Useless Drivel – Down the Chissum Hole

Alright Dudes and Dudettes! We got our sh*t together and were able to crank out a podcast this week! Join your hosts The David, Robert, and Matt as they relay to you their most current exploits, which may or may not include descendants of famous people, food, alcohol, music, and mundane adulthood! Settle into your favorite sittin’ place and prepare to have your inner ears caressed, because it’s a brand new episode of Useless Drivel – A Podcast Without a Point!

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Useless Drivel – Expectation vs. Execution

Marvel Agents of Shield

Have you ever been so excited for something that it actually turns out to as awesome as you had hoped for?  Really?? Well, then you’re either full of crap, or your Matt.  Join in on the rambling insights of your hosts, Robert and Matt, as they talk about everything from food and animal STDs to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and miniatures.  It may be informative, it could be laugh inducing, and it might possibly be entertaining but we can definitely guarantee it’ll be a whole earful of Useless Drivel!

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DnD Next, GenCon, and the End of the Edition Wars?

Dungeons and Dragons, 4E, Art, Gaming, DnD Next, GenCon

Now that I have seen GenCon come and go another year without getting even remotely close to Indianapolis to get my game on, there is no lack of buzz on the internet in regards to the keynote address given at the original, largest, and longest running gaming convention the world.  Most notably during the address to attendees was the presentation given by Mike Mearls, the lead designer of DnD Next, on what fans of the most well-known tabletop RPG on the market can expect in the very near future.  Seeing as I jumped the shark with the roll-out of 4th Edition, I felt it was important to not only fully explain my dislike the current incarnation, but also look to the future in hopes of being brought back into the fold.

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Setting The Stage

So, if you listened to the podcast last week, you know that everyone is done biding their time and waiting on me to give my Society of Odin game wings.  In response, I wanted to make it clear to the group and the listeners that while the game has yet to be played, I have been putting work in on it (although, to be honest, this process has been far too long).  While I have spent hours in the pre-planning stages, it is time to breathe life into the new game, but, I would like to share a little more of the though process that has gone in to creating it.

In the past, Karen and I have often co-GMed during sessions, with Karen functioning as the primary storyteller while I was in charge of running encounters.  I’m a big game-mechanics guy, so I love running battles.  Karen’s strength in writing has inspired me to get better at the craft of storytelling.  In-turn, my knowledge of game mechanics has inspired Karen to more completely learn the rules of her World of Darkness game in order to be a more complete GM.

During the course of countless discussions, I made a comment that I was planning on incorporating some d20 Call of Cthulhu rules into my campaign.  I have been reading the Necronomicon and am completely intrigued with the theme of madness that is so prevalent in H.P. Lovecraft‘s work.  Considering that I intend on running a Supernatural Victorian Steampunk game, the works of Lovecraft will undoubtedly serve as wonderful inspiration.  With the addition of more source material and rulebooks, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the foundation of my homebrew game and have broken it down into three component parts:  the Mechanics, the Setting, and the Theme.

The Mechanics

Before starting a campaign, the GM needs to decide what mechanics they are going to use as the basis for their game.  Personally, I am a huge fan of the d20 system.  It’s what I learned to play with and have found that I am most comfortable with it.  Additionally, it is the most popular (I am assuming here) gaming system on the market.  Other gaming systems include the G.U.R.P.S. system, known widely for it’s point-buy system of character generation, the Open d10 system like that used in World of Darkness, and numerous d6 systems used particularly in war-gaming, such as Warhammer and Warhammer 40K.  All the systems have their pros and cons.  As long as the system fits the game the GM wants to run, they should feel free to pick and choose as they see fit.  The players will come adapt, as long as they get to game.

Personally, I chose to utilize Mongoose Publishing‘s now out-of-print Open Gaming License Steampunk rule-set.  I purchased the .pdf at www.rpg.drivethrustuff.com and am very pleased with the rules.  I am most comfortable with the rule system, which helped to make are long-ago character creation process  fairly painless.  Additionally, there were a few additional features available for characters (background points, class/vocation combinations, etc.) that made for a lot of depth in types of characters the rest of the group will be able to play.  The gaming process is the same as any d20 system, so running the game, mechanically, should be a fairly simple process for me as GM as well.  Choosing the game mechanics, however, is often the easiest decision for a GM to make, particularly when homebrewing a campaign.

The Setting

Often times, the rulebooks a GM decides to use will provide at least a basic outline of a setting.  However, there is no shortage of settings provided by publishers that are based around a core gaming system.  Personally, in my upcoming gaming endeavor, I have chosen a setting that I hope will mesh well with the core mechanics I have chosen.  Generally, this should be a fairly easy process, especially with the d20 system.  Sometimes, not so much.  I wrote in an earlier post that it is important for a GM to feel that they “own” the game world, the setting being the major component.  However, it can be easier said than done.

I attempted to get a campaign off the ground utilizing the d20 Spycraft 2.0 Core Rulebook (which I enjoy immensely), but wanted a certain element of fantasy in the game.  So I figured, Superhero-esque Secret Agents with supernatural abilities.  Piece of cake!  I know d20 rules and mechanics fairly well, so I figured it would be a snap to create characters and drop them into a modern setting, no problem!  Soon after characters were rolled up, my plans hit a snag in trying to sell the setting.  I was inspired by TV shows like Supernatural and Heroes (Season 1 and 2 only folks!) as well as Mike Mignola‘s Hellboy and B.P.R.D comic franchises, but I couldn’t sell myself on writing the campaign.  I really enjoy the concept I developed, but don’t feel I can produce the work I want, so the campaign has been temporarily shelved.

In switching gears from a modern, 21st century setting to the Victorian Era of Europe, courtesy of Adamant Publishing’s Victorian Age sourcebooks, I felt that extraordinary heroes aided by mysticism and magic in their struggles against supernatural monsters and villains sat much better with my historical sensibilities and opened more avenues of creativity for me.  Now for a historical aside…

History Lesson, provided by MattThe Victorian Era, which overlapped with the belle epoque at the turn of the 20th century, represented the last true age of innocence for Europeans, and perhaps the world at large.  Humanity had yet to see the awesome carnage that would be brought to bear on the European battlefields of World War I, as well as the subsequent destruction of an entire generation of European men.  The post-war period, which eventually gave way to the rise of Fascism, Hitler and the Second World War and the Holocaust would permanently shatter the fractured European psyche and give rise to the Post-Modern Era of the world.

Essentially, in gaming terms, late 19th century characters have the potential to genuinely fear the werewolves, vampires and nasty folktales that haunt the shadows of the early modern age.  21st century characters are far more likely to not really care, what with their own technology and high-tech weaponry being more fear-inducing than anything.  Sometimes, a great campaign idea can’t be forced into success.

The Theme

The theme of a game is important for both the GM and the Players.  Themes can often be an after-thought when utilizing a setting, but for a homebrew campaign it is essential.  It helps provide focus and direction for the Players and the storytelling.  Is the campaign going to be heavy in role-playing or will it be a near continuous string of deadly encounters?  Is it high fantasy or low fantasy?  Is it psychological horror or survival horror?  The best advice I can give in establishing a theme for a game is to look at movies and literature.  For fantasy games, do you want it more Lord of the Rings or more Excalibur?  What about a Modern setting?  Is the game you want to run like 24 or LOST?  Obviously, there are a lot of places for a GM to draw inspiration.  I think I’ve finally found my combination in the works of Lovecraft and the stylings of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes films.  I’m sure the Podcast crew will let me know how close I am to hitting the thematic mark!

“Success is not the key to happiness.  Happiness is the key to success.  If you love what you’re doing, you will be successful.” – Herman Cain

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Episode 2 – “Can’t we all just get along?” Debunking Gaming Misconceptions

In our second episode, we talk about everything from zombies and bikers to Batman and Buffy.  More importantly, we take on the serious task of dispelling common generalizations about gaming and gamers while simultaneously proving that everyone deep down is a geek, whether they know it or not!

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