Sunday, March 4, 2018

Chasing (Dungeons and) Dragons

A large part of the appeal of the OSR is built on nostalgia. Players look to relive those halcyon days of their gaming youth. Simpler rules for simpler times. Yes, there's a lot to be said from a theory and design point of view for a minimalist take on rules design, but I think to deny the wistful gaze into the past we often feel when playing these games is foolish. 

The past few months have been very rough for me on a personal level. I won't go into detail, because that's not what this blog is about. I genuinely long for the simpler times in my life. For the days when I got home from school, pulled out my Rules Cyclopedia and my graph paper and just went at it for hours on end. It was a simpler time. Now, I'm an adult. I have the responsibilities and concerns of an adult. The OSR lets me at least remember those simpler times, to hold a time capsule of my own youth bound up in a  print-on-demand cover.

But somehow, I can't go home again. Instead of ignoring or house ruling something and going with it, I break it all down to its smallest parts and try to figure it out. Analyze, study, play test. It's something it never was back in my youth: It's work.

I was looking at my bookcase today when this all hit me. I own physical copies of several versions of old school D&D or versions that would qualify as retro-clones: Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry Complete, Swords & Wizardry White Box, White Box Fantastic Medieval Adventure Game, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Adventures Dark and Deep, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Basic/Expert D&D, Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea, Rules Cyclopedia, and a few others I'm sure I'm forgetting. Hell, I even wrote one myself: The Hero's Journey Fantasy Roleplaying. I stopped counting once I hit the teens.

Why? Whenever I look at my shelf, I always default to either Labyrinth Lord, White Box Fantastic Medieval Adventure Game, or The Hero's Journey. So why do I keep buying retro-clones? I'm not a collector by any measure. Part of it, I know, is a way to peek into the minds of other game designers. But I can do that just as easily with a PDF. Part of it is also, undoubtedly, a desire to show support for other publishers with my wallet. We're all in it together, after all.

But as I starred at that shelf, I knew the real answer. I'm chasing that twelve year old kid I used to be. Problem is, I just can't leave well enough alone. I can't just game. It's become work. It's become this kind of ceaseless quest to find the perfect game that will somehow whisk me away to junior high -- and I'm not sure that's possible anymore.

I often wonder if it would be best to cut myself off. To simply select a game and use it as my singular go-to -- at least in terms of running games. Yet somehow, I always hold myself back from doing just that. Maybe it's because I'm not twelve anymore, and I never will be again.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

For Love of Basic D&D

I'm a Swords & Wizardry White Box guy. That's pretty obvious. I love to design using that set of core mechanics, as is evident from Barrel Rider Games' White Box line of products and the creation of White Star. I think it's a system with infinite possibilities due to its simplicity and the cleaner, more modern design brought to it by current OSR creations like White Box: Fantastic Medieval Adventure Game. In short, it fits like a glove. It just clicks in my mind.


But believe it or not, it's not my favorite D&D-style system to play. My favorite system to play is Rules Cyclopedia. It's a big, bold book chock full of clunky, archaic rules. From the perpetually confusing Weapon Mastery rules, to the never-once-in-my-life-have I used Seige Warfare rules, to the "who the hell ever reaches 36th level?" Immortal rules. But, by God is that book full of potential. I believe it's the greatest single-volume fantasy RPG ever published. In that tiny font, 3 column layout, my imagination (both as a young boy and as an old grog) soars. Maybe it was because it came out when I was just the right age. Maybe it was the art. Maybe it was hiding away in those pages after a bad day at school. Hell, I don't know. But I know that the Rules Cyclopedia is when I realized I was going to play RPGs for the rest of my life.


As most reading this blog know, Wizards of the Coast has made the Rules Cyclopedia available in both softcover and hardcover print-on-demand formats now. I'll get my hell mittens. But here's the real kicker: There's some seriously awesome print on demand support for Basic D&D these days. In addition to the RC, they've got the DMR2 Creature Catalogue, B1: In Search of the Unknown, B2: Keep on the Borderlands, and the Hollow World Box set (along with a few other more obscure products and a few of the Known World Gazatteers) available as print-on-demand. Never did I ever think I'd see the day.

That means the Rules Cyclopedia and Basic D&D will be around as long as print-on-demand is around. I guess the game itself finally reached 36th level and ascended to Immortality.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

State of the Halfling 2018

2017 has been a helluva a year for me, and not in a good way. I've had some pretty major developments in my personal life that have forced me to sacrifice time previiously spent working on writing. It's not hyperbolic to say that things in 2017 have been life-altering for me, and in most cases not for the better. 2018 came crashing in with a swift kick in the nuts for the ol' halfling, so there's no calm in sight.

So, with that in mind I wanted to give folks an idea of what's on the docket for 2018 when it comes to Barrel Rider Games.

First & Foremost: White Star: Galaxy Edition is still going to be released in Print-on-Demand on both OBS and Lulu in hardcover and softcover formats. We had some large formatting corrections to make based on the first set of proofs received, and are upgrading to premium paper for the OBS release. Sorry for the delay. Those who have purchased the PDF will receive a coupon for a discount reducing the price to equate with the Print + PDF combo.

Cybermancer: Cybermancer is billed as Fantasy Cyberpunk Role-Playing in the Retro-Future, and it is currently being drafted. It's a retro-homage to old school cyberpunk RPGs we all know and love. It's basically the "big" project for 2018.

Other Projects: I have a slew of other products in development, all in different states of conception. These include Saga of the White Box, Heroes of Amherth, Rad Box: Post-Apocalyptic White Box Roleplaying, several small White Box supplements in the style of White Box Omnibus, Compendium, Gothic, and Arcana.

Because of the changes in my life and the new obligations created, I am no longer providing release dates for products. Project goals might be stated, I can't commit to hard release dates at the moment. My current situation no longer allows for committed time to focus on writing and what time I am given could be immediately consumed by this new personal development, and without notice.

Currently, getting the doors closed on White Star: Galaxy Edition is of the utmost importance and is my largest focus. I want to get it done and out there for everyone to enjoy. I'm genuinely proud of it and want folks to enjoy it at their gaming table for years to come.

Here's to hoping 2018 is a bit gentler and softer to the Barrel Rider, but given the way it's started I'd better armor up.