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Showing posts from April, 2020

A Thought about "Gonzo" Gaming

When I played role-playing games in the old days, nobody talked about "gonzo" gaming. Now it seems to be a normal thing to talk about, and to look for, especially with the OSR crowd. What is gonzo? In the '70s and '80s, when I was a kid, it meant one of two things, as this guy remembers. It could refer to that sweet but pathetic hook-nosed Muppet with the chicken girlfriends. Otherwise it referred to a style of journalism written in a participatory style and represented by Hunter S. Thomson. The Oxford English Dictionary records both, more or less. It can mean Hunter S. Thomson's style of journalism, as coined by Bill Cardoso , or "bizarre, crazy; far-fetched; a crazy person, a fool." Thomson took a lot of psychedelics, so it seems that the term gonzo also implies a psychedelic edge. (This picture by Christine McVay .) SO WHAT IS GONZO GAMING? As any reader of my musings knows, I'm late to the party (and that is the point of this). It turn

Awaken the Tarrasque! An Apocalyptic D&D Campaign

My son loves to think about the Tarrasque. (I mean the Tarrasque of D&D, not the " real " Tarasque.) The Tarrasque's monstrous invulnerability to practically everything makes it an interesting thought experiment. He keeps asking about battles between different creatures from the Monster Manual. Who would win? A Pit Fiend or a Solar? That kind of thing. The Tarrasque comes up a lot. These questions inspired the following idea for a campaign. Feel free to use it, but please credit me. It goes like this. You have a regular D&D world. You know, generic fantasy, elves and druids, dwarves and orcs, halflings and wizards. Monsters threaten, heroes go into dungeons, kill monsters, take treasure. The usual. But then ... A powerful creature organizes major monster factions in a loosely coordinated attack on the "good species." The defense collapses and THEY WIN. The monster coalition wins completely . Kuo-Toa unite under Aboleth lords and overrun the p

Anti-D&D propaganda from 1980: "direct fom the pit of hell!!!"

" Dungeons & Dragons instead of a game is a teaching on demonology, witchcraft, voodoo, murder, rape, blasphemy, suicide, assassination, insanity, sex perversion, homosexuality, prostitution, Satan worship, gambling, Jungian psychology, barbarism, cannibalism, sadism, desecration, demon summoning, necromantics, divination and many more teachings, brought to you in living color direct from the pit of hell!!!" I recently found an old anti-D&D, anti-role-playing-game leaflet stashed among my D&D books. Its text was originally written in 1980, revised in 1981 or soon afterwards. (I determine its approximate date by the update at the end about the abbreviated version of Deities and Demigods , published in 1981, whereas the original references in the text are to the longer, first edition of 1980.) I picked up this little flyer at the church I was made to attend as a child out of social propriety, and I tucked it away as a memento of the times. (My parents wer

Player Skill versus Skillfully Playing Your Character

I wrote a few days ago about how to get rid of experience points in your role-playing games. Because experience points are a reward for meeting goals in play, one of the topics this touched on was “player skill.” That’s what I’m thinking about here. The new, OSR emphasis on “player skill” seems to have had its diffusion from Matt Finch’s essay of 2008, “A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming.” The idea that he expresses there is that it’s more fun if characters don’t have skill traits and perception checks to stand in for player thinking and problem-solving. “Old-school” gaming, he argues, is about players’ thinking about the problems their characters face rather than die-rolls against skills representing character thinking. The player’s brain should do the problem-solving, not a die roll against an abstract intellectual skill. For example, the player should describe how his character searches the room rather than making a perception roll. And that’s how the original game was