Saturday, June 20, 2009

Some Free Time Again

Finally have some free time again. The school year is over, exams are over, the journal competition is over, and I am settled in to my study habit for the patent bar.

The first thing I did was... nothing at all. I spent all my free time for two weeks just laying around watching all 7 seasons of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer on DVD. I was that drained of ambition.

Next I started reading. I started with Gary Gygax's The Anubus Murders republished through the Planet Stories line. This takes place in Gygax's Hyboreanesque world that I think may have been attached to his Lejendary Adventures game. I call the world Hyboreanesque because it contains a similar mishmash of real world cultural analogs from different time periods all existing in the same world at the same time. It is a world designed for fun not for realism. I have no problem with this. The book itself is frankly subpar. Novel writing was not Gary's strong point and he is far from Howard when it comes to writing sword and sorcery stories. But it is still fun.

Next I moved on to the second book in the Planet Stories line, City of the Beast by Michael Moorcock. While this is better than the Gygax book it is still a by the numbers John Carter of Mars rip off. But, this kind of thing is what Planet Stories exists for and it is a fun read for the 2 hours or so it takes to get through it.

Next I started The Black God's Kiss by C.L. Moore, also in the Planet Stories line. I am two stories into it and her writing style gives me a headache. There are whole pages with hardly any verbs and due to the fact that the hero is always going to hell by herself there is almost no dialogue. There is way too much description, and way too little action for a sword and sorcery style book.

I started working my way through all the blogs have not been keeping up with. I am not going to be able to read all the entries I have missed since last August but I can at least go back a few weeks in the commonly updated ones. I am glad to see that West Karana is still going. Reading back a few weeks Tipa has me excited about Aion and Free Realms even though the last thing I can do right now is go anywhere near an MMO. OK, so I downloaded Free Realms.

I also discovered Grognardia, and I really enjoy it. This surprises me, I have very little use for the stuck up OD&D movement as a whole. It is full of old bitter men who want everything to be the same as it was in 1975. They throw hissy fits if you use the word evolution with respect to gaming, troll forums about 4th edition (a game most of them have never played), and make gross generalizations about generations of gamers that have come after their's (just like I am doing to them right now).

The funny thing is, I enjoy that old school style of play. I am too young to be nostalgic for the Moldvay/Cook rules but I am just the right age to have come up through the Mentzer box sets (which I am sure they will tell you ruined the hobby given the chance). I appreciate a rules light game that leaves a lot up to the DM, almost always run sandbox games, and rarely use published campaign settings. When I do use published settings they are a suggestion only, the associated canon is meaningless to me. That said, I also enjoy the stuff that has come after. I also recognize that gaming has to evolve and come up with new things or it will no longer be commercially viable. Plus, I am an explorer, I like to try new things.

Despite that, I really enjoy Grognardia. First, it is a well written blog. He is aware of the prejudices of the old school gaming movement and tends to state them clearly so that his posts are not just rants about "whippersnappers ruining the lawn". Second, he spends most of his time discussing useful and/or interesting information for GMs. The good thing about gaming is that while old school gamers may be unwilling (or unable) to use the newer innovations, good ideas from the old school front are useful for newer styles of gaming. And he presents a lot of good ideas. The signal to noise ration is very high on the blog. A lot of good information, a little bit of ultra conservative, fundementalist, jihad ranting. In fact I liked the blog so much that bought his sci fi RPG, Thousand Suns. I have only made a quick pass through it but it looks right up my alley.

One of the reasons I was so tough on the old school movement (it was a little over the top) was so that this next statement would carry the proper weight. I think that James Maliszewski writes the most thought provoking, entertaining, and intelligent table top gaming blog on the internet. I don't always agree with him but I always leave thinking about the subject in a new way. Gaming is lucky to have him.

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