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You all have heard me before, going on and on about how we’ve gone wrong in this country.  Ad nauseum, you have sat through me bitching and moaning about how far off the reservation we’ve collectively gone.  I have been ranting for years now about how much the American population, as a whole, sucks.  Well, not tonight.

Tonight I target our leaders.

I recently listened to a podcast by one of my favorite comedians, Christopher Titus, entitled “The Armageddon Update.”  In this podcast, episode 21, Titus refers to our two presiding parties as the Republitards and Democreeps.  But Erik, I hear you say, using the appellation –tard isn’t very PC.  If you really thought that, you should leave this blog right now.  No Political Correctness here; you either laugh or you cry, it’s up to you.

But I got to realizing that there are two pretty accurate terms.  Our capital is just shit-full of tards and creeps.  And I don’t mean people that are saddled with mental retardation through a birth defect; those people would never do the kind of crap these idiots pull off.  To wit: raising the debt cap with the current budget.

Folks, we all have to live within a budget, as citizens, and as businesses.  Witness the recent woes of one of my former employers, Borders.  They spent far too much more than they were taking in; bankruptcy was inevitable.  Not only did they spend more than they took in, their debt from doing so was so large that no one wanted to buy them out recently, and now they get to go away because of it.

But not our government.  Oh, no; they just go about raising the upper limit of the amount they can go into debt.  Does anyone else see the foolishness in this?  Seriously, do any of you?  This is like being with ten bucks of hitting the credit limit on your credit card and the owning company calling you up and saying, “Hey, Mr. Consumer, we notice you are about out of credit.  How about another grand on top of that?”

Oh wait, they did that.  Remember?  It’s one of the things that have drawn us into the swirling spiral around the toilet bowl of our economy.  Yes, I said it; our economy is quite metaphorically in the shitter.  We can’t keep doing this.  Our government needs to learn what the rest of us have had to learn: cut back.

And before you go all whiny on me, I am not talking about cutting civil programs like Social Security and such.  I am, however, talking about taking a scalpel and surgically removing the cancerous spending that our government is guilty of.  When your income is cut because of losing a job or getting your hours cut, the rest of America gets to go from Angus steak to tube steak, and going from Chilean Sea Bass to chili and smallmouth bass.  You see, all of these assjacks have forgotten something that bespeaks wisdom: You are accountable when you represent people.

And it’s our fault.  We have not held them accountable.

Yup, I said it: it is our fault.  Period.  We let them get this way by electing them, re-electing them, and supporting them.  We kept going out in support of them, even though they kept on lying to us, time and time and time again.  And they have grown fat and sassy on the sweat of our backs and brows.  They now believe themselves unassailable, comfortable in the hands of the government they corrupted to serve their own interests, instead of the interests of our country.  And in the progress, the corruption has spread like a damned plague to ourselves.

I don’t pretend to have the answers, but I can see the problems.  And so can all of you.  You know you can; we see it every day.  The fearmongers on MSNBC and FoxNews and CNN and the Evening News portray the worst of all news.  MSNBC and FoxNews are no more news organizations than this blog is.  I don’t pretend to report the news.  I am just an editorialist, the same as all of them.  They don’t give us the news; they give us the news with their own agenda and spin on it.  And it’s bullshit.  And yet they tout themselves as “fair and balanced.”  I call bullshit on that!

And we, the public, are the ones encouraging them!  Seriously!  We keep watching the crap day in and day out.  We don’t do our own thinking or research on issues; we invite Mr. Beck, Mr. Olbermann, and worse to spin an opinion for us.  We can’t be bothered to form our opinions.  We empower them and enable them.  We swallow it, hook, line and sinker.  And the more we listen, the lazier we get, and the more we beg for it.  We really have become complacent livestock, waiting to be slaughtered to feed the herders we put in charge of ourselves.

Welcome to the New World!

Well, I don’t want any of it.  I am sick of being a mushroom.  I am not a Liberal or a Conservative; I am not a Republican or a Democrat (or, more accurately, Republitard or Democreep).  I am not Left or Right.  I am just an American, plain and simple.  I am not picking one side or the other because they are both so blind and stupid, I would rather not dumb myself down to that level.  Either of the sides of the road are full of maniacs and morons.  Me?  I’ll pick the middle of the road.  Sure, greater chance to get hit by a maniac or a moron, but the options and the view are so much better.

Who’s with me?

I just finished reading Gauntlgrym last night (at about 2 am, let the record show), and I have a good deal to say about this book.  After the ending to The Ghost King, I was a bit gunshy of reading this sucker, knowing that Salvatore was going to be pushed to cut more characters from the storyline, if for no other reason than to catapult Drizzt into the new era of the Forgotten Realms setting.  I give Salvatore credit; he held off from biting into the crap sandwich that has become Forgotten Realms for two full years plus with this series.  (I promise this will NOT turn into a rant of how much the new Forgotten Realms pisses me off.  Well, not totally a rant.)

The novel itself spans a large amount of time.  It opens with Bruenor deviously abdicating the throne so that he and Drizzt, almost two and a half decades after The Ghost King, can get on the road in search of Gauntlgrym, the legendary home of the Delzoun clan of dwarves. Over the long span of years, Bruenor and Drizzt’s quests are highlighted, speeding rapidly through what could have been a lot of boring exposition.  With the loss of Thibbledorf Pwent from their party to the ravages of age, and the inadvertent destruction wrought by Athrogate (yup, Jarlaxle and Athrogate show up in the book), and the efforts a decade later to reclaim Gauntlgrym, the book moves at a good pace, keeping the plot development and progression as complete as possible without turning the bulk of the book into a mire of details.

We are treated to the introduction of a new character, Dahlia Sin’felle.  An elf allied with the Red Wizards of Thay, her history is revealed throughout the first part of the novel, building up her background and revealing the source of her villainous outlook on life.  We are also treated to another villain: Herzgo Alegni, a tiefling shade of Netheril.  (More on him later, in the Spoiler Section).  I will talk more about his servant, Barrabus, also later.  In the first half of the book, the action switches between pairs: Drizzt and Bruenor searching for Gauntlgrym, Dahlia and the vampire Dor’crae also seeking Gauntlgrym (for less benevolent reasons), Jarlaxle and Athrogate searching for a good time (and ending up working with Dahlia for a very short time), and Herzgo and Barrabus searching for an end to the freedom of Neverwinter.

The major note I would make about the first book (and a good deal of the second book) is the devolution of Drizzt.  The loss of his love, Catti-Brie, and his friend Regis, as well as the knowledge that Wulfgar will also have died, if from nothing other than old age, has taken its toll on Drizzt.  He is far less than his usual jovial self for the majority of the book; that is not to say that he is depressed or whiny.  Quite the opposite.  He is falling further and further into his Hunter persona, giving in to the more savage side of himself, and wondering if he was only deluding himself for over a century or so.

The best part of it, though, occurs when Jarlaxle gives him a firm pimp slap in the form of some revelatory knowledge about just what he means to people he has never met.  Jarlaxle is far from a heroic character, but in the book you see a side of him that harkens back to a reason or two why he and Drizzt’s father, Zaknafein, may have been the best of friends.

SPOILERS!

By the end of the book, people important to Drizzt are once again dead.  Unbeknownst to him, one of his oldest foes is still alive and now knows that Drizzt is still breathing as well.  He has taken up with Dahlia Sin’felle, who has seemingly turned her back on who she was.  And new foes have appeared on the horizon: the Red Wizards of Thay and the Ashmadai and the Shadovar of Netheril.  The world is a changed place, and not necessarily for the better.

I liked this book far better than The Ghost King.  While more people die, you get to see Drizzt slapped back into place by one of the last people that would be expected to give a damn about our favorite drow.  You can’t help but sympathize with him, even though you get very little of his usual internal monologues.  The poor bastard feels adrift on a sea of loss, and wondering if any of it was worth the effort.  I won’t give it all away, but suffice it to say that by the end of the book,  you are left with the feeling that Drizzt is no longer just a survivor.

I honestly cannot wait for the next in the series to come out.

What do you think?

 

There was a time not too long ago in my reckoning when we were told that if we ever were in trouble, we, as children, should go to the police.  We were told, back then, that the police were there to Protect and Serve, to keep us safe in the face of danger.  The police would make sure we were safe, they were heroes deserving of our respect.

I recently noticed this particular little gem of a news story on a feed I pay attention to, and I got seriously honked off.  I am talking that level of pissed that normally I reserve for election years.  If you all want to look back, in my post about old blogs under the subheading “First Posted May 7, 2007,” I rail against a young man being arrested and held because of yelling at a police dog.  Well, this one takes the shit taco, let me tell you.

This news story, the one first linked above, is about a young man, 17 years old, from Dayton, OH.  Jesse, the young man, suffers from mental handicap(s) and disability which have saddled him with an undisclosed speech impediment.  When the young man was singled out and questioned, by an officer that knew he was handicapped, and was unable to clearly speak.  Officer Willie Hooper pulled Jesse aside as Jesse was riding his bike in front of his own house.  When Jesse was unable to communicate with the officer, who I will remind you, gentle reader, knew of Jesse’s handicapped status and impediment, he began yelling at Jesse, taking the garbled speech for disrespect.

Jesse turned and made for his house in an effort to get his mother to help him (Jesse) communicate with Hooper.  Hooper took this as flight, and not only pursued Jesse, but called in backup.

20 officers from different jurisdictions of backup.

For a seventeen-year-old, mentally handicapped boy.

Hooper, as well as his partner, one John Howard, not only pepper-sprayed the boy, but they used Tasers, their fists, and an ASP.  For those of you that do not know what an ASP is, it is an extendable baton used for security.  They are usually made out of lightweight, highly-flexible, extremely strong metals.  The average one extends out to a length of eighteen to twenty-one inches.  When used by a trained combatant, they can break bones.  They hit Jesse in the thigh with one of these, repeatedly.

A neighbor tried to tell Hooper that Jesse was handicapped, but he was told by Hooper to go back into his (the neighbor’s) house, or he would be arrested.  As well, the entire time Jesse was being beaten, he was yelling for Hooper and Howard to stop, and Jesse’s mother was attempting to tell them about Jesse’s problem.  They ignored her.

Jesse was not only handcuffed, but also hogtied and thrown in the back of a police car.  He was charged with assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest, and obstructing official business.  The Juvenile Court found him incompetent (no shit, Sherlock) and dismissed all charges against him.

Now here is the part I truly love: Jesse and his mother are seeking damages from the city as well as the two officers, for false imprisonment, false arrest, malicious prosecution, assault, battery, excessive use of force, infliction of emotional distress, and civil conspiracy.  For those of you that don’t know, the difference between and assault and battery is assault is a “reasonable threat to a person,” whereas battery is “actual physical contact and harm.”  As well, civil conspiracy is when two or more parties collude to deprive a third party of their legal rights, or deceive the third party to achieve an illegal objective.

This story not only worries me, but it pisses me right off.  The older I get, it seems the less I will ever tell my children to trust a police officer.  Not only has this happened, but has anyone else noticed the lack of the old police motto, “To Protect and Serve” on police cars these days?  I don’t care for that.  Not at all.  You see, as a police officer, judge, law enforcement official of any kind, up to and including judge, you serve the people as well as the local laws.  You are a public servant, period.  This is not a negotiable fact.

And when you step so far out of line as Hooper and Howard did, you deserve to lose your job.  You assaulted, battered, and harmed a mentally-handicapped minor.  You used Tasers, pepper-spray (the police-issue stuff, not that aftermarket stuff they sell to the rest of the public; police pepper spray goddamn hurts), struck with bare fists, and struck him with an extendable metal baton.   You then arrested him for the simple, so-called crime of being mentally-handicapped and unable to directly communicate with you, as well as the crime of going to get his mother so that he could communicate with you.

Hooper, Howard… I refuse to refer to you as police officers.  You are scum.  You are deplorable.  Not only have you tarnished your own badges, but men like you poison the sentiments of the public as they regard the police.  Men just like you have turned police officers from heroes into villains.  Being a cop does not put you above the law.  You are still held by the law, as well as special laws governing the behavior of police officers.

I just won’t do it anymore.  I can’t stay silent.  There is nothing about this story that allows me to respect the police, or see them as the good guys anymore.  And as for Jesse… my heart goes out to you and your mother, son.  Get them; run them up the flagpole and let them get some public scrutiny for what they’ve done.

Remember: as a police man or woman, you serve the public.  You don’t rule the public.

What do you think?

I have been noticing a trend in gamers, as I have said before, that their skills at strategy and tactics aren’t too damned bad, but their skills at actual roleplaying are so damnably lackluster that one can easily overlook how well they do at numbers.  I mean it; they are so pitiful at staying in character and helping to construct the story that it sets my teeth on edge.  Most times they don’t even try.

I came to the realization that a lot of it has to do with all of their games based around “building” a character from the ground up, instead of “growing” a character by putting together various elements.  The seeds of this capability are sown in the tradition of randomly-generated characters.  That’s right, characters grown around random characteristics that the dice dictate when figuring out what the player will play.

In the first editions of Dungeons & Dragons (including Advanced Dungeons & Dragons), you rolled three six-sided dice, and put the results down in order for your character’s statistics.  If you were lucky, your DM would let you get away with murder by switching a number or two.  Other than that, you were stuck.  You learned to work with the numbers fate handed you, and it actually taught you how to make a solid character out of an assortment of numbers.

Erick Wujcik, cofounder of Palladium Games, based out of Michigan, wrote the following as the lead-in to every roleplaying game he wrote for Palladium, explaining the superiority of random character generation:

RANDOM CHARACTER GENERATION: A Rationalization

Some readers will be surprised to discover that there is a “point system” for creating the animal characters in this book. There is a good reason for it; we want to make sure that every player could create an animal character to suit themselves. Which, if you think about it, is really not all that different from the way things are handled in Heroes Unlimited. After all, Bionic and Robotic characters also build themselves. But this game, just like Heroes Unlimited (and most other Palladium games), is based on random character generation.

There’s a fair amount of controversy in the roleplaying game community about character generation. Chiefly, some players complain that it is not as much fun or as challenging to roll up characters off a table as it is to ‘create’ the characters.

There is some validity to the argument. Regardless of our personal opinions on the subject you are free to do what you will with the game. If you are a game master, then simply let the players create their characters according to your own preferences. If you are a player, then lobby your game master for whatever changes you feel will make for the most playable game. However, here are a few good reasons to retain the random character generation system:

1. Excellent players can role-play ANYTHING; granted, the play-testers that I and the other folks of Palladium have at their disposal are superb. An excellent player can play any character, and sees a weak character as a challenge, not a liability.  When running my own campaigns, I frequently deprive characters of all their various powers and possessions. It is when the character is in the direst of straits that fantastic role-playing comes about.

Let’s look at one example. Recently a pair of players in fantasy game were captured by enemies. They managed to escape, but they found themselves lost in a strange desert with nothing but a piece of wire. The roleplaying went on for several weeks, alternating between the lost survivors dodging armoured hunters and straining to get water, shelter and food in hostile land. It was an intensely interesting role-playing adventure.

2. Another advantage of random character generation is the convenience that it provides to the game master. Instead of laboriously ‘constructing’ every new villain and N.P.C., the game master can just ‘roll-up’ the new encounters. This makes scenario design and quick response to player actions much easier.

3. Finally, let’s not forget that random rolls reflect real life. Even in the ‘perfect’ lives of fantasy characters there is no control over their origins. Super characters are usually created by accident or by forces over which the character has little or no control.

Now, take a good look at those three points made at the end of his short rant.  Points one and three are the important ones, especially point one.  A good roleplayer comes not from what super powers you have, or what rules you can exploit, but rather what kind of adversity you can overcome, both in the game and behind the character sheet.

For those that have never looked over a Palladium RPG, the character creation process entails a lot of die-rolling and table-referencing in order to make a character.  It does take a bit of time to accomplish, but in the end you are left with a very developed and three-dimensional character with an impressive array of skills and abilities, whether it is the Nightbane RPG, Rifts, TMNT and Other Strangeness, or any of their RPGs.

So if you want to know how to up your game, how to be a more solid, true roleplayer that can impress the other players at the table, I suggest you give random character creation a try.  Put away the point-buy systems and their convenience for fair play in organized, shared games, and try your hand at a character you haven’t been able to fully min-max to hell and back.

It builds character!

What do you think?

Well, I figured I would let the cat out of the bag and tell everyone the project I am working on, and that is a comprehensive update of Ravenloft to Fourth Edition.  So far, I have about 12 pages of notes for this, and I haven’t even hit on the Curses or on the Domains themselves.  One week in, and I really wish I was getting paid to do this stuff.  I am also considering finishing off the Shadow power source, ignoring the Vampire class from Heroes of Shadow, and instead making up a leader, controller, and defender class using the power source to go along with the Assassin class from Dragon Magazine.

Please, tell me what you think; you would all be surprised how your feedback helps spur me on.

Thanks, and hang in there!

Alright, folks, I have decided to try something new.  I have created a character for D&D 4E, a warlord named Rami.  What I am looking for is three other characters that would make a good party to accompany Rami on adventures.  Since Rami is a warlord, a leader class, I am looking for other characters of the other roles: defender, striker, and controller.  This is less about game statistics and more about background and flavor.  I am looking for a cool character with a great backstory that will work well with Rami’s background.

I wish I could offer something like a cash prize or such, but really all I can do it offer this: each winning entry gets a chance to decide a subject for a blogpost.  So, what you can do is come up with a one to two page character backstory, along with a description of your character (stats are optional) and email it to dragoneyes77@gmail.com.  The deadline for the contest is June 7th, with the winners announced on June 8th.

Here is Rami:

Rami ibn Rashid ibn Faris

At the edge of the Great Desert is the city of Muraq, the last bastion of greenery and opulence before the sands and nomadic tribes of the Great Desert dominate life.  The city of Muraq is a great metropolis of various peoples from all over, a meeting point for a countless number of merchants and travelers on their way to other places.

The city of Muraq is guarded by a great and powerful force of warriors dedicated to Al-Ha’Daarah, the Muraqi version of Erathis, goddess of civilization.  Calling themselves the Jadaar, or wall, they protect the city of Muraq as well as everyone within its walls.  Made up mostly of fighters, paladins, warlords, rangers, and swordmages, the force of Jadaar stalwartly guards the walls and streets.

Rami ibn Rashid ibn Faris was raised in the household of his father, Rashid ibn Faris, a powerful paladin of Al-Ha’Daarah herself.  Rami himself never felt the call of the goddess, but did always feel the call to lead others and protect those he could.  Rami joined the ranks of the Jadaar, and found he had great ability with the Muraqi Greatbow, a powerful ranged weapon made by laminating layers of strong wood with layers of extremely strong horn harvested from the Horned Sand Sharks of the Great Desert.

Rami was soon put in charge of a patrol of the city’s slums, taking the early evening watch.  Rami himself led many forays into the sewers of Muraq, chasing down both criminals and vicious monsters with zealous power.  Awarded various medals for his exploits, Rami was on his way to becoming one of the most honored patrol leaders the Jadaar had seen in three or four generations.

But tragedy soon struck.  A rival of his father’s, one Zamir ibn Jahziir, set into motion a plot to discredit all of Rami’s family.  Zamir was once a powerful and vicious assassin, notorious throughout Muraq as the best at his craft.  Rami’s father Rashid had caught Zamir, and had Zamir’s right hand cut off for his crimes.  Zamir was left with only his “unclean” hand, and a significant loss of ability.  Using his amassed riches, Zamir had a magical replacement crafted for his lost right hand.  And then, he began plotting.

Rashid ibn Faris was making one of his daily trips to the marketplace when the order came down from the Caliph himself: items of worship for the dark god Eblis, the Muraqi name for Asmodeus, were found in Rashid’s home.  Rashid was declared fallen, and arrested for the worship of one of the Dark Gods.  Rami was incensed; he knew his father was no more fallen than he was.  All of the Jadaar were convinced of Rashid’s fall from grace, as the word of Caliph was seen as that of the Goddess herself.  None could know that Zamir himself had bought off an official, and planted the items of Eblis in Rashid’s home.  That same official was dead less than a week after Rashid’s arrest.

Rami left the Jadaar, seeking to find a way outside of the city to gain power.  In time, he wishes to return to Muraq and free his father, clearing his name.  Rami had heard stories for years of Zamir, and is convinced the maimed assassin had something to do with the false crimes his father was arrested for.  So now Rami finds himself far from the lands he once roamed, seeking the items he needs, as well as any companions he may come across in order to one day return to Muraq, clear his father of his crimes, and bring Zamir to true justice once more.

What do you think?

The supplement book Arcane Power introduced familiars to the fourth edition of the D&D game.  Starting on page 137, an entire section of the book is dedicated to how familiars work, the feat needed in order to have a familiar, as well as feats that augment both familiars and your arcane caster.  But, honestly… I hate parts of it as well as love parts of it.

First off, it shouldn’t be a damn feat; it should be a ritual.  Yup, you heard me correctly: it should be a ritual.  As such, I give you the Find Familiar ritual:

Find Familiar

With the last words chanted into the wafting smoke of the incense and components consumed in the brazier, you clap your hands loudly.  There, in the circle you prepared ahead of time appears a small figure: your servant.

 Level: 1                                 Component Cost: Varies; see below

Category: Creation          Market Price: 150 gp

Time: 8 hours                     Key Skill: Arcana

Duration: Permanent

 Prerequisite: Must belong to either an Arcane class, or by multi-classed into an Arcane class to perform this ritual.

Once completed, this ritual binds to the caster a small spirit in the form of an animal or monster.  Familiars are the companion creatures to arcane practitioners, both as friends in their journeys, and as repositories of arcane knowledge and insight.  No two familiars are exactly the same, and none are actually creatures of the type they appear to be.  They are, in truth, those arcane spirits bound into a form they find most beneficial to the caster.

At the Heroic tier of play, it costs 50 gp to perform this ritual; at the Paragon tier, it costs 500 gp; and at Epic tier, it costs 5000 gp to perform the ritual.  At any time, an arcane character may dismiss their familiar.  Doing so costs them one healing surge until they take an extended rest, as they use their own life force to break the bond with the spirit.  Unbound familiars crumble to dust instantaneously.

The player may choose which familiar form they wish their character to receive.  Some DMs may require that the player instead roll on a random table, or they may dictate which familiar the character receives.

Voila, the feat is now a ritual.  Not too difficult.  But, I am not done yet.

I like all of the rules listed for familiars, as far as things like defenses and hit points with the following changes:

Hit Points: Equal to ½ of your Healing Surge value, rounded down.

Destruction of a Familiar: When a familiar is reduced to 0hp, the character no longer gains any benefit from the familiar, and the familiar does not regenerate until after the character’s next rest.  If, for some reason, the familiar is ever reduced to a negative hit point value equal to the familiar’s hp total, it is completely destroyed, and the ritual must be performed again to gain a new familiar.  Either way, the familiar’s master to suffer a -1 penalty to all d20-based rolls until it regenerates in passive mode after the next rest the PC takes. This penalty is cumulative with ALL OTHER PENALTIES, regardless of source.

Objects: The familiar may only pick up Tiny-sized objects or smaller, unless there is a special circumstance as decided by your DM.

DMs may wish to make this ritual available to other mystical power sources such as the Divine, Primal, Psionic, or Shadow sources.  When doing so, the overall flavor of the familiar, i.e. its appearance, should be altered as well.

Primal: The familiar appears more feral, perhaps appearing as a Tiny version of a dire animal, or just with a more savage aura.

Psionic: Psionic familiars tend to appear more crystalline and give off auras and indications of their nature just as their master does.

Divine: Divine familiars tend to either evidence a metallic (gold, platinum, silver, etc.) appearance, or have a glowing aura depending on their master.  Divine familiars are often seen as emissaries of the PCs god, wishing to keep an eye on the character.

Shadow: Shadow familiars appear darker and slightly more sinister than their usual counterparts.

I myself would never allow this, but then again, I am a bit of a strict person about some thematic elements.  I like my arcane casters a bit classic, and it is very infrequent that any other class has a relationship with familiars they way arcane casters do.

That being said… look within the next couple days for a new Druid option: The Animal Companion Druid!

What do you think?

I know I can get a bit mouthy with my opinions on the state of gaming.  To say that is actually an understatement.  I get downright angry and acidic with what I say.  I love to point fingers at the game companies, especially if they are owned by larger companies, like, say, a toy company.  Gee, who could that be?

Back to the point; the addition of Fortune cards, and the upcoming Despair cards, as well as the Essentials line of products to the Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons game has spun me off into a special dimension of anger of late.  It really ranks on me when something is added to a game that is completely superfluous and unneeded for game play.  When I am at a table, I have actually refused the Fortune cards for my own use.  It made a lot of other people at the table give me an odd look until they saw me do my job perfectly fine without them.

The other night I was talking to a very good friend of mine, Nate, about D&D in general, and he was really expressing his displeasure at some of the conventions of the game like half-breed races, some game settings, the proliferation of fey races, all that kind of stuff.  We were arguing back and forth, good naturedly, and I realized something: D&D has ALWAYS been full of B.S. add-on gimmicks, extending back at least until second edition.

I am gonna go all grognard on some of you here, and those of you that earned your wings under the auspices of a truly Gygaxian DM are welcome to feel the aching twinge of nostalgia along with me as I write this.

In first edition AD&D, they marketed packets of Dungeon Geomorphs; premade modular maps to use as simulated underground territories.  Under second edition, it only got worse.  Priest and Wizard spell cards, multivolume spell and magical item Encyclopedias, collectible cards with NPCs, magic items, spells, and the like printed on them; and let’s not even talk about the Complete series of faux-leather bound books.  Anyone remember those?  Introducing eight new subraces of elf, forty-seven species of halfling, and one whole book of humanoid races like goblin, kobold, and pixie?  How about the class “kits” offered by the Complete Handbook classes series?

Anyone but me remember the player’s kits they marketed?  Big plastic cases to hold your character sheets, dice, notepads, pencils, miniatures, Player’s Handbook, pager, cellphone, pet monkey, torch, and Swiss army can opener?  Oh, hey, how about those nifty, handy-dandy Monstrous Compendium three-ring-binder inserts that detail monster after monster after monster that just kept adding to an almost innumerable tally of baddies to throw against your players?  And the Annuals they kept pumping out for four years, adding on to regular products?

What about the Player’s and DM’s Option series of books that offered eighteen million different optional ways to change up your game?  The book that split all the ability scores from six to twelve?  What about the first spell point systems for AD&D?  I mean, in all honesty, there was as much unnecessary B.S. in the game then as there ever has been.

Now mind you, I have never  even touched on third edition, as it was about as much maligned as fourth is, and with good reason.  The amount of crap they kept adding on and adding on, creating instances of power creep that made it almost unpalatable to play the game.

What we have to remember is that these are not artists; they are tradesmen.  They are in this for the buck, and we love to point a finger and cry foul on them time and again.  Don’t; they are only doing what they should.  If you don’t like something, don’t use it.  But at the same time, don’t act like this is something new that has happened.  This has been happening time and again for generations of gamers.  And D&D isn’t the only one; let’s take a fricking look at Palladium Fantasy or Rifts, or GURPS, or any of the various Star Wars incarnations.  It just keeps happening.  This means that it is not just an isolated instance of a game edition we wish to demonize, just because it is ultimately owned by a toy company.

Do you know who is really to blame for all this?

We are.  We, the players.

We keep going to the well, time and again for more and more, and we get downright pissy when we don’t get what we think we want.  I realized that night that I always had what I liked about games since I was too damn poor to buy the new splatbook, module, or gimmick out there: imagination.  If I couldn’t buy it, I just made it up.  We all think we have to own this stuff to “Keep Up With the Joneses.”  Well, I call bullshit on that.  And that includes myself at times.  I am just as guilty as anyone else.  Want to put a stop to it?  Stop buying  the crap.  That simple.

What do you think?

Folks, the blog may be a little quiet for a while.  A friend of mine just suggested an excellent project to work on this summer, and I am taking up the reins on it starting immediately.  I am not going to reveal what the project is, but I like the sound of it.

Hopefully talk to you soon,

Erik

I picked up my copy of Heroes of Shadow about three weeks ago from UPS (totally different story there) and tore into it like a maniac.  My girlfriend chuckled at me, making a bunch of jokes about me being like a kid of Christmas morning.  Admittedly, I was.  I get like that when I am really waiting for a new gaming book, or even a new book that I have been dying to read.  What can I say?  I just get all tingly and excited.

So, I was touring through the book, looking piecemeal at the contents.  (If you want my overall impression of the book, look at this post: Heroes of Shadow: A Review, or Spoooooookyyyyy Stuff… Kinda.)  And I hit on what I was really chomping at the bit for: the Vampire class.  Now here was what I wanted to see!  I had read bits and pieces online leading up to the release of the book, and I was anxious.  No class had yet really disappointed me about the edition at all.

But this was… well, it felt half-assed as hell.

Really, it was like they phoned it in.  So, I decided then and there that I would rework the class to my liking.  They missed out a chance to make a great class out of this, but I wasn’t going to let it fly.  So I set down with pen and paper, and the great program 4E Power Toolkit, I plotted out a new version of the class.

What I can suggest is that you get creative as hell with your secondary class choice, and have fun with it.  Because of this, while Vampires are primarily a Striker, but can also bring in bits and powers from Defenders, Leaders, and Controllers.  Does this make Vampires a hybrid?  Nope.  Does this means Vampires get more powers than others?  Nope.  It does mean that there is a lot of wiggle room for theme and flavor.  So please, enjoy it class re-write, and let me know what you like and don’t like.

DISCLAIMER: This work is based off the Vampire class from the Dungeons & Dragons supplement Heroes of Shadow, and is not meant to be an attempt at copyright infringement or theft of intellectual property.  I in no way take credit for the idea of the Vampire class; I only attempt to rework the class in such a way that I think is an improvement.  I do not now, nor ever will, take payment for the free distribution of this class.  Please, just give credit where credit is due.  Thank you. Erik Fry.

What do you think?

Link to PDF of the file: https://chalybsanimus.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/vampire-heroic-levels1.pdf