Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Purple Worm Graveyard - Not Quite on Sale Yet...

This thing has been printed for a couple weeks now, but I've just been too busy to put up a Web page. So hang it, I'm just going to blog it!

This post was going to be a place where you could buy the Purple Worm Graveyard, but it looks like you can't put a PayPal button in a Blogger post. Which seems annoying and lame.

So hold on a bit, and I'll put a Web Page somewhere for this thing.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

A new Wall

This month I was due to have an art show at Verite Coffee in my own Madrona neighborhood, however the show was cancelled due to a double-booking with a school group. Sad news, considering I had just spent the last two weeks furiously completing and framing pictures, several of which featured somewhat twisted versions of Madrona houses and buildings.

To make up for, they offered me an October show at their Capitol Hill Location: the one with the huge walls. The one where you can see the art blazing out across Pike Street when you walk by. The one that's a favorite stop on the Capitol Hill Art Walk (though, perhaps more due to the cupcakes than the art). Seduced by walls, i said yes.

Life has a weird way of closing doors and opening doors at the same time.

So my existing art will be horribly swallowed by the giant walls at the store. I can probably fit my whole existing inventory on the back wall alone. The plan is, over the next four months, to make at least 5 huge dungeons, 24'x28' or bigger. So I'm going to be pretty busy.

Another consequence of this change is that I realize it's time to finally let the Year of the Dungeon come to and end. I don't mean this blog, which will continue to have a trickle of activity. Rather I'm letting myself off the hook for posting microdungeons to the blog in any kind of regular schedule.

So that's the story. I'm not quite sure what any of this means except that I really hope there will some extremely cool dungeon art showing up on this blog pretty soon. Fingers crossed.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Things Change

This last Saturday my Mom died. It wasn't unexpected. We had time to prepare, not that you can prepare.

At the same time, my grand niece or nephew is about to be born. This will be number 10 of those, I think. I sometimes lose count.

My Mom could be a very tough woman, though she was secretly tenderhearted. She raised me firmly in the tradition of the Catholic Church (and thereby determined the shape of creativity forevermore). She also taught me the basics of critical inquiry while watching Star Trek and the Nightly News with me. I like to think that Captain Kirk held up under scrutiny a bit better than Knowlton Nash, but neither of them got a free pass.

She will be missed.


Friday, June 3, 2011

High Quality Role Playing

It's Ben's game, but I love it. Here's the run down.

High Quality Role Playing (HQRP) is an old-school fantasy RPG where you play regular folks in a fantasy world dealing with the kinds of horrible threats that adventurers normally deal with. Yes, this means that you may be a tenant farmer facing off against a 1000 year old vampire or a blacksmith trying to con a dragon. If you’ve ever, say, had your first level Red Box D&D character fight a wolf, this isn’t that different. HQRP isn’t publicly released yet, but Ben tells me it’s “close”.

HQRP is laser focused on that kind of gritty, super tense old-school play where you’re armed with a pitiful array of feeble equipment and meager skills where absolutely every threat can kill you horribly in one blow.

Character generation is random and quite fun. There are no stats as such; instead you determine your social class and role and a few traits which then determine what your character is good at and what they own. The “good at” is relatively freeform. So, for example, Ben’s blacksmith, who is a war veteran and a coward is good at hammering things, appraising metal work, and lying down pretending to be dead. He has a spear and helmet. This is a pretty good character in HQRP. Jonathan’s character is a ditch digger. He’s good at digging and he has a shovel and a wheelbarrow. A few characters can do magic, though it’s always a rather risky kind of magic that typically requires you to do something costly or difficult, such as sacrifice your memories or pull out one of your own teeth.

There is also a random adventure generator that gives the basic location, situation, and enemy. For example, you might be on a mission in the forest facing wolves, or underground dealing with a dragon because of your own foolishness.

But the real beauty of HQRP is the resolution system, which is at once super simple and brilliant. To do normal things, you do them. When doing difficult things, you roll dice. Rolling dice is always risky, and while you can achieve great success, you can also fail horribly. You will almost certainly have to roll dice eventually, and doing so is a moment of delicious tension and possibility. Avoiding the dice roll is, however, just as fun as you strive to find a way to get over the pit or escape the town guard using only the mundane resources you have at hand. That’s the essence of HQRP.

Now the academic part. I look to The Old School Primer as my source on what old-school play is, so here’s how HQRP fits with the principles of the primer:

Rulings not rules: HQRP has a minimum of rules and they are purposely open to interpretation. For example, is a blacksmith good at enduring heat? Is swimming across a rushing river “difficult” or “insanely difficult”? The game emphasizes clear communication and discussion on these kinds of issues, resulting in a straightforward roll of the dice where everyone knows what’s at stake.

Player skill not character abilities: HQRP characters just aren’t that impressive. There’s no way what’s on your sheet is going to get you through alive, which forces the player to come up with creative solutions and then try to put them into action. This is fun.

Heroic, not super heroic: OK, yes, you’re playing a bunch of illiterate tenant farmers with no real weapons up against a horror older than time. True, you are probably going to die. But if you’re clever and lucky you might just pull through and score a treasure larger than any person in your village has ever imagined. To my taste, that’s pretty darn heroic.

Forget game balance: In one game, the opposition was wolves. They totally kicked our ass! In another game, the opposition was Satan. I actually got off pretty well in that game.

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Death Frost Doom

Ran James Raggi's notorious Death Frost Doom adventure tonight using Ben Lehman's High Quality Role Playing. By the time they got to the dungeon, the PCs were so spooked that they burned the book in the first room and fled. Then they came back, removed all the panes of glass from the building and took them home to sell. With practically no encounters to speak of we had a blast.

Then just as we were wrapping up, they allowed as to how their characters might go back just one more time... you know, to get more glass. So I guess we're playing next week. :)

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