Friday, February 6, 2009

Sand Castle What?

What constitutes a Sand Castle World?

In the comments to yesterday's Sand Castle Worlds post, a well respected reader, Dwayanu, put together a very poignant response. Dwayanu pointed out some important details which I had failed to spell out in that post. I feel the concept of a Sand Castle World does need further elucidation, and thankfully someone else with a slightly different view has been kind enough to share his thoughts and experiences.

First I'd like to define Homebrew. Like the word Campaign, Homebrew has evolved into a catchall phrase that often needs further definition. It can mean tinkering with the rules, making house rules, or creating new material for the game in the way of monsters, items, spells and classes. It is also used to describe a personalized campaign setting. People often say such things as “in my Campaign” when they want to tell you about some small bits of tinkering, house rules or creations they have Homebrewed. When they say “in my Homebrew” it means something else to me. It means they are referring to their campaign setting which is specifically a personally crafted world, not one based on a published setting at all.

The roots of these terms are of great interest to me. Campaign was clearly intended to describe a series of adventures. Settings grew from the adventures, and thus the term describing these collected adventures was also used to label these settings, as in Gary's campaign, or Dave's campaign, aka Greyhawk and Blackmoor respectively. This is an important detail in this post, that the Settings grew from a series of adventures, or Campaigns.

I not certain of the origins of Homebrew, but it is clearly NOT a term used in the original concept of the game. Why? The very act of making things up was assumed. Part of playing D&D involved a referee who made things up. The rise of the term Homebrew is a reflection of the evolution of the game itself. This harkens back to my observations on the origin of the term Megadungeon. In the original game, the description of an underworld dungeon was nearly synonymous with our modern definition of Megadungeon. It wasn't until decades later that the community felt the need to coin this term to describe something which was assumed in OD&D.

Perhaps that is why I feel there is a need to use the phrase Sand Castle World. These are not simply Settings, Campaigns or Homebrews. They are Homebrewed Campaign Settings with some other important characteristics.

Dwayanu made some excellent observations on Settings. First off that there is an implied Setting, even with OD&D. It is essentially a medieval Setting of fantasy and mythology. A few tidbits here and there hint at expanding the scope of the game, and Robots are even mentioned, but the fact is that most players assumed they were in for a generic medieval fantasy game.

D&D continued on this path for years, primarily using Gygax's Greyhawk as the assumed milieu. Not necessarily the prescribed Campaign Setting, but the assumed medieval fantasy theme for D&D in it's entirety.

With the proliferation of alternate milieus heralding the 2E era, such Settings as Planescape, Al-Qadim, Red Steel, Ravenloft, Dark Sun and Hollow World showed once more how D&D need not be driven down such a narrow path. Dwayanu states that this is possibly when the actual term Setting was coined. Before then, the Setting was medieval fantasy. Again, I'd mention that in some small way, this was the community redefining the history of the game. In OD&D, even though there was an implied Setting, there was still no published example of such. It was wide open at that time. AD&D and Greyhawk created a narrow focus, and the plethora of alternate Settings reminded everyone that it was not the only way to play.

OD&D was a concept. We are told in the original books that it “need not be restricted to the medieval”. Like many things explained, or open to interpretation in the 1974 unveiling of the game, this notion was forgotten for a time, only to be rediscovered later.

There is though a salient point in regard to the original notion of the game versus the modern way of thinking. We are shown quite clearly in The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures how to begin a game of D&D. Make a Dungeon, make a Town near the Dungeon, create a basic overland map of the Wilderness area immediately around the Dungeon. The seeds of adventure for those referees who wish to dive right in. It was the other visionaries who paid particular attention to the mention of scope, restrictions, guidelines, and robots that took things in a different direction entirely. Nevertheless, the basic format was:

Dungeon, Town and Wilderness.

Sounds like a Sandbox game to me. Sandbox is another term coined in the same manner as Homebrew, Megadungeon and Campaign. Sandbox play has always been in the original rules. The term arose from the need to differentiate that style of play from the plot-driven, adventure hook, story book style which became popular later.

Enter MAR Barker. Tekumel was not a new idea. MAR Barker had been writing about his fantasy world for decades before the notion of D&D was even formed. When the two ideas collided, the result was a Sand Castle World published in 1975 as The Empire of the Petal Throne. Clearly it was not an organically grown Setting built through extensive Sandbox play. It was a collection of ideas, stories and notes which were crafted into game form using the D&D concept.

MAR Barker took D&D into his creative sandbox and began from the granular level. The foundations of the game were molded to suit his vision. The rules were changed to such a point that, unfortunately, the game was not called D&D. It should have been called Dungeons & Dragons in The Empire of the Petal Throne. I think the hobby would have been better served. For whatever reason, it was not marketed as such, and I think it suffered due to this fact.

Shortly thereafter organically grown Settings, those which actually claimed the meager Dungeon, Town, Wilderness beginnings, began to reach published format. Many of them were also not considered D&D. In reality, they were the same concept unveiled in the original 1974 booklets with foundational rules changes, the primary difference being that they were not published by TSR. But I digress. I want to focus on D&D specifically.

When I read OD&D, it seems quite clear to me that I am being told to take creative license and craft my own rules, theme and setting. It's still D&D even if I veer away from the implied milieu. At least, in 1974, and in the mind of the authors at that time, it was still D&D. It is easy to see simply by considering the terms Campaign, Homebrew, Megadungeon, Sandbox and Setting, that D&D does mean something much more specific now.

As Dwayanu mentioned, he understands what is implied when his players say “normal D&D”. I'd contend that it is something different than using the term “normal OD&D”. There was no normal OD&D. There was an implied milieu, though. To me, “normal OD&D” would mean starting with Dungeon, Town and Wilderness in a medieval Setting.

Sand Castle Worlds therefore are not quite “normal OD&D”. These begin with Settings which might veer away from the implied milieu. Like Tekumel and others, Sand Castle Worlds also build with the notion that D&D is not limited in scope. The notion that OD&D is a concept and not a set of rules is embraced by the authors of Sand Castle Worlds. As intended by Gygax & Arneson, the message has always been that the rules are a guideline, to be altered and added to.

Whether these individual worlds are created, like Tekumel, or grown organically, like Arduin, they are clearly not quite the same as what has become known now as a Campaign, or a Homebrew. They feel and play quite differently than “normal D&D”.

Are they D&D? I think in many cases that Sand Castle Worlds are the purest form of D&D. The purest form meaning, to me, the D&D concept itself. D&D means something more specific now, so to many, they are something else.

I see this type of talk quite often in the OD&D circles. Referees speak of house rules, alternative race treatments, personal interpretations, homebrewed Thief classes, unique milieus, settings based on Howard, Burroughs, Lovecraft or any number of other authors, movies or even cartoons (Masters of the Universe!). I've even entertained the idea of a Sand Castle World based on Black Sabbath's album, Paranoid. This type of banter is welcome in OD&D circles. OD&D almost requires such foundational work. It's quite simple to take a small step back from that original edition, knock down the rudimentary foundations therein, and find oneself starting from the granular level.

Look no further than Carcosa, Xothique and World of Thool to get an idea of this type of creativity. Sand Castle Worlds need not be as narrowly focused as Tekumel, Harn or any of the above examples. They can be a kitchen sink of ideas like Arduin as well.

There are currently a vast number of Sand Castle Worlds in the works, being run, or gathering dust in someone's attic. Unfortunately there are not very many in print for us to appreciate.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee


Chgowiz said...

Sham, this is a great essay and one of those that I hope to see more discussion of as we go on in 2009. We've seen 4E become the "new" definition of D&D, it's a pleasure to see growing appreciation of what "original" D&D could really mean.

Mark said...

I expect that the truly special, non-generic Sand Castles are much too personal to make good products. In the age of the Internet and micropublishing, we might be expecting to see more of them, but then again - the urges that make one are different than the urges that lead to publishing.

Badelaire said...

Sweet frickin' crimeny - if one more "old school" catchphrase or buzzword is implemented using "sand" anywhere in it, I think I'll have to open The Safe and take out Special Order 74D...

I started D&D in 1993, and by the time I hit college two years later, TSR had out how many campaign settings? Over a dozen? And I still built my own setting and used my own house rules, and I wasn't channeling the spirit of Gygax or praying to the Little Brown Book Gods in order to do it, either.

35 years have passed since OD&D came out. That's a lot of damn time for published settings to hit the shelves, and a lot more damn players to use them. This doesn't somehow mean anyone gaming these days with a unique, personally-developed setting is somehow "old school". It might just mean they don't feel like forking over $50 for a core setting book and a few hundred more for all the supplements. Hell, I'd totally play in Mongoose's Conan setting...if it didn't set me back the better part of a grand to buy it all.

I'd say THAT is a far bigger factor than "new school" lack of imagination or any other myopic crap like that - the fact that you're not just shelling out $20-30 bucks for a boxed set, but several hundred dollars for the core setting hardcover and a dozen or more supplemental sourcebooks. Picking up a pad of graph paper and a spiral bound notebook because it's cheaper than the published alternative doesn't make one "old school" - it means you're a little more fiscally responsible than your average 17 year old.

Atom Kid said...

I didn't start playing until the Moldvay edition and later AD&D. Creating your own world was a given, it didn't occur to me that you could play pre-written settings until Forgotten Realms came out.

I hadn't heard of Tekumel until a month or two ago, but I like the sci-fi/fantasy feel it has. It's definitely a change from the regular high-fantasy setting.

I plan on sticking to my sandbox, but am going to eventually check out M.A.R. Barker's books out.

Ryan said...

Badelaire, I think you've got a good point here. I've run a lot of games (D&D and otherwise) that could not be called "old school" in the slightest, and I've always used my own settings. Not only is it cheaper, as you pointed out, but I find it to be a lot more fun, as the DM, to create my own stuff and doodle in notebooks and on graph paper.

Sham aka Dave said...

Thanks for the comments.

Mark: Perhaps that's why published examples are so rare. Good point. EPT flopped even though it is considered one of the finest examples of the concept.

Badelaire: Didn't mean to kick sand in your face. This article is not about old school versus new school. I don't think old school was even mentioned in this article. I must say I'm a bit confused by your comments.

Matthew James Stanham said...

Just a quick correction. Dwanyu does not say that the word setting was coined in the era of second edition, I think you got a bit caught up there. The first time "setting" was invoked, to my knowledge, is 1980: The World of Greyhawk: Fantasy World Setting by Gary Gygax, Approved for use with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Adventure Game.

The idea of a setting has been with us since at least then.

Badelaire said...


If I'm coming off as a bit perturbed, it's because the whole slant of your article is leaning in the direction of how OD&D is all about these "sand castles" (ugh).

I just don't get where you're going with all this. Yeah, back in 1974, you had to make it all from scratch. Duh. That, to me, is about as exciting as talking about how cool it was, back before the invention of mechanical locomotion, that we all had to walk everywhere (or, if you're really fancy, ride a horse).

I just find it irksome how OD&D gets the reach-around for being so special when most of what makes it so "cool" to talk about is mostly due to the fact that there was little else out there, period. You can hand me a chunk of flint and I can have the "excitement and freedom" of napping a blade out of it...or I can go and buy myself a knife that suits my needs.

I'm not trying to kick sand back in your face - its just that posts like this one or a lot of what comes out of the other grog-blogs just kinda makes me roll my eyes. There's nothing particularly special or buzzword-worthy about "making stuff up", and you certainly don't have to be using a 35 year old set of RPG rules to do it - but sometimes you wouldn't guess that, reading some of what I read in my blog list every day.

Anyhow, sorry if I'm peeing in your pool, dude. Double-Thumbs-Up for DIY-World Building and all that jazz.

Sham aka Dave said...

Matthew: You are correct. I should have read it again before posting. I was trying to point out the point in time when the word became a hot topic, according to Dwayanu.

I wasn't even thinking about the inclusion of the word "Setting" in Greyhawk's title. I'd say that if anything the plethora of alternate 2E settings helped shake the chains of Greyhawk.

Badelaire: This post is not about how OD&D is the shit. If I were more well versed in modern D&D, perhaps I could use newer analogies. In fact, I'd love to see some. This type of setting is one which BLOWS UP the rules, and emerges as something entirely different than the D&D books (regardless of edition) that it started with. By all means you can take 3.5 and do this. You'd just need a lot more dynamite. It goes beyond drawing maps and making up names, and has nothing to do with saving money. These are more than simple homemade campaigns, a point I tried to express with this post.

I find it funny that you say "old school" buzzwords, when in fact, as pointed out in the article, they are anything but. Furthermore, I never claimed or insinuated any "new school" lack of imagination. I'm all for taking graph paper and spiral notebook and going off. It's kind of the point of D&D. It has nothing at all to do with edition.

I make it rather clear that I prefer OD&D for numerous reasons that resonate with me. I don't begrudge anyone their personal preference. I am guilty as charged that I try to share my enthusiasm with readers. This PC attitude that it's not OK to have a preference ticks me off, about as much as someone saying posts like this in reference to this article. I guess everything I post here is simply giving OD&D a reach-around.

Badelaire, I respect your opinion. Either I didn't express myself well enough, or you only skimmed the post. Either way you felt like venting. No problem. I hope you can read future posts here without rolling your eyes.

Badelaire said...


My apologies for coming off as caustic with regards to this. We look at these sorts of issues through very different lenses, and sometimes my impression of what other people are seeing annd saying rubs me the wrong way.

Right now I think I see what you're saying. I guess what sorta puts my teeth on edge is that this idea that your "Sand Castle Worlds" are designed to "blow up the rules" really only kinda sorta works for certain game systems - for others, "blowing up the rules" either doesn't really compute or is just another day on the job.

I mean, how would you do this in a system like GURPS? How would a setting "blow up" a system that really is just a mess of points bolted onto four attributes? You can do pretty much anything you want with it, and if there isn't a published rule for it, there's rules for making the rules.

Actually, you could apply this to almost any really "genre-less" RPG system. A setting that "blows up" the rules isn't blowing anything up, it just asks you to create stuff that might not have existed yet under that rules build. The only reason it seems weird in more established versions of D&D is that later versions of D&D aren't really "generic" RPGs - so I guess going to OD&D because there's so little there in the first place is the only recourse.

Of course, if you're talking about later editions of D&D, what about Dark Sun? That setting takes a fair number of rules and turns them on their ears. Or Spelljammer, or Planescape, or even Ebberon, with a lot of weird magi-tech, non-living PCs (like the war-forged) and the like. Or what about Ravenloft? That was a setting that turned a lot of rules around and redefined the norm for a "campaign setting".

I guess my point is, with regards to Dungeons & Dragons this is an interesting phenomena, but if you pull back the scope a bit, it doesn't seem all that unique an idea.

But this is an OD&D blog, and therefore you're right - you're looking at it from the viewpoint of OD&D (and to a lesser degree its successors).

I hope this makes more sense and shows where I'm coming from a little more clearly.

Dwayanu said...

It seems "old school" (not synonymous with "old D&D books" or "old players") to me to pick up graph paper and pencil because one is short on cash for commercial game products. That circumstance led in my circle to such other features as that rules-lawyering was almost unheard of ... simply because only one guy even knew what was in the book! ("You buy it, you GM it" was the rule.)

Heck, one reason I chose to shell out for Traveller instead of Gamma World was that it seemed to me more in line with what today is called "sandbox."

"Why have us do any more of your imagining for you?" was, I think, pretty earnestly the attitude behind OD&D. I like to call it "descriptive, not prescriptive."

DIY is what it was about, and that is a different matter from just being a consumer -- much as reading a book or listening to a radio play is different from watching TV.

Badelaire, does it help to put things in perspective to recall that we're talking about D&D -- what has been for decades the poster child for Buy It Now gaming? Other folks simply had to make up their own stuff, because they didn't have a stream of product gushing at them from TSR Hobbies, Inc.. We're the bourgeois bohemians of the FRP status quo, man! Heavy.

Badelaire said...

I'll go find that dusty copy of On the Road, you go scrounge up some berets and black turtlenecks...

Dwayanu said...

There are some fans who get all fetish-y over Greyhawk canon and would consider publication of Gygax's dungeons the Holy Grail. That's something Gary himself apparently never really grokked -- one reason he did not make it a priority. The published World of Greyhawk setting was just something he produced as a job, not because he personally thought that the gaming world needed (or perhaps even much wanted) it.

Sham aka Dave said...

Badelaire: I name many of those 2E examples as settings which cast aside the long night of Greyhawk, and reminded players that D&D need not be so limited in scope. I own and enjoyed reading Planescape and Al-Qaadim. I own some material for Ravenloft and Dark Sun. I will probably bid on some Hollow World stuff on eBay in the near future just to read it.

I stopped spending coin on those 2E settings when I realized my old gaming crew had no interest in them. Those are all fine examples of Sand Castles, and that's why I mentioned them and how they reminded players that Greyhawk was not ALL that D&D could offer.

In fact, we owned so much 1E stuff by the mid 80's that 2E, and the later WotC stuff, was never adopted. I was able to shoehorn in bits and pieces of 2E material, but by then my games were almost entirely homebrew. No modules, lots of house rules, a heaping of non-TSR material, and the rest custom stuff.

This was all my players wanted or ever needed. In the end it was a closet full of handwritten notes spanning decades of gaming.

When you start talking about GURPS my eyes glaze over. I'm all about the D&D. I doubt I will ever change.

So yes, for someone steeped in the vast proliferation of FRPs on the market post 1985, my observation and my post probably seems rather naive.

Dwayanu: I've said before that I am a Greyhawk fan. I have fond memories of The Scarlet Brotherhood, Iuz, The Valley, etc.

At some point in my 1E days, I rejected all things Gygax. Let's face it, D&D was almost overwhelmingly associated with that milieu. My crew went out and found other things like Arduin, and the EO stuff (Booty & the Beast) just to cut through the malaise.

I appreciate Greyhawk again now. But I'm glad TSR went a little nuts with those alternate settings. As I mentioned, it served to remind the community that D&D could be so much more.

Dwayanu said...

I think that one can get too preciously hip, too stuck on the "integrity" of My Work of Art, to offer much fun to most players. That kind of attachment is in key ways no different from getting hung up on preordained details of a published setting. What's the difference to the players?

I think it's a temptation to which one is especially vulnerable when "world building" outside the context of an ongoing campaign. I'm sort of glad I threw away most of what I scribbled over the past year while just "thinking about" running a game.

The OD&D books can be inspirational in part because consciousness of historical context opens one to reading things with fresh eyes. One thing, though, that has remained with me from the start is the impression of the Underworld as an environment wide open with possibilities. Why encounter tables for Barsoom? "Why not?" is, I think, the answer that was meant to illustrate by example.

Literally anything could lie behind the next door. That's why I say it's not necessary to put a lot of the bizarre on the surface, in the Home Base from which players depart for adventure.

I've run EPT games with the "just off the boat" setup -- and confidently in MY Tekumel, not Barker's. However, I've also tossed Ssu and Eyes and so on into my D&D dungeons. Players can "world hop" to check out the milieu, and we can see what develops. If that turns out to be nothing more than a single expedition, then so be it.

I've compared the dungeon to the starship in "Star Trek." It's a convenient way to let continuing characters get into all sorts of interesting situations. I can borrow ideas from wherever I find them.

If the players really get into a King Arthur or Roaring 20s scene, then we can start a new campaign devoted to that; I've got some other RPGs I'd love to play again!

In fairness to "4E," it might actually lend itself especially well in some ways to just such eclecticism. It's pretty easy to "file off the serial numbers" from mechanics already pretty far removed from any pretense of simulation. My problem is partly that lack of verisimilitude itself, and partly the sheer volume of rules.

As I think Gene Weigel observed, in some quarters dungeons and dragons are so scarce that people end up playing the game of "&". If I'm going for something with a tighter focus, I'll reach for rules designed with that in mind. When I pick up D&D, it's because I want to play the kind of game for which it was originally intended.

To attract new players, it probably is best to start them in "the Fields We Know." The contrast probably makes the fantastic only the more vividly so. Get to know each other, and work together to create something all your own!

Sham aka Dave said...

Dwayanu: There is certainly the "work of art" aspect going on with a lot of the homebrew scene. Creators aka Authors of these settings tend to go overboard, me included in some respects, with their treatments. I think this is an effect of "too much damn creation and not enough gaming".

This next bit might rub a lot of readers (those that delve deep into the comments section) the wrong way, BUT the prescribed starting point shared in OD&D might be the BEST way to get a campaign off of the ground. Dungeon, Town, Wilderness. Sandbox it. See where the players' interests lay. Build from there.

Damn. Call me the curmudgeon, but OD&D nailed it from the get go.

One of the rules of creating settings has always been don't fret the details. In other words, save time by only focusing on what is actually relevant NOW.

That is pretty much what was described in OD&D.

I turly wonder if this hobby has actually made ANY strides in concept at all.

Dwayanu said...

A clarification: The rules-lightness of some older games contributes to what I see in practice as their greater provision for verisimilitude than what I find in some newer designs.

When complexity is justified in the name of "realism," it's a different kettle of fish than a mass of rules based on abstract notions of "game balance." In the former case, one can appeal to the same rationale to change the rules; in the latter context, inflexibility tends to be seen as a virtue in itself.

Dwayanu said...

I think Traveller was actually a step forward in presentation. The designers looked very carefully at D&D, and seemed to grasp very well what it was fundamentally about.

The tables for generating Subsectors and Universal Planetary Profiles provided an ideal middle ground in the "Wilderness" department between (a) pulling out Outdoor Survival and (b) wracking one's brain.

Instead of a list of monsters, you got tables for rolling up creatures complete with some sense of "ecology." Because it was a significant element in the source material (and key to how the game was usually played), Trade and Commerce got three pages of very handy rules. There are a lot of similarly elegant extrapolations from the original scheme.

Early issues of the Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society featured some very Gygaxian-style dismissals of people who insisted that the game was flawed for not spelling out X, Y and / or Z. Want laser pistols? You've got basis enough to whip 'em up! Grumblehuffsnort.

Sham aka Dave said...

Catching up: I agree with your rationalization in regard to "rules light" treatments. Efforts to explain the fantastic often lead to an implemntation of balance which in fact detracts from the concept.

In regard to Traveller, I'm all over that game. I still have my original GDW three LBB. I was fortunate enough to be a player in a true sandbox style game. We got into a lot of trouble being smugglers! I'd have to agree that GDW got it right from the very beginning. Someone understood what was being hinted at with the D&D concept.

Here's a tidbit of trivia I noticed in the Traveller LBB. How many illustraions are there between the 3 LBB?

Dwayanu said...

It might depend on printing. My memory may be fooling me with the recollection of a picture of Alexander Jamison not in the Book 1 I have now.

I have on hand second edition (printings: 1=2nd, 2=3rd, 3=1st-UK). Book 1 has no illustrations, unless you count the grid of range bands. Book 2 has "A Typical Interplanetary Journey" and "Terra" (diagrams). Book 3 has an illustration of several types of vehicles.

Sham aka Dave said...

Yeah, Characters & Combat has Jamison. That's the only illo between the three. Something I didn't notice until reading them again recently after that thread on odd74 about the Traveller/OD&D hybrid facsimile.

Matthew James Stanham said...

The published World of Greyhawk setting was just something he produced as a job, not because he personally thought that the gaming world needed (or perhaps even much wanted) it.

I think one of the more telling things that Gygax ever said about his work was that he was lucky enough to be paid to write things he wanted to write. So, I think it is a bit disingenuous to imagine it as being "just a job" to him. Certainly, he hoped gamers wanted such products, otherwise his business acumen would not have allowed him to devote the time to producing it.

That it was not just a failed experiment seems evident in the Yggsburgh project, which he seems to have very much enjoyed writing.

So, yeah, it is easy to fetishise Gygaxian Greyhawk and covet a full range of products, but at the same time there is a tension between the "do it yourself" and "buy what I have done" aspects of the hobby.

Dwayanu said...

Excellent point, Matthew. I got carried away into exaggeration. Whatever his relationship with TSR, the work was not mere drudgery! And of course everyone expected that there would be a market for the product.

I do think that back then he had a hard time sympathizing with those who might want all the work (in his eyes, the play) done for them. The WOG Folio left a lot of blanks to fill in. That there was a price point to meet was, I think, a pleasant coincidence with a DIY attitude. I wonder why else WOG was not expanded upon over the years anywhere near as avidly as later was the Forgotten Realms line.

Gary did not seem especially averse to capitalizing on the eagerness of some fans to buy anything even remotely related to D&D. He seems not to have anticipated the success that Judges Guild had with dungeon modules and so on. After all, he was not in the market for someone else's campaign notes!

He seemed to change his tune in the 1980s as to whether an ever expanding and changing line of rule-books would be a good or a bad thing, as an aesthetic judgment of the game.

By the time of Yggsburgh, his main interest was in quite a different game altogether: Lejendary Adventures.

Sham aka Dave said...

Sadly my Greyhawk Folio is in the mysterious vanishing gaming box along with my Holmes Basic, Gamma World, Aftermath, Bushido, and other stuff I'm reminded of from time to time. I haven't looked at GH in probably 20 years.

I've resorted to slowly rebuilding my childhood games collection via eBay. I nabbed Holmes and GW for cheap, and I'll start looking for a bargain Greyhawk Folio and a copy of Champions next.

Brunomac said...

>There's nothing particularly special or buzzword-worthy about "making stuff up"<

Shit, that is a bit sad, and so modern young American. Yeah, fuck creativity. It's dead. It's why Hollywood has to cull everything either from comic books or remake previously made movies. It's why as Americans we let ourselves be lead by one dimensional, close-minded nitwits for about a decade.

"Old School" D&D and gaming in general was indeed a place where you had to open your mind. Call it "building sand castles" or "sand boxes" or whatever. Whatever you call it, D&D has become a reflection of Americana - close your mind, let others do it for you, and everything will be alright.

Badelaire said...

"Shit, that is a bit sad, and so modern young American. Yeah, fuck creativity. It's dead. It's why Hollywood has to cull everything either from comic books or remake previously made movies. It's why as Americans we let ourselves be lead by one dimensional, close-minded nitwits for about a decade."


While it is clear you've got some things you want to work out of your system, you are also actually entirely and completely missing my point.

I do not consider "making stuff up" to be noteworthy because it is the meat and drink of gaming already. Or, at least, it has been for me and everyone I've gamed with for the last couple of decades.

If you are upset because I do not think it is worthwhile to congratulate people for simply "making stuff up" as opposed to just buying something, I suppose that's because I am typically against heaping praise on people for doing what they should be doing already. Praising someone for making up their own campaign setting (as opposed to just going out and buying one) is to me like making every kid on the soccer team a co-captain just so no one's feelings get hurt.

Now, if someone creates something that I consider to be especially creative and evocative, something that has had a lot of time and energy and thought put into it, I will indeed praise it and encourage their enterprises. But I refuse to just hand out "Atta Boy!"s to people for simply not giving in to commercialism.

I guess it's because I'm not quite that bitter and jaded yet. I'm sure I'll get there eventually, though. Apparently plenty of people are there already.

James D Jarvis said...

I've been using "The Dismal Depths" for the past week for pick-up games using the S&W:WB rules and it's been a ton of fun.

I dumped the "standard" fantasy races and whipped up Amazon, Cyclops and Pygmy races for the game. doing this along with using "the Dismal Depths" gave us some instant "Sand Castle" effect. It was identifiable but not the same old thing.

Sham aka Dave said...

James: I just read the post about your recent games. Sounds a lot like my own son's experiences in the Dismal Depths. Four characters met their end across three excursions.

I allowed him to pick one of 4 known entrances each time: the Old Tower, the Cave, the Woods or the Ruins. When he picked the Ruins I just decided randomly which entrance there was located first (since there are 4 such possible ones).

I'll probably post an article about these games soon. Glad you like the project so far. Oh, and I love your alternate player races!