Archive for October, 2010

OSR Presence Grows at Conventions

It appears to me, by casual observance, that the presence of old school gaming is on the rise in the convention scene.  Back in August I had to search for old school games at GenCon, and while there were enough to fill my schedule, if I hadn’t pre-registered and carefully planned I probably would have been out of luck.  The old school games that were run were scattered about the convention in random corners of various ballrooms.  Old School was at GenCon, but you really had to look for it to find it. Dead Games Society probably had the biggest presence, in fact enough that they’ve now qualified as a Premier Group at GenCon, with their own section in the GenCon forums.  Given how on the ball these guys seem, I’ll likely run my games under their banner next year.

Looking at smaller local cons, I’ve recently discovered that in addition to GaryCon, there are actually a couple other old school focused conventions sprouting up, including the North Texas RPG Con and more recently Fal-Con in CT.  Unfortunately GaryCon and NTRPGCon are both too far for me to get to, and while I really wanted to go to Fal-Con, it was just too soon after my return from England to make it happen.  Still, three conventions dedicated to purely old school is pretty good.

The next convention I will attend is TotalCon, right here in my home state of MA.  Based on my experience at GenCon, I posted to their forums to find out who besides me and Frank Mentzer (who attends every year) would be running old school stuff and if we couldn’t request the convention organizers to put our games near each other.  The response has been pretty strong.  Not only are there a lot more old schoolers running stuff this year, but apparently Frank is being joined by Tim Kask in the list of old school luminaries in attendance.  The organizers have promised us a dedicated space, and even added “Old School RPG” as an official event category to the registration system.

I know all this is probably anecdotal, but it certainly feels to me like the OSR is starting to penetrate the convention scene more and more.  I’m very curious to see what next year’s GenCon will be like.

Tower of London

On our last day in London we visited the Tower of London.  The night before we saw on the news that the American government was considering issuing a warning to American travelers in Europe to stay away from public places due to a possible Al-Qaeda attack.  We briefly debated how seriously to take this, but then went anyway.  Later I heard on the news that the warning may have been a cover to detract attention from an attack staged  somewhere in Iraq.  Thankfully either way nothing came of it.

The tower was awesome, I think the pictures speak for themselves.  You’ll see a lot of pictures of the armor display in there, with its weird nightclub -like lighting.  I think, however, that my favorite part was the first tower we entered (I don’t recall which one it was) that was dressed to look like the royal bed chambers as they were in the medieval period.

Anyway, here are the pictures:


Here are the photos from Harrod’s.  Harrod’s is truly the strangest store I’ve ever been to.  It was at least five stories tall, and sold pretty much everything you could possibly imagine.  Except gaming stuff.  Yes, I looked.

English Churches

dsc_0046I’ve really fallen behind posting pictures from my trip to England.  Jenn has already posted all of hers, and I’m barely on day three.  I blame the annoying cold we seem to have brought home with us.  Better to be sick right after vacation than during I suppose.

Anyway, on our second full day in London we decided to see the churches: Wesminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral.  If there was time, we’d check out Shakespeare’s Globe Theater as well.  (Or perhaps it was St. Paul’s that was the optional one.)  Anyway, we started with Westminster Abbey and both really enjoyed it, much more than I think either of us expected.  Or at least more than I expected.  Unfortunately they don’t allow photography inside, so all you get is a couple pictures of the outside my description.

The interior was awesome — totally packed with tombs and memorials to the royalty of England, as well as some other famous personages.  Each marker was beautiful in its own right, and they were really packed in.  There was barely enough room to walk the tourist path through the place.  But more than just beautiful sculpture, there was a very cool sense of a mixture of history and utility.  This wasn’t just a tourist site, this was a working church.  What really hit this home for me was when we got to poet’s corner, and encountered the Tennyson Society performing a little memorial due to its being the anniversary of his death.  I stayed for the whole thing, and really enjoyed just standing there in Westminster listening to a woman recite some of his poetry.  It was really awesome.

After that, we headed on over to St. Paul’s, but after poking our heads inside decided it was not worth the cost of entry just to see the view from the top.  We wanted to move on, so we crossed the millennium bridge and walked over to Shakespeare’s Globe theater, which sadly was closed.  Finally, we decided to just cut our losses and go check out Harrod’s before returning to the hotel for the evening.  I’ll save the Harrod’s pictures for another post.  For now, enjoy Westminster, St. Paul’s, and a few other sites along the way:

British Museum

dsc_0045It’s hard to think of the day we visited the British Museum as the second day of our trip, I keep thinking it was the first.  Probably because the day we left pretty much ran right into our first day there, like one long 40+ hour day.  Anyway, it was kind of rainy on our first real day in London and we decided to visit the British Museum.  I found it much like any other museum really.  I gravitated towards the Medieval Europe section, both because that’s always my favorite part, but also I hoped this being London there would be an especially large collection to be seen.

While that wasn’t actually so, I did find one thing that really interested me: hoards.  There were several displays of “hoards” found buried in some farmer’s field, usually by a local guy with a metal detector, consisting of a lot of coins and often pieces of jewelry.  Of course, this strikes me as right out of a D&D treasure table, but I also found myself wondering why on earth someone would bury a large collection of money like this, and then forget all about it.  The only thing I could think of was that perhaps it was done during a time of conflict.  I could imagine some rich merchant on seeing his town attacked by invaders (I imagined Vikings) burying his money in some remote location in hopes they wouldn’t find it, and then getting himself killed trying to flee the area.  Then it sits there for hundreds of years until some 20th century fellow with his metal detector digs it up.  Of course, this immediately draws my imagination to how to incorporate these ideas into D&D.  I think I could feel much more justified hiding random caches of treasure in my game if I can come up with back-stories like this.

Another interesting fact I discovered: ancient coins are much smaller than I always imagine them.  This is probably because of D&D encumbrance rules always telling me that 10 coins weight 1 pound.  A coin that weighs 1/10 of a pound must be pretty heavy indeed!  In fact, on this trip I discovered an interesting fact: originally 240 silver pennies weighed one pound, which is why the English currency is in fact called a “pound”.  In the old system there were 12 pennies to the schilling, and 20 schillings to the pound, thus 240 pennies to the pound.  Anyway, this has got me thinking that I should probably change this rule in my home campaign.  Perhaps I’ll make it 100 coins to the pound, just to keep the math easy.

The last bit of gaming inspiration I found was a pair of gates from ancient Assyria.  They’re enormous and really cool looking, and also there was a convenient map of the place they were found.  A map that just begs to be numbered and stocked.  I’m sure I’ll transcribe that to graph paper eventually.

Speaking of ancient Assyria and gaming, the last thing that really caught my eye was a huge set of stone gates.  It wasn’t the gates themselves though, I didn’t even take a picture of that, it was what was scratched onto one of the two foot high edges — a board game.  Apparently it’s a Royal Game of Ur board probably scratched by some bored palace guards assigned to watch the gate.  It’s just too bad that the rules of the game are lost to time, I’d live to try and play it.

Anyway, that was our trip to the British Museum.  And somehow, I’ve managed to make most of this post all about gaming.  Anyway, here are the photos.  Enjoy.

And We’re Back

Well, it turns out only once during our trip to England did I have both the internet access and enough free time to post.  Still, that’s better than none, right?  Now I’m fishing through over 500 photos I took, doing laundry, buying groceries, and taking care of all the other things involved with settling back in after an extended international trip.  Oh yeah, it was awesome.

I’ll be posting a lot of those photos in the future.  This will probably bring the focus of this blog away from gaming for a little while, though you can certainly bet there will be a few places I found in England that were pretty inspiration for my game.  I’m already contemplating how best to convert my map of Skipton Castle into something that works on graph paper.

100_0110Anyway, all the pictures previously posted were from a bus tour of London we took immediately after arriving.  With only 2 hours of sleep (we had super tail wind that shortened the flight to just 5 hours) and being there far to early to check into our hotel, sitting on a bus as it cruised through the city was about all the energy we could muster.  I don’t have much to say about those photos, they’re pretty self explanatory.  The one picture of the house with the dog shaped shrubbery is apparently where J.K. Rowling lives.

I noticed these two pictures sneaked into that group of photos when I posted them.  This was the very first shop we discovered after leaving our hotel and going out to explore London.  Apparently you just can’t escape the USA.  It was pretty funny to see what they had on their shelves that was uniquely American.  Apparently we’re all about the PB&J and Fluff sandwiches.  There was another shelf full of sodas apparently that I missed.

100_0111Well, like I said, there will be more exciting photos to come.  Now though, with no groceries in the house, I really have to get out and find some breakfast.  I’m actually really looking forward to a big hearty American breakfast.  This is apparently not something the British are really into, and breakfast for us over there was pretty consistently dry toast, pastry, and coffee.  At least the coffee was easier to find than expected, thank goodness for all the French cafes that have invaded England.

But I’m rambling, and rumbling.  More later.

Guess Where I Am

100_0105Yesterday was spent attempting to overcome jet-lag by taking a relaxing tour of the city on top of a bus.  I took some shots along the way, though half-way through my crappy little camera gave up working, again.  Looks like any more photos I want to take on this trip will have to be taken with the cumbersome DSLR.  Oh well, it takes much better photos anyway.  Anyway, here are the photos, I’m sure you’ll be able to work out our location.