Friday, November 30, 2012

My Old School Vibe in these Dark Ages

Here's a special thanks to Timothy Brannon, for recommending the d20 Dark Ages over at his blog, the Other Side. Being told that d20 Dark Ages is one of The Best Blogs You Are Not Reading (TBBYANR) really made my day. Thank you.

He also said that my blog has "a strong old school vibe."

I agree, though I don't consider myself part of the old school crowd. What I consider old school happened before I played D&D. I played D&D and I grew up during a time when TSR promoted story and campaign settings, and that's what I focused on for a long time. Dungeon and wilderness exploration were secondary to the stories I wanted to tell in my campaigns. And yet, I often found the material from the "Golden Age" more appealing than what TSR put out in the 1990s, and later what WotC cranked out in the 2000s. As for 4e... well, I don't play it. So, I like and promote old school, but I never was part of the old school crowd.

What further distinguishes me from the old school crowd is nostalgia. The Old School Renaissance is fueled, in part, by the nostalgia these players had toward products (especially modules) produced during the Golden Age. Many of these products have a collective resonance. I don't believe there is a collective resonance of nostalgia for players who cut their teeth on 2e products. Don't get me wrong, I like my AD&D Second Edition stuff and had some fun times with it. But I sense there isn't as much camaraderie between those who were introduced to 2e during the 1990s.

I could be wrong.

Yet, throughout my 23+ years of gaming, I've noticed that the hobby keeps harkening back to the Golden Age, where many of the current movers and shakers originated. What happened when WotC bought out TSR? Greyhawk got resurrected, and published modules like Return to the Keep on the Borderlands and Return to the Tomb of Horrors. For awhile, D&D 3e's mantra was "Back to the Dungeon." Necromancer Games touted "3rd Edition Rules, 1st Edition feel." Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil came out. "The Age of Worms" adventure path in Dungeon magazine based its background on a number of old school sources. With the floundering of 4e, WotC is now, once again, tapping into the Golden Age with both Red Box, and using the Keep on the Borderlands setting with D&D Encounters, and currently with the 5e playtest.

So where does that leave games and gamers from 1989 to about 1997 or so?

Looking to the past, drawing upon its inspiration (hence my Old School Vibe), while perhaps hoping for a better future. Gaming and having fun in the 1990s while TSR did its death spiral. Being lured in by 3e/3.5e but learning that it just isn't quite what we were looking for, perhaps.

I doubt we'll ever see a Return of the Dymrak Dread, or Another Quest for the Eye of Traldar. (Though Night of the Walking Dead seems to have a strong following). I know that people hold a fondness for the D&D Rules Cyclopedia. But I'm not sure if that's because the cyclopedia first introduced them to D&D, or if they liked it because it compiled all of the "Basic" D&D rules.

I do believe that I grew up in the d20 Dark Ages.* And I think that the Dark Ages continue to this day for a number of reasons. This blog is about defining these Dark Ages, and sharing my experiences.

Thank you for reading it!

----

*As a medievalist, I am fully aware that the proper term for the Dark Ages is "The Early Medieval Period." But the "d20 Early Medieval Period" just doesn't have good ring to it. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Growing Up in the d20 Dark Ages (Part 5)

During late elementary and throughout middle school, I identified with Kevin Arnold, played by Fred Savage, on The Wonder Years. I did kinda have the hair, maybe cut shorter on the sides. But I didn't play baseball and I wasn't that thin. But otherwise, I thought pretty highly of myself and got into some rather troublesome situations because of my big mouth. Kevin Arnold did too, at times.

One of the stupid things I'd do in 7th Grade was to bring my AD&D books to school. Hey, the days were long and my attention span was short. And I never knew if my friends wanted to suddenly play a game right after school, especially in the spring, when I didn't play football.

Okay, most of the time, they didn't want to play. But that didn't prevent me from trying. Also, while I was carrying these books around, people would ask about them. It was a recruiting tool. Because, as stated in a previous post, I had an ever-rotating roster of players.

Furthermore, I put brown paper bag sleeves on the covers to not only protect them, but to make them look more like textbooks. Most of the time it worked. And most of the teachers who discovered I had these books were okay with them... except one.

She was my 7th grade math teacher (who shall remain anonymous to protect me). Once, during home room, she found me looking at the 1e Monster Manual (because the Monstrous Compendium was too cumbersome to bring). Maybe she saw the succubus, or the Type V Demon (Marilith), or perhaps the slyph. I don't know. I was just prepping for my next game. But suddenly she bolted from her desk at the back of the room was standing over my desk at the front.

"Since this is game, you need to put it away," she said as she leaned in. She had bad breath. "This is time is for homework."

"I don't have any," I said.

"You have assignment for me," she said.

"I'll finish it later," I said. I had priorities after all.

"Put them away."

"No, I'm not bothering anybody. At least I wasn't until you came along." True, but...

She sent me to the hall until class was over. I was annoyed. Now I couldn't get anything done.

However, my locker was just down the hall, where I had another AD&D book (again, dumb, the school didn't let us have locks). I don't remember which one. So I went and got that. She never checked up on me, fortunately. At the end of home room I snuck the book back inside into my backpack. But before I left, she forbade me from bringing any D&D books into her classroom. If I did, then I'd be sent to the principal's office.

 Still, on top of that I got a mark. See, she had this system where if a student misbehaved he (almost always he) would get a mark. If you got nine marks, you got permanently kicked out of her class. I usually tallied around 4 in a given trimester. After than, the penalties (detection, expulsion for a day, etc) really started to add up. I didn't matter if you were in homeroom or her math class. A mark was a mark.

I had her twice a day for a trimester, so I really had to watch myself. Looking back now though, I realize she was being very lenient (I can't believe I just typed that!). Nowadays I probably would have had a detention or worse, given some horror stories I've heard from K-12 teachers.

Once I even yelled at her for giving me a mark. I was partnered up with a girl to work on some math exercises on the old Apple IIe at the back of the room. I said something, but the girl thought I was being snide, so she hit on the shoulder. It kinda hurt, so I said "Ow."

"That's a mark," said the math teacher.

"I didn't do anything damn it!" I shouted. "She hit me!"

Next thing I knew I was in the hall, and my D&D books were still inside, in my backpack. I prayed that she wouldn't see it open. Fortunately, I never got caught with them in her class. Or she didn't bother if she saw them.


Still, looking back it was stupid for me to bring my D&D books to school. Yes, I should have been studying. But they could have been damaged or stolen or damaged. In 8th Grade, one did get stolen. Another time, I got in a fight with them in my hands.

But those are tales for another time...

EN World Back up! (Woo-Hoo!)

www.enworld.org

Hmm... it says they've been hacked.

But they are back up.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

EN World Down! (Call in Reinforcements!)

The unofficial D&D flagship of the internet, EN World, is down. This, of course, is just after I paid for my $3 copper level subscription so I could access some of the features of the website. Also, I've been going to EN World for over 10 years, before it was EN World, when Eric Noah was posting scoops on the upcoming 3e.

When I stumbled upon "Eric Noah's Unofficial D&D 3rd Edition News" back in 1999, I was like, "Yeah, right. Like Wizards of the Coast is going to tell this guy much of anything." I was wrong. His news formed the foundation of an active online gaming community.

Since then Russell Morrissey, the current owner, has made EN World into a huge nexus for gamers to communicate and hear about new products.

I hope they get things fixed soon.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Mini Monday: Ongoing Projects

Chalk up one Reaper giant rat complete for 52 Weeks, 52 Miniatures. I bought him years ago with one of Reaper's starter paint sets. I had him half-painted for a long time, since I wasn't sure about priming the rat in white. I've learned since then you just have to make sure everything is painted.



Just behind the rat are 16 figures for Hundred Years' War from Black Tree Design. I'm painting them up for Ancient and Medieval Wargaming, by Neil Thomas. They're going to be a generic unit of knights that can be part of nearly any army in Western Europe in the late 14th century to around 1453 or so. I'm saving the hard work of figuring out heraldry for my more fancier figures from Fronk Rank. 

And behind those is an Empire Steam Tank which I haven't touched since March or so. That's an old metal tank, not the the plastic ones they make now.

If I get that done by the end of the year, I'll definitely have completed 52 weeks, 52 miniatures and then some. 

Here's some more pictures of the giant rat:







With the rat completed, that makes 37 total for this year. 15 more to go!

Stan!'s Life after Wizards (Again)

Over on EnWorld Morrus post about Stan!, a long-term game designer who's worked for both TSR and Wizards of the Coast, who was hired again by WotC in 2011 and left again back in October. (I've always wondered that deal is with Stan!'s exclamation point in his name. His wikipedia article lacks an explanation).

Anyway, here's the links to Stan!'s blog explaning his hiring and later departure. This has caused some of EnWorld to accuse WotC of evil corporation practices. But apparently Stan! has no hard feelings.

Part 1: The Good Stuff
Part 2: The Tough Stuff
Part 3: Repercussions

I guess this is just an example of life in the corporate world. Hasbro feels the need to keep control over its intellectual property, which is understandable. But where does the line get drawn? Hasbro/WotC has their employees sign agreements where all of their creative output during their time at WotC becomes the property of WotC. Employees can apply for exemptions, and it seems that most go through according to Stan!'s story. It just in Stan!'s case the most important exemption didn't get approved.

Life for artists can be a balancing act between money/job security versus control over creative output. It seems that artists must have a patron to thrive (and eat), but then they give up their freedom. There has to be better way.

Perhaps that's what Kickstarter is for.

Stan! has since launched a Kickstarter project "The Littlest Shoggoth." And it looks like it has already reached its funding goal.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Kobolds of Domikka

Kobolds of Domikka are Demons of the Earth. That is, they are not related to Goblins of the Woods, Dragons of the Air, or Giants of the Mountains. When they die, their bodies decompose fast into a smelly mound of earth or ash (or whatever form at the Game Master desires). They are at constant war with other races and each other.

They are humanoid with scaly skin of varying colors, with the most common being rust-red. Some have dog-like muzzles on their faces, others or more flat. All have small horns. Their tails end with a poisonous stinger (see below). The average kobold stands about three feet tall.

The appear to be sexless, even though they are known to rapidly reproduce. It is known that when two kobolds are introduced into an area, within a few weeks there might be fifty. Many will have congenital defects given such close inbreeding, but they will still be numerous and a major threat to all who venture into their territory.

Domikkan Kobolds are omnivorous, but prefer the meat of humanoids. In lean times, they will hunt and kill each other.

Signs of a Domikkan Kobold infestation include, but are not limited to: the theft of small items, cattle mutilations, the killing of small animals and pets, the vanishing of small children and infants, totems made from the bones of their victims, and the discovery of unexplained small tunnels and passages that are just big enough for a kobold to get through. In a dungeon or similar setting, kobolds cover the entrance to these tunnels with loose stones or other debris. They use these passages to achieve surprise 75% of the time.

They can see up to 60ft in the dark or low-light conditions. But they take a -2 to all attack rolls, damage rolls, saving throws, and other checks in bright sunlight.

Combat
Kobolds of Domikka avoid pitched combat if they can, preferring hit-and-run tactics and traps. They are fond of using snares, pits, and mechanical devices (like hidden crossbows) in defense of their lairs. They use horde tactics either as a last resort or against opponents who are isolated or otherwise in a weakened condition. Even then, they surround their prey, taunting the creature, wearing them down, before moving in for the kill.

They often fight with clubs, crude spears, daggers, or slings (1d4 damage each). Their leaders will the best weapons, perhaps a short sword wielded with both hands. They can also attack with their tail stinger. A stinger does but 1 point of damage. Once per day, though, a kobold can inject poison into a victim. The victim must successfully save or suffer an additional 1d4 points of damage and feel sickened for 1d3 turns. (-2 penalty on attack rolls, weapon damage rolls, saving throws, ability checks, and skill checks).

All Domikkan kobolds have the abilities of 1st level thieves, with a +30% racial bonus to Move Silently and Perform delicate tasks. This includes backstabbing for an extra 1d6 damage.

One of their favorite tactics is to run up behind a victim, steal a pouch or something else that appears small yet valuable, and then run away, with the hopes of luring the victim into an ambush or trap. Other times they will try to hamstring a large opponent. Two kobolds will sneak up behind a victim. On a successful hit (taking both weapon and backstab damage), the victim must also make saving throw. A failed roll means that the victim's movement has been reduced by half. If both legs have been hamstrung, the victim falls to the ground, and can only crawl. The pain is intense (treat as sickened, with the effects being stackable).

Society and Ecology
The average Domikkan Kobold tribe has roughly 20 to 100 members. Any tribe over 100 risks breaking down into two tribes as the strongest fight for power. For every 20 kobolds there is one leader (1 full HD) and two body guards (full hit points). For every fifty kobolds, one will have an additional class level (usually thief, but fighters are not uncommon).

Domikkan Kobolds are known to have a long lifespan if they survive the tribal violence in their early years. Those who reach 30 years often start developing class levels. Nobody knows how long kobolds live.

Rumors persist that the longer a kobold lives, the larger it grows. A few reports of kobolds the size of humans have survaced. Rarer still, are the accounts of kobolds the size of ogres living within the depths of the earth, ruling over thousands of kobolds in vast underground cave complexes.

Statistics (Using Sword & Wizardry rules)
Average Kobold of Domikka or "Domikkan Kobold"
Hit Dice: 1d4 hp
Armor Class: 4 [15] (scales and high dexterity]
Attacks: Weapon (1d6) and stinger (1 damage + poison)
Saving Throw: 18 (+2 bonus for saves that involve "dodging" because of high dexterity)
Special: poison - save or be sickened
Move: 9
Alignment: Chaos
Challenge Level/XP: 2/30


Domikkan Kobolds come in many different varieties because they breed so fast. Game Masters are encouraged to come up with variants of their own.




Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving


Today you can be thankful that your characters might become surrounded by kobolds. Kobolds are weak but numerous, thus the perfect fodder for low level parties. With 1d4 hit points, they are easily defeatable.

Tomorrow, however, kobolds will have their Black Friday here on d20 Dark Ages...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Breaking the Cycle (New classes, new races, new abilities, new spells, etc.)

We've seen quite a few big announcements in the last week or so concerning the Old School Renaissance. Kobold Quarterly is going underTSR is coming back, sort of, but the details are kind of sketchy. Joseph Bloch has kickstarted his project "Adventures Dark & Deep" which supposedly answers "what if Gygax stayed with TSR to develop AD&D 2e?" Many of these products have one thing in common: new classes, new races, new abilites, etc...etc...etc... for your D&D game (in whatever edition). That, and they all harken back to the Golden Age. I've seen this over and over again with hundreds, if not thousands, of product since I began gaming. The OGL, of course, opened the door for anybody to produce new products. And what did they do: put out books on new classes, new races, new spells, new abilities, etc...etc...etc...

I wish there was a way to break this cycle.

Because I have all the "new" stuff I need. But this cycle is endemic with all editions of D&D, and all RPGs in general. The core books get published and then what? Where do you go from there? Obviously, players want more options so you give that to them. One of my gripes about 4e is that it came out so soon after 3.5e was published. I felt that I hadn't scratched the tip of all of the options in that system--and that was just with the core books.

Compounding this, is that these new products, including what Wizards of the Coast seems to be doing with 5e are all looking back to the Golden Age for inspiration. Yes, the Golden Age was a great time. Sorry I missed out on it. But I think D&D and the hobby as a whole needs to move on, otherwise new blood won't join. (No, I don't really count your sons and daughters, even though I think its a great idea to introduce them to RPGs).

4e broke away from many of these Golden Age traditions. Unfortunately, it was too unfamiliar to many players. Furthermore, 4e ran through the supplement cycle faster than previous editions. Suddenly, D&D Essentials came around. And now 5e is on the horizon.

I don't know if there is a way to break the cycle. Occasionally, a product like Ultimate Toolbox will come along. But even Ultimate Toolbox was inspired by the random tables in the back of the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide. 

Maybe all of this is like Joseph Campbell's The Hero With a Thousand Faces, where we're all telling the same story over and over again. But, because the players must provide their own heroes in the game, the each rule system must give plenty of options so that each hero gets his or her own unique face.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Review: The Witch, by Timothy Brannan



When I first heard about this, I admit, I was like "oh, yet another person hawking his RPG wares on the Internet." Given that I already have enough RPG material to last me several lifetimes, I am very cautious as to what I buy nowadays.

My interest piqued, however, when I discovered that Brannan had done his research. This means that The Witch: A New Class for Basic Era Games wasn't just churned out, like so many other products you've probably encountered in these d20 Dark Ages. No, this book stewing was in the pot for a long time until it was ready to cast its own magic at your gaming session.

So, I went to DriveThruRPG to download it (I also admit that the $5.00 price tag for 122 page watermarked pdf was also pretty convincing). And I definitely got my money's worth.


Brannan presents The Witch class as a combination between the cleric and the magic-user. A witch receives spells and rituals from a "Patron," and then writes them down in a spell book (often called "The Book of Shadows"). The Patron can be whatever the DM and the player decides, such as a god, goddess, or force of nature, or even a destructive entity such as demon if the character is evil. Also, unlike the cleric and magic-user, the Witch is "called" to be witch by outside forces. And there's more.

The Witch class actually has seven sub-classes, called traditions. These are Aquarian, Classical, Faerie, Family, Maleficia, and Eclectic. Each sub-class gets different powers and abilities as they go up in level, even starting with different familiars. For example, Faerie witches get a strange animal-like familiar, while those of the Family Tradition might have a ghost of an ancestor follow them around. Also, each sub-class fits into a certain witch archetype or trope, such as the Aquarians being star-gazers or those who belong to Maleficia follow dark powers. These sub-types are very loose. Characters can come from almost any background, including cultures based on real-world history. Those who can't (or won't) decide on a tradition become Eclectic and can choose abilities from the other sub-classes.

These traditions are just the tip of the iceberg.

The book is full of spells and rituals. Some will seem familiar, daze and arcane Mark, taken from other editions of D&D. Yet they've been adapted for your Basic/OD&D rule system. Other spells are specific to the Witch class, like bewitch which is similar to charm but the Witch's charisma modifier determines the spell's potency. The Witch also learns rituals, which often require at least three or more people to perform, hence the book also has guidelines for running a coven of witches in the game.

All of this is topped with sections on monsters and treasure, followed by appendices dealing with further options (such as demi-human witch characters). Many of the monsters, like the Baobhan Sith ("faerie woman" in Scottish Gaelic), are taken from real world folklore. Others are adaptations from other d20 sources. As for treasure, there's lots of neat magic items, both low and high. There's also
Baba Yaga's Hut! Come on, what would a retro clone book on witch be without that?

The only thing that's lacking would be a bibliography, even if it's just a short list of further reading. Yet that's a personal preference. I'm all about referring gamers to read more of the literature and history that inspired the hobby. For what's worth, I now want to re-read The Night Battles, by Carlo Ginzberg, because Brannan mentions the benandanti

Overall, great book. I'll say 4.5 out of 5, because I can see myself using this book in my own games. The rules are generic enough so they can be used in different campaign settings. And I can easily see somebody running a historical campaign using this supplement. Indeed, Brannan has done his research, translating real world folklore into playable material. He broke down the stereotypical witch, addressing both real world perceptions and providing a variety of paths, via the traditions, that DMs and players can choice from, thus making the Witch character unique, beyond being just a combination of the cleric and the magic-user.




Old School Renaissance Triumph?

Yes, the word is out: Wizards of the Coast is publishing reprints of classic modules from the AD&D First Edition era, perhaps more.

You can read a bit of blogosphere's reaction to it here:
Greyhawk Grognard
The Other Side Blog (Tim Brannan has a handful of links to the upcoming products themselves)
5 Stone Games has declared: "The OSR is over and we can cheerlfully declare total victory."

Yes, it's great that WotC is doing reprints of old material. I'm not buying any of these reprints since I already have the originals. I think the younger generation needs to be exposed to the classics, before the rules bloated and character building became the norm for D&D,

Furthermore, I don't think that this is a "total victory," I think its more of a placation of the OSR while WotC works toward 5e. The OSR became a small but loud voice against 4e and WotC. Rightfully so, WotC's marketing campaign torked a lot of people off. It is working, I've noticed on places like EnWorld the Edition Warring has calmed down somewhat. From the OSR blogs I've read there seems to be a general approval of this move.

But note that WotC isn't producing new material for AD&D. They're just taking stuff from the vault and repackaging it. So far, the only exception is that Slaver series compilation will get a low-level adventure in addition to the regular modules.

Am I condemning this tactic? Not really. It's just a sign of the times--the D&D demographic is aging and fragmented. For D&D to remain viable for WotC and Hasbro, they have to placate all of the remaining demographics, both young and veteran. They set to do that with 5e, somehow, some way.
If they don't...


...life will go on and the d20 Dark Ages will continue.




Thursday, November 15, 2012

"They're just trying to make more money!"

Heaven forbid somebody earning a living in this post-agricultural society where most people must earn a wage. Of course they, [Insert gaming company here], are trying to make more money, aren't most of us.

The other day I heard this argument while at my local gaming store. We were talking about Warhammer and how Games Workshop annually jacks up the prices every year. And I've read it before on online messageboards. And I've heard it come from the lips of gamers whenever another edition of D&D looms on the horizon. I know I've said it, but I'm not sure when.

I think what a person really means by "They're just trying to make more money" is "I'm not going to get a good return on my investment, somehow my enjoyment in the game will be diminished." This is understandable. With every new edition of D&D comes the trepidation that will not be as good as the one that came before it. (Oddly enough, I've yet to see this happen with other games. Was there an uproar over say a new edition of GURPs or RIFTs? I do recall some skepticism over the new World of Darkness line, but that was, wow, over ten years ago.) But it goes beyond just the rules.

Who will play the game with me? That's the real question. Because not everybody will buy into the newest edition.

I've known people who've clung to AD&D and refused to even try another edition. The same goes with AD&D 2e. At the dawn of 3e, a harried Dungeon Master of 2e asked me to run a game to siphon off his 15-20 players that would pack into meeting room at a college gaming club. All of the players refused. "They're just trying to make more money!" many of them said, though a handful said that they didn't want to leave a great DM. He had to be a great DM, or at least the endurance to run sessions with 15-20 players.

What good is a game if nobody around you plays it? Yeah, you can mine it for ideas. Still, I've got RPGs books on my shelves being unused, unplayed. I've got a box of Star Wars d6 books stored away--I tried to run a one-shot awhile back but only one person showed up. I have bunch of Middle Earth Role Playing books, but I haven't played MERPs since high school. I've bought Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, but have yet to find anybody who plays it (but would love to).

I guess I'm digressing. But, for me, the argument "They're just trying to make more money!" is mostly bunk. It covers up deeper anxieties. I say, at least try it. You and your friends can decide whether you like the latest edition or not. Then vote with your dollars by not buying anymore books for said edition.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Diablo: The Halls of the Blind

I really liked this poem from the original Diablo computer game. Like all of the other pieces of information you'd find, it made you dread what was to come.  For some reason, I thought somebody should make the poem into a song and sing it.

The haunting voice of Amy Lee, the lead singer of Evanescence, came to mind and Maybe with David Michael Draiman of Disturbed as back up. The song starts off slow, with Amy Lee singing the original poem.

I can see what you see not--
Vision milky then eyes rot
When you turn they will be gone
Whispering their hidden song

Then you see what cannot be
Shadows move where light should be
Out of sight and out of mind 
Cast down into the Halls of the Blind 

Cue in a heavy metal riff with Draiman shrieking--
"Of the blind!"
(Amy: Of the blind)
"Of the blind!"
(Amy: Of the blind)
"We're all so blind!-AH WA-AH-AH-AH!!!"

Followed by whatever lyrics they wanted to add.

It's just something I've thought about from time to time. What do you think?

----

Here's the Hall of the Blind sequence from Diablo:



Here's "Bring Me to Life" from Evanesence:



And here's "Down with the Sickness" by Disturbed:




Have A Nice Day

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

In Retrospect: Diablo II--The Awakening


Diablo II: The Awakening came out sometime in the spring or late summer of the year 2000, during the waning days of AD&D Second Edition. And It shows. Clearly the designers, Bruce R. Cordell and Mike Selinker, were already geared up for what was to come with D&D 3rd Edition.

Selinker wrote in the introduction that he'd been played Dungeons & Dragons for years. And in all that time, he felt like he was missing something:

"Then I played the Diablo computer game.
Suddenly, I understood. After weeks immersed in the Diablo game, I finally caught on that the Dungeons & Dragons game is about accumulation." 

You basically fight against evil with your trusted longsword +2 until you find a longsword +3. Then you ditch the old one. Indeed, while I didn't know it at the time, D&D's focus was once again shifting. Diablo II: The Awakening was a sign of this shift.

In the mid-to-late 1980s, D&D got away from dungeon and wilderness exploration, focusing more on story and character background development/roleplaying. At the turn of the millennium, the banner call was "back to the dungeon." The Diablo computer game, of course, featured a huge dungeon leading straight to hell, packed full of monsters and treasure to find. You also had character "skill trees."

The designers of Diablo II: The Awakening emulated this. They transferred the classes from Diablo II into "kits." Each kit had a set of skills to chose from. Some of the proficiencies were obviously taken from 3e material. You'll find Dodge, Whirlwind Attack, and others.

Moreover, this book emulates massive treasure accumulation from Diablo and Diablo II. The real gem from this book is the random tables where you can generate more than a million unique magic items. I've used these table before. The only problem is that they tend to create more powerful than standard magic items.

You see this attention to accumulation in 3e. Let's face it, the designers created a game where if your character doesn't have certain items at a given level, the monsters can be a lot tougher. This is much like in Diablo and Diablo II. If you lose your all of your stuff somehow, or if you don't have the right combination of equipment, you're pretty much screwed.

Most importantly, I think this is the first time where a computer game had great influence over D&D. Correct me if I'm wrong. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. A number of other factors contributed to 3e beyond computer games, but I can't help but see some similarities.

I've occasionally used Diablo II: The Awakening, especially in the latter days of my old Greyhawk Campaign. In one case, the player-characters, who were all around 9-12th level, had to fight off a horde of Diablo monsters, which are detailed toward the back of the book. Just as they were being overrun, Somebody read a scroll of Apocalypse which blasted away most of the horde. The PCs barely made it out alive.

Overall, Diablo II: The Awakening is a so-so supplement. It's sign of things to come, but if you've played Diablo or Diablo II, then you've already played through and understand the material in this book. It is merely an imitation.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mini Monday: 52 Weeks, 52 Miniatures


After being inspired by this blog, I've been working on completing at least 52 miniatures a year. I painted over 52 last year. This year I'm struggling a little, and I know that the weeks are slipping away fast. Still, for the last couple of years, I've had more confidence painting miniatures now than I did in the previous eight. This quote from the blog above pretty much sums it up:
"I'm just focused on getting decently painted figures on the table now, and working on one technique at a time for every mini... blending, shadowing, outlining, etc. That way I can still practice the stuff that needs work without stalling everything. No one was going to rip me apart here anyway (I mean, it's not Cool Mini or Not, right?)."

I've posted my earlier updates on my old blog, Domikka. But to save you the trouble from going there, let's do a recap of what I've a painted up, including one new miniature at the end. 

January: Boris the Black from Reaper, a Human Shadow Priest from the old Chainmail line, and three Games Workshop Familiars. 5 total:



A closer shot.




From July:  Back Row (left to right--A Chaos Warlock from Heroquest, an old Ral Partha Rogue, a Reaper Mini bard, a GW Empire Engineer, an "Inquistor of Malvernis" from Reaper. Front row (left to right)--a barmaid from Mega Minis, a mousling knight from Reaper, a wizard's familiar from Gamesworkshopt, a Mousling thief from Reaper, and finally another familiar from Games Workshop. 

10 total:








From August: Whoops. Looks like I put in the skeletal familiar from the last batch. D'oh. Anyway--an old Ral Partha Cleric, a Reaper "Hill Troll", a drunk from MegaMinis, and "Sir Justin" from reaper.

4 from that batch:








Again, from August: A unit of Hundred Years' War  commoner militia. 16 figures total. They're all from Black Tree Design. I painted and dipped them:




And finally, a "Gallowsgaunt" from the old Chainmail Miniatures line from Wizards of the Coast...




So 5+10+4+16+1=36 miniatures completed. 16 more to go! 

I've got a unit of Hundred Years' War knights in the works, 16 figures, that I hope to have done by the end of the week for a wargame this coming Saturday. There's also a few other miniatures I'm working on. I'll definitely make it to 52 miniatures this year, and then some!

Paint on!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Expeditions in the Northlands (11/11/2012)

I just got done running my first session of my new campaign, The Expeditions in the Northlands, which I talked about in an earlier post. No, this isn't a summary, just a few observations. The game went well. Three players showed up, but with each running 3 zero-level characters this wasn't a problem. No character deaths--yet. It was a short session because of character creation and a later start time, so they haven't reached their destination, still exploring in the wilderness.

Overall feedback was positive. They wanted to play again and are disappointed to have to wait until after Thanksgiving. So that's a good sign. Other stuff:

--Having three zero-level characters seemed okay with them. If one character had overall bad attributes, the two other characters could make up the slack.

--I had them roll on the occupation table in Dungeon Crawl Classics. Suddenly, with each character having an occupation, the characters as a whole were more fleshed out. The players were even roleplaying with them (though it got confusing at times since each player had three hats put on). These characters weren't just stats on a card, but possible would be heroes, should they survive.

--The players are far more cautious that in my previous games. For example, instead of going into a ruined town by the main gate, the sided with a crack in the wall. That's a first.

--Combat runs sooo much quicker using Swords and Wizardry/OD&D. I'm using group initiative. The only downside that might happen, especially at this early phase in the game, is that one poor initiative roll could mean a Total Party Kill. I mean, these poor 0-level characters have at most 4 hit points and Armors Classes in the 9=12 range (ascending). I've resisted the urge to fudge the dice, however.

--I feel less constrained as a DM using these old school rules. Heck, I'm not even using Swords & Wizardry as written, just as the basic template for what I want to do.

--More so, during this session, I used a mish-mash of systems and books. The first being, as mentioned, Dungeon Crawl Classics for the occupation tables. I even consulted the AD&D 1e DMG at one point and earlier I took something from an AD&D 2e accessory. To top this off, before the game started I rounded out an encounter with something from D&D 3e. This is very liberating to say the least, to have all of that material up for grabs, because Swords & Wizardry does not restriction options with mountains of rules.

--Finally, the players were paying attention to what was going on in game. They spent less time staring at their character sheets, wondering what to do. Instead, they engaged with me, the DM, to figure out what to do.

I had fun.

It topped off a great weekend of wargaming and spending time with my girlfriend.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Lazy Blog Post-- Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.


I always though this show had so much potential--the monsters, the evil warlords, the beautiful women. But I never really liked it all that much. It was too campy for me. 



And I forgot all about this... 



Wednesday, November 7, 2012

In Retrospect: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, First Edition


By the mid-1990s, I was aware of the multitude of RPGs out there besides D&D. When the reprint of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay appeared on the shelves in 1995 or so, I picked it up. I liked the Warhammer Fantasy world. Sometime earlier I got a taste of it through Warhammer Quest, and of course, I had been playing in a very watered down version of it with HeroQuest for years. The Warhammer World was darker than the AD&D Second Edition material coming out at the time. I had no interest in playing wargame, but I wanted to a least check out the full fledged RPG.

We never did play it. Too much other stuff going on--AD&D 2e, Middle Earth Role Playing, Star Wars  by West End Games. And, although I took a good long look at it, it seemed too much like just another fantasy RPG system out there. I already had AD&D 2e, and didn't want to master yet another system. Still, I did like the idea of careers, instead of more general "classes." I heard later than many of these careers were unbalanced, but I didn't know.

For me, the best parts of the book are in the back, with all of the fluff about the Old World. Here you have full descriptions of the Empire, Tilea, Kislev, Bretonnia, and so on. At the time, I rolled my eyes and their unoriginality, yet now I take different stance: this made it easier for players to understand the setting, as opposed to making up new cultures and countries out of whole cloth. I think, and I could be wrong, this was one of the last Warhammer Books to include the history and description of the entire Old World, not just parts of it. So, for this reason, this book remains a treasure.

It also has a section on Fimirs! Remember Fimirs? Those one-eyed reptile-men from HeroQuest? They seemed like such an oddity. Apparently, they were too odd; they didn't show up in later books or supplements as far as I know. The certainly didn't make into the WFRP 2e. Maybe Games Workshop remove the Fimir to make the world more appealing to the status quo. After all, Fimirs replenished their numbers by raping women, their offspring were always full blooded Fimirs. So yeah, I can see what that got dropped. It their example of the half-orc, I guess. The strange reptilian centauroid Zoats are gone now too.

The First Edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is a treasure. It took me years understand why--I'd even sold my copy in the early 2000s, only to buy another one a couple years ago, used. It's a relic from a time when other companies were giving TSR a run for their money. I think, if WFRP had been marketed well, it could have come out on top. Many were looking for something different to play. But Games Workshop at the time didn't support their RPGs well. Still don't (just look up the fiasco about Dark Heresy as an example).

I doubt I'll ever play it. But I keep it around because it has a great summary of the History of the Old World toward the back.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Growing Up in the d20 Dark Ages (Part 4)

In middle-school, especially during the summers, sometimes we just didn't eat so we could play D&D.

We had all the time in the world, it seemed. Sometimes we'd just play D&D on the fly. One of my good friends was great at just coming up with things--"Just give me a half-hour," he say. Of course, for some of us that's a half-hour too long. "Well," they'd say. "I'll just run home really quick and get something to eat." We all lived roughly in the same neighborhood at the time, so it shouldn't have been a big deal.

Still, they wouldn't come back. Their had parents nabbed them into doing chores!

And suddenly we were down a player or two.

So we developed a policy: "Don't go home." When we were all together, we had to stay together. Fortunately, my place was usually fine to hang out. My mom, bless her heart, often didn't take me away from my friends to do chores. For some reason, the parents of each of my friends hardly ever called there. Thus, we had a bit of a sanctuary. My mom, at times, would nap on the couch in the living room and chuckle at our gaming antics in the kitchen.

Even so, there were times when I didn't eat so we could game on.

We played elsewhere, too, usually when the parents weren't home. But when they came home the festivities would end. That was always the risk.

Looking back, at first glance it seems like we were really dedicated to gaming. But that's only part of it. We were. We loved playing RPGs. But in retrospect were really dedicated to each other, like the kids in Stand By Me. But without looking for dead bodies in real life part, and the train jumping... yeah.

----

Have you ever skipped a meal or a snack so you could game with your friends? Of so, why?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Mini Monday: Games Workshop

After watching a Warhammer 40k Tournament over the weekend, and hearing about even more of their figures being converted to that Citadel Finecast crap, I realize now that my business with Games Workshop is coming to an end. The tournament signaled to me that few people play Warhammer Fantasy, at least in this area. I have a large (3000+ point) Empire Army which I've collected over the years. Why bother investing more time and money into the army when it won't get play time? And I really don't want to invest time and money in a Warhammer 40k army.

This is a big decision. I've put together that Empire Army over the course of ten years. I've bought and read a few of the Games Workshop fiction books. I even have most of the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Second Edition books. Finally, I own the Dark Heresy RPG and it successor Black Crusade.
So, I'd hate see this as a "lost investment."

The end of my love/hate relationship with Games Workshop has been looming for awhile. It knocked me upside of the head when I bought the latest Empire army book, last May. After I flipped through the pages, noticed that the point system had been altered, I though: "I'm gonna have to re-calculate everything? Gah!"

I had other things to think about, however, like the massive move to Georgia. But now that I've sat down, considered the pros and cons, I wonder: "Why did I dump Games Workshop long ago?" Denial, I guess.

So, here's my list of pros and cons in dealing with Games Workshop. Your list will probably be different. Note, also, that I left out the cost and expense of their game lines. Yes, their prices go up every year. But people will continue to pay the price point, so its not much of an issue for me. It's all the other headaches that go with investing in the GW hobby. But first...

The Pros
1. Cool miniatures. Let's face it, GW produces some of the best-looking miniatures.
2. Cool settings. Both Warhammer 40k and Fantasy are some of the best detailed settings out there.
3. Support. GW does support their lines well with miniatures, bits, background material. There is no end to it all.

The Cons
1. The Rules. Whether 40k or Fantasy, the rules can be a headache. They are hard to learn because they are exception-based. That is, the basic rules are fairly easy to learn, but then the advanced stuff basically  overturns the basic rules. I'm all about bringing new players into the hobby, but GW makes that hard with overly convoluted rules. When teaching a new player, I always feel like a jerk ("Sorry, you can't do that." "No, you can't do that either.")
--1st Sub-argument to #1. There's also no way of knowing all of the rules because each army has its own little shtick (unless you buy all the Army books, of course.
--2nd Sub-argument to #1. To help me cope with some of the madness, I no longer view Warhammer as a game, but more as an excuse to push miniatures around the table. The rules will never be balanced, and the latest Army book will trump everything that has come before. Painting miniatures is the hobby, not the game.

2. The miniatures have become more of pain in the ass to assemble over the years. The Empire State troops from eight years ago were easier to put together and base. The same goes for some of their cavalry. Yes, I understand people want to kit bash. And maybe others don't have this problem with their armies. But all this need for customization has led to having to put together the whole miniature. And the poses have become more dynamic, which you have to make sure all of the miniatures in a unit can "fit together." Empire State troops use 20mm bases. The 28mm figs is already a bit to large for the bast, but when you factor in all the spiky bits, arms and weapons waving around, you've got a problem. And I've noticed that with cavalry units the legs stick out to far--bumping into the adjacent figure if to don't assemble them just right.

3. The paints. I used to like GW paints. And the paints themselves still aren't bad, its how they store them. The old jars were so-so. The newer jar let too much light in. The paints dry up quicker now. Before the move I went to a gaming store to pick up some Reaper or Army Painter paints. They were out. So reluctantly when to the GW paint rack. Not only were the paints I were looking for dried out, but so were all the paints in the row. I checked by shaking the jars. The store got these paints maybe a month before. Obviously I didn't buy any. At the Warhammer 40k tournament a player told that he has to keep putting a little bit of water every week in some of his GW paints that he bought just a couple months ago to keep them from drying out. Why are people putting up with this?

4. Citadel Finecast. Google it and you'll see that the reviews are in. Many are calling it "Citadel Failcast" and rightfully so. Citadel Finecast is an example of Games Workshop's lack of quality control, and just plain bad business practices. Their goal was to replace most of their metal miniatures with resin equivalent. Fine. Metal is become more expensive. But then they do so, raise the price anyway (d'oh, I talked about price!) and put out a faulty product subject to chips and temperature variations (they get warped in heat, such as in a display window or in the back of a car). Apparently, even in face of customer complaints, there's to foreseeable end to Finecast soon (I guess they have to get through the production cycle, then go through a period of denial, like WotC did with 4e). I've haven't bought any Finecast miniatures but have seen their drawbacks first hand (miscasting, warping, etc.) from other players.

Fortunately, I picked up most of the Empire minis at discount before they got converted into Finecast.

Well, that's the top four cons. There's others. Just look on the Internet and you'll find them. But since I haven't experienced of heard of them first hand I won't repeat them, save one, which I find quite disturbing: Some year back, I heard that one of the GWs policies is to use local game stores to build their market. So? Well, the game store would be given preferential treatment if they sold mostly GW items and did things to built a customer base. When GW felt that the game store had built up enough of a market, GW would build a store nearby, thus destroying the old store's customer base, effectively putting it out of business.

If anybody can confirm this, I would like to know. Business is business but that's downright nasty.

So, I'm done with Games Workshop. I'm not sure what I'll do with my Empire Army--finish painting it I suppose. If I find players, I'll probably play. But I wouldn't encourage anybody to invest in GW products ("Here, you can borrow my rulebook,""Why buy those GW minis when Mantic Games has the equivalent at cheaper price?", "Sure, I'll let you proxy.")

All right, enough negativity. I'll post something more positive tomorrow. And for the next Mini Monday I'll have some photos of some miniatures I've recently painted. (Yes, one or two might be from Games Workshop... but I bought them over a year ago...)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Relic from the Golden Age: Fantasy Wargaming, By Bruce Galloway


"This book was groundbreaking, revolutionary, and far ahead of the curve for anything else available commercially at the time." --Ralph Mazza, reviewer, Amazon.com

Wait... What?

I've read the retrospective over at Grognardia, and I've seen other reviews of this strange tome. Most don't like it all, a minority, from what I can tell, cheerfully support it.

Like so many others, it seems, I bought Fantasy Wargaming for cheap at a used bookstore. This was over ten years ago, I think, when I was looking for alternatives to the rules bloat of 3e/3.5e. This book certainly is a head-scratcher at first read.

I was going to a lot more research, but Mike Monaco over at Swords & Dorkery has all ready done a thorough job. You'll need to take some time to read it, because it is a long, but enlightening post.

http://mikemonaco.wordpress.com/bruce-galloways-fantasy-wargaming/

In summary (for those who don't want to read the whole thing just yet):

Apparently, the authors were all gamers in and around Cambridge in the mid-to-late 1970s. Bruce Galloway himself was working on his PhD. The other authors each wrote a chapter in the book leading up the rules. Galloway wrote the chapters on the rules. This is probably why the text somewhat disjointed (and even conflicting at times) when you read it. However, when the book is taken into context, it really sheds light what authors were trying to do. You can find this quote by Mike Lowe, one of the authors, on the link above:

"I'm a a little vague on chronology, but I think Fantasy Wargaming... was the result of Bruce Galloway and his historically-minded gaming friends (none whom I knew previously) feeling there was something to be done with a more ambitious and historically rooted approach to game-making than they were finding n the nascent mainstream, and Bruce had the idea of a volume that would be both a presentation of the tools and an actual playable game in its own right."

You know what? As a medievalist, I can get behind that. Players of these games should be exposed to both the history and the literature that inspired these games in the first place. I concede now that the intentions of Fantasy Wargaming were to do just that. Was it effective? Well, that's another story.

My main critique now is over the presentation of the material. The rules are unclear, hands down. Monaco does give the rules a fair shake, and he clears up a lot of my confusion. Apparently, you have to read the entire rules to understand the ins and outs of character creation. Galloway doesn't, say, introduce the wizard as its own "class" after your roll up stats, and then have a different section describing how spells work. No, its all lumped together. In a way, this makes sense (warriors go next to the combat rules, priests and clerics end up next to the rules on faith and miracles), but you have to read and study the whole rule system to get the big picture on character creation.

There's more to my criticisms against how the rules are presented (such as women characters getting some hefty minuses). But I will not, like so many others, tear apart a rule system created 30+ years ago, of which the author of the rules is dead, before I even started playing RPGs. What's the point? It's not like Fantasy Wargaming can suddenly change into something you'd desire. Just move on.

Still, In recent years, there's been a revival in taking another look at Fantasy Wargaming:

http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?422199-Let-s-Read-Fantasy-Wargaming-(seriously)

http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=12045

In writing this blog, I had to take another look, too, a deeper examination of the material. Fantasy Wargaming have some great ideas, especially on how magic works. It's just that the rules are confusing at first read, which will turn away may prospective players.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Review: Campaign Sourcebook and Catacomb Guide


DMing is enjoyable, but isn't easy at times. For a first time DM, however, preparing for and running sessions can be downright overwhelming. After all, a DM has a lot on his plate. The Campaign Sourcebook and Catacomb Guide, written by Paul Jaquays and William W. Connors, is meant for both veteran and neophyte DMs. Veterans will find this great read, examples of "what not to do" are humorous, and they might learn some new things. Beginners, however, should devour this book, even though a small amount of advice might be dated.

This 128 page perfect bound book is the first Dungeon Master's Guide Reference series. Generally, while the DMG explained the rules, these series, more or less, showed DMs how to, well, DM, addressing all the DMing stuff that the core DMG didn't. TSR published nine of these books. Of these, the Campaign Sourcebook and Catacomb Guide is the most important, because it sets the foundation for great DMing.

Although the book has 12 chapters, the book itself can be divided into the three sections. The first shows a DM how to prepare for and conducting gaming sessions. The second part is all about developing a campaign world, creating adventures, making NPCs seems more alive, and so on. The last part, and the small, features some generic dungeons (the great pyramid, a beehive fort, a castle on the moors, etc.) that the DM can use. This last section (chapter 10-12) feels like, more or less, an addendum. The maps provide are neat. But they aren't exactly "generic" dungeons.  I think the designers included them to demonstrate that a "dungeon" doesn't have to be labyrinth in the earth and to show off their 3-D mapping skills (a 3-D map grid is provided). There is, however, further advice on how to run a "dungeon" as a "setting" by including natural hazards one would encounter underground (gases, lava, etc.)

The first four chapters deal the challenges a DM can, and probably will, face while running a session, and the stuff that happens between sessions. This is the real gem of the book. DMs learn how to recognize the different styles of play and the different kinds of players (hack-and-slash, the problem solver, etc.) and how to cater to each. How do you integrate a player with a character from another campaign? What do you do when a player suddenly has to leave in the middle of a session? When should the rules be left behind? How do you escape from Monty Haulism and super-characters? The answers are all there. I think these chapters are the most vital in the book, because they show DMs how do deal with things like player feuds and absentism.

Chapters 5-10 aren't any less important; these show how to create an entire campaign setting and the adventures there. But what's the point if the DM doesn't know how to conduct the game and handle troublesome players? Still, a DM needs to provide good adventures to get players to the game (and stay there). A DM will learn about the different kinds of gamers out there (problem-solvers, role-players, etc.) and the types of adventures he can run (linear, open, matrix, and so on).

The only downside about this book is that some of the information is probably dated, particularly the chapter on map making, given that this book was written before map making software became readily available. Younger gamers probably have no clue what a "Monty Haul" is (Lets Make A Deal stopped running in the 1980s, I think).

Some gamers might criticize the section on "Fudging or Constructive Cheating." The example given, however, is a group of characters who've just completed their quest though wounded, when the DM notices that they are about to walk down a corridor of deadly gas that can wipe out the entire party. Does the DM let the players make the decision and the dice fall where they may? It's up for the DM to decide. The author suggest giving the players a chance to notice the gas, diverting them elsewhere. Basically don't let an entire campaign end get wasted with a TPK.

One thing to keep in mind though, is that the Campaign Sourcebook and Catacomb Guide was written when story and plot were considered an integral part of the gaming experience, at least from the TSR perspective. You'll find all kinds of tips on how to create plots and story lines, but not so much how to create campaigns based on exploration and player decisions.

Overall, this is great book for beginner DMs. Chapters 1-4 are the most important in the book, because they handle the tabletop etiquette that makes a session run smoothly. I sure needed the advice at 11 years old, a year after I first starting playing D&D. I know those early games weren't all that great, but this book helped, a lot. Especially when dealing with different types of gamers, both then and now. I've had this book since the beginning of my DMing career and I still occasionally refer to it.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Review: AD&D 2e Monstrous Compendium


The Monstrous Compendium was another thing that made me feel torn between 1e and 2e. Here we seem to have an upgrade at first. But when used, the Monstrous Compendium was just unwieldy.
I didn't like lugging that thing around--it took up a lot of backpack space. 

The binder itself was about 3" thick, and it came with 144 loose leaf pages, which only filled up about 1/4 of the binder space. The intention was that you'd go out and buy more compendiums to fill up the binder. And I did, because, well... TSR seemed to have abandoned the concept of the "Monster Manual" being a hardbound book. Soon my binder was full. Additional compendiums when into another non-TSR, three ring binder.

Now, I can understand where the designers were coming from: they wanted to make the DM's job easier. A DM could remove only the monsters he needed from the compendium for his sessions. My problem: I didn't dare--I was too afraid that the sheets would get lost or damaged. Also, I didn't want the  hassle of putting them back in. Furthermore, maybe I just wanted to have all of the monsters on hand for "just in case" or to be certain I had all the monsters on a random encounter table.

I did like, however, how each monster was given at least a full page of description. You got the statistics, how they function in combat, and ecology. There are naysayers out there about the ecology section. Why bother having one if the characters are going to kill the monster anyway? That space could be used for more monsters. 

But I didn't mind each monster having its own ecology. They did contain some useful information. At the very least, most made a decent read. 

I did mind, though, that the original compendium contained less than 144 monsters. See, some monsters got more than one page. Even so, the AD&D Monster Manual contained more monsters. So, in that aspect, I was somewhat opposed to the ecologies. My main beef though, was that I'd have to buy the Monstrous Compendium, Volume 2 to make the compendium "complete" with the basic monsters for AD&D 2e. 

When looking back, I can understand why veteran DMs of OD&D and AD&D would not like AD&D 2e. The Monstrous Compendiums would be major turn off. I was young, and really didn't know better. I just wanted to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak. I can easily see a veteran DM saying to himself:

"Wait a minute, you want me to trade in my Monster Manual, Monster Manual II, and my Fiend Folio for that beast? All three of my books can fit into that binder! I have all the monsters I need--and they're compatible with Second Edition should I decide to play it."

Not everybody, of course, has such a harsh judgement on the Monstrous Compendium. Yet, I for one was relieved when TSR published the Monstrous Manual in 1993. 



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