2010 Year In Review

Ladies and Gentlemen, 2010 has left the building. On momentous occasions such as these we humans really get off on looking back and taking stock of the year that we endured. We also like to look forward, predicting the year that we will endure. So in that fine tradition, here’s the Strange Stones 2010 Year In Review.

Where Have You Been, My Blue-Eyed Son?

What have I done with the time I’ve sunk into Strange Stones? Well, as far as putting out content goes:

I also got to play host to the design diaries for Barbarians of Heavy Metal (thanks, Nathaniel!) and turned some folks on to The Sword. I got to see (and film) Michael Moorcock doing a reading and share some of that with my readers. I made some friends (cheers, Gobbo and G-Man and Mike and Geordie and anyone else I’ve left out!) and generally had a good time. All in all, not bad for 10 months of doing in public what I normally do in private, I think.

After starting out as a hosted WordPress.com blog I moved to my own self-hosted WordPress install at StrangeStones.com. In case you never quite understood why I did that, let’s just say that I’m a Texan and we tend to prefer not having people tell us what colors we can and can’t paint our houses.

I flirted with a couple of other mediums, primarily Tumblr and Twitter. Neither of these went very far in expanding my audience, nor did they seem to provide any additional benefit to the folks who are already getting whatever it is they get out of visiting Strange Stones. So while I won’t be closing up shop at these places, I expect I’ll continue my relatively minimal exertion of effort regarding them as well.

What’ll You Do Now, O Venomous One?

So where am I going now? Well, I intend to make a concerted effort to finish out the Demons of Adad Untash and Tlactoztlan. I can’t say they’ll be done right away, but those two things are definitely solid goals that I aim to accomplish sooner rather than later. And once they’re done content-wise, I plan to put both things together as PDFs for distribution. I’m probably not going to go whole hog on those with art and such, and consequently I probably won’t try to sell them through Lulu or anything. But I would like to have them as convenient downloads rather than just a series of scattered blog posts.

Along with those, I’m sure I’ll keep pumping out random monsters, NPCs, scenario tidbits, and such. I also suspect that I’ll find some new projects on the order of Adad Untash and Tlactoztlan to build out, but at present I don’t know what they’ll be. With Mesopotamian and MesoAmerican in the can I’ll have to find some other Meso- culture to explore 🙂

They Say That System Matters

And I generally don’t believe them when they do. I can run any damned game I desire using any old system I pick up off the shelf and it will be fun. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about (Strange Stones isn’t really an RPG theory site, in case you hadn’t noticed). Nope, this section is here to highlight the systems that I think I’ve fully settled into for both playing and writing. And while I’m always open to a new system or two, these are the key systems you can expect to see me talk about and/or monkey with for the foreseeable future:

  • Labyrinth Lord/Advanced Edition Companion
    It’s just so easy to write for, and it represents the World’s Most Popular RPG quite well (especially if you consider its compatibility with other retroclones and their source material).

  • Basic RolePlaying
    This is the game I run most because, as I’ve noted elsewhere, it’s the one my players prefer. And that’s cool, because I truly dig it, too. Viva BRP!

  • Barbarians of Lemuria (and its derivatives)
    Good god, I just love the simplicity of the BoL system. It’s a snap to write for and, as I mentioned a while back, it’s easy for me to “think in BoL” and “act in BRP” with just a little conversion. Now if only I could get my players more interested in it.

  • Mini Six
    It’s so light and hackable I just want to tear it apart and put it back together, like Legos or Tinker Toys. And it’s different enough from the other games I dig that it makes a nice escape. Also, since I have exactly zero prior experience with the D6 system, I have no preconceived notions about what can and can’t be done with it.

  • (Classic) Traveller
    I don’t really play Traveller anymore, but it’s just such a great way to break out of writers’ block, with all its random charts and stuff. And it’s fun, too.

  • Mutant Future
    This is, at present, the game I’m taking part in most as a player. I’m not sure I’ll ever run it (situational, not taste-related), but it, like LL, is easy to write for.

That’s six systems, and that’s probably enough for any one person to be focused (for some value of focus) on. Any more than that and I think I risk drowning. That said, I’m not entirely well known for my ability to focus, so don’t expect that those are all you’ll ever see here. At the very least, I’m bound to whip up a couple of additional Where No Man Has Gone Before characters when the mood strikes. I might even do some more stuff for a BoL- or BRP-powered Mythic Russia.

It’s A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall

Or, A Brief Divergence Into Some Thoughts On The Old School Renaissance And Me

It is my personal opinion that things have gotten pretty fractured (and in certain corners, at certain times, downright fractious) in the thing they call the OSR. And that means, for my own sake and to my own tastes, I have to make some tough choices on which games I want to spend my time and money on.

All of the “These rules! No wait, this publisher! No, that publisher with those rules and this other cover!” stuff with Swords & Wizardry has grown really tedious and put me off my feed. Or, more plainly, I no longer feel the warmth I used to feel for S&W. It’s just gotten too jumbled for me to continue focusing on it. Plus, to be honest, my players are not keen on the ultra barebones nature of S&W and I’m not of a mindset to flesh it out for them. If I wanted to take a skeleton and build it up into my dream system I’d start with something that wasn’t class-based D&D at its core (hello, BRP and Mini Six). Still, I hope the S&W players out there can make use of the stuff I’ve already done for it as well as the easily convertible LL content I have and will produce. I wish everyone involved with S&W well and I’ll happily buy them a drink at NTRPG Con if I make it up to Dallas this year. I’m not condemning the game. I’m just saying it’s not the game for me.

The addition of Dark Dungeons to the fray only exacerbates things in my mind. I’ve looked DD over, and it’s just not my cup of tea. It emulates an iteration of Dungeons & Dragons that I never played and have precious little interest in. Sure, that version is quite close to the versions I’m fond of, but it’s definitely a road I’m not looking to travel. But if it brings joy to people, good for it and good for them. Just don’t expect to see me say much more about it than I just did.

I freely admit that ORSIC calls to me (and always will) since I love the arcane nature of 1st Edition AD&D. It was my first “real” game – by which I mean it was the first game I played with people who knew what they were doing, as opposed to Moldvay Basic, which was me fumbling around like a virgin monkey. But in spite of (or because of) those awkward moments with B/X, I’m still fond of that flavor of D&D and Labyrinth Lord, combined with the Advanced Edition Companion, lets me scratch both Basic and Advanced itches quite nicely. So OSRIC sits there as a shiny, complex thing I like to see on my shelf but am not so inclined to take down and play with lest I get a nasty pinch from all those gears.

All of those things are what have lead me to my decision to work primarily with Labyrinth Lord/Advanced Edition Companion when I do things that can be considered OSR stuff. I learned to play with Moldvay Basic and then cut my teeth on AD&D. LL/AEC lets me have the best of both of those worlds easily (and in nice packages, too).

But Really, How Classless Can I Be?

Nicely mirroring my early days in the hobby, I find myself growing weary of class-based systems. When the retroclones first appeared I was excited by the thought of returning to the simpler, archetype-based models of gaming that the main pillars of the OSR/clone movement seek to emulate. But after a while I began to itch to revert to skill-based games that don’t rely on the class construct to enforce niche protection (or any of the other fancy design speak that comes with classes). I mean, the game I really grew up on was The Fantasy Trip, after all. So when I play or run games, I almost invariably lean towards the non-class games on that list up there. It doesn’t hurt that my group remains strongly anti-class-based in their tastes as well.

That said, in the BRP Fantasy game I’m in the midst of using to introduce some new folks to our geeky little hobby I am drawing heavily from the outstandingly well done BRP Classic Fantasy to give something of a D&D feel to the game to help the new folks find those niches and work within them. Of course, what I actually did was use CF to make a BRP-powered TFT-style game with D&D spells that uses a magic points system instead of a Vancian approach to magic. In other words, I hacked together bits from some of my favorite games over the course of the years into a system I wanted to run and that I felt (and have since proven) was easy for this particular group of new players to learn and get into. Fingers crossed that this particular game thrives.

But What About That Arabian Nights Thing?

The regular readers out there are aware that I’ve been running a BRP-powered Arabian Nights-themed game. We’re not quite done with the story arc (yes, this thing has a story arc and isn’t a sandbox – how painfully new school of me), but when we do wrap things up I’m likely to call this one done. It’s been a lot of fun, and we’ve gotten some memorable events and characters and NPCs out of the run. But ultimately it’s just a one-shot that went long due to us old dudes not having enough time to bang out 8 hour sessions anymore. So eventually something else will rise to take its place. But there’s no telling what that will be.

In Conclusion

Geek blogging over most of the past year has been a fun and enjoyable hobby. It is one I expect I will continue to pursue, but not to the exclusion the other ways I like to pass my time. I’m not here to win any prolific or profound blogger awards. I’ll leave that stuff up to the other guys out there. Heaven knows there’s some good reading to be had on the internet, and I’m grateful for the quality stuff folks are putting out there for free. I’m just here doing my thing as I feel the need.

Once again, I’d like to thank the folks who read this blog. Odds are I’d be writing at least some of this stuff anyway, but being able to share it with friends and strangers sure makes it more compelling to me to keep doing. I’ll be back in a day or two or three with something new for you to take and use as you see fit. Also, I’m sure I’ll see some of you kids out there on the various geek forums. That’s a habit I wish I could kick, but I just don’t seem to be able to no matter how hard I try.

Happy New Year, everyone. Here’s to hoping you all have a wonderful 2011!

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0 thoughts on “2010 Year In Review

  1. bat

    I must confess that I had been a little busy over the last month or so, I wish it were just the stress of buying Christmas presents, but you know how life can be at times. The last three days I have had Strange Stones open and have been marveling at everything. Oh, that BRP! My escape recently has been Lotro and I am now playing a Warden, which is similar to Harmyn’s Warden for Labyrinth Lord. I would love to play this class in BRP.
    All those games that you enjoy are exactly the games that I run/want to run, it is almost uncanny. The significant other has stated that if we come into money we are moving to Texas, and I am ready, let me tell you. You might wind up with another player at your table.
    Happy New Year, O Venomous One!

    1. the venomous pao Post author

      Oh, comrade bat! I owe you an apology for not including you in the list of friends above. I can only blame it on the fading memory of an old geek. Rest assured you should have been in there, amigo! After all, you’re a big chunk of why I kept at Strange Stones early on – your own work (linked for anyone who hasn’t discovered it) is so dang inspiring and you’ve always been so supportive. Cheers to you, my friend.

      It is, indeed, spooky how similar our tastes run! And I hereby promise that if you wind up in Texas (permanently or even just a passing through) I will happily run a BRP game for you to play a Warden in. And a bunch of other stuff, too.

      Happy New Year, comrade!

        1. the venomous pao Post author

          You’re too good to me, amigo! But yes, we’re definitely all in this together. I’ve got your back if you’ve got mine 🙂

  2. G-Man

    I’m with bat. The games you’ve identified are the same ones that hit the RPG sweet-spot for me. Plus, these little tidbits you make available on the net make me want to head down to Austin for some old-school gaming!

    In the world of RPG blogs, Strange Stones brings the most important thing to the table: content. Theories about games, long-worded opinions, all that stuff has value, but not as much as some sample characters or the bare bones of a campaign arc. Like I’ve said before, this is some of the most creative OSR stuff I’ve seen on the net–and I’m a discerning bastard!

    The Arabian BRP campaign sounds fascinating, even if it’s coming to an end. You care to post some of it? And Mythic Russia by way of BRP has me drooling.

    Keep the good stuff comin’, V.P.!

    1. the venomous pao Post author

      It’s freaky just how much the three of us dig the same games, isn’t it? And I’ll make you the same promise I made bat above, G-Man. If you wind up in Austin be sure to let me know and we’ll be damn sure to get a game on.

      I (still) can’t tell you how much I appreciate your appreciation, amigo. It makes me happy to know that my basic premise of “content first, babbling second (if at all)” is working for at least some people. I appreciate the “thinkers” of the OSR and general RPG blogosphere, but there’s enough of them out there already. Like my own personal RPG blogging Elvis – that bat guy – I’d rather put out something that someone can use rather than wax rhapsodically about my own feelings and memories and such.

      I’ll see about posting some more of the Arabian stuff once I get a chance to wrap things up. In the meantime, though, I did post my notes & outline for the original session a while back. You can see them here, if you haven’t already.

      I’m hoping I can make the Mythic Russia/BRP thing happen. We’ll see if I can wrangle my players in that direction. If it does come to pass, you can be sure I’ll post some of that content, too.

      I’ll keep writing if you keep reading, G-Man! Thanks again for your kind words. Happy New Year, amigo!

        1. the venomous pao Post author

          Right on. I’m glad you dig. They definitely gave my players some fits.

          I did have GURPS Arabian Nights years ago, but don’t currently have a copy. In addition to what I remember from it I’ve also been drawing a bit from the True 20 book Caliphate Nights – for flavor far more than for mechanics, of course.

  3. Nathaniel

    Late to the party, but as usual, it’s because I’m working my bum off trying to finish the layout for the Doctor Who core set revision and the Time Traveler’s Companion as well as the Playbook version of BoL so I can actually get started on BoHM in earnest. I have probably a couple of more developmental entries for the blog before I start posting actual rules content for folks to look over.

    I, too, cut my teeth on B/X and mixed in bits from AD&D to taste, but as I have all that stuff already, I don’t really need LL or AEC, although I would if I didn’t. I’ve actually been running a B/X campaign most of the year, and we just finished The Lost City and are headed into the Deserts of Desolation. The FASA Star Trek game is calling to me lately, as is Deathwatch and, of course, Doctor Who, but as I now have a child and am going back for my Master’s, I only get one game night a month and B/X is the one game that I KNOW I will always be able to run quickly and with little preparation if I need to, especially with all the cool stuff you post for LL, VP.

    Oh, and thanks for turning me on to my favorite album in the last two decades! It has hugely inspired my work!

    1. the venomous pao Post author

      You’re a busy man, Nathaniel, and I appreciate you dropping by when you can! What are you going to get your Master’s in?

      I’ve still got my B/X and AD&D stuff, but LL & AEC make it awfully convenient to make sure my players have the stuff they need (for free, no less). Plus, Dan Proctor did such a great job of putting things together that I don’t have to do a bunch of “Ok, so we’re going to use the rules from this book for this stuff, except you need to include these pages from this other book, and don’t forget about those pages from that book…” to cobble things together.

      Your B/X game sounds like a blast. It’s too bad you can really only get one night a month to play it. I’m in a very similar boat, timewise, myself. But in my case it’s largely the other players in my group who have the crazy time commitments. Being kid-free means I’m a lot more flexible than most of my gang.

      Ah, FASA Trek. Now there’s a beautiful thing. My 1st edition box is sitting in the closet patiently waiting for me to do something with it. Sadly for it, Where No Man Has Gone Before scratches a similar itch with less effort. You might want to give that a download just to look over if you get a chance.

      As always, I’m glad you dig the LL stuff I keep posting. It’s good to know some of this stuff might actually be getting some in-game use! And, you are of course quite welcome for The Sword turn-on. I’m always delighted to share great music with people, especially when it’s a good local band.

      Happy New Year, Nathaniel! I hope it’s a great one for you and yours.

      1. Nathaniel

        I’m getting an MFA in Arts & Technology at UTD. Probably going to teach on the university level when I’m done, especially as UTD will have finished building a new high-end ATech facility just as I graduate.

        Teaching is the most stable job you can have at this moment (outside of working for the government) and it always has good benefits and access to a wide range of academic resources. Being an academic at heart, I should have done this years ago, but there wasn’t really any program to do it with in Texas unless you went to UT (and getting in the graduate program there is really expensive and damn near impossible).

        The cool thing is that I’ll have summers to develop RP stuff for sale, so I can continue working on things like Doctor Who or BoHM as well as any other projects that take my fancy. Or, since I have a son now, I might just take a vacation and see the rest of our great nation…

        1. the venomous pao Post author

          Very nice! UTD is a great school (of course it is, it’s part of the UT system!) and I’m glad you’ve got a plan for wht to do after you finish the program. Too many people I know (some quite close to me – but not actually me) dive into grad school with no thought on what comes after.

          Teaching is, indeed, a good and stable field – especially at the university level. And yes, having those summers off will certainly be a good thing. But really, you already live in the best part of the country – why go anywhere else? 🙂