Tuesday, August 14, 2007

More Wargaming info

OK - back in the left ring, is a bunch of wargaming info for me. I still try to do a little board wargaming when I can, and below is most of the games I still play.

Firstly, I still play original Squad Leader - and I have the Cross of Iron and Crescendo of Doom additions, although I'm still looking for a replacement for my G.I. Anvil of Victory supplement. I also play Rise and Decline of the Third Reich, Arab-Israeli Wars, Panzer Blitz, and Panzer Leader.

I also have almost everything for Advanced Squad Leader - in fact, the module I'm still looking for about the Invasion of Italy only came with one map board (number 9) and is fairly hard to come by.

I'm willing to play virtually any tactical board war game. And if you hvae a copy of Harpoon, I'd love to talk to you. I also have a bit of experience with other Avalon Hill wargames as well as
"Wooden Ships and Iron Men" and many others.

Next, in the center ring, some info about the RPG's I play...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

What =are= you talking about?

OK - here in the left ring today I'll try to explain some of the things I'm talking about.

Veteran gamers may want to skip this post, as it is likely to repeat stuff you already know, so with that in mind...

What is a Gamer? In this blog, a gamer is defined as a person interested in playing games - specifically games like:

role-playing games (the best known is "Dungeons and Dragons"),

collectible card games (the best known is "Magic the Gathering") ,

miniatures games (the best known is "Warhammer"),

board wargames (the best known is probably "Advanced Squad Leader"),

board games (examples include "Settlers of Catan" and "Carcassonne"),

card games (=not= poker, but games like "Munchkin" and its spin-offs),

LARPS (an abbreviation for Live Action Role Playing Systems and the best known is "Mind's Eye Theater"),

and the newer constructible card game (the best known is "Pirates").

Gamers generally get together in small to large groups to play their games. In most cases, very little is used other than dice (of several unique shapes and sizes), a pencil and paper, and a =very= fertile imagination.

Some abbreviations you may want to keep on hand for later posts:

RPG = Role playing game
FRPG = Fantasy role playing game
CCG = collectible card game
D&D = Dungeons and Dragons
GM = Game Master
GURPS = Generic Universal Role Playing System.


d4 = a four sided dice shaped like a pyramid with which you can roll a number between 1 and 4.

d6 = a six sided dice exactly like the one in many ordinary board games sitting in your closet, and used to roll a number from 1 to 6.

d8 = an eight sided dice that's shaped like two pyramids stuck together at the bases with which you can roll a number between 1 and 8.

d10 = a ten sided dice frequently numbered from 1 to 0 (zero) where the zero equals 10. However, there are examples of digital dice (numbered from 10 to 00 in increments of ten) and twenty sided d10 where they are numbered from 1 to 0 twice. It's used to roll a number from 1 to 10.

d12 = a twelve sided dice numbered from one to 12.

d20 = not the game rules, but a dice you can use to roll a number between 1 and 20. Almost all of these are numbered from 1 to 20, although there are strange examples I won't go into here...

Percentile dice = two dice numbered from 1 to 10, one of which is a noticeably different color than the other, with which you can roll a number from 1 to 100. You read one color as the 'units' and the other color as the 'tens'. You must tell everyone before starting which one is which. I have deep yellow dice, one with white numbers and one with black numbers. Most of the time, I tell people black controls (which means it is the 'tens' digit).

Yes, there are other dice. I personally own a d16, a d24, a d30, and a d100 (the last looks like a extra large golf ball with numbered dimples from 1 to 100). That one isn't very useful. Dice are generally made of high-impact plastic, but I've seen metal dice and other types. They come in a bewildering variety of colors. I prefer larger dice, with easy to read numbers for both me and my players/game masters.

More tomorrow...

Starting with Dungeons and Dragons

And in the center ring - some thoughts about my beginnings with Dungeons and Dragons and how it led me to meet people who would later become well known in the field of RPG's.

As I mentioned earlier, my start with gaming came with board wargames. I think I've played quite a few now, looking back, but at the time there weren't any role-playing games.

Therefore, I can still remember being huddled over a copy of "Outdoor Survival" with some medieval miniatures and looking for a way to do some of the stuff in a new book we had just finished reading called "The Lord of the Rings" and wishing there was a way to recreate some of the battles in that - including the magic. A friend sent me a copy of "Chainmail" to look at. My copy had a silver-like cover and was bound with plastic binding like I'd use in school. This was a whole lot closer to what I wanted, and I wrote the company and asked them what their next step was going to be. Shortly after, I got a copy of some rules in a larger brown envelope with a note from Gary Gygax that basically said, read these, get back to me, and tell me what you think.

They were, of course, the prototype rules for Dungeons and Dragons. I ran a few of the better ones past the game group I had. "What? You mean we =can= use elves in an army? Cool!" and "What? You mean I can =be= an elf? Cool!" We shortly thereafter had many comments to send back. A few months later, we got a larger package. Inside the plain box (no cover art at all) was the first of the Dungeons and Dragons books - "Men & Magic", "Monsters & Treasure", "Underworld & Wilderness", and one small set of sheets that collected all the important charts (almost like a Dungeon Master's Screen but that would come much later). We used these for a long time and sent info back and forth to the people at the other end. I've got a copy of "The Strategic Review" # 1 around here somewhere.

I'm still not exactly sure how the leap between the miniatures skirmish rules of Chainmail and the role-playing aspect of D&D got made, but I, for one, am glad they did. We abandoned the "Outdoor Survival" board and began running and playing this new game. In the beginning there were few choices - just fighters, magic-users, clerics, thieves, elves, and dwarves. These =were= the character classes.

I started looking for a store that carried the game, as Gary Gygax had mentioned in letters that it had gone under many revisions and printing changes. Finally, my search was rewarded. I found another boxed set of the original Dungeons and Dragons rules - and some new ones besides, with names like "Greyhawk" and "Blackmoor" and "Eldritch Wizardry".

These books opened up whole new realms of possibilities. Greyhawk and Blackmoor not only gave us new character classes but some ideas for adventures - or scenarios. And the Wizardry book, if I remember, gave us some new spells. Later came "Gods, Demi-Gods, and Heroes" and a total revision of the Chainmail rules to "Swords and Spells" (for those still running miniatures battles).

A bit later, I got word that Dave Arneson had left TSR to join another fledgeling company called Judges Guild, and that he would be putting his Blackmoor campaign out in quite a bit bigger format. I got involved with Judges Guild at a very early time, and soon had quite a collection of Judges Guild products including "First Fantasy Campaign" (which is where Blackmoor was for =many= years). I also kept up with Gary Gygax and Dungeons and Dragons, and bought many of their early adventure scenarios which had come to be called 'modules'.

So I knew people like Gary Gygax and company, Dave Arneson, Bob Bledsaw, and many other people that are now known names in FRPG's before they became famous.

And now. in the right ring, some other thoughts.

How I played a wargame with Fletcher Pratt

OK - for today, in the left ring, how I managed to play a wargame with Fletcher Pratt.

A =long= time ago (longer than I want to remember) as a very young boy I got dragged along to some of Dad's activities. Dad was an old Navy man, and spent lots of his free time on the local military base chatting it up with old friends. Of course, as a young boy, I found these incredibly boring. One day, Dad told me that we were going to the base, eliciting yelps of dismay from me. Dad countered, however, by saying that he had something for me to do at this one that he thought I'd enjoy.

So off we went to the military base. There, in a large gymnasium, was set on the floor dozens of huge ship-like things made out of paper. (I found out later that these are called 'counters', although I said "Aren't they a little big for that?") I was also given a large piece of paper with a number on it to hang around my neck. Basically, what happened is, that someone would say something like: "Number Six there - move that counter number 45 up three tiles" and someone would go and move the counter/ship numbered 45 up (meaning in whatever direction it was pointing) three floor tiles (about a foot on each side).

During a lull in the action, I went over to one of the people that was calling out to us kids. "Excuse me, sir, but are all of these pieces of paper supposed to represent boats?" He looked at me kindly and said: "They're ships, but yes." "And when you get to where you meet in the middle you get to shoot at each other, right?" "Yes..." A flurry of questions followed.

Unbeknownst to me, the man I had selected randomly was Fletcher Pratt. He took the time to answer my questions, and then said, "Why do you ask?". I responded by saying that I thought that this game was the coolest thing since Saturday Morning Cartoons. Then he floored me. "How would like to move one of my ships?" I took to that like a duck to water. I moved =my= ship on the other side of a large island and then asked, "Can I talk to the other ships?" "Well, yes, but you do that to me." "Fine. From this side of the island I can see lots of other ships." "Ah! That's the attacking force. You stay there as long as you can, report to me where and when they move, and I'll make sure it's worth your while."

So for the next little bit, me and my little ship stayed put - and basically helped Fletcher Pratt re-win the Battle of Midway on a gymnasium floor. Of course, I didn't find this out until years later. Now back to the mission. Mr. Pratt later handed me a copy of Harpoon, and took the time to tell me how it worked a lot like the big one laid out on the gym floor, but much smaller. I opened it and saw little ship counters, some small and some large, and a large board to move them on. There were also islands and other things in the box. I took this to school and found, to my delight, one person that wanted to learn how to play.

Thus began my career in gaming. We started with Harpoon, then, on Fletcher Pratt's recommendation, moved to one called "Wooden Ships and Iron Men". Shortly thereafter, I received word that Mr. Pratt had passed away. That's one of the times I thanked God that he took the time to pass on to me a love of gaming. I joined a few gaming clubs and learned many board wargames like "Squad Leader," "Panzer Blitz," "Panzer Leader," "Arab-Israeli Wars," and "Advanced Squad Leader." I regret to say that my Fletcher Pratt copy of Harpoon got lost in a move many years ago, but I'd love to find another copy. The original Harpoon I remember is long gone, although there is a current version called "Harpoon 4.1" that from its name sounds like a computer game (and there is a computer version of Harpoon) but it's a board wargame.

Now for the main event - in the center ring today are a few thoughts about my start in Dungeons and Dragons...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Three Ring Circus

And now, ladies and gentlemen, for your entertainment and enjoyment, I present.... (drum roll) ...The Gamers Circus!

In the center ring will be various thoughts on role playing games. I will try real hard to post something for the center ring every day.

But the other two rings will feature assorted acts of the non-RPG variety. I like customizable, collectible, and constructible card games, LARPS, miniature gaming, board wargaming, board games, card games, in short, if it has anything to do with gaming you'll find it here eventually.

I've been a gamer since a very young age - I started by learning the basics of board wargaming on the floor of a school gymnasium with the likes of Fletcher Pratt! I've played Harpoon, Squad Leader, Advanced Squad Leader, Panzer Blitz, Panzer Leader, Arab-Israeli Wars, Merchant of Venus, and many other board games before discovering my love of RPG's with "The Little Brown Books" of Dungeons and Dragons. Since then, I think I've either played or game mastered almost anything that's reasonably well known, and several more that are not so well known.

I'll be sharing some of my years of info with all of you, and you can let me know if there's anything you'd like to hear more about. Tomorrow, however, I think I'll move to the left ring and explain how I learned the basics of Harpoon from Fletcher Pratt...

Until tomorrow then...