RPPR Episode 113: Van Art Gaming

News: I will be attending ComicPalooza this year, sharing a table with Diana Botsford. I’ll be running some demos of Base Raiders as well – stay tuned for details. Firewall, the newest Eclipse Phase book is out and Caleb and I both wrote for it. We also have more Raillery videos, like Bodyball and more Darkest Dungeon goodness!

Synopsis: Tom, Caleb, and I first discuss the recent political controversy over the Indiana RFRA law and how it connects to Gen Con. After getting politics out of the way, we move on to old school gaming – in particular the style of dungeon crawling RPGs that first appeared in the 1970s. Back in the first days of gaming, there were few conventions in what a RPG should and should not be. We talk about what we like and dislike about the old school. Plus there’s a letter from Tom, shout outs, and anecdotes!

Shout Outs

Song: Deeper Dungeons by The Swill

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  27 comments for “RPPR Episode 113: Van Art Gaming

  1. Badger
    April 9, 2015 at 1:48 am

    Towing Jehovah’s an excellent book. I was lucky enough to have Mr. Morrow come to my college and talk about the book after we’d read it in class. He was very patient and engaging, and even signed my copy. One of the bare handful of books I didn’t feel ripped off buying from the Student Bookstore.

  2. Boyos
    April 9, 2015 at 4:09 am

    Next time you see a princess party at a RPG con, just turn to the father and let him know, “just so you know, were doing the same thing. Just not cos playing.”

  3. Caleb
    April 9, 2015 at 7:43 am

    Somehow I doubt the father in your hypothetical example would be comforted by that.

  4. April 9, 2015 at 11:06 am

    it really is double-absurd to boycott GenCon over another nightmare fuel religious evil law. we as queers of all people should understand that sometimes you just need to make do with an unpleasant legal situation, that it’s not possible to arbitrarily pick up your life or business and stick it elsewhere because of a Rich Old White Guy Syndrome-induced spasm in the local government. literally impossible that GenCon could have done more without basically ceasing to be as an organization, which I don’t think would’ve counted as a win for anyone.

    it does feel good to rant at horrible people on the internet now and again, though~

  5. April 9, 2015 at 11:20 am

    If I didn’t love you enough, Caleb, I love you more for coining the term “nerd-blackface” and siting Big Bang Theory as an example.

  6. KenR
    April 9, 2015 at 11:47 am

    It did seem like GenCon did everything in its power to increase awareness of the RFRA business. Boycotting them for that felt weird to me. (I know the idea of a suitably large scale boycott is to hit everyone even vaguely involved to increase the pressure, but it seemed like a more idealistic stand than a practical one.)

    Caleb: have you tried Abebooks.com for the James Morrow books? I saw a few of them listed with a quick search and the prices seemed to be less than on Amazon. I don’t know shipping works out, though – I haven’t ordered from them in a long while.

    Also, I don’t think we actually heard what the Ross Peyton video game aesthetic was in the anecdotes.

    As an Illinois resident, I look forward to seeing the Machine represented in RPG form.

  7. Twisting H
    April 9, 2015 at 11:35 pm

    Huh. I wonder if Towing Jehovah inspired the Serpentfall event in the rpg The Day After Ragnarok.

  8. Gary
    April 9, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    Ross, Caleb, Tom, thank you very much. I appreciate the quick acknowledgement for Christians who support the LGBT community. That hit close to home and I really appreciate it.

  9. Anonymous
    April 10, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    Hey Caleb I have a copy of Only Begotten Daughter one of Morrow’s other novels. It’s about the second coming where the Messiah is a girl. If if recall Jesus runs a soup kitchen in hell and feels deep shame at the state of Christianity. Good stuff. Read it when I was like 17 I think.

  10. April 10, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    Dungeon Crawl Classics deserves to be in every gamer’s library. It really highlights the BEST of the OSR movement: the irony, the imbalance against the players, the randomness and openness, and the overall FUN of tabletop gaming. Caleb is exactly right when he says that DCC and some elements of the old-school aesthetic return the focus to character narrative DURING the game (rather than having a character’s backstory drive decisions).

    When you played DCC, did you use the funky dice?

    Also, James Morrow is ace. Towing Jehovah is probably his best, but he has a lot of terrific short-stories you can find for a $0.01 at a thrift store.

  11. Adam
    April 12, 2015 at 6:43 am

    To be fair BBT is pretty insulting to those of us with Asperger Syndrome. Can we have more people like Saga Noren from The Bridge please.

    I bought Trenchcoats & Katanas. DCC will have to wait unfortunately.

  12. Bordersbooksprobably
    April 12, 2015 at 11:17 am

    I know I saw Towing Jehovah in a bookstore somewhere a few years ago. I read the blurb and set it down, but I didn’t forget the blurb. I didn’t remember the title or author until you summarized the plot.

    It was probably somewhere east of the Mississippi river? Maybe?

  13. James
    April 12, 2015 at 8:58 pm

    Umm I just typed Towing Jehovah into amazon and I saw many copies for sale ,so I don’t understand why you can’t find a copy. I met Mr Marrow once as well for I attended Penn state Main campus and he lives in the area.

  14. Scooter
    April 13, 2015 at 5:49 am

    http://smile.amazon.com/Godhead-Trilogy-Jehovah-Blameless-Abaddon-ebook/dp/B00KV1QTFI/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1428921592&sr=8-2&keywords=towing+jehovah

    And honestly, I can’t believe you did an entire twenty minutes or so on discrimination against LGB people, the unironically used the term “nerd blackface.” Makes it very hard to take you guys seriously, unless I’m unaware of the recent history of nerd slavery or Nerd Crow laws.

    You guys are great and funny when you do game-related content, stick to that, I can get Oppression Olympics everywhere else on the internet, thanks. Caleb especially needs to acknowledge his own biases, he fights to show a progressive front, but regularly paints all religious people with the same brush. I’m sorry you had bad experiences with religion, but if you’re going to convince me that you’re better than them, try not to adopt their same tactics?

    TL, DR; identity politics not funny, RPG gamin funny, audience like funny.

  15. Ethan C.
    April 13, 2015 at 10:17 am

    For folks like me and Caleb, who didn’t grow up playing RPGs, we have a very different perspective on OSR stuff and older RPGs in general. I’d argue that “older noobs” are different from both the grognards and the Kids These Days.

    Speaking personally, I’m very interested in how artforms and media develop over time. Often, it’s only possible to understand why a certain common facet of gaming has become what it is by seeing where it came from originally.

    For example, look at how the concept of attack rolls vs. Armor Class has developed over the course of D&D. “THAC0 is wacko” makes sense now, but THAC0 was originally developed to simplify the math problems with D&D 1st edition’s armor class rules. It meant you didn’t have to do both addition and subtraction every time you attacked. Then in 3.0, they finally figured out a good way to make all the numbers go the same way, which was much easier to understand. In 4th edition, they tried making all of the old “saving throws” work just like Armor Class, so there would only be one mechanic for attacking people. Then in 5th edition, they replaced all of the little +x bonuses with advantage, again so there was less math on each roll. So looking backward, you can see that over time, the D&D designers have consistently tried to make combat more mathematically simple, as they’ve discovered that math is the main thing that breaks down the flow of the game. And other games have responded to this same barrier with other creative mechanical solutions, too.

    This also means that historical preservation is extremely important. As time goes by, we will have fewer and fewer people who directly experienced the early years of gaming. Also, we’ll have fewer copies of published materials from the early years. I’m sadly unaware of any serious effort by the industry to collect and preserve early gaming material. I hope that the OSR will give more younger/newer players an appreciation for the history of gaming’s development, and maybe help drum up support for preserving and learning from the past.

  16. Dom
    April 13, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    Re: Caleb recommending Bloodborne

    This game is the reason why I ordered a PS4 this week. It looks like an absolute beast of a game, and I was a big Dark Souls fan. Persona 5 coming for PS4 also helped me decide on the purchase. 🙂

    And Cities: Skylines is indeed great. It’s also very easy to pick up for someone new to city building sims, and it will eat up hours upon hours of your life.

  17. Full Metal Potato
    April 13, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    Having now read through all of Rythlondar, I think I might honestly say that I kinda want to play in a big sandboxy dungeon-crawl game like it describes. It’s just so weird to read about a game where parties regularly include 14 players, of whom up to half regularly die during every outing? I’ve played in a lot of 3.5 and Pathfinder games, and reading that thing still kinda blows me away. How do they have time for that many combat encounters if they’re not running, like, 12 hour sessions? So many questions, but there’s a weird sort of appeal.

  18. Omega
    April 13, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    I just want to say I’m very happy and agree with RPPRs sentiments on “lumping” and say everyone should be careful about stereotyping, strawmen or broad strokes in any kind of argument. In 99% of circumstances, you’re interacting or dealing with other people, which means they have all the same possibility for positives or shortcoming as you do – it’s all relative.

  19. April 13, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    Oddly, ‘Towing Jehova’ is sixty bucks on Abe Books (used) but less than $13 new at B&N. Must be original edition versus reprint.

    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/towing-jehovah-james-morrow/1100734365?ean=9780156002103

  20. April 13, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    Well, combat in old-school D&D was (is) pretty quick, so you could have many combat encounters in the time you could have one 3.5/4E encounter. Not saying that is necessarily a BAD thing for 3.5/4E, it’s just that the combat in the latter is often where the plot occurs, and the combat in the former is a RESULT or resolution of the plot. . . if that makes sense.

    Again, I cannot recommend DCC enough; it captures the “feel” of an OSR game with rules that are written under the influence of more recent gaming trends.

  21. KenR
    April 14, 2015 at 10:22 am

    Scooter: not really your call to speak for the whole audience. I enjoy the philosophical and economic discussions on the show a great deal.

    It was sort of an off-handed comment on this episode, but I could pretty easily see a whole segment on some of the “other” archetypes in RPGs, most often embodied by orcs.

  22. darren t.
    April 14, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    That sounds awesome for the character natural selection for dungeon crawling. Heard on another podcast that I can’t remember as an alternative to try is to get one of the old D&D/AD&D dungeon crawl adventure then use booze, graph paper + Dungeon World & try to not lose the map. Agreed how some of the early D&D stuff can be crazy as there’s a few adventures involving crashed spaceships. I love the idea though of the peasant crew having enough with the nearby dungeon to just wander in to see what happens. The sci-fi list of generation sounds like something out of Paranoia.

    At least with the random roll character generation, it makes up for the wacky party creation seen in Call of Cthulhu with the rich person, ex-cultist, tribal fisherman & ex-industrialist/inventor now hobo. The idea of the random party matches the real life level of non-planning & just more satisfaction when you get (as a player) creative with the character classes on following their strengths & weaknesses.

    Also down with the killer GM idea, if the death is meaningful for the PC then sure let them die & bring in someone else to follow the story of the group.

    The idea of taking an open group of 0 level people in a dungeon almost sounds like Slasher Flick, taking in a main character & some sidekicks to a dungeon & if someone bites it by slipping on some sheet of paper left on the ground & falling to death in a 5 foot deep pit, go for it to see where it leads.

    Caleb, I’m adding that trilogy to Goodreads as it sounds hilarious. With the Half Price Books (used books) chain here in the area, I’ll definitely be on the look out for it around here.

  23. Adam
    April 15, 2015 at 9:05 am

    Darren T. It wasn’t One Shot was it? I remember hearing the same.

    Also, as Ethan said we need to preserve rpgs for context. Ive been listening to the System Mastery podcast and seeing the progession from SO MUCH math(s) to a more acessible direction.

  24. darren t.
    April 15, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    Adam, I believe it was but I’ll have to hear it again to be sure. I’d sure be better off with some lighter/story game with dungeon mapping than trying more of D&D anytime soon & getting more therapy sessions (thanks partially to those damn d30s). Thanks for the info on another game podcast to look into.

    And apparently Amazon/Kindle is a cure for finding at least one of the books Caleb enlightened many of us to track down. If going for a specific printing it might be more but it seems the printing by Mariner books is easy to come by if you want a printed one, link goes to kindle collection.

    http://www.amazon.com/Godhead-Trilogy-Jehovah-Blameless-Abaddon-ebook/dp/B00KV1QTFI/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1429134230&sr=1-2&keywords=morrow+towing

  25. Larken
    April 21, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    If you need a plot hook for using the sun whales in eclipse phase you can use my campaign option that I never got to use. Try treating the journey to the sun like a character event where the monks climb the 10,000 steps to reach a guru who can grant enlightenment.
    If you need a character who has the historical/ background information that can unlock a large part of the mystery for your firewall team then put that guru in a Surya morph. Due to circumstances this Surya happens to be the only instance of that person still in existence so if you want the information then your crew has to figure out a way to take a dip in a burning star bath, locate this one specific ego and get out without anything going wrong (I’m sure you can see where it might).

    I don’t know.. The technological advancements of the morph raises too many questions about trans-humanity so I can see why people would hate their inclusion. But for creating a surreal/ mystical moment in a campaign I find them useful.

    On the other hand the Surya could be a myth. Every attempt to create and use one has ended in failure and the Megacorps are too guarded to admit that they don’t work and act out a massive coverup. It would be funny to have a fake moon landing conspiracy in a setting where you’re living on the moon.

  26. R
    May 1, 2015 at 3:44 am

    If you haven’t found them yet, Caleb, try abebooks, it’s always a good place for rare, out-of-print and collectable books.

    http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?an=james+morrow&sts=t&tn=blameless

    http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?an=james+morrow&sts=t&tn=footman

  27. Doug
    May 8, 2015 at 11:26 pm

    Treacherous topic braved with poise and grace. Props to RPPR.

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