Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Medium-Weview Wednesday: Acquisitions Inc. for 5e

stolen right from their website. Acquired. I mean 'acquired'
I got this thing the other day. I mentioned before that our group has turned (as groups must, I guess) to 5th edition, and now I've played it AND run it a couple of times, it's not so bad. Why, just the other day the people on Google Plus we're telling me HAHA OLD MAN WHY YOU SO BENT ABOUT DND5E and I was like "Well, truth be told, I got all the game I want from DCC and so GET OFF MY LAWN" and like, hey man, it's got some good stuff in there and a lot of cruft. Like, throw that cruft out and just get to playing.

I'll probably yell into a can about cruft in 5e some time, maybe an Anchor podcast or something. I don't want to do homework: we're here to write/play/make a tense/funny/heroic/tragic story together. if you or I do a bunch of writing - together - there's no problem. You do it before hand or (worse!) afterward? A "No wiggle room" problem. So: I don't like having backstories for PCs, and I don't like to prep too much. I like to hit the RANDOMIZE IT button on the machine, show up with a bunch of print-outs, and wing it. I'm a lower-middle class white guy with a shit ton of privilege (I recognize this, bear with me) and some skill at improvisation (thanks DnD!) and so it's better if we wing it. I'm not saying it's better if EVERYBODY wings it, but YES AND and some other stuff can make it go a long way.

Anyways, Acquisitions Inc. It's got some fun stuff. Not 50 bucks worth of fun stuff : that's right 50 bucks. Im a cheapass cheapskate murder-hobo, but I had heard this thing was fun. Well, I heard there was a podcast about a franchise group of adventurers, and I looked into it, and my stomach dropped. Because I have been writing and playing a thing, here and there, about the evils of capitalism, a corporation bent on usurping all the resources of a dungeon, and the terrors of the gig economy as applied to dungeon-delving PCs. I call it DUNJONCORP vs THE ROBOLICH (alternately THE CYBERLICH in some markets where robots are not welcome). My jazz-age post-pockyclipse Thundarr-meets-Wizard of Oz thing. I like it. Your mileage may vary, I guess. Anyways, these Acquisitions Incorporated cats hit me on the noze pretty hard, but like 10 years ago!

I was sort of inspired, I guess, by my memories of the Ghostbusters RPG from like the late 80's early 90's, which I owned for a couple of years and gave away (so sad). And the current dystopic state of the U.S., with PhDs running around in Lyfts and Ubers trying to make enough coin for rent and to pay off student loans.

Anyways, this book is nice. The framing concepts are great, and funny. I like a book that takes the piss out of the source material. A sly wink and nod, like Bert from Mary Poppins. I love the hilarious notion that AcqInc doesn't give a fig about you, will offer unpaid internships, has full rights to the things you find, bodies you kill, secrets you reveal. Whatever you choose to reveal to them, that is. I like the PC options, with (possibly over-powered but terrific) roles in the corporate system for each PC, and then per-class options for bending characters to the corporate mindset as represented by their place as franchise owners/operators. There's a non-inspired halfing/half-elf/goblin replacer race whose name I can't even be bothered to recall (means "green skin", I guess? Verdguy? Verdgin? I don't fucking care). Some cool bits about the upkeep of a franchise and giving the party a headquarters of operation and making them invest money into it. I even like the downtime activities a party can engage in, to grow the franchise, get on the good side of corporate, etc. Adds to the options that I understand are in the DM guide and a couple of other supplements. I especially like the concept of "Royalty Components" of spells, that being money that comes right out of your pocket when you cast a spell and that makes its creator a little wealthier. In contrast to other spells, why on earth would you ever keep a spell like that secret? I think one of the main NPCs gladly gives it to you in the intro of the boxed adventure - like, uh, yeah!? Of course! A magical pyramid scheme. Maybe your PC can figure out the "Royalty Component" hook of a minor spell and then BOOM you're a bajillionaire.

What don't I like? I don't' know, exactly. I can't read these 5e (or 4e, or 3e) adventures without my eyes glazing over. Not really my cup of tea. There's about the middle third of the thing devoted to some complicated, world-altering plot, of course. BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH. I would/will probably chuck that out, except a couple of minor encounters. There's a magical item-destroying mecha-anvil which is sort of the impetus for the first dungeon because it opens up, via an earthquake, some part of uh, Waterdeep? Neverwinter? King's Landing? I don't care: basically, it can't break the McGuffin and causes the town to crack open. The lazy, corrupt city watch isn't much help and a case of mistaken identity sort of propels the party into the campaign. BLAH BLAH BLAH. I try to read the thing late at night but I get crossed eyed. I figure I'm about a fifth of the way through the campaign and there's some funny bits ahead (I can see it when I riffle the pages) but the plot is standard fare, except maybe that the party, as franchise operators, are literally ALWAYS on the lookout for contacts, employees, money making opportunities and are driven by greed to undertake heroics, not necessarily and sense of goodwill. Fine! Perfect for our jaded age. And a perfect thing for DUNJONCORP, but I already retroactively stole it. Every NPC or monster you kill is a missed opportunity IN THE LONG RUN, to make money. One of the thug NPCs at the initial encounter list has been, inscrutably and inexplicably, turned into a sentient skeleton? I love THAT more than I love most of the rest of it.

At the back, some magical items. A description of the big campaign McGuffin as an artifact. A cool airship and a mechanized beholder as a vehicle for PCs to use. That's fun.

Evidently  the guys and gals of Penny Arcade did a podcast/vlogcast of live play games for this, and I tried it and You know what? I can't handle actual play recordings because I'm not playing in it. I don't dig on the likes of Matt mercer and his crew of voice actors is because I wanna play and participate, not observe DnD. A difference in my last 5e product is that this is a real campaign and not a one-off like the Rick n Morty thing. Fun sense of humor in both. this one has more, uh, respect for the origins. I don't know why they would put it in the forgotten realms, though. I sort of like the idea of a barbarian in a fur suit with a tie, I guess. I don't know. It makes trad-DnD sort of feel like Terry Pratchett (to my mind this is a good thing but it might offend genre-/lore- purists)

50 bucks? you get some great art, some wry humor, a modest campaign, and some maybe fun options for PCs and headquarters - pretty useful, I guess. The rest I might toss entirely. It occurred to me that with amazing artwork and design and glossy pages, you can't really fuck up the margins and write in a 5e book like this, especially for the price you pay. Not because you CANT morally, but because the parchment-style backgrounds and art-density and material-object-ness prevents it. I sort of like DYSON's practice of churning through your old 1e books and artifying them up to your own liking, even though I don't do that. Heaven forfend! Write in a 1e book? Gods above and below, who would do such a thing? Dyson, you heretic

the splash screen for my dungeon craft playable intro to DJCvRL. needs more copyright symbols, dollah signs, and trademarks

Anyways, 7 out of 10 for potential. 8 out of 10 for art - these 5e books are beautiful things. 4 out of 10 for failure to keep my attention, and maybe an green/grey/brown utterly unfascinating an compelling race choice, like practically human but O yeah it is telepathic and friendly. They coulda done better, I guess. 1 extra bonus point for pilotable mechanical beholder. there's about 4 fun new low-level spells but any one of you or me coulda done better

Friday, February 21, 2020

Chasing the Dragon

(I think I wrote this when I learned that Google Plus was going to be decommissioned) 

My heart is sore; not the normal heartsore-ness that comes with Spring and the gentle whirring emptiness of my professional life at the moment (maybe just enough to get by on, but not thriving, if you get my drift).  When I was very heartsore from this toxic work environment I had a couple of years ago, I took solace in my new-found hobby of Geeplus plus Role Playing Games, the former entirely new to me and the latter something I'd let founder for almost 15 years at that point.  I had split from my game group during the days of 2e because - get a load of this - I had actually lost my first job in college owing to my missing a shift and playing on a Wednesday night, in a game that was only nominally (for me) fun at the time. It wasn't a great job, but my priorities shifted and suddenly I did not view D&D or any other games as "worth it". I do now, but that's another thing entirely. My orientation has been more to raising my kid, and work is much less harrowing these days, so the need for stress reduction is pretty low and I am seeing things with less rose-colored glasses.  That said, I believe my perceptions about the quality of interaction on the community of G+ are accurate.  Feel free to disabuse me, or not, or whatever.

I have detected, maybe through a fault in my own perceptions I admit, that the atmosphere on G+ has subtly changed.  It no longer brings me the joy it used to.  Partly it's because since I have joined my tastes in games has changed, and partly that I am growing disgruntled with the endless onslaught of prompts to buy things.  I won't go too much into it here, but it started with a couple of years ago as all these creative and talented people I love started and brought pet projects to fruition (which is great) and made them for sale (which is fine) but then turned to making things for sale (my perception) and became less focused on just sharing cool ideas (my possibly erroneous conclusion). There are a couple of celebrity types for whom the creation of boutique gaming objects and especially books as physical objects are sort of their niche, and I think that this is admirable.  But as these people rise to prominence it seems to me that interest of the community has turned away from creation for the sake of creation and sharing as a bonding mode, toward creation-for-profit and sharing as a modus for earning legitimacy itself.  When I wrote my thing a couple of years ago, my kid was a slobbering sack of meat, and I was up anyway, and I just wanted to see if I could do it.  Now that I've done it, I fully recognize that any of us in the community has the processing power and freely available software that we can each, should we so desire, make a thing that is better in many ways than the stuff that captured our imaginations as children and adolescents and that attracted us to this community in the first place.  I mean, sure, you're not recreating D&D, here.  That's a thing that's wizard-locked and gated, if you get my drift.  A couple of clever people have actually managed to put interesting spins on the old rules of yore, which I find enjoyable. But the latest stuff seems endless tiresome iterations of the same old thing in packaging slightly better than the last. Mastery of ideas has given way to mastery of management of creative artists and suites of software. Probably a

The weight of the things I am not creating while I am polishing up a pig's ear for sale is growing on me. My creative and nurturing urge is oriented to this little person, and trying to get my fiscal life in order, and spend what little time remains in happy harmony with my wife and family.  So, rather than fester these wounds and ferment these back-burner projects any longer, I am going to drop them back into the soup for consumption.  "Idea Debt" weighs heavy on me.  I do not believe, despite my good experiences with the only publisher I have worked with, that I will make any more things for sale or publication in the way that drives our community lately. I find Kickstarters to be antithetical to this thing I mean, and maybe the source of the problem.  Patreon? Yes, artists need to eat.  I will very likely create and discard things, but I do not have the wherewithal or interest or force of will to drive a thing to publication at this stage in my life, and I am becoming leery of the urge to do so as a false one and a trick, one that is instilled and perpetrated by dint of being in a giant electrical strip-mall that used to be a cheery club-house. Maybe too metaphorical, I know.  Melodramatic, for sure.

The amazement and excitement I felt when I first found G+ is vanishing, replaced by a stream of infomercials. Factionalism and tribalism and snobbery seems to me to prevail. Hey, effendi, your mileage may vary as always.

Maybe I am depressed but I don't think that's exactly it.  That would imply an unhealthy spin on it.  Dis-illusioned? Dysglamored?

The King is The Land.  The Land is The King.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Procedural Mini-dungeon Example, plus d80 Lair of the Robolich special rooms

Hey-o, fam. Now is the time for all good men and women and nonbinary peoples n robots n such to decry racism, sexism, bigotry of all sorts. If you say to this VIRTUE SIGNALLING, then piss off and fail all your saves for today. I tend to play the Chaotic- and Lawful-Good  types, when I play on the player side. The Robolich wishes for you to know that mere faulty flesh parts are of no consequence and merely the avatars for the deep programming that persists, and furthermore 45 years of media consumption has taught me that slow, dense, monotypical bullying empires are not to be trusted or permitted and Rebellion requires us to undertake iconoclasm

Speaking of destroying empires, here is a thing I have been teaching my computer to make for me via Tablesmith. Long ago, it was a Moldvay Basic-based dungeon stocking program but I have now authored, cribbed, and stolen so many tables and adhered them together that it is making a perfectly good and beautifully gonzo dungeon nearly every time I spit one out. I can make them all day, and they have level-appropriate monsters, to boot.  Here is an example of a brief Level 1 DunjonCorp vs. The Robolich dungeon, the idea being that the dumb/sinister computer makes my entries for me, then I go back in and “human DM” them up and elaborate as needed. I’m a big fan of letting the Robolich do my work for me, if you take my meaning. It sort of combines my metals/treasures/traps/”special” room contents and about 10 other different parts to make a key that sometimes does not make sense. It used to have pretty good treasure-per-room ratio but that went to hell a while back. The Mutant Future/Gamma World monster list is still a work in progress so it mostly spits out “spidergoat”

  1. There is a spidergoat, here.
  2. Hidden antique Imperial coins worth 530 gold .
  3. Hidden antique Imperial coins worth 385 gold .
  4. There are 3 Vegepygmy Warriors and a blasted hole, here.
  5. Krenshar, a weapon rack, and hidden treasure: High Tech: Antitox Functions on 1-4 in 20.
  6. Hidden ancient coins of blue ivory worth 365 gold.
  7. There are 3 Morlock Warriors, here.
  8. This room has a Robodoc terminal.
  9. This room has an a fountain - drinking or bathing in it will Intelligent - AI or demon-haunted. Determine personality randomly. (nonsensical, but could be fun if I flesh it out, like maybe a water weird-style or nereid petulant NPC)
  10. There are 1 Human Commoner Zombies and a curtain, here.
  11. This room has an office supply storage facility. 1d100 cubicle walls, stacked and propped in a pile, yellow-mold infested.
  12. This room is spotlessly clean and free of dust. In the corner, there is a lantern.
  13. There are 2 Human Commoner Zombies and a broken furniture, here.
  14. This room has a force field that constrains Hezrou.
  15. Mostly empty and clean, this room smells dusty.
  16. There are 1 Small Monstrous Scorpions and the diseased remains of a Cleric, still in its chainmail hauberk, bearing a Staff. It still has a sack, here.
  17. There are 1 Dire Rats and a kiln, here.
  18. This room has an obscene hand-painted frescoes - staring at them for too long causes switch victim alignment to neutral.
  19. There are 3 Human Commoner Zombies, here.
  20. There are 3 Vegepygmy Warriors and a tripod, here.

Here is the code for the “special rooms” contents. It’s not always weighted equally so some things will occur more frequently than others… steal if you like and may the Robolich’s leering visage take pity on your unidimensional soul. Anything in brackets like [this] is a call to another table or section of this code

  1. puzzle that will [Special] if solved
  2. is half-flooded with waist-high water. The next {Dice~1d4+1} rooms are also flooded
  3. animated mosaics
  4. {Dice~%Level%d4} lewd voxel sculptures. They [Special]
  5. statue from an ancient civilization, which [Special]
  6. broken scientific equipment, that will [Special]
  7. a magic circle: entering it will [Special]
  8. slime patches - 1 in 10 is monstrous but is currently dormant
  9. {Dice~1d3} shipping containers containing {Dice~2d100} [NMS_Junk.Start]
  10. cryostasis tomb - {Dice~1d4+4} cryopods that contain {Bold~[Monster]} in stasis
  11. {Dice~1d4} mummified corpses: disturbing them causes [Special]
  12. huge fire pit - 10% chance that it is still lit
  13. broken and decaying furniture - space station style
  14. {Dice~1d3} thrones - disturbing them in any way summons {Bold~[Monster]}
  15. altar to some ancient god - praying at it causes [Special]
  16. alarm that activates and causes {Bold~[Monster]} to arrive in next turn
  17. weapon racks - containing {Dice~1d4} ancient mono-scimitars, void grenades, or blasters
  18. hyperbraziers and charcoal - inhaling the pungent fumes causes [Special]
  19. an ancient battle site with {Dice~2d20} skeletons and their wargear
  20. obscene hand-painted frescoes - staring at them for too long causes [Special]
  21. mouldering tapestries that are worth {Dice~2d500} gp but weigh 1000gp
  22. large demon idol from an ancient civilization - worshipping causes [Special]
  23. Gene resequencer - change to random race if interacted with
  24. clone vat - interacting character sacrifices {Dice~1d12} HP and gets faithful/insane/flawed clone
  25. corpse renderer - breaks corpses down into 1d10 potions
  26. trash incinerator - receive 5 gold/AL in antique coins for worhtless items
  27. sauroid pen - either dusty bones or {Bold~{Dice~2d4} Large Dinosaurs} in stasis
  28. pillars of scrutiny: if diverge from Alignment, then judged and causes [Trap]
  29. altar to [Altar] - donating money causes [Special]
  30. intricate archway - stepping through transports to [Pocket]
  31. illusionary ceiling. The party is able to view the sky outside the dungeon
  32. ancient container - contains small hoard of [Treasure] plus [NMS_Junk.Start]
  33. interactive map dome - some far away region or land
  34. fire - blazing fire in center of room
  35. roaring fireplace
  36. cold fireplace
  37. force field that constrains {Bold~[NMS_DunjonCorpMonsters.Hard]}
  38. a fountain - drinking or bathing in it will [Special]
  39. illusion - touching it will [Special]
  40. infernal machine - interacting with the control panel will [Special]
  41. magically confined monster - {Bold~[NMS_DunjonCorpMonsters.Extreme]}
  42. pedestal - touching it [Special]
  43. pit - it is effectively bottomless, or else the bottom goes to [Pocket]
  44. pool - mysterious waters cause [Special]
  45. stairway to extra-/para-dimensional section of dungeon
  46. tangleweb vines - DC 14 Dexterity save or held fast (whole party)
  47. intricate well - if a PC throws in a coin they make a wish or climb down to [Pocket]
  48. divinity terminal gives access to previously unknown minor godthing
  49. matter transmittal pad, moves within dungeon or far far away
  50. soul gem - every round a beam attacks random party member, DC {Dice~1d12+6} Wisdom save negates, else soul sucked into Gem
  51. planetarium projector - if disturbed then laser attacks at d24 on each party member for 1d10 damage
  52. bottled city access. The bottle is guarded by {Bold~[NMS_DunjonCorpMonsters.Hard]}
  53. shimmering warpgate to [Pocket]. The gate is guarded by {Bold~[NMS_DunjonCorpMonsters.Extreme]}
  54. hallway of door gates {Dice~1d6} active portals
  55. cubicle zone {Dice~%Level%d100} office cubicles. [Cubicle]
  56. office supply storage facility. [Storage]
  57. server room with {Dice~%Level%d10} humming server machines and {Dice~%Level%d4} artificial intelligences
  58. {Dice~%Level%d20} high-strength storage barrels full of [Liquids]
  59. evolutionary improver machine - adds 1 positive mutation
  60. de-volver Ray - adds 1 negative mutation
  61. dna resequencer - changes race
  62. rows of cloning tanks with {Dice~1d10} viable clones
  63. shelves of supplies
  64. parking lot with {Dice~2d10} rusted-out automobiles or skimmers. The entry-gate is non-functioning. [Parking]
  65. a very tidy resting spot is nestled in an out of the way part of this room, complete with water and toilet facilities
  66. magic mouth recites a dire warning in several languages and telepathically
  67. food production area. {Dice~%Level%d10} iron ration equivalents are available
  68. maintenance area. There are [Maintenance]
  69. ancient maintenance droid, it will [Special] if repaired
  70. broken colossal war machine, will [Special] if awoken
  71. empty robot charging station
  72. matter replicator device
  73. nanotech doctoring device - restores all HP and removes biological disease and poison
  74. Robodoc terminal
  75. small plasmic energy core - the room is bathed in low-intensity radiation
  76. giant holding tank of mutagenic gel
  77. large holding tank of mutagenic gel that is cracked and leaking. Nearby monsters will have beneficial mutations
  78. nanite cesspit that dissolves organic materials
  79. nanite cesspit that dissolves inorganic materials
  80. rippling breach in space-time that spills out Lovecraftian horrors

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Weview Wednesday - DIY Zenopus vs Sleek Corporate IP Rick

Hey fam! Been off the blogging train for a bit, trying to get my brain in order. Frankly, since the Death of Google Plus and the Great Migration, I haven't been nearly as involved in an online RPG community as I previously was, although I wish that I could be. Working on that, by the way. I'm not great at Twitter, and I find that I piss people off on there who I might otherwise enjoy engaging with, for reasons of privilege and my belief that people give a fuck what I think. The upshot is that I am somewhat heavily invested in my face to face group game, which is typically biweekly. I gave up the reins since I was burning out on DMing all the time, and we drifted from Dungeon Crawl Classics to 5th Edition D&D. I know, I know. Despite my previous proclamations, I will in fact play 5e if there is nothing else going on because a little D&D is good, none is better than bad, and bad D&D is the worst. My DM for this past few weeks has been Eli, a fun roleplayer on the other side of the table and a great DM (all the people in my group are pretty terrific and I value them immensely).

So: I don't pick things to play but I play things. I DO buy things to play, though. One thing i bought is Zach Howard's The Ruined Tower of Zenopus. First, understand that Zach is a bit of a scholar about these things, and I do not believe any person to have more knowledge or research experience in the realm of Holmes-era D&D and early ODnD things. I think that's his schtick; like if you hire a sage then what you get is him. Disclaimer: I know him, sort of, like him and his work, and see him every so often at local regional cons. I think we're related in a long chain of friends who know friends, but I don
't interact with him except online, these days.

Like other people (ahem), even Zach must bow to the blowing of the winds and what he's done here is take a fun scenario, maybe one many people have played, and turned it into a thing that 5th edition players can use as a launching point for a whole campaign. I've not yet played Ghosts of Saltmarsh - and probably never will - but! BUT! If I were, this would be a great way to lead into it. My favorite part of the document is the factions and conversion section which takes the tantalizing bits offered in the original 1977 text and fleshes them out to something on solid ground. This entry-level dungeon can, and should be, perched precariously onto the top of whatever you might desire beneath it. It's a lot like the dungeon beneath the Abbey that was offered in many versions of the DMG as a starting point for gamers - these tutorial dungeons by design leave much to the imagination. Something, I think, that older versions of the game are much, much better at than current versions. The thaumaturge/Keledek can be bested, or go on to become a thorn in the side of player characters for years. The whole place is pregnant with possibility. The adventure is not just a well-written introduction, but a launching point. A not-quite-blank slate for you to play with and make your own. You could pick this up and take it anywhere. And it would be good because it has a strong foundation. Hats off to you, Zach. It shows what love for the source material and an understanding of what the medium can accomplish. What do you get for the price? A literal jumping off point for hours and hours of fun with friends, and of course some tropes that are as warm and comfortable as a bubble-bath. Zach has lovingly taken a 40-odd year old thing and made it readily accessible for current audiences and users of the system. Not much to steal, since they are given to you, and the bones of D&D are literally baked on top of this. A home-base, bandits controlled by evil wizards, winding stairs down into the dark. A respectable and admirable offering. B,B+ for nice layout, heart, and respect and fondness for the source material

Let me offer a counter-example of what I mean, here. 5e seems great on the face of it. Easy to run, easy to hack, easy to leave out burdensome bits. Even says so right in the books, like all good books ought to say. I especially like that they offer many many OPTIONAL rules, variants, and stress time-saving countermeasures for getting bogged-down in rules-buggery. A lot of the PC options seem like they are there for PLAYERS and not DMs to have any thoughts about. What I don't particularly like is that it's a company product , and a brand, and ripe for completist bookshelf pictures. The books are fabulously expensive, too! I remember when I was a kid the TSR hardbounds were expensive but not out of the reach of a teenage guy with a weekend job or access to a lawnmower. Then again, in the 80's our books were in black and white, and these 5e books are beautiful examples of printing technology and material goods.

I picked up this (admittedly clever) monstrosity on a Sunday-night jaunt into Gettysburg. That being the Dungeons and Dragons vs. Rick and Morty boxed set. Well, it's mostly for Rick and Morty fans. I've seen all the seasons on Hulu (so I'm not up to speed), and I like it. It's cleverly written, pretty self-aware, is somewhat nihilistic and awful in a way that even e.g. South Park cannot be. The character of Rick Sanchez is, simply put, reprehensible and the glee with which he tears apart and rebuilds the universe around him (even his dysfunctional family) is part of the appeal of the show. If the Simpsons was about a lovingly dim American family, and South Park and Family Guy are the fast-forwarded products of that, then R&M is the self-hatred and dysfunction and wry awareness of those eras cranked up to 11 and smoking meth. It's interesting that the show highlights that Rick is not just capable of kindness and empathy at times, but he is grotesquely fond of his daughter and his grandson, and although he hurts them over and over in ways that (as a therapist) I find hard to watch, you can see that some part of it is driven by love and kindness (what a critique of our age, eh! more later!)

So, what do you get in the box? Well, a Rick-ified rules manual, mostly lame. The best part about it is the art, and the spell-selection advice from Rick for novice Wizard players. Also, the writer/editor/author-viewpoint of Rick really kicks the shit out of DnD as a bit of a crusty joke not to be take too seriously. Although he has respect for the genre of roleplaying games, much of the text is devoted to explaining that these conventions are mostly absurdities.

The dice are a hot green color - pretty nice for what they are. I haven't tried them yet. The DM screen is terrific - one side covered with absolutely useful information and the other with the clever R&M style box art, which I love, but I probably wouldn't want to stare at it if I wasn't a fan of the show.

The pregens are pretty close to what you might expect, with the caveat that they are sort of tied to R&M characters - the notion being that you are playing Rick's family and a friend playing D&D with Rick as the DM. Meatface, which since I'm not a R&M grognard I can't recall if Meatface is a character in the show or created for this box set. Leading me to the boxed adventure "module".

What do I think? To start with, pretty tediously "self aware", like Rick and Morty's show. Somewhat funny? Yeah, that too. Full of weirdness? Yes, absolutely! There are a few things to steal - in fact I remarked on Twitter some ways back that this isn't a great D&D module for most people who play D&D but it would absolutely make a good module for players of Dungeon Crawl Classics who are (like me) transitioning into D&D5e, because it takes a bunch of tired out tropes and goes out of its way to discard rules and regulations in this regard. Lots of 4th-wall breaking, references to the show, crude teen humor (it's aimed at 13 y/o and up), and roleplay. Highlighting, it seems to me, that you could go through this whole thing and not have a combat round at all until the end (in my mind a mark of almost-quality) and that it's written to appeal to a couple of different kinds of gamers (like 5e, broadly). Most of it will fall flat on you if you're not a fan of the show. But there is a lot to lift. I would probably bring over the Meeseeks box, maybe the Cult of the Buttless, the Ooze Cult, and maybe the Writer's Room encounter. The door to other planes of reality, subtly different than the one you start in, and the reverse trope where the players meet their dopplegangers and are forced to fight them individually. I sort of dig the style of these authors and wouldn't mind seeing what they would do unhindered by the R&M franchise, I guess. There is an encounter with a family of Orcs at what is Orky-Christmas that really throws the tropes of D&D into a stark light, right there in the open and with full knowledge of the authors and (presumably) the people at WoTC who evidently don't take themselves too too seriously. Most of the puzzles are pretty forced, although the one with the undefeatable wizard seems like it would be fun to roleplay. it shows what you can do with a disregard for the rules, and a tired, almost hostile criticism of the source material. B-/C for overuse of the selling-point to the point of weariness, and downright spitefulness of a kind I think is ubiquitous these days

Zach's thing is a couple of bucks. Throw the guy a bone, he's good at what he does and he's part of, if not a bedrock part of, the gaming and blogging community. The R&M thing is more (like maybe 15 times as much!) and if you're not a fan of the show, take a hard pass. If you've got a teen who is into R&M, buy him or her Zach's thing instead. You are, and your young friend is, aware enough to be able to pull off anything in the DnDvsR&M boxed-set and the empty self-hatred that comes in the box won't stain your DM robes.

I'm trying to get my Anchor thing going, and take part in Discord n such. twitter seems a wasteland. I thought about telling Kickstarter to fuck off but there are a great many fun Zines in Zinequest 2, and so I don't know. I backed a couple. I want my friends to be successful. I want us not to turn our hobbies into a side-gig. Does it cheapen us? Cheapen DnD? I don't know. I guess the whole thing is predicated on the purchase of books, to start, yeah. But to wrap this B up, you could get the DnD Basic Rules pdf for nothing, get Zach's Zenopus module for 2 or 3 dollars, find the map at a link and OFF YOU GO. The flipside is for 7 lawns or whatever, teenage me could barely afford the box set of DnDvRnM and I'd be left with wry-dislike and hatred of RPG conventions, a set of dice, and a one-shot that I would never play again that has ties to nothing and nobody else unless you crammed it (and its hefty attitude) into your play. If you leave out the Rick-sposition, it's really a poorly crafted gimmick thing that has been beaten to death over the past 40 years. But aren't they all, at this point?

I don't know, man, I don't know.

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