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Sunday, April 29, 2012

April 29th is a break day in the A-Z Challenge

So I thought I'd write about a couple of other things that have been on my mind for the last few weeks while I have been doing all this Norse research work, which really wasn't all that hard for me because I am pretty into Norse stuff anyway. Next year though, if there is an A-Z challenge in April, I will think to pick a subject that has more letter options.

But I am digressing from my original point here, which was to NOT write about the Norse A-Z topic I picked this year and instead write about the other things that have been creeping into my brain during that time. First there's the whole Star Trek and Klingon Assault Group thing, both Star Trek gaming, mostly through Star Fleet Battles, but also a little through the FASA RPG have been a big deal for me and my game time in the past. The Klingon Assault Group, while it coincides slightly with the gaming, is another beast altogether. I want to recruit people to KAG, because dressing like a Klingon and acting like a Klingon is awesome fun; but I guess only if you are part of a particularly brave subset of Trekkie.

I have also been slowly working on my own realization of the 1985 TSR AD&D 1st edition Oriental Adventures book. I wrestle with some of the core ideas presented in that book, and I go back and forth over whether or not the book was too ambitiously focused on presenting an entire fantasy east Asia, while still being concentrated on Japan, or if they weren't ambitious enough and should have gone further in their attempt to include everything Asian with the same "kitchen-sink" approach they gave the western world with "regular" AD&D. As it stands, the book is a mostly Japanese game that could not decide on it's focus; was it going to be about court and intrigue? Those skills (sorry, proficiencies) were presented for the first time in any D&D product in the OA book. Was the game about serving a Lord or Clan or a Temple even? That's kind of implied in several class descriptions, but no real advice was given to the DM about how to make a well balanced party work together if it included, for instance, a Samurai, a Ninja and a Sohei. The "normal" adventuring paradigm of AD&D was broken in OA, and no fixed replacement was offered.

Add on top of that the fact that the game had a real issue deciding whether it wanted to emulate a Chanbara film or Ninja film or a Kung-Fu film and we have a problem. Many of the classes don't work well together, and, even if you are not a Monk, you can easily become a martial artist deadly enough to out class the party Samurai, as I saw in my last OA campaign when the Yakuza character took Tae Kwon Do instead of weapons proficiencies. The Wu Jen spell list is inadequate, and while I intend to reverse engineer that list from the 3e compatible magic books I snagged off Ebay that were designed for Rokugan and the Legend of the Five Rings Setting, I can only come to the inescapable conclusion, despite my love of 1st edition AD&D and my nostalgia for Oriental Adventures and the fun campaigns that I have played using those rules, that AEG and L5R were better conceived and better designed than the rush job that I suspect that 1st edition OA was. The best thing I can say about 1st edition's AD&D Oriental Adventures is that it is far superior to the abortion that was 3e OA.

There are gems in the 1st edition OA books, I have seen mentioned on other blogs recently the Yearly,Monthly,Daily events tables. The court game might have worked if they had separated out weapon proficiencies from the "peaceful" ones. The Samurai class might have been less the super class that it was if it hadn't gotten a requirement to specialize in two weapons, something BANNED to every other class. The Kensai, which should be spelled Kensei, needs a total reworking, it is a valid class idea, but screwing him over by never letting him wear any armor OR have a magic weapon of his "chosen" type blows. The two "Cleric" classes of OA both suck though, the Sohei is just a second class Fighter until finally receiving some spells at 6th level? The Shukenja (which should be spelled Shugenja) can't fight anything BUT spirits? Ninja as a "Split-Class" = dumb idea, easy enough to create a Shinobi class, I did it once and I can do it again.

Currently I am reading a lot of Japanese history, watching Samurai movies about the Sengoku Jidai era and reading books about the Samurai and Bushido written during the Tokugawa era, while I am not reading and studying up on Norse history and lore. Obviously, I think the focus of Oriental Adventures should be on Japan and Japanese history and mythology, more focus is better. This is why OA1: Swords of the Daimyo was such a good sandbox to play in, it ignored all of the other nations of Kara-Tur, except for brief mentions. I think every single copy of Oriental Adventures should have come packaged with that module, although the adventures presented are weak.

The other thing that has me feeling nostalgic is my old Steppe Warriors guild, I recently spruced up our Facebook tribute page a bit, and I tried to get in touch with some of the old guys that I lost contact with over the years. AOL's Neverwinter Nights did go offline in July of 1997, we tried a few other online games, even text based ones, but none had the awesome community of AOL's NWN. We weren't there for long, and the core of us were local to the Oswego county area, which is why it was easy for us to have our reunions, at least in the beginning. But I miss all those guys, even the ones I have fought with over the years; and it kind of makes me sad that I never did get around to playing that Steppe Warrior campaign that I always wanted to. I even have a good idea for it now, but we've scattered to the four winds, and the ones left in the area mostly don't talk to each other anymore. Upstate New York's greatest export has always been it's people.

Now, lastly, I have a Dawn Patrol play report that's more than a week over due. We had decided the last time we played that we were sick and tired of random encounters with Fighters versus Two-Seaters and the whole "I fly straight for six squares to complete my mission, now try and shoot me down before I get home" BS. So we just decided on a Fighter engagement, and randomly chose French or British to engage the Germans; then rolled a die to advance the war a number of days. Since I got thee time wrong, and was running late to start with, all of this was taken care of before myself and John even made it to Big Darryl's house.

The date was February 10, 1917. Two Fighter patrols ran into each other deep inside German held territory. My son John and I played the French, we were flying Spad VIIs and the two Darryls were playing the Germans who were both flying Albatross DIIIs. Darryl Jr. was playing his pilot Vizefeldwebel Oskar Schaeffer, who was flying his second mission. Darryl Sr. was playing his pilot Oberleutnant Erich Von Reinstadt, who was flying his 10th mission. John was flying his pilot Lieutenant Guy Bernet and I was flying my pilot, the Serbian volunteer, Lieutenant Vaclev Petrovic; Lieutenant Bernet had two missions and was deemed the flight leader.

Now is the part where I wish I had written this out while it was clearer in my memory, I took a few notes, but I didn't bring the mission logs home with me, maybe I should do that in the future.

The mission started out well enough for us Frenchmen, we were all at high altitude and the Spads outperform the Albatrosses at pretty much every altitude anyway, their only advantage is their dual Spandau guns, which are deadly. We closed to dogfighting range and ended up in a line firing at each other's tails, poor Darryl Jr. in the lead with no target, everyone took a little bit of damage, except me, because I was in the back. It got a little chaotic then, it broke into two dogfights that kept running back into each other, we ban overt table talk during the game, but we can give some pointers about rules and tactics to newer players like John or Dalton (who didn't make this game). Sadly, seven turns into the game Schaeffer scored a critical engine hit on Bernet's plane and it exploded.

Now, completely out of character, it was the luckiest of hits possible, and I felt kind of bad because I shot down John the last time he played (while he was playing MY pilot I might add), so the poor kid has played twice now, and gotten shot down twice. He's a quick learner and he didn't do anything wrong here, except be unlucky; yes, if he stuck around he might have gotten shot down anyway, he was the least experienced player in the game, but I really hope it doesn't sour him on Dawn Patrol.

At that point, outnumbered two to one, you might think I'd just cut and run for my lines, right? Nope. I stuck it out for another ten turns. I'd like to say it was purely for vengeance for my downed comrade, but part of it was also because I was, up until that point, the only one in the group with a legitimate kill scored on another player, so I was trying to shoot Darryl Jr.'s pilot Schaeffer down to keep my record intact. I almost had him a couple of times, I missed at 50' range twice, my guns jammed once, and I had to do all this while evading the other Albatross DIII, not always successfully. Not all the bad luck went in the favor of the Germans, there were a couple of occasions where I almost certainly should have been shot down, both of my wings had sustained a lot of damage and my engine was two hits away from gone, I was just incredibly lucky on critical hit rolls.

In the end, I shot Schaeffer's plane up pretty bad, and Von Reinhardt had some minor damage too, but I was in a position where, if I stuck it out any longer, I was most likely going to give the Hun another aerial victory. I managed to maneuver so that I was pointed towards home and they were either too far behind me or pointed in the wrong direction, and broke for home. My plane had sustained an incredible amount of damage in the fighting, but luckily only one, relatively minor critical hit, to the wing. My Spad was still faster and more maneuverable, so they gave up the chase and the game was over. Lt.Petrovic added a mission to his resume, Vizefeldwebel Schaeffer added both a mission and a kill, and Lt. Von Rienhardt added another mission to his pretty impressive score.

So, if you live in central NY and you have an interest in playing Dawn Patrol, or helping to fix the bugs of 1st edition AD&D's Oriental Adventures through campaign play, or want to play in a B/X Norse campaign, or are interested in alpha-testing a B/X D&D World War II game, or are an old Steppe Warrior from AOL's NWN or one of the other Ordus like Nyrthellan's Woods or The Realm or Everquest or one of the eight million Facebook games we played as a group, or are interested in Star Trek, especially Klingons, but not limited to them, leave me a comment and I'll get back to you.