**Disclaimer** The following blog is a parody. For avoidance of doubt, Otto von Quarzis is NOT a prophet and his former Rules Firm is NOT a law firm, does not provide legal advice, and, you know... isn't real. Carry on.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

On Being Heroic

This was to be the obligatory "post-first play through of D&D 5e" post (as an astute reader might tell from the time stamp... it got diverted).  However, last night my friends and I played through another 5th Edition D&D adventure that brought a germ of an idea I had in our first D&D Starter Set Adventure - in that adventure one of our player's characters died.  It was quite the legitimate death too.  He had almost been killed before, but our cleric saved him (good thing too... he was on his second failed death roll - the dice were not kind that night).  His actual death came in a fair end of the day's adventure fight.  And THAT was going to be what my original post was about, except, he said something before he died...

"I don't care.  If I'm a hero and I do heroic stuff, if I die, I die."

I'm certainly paraphrasing here (I was on my second beer... Keegan Ale's Joe Mamas Milk - very good by the way, highly recommend), but you get the point.  This player called out something that I had forgotten, which is - in really heroic stories, people often die.  The "old school" D&D seemed to know this, and hence, monstrosities like Tomb of Horrors were born.  Perhaps, it is just me - but, it has seemed lately that games have steered farther and farther away from player's deaths and characters that can easily die (more on this concept below).

Last night, I was reminded of this, as my wizard was reduced to half hit points in one blow (and he's at level 4 - which even with the older editions was nothing to scoff at).  Now, to set the stage even further - he did an incredibly stupid thing.  He ran up to a fire giant, and began poking and prodding it so that he could study its physiology and make notes in a series of books he is writing on fantastic creatures. Needless to say, that him even just being alive owes itself to a seriously fortunate stroke of luck (and some creative use of the divination portend power).  So there you have it - two different results, but both based on actions that we ourselves as player would never have done - but our characters totally would have.1  These actions, I like to call "heroic actions."

Now, I use the term in more of a historical German-Norse sense than what is traditionally considered heroic today.  It isn't just standing for something good in the face of overwhelming odds.  The Norse concept of good and evil is vastly different than our sensibilities.  However, as much of the fantasy genre owes much to the ancient Germans and Norse culture, I feel it is appropriate to look to it for an expanded definition.  In the stories that permeate the culture are tales of the gods, Loki, Odin, and Thor to name some of the most well known, that have grand adventures - and often times for no purpose other than to pull the tale of the great serpent that entangles the world, bash giants (because you know, they're giants), and general sneaking around. In short, they aren't necessarily out to take over the world (although there are plenty of world taking-over and/or destroying tales as well), but they are heroic in the sense of over-the-top antics and actions.

But for really over-the-top actions, one needs to suspend their fear of dying.  Many of the ancient stories are exactly about that - courage in the face of overwhelming odds.  Courage is one of the most important elements for a really memorable "heroic" story.  However, courage is hardly a game mechanic that one can bake into their games.  It is sort of assumed by many designers that the characters will just press forward.  However, I would argue that many of the most memorable moments in games I have played have come from off-the-wall moments that weren't created by just running head-long into an encounter for no reason - but doing so in spite of the player's better judgment because they HAD TO DO SO.  Compelled courage - creates some fantastic situations.  How do you compel courage - flaws.

I believe character flaws are one of the most under-used game mechanics.  This humble "role-playing throw away" really should be put front and center.  Some players naturally make their characters flawed - the player, whose character died as related in the first paragraph, often creates characters with elaborate back stories and personalities (often quirky) and plays them to the hilt.  I think one of the most often heard phrases I hear when gaming with him is - "well, my character would do [insert some random, weird and usually highly dangerous thing here]."  However, I have found sometimes the best flaws are the ones, like in real life, are chosen randomly.  To build your hero around these flaws creates a fantastic experience and is where some really crazy cool stuff happens.

As an examples, in a Numenera game we played in, one of the worlds we translated into had everyone randomly roll mutations.  You could roll on multiple tables (minor mutations, major mutations, and super weird toxic horrible mutations - using creative license here).  I chose minor and the minimum major mutations I was allowed.  My character was... bland.  He had no memorable moments.  Another character picked some weird toxic horrible mutations - he was sickly and half-dying the entire adventure.  His character still sticks out in my mind.

Now imagine an entire game based around this "random flaw" theory.  My good friend, and super creative mad scientist, MVV (link to his blog here), created just such a game (which you can download for free here).  Essentially, the characters are rolled entirely randomly - and flaws of all sorts are highly encouraged. My first time playing, I played a Minotaur.  He died in the first encounter.  It was hilarious - and the party talked about feasting on Minotaur steaks for many adventures thereafter.  The game is all about over-the-top play - and we have had some amazing stories - primarily because the game fosters compelled courage. You don't care about dying - you care about playing your character to its randomly assigned crappiness.

Now, I am not saying that all games should always be out to kill the characters.  Having a character climb to a very high level can be a very rewarding experience and create many fantastic stories.  However, adding a little compelled courage and a real sense that the characters could, through no fault of their own, die - that makes for the types of stories you'll still be talking about years later.  I know there are plenty of ways to get there.  I believe flaws are one of those ways, and a way that I would encourage more people and game designers to experiment with.

1 I had randomly rolled on the suggested characteristic tables under the Sage background and then constructed a meaningful back-story based on these randomly picked personality, bonds, flaws, etc.  His flaw was #2 "Most people scream and run when they see a demon.  I stop and take notes..."  I spoke with the DM about my interpretation of this, which is that he is easily distracted and a bit naive (lowish wisdom compared to his intelligence) and so is easily oblivious to danger when in pursuit of a fascinating creature or phenomenon.  I must roll a wisdom saving throw every time I come across a new monster type I haven't seen before, if I fail, I simply start writing notes and examining it instead of taking more defensive/offensive strategies.  For this particular example - I rolled a 1. Critical fumble - a story teller's best friend.  Also, I should not that this whole concept owes itself to another good friend I game with, who creatively came up with this saving throw concept for his warlock character in another campaign.  A bit of homebrew rule making that, in my opinion, adds a fantastic layer of story laden mechanics to the game.  Disclaimer: Your mileage may vary.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Episodic Adventures

First, I will acknowledge that this is one of the least inspiring blog post titles ever.  Hopefully, inspiration will strike, and I will re-title this post in the coming days. (hm... does that count as a new blog post?)

In tabletop role-playing games, adventures tend to be split up into episodes.  Each adventure is its own self-contained story, but makes up a much larger story arc.  Some of these individual episodes are tightly bound together (such as a multi-level dungeon, in which the adventurers explore one level per game session), and others are more like a long running plot arc.  However, the episodic nature allows a full story to be told in the span on one session, while simultaneously providing the players with an overall sense of connecting adventure.  It is very much the way television shows tend to be distributed to the viewing public - bite sized chunks of a story every week, culminating in a grand "plot finale" and the obligatory "start of the new season" teaser.

Computer Role-Playing Games "sort of" do this too - but the issue tends to be pacing.  The "boss battle" is the CRPG version of the episode.  Finish the boss battle - okay time to go to bed.  The problem is that there is no grand director to make sure the adventure is on track and within the time limit.  Designers can only do so much to guesstimate average play times and design their levels to these estimated times.  Because players tend to (a) get off track (and this applies equally to table-top RPGs) and (b) try to pick up a game with less than the designed time (this tends to be a CRPG specific problem, but can apply to table-top RPGs as well), the episode system doesn't work as well.  In a table-top RPG, the GM can adjust on the fly to accommodate the party and keep them on track.  If the game starts late (i.e. pick up a game with less than the designed time), the GM can adjust the number of battles/encounters accordingly.  Designing a computer game to GM this type of flexibility is a lot harder.

While great advances in AI and computer game design have been made in the past 20 years, it has not even come close to a human GMed table-top adventure.  Someday, we may have an IBM Watson running a computer role-playing adventure.  However, until that day, it is my belief that computer game designers need to come up with some new design tricks specific to the platform.  At this point, many game designers are rolling their eyes and saying "Hey! That is what the <save game> function is, dummy."

My critique of the "save game" function is that it breaks the natural flow of the episode.  In a table-top RPG, the party may decide to stop at some point in what would normally be a one day adventure.  For whatever reason (they took too long at parts of the adventure, they started late, they rolled so poorly that a battle took twice as long as expected (Roll20 dice hate me), etc.), the players need to stop the game mid-way and so "save" the game for next session.  However, the GM can pick a natural stopping point and create two separate, logically concluding episodes (much like the dreaded to be continued... TV episodes).  In a computer role-playing game, the stopping point becomes a much more difficult issue.

There are two main types of "save games" for CRPGs - the Tomb Raider (speaking of the reboot) style checkpoint system, in which after specific "episodes" (usually of her solving some riddle) you are allowed to continue at the next portion of the story and the save anytime and anywhere system (like Baldur's Gate).  In between these extremes are many different variations.  I have a lot of respect for Tomb Raider's implementation.  It allows you to break off easy to manage "chunks" and come back later - although, not too much later or you're likely going to forget what the heck the main point was.  However, that is true for any game - even the tabletop RPGs.  The save anywhere system is the most disruptive, in that it stops the flow mid-way, and in my opinion does not allow the player "closure" on what is going on - unless they choose to save only at distinct points.  However, those distinct points tend to be spread pretty far apart, and thus brings one full circle back to the main issue, which is pacing.

I believe the checkpoint system could be effectively integrated into MMORPGs (which moving forward will be the main focus of this blog) and provide a more compelling experience for the players.  They key of course would be how to integrate this in with the multiplayer - and perhaps on multiplayer quests, this just isn't possible or feasible - in which case, is there a better way to create pacing for those players that can't devote five hours to solving a quest.  Perhaps breaking the quest into smaller component pieces and making each level of a dungeon (for example) a quest in and of itself.  You can then have agreement between the party members on whether they want to "go it alone" in the next level or wait for other party members to be able to do it.  Integrating character entrance and exits in this type of scenario would be the trickiest part, if you wanted to have a game reason for the change.  This brings me to a anecdotal tale:

I played in a tabletop campaign during a period of time when work was extremely busy and I was usually getting home after 9 p.m. (1/2 or 3/4ths into the adventure).  We came up with an "in game" way to allow me to pop into the game late.  I was a weird necromancer type character, and spent most of my time folded up in the backpack of the vampiress warlock.  The idea was he came up with a spell that allowed him to feed on the soul power of the dead to feed his spells, but the process made him a bit "bendy" (sort of stole the idea from he that shall not be named - from THAT book).  It really had no "in game" affect, except that it allowed me to explain both a source of my power and how it was I was able to just pop into the game (without using the old... DM runs as NPC bit).

Bringing those types of options to MMORPGs would open up many different possibilities and, I believe, enhance the role-playing potential.  It would also allow more options for pacing within the game to accommodate players' very different time commitments.  These concepts are some that I plan to think about closely as I work on my new project - an MMORPG, because as I will detail in a future post - you can never have enough of.

As always, thank you for reading.  May your virtual dice roller not get stuck rolling 1s.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Why RPGs?? Answer: The Community!

Why role-playing games?  That is the question I get from the "norms" as I like to call them.  My wife is a case in point.  "Why do you play those games? What the hell..."  Typical conversation in my household. So, to answer her question... "why?"

The answer ultimately is the community.  No where - and I mean NO WHERE! will you find a community as inclusive, as excepting, and as freaking awesome as the gaming community. Now, I'm not talking about the xbox generation - I'm talking RPGers.  We like out first person shooters... well enough... but where we shine is in delving into the intricacies of [insert game here.]

So, I am blessed - I have a fantastic group I game on a regular basis with.  Always have - one of the key GMs of my group has been my GM for 20+ years (probably longer... but, uhh... I plead the 5th on age).  This group rocks! Seriously, I have been to cons, I have played in foreign lands (I'm talking about you California) - nothing holds a candle to my boys in the Hudson Valley.

But, you know what - gamers from around the world... are pretty damn cool.  I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a "live un-boxing" of D&D 5e starter set.  +Alex Mayo was doing an un-boxing (btw... he had the freak'n thing in his possession for over 3 hours and waited to unveil it so his surprise would be genuine... this guy is a trooper!) and I happened upon his post.  Fortune has a strange way of asserting itself.

So, I am STILL waiting for mine.  But, there was no way in hell I was going to miss this.  My friend Cheeseburger +Jay had already posted he received his (I think there is a conspiracy going on here... where the hell is mine?! July 21st??! what??!) - but due to other circumstances... he wasn't going to be able to share until tomorrow.  So, I figured - what the hell, I'll join.  Life will never be the same.

The people that joined in this google+ hangout had great insight into the PDF rules that WOTC posted.  We had a good discussion of various issues that, personally, I had debated with friends and wondered what the outside world thought.  You know what? I have a whole new appreciation for both D&D and the community.  There was fantastic (and might I add... wholly respectful) dialogue regarding 5e.  And this is why I love this community.

There is nothing quite like a D&D community member.  You might like 3e... you might like 1e... hell, I heard someone mention the original box edition (wasn't clear... redbox or bluebox?) - point being... we're all D&D players!  Rules be damned!  We grew up with this game; our children will play this game; we are D&D.... flavors of the month may come and go... in the end there is one thing for sure - those that stood against the forces of "Dark Dungeons" and those that have no idea what the F we're talking about.  You know what? In the end it doesn't matter - we won.  Numenera, GURPS, Rolemaster, D&D... and yes... even FATE and Dungeon World (not really... Otto has been hijacked by... [sorry, Citizen, that is beyond your clearance.]) and Paranoia... we won.  The debate these days is about what system is better! Hallelulla!  We won - RPGs... regardless of the flavor, are here to stay. Why? Because the community is awesome.  I want to thank everyone - CRPGer and RPGer alike - for being who they are  - a gamer!  You rule. And I am damn proud to be a part of this fantastic community.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Brazil Story: Or... Hard Fought Versus Blowout

I hope all can forgive me for the obvious World Cup analogy in this post.  Today's question revolves around what is better - a blowout fight or a hard-fought damaging fight?  I pose this question more in the context of "boss fights" than in the lead-up encounters (whether we should even have boss fights is a topic for another day).

While watching the Brazil-Germany game the other day, I was very excited when Germany scored - the first two times.  But, three, four and five? It soon became apparent that this was going to be a run-away disaster for Brazil.  The whole "will this be a shutout" question is not a great reason to keep watching the game.  Contrast that with the Netherlands versus Argentina game - that was a nail-bitter until the end!  So, which was the better game to watch?  Just speaking personally, the latter kept me engaged until the end - I sort of drifted off (and admit I missed seeing the Brazil goal) for the first one.

A boss fight should be challenging.  Not all characters should be able to walk away from it. That leads to one of the major design challenges for any computer-based role-playing game.  How do you let it be challenging - while still allowing the players to continue the story?

Computer games have save points - so in theory, a player can just reload... and keep at it.  This, of course, defeats the hard won aspect.  Death is not permanent, and hard fought means more of a puzzle solving/reflex flexing aspect - rather than the traditional role-playing (tabletop) aspect of - well, not all of our characters lived to see this victory. Of course, a saving mechanism is necessary for an RPG.  Otherwise, the game would just become unplayable.

What I am suggesting is adding a game mechanic that incentivizes a player to "keep the roll" (so to speak).  At the end of a major boss battle, some of the player's NPCs (or party members if using an old style RPG mechanic) will be dead.  They will have been slain in glorious battle - but dead for a cause.  At the end, their death should propel the story forward.  For example, having a party member's death open up a whole set of sub-quests unobtainable by any other means.

To steal from one of my all time favorite computer RPGs, Baldur's Gate, if Minsc were to die - a sub-quest could pop up - return Boo to home (which might just happen to be a derelict spelljamming ship).  Other sub-quests could be boss villain specific - i.e., NPC/PC gets killed by Ogre-Magi chieftan, and his/her sister/brother/child pops up to swear vengeance on all Ogre-Magi launching a specific set of related sub-quests.

The possibilities are endless - special weapons/armor/trinkets depending on who is killed, when and by whom.  The other possibility is just straight XP bonuses for heroic battle deaths that get applied to the party for their emotional suffering.  Another take is having the PC's main character die - and letting it happen.  There have been a number of games lately (Rogue Legacy being a case in point), in which character's descendants/legacies get woven into the game.  Perhaps a tough boss battle means that the hero doesn't end up winning.  Instead, the heroes grand child takes up the mantel in order to avenge the hero.  Weave in different sub-quests that bring the offspring back to the site of the boss battle - and then continue the story, albeit perhaps altered somewhat.

The idea being - make the battle hard, don't worry about everyone surviving - and weave the story around it.  At the end of the day, a great story is one that weaves the challenges into its fabric.  The blowout game is one that won't necessarily keep a person until the end - or at least not on the edge of their seat engaged.  Unlike a traditional table top RPG, computer games have certain constraints created by their nature. However, that doesn't mean designers can't bend those constraints as far as possible.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Action or Story - Can Flavor Text Compete

So, a good friend of mine, check out his blog here, posted a reply to a comment I made on one of his posts which set me off thinking.  He said "I have a hard time wrapping my head around any  role playing game that is not trying to create some lasting story from the get go..."

Now, he was talking about paper and pencil RPGs.  However, I want to bring this concept to the CRPG world.  "Create some lasting story..."  A lot of single/co-op games have this.  In fact, it is typical that you have a good story to your game.  However, what about MMOs/MUDs?

To create a story you need typical story telling building blocks.  In a graphic intensive game, you can use fantastic visuals to tell a story - interspersed with cut-scenes.  All the AAA titles have them.  They do a great job - and not much I can say about them.  So, I am going to focus my attention more on the hobbyist realm.  Why do people play MUDs?  Why do they create them?

I've played my fair share of MUDs back in the day.  I have experimented with these new fangled MMOs - these graphical monstrosities (DDO, Neverwinter, Guild Wars, Age of Conan, etc.)  You know what - I like them.  But, they are very similar to their text-based ancestors.  Sure, there are players that take the RPG seriously - but, frankly... not many.  There are the ones that quest for story, but many more that quest for the power boost.  Kill, xp, gold, level... repeat bigger and badder.

In a graphical MMO, it is easy to have awesome "flavor text" in terms of stunning visuals.  The players can oooh and ahhh them - but do they pay attention?  Do players actually care about flavor text? I know many a MUD that has attempted to try and make "flavor text" an integral part of the game.  In other words, you need to read carefully (ala the old Infocom games) to get the treasure, solve the quest, not get killed...

The problem I see is that most players don't really care for those types of games.  Sure, you'll get a few that play it for the challenge - but how many actually RP it.  In my experience, very few do.  They want to bash things; take their gold; level up; chat with their friends (not necessarily in that order).  Is there anything wrong with that style of play - I say "hell no."  Sometimes, after a looooong day's work - you just want to bash things and take their gold.  But, it does leave a game designer with a quandary - what do you do about flavor text?

In my old table top RPG games, I used to use "generic dungeon material" - a lot.  I have to say, I brought that into MUD/CRPG building as well.  People don't want to read flavor text for the most part.  They want action - they want excitement.  It is, I am convinced, why shooters are such a popular genre.  So, what to do? Does the "smart" designer just leave it out? Or do you say f'it - I'm designing for me?

I posit the answer is not so black and white.  Flavor text can be very engaging.  As Skyrim taught me - sometimes you just want to stop and visually take in the roses (or cascading waterfalls, mountains, what have you...).  Designers need to make flavor text (and I use this generically to include pretty background visuals) more a part of the game.  Don't force your viewpoint on the player - instead create a living world that interacts with the player.

Case in point - Skyrim has messengers scurrying around as you walk down the path.  Flavor text - certainly - but also sometimes those messengers are for you.  Why not a pretty flower - just standing there... that ends up attacking the player.  The idea is not to "penalize" them for not paying attention.  Rather, the idea is to engage the player.  The player gets what they want (a fight and gold) - and you get the satisfaction of a well placed encounter.

I guess what I am getting at is - don't do "flavor text" - do real story telling.  Engage your players.  After all, they're playing the game as a sort of escape.  They want the rush - they want the stress relief.  Wrap it in a story and it become the type of game they can't put down.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on flavor text, building engaging encounters, keeping a player hooked in a developing plot line, game building in general and, heck, even counter-arguments.

Until next time, MUDs aren't dead... they're just rebooting.

Monday, June 23, 2014

In Defense of Grinding

Grinding... camping... farming... whatever you want to call it, it seems to be a staple in many computer role-playing games.  I recently read an article about a World of Warcraft player that achieved level 90 by picking herbs and mining.  Now THAT is some serious grinding right there.

There are entire industries created around farming - for you.  You pay them a small fee, they give you a level [x] character.  People complain (I have no link for that... that is just my experience admining a MUD for 10+ years), people write articles about how it leads to wide spread societal abuse... yet, game designers keep grinding in the game mechanics.  Why?

I believe the answer is simple - and something I would have fought tooth and nail against as a "creator" until I stepped back and became a "player."  The answer is... it is fun!!

It never occurred to me before I loaded up Darksiders and began to grind away at zombie after zombie after zombie.  It was fun.  It was exhilarating.  It really didn't matter the score - I gathered my 500 souls to progress... I didn't care.  I wanted to go smash cars on more zombies. Yeah... they are easy as heck to beat. Made it even more fun.

So, I thought back to my days actually playing MUDs (as opposed to creating them), and I realized I loved grinding.  I would camp out at the easy level and grind away.  Did I raise myself up much... no.  But, there was something extremely satisfying with racking up the vampiric butterfly body count.

Am I saying just create a game where you grind and nothing more? No.  But, I do want to put in a defense for senseless violence.  Sometimes, a game... needs to be just a game. Wacking things on the head - repeatedly, is just plain fun.  Don't take that out of your game.  You can drive yourself mad trying to figure out the perfect progression algorithm.  Instead, go camp-out and slay some level one zombies.  Your blood pressure (and your fans) will thank you.

Friday, June 20, 2014

So it begins... again

I feel like I have written this blog post a thousand times.  For all I know, I'm living in a "Matrix" world and I have written this blog post a thousand times.  Regardless, here it goes... my foray into blogging... again.

I had a number of fascinating topics for this post (no really... I did), but I settled on this one.  Why do I game?

This is a question that is both deeply personal to me, and, more importantly to my readers, a larger question in the geek-a-verse.  I follow my fair share of "geek" related blogs, main-ish stream news sites, etc. (i.e., I subscribe to Geek and Sundry and check out Think Geek every once and a while).  However, I was listening to a classic, but still a goody, the "Geeks shall inherit the Earth," by Electronic Funstuff when it got me thinking of this post.

Now for those not familiar with Electronic Fundstuff - they had an AWESOME album back in 2003 - 2004-ish.  It was phenomenal!  Instant classics, such as "Death Match Mama," "Civilization," and of course... the aforementioned, "Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth."  Sadly, I haven't been able to find them since then.  Don't know what they are doing, but if the fates allow - I want them to know - they inspired me.

Recently, I listened to them anew.  It got me thinking.  Table-top role-playing is a very unique aspect of "geekdome." Many "geek habits" are sort of mainstream now - comic books, video games, Star Wars (will save for another day), Star Trek, etc.  "Big Bang Theory" pays lips service to classic table-top role-playing, but frankly it isn't a huge feature.  Heck, even the "King of Geeks" Sir Wesley Wheatonton (please, Mr. Wheaton, if you happen upon this in a drunken stupor - that WootStout is strong stuff! - I have nothing but the most respect for your... +1 to TableTop... love your show, love everything you do... not a dick... I swear...) came out with a "board game" show before venturing to do an RPG show. (oh, full disclosure... I am a backer of Mr. Wheaton's season 3 Tabletop... and was estatic when it was announced he'd be doing the RPG show... shamelessly plugged donating to all of my friends... the one RPG episode he did [well, part 1 and 2] was awesome... so reminded me of my old RPG group!)

I remember back in junior high school branching out.  I met a couple guys that played Star Trek RPG (of all things). My parents were a little freaked out that I was going to another town to meet people I only "sort of knew" - but you know what? They were awesome, and a great game ensured. (and btw... we took plenty of precautions ahead of time... even back when I was growing up... you took precautions)

So, why do I play?  A question I often ask myself.  For years (as I will go into in more detail in future posts) I was the head admin (oh, who the hell am I kidding... I was a tyrannical, megalomaniac god-complex know-it-all) of a MUD (text based MMO... ask your dad) and sort of lost touch with table-top RPGs.  CRPGs have been a main-stay since high school - looong before decent CRPGs and well before MMOs.  Long after I had last thrown the dice on a table, I happened to be in the Bay Area (California... SF town) - during 3E launch.  It hooked me again.

Since then - I have dabbled in 4E, Numenera, Pathfinder, and many a home-brew game.  Why do I still love table-top RPGS... because they are awesome and I can play with a group of friends that are some of the nicest, most awesome people I have ever met.  Only one of my current group is from the "old days," but each and everyone of the folks I play with is a great person that I am proud to call a friend.  When I was in California, I played a bit of 3E - while I have been a shit-head in keeping touch... those guys were great.  Table-top RPGs bring REAL people together.  Yeah, we may fuck with each other occasionally... but you know what - these people have your back.

So why do I play the "grandfather of all role-playing games" ? Simple - the people.  In no community, anywhere, have I encountered a better, more accepting, nice group of people.  Happy free rpg game day everyone!! I hope you go out there and meet some of the great people that make our hobby one of the best out there.

And so it begins...