Episode 92 – Generalists and Specialists


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Grant’s back from Electric City Comic-Con 2016, and it was fantastic! We recap the show, including some specific people and organizations Grant wanted to specifically call out (check the full notes below for links.) Then Grant and Peter answer a Patreon backer question from Jim, who asks about demonstrating the difficulty of doing the right thing in game without being obvious or annoying about it. Finally, we cover our main topic: A discussion of generalist and specialist characters, with a focus on an issue that came up in the pre-game prep for our current D&D campaign.

Scripture: Exodus 31:1-6, Colossians 3:23-24

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Campaign Report: Supplemental Content: Meet the PCs

Grant floated the idea of doing a post introducing the player characters for our D&D game casually to me in a Facebook message earlier, and any other ideas that were half-formed in my brain immediately got stuffed into a metaphorical drawer. The idea is just too perfect to let go. So, without further ado, the player characters!

(Well, okay, just one quick ado. A word from Grant on stats: We rolled stats since that “felt more like D&D”, using the “4d6, drop lowest” method. Since I don’t mind characters actually being competent, if anyone had two stats less than 10 to start with, I let them re-roll one of those bad stats once more. Dealing with one “bad” stat is a fun little challenge, and it can give a D&D character something unique to remember them by. Dealing with more than that just gets frustrating.)

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Episode 91 – Creating a Moral Universe, Part 2 (with Kris & Katrina Ehrnman-Newton) 2


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(Part Two.) Kris and Katrina Ehrnman-Newton, hosts of the inimitable Gameable Saturday Morning Podcast (and its previous Gameable Pixar and Disney iterations), join us for an episode so monstrously huge we had to make it a two-parter! This time, we’re talking about design considerations for a “moral universe”—the assumptions built into a fictional setting about the consequences and decisions that affect characters’ moral efforts. We start with our Patreon backer question, this time about potential real dangers of gaming. Then across two episodes, we cover the design aspects of a moral universe in great detail, and wrap up talking about the challenges and opportunities these present at the gaming table. Thanks again, Kris and Katrina—we’re looking forward to joining you to talk about Saturday morning cartoons soon!

If you missed the first half of Episode 91, click here to listen to part one.

Katrina previously joined us for Episode 58, “Prophecy”, and Kris joined the three of us for Episode 67, “Breaking Canon”. Grant and Peter have also appeared on the Gameable Saturday Morning Podcast for a bonus episode on The Prince of Egypt.

We hit on a wide and strange variety of other things this episode, including but not limited to: Depression Quest; Genesis 18; Batman; Longmire; The Crow; Mouse Guard; Jessica Jones; fighting hummingbirds; The Care Bears Movie; Sailor Moon; L.A. Confidential; Dogs in the Vineyard; Pillar of Fire; and a May 2016 blog post from Peter, “You Must Be This Treacherous To Ride The Story“. Phew!

Scripture: Genesis 3:22-24, Amos 2:6-7, Matthew 5:44-45


Episode 91 – Creating a Moral Universe, Part 1 (with Kris & Katrina Ehrnman-Newton)


Download this episode (right click and save)

(Part One.) Kris and Katrina Ehrnman-Newton, hosts of the inimitable Gameable Saturday Morning Podcast (and its previous Gameable Pixar and Disney iterations), join us for an episode so monstrously huge we had to make it a two-parter! This time, we’re talking about design considerations for a “moral universe”—the assumptions built into a fictional setting about the consequences and decisions that affect characters’ moral efforts. We start with our Patreon backer question, this time about potential real dangers of gaming. Then across two episodes, we cover the design aspects of a moral universe in great detail, and wrap up talking about the challenges and opportunities these present at the gaming table. Thanks again, Kris and Katrina—we’re looking forward to joining you to talk about Saturday morning cartoons soon!

Once you’re done with this half of Episode 91, click here to listen to part two.

Katrina previously joined us for Episode 58, “Prophecy”, and Kris joined the three of us for Episode 67, “Breaking Canon”. Grant and Peter have also appeared on the Gameable Saturday Morning Podcast for a bonus episode on The Prince of Egypt.

We hit on a wide and strange variety of other things this episode, including but not limited to: Depression Quest; Genesis 18; Batman; Longmire; The Crow; Mouse Guard; Jessica Jones; fighting hummingbirds; The Care Bears Movie; Sailor Moon; L.A. Confidential; Dogs in the Vineyard; Pillar of Fire; and a May 2016 blog post from Peter, “You Must Be This Treacherous To Ride The Story“. Phew!

Scripture: Genesis 3:22-24, Amos 2:6-7, Matthew 5:44-45


Campaign Report 1: Playing Sharks and Daggers 5

Any time I blog instead of Peter, you know it’s gonna get weird. Today, I’m giving everyone a rundown of the first session of our D&D campaign! This game’s been rattling around in my head for years—a game heavily inspired by the Roleplaying Public Radio “New World Campaign”, but tweaked to fit our group and my own sensibilities. I’m also running this in D&D 5e, which is … well, significantly better so far (but I’ll get to that.) I’ll go over the events of the session, and follow that up with an analysis of key GMing moments.

I’m not going to give a rundown of the characters in this session, except a very basic race-and-class. I’ll save character writeups for another time, because they deserve a post all their own.

Recap

I started things off with a bit of narration to set the scene: A colony ship laden with people and goods, about fifteen weeks at sea. It’s en route to a distant archipelago believed to be rich in land, goods, and magic—the last being a rare thing indeed in the “old world”. Unfortunately, this vessel (which I still need to name!) has been separated from its sister ship, and has been driven before a hurricane for several days. It’s just run aground, and the morning light and clearing weather shows that its hull is badly damaged, and that the storm surge and winds have grounded the ship on a low barrier island.

After deliberation and a little scouting, the settlement’s governor and captain decide to unload the ship and, using her longboats and manpower, move to the “mainland” across the lagoon created by the barrier island. There’s a series of sandbars that protect the space between the barrier island and the larger landmass beyond—shallow enough that a man could walk across it in water up to his chest, and with several places only ankle-deep (at least, at low tide.)

I’m leaving out a lot of detail, of course, but that should be enough to set the scene. Enough talk—time for action!

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Episode 90: The First Council of Nicaea (Historical Heresies 5)


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After answering a short, fun, and humorous Patreon backer question, Grant and Peter dig into one of the most fascinating, important, and gameable events in all of church history: the First Council of Nicaea. In addition to establishing a lot of church orthodoxy that has lasted to the present day, it also gave us the Nicene Creed, and it was a unique and fascinating event in the history of the world.

Note: Listeners wanting full context for this episode should listen to Episode 89, “Arianism” first, as it provides a lot of the background for the events we cover in this episode.

Links:
The Nicene Creed
The Elenium, by David Eddings
Our Patreon

Scripture: Isaiah 40:12, John 1:1-5

 


A Quick Note on Episode 91’s Audio Quality

You’ll probably notice that I sound a little tinnier and more distant in episode 91 than I normally do. Audacity picked up my webcam instead of my much-nicer normal microphone and we didn’t catch it until the show was being edited.

The good news is that since this was a more scholarly show, Grant’s track, which is fine, takes up more of the minutes than mine.

I have since unplugged the offending webcam, so this shouldn’t be something you (or we) will have to worry about in the future. Sorry folks!


Go Time

I have a confession to make, one that could potentially cost me my nerd card: I have zero personal interest in Pokemon Go. I’ve never gotten into the series in any form; I think I’m probably just too much of an old man and I also find virtually every anime or anime-influenced thing that’s targeted at children to be grating (the single, and noteworthy, exception being Avatar: The Last Airbender). Then again, I felt the same way about Power Rangers when I was the demographic. I have always been a little stiff in my entertainment choices, I suppose.

So it may come as something of a surprise that I wholeheartedly support the existence of Pokemon Go and I’m happy it was released. It’s giving couch potatoes a fun way to get some exercise. It’s giving lonely people an excuse to go out in public and a convenient icebreaker to engage with strangers (other players). I saw it used as an icebreaker at the M:tG “Eldritch Moon” prerelease last weekend. Young gamers and old gamers and gamers of all seriousness levels and demographic groups are discovering they have something in common, and that’s all absolutely magnificent. Heck, people who were never gamers are becoming them, which is great!

But it’s also doing something else important: it’s basically giving the church a do-over for the Satanic panic of the 80s and 90s, at least where gamers are concerned. And to my surprise and delight, the church is actually embracing the opportunity.  Churches are setting up charging stations and putting out water for people playing the game. It’s not a huge thing, just some simple acts of hospitality and kindness, but for those who grew up dealing with what must have felt like monolithic disapproval of their hobbies and interests, it’s a fantastic first step. I even saw a meme (that I can’t find, frustratingly) of Jesus’s “I will make you fishers of men” converted to “I will teach you to catch people,” which might seem a bit irreverent…  …until you think about it a bit and realize it really is just a modern re-skinning of the same message (applied to leisure rather than work, but otherwise basically the same).

So in light of all of that, I can’t help but be happy about the existence of Pokemon Go, and I think if you’re at all interested, it’s definitely a good thing to participate in. Anything that helps us humanize our fellow humans is especially welcome in our divisive age, and that’s roughly a thousand times truer in a US election year. Anything that gives us a harmless cultural touchstone and another bunch of analogies to talk about God with is also a good thing.

And yes, I know there has been some backlash from some churches and Christian media figures, but it’s nowhere near as bad as the whole “Dark Dungeons” era, and as we discussed with Chris Ode in Episode 88, there’s always going  to be some of that. There have always been those that felt that whatever The Bible/Christianity/their particular denomination doesn’t explicitly permit, it forbids, and I seriously doubt we’ll ever see the end of that particular mindset completely. I also know that there have been a few isolated tragedies where something bad happened to a player, but on the whole, the experience has been a good one for both the individuals and society.

So even though it’s not my thing, I’m really, actively, and legitimately happy the game is out there. I can’t understand Grant’s love of craft beer, either, but that didn’t stop me and my wife from picking up an assortment of regional craft beers from our part of the country to take with us when we visited him and his wife last fall. If you, unlike me, enjoy the aesthetic, I think it’s wonderful that it’s (Pokemon) Go time.

(Featured image courtesy of mobipicker.com.)

Episode 89 – Arianism (Historical Heresies 4)


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Grant and Peter Tackle an interesting Patreon supporter question about sandbox games and then move in to the very meaty and historically-important topic of Arianianism, a Christological heresy named after a guy who didn’t come up with it, and also responsible for the first council of Nicea.

Links: Our Patreon page, Episode 70: Adoptionism and Ebionism

Scirpture: Proverbs 8:22-23, 1 Corinthians 8:5-6


The Classics are Classic for a Reason 2

For the first time ever with the particular gaming group I’m in, we’re doing Dungeons & Dragons. Grant has been wanting to try out the 5e rules and it didn’t take any arm-twisting to the get the remaining three of us on board. This is going to be the colonization game that Grant has alluded to on the show, which is a neat idea to begin with, and we’re going to be doing a more Renaissance-era game than a medieval one to go with the idea of exploration and colonization, but it’s still going to be D&D.

There’s a reason why D&D and its progeny such as Pathfinder, 13th Age and the entire OSR movement continue to have staying power – the basic gameplay feedback loop of dungeon crawling, fantasy (whatever its level), and leveling up is so much fun that it’s spawned entire genres of digital representations. Everything from roguelikes, to various types of traditional cRPG, to Diablo and the Dark Souls games have their roots in various flavors of D&D. There’s a lot of fun and excitement to be gained from battling monsters and collecting treasure.

But there’s also something else that’s cool about this type of game: Character creation is front-loaded. Because you pick a class (or two) and then follow it from there, the possibility exists to define more about who your PC is and who they will become in a D&D style game than in something more open-ended like GURPS or Savage Worlds. A class gives you a predefined role to play and as such, it gives you a lot of room to think about how you’ll go about coloring that particular archetype in the campaign. And because of that, I’ve been sitting here entertaining a number of possibilities.

I’ve been thinking about a tiefling paladin/rogue that’s basically an investigator and advocate for the religion he serves and looks like Judge Frolo but acts much more like the bishop in Les Miserables. I’ve been thinking about a wizard, ranger, or wizard/ranger that’s basically the benevolent hermit that lives in the woods and keeps an eye out for the safety of the town(s) he lives near. I’ve been thinking about a wizened, kindly old Celtic-style druid, about a tough old man-at-arms (fighter) who will train the colonists in how to keep bandits and wild beasts at bay with spear and palisade, about the cleric of a sea god on the ship as a hedge against the dangers of the long voyage, and that was just TODAY. (Grant floated the D&D idea on Saturday evening when we wrapped up our Rogue Trader micro-campaign.)

The classics are classics for a reason. Gygax and Arneson definitely managed to bottle lightning when they made D&D, and while it has benefitted from refinement over the years, it’s telling that most of the successful refinements have been ways to make it more like itself. I love all kinds of different RPGs, but I never want to reach the point where I sneer at D&D and turn my nose up at it. Much like cheesecake, I don’t want nothing BUT it all the time, but if I never got a chance to have it again, I would definitely be sad.