the activity of glaciers in the region hundreds of thousands of years ago.

Within the walls of the town there is a substantial hill.  The hill is the highest point on the plateau and it has steep grass covered slopes leading up to a stone statue of the Northern god Balder, the god of warriors and heroes.

Within the hill and below the town in the limestone rock of the plateau, there is a substantial network of natural caverns.  The caves closest to the surface and entered through a large cave mouth on the South side of the hill, have been used as burials for the people of the town since it was established, two hundred years ago.

Bolgrad is the major trade center for the surrounding lands.  The next closest substantial town of this size is the Warhold of King Gudbrand, roughly forty miles to the Southwest.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

DCC RPG - After Report

So.  I managed to get to play DCC RPG as a player tonight.

It was ok.

The DM was super nice and did a great job.  The players were super nice.

What got in the way, for me, of the game being fun was the game system.

Simple rules does not always equal fun in a game system.  Yes I know.  I am a super big advocate of early RPG games but when you create an introductory game experience for new players where the zero level characters are so ineffectual and paper thin that a single average roll...not even a bad roll...but an average roll means instant death, it just leaves me bored and unimpressed.

I felt absolutely zero investment or interest in whether any of my characters lived or died, were successful or failed and as a whole I think that most of the players were feeling the same way about their characters as well.

The comedy of your character gets shredded into a thousand bloody pieces is funny, sure, the first time or two but two hours into the "funnel" it was just boring.  No.  Boring is not the right word.

Stupid.  It was stupid.

All together I think we played about a four hour session.

At the end we got to roll to see how our "stars aligned" to get us ready to convert the characters from zero level throw aways into first level throw aways, or at least that was the impression I got.

Get this. If you rolled lower than a six on 1d20 your character, that you just did your level best to keep alive through this funnel despite only having three hit points and no actual skills or abilities to draw upon to make any of it even vaguely interesting...if you rolled less than a six, your character was zapped back in time as if nothing ever happened and you had to turn them over to the DM.

Yes, that is correct.

You spend four hours of your life playing the game trying to be clever and keep a couple of your paper thin goons alive and at the end of the game, one low dice roll and randomly nothing that you did, no creativity, nothing, allows you to keep that character. 

So.  I am going to keep playing DCC RPG in the hopes that somewhere down the road the game gets better.  I own the books.  I've read through good chunks of them and I am hopeful but reading through something and actually playing it are two very different things.

For now I am giving DCC RPG - the introductory play experience in the funnel with zero level characters a one half star out of five. 

Descriptive words for the published adventure for the funnel I would use are boring and overly simplistic.  Descriptive words for the introductory experience playing through the zero level part of the game would be...boring, uninteresting and a waste of four hours of my life that I will never recover.

If you haven't purchased DCC RPG - I would hold off until you play it a few times to make sure the game is worth the money you are going to drop on the books.  The books are cool looking and like I said, the rules once you get playing seem interesting so I am holding out hope that this will improve.

Hopefully when I post again about DCC RPG I will be able to rave about how awesome the game is after you create a level one character.