Wednesday, October 21, 2009

“A simple Sleep spell stopped them!” – crappiest D&D ad part three

This entry in the engrossing series of D&D comic book ads from the early 80’s is a masterpiece of minimalism. You blink and it’s over.

In our last chapter, Indel, formerly with the Keebler Company, fell through a secret door and ended up in a deeper level of the dungeon. So his pals the wizard Grimslade, the unflappable fighter Valerius, and blond cleric chick Saren are busy trying to attract wandering monsters by yelling out the ambiguously gay elf’s moniker. They get more than they bargained for! A vicious band of three goblins!

Tired of facing Shambling Mounds and Green Slime, the warrior Valerius licks his chops and pulls out his new magic sword in preparation for the battle he has long awaited, and…what the fuck!!! What happened? Well, as in most low level games, the goddamn MU ruins the fighters chance for a rousing combat by wasting his most powerful spell on a triad of 3 hit point mooks. “Phew! OK, now we have to take an 8-hour break so I can rest and get the spell back.”

With his big chance at wowing Saren with his manly might now gone, Valerius feigns interest in the welfare of the lost cookie elf. “Um, er, c’mon! We gotta find Brucie!”

Meanwhile, Indel, after proving his elvish secret door finding powers ain’t shit, also proves his dexterity is less than to be desired as he lands on his perfectly coiffed head. You can tell, because he goes “”Oh, my head!” Either that, or it’s New Years day and he’s just waking up. Been there a few times m’self.
Uh oh, looks like the mortal worm is in trouble (mortal? Don’t elves live 5000 years or something?).

OK, how many levels exactly did Indel fall down that chute? You fall down a trap door on a level that only has Green Slime and three Goblins to offer as monsters, and then you fall right down to a dragon’s lair? What kind of shithole dungeon is this! Right about now, Indel’s player is wishing they hadn’t agreed to let Bob’s asshole older brother run the session.

Next: “Gavin’s Inn has a warm fire to relax by!”

Monday, October 19, 2009

“Look out! It’s dripping!” – crappiest D&D ad part 2

The most important thing here is that the artwork gets better (don’t ask me his name – Grognardia James is the archeologist around here. I’m just the village idiot). I’m sure Indel the elf personally appreciates leaving his Keebler background behind and becoming more of an action-looking type guy. Although you only see him covered in slime or falling down a trapdoor, the new artist obviously wants these characters to look like ones you would actually want to play in a game.

I think the fighter Valerius and our boy Indel may have had some problems getting along with each other in the past (it actually becomes all too clear after the chick shows up). While “Gray 'stache” the wizard seems worried about the 80 pounds of green shit that has just fallen on the luckless lad of elfland, Valerius is busy worrying about his plus-nothing sword being eaten by the goo. Well, he is a fighter, and his priorities are clear. Please don’t tell us you tried to stab the stuff, Valerius.
“Forget the fucking sword, dude, we’ve got to save Indel!”

Poor Indel. Not only has the green slime apparently gone “Code Yellow,” but it’s also eaten his legs, ‘nads, and even his Robin Hood hat.

“Swoosh!” Burning Hands spell, right? Damn skippy. I’d like to talk about how when I was a kid I loved that spell when nobody else was wasting a slot on it, but I’m too busy talking about this lame adventure. On we go…

Suddenly, a figure steps out from the shadows, and immediately two hundred thousand Spider-Man readers (including yours truly) actually starts paying attention to this advert. Nothing like a hot blond chick to step out from the shadows and make things not gay anymore – am I right? Just like finally getting a girl to play in your game. They actually managed to capture that aspect of D&D perfectly. I guess the powers at TSR were like “what else can we put in here to appeal to the geeks besides slime and trap doors?” You have to wonder what she would have looked like if she appeared in the last ad. The horror.

Saren the Cleric seems really worried about Indel. If that little elvish hairdresser tapped that, I swear to God I’m gonna kill myself. Best not to think about it. Anyway, her powers of whatever heal the little dude, and in the next panel he’s posing like a 70’s porno dude about to do his thang. Valerius finds a sword to replace his eaten one. What a coinkydink!

Our hero and star of the show Indel next gets back down to D&D business. When asked to use his elvish powers of secret door finding, he immediately on cue falls through a trap door. Right now the guy running this characters is like “after tonight I am so done with this fucking asshole DM.”

And Saren, she looks so worried about him. Look at her face. She’s crushed. Oh God, they really did do it, didn’t they? There is no justice in this world, man. There is no God. Valerius doesn’t look too broken up though, does he? As he looks at Saren with a satisfied smirk, you can almost hear him thinking to himself “Finally. Tonight is your night, bro.”

Next: Deeper baby, deeper!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

D&D's crappiest ad:part 1

In the early 80’s, D&D advertisements where all over the back pages of comics. There were several of them in this particular series, and they appeared every two or three months. I imagine the time lags may have represented the folk at TSR scrambling to find a better artist for the most recent ad compared to the piece of crap hack who hammered out this first uninspired strip.

Is this how they sold the game? I mean, they wanted to make money, didn’t they? Why phone it in like this? These were appearing in comics that were drawn by greats like John Romita Jr. and Frank Miller. Drooling mongoloids might have liked the goofy adventuring represented here, but did they have the brain power to understand how to play if they bought it? I guess just making the sale was important. Whatever – D&D became more and more popular, despite these terrible comic craptacular adventures.

As I was an avid comic book guy since around the age of 6, they were pretty much preaching to the choir in my case. I already had a few years of D&D under my belt when these came out. More importantly, even at around 15 years old I was running games that were cooler than what was happening to these low-rent, cookie cutter adventurers (if you want to read about somebody who preferred their D&D to pan out like these adventures, check out some old posts at Grognardia).

Speaking of cookies, one of the adventurer’s is a damn Keebler elf. No joke, look at the guy. Disney characters laugh at this pathetic excuse for a Legolas. You ain’t going to see this guy swinging around on elephants shooting three arrows at a time. Gimli probably would not have much trouble beating his orc-killing score. Better yet. Look at panel 5. WTF is he doing? Levitating? Or is that a jump? I’m getting a headache just looking at it.

I know the Shambling Mound looks like its Monster Manual counterpart, but seeing as this ad appeared in Marvel Comics, weren’t they worried about a lawsuit or something? I mean, that’s the damn Man-Things nose, man! I guess the Marvel Bullpen didn’t take D&D all that seriously, true believer.

Since when did a Hold Monster spell light up the night? What other spells act as a light spell, other than a light spell that is? Well, it’s a good thing, because green slime was on the walls, and according to that douche Grimslade it is certain death. Not quite, but in our next adventure the Keebler elf finds out the hard way that you don’t mess with that emerald snot!

Oh, and a hot blond cleric and a much better artist shows up. See you then, Pilgrim!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Group Size - what's your pref?

In my last post I talked about digging on the full group of six players I currently have. Of course that might change before too long (in the last year I’ve had a total of four new players come and go, and three regulars who have not missed a game), but after many years of no gaming it’s kind of a treat to see six players at the table. In all honesty, six is about as many people as our current host can handle (and I stand up for the entire session) in the spot we have (his wife’s fabric workshop in the back studio).

OK, so I got some comments that mentioned the amount of players those particular GM’s preferred in their gaming sessions. Here’s what some of the had to say:

Barking Alien said: …”Its also funny what a full group consitutes for some GMs as opposed to others. I pretty much don't feel like gaming if there aren't at least 3 or 4 players. For me a full group is more like 7 or 8. My current Mutants & Masterminds campaigns averages 8-9. If everyone showed every time we'd have 11 people…”

Sir Larkins sez: …”Seven or eight players for me is way too many. I'm most comfortable with three to four…”

Felipe Budinich said: …”Heh the full group concept also strikes me as funny, usually I have two players, over 4 players and i feel that it gets too crowded…”

So like a lot of things it’s “to each his own.” Space restrictions probably have a lot to do with it. For instance, at this point I can phone in AD&D 1st ed. (30 damn years), so I’m pretty sure I can handle seven or 8 people without serious detriment to the amount of role-playing or amount of time combat takes in my game. But for now I think 6 is going to have to be the cap. The only exception I might make to that is if a girl comes along wanting in on the campaign, if only to keep poor Terry from being the only girl in the group (I actually think she likes that, but that may be a subject for another post).

So I like six for D&D, but what about my couple of other favorites that I had successful campaigns with over the years? Well, in the past I was usually able to get all my players into other alternate genres, specifically Call of Cthulhu and Champions. In the 90’s when I tried to turn the groups on to one of these games, half of them groaned about it (especially the girls), but once they got characters created and got a game in under their belts, they often preferred them to my D&D!

For Champions it was hard for me to handle upwards of six people. Just so much math and crunch. This one particular regular player of mine from the 90’s, “Planet” Janet, was so bad at math (and usually so stoned on tequila and pot) that I had to do it all for her. Champions actually helped my math – heaven forbid you should actually learn or grow in some way from gaming.

I really preferred 2-4 players for Champs. If I only had three players, I would usually do the “street level” type characters. Fighting gang members and serial Killers was usually pretty easy to adjudicate. Ironically, when I had five or six players, it made sense to do the “Super Group” type games, even though it would include tons of super-attacks and tons of crunchy stuff that was just so time-consuming. Those powerful superhero fights took forever. With our current sessions happening for just three hours on a Wednesday night, I doubt we could have Champions as an alternate.

Call of Cthulhu was also a game I think I would have preferred to have like three players for, but my players in the 90’s ended up liking it so much that when we played it as our D&D alternative everyone showed up.

There was one memorable CoC game I ran in the mid-90’s with just three players that was kind of a gas. On a Saturday afternoon my three female players were hanging out in Lisa’s pad above the Hollywood Bowl, and they called me (at home…dateless) to see if I felt like coming over there to run some Call of Cthulhu. That was a session that went late into the night, and there wasn’t even anything of a supernatural nature going on (although I added in a “bump in the night” or two). Basically it was around 5 hours of the girl’s characters hanging out in Arkham shopping, cruising for guys at the Speakeasy, and looking for fun at the nightclub (that one of the characters was a torch singer at). It was one of those games that just would not have worked that well with 5 or more players. I would have needed some beastie to show up to spice things up.

Preferences aside, different group sizes usually create different gaming experiences. But what is your preference?