A-Z Action: Off the Wagon

Hey kids!

I’m still around, still grinding my brain on the unyielding surfaces of gaming products and fantasy media. I’ve got a handful of half-finished posts from the last few weeks, some of which will eventually make it into a form that reaches the broader nets.

I’ve also picked up a few new games; did you know Pathfinder is the hotness? Turns out that it is! I was as surprised as you may or may not be. The prospect of playing 3.x has been so unfathomable for years now; outside of Dungeons and Dragons Online, which is a heavily-modified version of the system. I’ve had occasion to check out the d20 SRD a time or two in the last months, as when I wrote about Disciplines. Every time I dipped my toe back into that vast, wordy sea—one I used to swim like a magnificent afro-having Selkie—I recoiled at the chill touch of its unfathomable depths. Despite the complaints of many, complaints perfectly encapsulated in the first few episodes of this podcast by a player horrified at pretty much everything, I’ve never wavered in my enthusiasm for 4e. I love the survivability of the characters, the options afforded to players, the ease with which a new player can pick the game up and the flavor and mechanical opportunities present for someone whose dedication to the hobby spans most of their life.

Have to admit, though, if Pathfinder had beaten 4e into my hands, I might never have switched at all. The Penny Arcade play podcasts would still have influenced me, but Pathfinder does so much of what I love in 4e, meaning that suddenly the 3.x rules seem sparkly and new. I’ve been perching in the game ads section of Myth-Weavers eying each new PFRPG game in the hopes that it’s the one I can dive into.

I also jumped into a Savage Worlds game, a small affair with a DM (the esteemed Doctor Kash, who has posted commentary on this very blog on occasion) and one other player (who reads the blog but doesn’t comment, to my knowledge). SirLarkins tried roping me into the system back when we were two crazy rare book appraisers slinging leather-backed Americana and signed ARCs, but my love of Fate was (and remains) great. Kash had an equally hard time breaking me down, but it was more because I read this article and desperately wanted to play a character who leveled into being a 4e necromancer. The game is fast-paced yet challenging, due in no small part to our playing as 10 year olds. Starting so young, we’re untrained in most skills and equally below-average in most traits. Still, we (and let me be clear that when I say we I mean Wayland, which is to say the character I’m not piloting) kicked the shit out of four wolves and were awesome.

Seriously, though, I didn’t do a damn thing during that conflict. I made a rocket sled shortly thereafter though.

I’ve been digging deeply into the nourishing platters on offer at the above-linked Gamer’s Haven, listening to hours of actual-play podcasts. I found it in order to listen to some Savage Worlds gameplay, specifically Deadlands: Room Enough to Die. I’ve long appreciated Deadlands, but always in a way that involved reading and learning about it while never playing it. I once spent a month organizing someone else’s CCG collection and never once played a game, though I built many decks. I’m also tucked into the Keep on the Shadowfell podcast I linked above, as well as a few others. It’s all been very entertaining—save those times when my DMpathy kicks in over a complaining player or group that just won’t listen to the man who’s working SO HARD to give them vistas of the mind—but it also makes the quality of the original Penny Arcade DnD Podcasts something even more precious. The podcasts I’ve listened to at Gamer’s Haven, so far, feel very genuine and true to my own half-remembered gaming experiences; people can’t always make it, sometimes someone is distracted, dice come up fuck you and everyone is sad, occasionally folks get hyper and go off on tangents or a single NPC captures the party’s imagination in a way that the epic storyline utterly fails to. I know that Mike and Gabe are professionally funny men, but seeing how well they were able to gel with Scott Kurtz and this new game system—an entirely new hobby for Mr. Krahulik, no less—is pretty shocking.

Put another way: I’m enjoying the other podcasts, and it’s nice to have something to listen to as I do whatever the hell it is I do all day at my computer. But I have every episode of the PA podcasts (all four seasons PLUS the live show at PAX) in heavy rotation. I listen to them when I’m doing the dishes. I listen to them on long drives. I listen to them as I take my daily constitutional. There’s something magic there, which is why i find myself continually hoping they’ll drop another one.

Did a lot of reading, too; last week I read seven novels.

One other thing I’ve been doing over the past few weeks, sad to say, is quitting a lot of things. Specifically, I’ve quit something like 4 games and put myself into hiatus in another 2. The inciting incident for much of this was the unfortunate loggerheads that one of the games I was playing in came to, and while I’m still very disappointed in how that shook out it mostly just highlighted how little I’ve been enjoying myself in several others. I was suddenly conscious of how much time I was spending each day logging in and checking my subscribed threads; but how little joy I was getting out of seeing an update in most of them. Since I’ve also been trying to find a job and a new apartment and so on so that I can settle into domestic bliss with my fiancée*, the acknowledgment of how much time I spent on a hobby that wasn’t giving much back eventually became intolerable. That, in turn, fed back into the decrease in my input here; I asked myself if I was allowed to write about gaming if I wasn’t spending every waking moment gaming.

But of course I’m allowed to do that. I’m a man who knows more about longswords than long division, and could more easily explain the spells per day of a 15th level Wizard (pick any edition) with 18 Int than I could elucidate the rules of baseball. And I still have some characters I love, and two of my longest-running games are entering very exciting phases: in one, we’re about to fuck a dragon most thoroughly up; in the other, we’re blade-deep in a Piers Anthony-esque reframing of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

So that’s me, then. What’ve you been up to?

*I did successfully concoct and deploy a proposal plan, resulting in fiancée get.

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6 thoughts on “A-Z Action: Off the Wagon

  1. Pathfinder is fantastic.

    I spent a lot of time and killed a lot of elves in 3.0 and its progeny, and towards the end of that cycle I had a deep hatred for the entire system. Everything felt overcomplicated and, at the same time, damnably constraining. I couldn’t go to a game without carrying thirty pounds of splatbooks, from which I would draw a single feat or an obscure rule there. I had no spontaneity, every NPC I created was an ordeal, and I had to so carefully plan out every aspect of my character only to find that the system’s constraints inevitably gave me lots of abilities and rules I didn’t care for and none that I did.

    Towards the end of the Third Era, I was playing a lot of True20 and Saga Edition, which maintained the solid core of 3.5 while maintaining the simplicity that forms rich, dark loam.

    I dived hardcore into 4e, staunchly supported the system as an evolution, and got into many arguments with gaming-store fatbeards over it. I heard lots of idiotic complaints like “You can’t roleplay in 4e.”

    While there were a lot of dumb arguments against 4e, they did overshadow very real issues- the first of which is that for all of its improvements, it still has the core problem of being run by WotC.

    I enjoy the way Paizo is handling the IP, from the richly mature settings and subject matter to the tightness of their modifications of the 3.5 rules. Pathfinder gives me that sense of excitement when I read over its character classes and possibilities, the same excitement I got when I first got into 3.0 and D&D in general.

    1. The way books were designed was very different back then; kind of reminds me of 4e’s FR player’s guide, though lots of people like the Swordmage. But I can recall picking up the latest splat book and then never touching any of the classes in it, and just using a few feats. Complete Adventurer was the craziest exemplar of that, since the classes felt like they should be cool, but none of them (save the ninja) really seemed to serve any purpose. And then there was that huge section on alchemical and roguish items…which I did eventually use, but only for a character who used things like “Yeti Fur Snuff” and “Kraken Dung Tinctures” to augment his soulknife.

      The “you can’t roleplay in 4e argument” is something I still can’t understand people saying. Mostly I just feel badly for those who see the system that way. I love walking into it and knowing I can reflavor anything as anything but still come out the other side with shit to do that looks impressive. But, yeah, Pathfinder does all of that too. Looking at the PFSRD is like viewing an alternate me through a twisted mirror…someone who strapped blades to his arms and waded deep into the edition wars, scorning 4e entirely and pitying those who played it.

      S’a little scary to realize how easily I could have gone that way.

      Btw, glad you finally got your damn blog up. Post shit in it.

  2. Ha! I knew Savage Worlds would ensnare you in its tangly grip sooner or later! ;P

    I myself am looking to start up a little one-on-one pick-up game with Des using SW starting probably next month. Should be fun.

    Thanks for the links to those podcasts!

    1. It was a looong process, believe me. And I’ve still managed to weasel in Aspects; especially in PbP, I think they’re a great way to model regaining Bennies and I like them as a replacement for Hindrances. I bristle at the idea that, in order to build my character, I have to saddle him with either A) limitations I’ll do my best to avoid acknowledging, like “Lame;” or B) things that aren’t limitations so much as character qualities, but are still too broad, like “Heroic.”

      You may have already been subjected to some of that ranting, though. Enjoy the podcasts, and let me know if you find anything at Gamer’s Haven that you think I’d like. Hope all’s well with lady and hound and giant outdoor spiders!

  3. Oh, and vis a vis Pathfinder: as you know, neither 3e nor 4e are really my style, but I too have been eyeballing PF. There’s just…something about it. Plus I really like Paizo. I hear they’re planning to release a Starter Box soon. As much as I need another iteration of D&D like I need a fauchard fork, I might pick it up.

    The buzz the last couple days in the blogging ghetto I circulate in has been the release of the open Beta of the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG from Goodman Games. Definitely giving that one a miss, but you might want to check it out simply for the laffs.

    1. PF is great because it offers so much customization, which is half of what you need to snare me in a rules-web (the other thing is ease of reflavoring, natch). It’s actually really reminiscent of Dungeons and Dragons Online in that respect, as I was reminded when I rolled a Barbarian in that game and set about customizing his resistances and the effects of his rage as I leveled.

      Multiple fauchard forks make Kobold Fondue parties much easier, in a way that a bill-guisarme can not. Though the latter are good for buttering giant pieces of bread.

      I saw your post about TPKs and, yeah, I’d be reading it mostly for the laughter. I never set out to score TPKs back in the day, and there was usually much scrambling trying to avoid them at the last minute. It’s a fine line we walk.

      And if you haven’t seen it, here’s something about Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

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