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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

World Building, D&D and Me

I guess this is really what my last post was all about. So, rather than reply to all the comments on that post I decided to write this post.

What got me thinking about the whole thing was the fact that I am knee deep in a new world building project right now; my working title is "Yassa- Legacy of the Khans". It's more or less based on the idea that, in a world much like our own, there arose a Genghis Khan type figure that united his people and that he and his descendants conquered the entire known world in their 13th century. The campaign is set in the dawn of their 15th century as the empire has fragmented into rival khanates and their subject peoples are starting to rebel and reassert themselves. Many of the local Khans have "gone native" and adopted the culture and religions of their subjects, causing tensions, and outright wars, between the various parts of the once unified empire. I am not as far along on this project as I'd like to be at this point, but these things happen; it's a pretty ambitious project.

I also am reminded of the various other world building projects I have done.

I had a Greco-Roman themed world where all of the Dwarves were male, born to Human families and considered to be the sons of the God Vulcan. There were no other Demi-Human races. All of the Humans and Dwarves were native to a single large island archipelago and they had just developed the maritime technology to begin their age of exploration. The rest of the world was populated by bestial Humanoids that were the descendants of mankind that had been cursed by the gods for lapsing into Evil ways, Pig-Faced Orcs, Dog-Faced Kobolds, Jackal-Headed Gnolls, etc.

This one lasted one session, and I didn't even get to DM it. Darryl and I were co-DMing this as a project, he DMed the first session. Everyone had a good time. A person who showed up late and didn't play spent 4 hours explaining why this setting was lame and "regular" D&D would be better, but if he had to play here, he'd be OK with playing a Half-Ogre.

One semester of college I developed an Anglo-Saxon themed world where humanity clung to a fringe of coastline west of a huge forest, beyond which was a vast steppe land dominated by a Sauron type dark lord and his Humanoid minions. The Elves, the only Demi-Human race that had appeared in the campaign before the end, had fled across the western sea and only a small band returned on a quest for a magic sword buried in a mound.

Mona and I played this one as a solo campaign for most of the semester and petered out around finals. I resurrected the setting a couple of years later for a larger group, but it didn't last more than a few sessions. Nobody was really thrilled with having Anglo-Saxon names, they wanted a more "regular" D&D game.

Then there is the grand-daddy of all of my world building projects: Garnia. 30+ years in the making, it's finally getting a serious reworking for eventual public consumption. That's 30+ years of notes and revisions and retcons and stuff that's only stuck in my head. I have a whole other blog devoted to it. Garnia is (mostly, at it's core) a Celtic world where Gauls and Britons were literally brought to a different world via magical means. Once they got there, they conquered an Elven empire and then had to take over their mantle of defending pretty much everything from the marauding armies of Humanoids. They aren't the only ones that made the trip, and other creatures made the trip from other worlds too. Garnia is the closest to a "standard" D&D world as I have ever created, which makes sense, I started it when I was a kid and wanted to include all the stuff from my brand new AD&D Monster Manual.

Garnia has actually absorbed two other entire world building projects that were based on a similar theme, one with Romans and one with Vikings. I just placed them on different, far away, parts of the world.

Garnia has been my default campaign world for over 30 years, some campaigns have flourished there, some have died after one session; it's tough to say why. I've run every edition of D&D, except 4th, and Hackmaster there, plus a Homebrew system and we're working on another homebrew system now. Hell, I've even run GURPS there. Once.

I guess the world building is important to me because it lets me understand more fully how the NPCs are going to react to any given situation. A cultural/political/religious/whatever context is important to me as a DM for figuring out the motives and justifications for actions that these NPCs or Monsters are going to use. I guess that's worth more to me to get into character than it is for the minor difficulties of players having trouble pronouncing exotic names or being expected to read a couple of emails or a cultural background sheet before we start.

The comments on my last post were largely supportive of my deep world building for every campaign I run, except for one that said I was trying to tell my story instead of letting the players tell theirs. I guess that might be true to a certain extent, D&D is interactive group story telling to each other, but the DM is responsible for the setting, the plot and all of the non-main characters. You can't really play the game without the DM's input, because there would be no story to tell.

Just out of curiosity, which of these worlds sounds the most compelling to you from the brief synopsis?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

When You're Not On The Same Page...

What are you supposed to do when you are not on the same page as your players, metaphorically speaking? As a DM I run into this issue more often than I would like, partly because of my gamer ADD and partly because my players have a set of expectations when they come to the table to play D&D. Sometimes it's a stylistic difference, and part (or most) of the group is on board with the way things are going, like the more socially oriented games I have been playing with my overwhelmingly female group, where the guys playing are outnumbered 2:1 or more usually; sometimes it's more about the game I want to run, like the number of times I have tried to run a game that was more grounded in actual medieval (or ancient or Norse, whatever) myth and reality and had it not quite go as well as I'd hoped because the players really just wanted to "Play some 'regular' D&D".

This can be a problem for me, personally, because it leads to frustration and burnout on my part, as DM. I start to think the players aren't having a good time and that makes me not have a good time, which then turns the whole thing into a self fulfilling prophecy. I am also a little annoyed by the whole "Regular D&D" thing, it as though, just because I try and put a little verisimilitude into my home-brewed campaign worlds and avoid the cookie-cutter sameness of the published "Standard" D&D worlds, from Greyhawk and The Known World (Mystara) to the Forgotten Realms, the primary campaign areas in those worlds are like a renaissance festival with a large fantastic component; it's like they took the entirety of Western Europe from the Fall of Rome through the Age of Exploration (minus the guns) and threw them in a blender and then added Orcs.

Now, before the fans of those settings jump on me, I have loved each of them; and once you get off the beaten path, they start following the same patterns of verisimilitude that I do by stealing real Earth cultures and their mythologies and making them work in their fantasy settings. I loved Kara-Tur but it may as well have been a map of Asia with Japan on it twice. The Grand Duchy of Karameikos was just a Byzantine Greek take over of Slavic territory, for the most part.

I digress though, and maybe ramble a bit, my question here is why do I spend so many hours building a realistic campaign setting, a world with a lot of internal consistency, when all of my players would be happy with just playing in Greyhawk or Mystara, and some would seem to prefer it? Now, some of them are setting junkies, some of them loved Rokugan for instance, but some would be happier if there was just a town that appeared outside the dungeon when they needed a place to spend their gold. The greater campaign world means little to nothing to some of my players and I have a hard time understanding that. Town doesn't need a name, or more than a handful of token, nameless NPCs; it's a place where they are (relatively) safe to rest up and refurbish between adventuring expeditions and I think there's a problem with that. Is it my problem though?

Am I expecting too much out of my players when I present them with an entire world based on an extrapolation of what Gaulish and British society would have been like if it had flourished for another couple of centuries, rather than being wiped out by the Roman empire and driven to the "Celtic Fringe"? Or is it too exotic to have a setting based on Arthurian Myth and other medieval legends, complete with all of the Christian trappings? How about the Norse pseudo-historical setting I have running right now, where they have already run into creatures out of Norse myth? I have one player that wasn't interested in that one, so he sat it out. 9th century Scandinavia was too far outside the realm of what he wanted for "regular" D&D. Which is kind of funny now, because, despite it's historical start, the party of Vikings is now trapped in an ancient Dwarven mega-dungeon complex on a mysterious moving island in the north Atlantic.

Do I like to use fantasy analogues of real world cultures, sure. The past is a great story. Adding in the myths of the people that you are putting in your world to make them more fantastically real only makes sense if you are playing a fantasy role-playing game, I do it all the time. TSR did it all the time too, with greater and lesser effectiveness. Authors do it too, Harry Turtledove used Romans traveling to "Videssos", which was just a Constantinople stand in with magic. Turtledove got his start as a medievalist specializing in Byzantium, information I got because he was my college advisor's brother's college room-mate, it came up one day when she saw me reading one of his novels. Anyway, if stealing cultures from Earth's history is OK for the professionals at TSR and famous authors like Harry Turtledove, why shouldn't I do it too?

Or is there something about D&D that needs to be generic, western European fantasy based to make it appealing to people? Oriental Adventures wasn't super popular, it has always been kind of a niche D&D fandom. I assume that Al Qadim and Maztica and other exotic, non-European based settings are too. The ancient world doesn't seem to fare too well either, I've run games more than once in settings based on Rome and rarely had them last for more than a couple of sessions.

People just seem to lose interest in the exotic. One shots are fine, campaigns are not; is this everyone's experience?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

New Contest Sponsor

Just in- Mick Leach from Easternfront Studios (Makers of fine Metal and Resin miniatures) has just agreed to sponsor the November Mongol Module Contest with prizes for first, second and third place.

The "Odin" from their "Myths of Legend" line.

Some Mongol Inspiration

Since I spent today in other pursuits, working on projects and reading through "Delving Deeper", I thought I'd share some inspirational and evocative art for those of you who might be working on an adventure for my contest. All of these were done by an artist from Mongolia who goes by the handle Daldbaatar on Deviantart. According to his profile he is currently an art student in Tokyo.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mongol Conquest of November Contest

Since the Mongols have pushed on into November, I thought it would be best if I reiterated the terms of the contest for everyone, especially since there are some new faces here.

The contest is for short adventures with a Mongol theme, featuring the Mongols as the heroes. I am sick of seeing them as the bad guys.

Short adventures CAN be in One Page Dungeon format, but they do not have to be. The Village of Hommlett was a short adventure, I just don't want to have to judge 20 mega-adventures, or pit a huge adventure against a One Page Adventure- it's not really fair.

The adventure should be designed for OD&D, B/X D&D or AD&D or one of their retroclones (Swords & Wizardry or Labyrinth Lord, etc.), because those are the games I know best and those are the games I play and it's my contest.

I'd like to see the adventures have at least a "wilderness" component to them, because outside is where the Mongols are going to shine, but I am only one judge and if you have a dungeon based adventure that's cool enough, even I can be swayed.

Multiple entries are fine.

Every entrant should email a copy of their adventure to me at williamjdowie AT gmail DOT com along with their postal address so I know where to send their prizes. Every entrant receives a refrigerator magnet at least and the other prizes are pretty cool too so far.

First Prize - Tom Wham's "The Great Khan Game", it's theoretically both a Forgotten Realms product and a 2nd edition AD&D product from the labeling on the box, but in reality it is neither. Instead it's just a fun beer and pretzels game. My copy has been played a few times, but not since it was new. I gave it to my brother and he never played it despite loving the game, because he couldn't find opponents that were interested. Eventually it made it's way back to me. The box has some serious shelf wear, so it's to play not collect. Now it can be yours!

Additionally, is providing an 8x10 print to the first prize winner.

Second Prize - Al Qadim: A Dozen and One Adventures boxed set. This is an AD&D 2nd edition accessory for the Al Qadim campaign setting. I liked it and read through the short adventures, but never ran an Al Qadim game, so a lot of the specifics were of little use to me. This box has some shelf wear too and I can see one corner torn, again, not a collector's piece, but in good shape otherwise.

Third Prize - The Double Lankhmar Combo pack, 1st edition AD&D's "Lankhmar: City of Adventure" and 2nd edition's "Lankhmar: Thieves of Lankhmar". Both are in reasonably good shape for their age, but are really meant for play rather than a pristine collection.

Entrants to the contest should be aware that I intend to collect the adventures into a single document and freely distribute them on the internet after the contest is over. If you do not want me to include your adventure in the collection for this contest, you should make it known when you send it to me.

If you don't intend to enter the contest, but are still interested in helping out, email me at the above address and become a judge! I'll send you a refrigerator magnet too.

If you are affiliated with a company that might want to sponsor the contest in some way, I'd be happy to hear from you too.

Lastly, Richard LeBlanc, one of the hardest working men in the OSR has already come up with some helpful stuff for making Mongol themed adventures here and here and don't forget to check out his new Mongolian monsters here, here, here and here. I also did just the one thing here.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Steppe Warrior Class

The Steppe Warrior is a hardy nomad from one of the tribes that range across the steppes from the taiga in the north to the deserts and mountains of the south, they are the bane of more settled, civilized lands when they are united and a scourge to each other when they are not. They live by following their herds, hunting wild game, gathering wild fruits and vegetables and by raiding their neighbors. I introduce this class as the warrior elite of their society. I might have picked the Scythians, the Turks, or the Huns as my model, and there are a great many similarities among steppe peoples, but I chose the Mongols, because it's Mongol Month. Feel free to give me feedback and/or use this class as you will- I present it as a gift to the OSR community in baroque AD&D 1st edition format; absolutely unplaytested because I have been beating my head against a brick wall with this class for the better part of a month.


The Steppe Warrior is a sub-class of Fighter. Steppe Warriors have no Prime Requisite and therefore receive no bonuses for high Ability Scores. In order to become a Steppe Warrior a character must have 12 Strength, 12 Wisdom, 15 Dexterity and 14 Constitution. Steppe Warriors are born horsemen, as such they receive no penalties for shooting from horseback and have a number of advantages to being mounted as they level up. They may be of any Alignment, but only Humans, Half-Elves and Half-Orcs may become Steppe Warriors. Half-Elves are limited to 8th level as a Steppe Warrior, Half-Orcs are limited to level 10. The Steppe Warrior receives 1d10 per level gained for hit points plus 2 hit points for every point of Constitution they have above 14. Steppe Warriors make Saving Throws as a Fighter of the same level.

A single classed Steppe Warrior may Specialize in one of the following weapons-
Composite Short Bow
Horseman's Mace
Light Lance

Experience                              Level               Hit Dice                       Title
0-3000                                      1                        1                            Khazak
3001-6000                                2                        2                            Nokhor
6001-12000                              3                        3                            Ba'atur
12001- 20000                           4                        4                            Noyen
20001-40000                            5                        5                            Orlok
40001-80000                            6                        6                            Darugha
80001-145000                          7                        7                            Taishi
145001-225000                        8                        8                            Gurkhan
225001-310000                        9                        9                            Khan
310001-625000                       10                     9+3                   Khan (10th Level)
625001-950000                       11                     9+6                   Khan (11th Level)
950001-1250000                     12                     9+9                   Khan (12th Level)

All Steppe Warriors are virtually born in the saddle; riding and mounted combat are their birthright, as such attacks made from the saddle are made as though they were one level higher. They are unlikely to ever be thrown from their mount (85%) and if they are they are equally unlikely to be injured, this percentage increases every level by 1%. Furthermore, as mounted archery is integral to their mode of warfare, they suffer no penalties for firing while mounted, even while moving, and may fire at any point during their move in any direction.

All Steppe Warriors also have the following abilities-
-Hide in Natural Surroundings: with the same percentage chance as a Thief of the same level using his Hide in Shadows ability.
-Surprise: In Natural Surroundings a Steppe Warrior can Surprise an opponent on a 3 in 6 and is only surprised 10% of the time. This only applies in natural surroundings.
-Leadership: When dealing with other Steppe Warriors a Steppe Warrior adds his experience level to his Charisma score to get an effective Charisma with other Steppe Warriors.
-Survival: a Steppe Warrior can effectively survive in the wild by hunting and gathering, he can build shelter and make fire.
Tracking- A Steppe Warrior can track as a Ranger of equivalent level, but only outdoors.

The Steppe Warrior only continues to improve in horsemanship throughout his career-
-At 3rd level they can vault into the saddle, regardless of how heavily armored they are, and have their mount underway in a single segment.
-At 4th level a Good Aligned female Steppe Warrior may handle and ride a Unicorn as a steed.
-At 5th level a Steppe Warrior can urge his mount to greater speeds than normal, adding 2" to the movement rate for up to 6 turns. This causes no damage to the mount.
-At 7th level a Steppe Warrior can urge his mount to jump further than normal.
-At 9th level the Steppe Warrior can ride Pegasi, Hippogriffs, Griffons or other flying horselike creatures at the DM's discretion.

Summon Horde- Starting at 8th level the Steppe Warrior gains the ability to summon a Horde of his people, he is a recognized leader among them. Take his experience point total and divide it by five to get the size of the horde. Therefore an 8th level Steppe Warrior could summon between 290-550 men to his side, while a 12th level Steppe Warrior could summon between 1900-2500 men, this horde is in addition to their normal followers.

The Horde must have a stated purpose for gathering, (plunder the wealthy city of Kashgar, rescue the Great Khan's Daughter, etc) and it will take a week to gather in the Steppe Warrior's home territory. A Horde will disband after a number of weeks equal to the summoner's level. A Horde may be held together for an additional 1-2 weeks if there are exceptional circumstances (23 or higher effective Charisma, massive plunder distributed to the Horde, stated goal within easy reach, etc), but never longer and if a Steppe Warrior has a Horde disband under him, he is disgraced in his homeland and may never raise another Horde.

The Horde will also have two aides equal to 1/2 the level (rounded down) of the character summoning it and those aides will each have two assistants each equal to half their level (rounded down), thus a 9th level Steppe Warrior summoning a horde will have two 4th level Steppe Warrior Aides and four 2nd level Steppe Warrior assistants. Clerics, Shamans or Witch-Doctors (depending on the nature of the Steppe Warrior's tribal religion) may also be present at the DM's discretion.

Multiclassing- Steppe Warrior/Cleric 1/2E, 1/2O; Steppe Warrior/Druid- 1/2E; Steppe Warrior/Magic-User 1/2E; Steppe Warrior/Thief 1/2E, 1/2O; Steppe Warrior/Assassin 1/2E, 1/2O; Cleric/Steppe Warrior/Magic-User 1/2E; Cleric/Steppe Warrior/Assassin 1/2O

Optional Starting Money Table-
To show just how cash poor the steppe is and to reflect the normal equipment found there I came up with this-

Roll 1d6x10 for starting gold- buy anything with that. For interesting, exotic fun let them buy stuff from the Oriental Adventures book too. Currency exchange rates are on page 38.

New items-
Dried Meat- 1GP/Week
Koumiss- 1SP/Gallon
Ger, Small- 150GP

Dried meat could be mutton, beef, camel, horse or some variety of wild game, it is typically placed under the saddle when riding so the horse sweat and crushing action can soften it enough to eat. Koumiss is a drink made from fermented mare's milk. A Ger, also known as a Yurt, is either a very sophisticated tent or an easily dismantled and moved cloth covered house used by nomadic and semi-nomadic people throughout Eurasia, depending on who you ask.

Roll 1d6 on this table for an armor, weapon and horses package.
Assume everyone starts with one set of clothes which includes a furry hat, if they have a bow, it is a Composite Shortbow and that they have a quiver for the arrows. They also start with a saddle, bit and bridle.

1- Leather Armor, Light Lance, Dagger, 1d4 Steppe Ponies*
2- Padded Armor, Bow, 12 Arrows, Hand Axe, 2d4 Steppe Ponies
3- Shield, Light Lance, Scimitar, Bow, 12 Arrows, 2d4 Steppe Ponies
4-Leather Armor, Shield, Dagger, Hand Axe, Bow, 12 arrows, 2d4 Steppe Ponies
5-Chainmail, Shield, Scimitar, Bow, 12+2d6 Arrows, 4+2d4 Steppe Ponies
6- Lamellar**, Hand Axe, Light Lance, Bow, 12+2d6 Arrows, 4+2d4 Steppe Ponies

DM's should, of course, feel free to adjust this table to their needs, there are way more combinations of armor, weapons and horses that I could have done, I just wanted to keep it simple. The Steppe Ponies are pretty essential though, even a poor Steppe Warrior should have at least one horse.

*Steppe Ponies should be treated as Light Warhorses, but with better morale and AC 6, they also forage on their own and thus do not require fodder and are hardier than most horses with better endurance, they almost never come up lame.

**Treat as Scale armor, I threw it in for flavor and accuracy. Truth be told they had leather lamellar too, but I didn't want to be confusing.

Roll 1d6 on this table for extra stuff.

1. Horseman's Mace, Winter Blanket, Small Iron Pot
2. Guard Dog, bone whistle, Large Sack
3. Pack Camel, Pack Saddle made for said Camel, 25lb sack of rice flour
4. 1d6+2 Sheep, Sheep Dog, Iron Shears
5. 1d4 Yaks, Wagon, Small Ger (12')
6. Helmet, Horseman's Mace, Dagger

Obviously, this was just off the top of my head and DM's should feel completely free to adjust the "extra stuff" as they see fit. My intention here was to throw the Horseman's mace into some starting kits and add some more culturally fitting, but not necessarily of obvious immediate use, items into the mix. "What am I going to do with 4 Sheep?" a player might ask, I say think outside the usual box. Sheep are walking provisions, trade goods and a bit of an early warning system, although the dog that comes with them is better at that.

Common Medieval Mongol Names-

Mongol Female-
Altani, Bargujin, Borte, Chabi, Chagur, Chakha, Checheyigen, Chotan, Doregene, Ebegei, Gurbesu, Ibakha, Khadagan, Khogaghchin, Khojin, Khorijin, Khugurjin, Khulan, Nomolun, Onggur, Sokhatai, Sorghaghatani, Tekine, Temulun, Yesugun, Yesui

Mongol Male-

Abagha, Aguchu, Ajinai, Akutai, Alagh, Alchi, Altan, Bögen, Babür, Bagaridai, Bala, Barlas, Bartan, Batu, Baykara, Begter, Berke, Chagatai, Chanai, Chigu, Chilagun, Chiledu, Dagun, Daritai, Djebe, Dodai, Esen-Buga, Günkan, Ghazan, Gughlug, Harghasun, Horkhudagh, Hulegu, Husun, Inalchi, Inancha, Iturgen, Jurchedei, Khachi, Khachigun, Khagatai, Khogaghchin, Khudu, Khuyildar, Kokochu, Koksegu, Kubilai, Megetu, Morokha, Mungke, Munglig, Nakhu, Nayaga, Nogay, Noyan, Ogodei, Okhotur, Oljaitu, Oronartai, Sahruh, Sencer, Shiragul, Shirgugetu, Soyurgatmis, Subotei, Suyiketu, Taghai, Tamachi, Temuge, Temujin, Temur, Toghoril, Toghtoga, Toktamis, Tolui, Torolchi, Turgay, Ukhuna, Ulugh, Utudai, Yegu, Yesunge, Yokhunan

OK, so, I pretty much adapted this from the Unearthed Arcana Cavalier and Barbarian classes and toned their abilities down for the most part, so they wouldn't be overpowering, but like I stated above, this is all completely untested. I had a bunch of other ideas for them and I really wanted to include some stuff I cut, but when I thought about it I kept thinking that "This is like the Cavalier's whatever" or the "Barbarian's Horde summoning ability is important"; and it is, the English word "horde" comes from the Mongolian "ordu". So in the end I decided to default to Gygax and mix and match and alter most of the stuff I wanted from those two classes with a few of my own ideas and cut a bunch of stuff out. I guess in the end you know it's done when you can't cut anything else, right?

Questions, comments and criticisms are welcomed, particularly if there is something glaringly obvious that I left out.

Mongols Conquer the Month of November!

Seriously though, announcing a new contest part way through the month was probably not the most well thought out idea, so, after consulting my wife, I am extending the contest deadline through the end of November. Now all entries must be received by me no later than midnight on November 30th. This will give everyone time to put their short adventures together and time for me to seek out more sponsors for more prizes!

This also means another month of Mongols! Which is good, because I have had some epic writer's block while working on my projects related to the Mongols myself and maybe I'll be able to actually put out some content with another five weeks to work with, eh? So far Richard LeBlanc of the Save vs Dragon blog and New Big Dragon Games has done more to promote my themed month than I have, and I appreciate it, but I have got to turn this around.

I am currently working on, in no particular order, a Mongol style Steppe Nomad class for my AD&D OA project, which is morphing into a LL AEC project; a new campaign setting that is heavily medieval central Asian/Silk Road/Mongol flavored; a board game set in that campaign world; a short story set there too; and I have an idea for a card game to go with it too, not collectible though, I don't like CCGs. I have been working with a couple of collaborators on these projects and maybe I could use a couple more. Art is especially a problem, I can't keep my wife chained to the drafting table 24/7.

Anyway, the writer's block problem becomes a bigger issue when you see my project list. It's full of great ideas that I just can't seem to articulate properly. I have tried to just push through it by writing about other things, but they come off kind of rambling too. I tried taking breaks from writing and just doing other stuff, like reading other people's blogs, reading books, painting miniatures and I watched every episode of "Sons of Anarchy" in under a week. I tried getting inspired by looking at art with a medieval or fantasy Mongol theme. Nothing seems to work, so I am just going to try and bull my way through the writer's block. I am going to take another run at the easiest project today- the Steppe Nomad class and hammer away at it until it's done. Good, bad or ugly it'll be posted here by tonight.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Old School D&D with my wife and kids

And a few other women and children. Now, to be fair, my kids and most of the kids I am talking about are at least in their teens. My oldest daughter turned twenty this month, so I am not talking about little kids, just the next generation, with a couple of exceptions. My kids and their friends have made up the majority of my D&D groups for the last decade. I introduced them to old school gaming both B/X D&D and 1st & 2nd edition AD&D. My oldest daughter Ashli led the gaming charge at about 14, so most of the gamers that came to the table were her friends and her younger siblings. Mom came along for the ride as a den mother for the pack of newbie adventurers and helped to keep them on task, a leadership role she never really liked or really felt comfortable with, but performed admirably.

Aside from my wife and kids and Ashli's friends, the other main player in the group for the past few years has been Lee Ann. Lee started out as an SCA fighting buddy of mine* and, since she lives close to where I live, and she was training my daughter Ashli to fight, we started gaming together too. She's fun to play with, but we've all learned the lesson about letting her DM when you are sick or tired- DON'T DO IT. She knows this, we know this, it's all good now. Her characters tend to be an incarnate force of chaos in the party, but it keeps the game interesting and moving along. She's funny too, and that brings my youngest back to the game- if Lee doesn't play, neither does Em.

So, I don't know where I am really headed with this ramble, but I just feel that there is some observable difference in play style between the kids I introduced to Old School D&D, the grown women that are my own age-ish that play the game with me and the guys that I played the game with back in the day, that I still play with every now and again; and it drives Lance a little nuts. Worse, he brings his new-to-D&D girlfriend Audra with him and she is slightly confused because his other gaming group is "all business" and ours is way more social. I get this, my other gaming group plays a lot more "old school", "all business" style. That group is almost all male, it was all male until Big Darryl convinced his wife to play Legend of the Five Rings with us, then Lady Blackbird. We'll be playing D&D next probably, I don't know if she'll stick.

Now, I don't know if gaming with women and gaming with kids should have been different topics; it's hard for me to separate the two. Two of my kids are young women after all. Maybe if I could play a game with just the young men and see how that goes? That'd be like my late 1990's crew I'd imagine, but Mona ran with them too, again as a den mother/older sister, and there were more of the old men like me still around to teach the younger guys how we played. That, and we were all playing the then current edition of D&D, so it hadn't evolved away from it's roots so much. No real competition from MMOs either.

My son's other D&D group just went on an "indefinite hiatus", the DM canceled the game for the foreseeable future. I told him I'd be happy to step up and DM for the group, he's still weighing the pros and cons, to figure out whether or not the group would be willing to play some Old School D&D or not before he even asks them. Angsty. That group played 4th edition D&D and Pathfinder, I'd love to start them out on B/X D&D so they could experience the less-is-more, Zen purity that D&D can be; when players are freed from the bondage of all the excess rules they can experience the game anyway they want- it can be an interactive, storytelling experience or it can be a tactical room-clearing exercise or anything in between, or something else altogether; the choice is yours.

Anyway, I kind of went off on a tangent there, but it's my blog and you were warned by the title of the blog that it'd be ramblings, some days it's worse than others. My original point, if there was one that could be gleaned here, was that the women and kids tend to be a lot less mission focused and goal oriented in their gaming than the adult male dominated groups I have DMed for and instead they tend to be more social with each other, we enjoy a lot of comforts at my house when we play D&D. There are always copious amounts of snacks, usually cheese, crackers and summer sausage, and usually a meal break; sometimes the meal is themed to the adventure- we've done Viking foods twice now for our Norse campaign, we regularly had Japanese or Korean food for our Oriental Adventures games, etcetera. Mona takes time from playing to prepare stuff and we all appreciate it greatly.

At the guys games, we have chips and pretzels and beer and soda and when we take our meal break we eat quick, talk about the game and have whatever we could either not have to fuss over too much to cook there, or was easy to make elsewhere and reheat at the game site. Don't get me wrong, we all love food, so the food is good, but it's secondary to the game; at my house it's about as important as the game, so is the conversation, which isn't limited to the game at hand or even gaming in general.

I have been DMing for my wife and kids for so long now that the "social" style of play doesn't bother me, I kind of expect it. I lapse into it when I am DMing for the "guys group" without thinking sometimes. I don't care if people aren't exactly on time, or if we finish an adventure in one sitting, or if the game stalls for a bit to talk about current events. Most people are OK with this to a limited extent, some people hate one thing about it more than others. Lance was made crazy by Lee knitting a scarf during a D&D game.

Another weird quirk- the group with my wife and kids will pretty much only play old school D&D, 1st Edition AD&D is their preference, but they'll play B/X D&D or 2nd Edition AD&D. The young men in the group are always game to try something new, that's how I managed to push them into a brief foray into L5R, but D&D is their thing. The other group is always looking for a non-D&D game to play. They leapt into 43 AD, L5R and Lady Blackbird, but only reluctantly agree to play D&D because of it's "problems". One member thinks D&D is too rules heavy, although, to be fair, his last D&D experience was with 3.x; another thinks that D&D is too rules lite- but he is cool with 43 AD, L5R and Lady Blackbird? L5R specifically had armor make you harder to hit, rather than reduce damage, which is his biggest complaint about D&D.

Anyone else playing with a mostly female group? A group heavy on teenagers? How about men aged 40+, what are your experiences? Are your experiences similar to mine or different? How social is your gaming group? Is your group all business at the game table? Do you hang out with them outside of gaming? How long have you known them? Are you related to them? Anything else noteworthy?


I know this entire post is off topic for my Mongol Month theme, but at least I am writing again, that's something, right? I still need submissions for my Mongol Themed Adventure Contest see here and here for details and here and here for prizes so far. We're running out of October people, and I hate to be a downer, but if I don't get at least three submissions I am going to either have to extend the deadline or cancel the contest. I don't want to cancel the contest. On a happier note, I might have another announcement about the contest soon, stayed tuned!

*There are some gender politics still in SCA heavy fighting, I don't play that game. There is no gender on the field to me, everyone out there deserves my best performance, to give them less because they are a woman would dishonor us both. Besides, nearly everyone is smaller and weaker than me- I don't cut short men any particular slack, if I did I'd just be a moving pell on the field.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

My Mongol Adventure Contest

First- I want to point anyone who might be working on an adventure for my contest to Richard LeBlanc's Save Vs. Dragon blog because today he put up something that might prove useful to all of you- Creatures of the Steppe.

Second- We have officially gotten a sponsor: They are providing an 8"x10" canvas print to the first prize winner. I am still looking for other sponsors too, but that's a pretty good start, eh?

That's about all I can think to write now, it's been a long day. I just wanted to update everybody on the contest and the awesome new resource available thanks to Richard!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Time to up the ante

I haven't received a single entry yet for my new Mongol themed contest yet, so I am going to open the vault and declare my prizes, regardless of what any sponsors pledge additionally.

First Prize - Tom Wham's "The Great Khan Game", it's theoretically both a Forgotten Realms product and a 2nd edition AD&D product from the labeling on the box, but in reality it is neither. Instead it's just a fun beer and pretzels game. My copy has been played a few times, but not since it was new. I gave it to my brother and he never played it despite loving the game, because he couldn't find opponents that were interested. Eventually it made it's way back to me. The box has some serious shelf wear, so it's to play not collect. Now it can be yours!

Second Prize - Al Qadim: A Dozen and One Adventures boxed set. This is an AD&D 2nd edition accessory for the Al Qadim campaign setting. I liked it and read through the short adventures, but never ran an Al Qadim game, so a lot of the specifics were of little use to me. This box has some shelf wear too and I can see one corner torn, again, not a collector's piece, but in good shape otherwise.

Third Prize - The Double Lankhmar Combo pack, 1st edition AD&D's "Lankhmar: City of Adventure" and 2nd edition's "Lankhmar: Thieves of Lankhmar". Both are in reasonably good shape for their age, but are really meant for play rather than a pristine collection.

So, I am hoping this will entice at least three people to write adventures for my contest!

Other news - The last contest's prizes will go in the mail today. I keep missing the Post Office, but I am really going to make a concerted effort to get the Magnets and Modules in the mail today.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Some More Miniatures

I got my wife involved in painting with me today while the kids were at school and we were both home sick. These are mostly old Grenadiers, but there is a Ral Partha, a couple of new Warlord Minis, and a couple I don't remamber.

The group shot, work by both of us, everything done today plus one guy Mona did a while ago that I don't think I posted a picture of.

Front and back of a Middle Earth Elrond mini that I first painted back in the 2nd edition days, he got some retouching today. He was my super bad-ass single classed Elven Mage back in the day.

A Warlord Mastiff, Mona painted this one. It reminds me of our Mastiff Harmony that died in July.

Another dog from Warlord, this is the small dog that comes with the "Celtic Civilians" pack. Mona painted him too, took her all of about two minutes.

A Grenadier Cleric, another one of Mona's pieces, this one was extensively redone from her earlier paint job that had been damaged over the years.

This Elf I originally painted years ago, but Mona restored and improved upon today, so I don't know who to credit. Maybe she gets an assist? I don't recall the manufacturer of this mini.

Front and back of another old Grenadier Cleric that Mona painted years ago and restored/extensively redid today. We dug a lot of old lead out of storage and were appalled at the state it was in.

This Ral Partha Cleric I painted today, he was my big project for the day.

Mona painted this guy months ago, we named him "Lorenzo" after the lantern bearer in our last D&D campaign. I could not remember if I had shared his picture yet.

Another old Grenadier Female Cleric painted by Mona years ago and fixed up today. We plan to seal these tomorrow and mount them on bases but other than that, they're done.

So, maybe tomorrow I'll get a Mongol mini painted up, I have a few primed and ready to go now, but no real Mongol content for the blog today. I am striking while the iron is hot and getting some minis painted up, who knows when the mood will strike the folk in my house again and Mona will let me take over the kitchen table for days at a time?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Some Miniatures


My kids, Dalton and I painted these before our D&D game on Sunday. They are mostly old Grenadiers, I think the Viking is Heritage.

Group Shot.

Second Group Shot.

This was Dalton's first ever miniature, I wish I had a better camera or was a better photographer, but neither me nor Mona could get a good shot of her.

This was my 14 year old daughter Ember's first ever miniature. I think it shows real promise and we got a pretty good shot of this one, both front and back.

This was my son John's second mini ever. He has shown a lot of improvement just because he slowed down and didn't try to do too much with it.

This was my first miniature in at least 20 years start to finish. I started a couple earlier this year and lost confidence part way through, this guy I persevered on and finished. I am largely happy with the result, although I liked the back better than the front and none of those pictures turned out good. Not terribly thrilled with the color scheme either, but he's pretty much done.

A Viking dude I painted up just because I am running a Viking campaign. The pictures are blurry, and the black wash didn't pull out as much detail as I was hoping for, but he is an ancient miniature, from like the late 1970's I think, so I guess that'll happen. 

Four shots of the last mini I painted, I was feeling pretty confident by then and dry brushed on brighter metal over the main color, then black washed to get some shadows, but I don't think either mine or Mona's photos really captured the effect. I was pretty happy with the way this guy turned out, despite the fact that I broke most of his tail off when I tried to trim some mold flash off.

These guys just need to be based and they're done. We painted up several more that morning too, but not to completion. When those ones are done, I'll post those pictures too. Hopefully I'll have learned how to use my camera a bit better by then.