Wargame Dork

A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Little Fun With the Dreamcast.

Ahh the Dreamcast.  That gloriously failed experiment that basically finished off Sega as we know it.  Between the utter mistakes and disasters Sega had foisted upon itself from roughly 1993 till then, it had very little chance.

  Such things as a bunch of ill conceived and unworkable gimmick controllers for the Genesis (Menacer and Activator), too many different hardware versions and tricks that both confused and annoyed the consumer (three models of Genesis, the Nomad portable, two Master System models plus the Mark 3 JPN original, CDX, and some things like combo computers or TV sets or even in flight models and the Laser Active), and even a couple of hardware add ons that split the market and had dubious qualities to begin with!  (32x and Sega CD, the latter of which itself had two models!)

  Add in how Sega of Japan was largely angry at the US division basically taking Nintendo head on and for a short time BEATING THEM and the mistakes made with Shenmue and the very creation of the Dreamcast project and you now have a company most famous for making terrible Sonic games and publishing an infamously awful Aliens title.

  (Yes the Saturn was basically a boondoggle that effectively killed Sega in the US.  Oddly enough it was really the only Sega platform that was popular at all in Japan.  Funny that.  Yet the US release was a disaster that all but gave Sony an opening to score that Nintendo's Games Workshopsian-like ego and insistence of doing it their way turned into a two generation lead for Sony.)

  But the Dreamcast had that SOMETHING to it.  In the time before Steam and iOS/Android stores and GOG.com it was the place for fun and interesting games with personalities and quirks.  Not always great but always INTERESTING.  And sometimes that is all you need!

  It was a system with an integrated modem (sadly in the last days of dial up.  The broadband adaptor is apparently sought after), four controller ports.  Options for VGA resolution output through a monitor.  Memory cards with LCD screens in them.

  Yet this same quirky spirit also makes the machine a bit of a pain.  The design requires you to open the machine every year or two to clean and adjust some metal prongs.  A ton of recessed lines in the machine and controllers that get gunk in them.  Many games all but demand a now hard to find gimmick controller to play properly.  The main controllers are wired from the bottom and only have a single analog stick and only a single pair of analog shoulder triggers not to mention losing one of the two memory card slots if you want a rumble or microphone accessory plugged in.  The damn thing is nearly as loud as an X Box 360.  The white/grey plastic gets yellowed over time.

  But I cannot help but like the thing!

  And that is what has lead me to this little post.  You see a couple weeks ago I ran into a cheap copy of the Dreamcast version of my favorite arcade racer Daytona USA.  Then last week I went to a further away nerd shop and having not found much I simply HAD TO HAVE at that moment I picked up a little device:

This here is a modern made VGA box so your Dreamcast can output 640x480 SVGA graphics on your modern monitor or HDTV if not an old VGA monitor if you want a CRT type to play light gun titles on.  My monitor I use my PC on actually has a VGA and a DVI input so I can use both if I want to, but honestly my HDTV is my main console space and it only has a DVI input.  Luckily either one of my graphics cards or the monitor had a little adaptor dongle so my VGA will still work.  (Even if it didn't want to work initially.  Don't know exactly why.  Maybe it just needed to warm up or a plug wasn't properly in?)

Also lucky for me my HDTV has a headphone jack input as VGA doesn't have audio output.  So a cable I had purchased from Five Below a while ago for another use now is put on audio duties.  A trip to Wal Mart for an S Video cable (plus I already have the composite/audio cables for it's audio needs) and I can plug it into my set that is old/good enough to have S Video inputs and the few games that don't work with the VGA still do.  (Or in the case of Dino Crisis I can start in TV mode, get the game loading, switch back to VGA and play, only having to swap my TV input back to the S Video input for the cut scenes.)

  And that isn't the only fun bit of hardware I played with.

 This little thing allows me to use Playstation 1, Sega Saturn, or PS/2 Keyboards with my Dreamcast.  I got this back in the day so I could use one of my PC keyboards with the DC for Phantasy Star Online gaming instead of buying an expensive DC only keyboard.

I am not sure all the controllers will work with all the games but it gives me more options and possibly makes some of my sillier peripherals a lot more useful.  For comedy I could even plug a power adaptor in to this for rumble features and have a giant spaghetti plate of cables and dongles coming out of my Dreamcast.  USB to PS/2 dongle for modern keyboards!  CATS AND DOGS LIVING TOGETHER MASS HYSTERIA.  Some Serial Experiments Lain stuff.

  The Saturn Racing Wheel didn't seem to work with Daytona but the normal Saturn pad worked lovely with Capcom SNK.

These are just photos of the screen so they won't be perfect by any means but even as they are it ought to show you how nice it looks.

 One of my four VMU memory cards.  This one has my only Japanese game (Macross M3) on it and shows to my shame that some of these games I haven't played in nearly 15 years in some cases.

 It is really hard to get a good Resident Evil Code Veronica shot.  And it is basically the reason I bought a Dreamcast.  MY CLAIRE BEAR!!! 

 I actually played Code Veronica for a good 3-4 hours while doing these photos and the like.  I quite enjoy it still to this day.

 Dino Crisis was a game I got free with a second Dreamcast I bought when the first had the infamous RESET PROBLEM I mentioned.  This one got it while taking these photos and lead to me fixing both of them then playing an hour or so of Daytona to make sure it was working.  I also used this time to do some cleaning of the machines and some compressed air for the interiors.  

 This controller still needs some more cleaning though.  I have to take a teeny tiny precision flat head screwdriver and run it through those nooks and crannies and then a cloth through everything else to get those bits of dust out.  Some foresight was needed I think.  But you can see the VMU memory card in action.

 Cool!  A choice!

 Except it really didn't matter so much.  Just like this game is almost a complete port of the PS1 original up to and including the "Z Buffer" texture issues that so many PS1 games had!  SHAMEFUL CAPCOM.

 This Sega collection was a fair value back in the day although modern collections have things like save states and the like that this one does not.

The output is pretty damned good though and now I can play it with a Saturn controller!

 The legendary Phantasy Star 2.  That is a damn good screenshot I got.

I have gotten a little better at Daytona's second track since this image but not better enough or something.

  Hopefully this will inspire some of you to take some old games out of storage and play them for a while, either electronic or tabletop.  Still a ton of fun to be found and lots of neat things you can do in the modern age that in many cases make them MORE fun!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

(Operation Game Collection) Ridin Solo: RPG Solo Modules

  Ahh yes.  The Solo Module or Game Book.  Take Choose Your Own Adventure and add in RPG rules to presumably make it the 80s version of a JRPG as opposed to the CYOA's Adventure Game.

I have a handful of them so let's see what we have eh?  Lots of these products will show up in or have already done so in other Operation Game Collection posts but for completeness' sake they all get shown here.

(Well all that I know that I have.  When actually looking for something else I discovered game supplements I never knew I even OWNED.  That is when it is time to seriously cut the hell down on buying this nonsense!)

As usual click for larger.  If you want.
Here we see one of my Car Wars solos, a Fighting Fantasy game book from an entirely different Steve Jackson I got for like two dollars but havent played yet, and two solos from the indie joke RPG Kobolds Ate My Baby!

The Car wars one looks pretty good and fun.

Fighting Fantasy gamebooks are rules integrated CYOAs with simple RPG rulesets.  This one is about being a pirate captain.  I want more of these books which were a lot more popular in the UK than in the US.  Nowadays it is almost easier to just buy the iOS versions of some of these books which add in redone color art, digital dice, and all sorts of neat quality of life bits.

The Kobolds solos are obviously micro niche indie press ones before the modern internet publishing revolution happened.  Gotta love the dig at FASA.  

Now Tunnels & Trolls is rather famous for having tons of solo adventures.  It being a simpler RPG made it a lot easier system for this.  (And TnT being far less popular than D&D means you were probably more likely to play through solos than get a group of people willing to play something other than WHAT GARY WROTE FAAAART.)

Yes City of Terrors is by THAT writey man Mike Stackpole in his pre Star Wars novel days.  There has been a PDF reward of that book for the current TnT kickstarter that thankfully modifies some of the artwork which in this book has.. issues.

Another TnT solo and a solo for the Pulp Adventure Novel RPG using the same basic ruleset as TnT known as Mercenaries, Spies, & Private Eyes that has the best game cover EVER.  But whenever I properly cover TnT stuff we will see it.  (Also KAMB! will get it's own day in the sun.)

TnT solos are big and meaty.

Grimrock Isle is an absolutely MASSIVE solo adventure and RPG campaign for Call of Cthulhu.  Insanely so.

It is by a smaller company so it has a bit lower production values than a larger publisher would but they do a solid job.

Yet another Car Wars solo, and a FASERIP system Marvel Superheroes solo, the latter of which kind of inspired this post.  I got it a few weeks ago for 7 dollars still sealed!  I didn't even know MSH had solo modules!

This Car Wars solo is like the last one only in a bigger book format and thus roomier!

About half the TSR made solo modules for their game lines used a piece of red cellophane to reveal otherwise mostly hidden parts that were printed in a way the red would obscure the text.  Kind of like the old Tech Spec Reader thing 80s Transformers toys had.

This is actually one of two solos here I have actually gotten around to playing.  Well, at least the first scenario.

Something look familliar?  GURPS/Fantasy Trip anyone?

Given that this company also does solos using proto GURPS rules it makes me wonder the legalities and IP rights of Mr. Jackson's original RPG wargame thingie...

It even comes with counters and a generic but modded battle map for fighting battles on.

Even the Mayfair Games DC Heroes Exponential Game System I will talk about more whenever I cover my Supers RPGs had at least one full solo!

Sadly its for HIS HOLY LAMEASS WORST GREEN LANTERNNESS himself, Hal Jordan.  Hal Jordan sucks y'all.  Can I play it and pretend to be John Stewart or Kyle Rayner or maybe that New 52 Lantern who is Muslim?  (Probably wouldnt logically fit to be original 30s Green Lantern, alien Lanterns, Jade, or Guy Gardner.  Even if a Guy Gardner solo would be FUN. AS. HELL.)

And the other solo I have played through, Ghost of Lion Castle!  I played this one sometimes onboard ship in the Navy on a watch post that was basically sitting in an aft steering compartment that was closed off, noisy as hell, and effectively DOING NOTHING FOR 4 HOURS.  Because unless something went wrong you weren't doing anything at all!  Just sitting there staring at walls and looking at backup ship controls.  Well this is what I did when one of the engineering department people also on watch for mechanical reasons weren't being a wanker.  They weren't doing anything EITHER really.  

The DnD ones look nice as was the wont of TSR.

The same guy also did ADnD solo(s) using that red reader thingie.

It seems a lot less like a CYOA styled solo however.  I haven't had time to read through it properly but it has a bunch of odd special rules and stuff plus some massive poster maps.

There are a few other TSR solos but most of them used this odd ass Invisible Ink system which basically made these solos a single use deal.  And you know, even if not the pens are long since dried out and unusable.  If I run into them cheaply I might at least see if you can use them with the HONOR SYSTEM like the normal numbered entry solos that most games were.  Luckily losing a tiny slip of red cellophane is easily replaced.  Heck just a set of old blue/red 3d glasses will cover you!

 TSR even did a small series of system agnostic solo gamebook RPGs in their Catacombs line.  They were probably trying to appeal to more general book fans and people who like me weren't permitted to play D&D for whatever generally dumb reason our idiot parents had.

 This book is HUGE.  Tons of entries and even virtual dice in the corner!  Though you would still need a pencil...

In this one, you are in the Dragonlance setting helping TINKER GNOMES fight off a Draconian army.  As a human baker in a gnomish made steam powered armor.  Your name is.. Rye.  *sigh*  It is a really fun setting and scenario where you go hunting through these crazy gnomes' absolutely bonkers hive city looking for artifacts and working machines that can help fight off the Draconian army.  Nice.

Now you may be wondering WHY you would want these things today?  Well, what if you don't have a game group but want to physically PLAY an RPG and not just have a videogame handle all the mechanics?  Well there you go!  Maybe you like CYOA books but want some RPG mechanics?  What about a way to have some practice in a game system before you try running it for friends?  Hell, maybe even use the solo as the group adventure or as a simpler example of how you do these RPG thingies?  (Though the latter is basically removed as we now have Youtube.)

  Heck, some solo RPG game books like Fighting Fantasy and Lone Wolf (I could have sworn I owned the first Lone Wolf book but it seems to have been lost to the Ether.) ended up getting full tabletop RPGs and even electronic ports both then and now.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

(Operation Game Collection) Dungeons and Dragons: Original Edition and Friends!

  Ah.  The original RPG.  The game whose inception can almost be credited with creating the "Adventure" Games market as we know it today.  (I call it Hobby Gaming but the other term works fine.)

  See back in the late 60s to early 70s a bunch of miniature wargames nerds in the midwest were making their tiny niche products and sharing and evolving them as best as they could with the technology and networking available for the time as opposed to our modern and more interconnected methods where an idea from Russia can be translated into English in hours and spread all over the place to be morphed into something else in Japanese ow what have you.

  Well some guys got together, smooshed miniature wargames together with a more freeform style of play and RPGs were born!  Dungeons and Dragons is (sadly) the Alpha and the Omega of it all, largely being the main RPG of the English speaking world for about as long as I have been alive.  (Almost 41 years now.  OH GOD I AM SO OLD WHY HAVE I WASTED MY LIFE ON DUMB NERD CRAP?!)

 (No Pathfinder's short run as king doesn't count because it is basically DnD 3.5 with a couple of tweaks.  Which is the only reason anyone cared about it.  DnD players seem to have issues playing anything other than DnD ruleset RPG Fantasy genre games.  Only a massive departure like 4th edition, the previous publisher (TSR) being shut down for a year, or Games Workshop levels of customer abuse seem to make the game take any form of noticeable hit in popularity, most of which is short lived.)

So, let's see what old books full of rusting staples I have for the first RPG as we know it?

(As is my wont, feel free to click most images for a larger one.)
 It took me many moons to get my "White Box" reprint set from the late 70s-whenever they stopped printing them in the 80s for a sub 100 dollar price but I eventually got it for like 50 bucks shipped.  It merely looks like the box got ran over multiple times.

 And what you got inside of the box!  Three softback stapled books and a set of reference sheets.  So even as early as 1974 we were getting cool box sets full of goodies and books in conveniently digestible booklets as opposed to these terrible monster coffee table books we have now.  

(To be fair the Iron Kingdoms core rulebooks could probably knock someone the hell out if swung hard enough...)

 And this is what the books looked like inside.  As we generally know, the rules don't make a whole lot of sense and all but require house ruling, made worse given how few examples there are in the booklets.  Not ugly in general though.

 Well ok, the art is mostly AWFUL inside these things.  But keep that last statement next to the swordy man.  We shall see it again in this post.

 If you want a retro laugh, here is the price TSR had for things in the mid-late 70s.  Given that no ADnD books are listed this is a 1976-early 77 price list.  For inflation fun purposes as of this writing One 1977 dollar is worth 3.85.  While I do not completely agree with inflation dealies like this, it gives one a ROUGH idea of things.  So a 10 dollar set then is worth 38 bucks or so now.  Which is kind of close I guess?  But a comic book at that timeframe was about 40 cents then, or worth 1.55 now.  As opposed to how much most comic books cost now which is FOUR DOLLARS.  Yeah.  Inflation is kind of a troublesome thing.  You can't just say WELL IT WAS  X DOLLARS THEN AND SHOULD STAY THE SAME NOW but you can't go the other way either.

 The sheets have lots of the charts you would want in a suite of loose sheets inside.  

 But unlike today where expansion products are designed to be bought for your game whether tabletop or electronic from the start and nigh unusable without them, back then they were merely cool options and add ons.  Much of what would become standard core elements of DnD long term first appeared in these books, more Greyhawk than Blackmoor.  

And yet even the Thief in Greyhawk is whined about by some idiot purists as being where DnD went off the rails.  I will talk about that later in the post..

 One of the first published adventures for DnD was in Blackmoor!  The legendary Temple of the Frog which is closer to what many JRPGs on consoles do (as well as oldschool Ultima) where both Sci Fi and Fantasy were combined and worked together as opposed to the more stringent division so many nerds seem to insist on nowadays.

Because nerds are dumb.

 And the next two supplements!  Eldritch Wizardry is a collection of more epic stuff for the game.  I have the little censor thing there because while you don't actually see any nipples on this picture THAT WAS DRAWN BY A WOMAN BY ALL REPORTS some people now as back then were rather puritan and OMG TEH CHILDRENS about it all.  To be fair I don't much see the point of the image being there but nerds gonna nerd I guess.  

Swords & Spells was basically a replacement for Chainmail which was the set of miniatures wargame rules Mr. Gygax and Perrin had made that was one of the initial default combat rulesets for DnD now that they discovered not too many people were using Chainmail for their DnD games or miniatures period!

(I also do not have the fourth supplement to Original DnD as it tends to go for much more than I want to spend for a mere historical artifact I have no real desire to actually PLAY GAMES WITH.  And a semi recent deluxe ODnD rerelease WOTC did?  Yeah I wasn't paying that when I am merely missing one book, awesome box or not!)

(I would also be remiss as to say I am missing an Avalon Hill boardgame that honestly serves no real purpose other than being a map board DMs could use to run overland campaigns on.  Which is a cheap thing to buy but.. I am not sure I really WANT it, you know?)

 Eldritch Wizardry added in some now legendary magical artifacts.

 Swords & Wizardry is merely only worth getting for the really cute art in it, with the images basically being miniature models on their bases getting up to adorably amusing shenanigans.

But as the game spread throughout the English speaking world the mixture of semi amateur level writing and the sheer oddness of this new game would cause it to not just be people teaching it to others and sticking more or less to the styles of play the creators intended.  People who simply weren't into Adventure Gaming would start picking it up and trying to self teach it to themselves and then their friends.  And like the Telephone Game things would be "Lost in Translation".  So an educator named Holmes would convince TSR to let him make a set of starter rules to ease folks in.  (Again something that would basically become a fixture in the market.)

 The very first Basic Set!  This rulebook, dice, and tutorial adventure would help to introduce unconnected and antisocial nerds of the mid-late 70s how to play this weird new game!

 The hobby and industry was in fact so new that TSR couldn't even source enough of the funny dice people would need back then so they made chits you cut out and drew out of a cup to get you by!

 And even Gary Gygax got into the tutorial scheme with The Keep on the Borderlands which is a now legendary adventure module.

 The main book looks VERY similar to the design of the then in development ADnD and in fact is some weird hybrid of Original and Advanced, kind of ending up as it's own thing.

 Obviously things are evolving and the company is becoming more and more professional.

 You can see in this edition of the module it is full of things of use and help for a beginning RPG player, even including some explanations of odd terminology most people wouldn't know back then or now!  And plenty of reference material and advice through the book to help you understand how to do this game stuff.

 LOOK AT THAT FAT WIDDLE STIRGEY-WIRGEY!!  WHOSE DA FATTEST BWOOD SUCKA?  IS IT YOU?  YES IT IS!!  :3   Anyhow, you can tell this is the Holmes edit version by the stat lines you can see as in entry 64.  This module will show up again when BX/BECMI DnD would be born in the early 80s.  But that is a tale for another time..

Now we must get into a hot topic.  THE OSR which stands for Old School Renaissance/Revival.  With 3rd edition and later 4th changing much of what the Original through 2nd edition DnD rulesets had as sacred cows, these aging people who refused to move on now had access to each other through the Internet.  Add in the Open Game License which gave people the ability (with limits) to basically redo and rebuild early DnD and modern advances in desktop publishing and we had a storm of people both reviving, adding to, and enhancing the editions they preferred as they formed communities dedicated to it.

 This has lead to things like fans making free fanzines and enhancements like this small one designed to expand the Holmes Basic set into a fuller featured RPG that doesn't really require anything else for those who have decided HOLMES EDIT IS MY GAME AND THE ONE TRUE D UND DEE and want to just run it and not really go beyond.

You see, this is one thing with the OSR.  Many of them sadly have their heads shoved firmly up their own asses, insisting whatever version of DnD they grew up with is the only good one.  This has lead to such inane things as the dismissal of even the Greyhawk supplement for Original DnD, or anger over the BECMI DnD over the BX one even if they are 95% exactly the same in rules and charts.

It gets even more absurd with AD&D and 2nd edition.  This is why people keep getting into smaller and smaller niches of Internet Echo Chambers where they just encourage more "partisan" forms of thought.  And I REALLY need to cover this sort of partisan thinking on consumer products in a post all to itself.  So let's just say people like to get a bit too invested in a memory that is probably not even entirely real.

But for our purposes, ODnD got it's own rather well regarded rewrite called Swords & Wizardry.  Being three formats with varying levels of adherence to the ODnD rulebooks and expansions, it makes the original books both unnecessary but even allows people to play for FREE.  And thanks to Print on Demand services like Lulu you can have reasonably priced physical copies!

 I have more properly covered Ruins & Ronin a few years ago here: http://wargamedork.blogspot.com/2010/01/review-corner-rpg-review-of-ruins-ronin.html and a bit more about Swords & Wizardry here:  http://wargamedork.blogspot.com/2009/04/retroclones-primer-and-swords-and.html  .

Sadly I never did get the game beyond that one play session and the RPGsite became such a miserable and hateful place I have left it far behind.

For a free or inexpensively purchased physical product, Swords & Wizardry looks quite good.  I actually printed out the entire rulebook.  Of course as these ongoing projects tend to do, things have been updated and improved which almost makes buying a physical version or wasting ink and paper printing them out kind of pointless.  Luckily modern portable phones and tablets are fantastic for holding PDFs to read and use on the go.  (And laptops of course.)

 There are even a lot of great fanzines you can either download for free or buy such as this one, Knockspell!

 Knockspell is more or less for ODnD primarily, while the other big paid fanzine

 Fight On! (Told you that would come back!) is more ADnD focused but still heavily supporting the original.  Fight On! has far more issues out than Knockspell and even will release massive collated editions like the first four issues combined into that one massive book to the left.  

 Again, our modern technology makes these fan driven projects look better than even the pro ones they were inspired by.

Yet the best thing is not merely when fans remake the old rules as an excuse to shove in their house rules or make them as a way to rationalize releasing new adventures and support material for sale.
(Some claim it is because the older books are difficult or expensive to find which is honestly incorrect.  Between RPGNow/DrivethruRPG, Ebay, and WOTC's own reprints only the ODnD we are covering here is expensive to acquire in some legitimate form.)

Some folks take the OGL and make all new games, like one of my favorites:
 X-Plorers is basically retro DnD but Sci Fi oriented and with some modern touches to make it FUN.  Sadly it never seemed to take off and just got spread from publisher to publisher and mostly just farted out.

 See?  All one really needs for a quick and fun Sci Fi RPG!  It works so well I made some posts allowing you to use it instead of more complicated and boring RPGs like Mechwarrior or Prime Directive or Gurps.

If you want to see more about it and some of what I came up with:  http://wargamedork.blogspot.com/2010/01/review-corner-review-of-rpg-x-plorers.html


This ought to give you something to go on.  (I had quite a few early 2010 X Plorers posts but I think those two links are enough to start you on your path!)

  So there we go!  My Original 1974 White Box/LBB DnD collection!  Eventually I will get those two final products I mentioned above and more of those fanzines but I am mostly set!  I have the Dragon Magazine Archive CDs somewhere around here which is full of support material for early DnD and the RPG download site I mentioned above sells some of the third party support material as well such as that from Judges' Guild.

  But....  ODnD really isn't my jam.  I like it for being fast, light, and flexible but it is too confused and scattershot, plus it not being the system of my rose tinted nostalgia goggles.

  Whenever I move on to the next DnD Game Collection post I might cover it eh?


Blog Archive

About Me

My Photo
Southeastern CT, United States
I like to play nerd games! I am a nerd! Join our nerd ways at https://www.facebook.com/groups/112040385527428/