Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Jessica Price and James Gunn on Free Speech

Below are Jessica Price’s comment on the firing of James Damore from Google and James Gunn’s remarks on Brendan Eich’s firing from Mozilla.



The D&D fight of the century?

Daddy Warpig has just announced it on the most recent episode of Geek Gab: “We are trying to get together a show with RpgPundit and Jeffro to come on the show and debate issues of D&D and from what I understand looking at Google+, the RpgPundit just launched another broadside against Appendix N, so I am absolutely sure that if we bring this off, that will come off in the discussion…. Jeffro vs. RpgPundit in the D&D fight of the century!”

Unfortunately, not everyone out there wants to see a couple of role-playing game junkies come to blows over this. As Adam Simpson comments on the video, “RPG Pundit and Jeffro? I will listen to that! I’m not looking forward to fighting but I would like to see both of them make clear their positions on Appendix N. I get the feeling sometimes those are 2 guys who have more in common than in conflict. I like RPG Pundit but I think Jeffro’s insights on Appendix N are worthy of everyone’s attention.”

What does the RPG Pundit have to say on this? Maybe he’s mellowed on the subject of Appendix N over the past year or so…? Let’s check in with him.

Show me how many major references there were to Appendix N in print BEFORE the OSR. If it was so pivotal, that should be easy.

But you can’t. You’ll probably find some dusty Dragon article that mentioned it, once, or some single conversation on some newsgroup from the 1990s.

That’s some pretty tough talk there. You might be thinking he’s ready to throw down in a no holds barred fight to the finish on the subject. And if you are… you’re wrong:

I have no problem debating you about Appendix N, with regards to how important it is, because it just isn’t, and the historical evidence is on my side.

And if that’s a segment of the show, I have no problem with that. But I’d rather be more topical and spend time discussing a much more important subject, which is the SJWs’ attempts to take over the entire hobby.

While reposting the classic rant on my blog, which I only did because it was just it’s turn to be reposted on my list, I literally looked at it and thought to myself “well, we won’t be likely to have time to argue about minor crap like this anymore, not with what’s going down hobby-wide now”.

There you have it.

He’s coming out swinging in the comment boxes here, but as far as any kind of in depth debate on the subject of Appendix N is concerned… he’d really prefer to discuss almost anything else!

A Breakthrough Moment with G.E.V.

I’ve played this scenario with many people over the years and really… the combination of spillover fire, overruns, and the terrain rules can be a lot to take in for a first time player. Watching a dozen of your G.E.V.’s evaporate due to one bad decision can really take the wind out of a guy’s sails, too. It takes a certain kind of person to go through that and say, “hey… let’s do that again because I’ve got an idea for a different strategy.” We have a name for that kind of person, too: they’re called gamers!

Get those first few trial games out of the way and this old MicroGame™ suddenly gets serious. Arguments break out about which strategies are better and who is the better player. There’s only one way to settle them: a tournament style set where each player gets a chance to play both sides. This really ups the ante!

Here’s how things fell out when just such a thing broke out at my table:

The attackers move in and pool up. The defense player had just been whittled down in a steady retreat, so he’s spoiling for a combat. He’s changed up his armor unit selection this time adding in a couple of G.E.V.’s specifically to counter the tactics his opponent used previously. But now he has to decide: should he fall back or rush the enemy G.E.V.’s.???

He rushes the attacking G.E.V.s, killing two and disabling one. All hell breaks loose, and when the dust settles, the G.E.V.’s are gone. Eight G.E.V.’s leave the map fairly late, scoring three victory points each. The defense kills a total of four enemy G.E.V.’s, scoring the same amount of points. But the attackers devastate the defense killing ten units altogether for a final net score of sixty points. When the tables are turned, the bar is set: it’s going to take a fairly hefty decisive win to beat this!

The defense this time opts not to rush the incoming G.E.V.’s. This hands the invaders some choice targets:

Not a good start here!

The G.E.V.’s have killed two armor units and disabled another. They position themselves to bypass the defensive line entirely while reserving the chance to pick off finish off the damaged heavy.

More sparing occurs and the attackers achieve this position:

The attackers have to choose. Do they run away and collect a hefty victory point bonus for leaving early? Or do they shoot up the defense for a few easy points?

The chance to wipe out that defending heavy tank is just too tempting!

But good gosh, the 2-to-1 attack on the heavy fails. He shoots back and the results are disastrous. The G.E.V.’s now have the option of abandoning the units that are disabled in return. The attacker looks at the victory point tallies, makes an error in his reckoning, and doubles down. He leaves two G.E.V.’s right on the coastline thinking that the defenders will have their hands full picking off the disabled units.

But the attacker completely forgot about the overrun rules. The Heavy tank shrugs off the pitiful 1-to-2 attack that the disabled units muster and he blows them away. He and the surviving infantry squad move in and disable the two G.E.V.’s that had thought they were going to get to do some serious killing!

The other G.E.V.’s have left the board. The defense has free attacks with no chance of losing any more units. They get a 1-to-2 shot with the infantry squad and a 2-to-1 shot with the heavy tank– any “D” or “X” result will be a kill!

The dice are rolled and… the defense rolls two ones in succession. Miraculously, the two G.E.V.’s that should have evaporated due to their commander’s hubris are in fact going to get away scot-free!

The victory points are tallied. The attackers get 56 points for getting seven G.E.V.’s off the board early and another 38 points for their kills. The defense scores 30 points for taking out five attackers. The final net score here is 64, just four points higher than the previous decisive victory.

We have a new Breakthrough champion at my house here… but if the dice had turned up as anything other than snake eyes, it would have been the other guy!


But this is precisely why G.E.V. is regarded as one of the top 100 greatest hobby games of all time.

Unfrozen Gaming Caveman Speaks: The Truth About Today’s D&D


Seriously, just read it:

I used to be an avid gamer. From the moment I first saw people playing D&D in junior high school (1976 or so) to the early 1980s when my life turned into a Hunter Thompson/William S Burroughs mashup, RPGs were my main avocation.

In the years between then and now I’ve played on the rare occasions that a game has been available, but between getting married and raising children and learning to hold down a job and becoming an internationally unknown least-selling New Wave writer, I really haven’t taken the time to seek out a gaming group.

Over the last few years I have been reading and commenting on OSR blogs, mostly from following people who have interesting comments on other blogs (+Jeffro Johnson was my OSR gateway drug) but I haven’t really been exposed to what might be called the mainstream of RPG writing over the last few decades.

Even when my eldest daughter started playing D&D I didn’t pay a lot of attention. A few things she said about her games struck me as odd, but I shrugged it off with paternal indulgence.

Recently, though, I have been following links and reading articles written (allegedly) by gamers for gamers.

And what the actual fuck, people?

This is not like going back to my hometown and seeing that they tore down the old mall and widened the highway and put a McMansion Estates where the old high school stood. This is more like going back to what I thought was my old hometown and ending up in the Silent City of The Dessicated Dead on the lost Plateau of Leng.

What the people I am reading now are talking about is not the game that I used to play. It’s not even the type of game that I used to play–or the category of activity that I used to play. The difference isn’t like Chess and Checkers, or Golf and Bowling.

It’s like the difference between cooking chili in a crockpot and blindfolded bicycle racing. The points of similarity are so rare and so irrelevant that I can’t say it’s the same thing at all, despite using many of the same names and much of the same specialized vocabulary.

I mean, I thought that the OSR gang was exaggerating the differences between Old School gaming and the modern… whatever for effect. I figured that they were just getting hung up on a few rule changes as a kind of group shibboleth–if you use these rules from this edition then you’re not one of us.

Not so much. If anything, what I’ve read from the OSR has been understating the case.

What I used to do that I called playing RPGs was having fun playing make believe Heroes vs Monsters and rolling dice to see who killed who first.

What people are doing that they call playing RPGs today seems to be using writing fanfic as a group therapy session.

Misha Burnett is spot on here.

What little I know of contemporary incarnations of D&D is via the “nobody dies everybody wins” tables that are inevitably next to mine at the conventions. It wasn’t until some of the people that switched to Moldvay Basic D&D as a result of my posts over at Castalia House Blog that I found out what was really going on. Seriously, the first hand accounts of what people actually did in these 5th edition sessions made my jaw drop. Horrible!

David Burge summed it all up thusly: “1. Identify a respected institution. 2. kill it. 3. gut it. 4. wear its carcass as a skin suit, while demanding respect.”

The few people that stumble their way towards something almost resembling what gaming used to be like find themselves having to reinvent not only things like morale checks, but even non-linear dungeons where the players have control of how far down they delve, whereby they would be handed the capability to select the difficultly level that gives the the sort of gaming they are looking for!

Truly, a dark age of gaming is upon us!

“It’s pretty much Avatar before Avatar.”

Xavier L. writes in:

I think you got everything wrong. “A Conquest of two worlds” is literally an anti-colonial story. It’s pretty much Avatar before Avatar.

I wouldn’t describe D&D feudalism as window-dressing though, it’s pretty much essential. The people who work for you are called peasants, not natives, and the tax, if you are a cleric, was the tithe, right?

He’s absolutely right here.

The “colonialism” depicted in “A Conquest of Two Worlds” is an over the top caricature. The earthmen are only in it for the resources. The aliens totally didn’t do anything.

And yes! It is absolutely an “Avatar” type story. One character despises the obvious injustice, “goes native”, and then fights both with and for them against the earthman exploiters.

But here’s the difference: unlike in Avatar, the colonialists here cannot be stopped. They are awesomely unbeatable, an exaggerated variant of Sauron’s armies or the Persians from 300. And the aliens have less fight and prowess than even a bunch of ridiculous hobbits could summon.

And the ending that you end up with in consequence of that particular premise…? If Avatar had been written that way, the aliens would have fought to their last remaining outpost only to nuke themselves and their Spirit Tree into oblivion.

It really is a weird story.

He’s also correct about the AD&D clerics. Here’s the relevant rule:

Upon reaching 9th level (High Priest or High Priestess), the cleric has the option of constructing a religious stronghold. This fortified place must contain a large temple, cathedral, or church of not less than 2500 square feet on the ground floor. It can be a castle, a monastery, an abbey, or the like. It must be dedicated to the cleric’s deity (or deities). The cost of construction will be only one-half the usual for such a place because of religious help. If the cleric then clears the surrounding territory and humans dwell in the area, there will be a monthly revenue of 9 silver pieces per inhabitant from trade, taxation, and tithes.

Note that there is an analogue to renegade characters like Edmond Hamilton’s Halkett and James Cameron’s Jake Sully in The Keep on the Borderlands. It’s the Evil Priest, maintainer of the Temple of Evil Chaos in the Caves of Chaos. He has agents and sympathizers in the Keep on the Borderlands, so beware!