Initiative or What? – Archives – Dec/2008

Givin’ It Up for Bruce

So I’m sitting here listening to a 20 year retrospective of my favorite band (Jethro Tull); and I have little green molds spread out all over my dining room table filled with Merlin’s Magic®. The molds are setting up now, and in about 20 minutes will disgorge little stone replicas of dungeon walls, arches, floors, doors, and sundry other trappings. Who do I have to thank for this?

One man…Bruce Hirst.

Gushing admiration is really not my style; but every time I de-mold the miniature stone goodies, I’m struck with the ingenuity, creativity, and sheer coolness of his product, Castlemolds®.

Granted, there are other three-dimensional products out on the market that a DM can use to add some depth to his (or her) dungeon; but none of these products holds a torch to the sheer variety of possibilities Hirst’s Castlemolds® can unveil.

I’m gonna link his site now. Wait for it…Right…HERE. I will warn you, that if you have any “built-it-yourself” genes in you at all, you’ll be sucked in.

Timer’s goin’ off now, and I have to de-mold.

Thanks, Bruce!! – Originally published – 12/10/2008

Blog Carnival:  Round 5 — Coming Full Circle

The good folks over at Critical-Hits are hosting this month’s Blog Carnival, which happens to deal with the rather general topic of transitions and transformations.After tossing the idea around for over half a month, I decided I’d cover the topic by explaining how my gaming habits have transformed over the past several years.

Yeah, I know. Don’t click away just yet, it gets more interesting.

The reason my gaming habits might be of interest, is the fact that I’ve come full circle from playing tabletop role-playing games (D&D), to playing online role-playing games (World of Warcraft*), and back to playing tabletop role-playing games (4E D&D). As a result of this transition in gaming styles, I am now able to share with you my journey from playing one type of game to the other (and back again).

Let’s start with the history, shall we?

I’ve been gaming for a long time; over 25 years in fact. I’ve mainly played Dungeons and Dragons (in it’s various editions) for that time period; but I’ve played other games and genres as well. After a fairly lengthy hiatus from much gaming at all (when my children were young), some of the guys at work and myself formed a little gaming group called the Dead Orcs Society. We met once or twice a month with alternating campaigns DM’ed by different members. Eventually the group grew pretty large, and if a member or two couldn’t make it; we’d shoulder on with the players that could. We had a blast, and forged some long-lasting friendships.

After about five years of participating in this group, I was introduced to World of Warcraft. I was sucked in immediately by the immersive environment, easy interface, and built in social network. Eventually, all the players in the Dead Orcs society joined the game (I was actually one of the last to join), and we played together online. I met many new friends, became a respected guild member (at least I’d like to think so), and raised a couple characters to the (then) highest level. I spent nearly three full years wandering Azeroth. It was an easy place to get lost in.

Unfortunately, during that same time period, the table-top role-playing group began to fall apart. I think most of it was due to the fact that it was easier to log on to a game from our own homes, than it was to make the effort to visit someone’s house. The few games we did manage to have were often interrupted by World of Warcraft talk; and someone almost always had the game running on a pc in the background. I was no different. After DM’ing for so long, it was easy to just let a game take over all that duty and simply play. In the process, I lost some of my creativity. I basically stopped playing tabletop games altogether.

I was starting to miss something.

Even the most well developed online game is limiting when it comes to creativity. When you play World of Warcraft, you really don’t have much input into how the game story is created or develops. All of that is done for you. In addition, after you reach the higher levels, you really don’t have many options for character development. You can either continue to run instances or earn reputation for better gear, or you can kill opposing players (in PvP play). After awhile, those options get boring. You can always create a new character of a different race or class; but you end up running through the same adventures over and over. After nearly three years, I couldn’t keep up my interest, even when I was playing with dear friends.

The toll outside the game was even worse. In order to feel like I was getting anything out of World of Warcraft at all, I felt I had to play for hours at a time – time that took me away from my family. While I hesitate to use the word, “addicted”, I will certainly admit that that game took a higher priority in my life than it should have. Of course, I’m the only one I can blame for that. No one tied me to the chair and forced me to play the game. So, facing a tedious game and realizing I was missing out on the family, I decided to make a transition.

I quit cold turkey.

Canceling my World of Warcraft account, I contacted the founding members of the Dead Orcs Society to see if they were interested in getting the game group going again. Fortunately, they were interested; and once again we’re meeting each month to roll dice and determine our fates. We’re playing a new edition of Dungeons and Dragons (4E) and I’m DM’ing. I’m also throwing the creativity that went begging for the last three years into enhancements for our game. I’m making props, coming up with story ideas, and trying to make the table top role-playing experience even more dynamic than before. If you’ve read my blog recently, you know that I’m writing regularly about role-playing and hope to continue to contribute what little wisdom I may have gained from my experiences.

I’m happy to once again be a proponent of tabletop role-playing. The transformation (and the circle) are complete.

Game excellently with one another.

*Note: While my own personal experience involves playing the game, World of Warcraft, I don’t in any way blame that game for the outcomes you’ve read about here. I’m responsible for my own behavior. Online games have their place; I just found it wasn’t for me. Many of the current members of the Dead Orcs Society still play the game. I harbor them no ill will, and hope that they’ll continue to find table top role-playing a nice diversion from their online world. I also hate to burn bridges (horrible waste of a jumping-off spot), so one day I might mind myself poking about in Azeroth again. One thing’s for sure, though, my perspective has changed; and I’ll approach any online game in the future with open eyes. – Originally published – 12/15/2008

A Very Merry Christmas To You All

Well, I have just wrapped the last gift for Christmas. As I sign my wife and I’s names to the gift tag, I stop for a moment to consider the holiday.

For the first time in many years, I’ll be playing Dungeons and Dragons on Christmas Eve. Tonight, my wife and two teenage sons will gather around the table while I DM an introductory adventure for them.

Of course, I still have my regular game group (The Dead Orcs Society); but this is a special situation. I have never really considered Dungeons and Dragons to be a truly family game until this year. My sons are now both teens, and they are old enough (and hopefully disciplined enough) to enjoy the game. We plan on playing about three hours. Fortunately, the adventure has already been written (the brief adventure in the back of the 4E Dungeon Master’s Guide).

I wish there were a few more players around the table; but my family is a small one. It means a little extra balancing work for me, but I’ll manage. As we roll the dice, and my sons experience a real RPG for the first time; I will be thankful for their presence in my life.

I am not a religious man, but I already feel blessed.

From my family to yours, Initiative or What? would like to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

Game Excellently With One Another…And to All a Good Night… – Originally published – 12/24/2008

Wha’d Ya’ Get? Wha’d Ya’ Get? Wha’d Ya’ Get?

Well, the Christmas presents were distributed and opened with great delight and enthusiasm. As a result, I thought I’d ask my readers (do I still have readers, lol?) what they got for Christmas. If you’re one of my fellow geeks, did you get a geek gift? If so, what kind was it?

I’m also trying a poll out to the right here. Haven’t done one of those before, so I thought I’d give it a try.

As for me? Well, my lovely wife, Anna, got me a couple of Castlemolds® from Hirst Arts. Specifically, mold #82 and mold #85 (scroll down a bit on the page to see the specific ones). I was so happy. I’ll likely be spending the rest of my vacation casting a crap-load of accessories for my dungeons.

So tell me what you got! And if you’re Christmas was a slim one (the economy is likely dampening everyone’s giving spirit), tell me what you want for your birthday! 🙂

Game Excellently With One Another. – Originally published – 12/29/2008

Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. R.M. Walker, who can be found in numerous places on the internet as “DeadOrcs”, is a long time gamer with some 30 years experience playing RPGs. Despite occasional forays into the bizarre, Randall has always come back to Dungeons & Dragons.


About DeadOrcs

R.M. Walker, who can be found in numerous places on the internet as “DeadOrcs”, is a long time gamer with some 30 years experience playing RPGs. Despite occasional forays into the bizarre, Randall has always come back to Dungeons & Dragons.

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