17 December 2015

The Sadness of King George

George Lucas and some things he made.
No gaming talk today. Star Wars is foremost on my mind.

I feel sorry for George Lucas. He made one of the most popular movie series in history, and the new installment is premiering to very good reviews. Mr. Lucas is not taking part of the fun because this is not George's Star Wars.

Last month he talked about fretting seeing the film which director J.J. Abrams invited him for a private screening. I can see how he feels. He was Star Wars. It was his baby (with a lot of Gary Kurtz, the original co-producer whoquit when Lucas started turning Jedi kid friendly to sell those toys, and the forgotten Marcia Lucas, who helped shape the story and wasthe film editor that saved the Star Wars from obscurity in 1977. After he divorce from George Lucas in 1983 she has been excluded in the official history of the original trilogy, but it was a bad time for them both and he does not speak her name, only referring to her as his ex- when he has to). Now it belongs to Disney and a new era of writers and directors.

After the prequel trilogy, this is not a bad thing. All the new filmmakers grew up on Star Wars and get it, even if the prequels and the changes to the original trilogy show Lucas himself does not get what made the original three so good.

George and Marcia Lucas
Disney, after the purchase of the franchise, let Lucas make a pitch for Star Wars VII. They rejected it and announced they were going in a different direction. Around that time Lucas announced he was “done with Star Wars.” After seeing the new film a few weeks ago he avoided giving his opinion, only that “the fans will love it.” I interpret this as an acknowledgment that a lot of the fan base was disappointed with the prequels, and this is not what he would have done.

Martin Scorsese in on the record saying Star Wars was a terrible thing to happen to Lucas, moving him away from the other projects that could have had him be a great film maker with edgy films similar to THX-1138 or American Graffiti. Instead, Lucas turned to further escapist entertainment: the good (Indiana Jones) and the bad (Howard the Duck), and except for the prequels, giving up directing. Lucas could have done both big-budget fun and serious films, like his friend Steven Spielberg, but Scorsese points out how much Lucas changed in his career goals because of the success. Also, success changed his storytelling goals as well.

Original poster is worth big bucks
We have a past of what could have beens. The Revenge of the Jedi that did not have little teddy bears beating an advanced technological force, which I would have loved. Also, the bad was avoided like young street-urchin Han Solo with his adopted father Chewbacca in Episode III (yeah, that was an idea), or Boba Fett and Vader being brothers. Or Jar Jar, no wait, that happened. Some things cannot be unseen.

It looks like Disney and J.J. Abrams have a hit on their hands. Let's not forget who got us here in the first place. Lucas is an interesting duality that has played out over most of our lives. Let's not bad mouth him, he gave us something we cherish. This is his son going off to college, and he is the dad in the empty nest.

19 November 2015

Looking in the Crystal Ball: Hasbro has another great plan for WoTC

I am just waiting for the bomb to drop on a decision from Hasbro that will hamstring D&D 5e. Let's look into the crystal ball and see what is coming next year:

"Wizards of the Coast, under orders from the geniuses at Hasbro, reveal a new source book for Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition: The Bard's Handbook featuring a first for the RPG hobby:  full karaoke MP3 downloads!

Said Martin Pimpletrout, vice-president of new ideas at Hasbro, "Kids love RPG's. Kids love karaoke. Kids love downloading. Say no more."

Wizards licensed over 100 popular songs and provided the backing tracks as downloads for player's MP3 units. 'Kids love MP3s. Say no more,' exclaimed a very excited Pimpletrout. When the person playing the bard wants to cast a spell or give bonuses to other characters, he whips out his mobile device, plays the track and sings the song. Pimpletrout cannot stop talking, 'The song may be a popular one, but we changed the words to fit with the D&D theme. America Pie becomes Faerunian Pie. When Doves Cry becomes When Orcs Die. We Don't Need Another Hero becomes Waterdeep Needs Another Hero. Say no more.'

The Bard's Handbook comes with a code for four karaoke downloads, with more available using a web code, available in collectible foil blind packs.

12 November 2015

The Saga Continues... Again

Not old, it's a fine vintage.
In my last post I talked about the excellent new, fan made, edition of West End's Star Wars RPG. Here is another well done find, a source book for the Old Republic era made famous in a great video game (and its mediocre sequel), the current MMO, and Dark Horse comics. Lots of adventure here in over 400 pages.

Also at the d6 Holocron, books for Star Wars Rebels and more. Star Wars d6 will not die.

Follow this link to the d6 Holocron.

10 November 2015

The Saga Continues

I have a place in my heart for two things: West End's Star Wars RPG (the d6 version) and fan productions. So this new release is nothing short of AWESOMESAUCE.

click me to see it BIG!
The REUP team (revised, expanded, updated) has issued an unauthorized update to the second edition, revised and expanded, which was the final release of the game. This updates the game to include a lot of new content from episodes I-III and the legends stories (formerly the expanded universe, now totally non canon). You can play it without the legends material. I hope that they do another edition with information only for canon material (the TV shows, movies, new novels, and Marvel comics). However, this is full of excellent material that will serve Star Wars d6 players for a good while (heck, I just watched a group playing the last West End version at my local FLGS).

The alternate, cool retro cover
It also gathers much of the material from other Star Wars books, making it the most complete versions of the game ever.

Fan materials are often good but unorganized and unappealing. Not here. This looks totally pro, and will look great if you get it printed on-demand. It reads well. It has all the good "teaching you to play" material that the old books were famous for.

I hated all the d20 versions of Star Wars. I think the Fantasy Flight RPG currently available is pretty good, but to me d6 was simple, cinematic fun, and I am glad it is not dying.

You can download it here (its slow, I'll try to find a better link).

20 October 2015

Tech Week: The 3D Printing Revolution

For a while now, 3D printing has been, while not affordable, within the budgets of many enthusiasts. This year we have seen the debut of machines as low as $350. This price range put it as a prime gift under the holiday tree this year.

If you do not know, a 3D printer is a device that takes a 3D computer generated image and prints it out bit by bit out of plastic (commercial ones can also do metals). A bit of time (depending on complexity anywhere from 10 minutes to a few hours for a miniature), and voila, you got a nifty thing to add to your game. It also has plenty of other applications, but let's stick to the good stuff.

For gaming you do not need a large unit if you are building 28mm objects, which the lower priced machines tend to be small. You can design the objects yourself in a 3D modelling program, but for those of us lacking the ability there are repositories on the web with plenty of models ready to go, and more being added everyday.  Some cost money, usually not a lot, and there are tons of free models as well. Models can be miniatures for RPG and wargames, markers, terrain, just about anything you can think of. Also, they are easy to resize, so you can print larger or smaller as needed.


The future of gaming and 3D printing is approaching fast. As you can see, the price is hitting the right mark, models are available, and the pros are beginning to enter the market. The first is Fat Dragon Games, known for their download and print paper terrain has a Kickstarter for their new product: Dragonlock. These are pay once/print all you want terrain pieces for your 3D printer. The models will be available through DriveThruRPG.

Other companies are soon to follow, and I am sure it will include the big boys. Reaper is in a good position to enter the market as they have been 3D modelling their minis for a while. Other companies do as well, and miniatures not is software can be 3D laser scanned with relative ease. Who will be the big breakout company? Reaper? Warlord Games?

There will be holdouts. I cannot see Games Workshop entering the field until it has no choice, and that choice may not be their standard competition. Entering the digital realm means the chance of piracy, and with their price point, GW will be hit hard, IMHO. With 3D scanning, expect to see their miniatures on the web sooner than later as 3D scans.

Note: I am not advocating this. It is just a fact- it will happen. Soon.

It will be hard on these larger companies who have their business model and their resources tied to the physical product. They will be slow to adapt and losses are inevitable. Also in danger are the FLGS, as they are already losing sales to online books. The next few years are going to see some big changes in the gaming industry.


Here are a few places to download 3D models. Some are free, some are paid, all are interesting to peruse.

Time Portal Games ($12 for 75 28mm minatures. Good deal)
Shapeways (mainly a print service, but has models for download as well)
Printable Scenery
Makerbot's Thingiverse

19 October 2015

Tech Week: Quick Dice Roller

I have been looking for the best dice rolling app for my Kindle Fire, and finally have found one: Quick Dice Roller from Ohmnibus. 

My search has had me download many dice apps, but it has been hard to find one that handles my needs. Most have been 3d dice programs that let you roll D&D dice by shaking. They look nice, but are slow and frankly if I wanted to roll realistic 3d dice I would roll... actual dice!

Most apps are aimed at the D&D player, offering the polyhedral set, but with no options for other games. You might find a roller that does another system, such as a World of Darkness dice pool app, but nothing else. I play a lot of Savage Worlds and found only one dice roller for it, but it was difficult to use, and kind of ugly to look at. All I want is a flexible roller that has a roll history, and is simple in design and fast. Free would be good as well.

Enter Quick Dice Roller. It handles dice for lots of games. Shadowrun, new and old World of Darkness, D&D, HERO, Dystopian Ward, and a bunch more. It can be adapted to other games. This is because it uses a programmable dice model. You build the die and how it works from a number of functions. Oh, BTW: It's free!


To use it you open up a new dice bag to hold the dice for your game. Next, define a die. To do this you give the die a name and description, and then enter in the function to make it work. Functions can be as easy as:


That rolls a d20. Want to add a modifier, you can do that in the formula. Perhaps your attack with a longsword is d20+4.


To roll a six-dice pool in New World of Darkness, with a target of 4:


See, easy. It does get a little bit more complicated for other die rolls. I made a dice set for Savage Worlds that rolls a die (such as a d8) and a wild die at the same time, explodes them as necessary, and then tells me the biggest result. The formula is:


All of this is explained on their wiki, with plenty of examples. Also, if you join the Google+ group for the app you can get help on how to write a formula, ask questions of the developer, and suggest new features to him. He seems like a good guy.

Get the App from the Google Play Store, or from the Amazon App Store.

10 September 2015

Return of Tunnels and Trolls

The new book!
A couple of weeks ago I attended the release party for the new deluxe edition of Tunnels & Trolls, this volume appropriately named Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls. It was held at Game Depot in Tempe, AZ, and it was a packed house.

The creator of the game, Ken St. Andre was there, and he even ran an adventure which I participated in, and died early in; nine spears through the chest. That is what happens on an important critical failure, but I was happy to die because it was such an old school death. I love to play in games ran by creators, because you get to see how they envisioned their game to be played, which may differ to the way you play it (who is right: both of you).

Ken is a legend in RPGs. He wrote the first real competitor to D&D (T&T was published in 1975), but took a radically different approach. Instead of lots of rules, he made his simple and based on the idea is that the players are at the table to have fun. It also allows a wide variety of character types. In my group there was a dwarf, human, faerie (who was very small), Minotaur, elf, and a couple of gnomes.  Other races in the book cover just about everything, including FREAKIN DRAGONS!

The spell system is also different from the fire and forget D&D style. This one is based on power points and a large selection of spells, many with strange and funny names. Spells include "Poor Baby" for healing, "Glue-You" to stick opponents in place, and "Breaker Breaker" which has nothing to do with CB radio; it is a spell to break ordinary weapons.

That is Ken St. Andre. The one with the hat.
While continuing to refine the T&T game (without complicating it), Ken also wrote one of the first sci-fi games, Stormbringer for Chaosium, and even a few novels. All this while being a librarian, a job from which he recently retired after thirty-six years of service.

What is cool about this game is that it is really an old school game. It is not a game that plays like we think old school games played (like Dungeon Crawl Classics, which is a hoot in itself, or D&D 5e, which they say is old school but it is nothing like the old D&D), it is the same game from 1975 but with added coolness. So if you are looking for old school, check out the new book at your FLGS.

For more information, see the Tunnels and Trolls page.

02 September 2015

Off Topic: Pillars of Eternity, the next best thing to actual role laying

Feel the awesomeness!
I have been busy on an important project the past week: finding out why babies are being born without souls. As I investigate the mystery of the hollowborn a conspiracy is unearthed that is both complex and strewn with tragedy. I am talking about a computer game called Pillars of Eternity.

Now, I would normally not talk about CRPGs, but I will make an exception here because it is so full of character and story it is almost as good as playing on a tabletop, minus the social interaction. There have been few computer games that have come this close to capturing that feeling, perhaps only the series from BioWare from 1998 to 2002 did that during four of the best years ever in CRPG history. This series included these classics: Baldur's Gate I & II, Icewind Dale I & II, and Planescape Torment. In these games you lead a party of up to six adventurers made up a D&D characters on a quest with a strong main story and hundreds of side quests.

Wizard casting in the midst of battle.
That is exactly what Pillars of Eternity is, a clone of the look and feel of those old games (with sharper graphics) mixed with a fantastic story. While it is not based on D&D rules (it has its own original system), if you played the old games you are going to master it in a half hour. What is better about it is that the creators fixed a lot of annoying little things in the old game, such as the old inventory systems that made sharing items harder among characters, inventory not big enough, and stores that return items that you accidentally sold without a massive markup. It also adds crafting of potions and enchantment of armor and weapons in the least convoluted system yet in these games. Bravo! Also included is a stronghold for you to capture, clear out a multi-level dungeon, and rebuild to give you advantages in game.

The inventory screen.
The best new feature is reputation. Your choices in game affect how different groups look at you. Decide not to kill a person one group wants killed, you may drop in reputation with that group, but get a good reputation with the person's group. You reputation affects the game, closing some choices, opening others. For instance, I needed to get one of three groups to assist me in getting to a conference so I can warn the Duc (sic). Two of the groups was shaky with, the other I am a hero to. Because I am a hero they offered to help me for the honor of my representing them, instead of having to do something to cajole the other groups. An interesting point is that you can get a real negative reputation in a group, and that will be noticed by their rivals.

The World of Eora (click to make big)
It is out now for Windows, OS X, and Linux, with an XBOX One release coming later. Also, the first expansion was just released. It looks big and it is only part one of a two part story. Yum.

You can get it for Windows from Steam.

Now, for me, I must return for a secret meeting in Defiance Bay.

21 August 2015

Ruminations on Pathfinder, D&D Fifth Edition, and OSR

Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition is a bestseller in the RPG world, but so is its main competition, Pathfinder (which is an update to the D&D 3.5 rule set). Can they both coexist? Which is better? Also, is 5e really old school? Let's find out together (no hand holding, though. I don't know where you been, germ carrier)!


Pathfinder RPG Core Rules
I have played D&D for years. I adventured using the Basic and Expert rules, and moving on to AD&D. Yeah, I guess I am an old timer. Not as old as OD&D players, but I got a good history. During those years I began to play GURPS, from Steve Jackson Games, in its second edition form,and then tons of gaming with GURPS third edition. Many reasons made me not look back (and to completely skip AD&D 2nd Edition), mainly the ability to design my own character and all his abilities in these other games. In AD&D if you were a fighter, you get exactly what the book tells you. Old schoolers think this is an advantage, as the most important part is to get on to the killing. GURPS was a revelation, in the same way Hero was to many.

It is not hard to see why old D&D was like that. It came from a miniatures combat origin, and you did not really make characters for such a game. Instead you had units that all worked the same to make the combat a but easier to resolve. This concept lived on into D&D itself, making the game we used to love what it is. The bad side was that if you faced an enemy, such as a Thief, you basically knew what he could do. In GURPS you were never sure of the opponents abilities.

When D&D third edition came out, I found it fun, and even though it did not fully fulfill my liking of a free form character creation, the use of feats was good enough to let me get close to the character I imagined (you know, my murderhobo variant for whatever campaign). Also, the game systems were refined, with a common rolling mechanic for combat and skills, and a lack of exceptions to the rules, of which AD&D was notorious for (for example, fighters have different Strength and Constitution adjustments from other classes). All this is true for Pathfinder which continues to hone the game.


Pathfinder has so many feats and other options, it can be overwhelming. Not as much to players (though, when I played a 10th level Magus I found myself having to make sure I remember this or that obscure ability or adjustment). It is DM'ing that is the nightmare. I ran a campaign that lasted into double digit levels. At first it was easy to run, but as the level rose and the opponents gained more feats and special abilities, the game slowed down as I would have to look up this minutia to make the game work. Sure, GURPS has a thing similar to feats called advantages, but you will not have as many as in a 10th level Pathfinder character. They are a mass of feats, class abilities, and powers conferred from magic items.

The only way I survived was using a program called Combat Manager for Windows. It would keep track of combat, including when effects like spells, poisons, or conditions expired. I could bring up monsters and quickly look up abilities as needed. It is both free and fantastic. It can advance monsters for you, and even let you save encounters and load them so you get into combat fast. I highly recommend this program! The simpler D&D 5e does not need seem to need such a program and still be playable.

Another reason Pathfinder sucks is that it is still stuck with antiquated ideas the rest of the market has moved beyond. My big peeve is that armor makes you harder to hit instead of absorbing damage (I did have a friend who tried to convince me that D&D armor is more realistic, but he could not back it up). Third edition and Pathfinder really expanded the combat options and did not make it too complex, but pretty much requires action on a battle mat. I prefer a system where you can do either on the table or in the imagination, but Pathfinder precludes that.

Lack of DM fiat was also a problem. Every condition caused by combat or spell (confused, bleeding, etc.) were strictly defined with no room for imagination, and if you did add something to it, rules lawyers were there to correct you as the emphasis on its design is its exactness.

Finally, Pathfinder's bonuses scale pretty radically, making huge adjustments a high levels making play up there deal with really high values.


Pathfinder is strict in its rules and allows for much flexibility in character creation, which seem to not be old school to most folks.


The Player's Handbook for 5e
While it goes back to a much simpler character creation model, limiting much customization (though most classes have some customization built in), it does include cool things like the personality and background section to give you good starting points for roleplaying (if they are taken advantage of by a DM willing to add encounters where these things come into play). It is a bit like a simplified life-path system. While I prefer creating my own background, this can be enjoyable. In fact, a more complicated version of a life path system is what makes Traveller character creation so much fun.

The game overall is simpler to play, which makes the game faster, especially combat, and you can have your combats either on the table or in the mind. Also, skills and combat does not scale as fast as Pathfinder, making the game's math a bit easier.


While you get some customization in each class, it is not much. For example, a fighter chooses what kind of fighter he is: archer, great weapon fighter, etc. Pathfinder lets you have more variety among the same classes (of course, with the added complications). Feats are not much help. Instead of regularly gaining feats, you trade your attribute increase for one, and I would never trade an increase. Frankly, they just should have dumped feats totally.

The random nature of the backgrounds can take the control of your past and leave it to dice, but you can also choose or make something up. Rules are there to be changed to how you like them.

The simplification of the rules are hit and miss. I am not a big fan of attacks of opportunities in 5e gimped!). Also, the advantage/disadvanatage system (where you roll 2d20 and take the highest or or lowest) gives no way to scale them for larger or smaller effects. Still, many love these things; to each his own.

Oh, and armor does not negate damage, just like OD&D in 1974.


Maybe, kinda. Next to 3.5/Pathfiner I suppose it is. It is less exacting in conditions, allowing the DM more room to adjudicate the game, certainly a mark of the OSR movement. I might say yes, that is sits nicely between Basic  and Advanced D&D. Castles and Crusades is even closer to old school, but Wizards has a decent game that tries to bridge the old versions with third edition.


Balance is a problem in both games. In many other games when you encounter an opponent you may or may not be able to beat it, instead having to size up the enemy and judge how you react (fight, flee, or negotiate usually). In D&D and Pathfinder it tends to be attack, because the balanced nature of the games give players the feeling they can win any encounter because of that balance. I think this makes the game boring and encourages hacking and slashing from the murderhobos (man, I love that term).


Real Old School
Old School is a term that has little real meaning, instead means something different to each person. Which is fine, we all have different views of nostalgia, and the OSR is all about nostalgia. Fifth edition has some OSR in it, proably as much as not. In contrast, Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classics is not really an OSR game clone, but a design based on memories of what we liked int he game, but with whole new systems.

Frankly, if I want to play old school D&D I would use either the D&D Rules Cyclopedia or one of the basic/expert retroclones, like the Basic Fantasy RPG, Dark Dungeons, or Labyrinth Lord. The basic/expert D&D was sleek and fast in comparison to the bloated AD&D. Yeah, it has two problems that dog me. The magic-user is so useless at low levels who would enjoy playing it. There needs to be a replacement class for it. Also, the fact that races and classes are mixed together (for example, all elfs are exactly the same, basically Legolas). I prefer having your race and class choices to be separate. Luckily Basic Fanstasy has split the two (and dumped alignment), and Labyrinth Lord has a companion volume, the Advanced Edition Companion, has optional rules to do the same.

The Rules Cyclopedia is out of print (I got one at Rincon last year), but is super complete and modern. It includes skills and a way of generating character personality traits (and both are optional). Those are missing from Labyrinth Lord and Basic Fantasy, and Dark Dungeons has skills but no personality traits. 


Pathfinder has its Adventure Paths for campaign-length stories, and the Pathfinder Society for in store events. D&D also has long, climactic adventures and in store events as well.  However, I like Pathfinder better than 5e because of character options. YMMV. I suggest you read the main books, reviews and talk to friends before investing, but either choice will give you good adventures.

20 August 2015

Please help Jim Ward

To be happy, do what you love. James ("Jim") M. Ward has, bringing us much RPG fun over the years, but it is not the best paying industry, and so some of our heroes, like Jim, find themselves needing a helping hand.

Jim Ward
Jim Ward is best known for his years at TSR Hobbies. His first work was Gods, Demi-Gods& Heroes, for the original D&D (1976), followed by Dieties & Demigods for first edition AD&D (1980), Greyhawk Adventures (1988), and an adventure  that became the basis for the excellent computer game Pool of Radiance. He helped redesign the game into the second edition, and in 1989 was inducted into the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design Hall of Fame.

His best work, IMHO, has to be Metamorphosis Alpha. It was far more interesting than D&D at the time. D&D had no real background, just a bunch of rules for people to make their own worlds up. This was 1976, and Gary Gygax never thought anyone would want a pre-made world at the time. He had his world, others had their worlds, but none were published at the time. Here comes Jim Ward and he designs Metamorphosis Alpha, which not only gave rules, but a full background to play in. Characters were trapped in a colony ship where disaster has struck. People mutate. Technology is no longer understood. It was an apocalyptic world on a star ship. Goodman Games ran a successful Kickstarter in May to make a new edition, with Jim involved, so it will be back!

After TSR he continued to work in the industry, writing for Margaret Weis Games and Troll Lord Games, among others. It was always quality work with him.

Jim was stricken with a neurological disorder in 2010, and it is sapping his resources, and he has operations to come. I am asking you to help Jim out. Go to this GoFundMe page and give what you can.  

19 August 2015

Back from MaricopaCon

I spent last weekend at MaricopaCon. Played 20 hours of games in two days, two board games, and four RPGs (I ran two), including Savage Worlds Lankhmar, Delta Green (about a cat that would not stay dead), Savage Worlds The Fog of War, a horror game set in France towards the end of World War One, and Savage World's The Derelict, a horror adventure on a mysterious space ship (which I reviewed here). I ran the Lankhmar and Derelict adventures. The Derelict turned out to be the best con adventure i have ever run, a tribute to their good writing.

I had a damn good time. It is refreshing to spend that time in a big room with fellow gaming enthusiasts. No drama, just gaming. 

Jason Youngdale keeping us in line.
The event has been put on for the last few years by Jason Youngdale, a gaming enthusiast who has financed the events through Kickstarter. The event tickets are basically pre-sales: either the event funds or it does not happen. It was held at the Mesa Convention Center in Mesa, Arizona. The facilities are basically a large gaming room. Unlike other cons, this one has no private rooms for the RPGs, which makes it a bit noisy for role-playing. You need to have a strong voice to run. It also has to wrap up the first night by midnight, so no all night Werewolf games.

There are other fun events: a cosplay contest, and a raffle. They had a music group this year in the entrance area, but I was too busy trying to find out why this cat would not stay dead to give a listen. To me, gaming is the reason for coming, and I am going to game game game. 

The big downside was our record heat wave here, which the facility's air conditioning could not keep up with. 

Arrow points to my wife.
I have been running con games for a few years, and have developed a philosophy of how to approach it.
  1. I keep the background fairly generic, so I can explain it in a minute or so. If it takes ten minutes to explain the universe, forget it.
  2. Start with action, explain later. The Derelict was perfect for this, as the character's wake up from cryo-sleep into a ongoing ship's disaster. I like the idea of hitting the ground and running.
  3. Have optional encounters if the game is running too short, and know what to cut if it is taking too long.
  4. Use a game system that is easy to teach. Savage Worlds is excellent for this. You might think Fate Core would be good, but it is difficult to get people to grok the concept of tagging and scene resolution.
  5. Have something for the action/combat lovers and something for the thinkers among your players. Since you have random players, you need to try and have something for each.
  6. Make sure you build pre-gen characters to have a niche in their abilities, and that there are opportunities to make each character have moments to shine.
  7. Keep the game moving by keeping the pressure on. You only have four hours to play. Get as much play in as you can.
Up next I may or may not be attending Rincon in Tuscan in October. I sadly will not be attending Gateway in L.A. over Labor Day, but should hit it next year (it is the best con I have ever attended, and crowded). Also, we have GenCon in mind in a few years. So, gaming is in my future!

Photos were stolen from the MaricopaCon Facebook page. 

07 August 2015

Important message about Ken Whitman

I don't know Ken Whitman. I had never actually heard of him, but I have quickly become wary of this individual's reputation. A bad one that seems well earned. My wife and I have invested in two Kickstarter projects from Mr. Whitman's d20 Enterainment. Both are in jeopardy, the Pencil Dice and the live action Knights of the Dinner Table series. Right now it looks like neither will be done.

The aptly named Don't Fund Ken Whitman or d20 Entertainment blog covers the ins and outs of the problems, getting quotes from Mr. Whitman's forum, Facebook and blog entries.

From what I see, if true, is that there is major mismanagement. Yes, he bought a car and took a cruise which may or may not have come from the Kickstarter funds. However, it does looks like he did not keep the funds for the projects separate. Going in he knew the budget he needed, so where did the money go? This seems to show that there is a mixing of funds, which is highly unethical:
Click to make bigger.
So he squandered the money on a movie. Was it because the money in Knight of the Dinner Table dried up? Or one of his other projects like Spinward Traveller.

In any case, I think a lawsuit is coming. I understand he is not incorporated, so the lawsuit will be against him directly. Even if he was incorporated, he would be directly sued if mismanagement and embezzlement is proven. Although, he doesn't sound too solvent, and you can't get blood from a stone.

Also, I saw part of the first episode of Knights of the Dinner Table, and while it looked pretty good (could have used some filmizing), a was disappointed by the audio. It sounded amateurish, with everyone distant from the mic. Was there a boom problem? Was there a boom? What about lavaliere mics? Whatever, sound is a big thing to me. If you have seen it, compare the audio to other productions. It really is not that hard to make great.

In any case, until all this is settled, beware of d20 Entertainment.

04 August 2015

Interesting News Bits

A few interesting news items have come up that involve RPGs. Of course, many came from Gen Con where news come fast and furious. These caught my eye:


The lawsuit is over, and Warner Bros wins! They are already in pre-production, with a script ready to go. David Leslie Johnson is the screenwriter. His work includes The Conjuring 2 (due next year) and Wrath of the Titans. The bad news is that Wrath of the Titans was not good. It has a 25% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and a lot of the problems seem to be in the script. One audience comment hits him hard, "Some of that CGI money could've been spent on the writers, but noooo." I wrote a bit about what is needed to make a good movie version of D&D, and this review by Will Steich scares the hell out of me because if this is what the producers thought was a good script, the D&D movie is doomed: "Movies like this are often called "video game" movies, since they're basically a series of interstitial 'story' scenes plopped in to transition to and from the fighting scenes. But this is an insult to video games."


As long as he doesn't play for the NY Jets.
Savage Worlds has always been a good system for pulp role-play. At Gen Con, Shane Hensley announced Pinnacle has the license to produce material for one of the classic pulp sci-fi: FLASH GORDON. It should hit in 2016.

Pinnacle Entertainment Group is on a roll with the licensed material. Lankhmar is a good example of the quality we should expect.


Onyx Path is going full bore on the old World of Darkness. They announced the fourth edition of Vampire the Masquerade. The rules are updated (as they were in Vampire 20th Anniversary), and will have a new meta-plot. How will they explain the end of the world that ended the line?

I like this because I prefer the oWoD to the new one, of which I am not a fan, so this is great news. Hopefully, with their marketing plan (which I wrote about), it will be a success.


Paizo announced the Strange Aeons adventure path. It brings the Cthulhu mythos to Golarion, and even has Abdul Alhazred, writer of the Necronomicon, in the adventure. Also, a horror source book will be released, including a sanity system, so expect your heroes to suffer some fun mental illness.

I look forward to the Pathfinder Battles miniatures for this. They will be useful for Call of Cthulhu.

31 July 2015

ENNIES awarded at Gen Con

Ah, Gen Con. Next year I will be there (I hope). As this year I sit in front of my computer and pretend like I am there.

Anyway, the ENNIE Awards have been awarded. For a list follow this to ENWORLD.

21 July 2015

It's Official: TORG: Eternity is coming!

Doctor Mobius looking all Gangsta!
So, even though Shane Hensley tried to bluff us by saying the dice were not part of the clue, it is confirmed today the West End Games RPG Torg is returing as Torg: Eternity is 2016. It has a some power behind it, both monetarily and talent wise.

It is backed by Ulisses Spiele, a german game company that distributes a bunch of American games to Euro-audiences (BattleTech, World of Darkness, Pathfinder, and more), as well as publishing their own original RPGs and board games. This is their first English language project and you know they will want to impress.

Also on board is Shane Hensley of Pinnacle Entertainment. His first published game piece was an adventure for Torg, and he brings both talent and enthusiasm for Torg with him.

From the press release:
Torg co-creator Greg Gorden has been involved at a high level and given it his blessing: “I really like this re-imagining of the TORG mythos. The streamlining and modernization of the game mechanics feel spot on. I cannot wait to play this game!”
The game’s rights were sold after the closure of West End Games and were eventually purchased by Torg fan and president of Ulisses Spiele, Markus Plotz. “TORG is a one of a kind RPG. The setting is unique and for over 15 years, I dreamed about releasing a new and updated version. Now, with the help of the amazing Shane Hensley, that dream finally becomes reality!”
Will Jon Bon Jovi return?
Shane Lacy Hensley heads up the United States studio where ... Torg: Eternity [is] being created. “Though my plate is pretty full with my own company, Pinnacle Entertainment Group, I couldn’t resist working on the game that gave me my start. I also met a kindred spirit in Markus Plotz who truly loves and appreciates what a turning point Torg marked in RPG development, so I just couldn’t say no.”
Will it be Savage Worlds based? What changes have happened to the mythos. What are the plans for player influence of the story arc? I guess we will have to wait a bit for clarity, as it is let's just enjoy the return of Torg.

19 July 2015

Torg returns? Hints point in that direction

Today on Facebook, Pinnacle Entertain Group's Shane Hensley (creator of Savage Worlds) made an announcement on his Facebook page today, and I find it very exciting:

He mentions a "Storm." I know a game where the heroes were called Storm Knights. Also, those dice are the ones that came with that game. It was from West End Games and called Torg.

The core rules. Yep, it was 1990 fer sure.
Torg was a game released in 1990 about an invasion of Earth from other realities. Each reality had a theme, from Indiana Jones kind of pulp, to horror, cyberpunk, Land of the Lost and more, some really twisted such as the "Cyber-Papacy."

What set it apart was the idea that as groups play adventures the results would be reported and used to advance the storyline. As the game was about "the possibility wars" each group was a bit of that possibility, with the most reported outcomes becoming the winner, and then the timeline was moved forwards. Great idea, did not work well, because it was ahead of its time.

This was 1990. Almost nobody was on the Internet or had even heard of it. Reporting was done by mailing in response forms and waiting for an update to be released. It was slow going. I mentioned Torg to Shane Hensley when I played in his East Texas University demo at Rincon 2014 in Tucson, Arizona, that Torg was made for the Internet. Reporting would be sped up, as would the responses of the world changes. Torg died and is just a good memory to its fans.

Twenty-five years later all the technology is there to make a game like Torg work in all it meta-plot glory, and no one has done it yet. Why not bring it back. I know the rights owners would love to make some money on the good idea they own. Having Shane Hensley on board a new edition would bode well as not only is he a great writer, his first published RPG product was an adventure for Torg titled The Temple of Rec Stalek, which should mean a nice emotional connection for him to the product.

Shane Hensley wrote this. 
Also, he has been at the forefront of making games more playable, as attested to in the Savage Worlds motto "fast, furious and fun." Torg needs that in spades. The original game was built before the push of "story first" gaming that would really catch fire with Vampire the Masquerade. Torg had a late-80s level of complexity yet wanted to be a cinematic game mimicking several disparate genres. Many times the two ideas were at odds in play, with a kind of unwieldy mechanic, way to many skills, and the need to slow down the game to deal with reality crossover effects. A new version really needs to make the game system lighter to concentrate more on story and feel.

It would be nice for  new version to be a reboot in the New Battlestar Galactica sense, so that while it has the comfort of the old game, it can have new ideas and plots to keep it fresh today.


But... a little later Hensley posted an update about the previous post:

Nothing to do with the dice? No! So it looks like we are back at the guessing stage until 21 July (this coming Tuesday). Shane Hensley likes that. I can almost here him echo Doctor Frankenfurter's famous line, "I see you shiver with antici...         pation."

18 July 2015

Dammit. I like Happy Jack's Podcast. And I cannot stop myself no matter how hard I try

The logo for the Happy Jacks podcast.
Digression alert: This is a kind of long introduction with little to do with the main topic. For the actual review scroll down to the next heading.

Podcasts are everywhere on every topic, and role play gaming is no exception. There are a lot of them, but one has my constant attention AND IT KILLS ME.

Let me explain. I prefer being a fan of something I know is cool but most people do not. Some would call this a simple character flaw; some might say I am narcissistic preferring to be in a minority group to feel bigger about myself. While I do not know the cause, I know it has gone on a long time.

Back in 1978 I found a new TV show running on my local PBS station (WPBT, Miami), Monday through Friday at six. It was called Doctor Who, and featured Tom Baker as The Doctor, who I would son learn was the fourth in the series. Later, they ran the fifth Doctor and Third Doctor episodes. Watching these, and reading imported novelizations from Target Books in the UK, made me a pretty knowledgeable fan for a Yank. In fact, I was the only fan I knew. I was aware of other fans; often they would appear during pledge drives to beg for money for the station in exchange for those dreamy PBS tote bags.

By high school I had actual met a few fans (some of them I had introduced to the show), but we were outnumbered by the Star Trek and Star Wars fans. In 1986 I went to my first sci-fi con and met a bunch of other Whovians, but  it was still a handful of geeks in the whole fandom thing.

You never forget your first Doctor Who logo.
Flash forward to 2005. The BBC brings the show back from the dead. I was jazzed! It got great viewership in England, but it didn't even air in America during the first series. I had to download them via torrent (which was new back then). It was as awesome as I imagined: Doctor Who was back and I was still a fan in a select crowd of American Whovians.

Flash forward again: It is 2015. Doctor Who fandom is off the roof. Merchandise is in bookstores and chain stores. It is in constant repeat on the TV. People who's parents weren't born yet when the series premiered were cosplaying, making podcasts, and writing the fan fic (BTW: fan writers, I know Amy Pond was hot but there are NO THREEWAYS in the time vortex, okay?). It seems everyone knows who the Doctor is. My special club is not so special anymore.

That is how I am about bands, other TV shows, movies, and so on. The more others are into it, the less I want to be. Heck, I was so thrilled that I hated Star Wars Episode I when I saw it. I thought, "I must be in the minority here... goody." That was ruined for me when everyone was in my anti-prequel club.

This attitude is probably the root of my rejection of D&D/Pathfinder/OSR I am going through these days.

Then there is Happy Jack's podcast. As their motto says, they are "pursuing the RPG hobby with reckless abandon... and beer." They do: no false advertising here. The fact is that it is my favorite RPG podcast for the past few years, and no one else comes close. Of course, they have a lot of fans who feel the same so here I am: I want to hate their popularity and seek out something no one listens to, but frankly, the show is too good.


Stu Venable hard at work.
Happy Jacks started off as a podcast, but over the past few years they have added some very popular Actual Play shows (these are game sessions recorded and released as a podcast, a very hot brand of pod and videocasting these days). Started by Stu Venable, an RPG'er back in the early 80s who left the hobby and then returned in the mid-2000s. While it was D&D that brought him back (4th edition, of all things; at least it was good for something), he has a love of all sorts of games, especially GURPS!

The show is (mostly) weekly, with a few breaks here and there. Each podcast has a bunch of contributors who appear as a panel. The panel rotates its participants, and some are more heard from than others.  Mr. Venable is the rock, always anchoring the show. They usually cover a topic at the start of the show and go into depth on it covering just about all angles of the subject with opinions and observations from the panel. The topics can be just about any including running games or getting the most out of being a player. These topics originate from Stu, members of the panel, listener e-mails, and from the show's forum. With all these sources they always have something to debate.

After the topic section they spend the rest of the show dealing with listener e-mails. These are usually questions, but can have some variety of other subjects. A popular theme is examples of RPG horror stories: when players or GMs put each other through hell. They are pretty funny because if you have played for a while you have your own tales and can appreciate others who tell theirs.

While the banter has a lot of humor (yeah, some childish, some bad language, so what?), you quickly realize the panel is really good at breaking down what makes a game good and fun, and calls out the bullshit that players and GMs can bring to the table. They are all about RPG's being a shared experience, giving the players and GM tools to improve cooperation between all involved with the game. This is, IMHO, a very healthy attitude not seen enough in gaming groups.

That is the whole show, really, but with all the different topics and e-mails it moves fast, which is good because the episodes have been known to rival the length of Major League Baseball extra innings games. Of course, if you listen on your way to and from work, it could last you the whole week, and that can be hellacool. Heck, I have been disappointed to hear Stu call the show after a mere two hours after getting used to longer shows.

Two things they do not cover is industry news and product reviews. However, the show is so rich in material as it is, it isn't needed. Besides, they have a great archive of shows with topics that are pretty timeless; news ages fast and would make the older shows seem a kind of out of date.

As for the actual plays, I have not listened to any of them. To me they are like porn movies: yeah, they can be fun, but frankly I would rather be having sex than watching. Same with these types of shows. I'd rather play than listen. My wife does listen to them gives Happy Jacks high marks, along with Role Play Public Radio.


Yeah, they do. In fact, I got to see Stu Venable in action at Gateway 2013 in Los Angles and he practices what he preaches. I played in his GURPS one shot. We players had spotlight moments and always felt like our choices had an impact on the story. He even had to think on his feet when the group decided a plan of action 180-degrees from what he anticipated. He handled it excellently, kept the play moving forward, and there was fun for all.

I have to say I have been a GM for a long time myself and I have learned much through trial and error, and wished I had a show like Happy Jacks to listen to back then to help explore concepts (this was the dark ages of the early 90s, when I got serious about telling good stories, USENET was the big way to discuss topics and MP3's were unheard of). Even now, they have taught me some new things I am integrating into my games.

Moment of Truth Pre-Release Cover. GROIN SHOT!
I am excited that Mr. Venable and his crew are playtesting their own game engine, called the "Moment of Truth." Because of their knowledge of what makes a game session good, and hope it will imbue the product, I am looking forward to its release. I have not read it yet, nor have I listened to the actual play episodes of the play sessions of it (as I mentioned above, homey don't play that), but I intend to catch up with it soon.


Another thing that I like about the show is Stu's devotion to making the show sound good. He has a pretty neat setup in their studio: everyone has their own mic, and the quality is pretty pro. He is always trying to improve quality with new equipment, and adds new features to the shows and the website, such as video versions of the show filmed multi-camera via Google Plus (see them on YouTube), and streaming the podcast recording session live with listeners able to join a chat that the panel can see! They also have the ability to go portable and have recorded shows at the Strategicon conventions in front of live audiences.

Digression alert: This will not mean much to many people, but Stu is a kindred spirit to me as he is a fellow user of a digital audio workstation called Reaper. It was created by the guy who designed WinAmp (it whips the llama's ass), and is nto only feature rich, it is affordable, especially for home use. I have done several movie soundtrack projects and personal music on that platform and I am not going back to any other, even after experiencing ProTools HD when my partner and I owned a project recording/video production company in Hollywood, Florida. Sure, Pro-Tools had the DSP chips for the  cards, but I bought a new 8-core computer and I really don't have problems with running out of processing power, even with the fact I exclusively use VST instruments for all my composing so I always have a ton of plugins going. Also, TDM was overpriced compared to VST for the same plug in. It was a bit of a rip. Digression over.


Stu has a band and writes music. Several of his songs can be heard in the show, especially the ones about the RPG hobby. He has a band that plays at Ren Fairs in a kind of Celtic vibe. His productions for the show vary in genre (though his techno-rapping can use a bit o' work).

Also, I have written the show a few times with questions and have been un-mercifully poked fun of because my career moniker is N. Eric Phillips and it comes up on my e-mail. They have a real problem with the N. I finally let them in on what the "N" stands for: "None of your damn business." (I am not really complaining, its all in fun. I hope).


Life is short. Listen to the podcast, dammit.

15 July 2015

History lesson: An update on Designers and Dragons

In June I published my review of Shannon Applecline's Designers and Dragons,  and very interesting history of the Role Playing hobby in four volumes, one for each of the decades from the 70s to the '00s. In it I was a bit critical that promised updates to the history were supposed to be posted on RPGnet, but that the topic had been touched in a while.

Well, button my shorts! There is an update and it is well worth waiting for. This article covers the latest changes at Chaosium, with founder Greg Stafford and writer Sandy Peterson back in control. It is a pivotal time for Chaosium, and a must read from Applecline.

Click to read the Designers and Dragons update at RPGnet.

Click to read my review of Designers and Dragons here on Broccolifest.

Review: Robin's Laws of Good Game Mastering

There are a lot of books on the market about how to be a better game master, especially in the e-book age where even my cat could get a book published on Amazon. The quality varies a lot, from good to bad to just plain ugly. Most deal exclusively with "the big game," D&D. As I play may different games, I prefer something system agnostic. Which leads me to a very good book on the subject: Robin's Laws of Good Game Mastering by Robin D. Laws, published back in 2002.
Read me. Drink me. Eat me.

Mr. Laws is well known as a damn good writer, from role-play games (Ars Magica, Unknown Armies, Fung Shui and so much more), articles on RPGs, novels and short stories. Some of my personal favorites by him are Over the Edge (the coolest and weirdest background plus a rules light system years before this became trendy) and a supplement for GURPS called Fantasy II: The Mad Lands which is set in a primitive world where gods are everywhere, and they are easy to invoke, but they are also insane and f--- everything up. You don't worship them, you fear them! Especially the cute bunny- he's the most dangerous.

Robin's Laws of Good Game Mastering is a series of techniques a GM can use to hone his campaign and make it fun for all. The techniques start with knowing your players and what they are looking for in a game. From the power gamer to the casual gamer and a bunch in between, you use these tips to hone the campaign so each gets something they want out of an adventure.

I had already been doing a similar thing with my group, though I did not have the characteristics of the players as well defined as Mr. Laws. For example, my wife loves to play a character but is not into rules at all; another friend was the power gamer of the group looking to prove he could beat any challenge, while another was a bit of a masochist who loved action and being injured. He was the butt of many mean sneak attacks that left him injured. Giving players the experience they wanted made for a good experience all around.
Here is a good example of a group with all types
After knowing what types of players you have, the book moves on to building the game including picking your rule set, how to build a campaign everyone will enjoy (including honing published settings), building adventures (and the many possible structures they may take), and getting the characters into the action but making it deeper by getting their goals involved as well. Then it hits on actually playing the adventure covering good dialog between PCs and NPCs, and keeping the pace going while keeping the focus on the story. It even covetrs the art of improvising full adventures, which can be useful for when the characters go off the rails or for running a sandbox game.

I found so much useful in this book its hard to believe it is only thirty-eight pages. It feels like nothing is missing or unexplained, a tribute to concise writing. As such it is not a huge time commitment to push you away, so there is no reason not to read it.

The book is available in PDF from Steve Jackson Games' Warehouse 23. It used to be available in print and comes available on Ebay and used books websites every now and then if you want a physical book. Though thirteen years old its information has not aged at all, and no matter how much experience you have as a GM, you will find something to inspire you in it. I fully recommend it.

13 July 2015

RPG's at the movies III: Mazes and Monsters- the Tom Hanks Classic

The 1980s were an amazing time to be a role player. The whole hobby was new, and when a new game came out it was like manna from heaven. It was also an amazing time to be a religious nut with a whole new moral panic to unleash on your followers. I watched some of the programs on our local religious station, as shows like The Eagles Nest devoted whole shows to the dangers D&D held for kid's souls. It also fill our newspapers, with this being typical:

Click to read- and be amazed at the stupidity.

There was even some former witchcraft devotee turned born again Christian named William Schnoebelen who claimed that during his dark times he was paid by TSR to make sure the rituals contained in the rules were realistic. He also went from show to show claiming that D&D was "a feeding program for occultism and witchcraft."

Jack Chick, famous for his cartoon books that people hand out to others to teach them about God and being saved, made a tract called Dark Dungeons which showed a D&D like game being used to indoctrinate young people into the occult. When one of the characters died in game, the player is ostracized an commits suicide, while her friend continues to play and in then shown how to cast real magic.
This never happened to me. Sadly.
Interestingly, this strip has been made into a pretty good (and funny) short film with permission of Crazy Jack Chick himself.

Yes, the moral panic was in high gear, and it accomplished what all moral panics do: it made more people aware of D&D and sales of the games multiplied.

This was just one in a ling line of moral panics about the latest abomination that is ruining our kids which has included comic books, rock and roll music (and Elvis Presley's hips), long hair, video games, TV shows, and so on. The list can go on forever. Basically, one of these nutto's kids is into something that did not exist when they were young is must be bad because they don't understand it.

Click to read.
One of the big panics at the time was caused by an actual tragedy that was exploited by the moral police. A student at Michigan State, James Dallas Egbert III, disappeared from the campus in 1979. He was known for wandering the steam tunnels of the school. A private eye named William Dear discovered Egbert played D&D, and when Dear discovered this  (plus the steam tunnels) and, it being something Dear did not understand, led the private "dick" to tell every news outlet that he felt the game was the cause for Egbert's disappearance, and that he may have been playing a live version of the game in the tunnels and something went wrong. 

It did not take long for the moral police to pick it up and spread the danger to their flock: Dungeons and Dragons caused a kid to disappear.  Well, it turned out that Egbert did run away, but D&D was not the cause. He was a sixteen year old in a university with kids two or more years his senior and had trouble making friends. His parents were overbearing, and he was depressed (probably clinically) and lonely. Not only did he play D&D, he was also using drugs. The night he disappeared he tried to commit suicide, then ran away to New Orleans where he tried again. He ended up calling Dear to bring him back home, but finally managed to end his own life the next year.

Of course, the problem with the moral panic here was that the moral police get cause and effect backwards. Playing a game does not make you depressed and suicidal because the person gets lost in it like an addiction. The game becomes the addiction because the mentally disturbed person want to lose himself in it to escape his life. The same with the drugs Egbert took. People have escaped into such diversions before and will again. Many depressed people have turned to the bible and religion to lose themselves in, though none of the moral police admit that, in fact they encourage it.

The media loves a controversy though, and the disproved D&D connection was a common topic on religious and mainstream media. Rona Jaffe was a popular author back then mainly noted for having books with strong working women during a time when women were fighting for liberation. When she read the stories about the Egbert disappearance she wrote a fiction book based loosely on the story called Mazes and Monsters. It even incorporated four college students and players of Dungeons and Dragons Mazes and Monsters having live action versions of the game in steam tunnels. It was published in 1981, and capitalizing on the panic, CBS bought it and made a movie of the week based on it.


Who is that young lad?
The film is the story of four young college students. It starred a popular actor at the time, Chris Makepeace, who was well known from his role in Bill Murray's Meatballs and the excellent film My Bodyguard (with Firefly's Adam Baldwin, Matt Dillion and Jennifer Beals). You might not remember him because by the late 80s he had pretty much disappeared. However, another young actor in his second big role (after a part in a b-grade slasher movie) named Tom Hanks. He has had one or two films since then. Maybe you have heard of him?

Robbie (Tom Hanks) was kicked out of a high school for becoming to obsessed with the Mazes and Monsters game and he gave it up. At college he becomes friends with Kate, JayJay (Makepeace) and Daniel. They all have personal problems (but hey, don't we all?). JayJay has the overbearing mother and is the youngest of the group because he was pushed so hard by her to get to college young. Kate has had a series of failed relationships. Daniel's parents rejected his plan to become a video game designer. And Robbie (Hanks) has slightly worse problems. His mother is an alcoholic, he fights with his father, and his brother Hall disappeared. 

So the gang convinces Robbie to join the game. The sessions become intense and they devoted too much time to it (whatever they were playing because was obvious no one on the production had played D&D. It was more of a board game in this film. It looked like a crappy game and a laugh to anyone who had played real RPGs before. Then again, this film was not aimed at actual role players but instead to scare the common folk). 

So Kate and Robbie become a thing. Seeing them all touchy feely,  JayJay feels realizes his budding sexuality is not budding enough and driven by loneliness and blue balls, decides to commit suicide in the steam tunnels but ends up not doing it when he realizes how cool it would be to play a live version of the game in them (in a way the game saved his life! The game is a hero!). 

Forrest Gump, aka Pardieu, in the steam tunnels.
When they play in the tunnels they are thrilled, but then found it too real and scary after a plastic medical school skeleton with a flashlight taped in its mouth drops in front of them. Everyone make a sanity roll! Well, Robbie misses his and hallucinates he is fighting a "gorvil." At this point Robbie ceases to exist and he instead becomes his character, a cleric called Pardieu. He breaks up with Kate because of his character's celibacy. Then, in a dream, Robbie's brother, now called the Grand Hall, comes to him and tells Robbie to go to the Two Towers.

Later Robbie disappears and the gang needs to save him as they realize he is completely flipped out. They track Robbie to New York where he lives in an all woman apartment building by dressing as a woman travels to the Two Towers (the World Trade Center, aka Twin Towers) where he will cast a spell, jump off the building and join his brother Hall in eternity. The gang shows up and stops him. 

Fighting the Gorvil
It has an epilogue where the gang visit Robbie at his parents house. He is undergoing counseling but it has been little help as they discover he is not Robbie, but still Pardieu. They join him on a last imaginary quest together.


This film is not as anti-gaming as some think (the book is far worse in this regard). I watched it recently and found that the game was not the big villain and cause of the problems; the characters were all troubled and lose themselves in fantasy as an escape. It does make a point that in order to grow up games such as Mazes and Monsters need to be rejected, like how Susan Pevensie could no longer go to Narnia when she matured. Of course this is bull; I am in my 40s and like many of my peers love to play games. It is a hobby, like golf, but no one ever tells a golfer to grow up. Another negative light is that all the players have emotional problems, and "normal" people are never shown playing, implying you need to be a little off kilter to play. 


It is a typical movie of the week from the 80s: not good. The acting is fine, though pace of directing is slow, and the writing shows a complete misunderstanding of the role playing community. As a gamer you will see the humor in the film, so you might as well see it once. Actually, do not waste your time. Watch the far superior My Bodyguard instead.

Interestingly, Tom Hanks remembers the film well and talked about it on NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me radio show. In fact the host, Peter Segal, introduced Tom Hanks as the star of Mazes and Monsters and other films! What a hoot.