What I Did On My Holidays – 2015

The Diaries Of A Geek Stubbornly Dragging His Comfort Zone With Him Into The Wider World

Last year I went to Liverpool and subjected myself to its’ populous for a weekend. This year, myself and my girlfriend went to the Lake District, and for those of you outside of the UK or utterly oblivious to national parks, they’re a place of long walks up hills, along lake-shores, and through drystone wall towns and villages predominantly made of Mountain Warehouses, cafés, pubs, ice-cream stands, and tourist shops. These are not particularly places where one might find a comic book, computer game, or anywhere where geeks may gather en masse, but still a great place to unwind, just take your own games.

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It’s so picturesque I can practically hear the Midsomer Murders theme tune!

We went equipped:

  • A full set of D&D core rule books each with notebooks so that we could sit and write campaigns.
  • Mancala – an African board game that I highly recommend.
  • Eight Minute Empire – A quickfire game of rapid expansion and gathering power that takes a lot longer than eight minutes when you’re only just learning.
  • Boss Monster – A game who’s purpose seems to be to humiliate me. First of all it strongly resembles a game I’ve been working on for waaaay too long, not only that but my belovèd girlfriend utterly destroyed me repeatedly. It’s about building an 8-bit sidescrolling dungeon to kill heroes in.
  • I also took a load of Magic decks because I fully intended to get round to teaching her to play. Never happened.

We also stopped in Liverpool again to catch up with the same friends and get in some quality geek time. Turns out they had a copy of Exploding Kittens (now available for purchase according to an email I got earlier today) so naturally we squeezed in a few games. It turns out it’s exactly as awesome as the name would have you believe, although I have to say that the NSFW version doesn’t add an awful lot except scope for more players.

The next day proved a point.

After a brief stop in Kendal (that we agreed to revisit, it looked promising) we arrived, settled in to our caravan, and went out for a meal. Within minutes a family settled onto the table next to us, we engaged them in conversation, and the geekiness emerged. It took staggeringly little time for us to start discussing games, and we sat grinning at each other as we realised that gamers can find their own kind anywhere, even in tiny villages in the countryside.

That’s satisfying. Our love to that family, who may never read this, but at once we felt like we could go nowhere and want for conversation with like-minded people. It turns out that there if you’re willing to talk to anyone who’ll listen, eventually you’ll connect with someone in a place you never thought you would.

Tuesday took us into Windemere, the largest town on the edge of the largest lake in England. After about twenty minutes milling around in search of parking and truly drinking in the British holiday-going experience, we started to search in between the tourist hotspots and outdoor clothing chain-stores for a sliver of local character. And this is what we found in a small side-street bric-a-brac shop:

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  • Thirteen issues of Dragon Magazine, dated April 1988, May ’88, June ’88, August ’88, November ’88, December ’88, March ’89, May ’89, July ’89, August ’89, December ’89, March ’90, July ’90
  • Six issues of independent gaming magazine G.M, dated December ’88, January ’89, May ’89, June ’89, August ’89, and January ’90,
  • Three issues of Games Workshop’s White Dwarf, dated April ’85, October ’86, and February ’87
  • A Warhammer army list book called Ravening Hordes
  • And finally a second edition Red Box Dungeon Master’s Guide (sadly annotated by a former owner)

Now to say that the condition of these magazines is far from perfect would be fair, they were dumped in a charity shop and some of them pre-date me, in fact most of them do. Nonetheless they are amazing. Sitting and leafing through just a few of the articles was an amazing experience I’ll go into in greater detail at a later date, but they were a fascinating look into how things have both changed and stayed the same. At £12 for the whole stack and the look of slightly smug glee on my girlfriends face as I poured excitedly over her discovery, I’d say I was ultimately the one who got the better deal here, no matter the state they’re in.

Middle middle middle we had fun, and food, and played games and made our way home via Kendal, and upon re-visit my on-board geek-shop compass dragged us from Games Workshop and into a market wherein we discovered Level 8, the gamers’ refuge on the border of the Lakes. Level 8 are currently a market stall but I hear are about to make the move to larger shop premises and good luck to them. As well as all the traditional fair they also have a surprising range of nerdy knitwear.

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Click the image if you want one

On the subject of local gaming stores:

e-Collectica Games Day October 2015

It approaches on swift wings! In the Morris Hall on the 24th of October. Shropshire and West Midland locals keep your eyes peeled on Facebook, and here for updates and information.

D&D 5th Edition – Dungeon Master’s Guide

It’s finally here….

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First of all:

AAAAARRRGGGHH

Wizard’s original plan was to release the Players Handbook in August, the Monster Manual in September, an adventure module in October, and the Dungeon Master’s Guide in November. They delayed the DMG’s release until December for reasons that were never exactly explained (but I think I can explain later on), but made good use of the delay by using the promise of previews to raise money for charity, with some quite dramatic success. Then when the new release came around, Wizards of the Coast failed to print enough.

Two other core rulebooks saw international release that was perfectly timed, and yet somehow completing the set proved too difficult?

Regulars of Dungeons & Dragons products, you may already have the same mantra as I have, “Love D&D, hate Wizard’s of the Coast.” Perhaps it’d be more accurate to focus that dislike onto Hasbro (the parent company) but either way infuriating decisions seem to be made at every turn when it comes to the worlds greatest RPG.

They may have printed fewer because there is somewhat less demand. After all, does a skilled player or DM need the DMG to run a game if they have the PHB for the general rules and MM for creatures, animals and characters? Simply put, yes! Traps, poisons, diseases, magic items, creature modification and creation, are all number-heavy game elements that require a great deal of balancing. It’s no small thing to try and reverse-engineer the maths behind the monsters just from the entries in the manual, having a guide is essential.

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But here’s the thing: I have never seen a Dungeon Masters guide offer a more complete guide to re-creating the game, practically from the dice up. Advice on building anything and everything is included. Name an element of the game: monsters, magic items, even races, and (to a lesser extent) classes, including new examples of each, taken step-by-step through the design process. The race-creator was released as a preview, and I had a stab at creating the Bogeyman race, it was a throw-together cobbled from sporadic ideas but my group got a lot of enjoyment from that unique twist in spite of how over-powered Bogeymen turned out to be.

Where experienced DMs will require no help whatsoever is in the building of a world, it’s people and places, and stories. That’s our bread and butter, no matter what kind of DM you are, if you’re good, spinning a good tale comes as second nature. Even so, I’d advise veterans of any game system pick up a copy of the book if you have £30 lying around. Tables for everything! If you wanted to then you could procedurally generate an entire storyline. Roll up a city, roll up the buildings in the streets and everyone living there, from the palaces to the slums. There’s a dice table for every environment, the weather of every day, and maybe 30 tables for putting together fully fleshed out dungeons.

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I may never choose to roll on any of those tables but it was a fight not to sit and write a campaign by just flicking through the pages, finally flesh out the setting I’ve been working on of the last month or two. It’s going to be a struggle to focus on the Super-Hero setting I’ve been working on for nearly three years.

Now here is the real kicker. Remember the biggest issue with the Monster Manual? It has finally been resolved, although granted in the wrong book. I got behind the rallying cry of people who wanted a list of creatures by Challenge Rating (a necessity for encounter building) and it looks like WotC listened. I suspect that the book was pushed back to get the list as an appendix, along with a list of creatures by terrain. That’s my theory, and I’m sticking to it because I’d rather not believe it could be any other reason than “They dun goofed.”

So, a final question from me: Was it worth the wait? Well frankly, no. The book is amazing, and maybe a few more months and some time to sit and play around with the content, but no matter how much I’m getting from the book now I’m still too conscious of how long I’ve had to wait and how much essential content I’ve been missing in the mean time. It’s worth the read, for sure, but if you’ve been waiting as long as I have, you have every right to be irritated.