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 posted a bunch of Demons for Labyrinth Lord (though I still have to bust out the Demon Lords before I can call that project complete).
- I made a bunch of ready-to-use NPCs for Labyrinth Lord, Traveller, Barbarians of Lemuria, Basic RolePlaying, Mini Six, Where No Man Has Gone Before, and a few other games.
- I posted some monsters for Swords & Wizardry, Barbarians of Lemuria, Basic RolePlaying, and some other games.
- I hacked Mini Six to emulate Echo Bazaar.
- I did a lot of work on Tlactoztlan, a MesoAmerican setting for Barbarians of Lemuria (though this, too, can’t be called complete just yet).
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.
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!