Monday, February 28, 2011

Just another Manic Monday

Nothing new today, folks. It looks like I wont be finishing that TTGN builder after all, but I'll make sure the army is finished before moving on.

In other news, I'm beginning a Rogue Trader RPG campaign over the Internet with a couple friends, and I'm beginning a Deathwatch (in person) campaign today. I've been prepping all day and thus haven't had much time for an update.


Friday, February 25, 2011

TTGN's Old Project Challenge Update

So, all the way back in November I decided I'd join this over at the Tabletop Gaming News forums. It sounded easy enough: Finish a project you had laying around, and take three months doing it, starting in December and finishing at the end of February. Easy enough for someone who isn't a lazy git.

Well, lazy's probably not the best adjective for this git; I did start rather quickly out the gate. The only problem with starting quickly out the gate is that you must have dillagence to keep on track. Perhaps I'm just a dilligenceless git.

I began with this:

And now, I just have the Infantry painted, the vehicles base coated, and the titan untouched.

And that's where I got stuck. See, I finished my infantry very quickly and even managed to get into some of the rhinos before I decided to take a break. After all, I still had about two months and was on a painting spree; I could afford some R&R. 

That's where the Urban War Junkers came in; and the test figure for my VOR: the Maelstrom Union army; and the test figure for my Warhammer 40,000 Dark Eldar; and the test figure for my Warmachine Retribution army, etc. At least I got a painted Urban War force out of the delay.

Now it's Friday and I have four days left in the challenge. Normally this would be no problem, as I'd be able to hermit myself in my house and paint until my hand formed a permanent claw from the strain, but my girlfriend is in town. 

Now I know what you're saying, and you're wrong. She's very supportive of my hobby, and I always roll my eyes at the endless list of domestic excuses people roll out when it comes to their lack of effort on their hobby. Some of them are understandable, but wives/husbands/boyfriends/girlfriends should let you have some time to yourself for your personal growth, and children sleep; so there should be plenty of time to get some work done (besides, kids make great base-coaters!).

The problem lies in that I'll want to spend most of my time with her when I'm not at work, and she comes all the way over from Victoria to see me (a 6-hour trek by public transit) for a weekend. I think that's a worthy excuse to not get some painting done. We'll see, though. She's a TA at her university and needs to get some marking/homework done, so I may be able to sit across the room at my painting table and still be company for her. 

I'll fill you in on Monday regarding my progress and we'll know for sure by Wednesday's post whether I've succeeded in this challenge or not. Regardless of the outcome I've done a heck of a lot of work on this army and even managed to squeeze another project in there. I'll continue to work on the army after the challenge is done, and hopefully take no longer than another week on it. After that, I think I'm going to work on my Craftworld Eldar for Warhammer 40,000 or possibly my Warmachine Retribution of Scyrah.

In the future I'll also have some big project logs regarding the process of building armies from scratch. I think the candidates will be Dark Eldar for Warhammer 40,000; Orcs & Goblins for Warhammer; and my American Infantry Company for Flames of War. Though, of course, these won't be all at once, or even one after the other. These are just the ones I have planned. The project logs will chronicle my army creating process from start to finish, and even showcase some games goin' on. So far on this blog I think I've only tackled projects that I've had laying around.

Have a good weekend!


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Urban War

Back in the early new millennium (2000-2003) miniatures games were seeing a pretty big resurgence. While favorites of mine like Warzone, and Chronopia were gone; games like VOR, Void, Chainmail, and Dark Age were making their way on the scene. With the exception of VOR (that came later) I played all these, and loved 'em. While my appreciation for Dark Age grew exponentially later on, at the time my favorites were Void and Chainmail.

Void was a game that took the Games Workshop game systems as a basis, and tweaked them somewhat to integrate alternative activation and range bands. I had a Syntha army and was working my way towards a Junkers force when i-Kore crashed. Thankfully, the ever persistent John Robertson and John Grant (of Warzone 2nd edition and Chronopia fame) reformed the company into the strangely-named Urban Mammoth, and retooled the Void universe into Urban War.

Now while I loved Void, I didn't much care for the universe behind it. One of its selling-points was the super-clean hard sci-fi that it presented, but for myself I was into the dark and gritty. I loved (and still do) the Games Workshop universes because of their grim and gothic styling and while the Void system was stellar, I thought the universe was too clean. Urban War kept that hard sci-fi edge but matured it to include imagery that better reflected the grittiness of urban combat. While these new models and the new art turned some of the old guard off, it made me take a second look at a universe I thought too sterile for my enjoyment.

Urban War is a skirmish game done by Urban Mammoth, a games company based out of Scotland. In it, you re-enact combats between forces of around 7-15 models a side. If you want larger conflicts Urban War has a sister game called Metropolis, which is a squad-based game utilizing ~40 models a side. The game has seven factions vying for control of the continent-sized city of Iskandria (on the planet Kyklops): the Junkers (Roman-esque penal legions); the Gladiators (an army of escaped gladiatorial slaves); the Syntha (an army of insidious androids, and cyborgs); VASA (a UN force based off Soviet imagery); the Triads (an army of yakuza gangsters); the Viridians (American-style army and environmental preservationists); and the Koralon (amphibious aliens that assimilate anyone).

Giving orders to my Junker Legionaries.

The points values and profiles are the same in both Urban War and Metropolis which is awesome, as it makes Urban War (UW) the perfect spring-board into Metropolis (Metro). At the beginning of an UW game you give your individual models orders, which not only tell you when they activate but which list of actions they can choose from. The Lock-Fire order will allow you to take more careful shots, but will restrict your movement, while the Snap-Fire order will allow you to move to your heart's content, but severely hinder your shooting.

The game also has an additional mechanic and characteristic that I've never seen in another game, called Calibre (CAL). A model's CAL can go from 0-3 and sometimes 4 with the special characters. CAL allows you to do a myriad of thing, from move faster, to avoid being hit, to taking additional actions. It represents the experience your soldiers acquire thus making them better fighters. While I'll let you in on my misgivings of this mechanic later, I think this is a great way to show experience beyond just increasing the statistics of your fighters like in Necromunda or GorkaMorka.

Gladiators moving up the field.

Other than CAL and the orders, the rest of the game works almost exactly like the old Void system. It's a d10 system using inches that utilizes charts to determine if you hit or damage your enemy. The charts are all reminiscent of the Warhammer/40,000 systems so if you know those it will just take you a little while to convert the d6 mechanic over to the d10 before you're comfortable. To hit you compare your Shooting characteristic (SH) on a table to see the d10 score you need to hit, then you roll damage which is a cross-reference between your weapons Strength and your target's Defence. There are no armor saves like in the Warhammer/40,000 systems mostly because with the probability spread with a d10 as opposed to a d6 you need less rolls to get an even flow.

Metropolis is my favorite of the three systems (UW, Void, and Metro) because I've always been a bigger fan of squad-based games than skirmish games (with the obvious exceptions of GorkaMorka and Chainmail). It doesn't have as detailed an order system, nor does CAL have as many applications as in UW, and this leads to a faster-flowing game which is a virtue when you're pushing 40 models around a tabletop. Metro also uses to greater effect these walkers called CLAUs (Capital Light Armo(u)red Units). CLAUs are also in an expansion to UW called CLAU-Team Actions but the use of them in such small games requires some jigging around of army construction. CLAUs give the game a bigger punch, as there aren't really vehicles to speak of in either UW or Metro. Therefore these big machines act as the heavy units you normally see being taken up by transports or assault tanks.

Now as much as I love these games I do have some misgivings. First of all, I think it's both great and not-so-great that they take a huge cue from the GW systems. While I have no problem with the charts used in Warhammer/40,000, it would've been nice if the games used their own systems. My one critique of the original Void (beyond the clean background) was that it seemed at times like Warhammer 40,000 with alternate activation. But like I said, I also think this is really nice because it's familiar, and it works.

I would also like a little clean-up of the orders and the CAL systems. I find the order system really unique and interesting, but it does feel a little clunky. I mean, a few of the orders allow the same things to happen but with different modifiers. I found myself having to look at the actions charts again and again even though I just got through giving the same order to a previous unit, in order to see just what Snap-fire did. I also found the same confusion with the CAL mechanic. CAL lets you do different things depending of what order you're on, and whether you're being shot at or shooting, or moving, or whatever! I think in terms of my CAL critique, a unifying of the rule would go a long way to making it less confusing. I have no doubt that after a few more games I'll have CAL and the orders under my belt, but for the early games it's a steeper than normal learning curve (though nowhere near as steep as Warmachine/Hordes. At least in those games the mechanics are the same throughout).

I've also noticed how hard it is to get into close combat, even when I played my Junkers against my friends Gladiators. Both the Junkers and the Gladiators are close-range troops, and the basic soldiers are equipped nearly the same. Not one close combat ensued in our game. We walked or ran to about 12" from each other then fired our shotguns until things died. Now granted, when setting up the table we put some weird terrain in the middle which we thought blocked line of sight when we were looming above them from our godly positions over the tabletop, but from a model's eye view we found that they did very little to obscure someone on the other side of it. I'm sure that had we put some more restrictive terrain in the middle our game would've danced to another tune.

All-in-all UW, and Metro are great games and more than worthy successors to the Void throne. I anticipate that any future games I have with these systems will be more than worth my time and effort. Hell, I can even see these games working their way into my top 10! And that's saying a lot.

Around April 2011, Urban Mammoth is coming out with a 2nd edition to Urban War which will come in a handy A5-sized paperback with full-color content (and hopefully some model pictures, which are sadly absent from both the UW and Metro rulebooks). And later this year, they're even announcing a 6mm wargame that will take place in the UW/Metro universe but back in the days of Void (so only the four galactic empires (Junkers, VASA, Syntha and Viridia) will be represented) called Age of Tyrants. Keep an eye out for this stuff. I know I will.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Warmaster Ancients Report

So last Sunday (not yesterday), I had the pleasure of playing Warmaster Ancients for the first time. In fact, it was the first time I've played Warmaster in any capacity outside of a demo game at my local Games Workshop way back in 2000 or 2001 when the game came out.

This battle was between myself playing Imperial Romans and my friend playing Britons. We decided to build our forces around 1,000pts because after that we just start doubling up on some choices we've already made. For instance, in my 1,000pt army I have four Legionaries, three auxiliaries, three archers, one scorpion, two heavy cavalry, one legate, and one commander with portents. If we were playing 2,000pts, I would just probably double everything I have. 1,500pts would probably be fun to play, as I'd add some more cavalry and some skirmishers (just to see what I could do with them), but 1,000 seemed to give us everything we wanted without becoming redundant.

We decided also to forgo the 10mm scale that Warmaster is usually played with, mostly because 10mm models aren't readily available to our local games shop (just because of the distributors they deal with), but 15mm was in abundance. Both my opponent and I built our armies using Corvus Belli's 15mm ancients range. We, of course, had to decide on a coherent basing scheme, for while we both had to use Warmaster's 40mmX20mm bases, we didn't want to have one person stick two models on a stand and another four. For regular infantry we decided on three to a stand, skirmishers two, and cavalry two (except for command stands which are 3). God help us if we come across skirmishing cavalry. We might have to put one horsey on a 40x20mm base.

Sorry for the blur. Cellphone pic.

This was also the first time I've ever played a historical wargame, so it was neat that it was done so with a ruleset that comes from a games company and designer that I'm comfortable with (Games Workshop and Rick Priestly). Rick Priestly's rules always emphasize ease of play and fun over any sort of accuracy or detail. So to a guy whose historical knowledge tends to fuzz-out any further back than 1900, I'm appreciative of the fact that I'm not bombarded by detail pertaining to the correct size of pilum and how this works in miniature.

Alright, so now that I've got the setup underway, how did the game go? Fantastically! Of course, like any ancient conflict, this was fueled by ample beer at the table, and keeping with our casual nature, we decided to play until one army loses half its units, causing it to break. Once that was decided, we set up our figures one unit at a time 90cm away from each other and rolled to see who went first.

Right off the bat, you have to make choices in Warmaster: which units to activate first is a common decision in wargames, but Warmaster throws an additional curve ball at you by forcing you to decide which commander to command those units with first. I immediately worried that I didn't have enough commanders to effectively command. After all, once my legate was finished ordering things, I'd only have a commander left! This also forced me to keep my forces together, which isn't a bad thing, but limited my mobility somewhat. Thankfully, the Roman command is well regarded, and so command 8 and command 9 are easy to roll under on 2d6. My troops moved rather well, and once we hit the enemy I saw that the Roman's success was not limited just to command.

Romans have a rule called Legion which gives the stands at the forefront a support bonus, in addition to the stands behind them (but only on the first round of combat). Combined with my 5+ armor save, I was starting combats pretty well off. Of course, my opponent not having as high a command as myself didn't help matters in his favor, as his troops had a hard time maneuvering into position.

While the Romans are pretty bad-ass, they lack numbers (I made the joke that they're the Space Marines of Ancients gaming, which I'm sure would cause the bearded legions of historical gamers to spasm). My opponent had me outnumbered almost two-to-one, but with commands of 6 or 7, there were stands that literally didn't move the entire game.

All-in-all it was a great game, and a great system. Being the fantasy fanatic that I am, I'm already looking at Warmaster Fantasy, or the Battle of Five Armies (both of which use the same ruleset), but I'm in no position to start any more projects just yet. However, this experience has awakened a desire to play more historical conflicts, so long as the rulesets remain as accessible. I'm already planning on getting my Flames of War Americans done up before autumn this year, but Rick Priestly's latest offerings (Black Powder, and the forthcoming Hail Caesar from Warlord Games) also have me dreaming of recreating past conflicts instead of making up new ones. I'd totally replicate my Imperial Roman Warmaster Ancients army in 28mm with Hail Caesar, or do a Napoleonic Prussian force, or even a Union American Civil War army using Black Powder. Again, these are dreams, and I'm not ready to make them a reality. Unfortunately 2011 looks already to be booked.

So, before signing off, I should say what my opponent and I concluded about our Warmaster Ancients experience. #1: I need to finish painting my goddamn army; #2: We need to give the rulebook another read; #3: Maybe one less beer each next time; #4: I need to finish painting my goddamn army; #5: What a great system!


Wednesday, February 16, 2011


So I missed Monday's post, yes. Mondays are a bit weird for me, as I tend to make up for all the sleep I don't get on the weekend and then gaming happens with friends. I usually do the posts the night before, but Sunday was Warmaster Ancients gaming and then I went out. Tuesday, I went to a metal concert and didn't have enough time to write anything.

Now, I'm off to Victoria until Friday. This is okay, as there isn't much hobbying happening at the moment. I totally slacked off last week when it came to painting my Epic figures, and this week is a write-off as well. I'm worried that I'll have to double-up my painting time in the one week I'll have left to finish them for the Tabletop Gaming News Old Project Challenge.

Here's what you can look forward to next week:
Warmaster Ancients report (half battle report, half review)
Urban War report (same deal as above)
Epic painting log

That should be a good week. See you Monday!


Friday, February 11, 2011

Top 5 Roleplaying Games: The (new) World of Darkness

An unlikely contender, I have to admit. For years, the World of Darkness, and Vampire: the Masquerade specifically, have been the butt of many of my gamer jokes. It has always had a reputation of being pretentious and overwrought, and maybe a little creepy. After all, shouldn't gaming be fun? Why should I sit at a table with four people I used to be comfortable imagining we're elves with? I say used to because there's something that dies in the fragile eco-system that is role-play when you're confronted with a morally grey encounter with a vampiric prostitute and a drunken changeling logger...

How, fucking, wrong I was.

Now, in the title I delineated that this is the new World of Darkness; this is because there was an old one before it. The Internet has distinguished these two by calling the current offering from White Wolf Publishing the NWoD, and the older one the OWoD. What's the difference? I don't really know. I never played the OWoD. But here's what I do know, thanks to the Internet:

The OWoD contained the following games: Vampire: the Masquerade; Werewolf: the Apocalypse; Mage: the Ascension; Wraith: the Oblivion; Changeling: the Dreaming; Kindred of the East (a V:tM spin-off); Hunter: the Reckoning; Mummy: the Resurrection; Demon: the Fallen; and Orpheus. Many of the games had some spin-offs like a Vampire game that took place in the same universe but in the Dark Ages, or a Werewolf game that took place in the Victorian era, etc.

Characteristics of these older games and settings were that they all had, what was called a, meta-plot. The meta-plots of the various games were all story lines that ran through the various games. in Mage: the Ascension (M:tA) for instance there was a technocratic group of people who were trying to take over the world, or in Vampire: the Masquerade (V:tM) there were two organizations: one called the Sabbat, and the other known as the Camarilla. They fought a bunch. One common thread in all their meta-plots was that the universe was going to end. In fact, one of the last products released for all the games was a book that dealt with how to bring your games to an end. For good.

The NWoD did away with these meta-plots and these apocalypses, and instead presented the worlds as a toolbox (or sandbox as they call it). This means that they present you with the way things are in this world and let you have it. They don't tell you about key organizations or players, just that there are these types of creatures and there are those types of creatures, now have at it. I think this is the reason I fell in love with this game in the first place. It's so freeing as a GM (or Storyteller as they call it), to be able to create my own affairs within the framework of the world. Like someone who heard rock and roll for the first time in the '50s my world was shaken when I saw the phrase "you might want to do this" in the rulebook. They might as well have said "or whatever" after a key part of a mechanic. I never had more fun crafting a campaign.

There, of course, were some rules differences but I can't rightly explain them, as I've never even cracked an OWoD book beyond the opening chapters of the V:tM rulebook. What I want to get at with the meat of this article is the NWoD currently supported by White Wolf Publishing.

The system is intuitive and fantastic. You have a characteristic, or a power, or a skill that is measured by a number of dots (•) that go from • to •••••. In order to succeed at an action you find the characteristic and the skill/power/trait that go together with the action you want to attempt. Then you roll your number of •s in d10s. You need 8s, 9s, or 0s to succeed with 0s giving you additional rolls. If you roll at least one of these numbers, you've succeeded. If you roll more, then you succeed harder. If you roll none, then you fail. Easy.

Combat is simplified as well. A couple of the gamers in my group who have played the OWoD have had some complaints about the combat system but I really like it. Let's say you want to shoot a guy. You'd roll your Dexterity characteristic and your Firearms skill together in d10s. Let's say my Dex is ••• and my firearms is ••. I now have five dice. If I were throwing something at him, or punching him the guy would subtract his Defence characteristic from my dice pool, but I'm shooting him so he doesn't (it's hard to dodge bullets). Instead he's got a Kevlar vest which takes 2 away from any firearms dice pool. I now roll 3d10 and look for 8s, 9s, and 0s. I roll an 8 and a 0. I pick up the 0 and re-roll it giving me a 3. I still hit twice with the 8 and the original 0 so I do two points of lethal (as opposed to bashing or aggravated) damage, and we see if the guy dies.

Beyond that each of the settings has their own special rules on how to use powers, or create supernatural characters, but I'm not going to focus much more on the rules because the game itself likes to put story before rules anyway, so let's move on.

Mage, whatever. This leads to a nicer cohesion between the various supernatural beings in the setting and can even allow for your group to contain a Vampire, a Werewolf, a Mage, and a Changeling, though this isn't very common, and all those groups have very good reasons for never wanting to hang out with each other at all.

So what is the World of Darkness? Well, it's our world, but darker. Despair runs thicker through the streets, over which loom gargoyles and other forms of Gothic architecture. Cities are more corrupt, crime and violence is everywhere, and law enforcement and heroes are few. This world is inhabited by dangerous things that lurk at the edge of light: Vampires, Werewolves, Spirits, demons, ghosts; and these dangerous things are the people you play.

Of course the game is as depressing, or as evil as you want. In my last (and first) Vampire: the Requiem (V:tR) campaign there was a creepy Nosferatu Vampire, striding the alleyways next to an amoral Kindred (Vampire) who seeks only knowledge, a lone wolf criminal, and a wealthy eccentric who was on a mission to find the killers of his father and a missing girl from his past. They actually banded together and chose the lesser of two evils threatening Vancouver.

After I really got into these games I began to see past what some people would consider pretension and overwrought drama of these games and see a very well-constructed platform from which to launch adventures taking place in the modern age (or in the past, as the Requiem for Rome book allows you to do). Not only was I intrigued by being allowed to play "serious" games in modern times, but I really liked the story emphasis that seems to seep from even the character sheets. I've played through Vampire: the Requiem, but next up a friend of mine will be running a Changeling: the Lost (C:tL) game also set in Vancouver, and just after the events of the Vampire campaign. It's a brilliant sense of continuity, and I relish the thought of being able to play on the other side of the Storyteller's screen. This is definitely one of my favorites and I can't wait to revisit the dark streets of the World of Darkness again, and hopefully regularly.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Urban War Army Builder Part 2

Now here's something interesting. Instead of posting erratically with up to a month in between posts, I post out of my new schedule a full day after a regularly-scheduled post! I amaze myself.

Yes, it's true. The first finished army of 2011! My Urban War Junkers. Bask in their red glory.

So there you have it! The first three pictures are of my 160pt Urban War force, and the last picture is of the whole squad (plus a Flame Thrower guy who goes in another squad and an extra guy) which will form the basis of my Metropolis force. I'm very excited, and I hope I get a game in either this week or next. For my 300pt force I'm adding two Sandrunners, an Exo-Suit, and a Lictor.

You'll also notice that there's some Epic Blood Angels' Rhinos in the background. They are but one color away from being finished, and then no marine shall have to hoof-it! I'm well on track with my Epic painting, but I can't relent. I need to get them done by the end of the month. Not only for the contest I'm in, but in order to keep to my (already jam-packed schedule).


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hump Day Update (but not in the way you're thinking)

So nothing terribly exciting; just an update.

I'm hoping to finish my Urban War Junkers by the end of the week (for realz!), and get a game in next week. Though, I'm off in Victoria again next week so it might be the week after that. Man! Months are short!

However, I will have a Warmaster Ancients game this Sunday. I'll provide a full report for Monday's post, however it will be woefully devoid of pictures, for my models are, sadly, still unpainted. I've tried to make a larger effort to play with painted figures this year, but my formidable opponent really wanted to get a game in soon, so I relented. It will be 1,000 points using army lists form the Warmaster Ancients rulebook. I'll be using my Imperial Romans and he'll be using his Britons (most of which are naked models, tee-hee!). We broke with the Warmaster tradition of 10mm models and opted for 15mm models based three to a stand, mainly because 15mm ancient models are easier for us to get a hold of.

In other news: Epic fever still has a grip on my group. I'm definitely going to be finished my Epic Blood Angels by the end of this month, giving me 6,000 points of space marines painted (my other 3,000 points is in Dark Angels). A friend of mine is putting together a Baneblade-heavy Imperial Guard list and another friend is doing a White Scars list. To top off the Epic madness, I've received from another friend a rather large collection of plastic Epic Squats! My god! These would be the first Squat models I've ever owned in any capacity. I'm giddy with joy! I went through them this night and I have a lot of figures in those two, tiny, boxes. Unfortunately the metal bits are hard to come by, but I'll keep my eyes open. Though as it stands now, I'm sure I'll have enough plastic figures to do 4,000 points easy.

Probably by Friday I'll have a Junker update as well as the final installment of my series on the Top 5 Roleplaying Games. Next month I'll begin my next series on the Top 10 Miniatures Games.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Top 5 Role-playing Games: Dungeons & Dragons

Note: The quality of this article is not up to my usual standard. While I don't like churning out schlock, I did on this occasion for the sake of beginning a regular schedule of posting I've been meaning to do for a long time. Paradoxically, I decided to publish a sub-par article for my own good. At the very least I'll get back on a regimen. 
The reason for this sloppy posting is the heaviness in my heart for a friend who passed away February 1st, 2011. Not at all to turn this tragedy towards myself, but I just couldn't muster up the energy to give 100% on this article. Though we weren't terribly close, I've had nothing but great interactions with this man, and I'll miss his presence in the gaming community. 
Adrian Nelson was not only a fellow Vancouver gamer, but a kind and fun person who succumbed to health problems too soon. A gamer, actor, and Viking enthusiast, he will be missed by everyone in the Lower Mainland who pushes 10mm fantasy and historical soldiers around on the tabletop. My condolences go out to those who knew him better, and to his family. 

Now here’s a classic. If you’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) before, then you’ve definitely heard of it. It was the first role-playing game and it’s still as great today as it was 35 years ago. Currently the game is in its 4th edition, and while it’s drawn a lot of controversy I do believe that it’s the best game to bear the D&D logo.

I began my foray into D&D during the mid-90s during its 2nd edition. Back then it was called Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition (AD&D2E) and it was done by a man named David “Zeb” Cook, who, as far as I know, isn’t doing any games design these days. The game represented mystery to me. I had always heard of this game, but I had never played it, and wanted to see if it was as dangerous and Satanic as the public made it out to be. It wasn’t, of course, but it was very mysterious, and seemed endless in its possibilities.

You see, the D&D books presented no particular world; it was all just generic fantasy art, and concepts. Sure they had settings like Greyhawk, the Forgotten Realms, and Dark Sun, but the idea behind D&D is that the game is a toolkit that you can use to create your own fantasy world.

Without getting too much into the mechanics of the various editions (they’re all similar in many regards, and I’m not familiar with the earliest editions of D&D), I’ll explain how the game works: It uses all of the basic polyhedral dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, and the ubiquitous d20). One would roll a d20 to resolve most actions, trying their best to roll as high as you could (though low rolls were sometimes desirable in the earlier editions). In D&D4 you roll a d20 and add any modifiers based on your skills, then compare to a certain defensive number of your target, or to a number set by your Dungeon Master (DM) in the case of skill checks. Then on a successful attack, you’d roll your damage dice (each weapon or attack possessed a different die).

After AD&D2E Tactical Studies Rules (TSR), the owning company of D&D went bankrupt. The reason cited for this is that they overextended their novel publishing arm and during a year of very bad sales, were forced to refund the book chains the money paid for the books. Wizards of the Coast (WotC), the makers of Magic: the Gathering, bought TSR’s stuff for $1,000,000 (all of this info is courtesy of the D&D coffee table book). WotC had the foresight to keep D&D alive, despite dwindling sales of RPGs at this time (mid-to-late-90s), and in doing so save an industry.

In this gamer’s humble opinion, the d20 license saved role-playing. Many have claimed that it created a homogenous industry, but I think that’s ascribing the d20 system to the natural decline of many role-playing games at the time. In 2000, WotC re-did D&D for the 3rd edition. They dropped the “Advanced” off the title, and made the rules free for any developer to use and create their own games (called the Open Gaming License (OGL). This was the shot in the arm that created many games companies that are around today, gave us some great titles, and gave some older titles a second life. Games like Deadlands, and Cyberpunk saw reprints in d20 form, while games like WarCraft, or Conan: the Barbarian saw pen-and-paper versions for the first time. Now many games companies have sprung back from the days when everything used the D&D3 rules, and the license is not as common as it was ten years ago, but the industry is healthier because of it, and now many other companies aren’t afraid of opening their doors to other publishers to use their mechanics (Savage Worlds, FATE, etc).

In 2008 the D&D3 system had grown too big and unwieldy. What was once a clear and concise game had its boundaries blurred, so that wizards and fighters were little different than each other. What the industry needed was a shot in the arm again, and in order to break away from the homogeneity that it helped create, D&D4 was established. D&D4 is a more dynamic and cinematic game system. It definitely takes some cues from the video gaming industry, which is reaching Hollywood-ish proportions. In a form of true reciprocity, D&D borrowed from the very industry that borrowed from it. As a result D&D4 just has more for you to do! There are more options during character creation, and combats are more dynamic, with more movement, and more description. No longer do you sit there and stab the Gnoll with your sword; instead you’re taunting that Gnoll so that its attacks are directed away from your friends, whose attacks are bolstered by your other companions, all so the rogue in your party can slash at the Gnolls legs, not only causing damage, but hamstringing the poor creature as well.

Now, of course this game is critiqued as being too much like a Massively-Multiplayer Online RPG (MMORPG, or just MMO). But as I stated before, it’s only borrowing from something that it helped create. D&D is growing, and it needs to. Sure RPGs are not in the danger they were in ’97, but that’s not to say that the industry is invincible. Companies like Fantasy Flight Games are creating RPGs that are hybrids with other forms of gaming (Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd edition), while the “Indie” role-playing market (which celebrates more esoteric game mechanics) is rather big and desired by many role-players. And if I may be so bold, I believe that D&D4 is more faithful to the original D&D than the previous two editions, which tended to bleed the various player classes into one another. In this edition, a rogue is a rogue, and a wizard is a wizard, and there’s no mistaking a cleric for a druid, or a barbarian for a fighter. Each has their own roles that they play within the party, and help to create these great synergies, which make playing this classic game all the more exciting.

In short, D&D is one of my favorite role-playing games of all time. While the newest edition is my favorite, the previous games each had their charm, and I had fun playing the previous two editions that I had. After all, I wouldn’t have played them for the twelve years before D&D4 that I had if I didn’t like them.