Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Getting Our Jolly's Part II: "Cave Troll"

The second Tom Jolly title we played on the 21'st was the fantasy-themed area-control game Cave Troll.  If you're not familiar with the game, just click on Andrew's handy "Rules" tutorial immediately below or feel free to jump right into Part One.



Cave Troll Rules





Cave Troll Part One

Round One:  Going first, I'm limited to one action, so I bring out a lowly Adventurer.  Mike follows suit but adds a Wraith to the mix with his second action.  Andrew uses the first of his three available actions to play an Adventurer (since all the cool kids seem to be doing it).  He also draws an Artifact and plays an Orc.  Chad, with a full compliment of four actions plays an early Treasure Chest and summons a Knight to guard it.   

Round Two:  I draw an Artifact, seed a Wraith in the central pit and then occupy a four-coin room using two move actions.  Mike juggles a Knight and an Adventurer to maximize his coinage.  Andrew moves his brave Adventurer deep into the maze to claim a valuable five-coin room.  He scores the room then the entire board.  Chad continues to re-enforce his Treasure Room in the north-west corner of the board.  Asterisk alert: no-one seem to notice when Chad unwittingly keeps a timely scoring card to himself and then beams a Thief right into the middle of the board!



Round Three:  I spawn an Orc in the central pit and then bring out my Knight / Dwarf tag-team.  After tabling an innocuous Adventurer, Mike Cave Troll's Chad's "Honey Pot".  Only an Adventurer suffering from swordrectile dysfunction manages to crawl away intact.  Mike also mows my gold-colored lawn with an invading Barbarian.  Andrew's "non-greedy" Dwarf finds a respectable chamber to exploit.  After doing damage control, Chad pulls an Artifact and then moves a dude into scoring position.

Round Four:  Another of my Adventurers seeks to even the odds against Mike's marauders.  Mike keeps battling me for the right to claim a four-coin chamber.  After conjuring a Thief, Andrew uses a Wand of Speed to sneak his Adventurer of Awesomeness into Fort Knox, thus triggering another well-timed scoring round.  Fearful of being insta-ganked, Chad's Dwarf tentatively hits the table while his bold Adventurer moves into Andrew's turf.  He also sends Andrew's Thief running for the latrines with his Wraith.



Round Five:  I kick Mike out of my hizzy with an Amulet of Good Riddance, stomp the shit out of Andrew's gold vault and score up a room.  Mike puts a Knight-guarded Treasure Chest into play and then horns in on Chad's industrious mining operation with his stealthy Thief.  Andrew manages to slap the hysterics out of this out footpad and send her back into danger.  Chad's Orc turns Mike's Thief into a pincushion.

Round Six:  Another Adventurer appears and my Orc suddenly goes all hate crime on Andrew's Dwarf.  Mike's Dwarf and Barbarian team up to usurp my holdings.  Andrew brings out (yet) another Adventurer and his Bionic Barbarian tries to smash through a wall.  Chad shuffles his personnel, looking to optimize coin production.                


Round Seven:  I send my Thief deep into the maze to find the mother-lode while a new Adventurer bolsters my defense.  Mike moves out of Chad's hood and continues to urinate in my Corn Flakes.  Andrew gets more Adventurers on the case and laments his Barbarian's distinct lack of Orc-killing prowess.   



Cave Troll Part Two & Post-Game Review     

Round Seven (continued):  Chad viciously nukes a rival-choked room.  I lose my plucky Thief and Mike's Dwarf bites the dust.  Mike takes this opportunity to kick sand in the face of Andrew's Adventurer with his Barbarian.  After using a mind-controlling Artifact to send Mike packing, he sneaks into a valuable spot with his Thief and then scores the room.

Round Eight:  I flip a room with a Treasure Chest and then score the entire board.  Mike finds an Artifact and plays an Adventurer.  Andrew brings down the hammer and I somehow manage to invent the concept of unconscious reverse psychology.  Chad's Barbarian goes on a rampage and his threat to finish the game proves accurate.





I find it difficult to decide which game I like more: this one or Drakon.  Both have a surprising amount of depth and I can't help but think that we've barely scratched the surface RE: the strategic value of the Monsters.  The beautiful components and variable powers of the figures also helps to give Cave Troll a nice thematic polish.

Five pips outta six!




Friday, March 23, 2012

Getting Our Jolly's Part I: "Drakon"

We were slated to start our Twilight Imperium campaign on the 14'th but we had to postpone when Mother Nature decided to be a King Kamehameha bee-hotch and coat the roads with a sheet of ice.

This week we found out that Prodigal Son Mike had an opportunity to come back into the fold for a night of gaming, so we proposed a couple of Tom Jolly classics that he hadn't played yet.

First up: Drakon.


DRAKON RULES & GOOFY PREAMBLE




GAME ONE


I jump out to an early coin lead, effectively pinning a bulls-eye on my back.  After breaking Wind, Andrew summons the wyrm (um, Drakon, I mean) and uses him to block Chad's coin minting factory.  Chad and Mike begin spelunking together (Awwwwwww...).  

After a brief sit n' spin I try to establish a golden loop.  Mike becomes the first dude to control Drakon, but struggles to determine who best to sic him on.  Andrew gets Blown and then proceeds to remodel the dungeon.  Chad finds the Key to efficient movement.  Andrew finally scores some not-so-phat lootz.  Chad puts a Floating Room in front of me and I set course for another Yellow Brick Road.  


After Andrew poops in Chad and Mike's path, I inexplicably undo the damage.  He punishes my temerity by drop-kicking me into an adjacent room.  I throw nobility to the wind and start robbing Chad blind.  Mike starts clocking gold coins like E.T. picking up Reece's Pieces.  After pilfering one too many times from Chad he coats me in BBQ sauce and leaves me for the dragon.

I respond with a tempting rendition of Stairway to Heaven on the harp.  Chad is lured in, but Mike manages to escape and then uses his special ability to score a brand new hand of tiles.  Mike and Andrew set themselves up with dueling Teleport tiles for the photo finish!  






GAME TWO
                 

Mike does a quick switcheroo.  Mighty Drakon appears to be Andrew's bitch, since, once again, he's the first to summon him to the table.  I use a Mind Control tile to dangle Chad in front of the dragon.  Chad sets his tile layout for M.A.S (Maximum Andrew Screwage).  Drakon is dispatched to guard a coin chamber.  

Mike isolates me in my very own section of the dungeon, where I immediately try and hatch a get-rich- quick scheme.  Mike gets windy, Andrew pays nice and I claim a coin.  After stalking Andrew, Chad puts a tile-destroying room in my path which I promptly use to devalue their golden autobahn.  

Realizing their oversight, Chad and Andrew re-construct the link between my desert island and the dungeon proper.  Chad follows up with a Key room, I use my character ability to minimize Drakonic damage and Mike sets up a line of coins that would make Mario proud.  

After I'm caught dipping into Mike's "Honey Pot" (!), Chad uses Magical Shift to screw with my plans.  He then splits from Andrew, concerned about threats of ass-beatery.  Mike keeps remodeling the dungeon and I branch off from a Key chamber to try and cut into his horde of gold.  Chad repos a Harp room to use for an evil scheme.  

Mike retaliates against my pilfering ways with a giant, green, fire-breathing attack dog.  I then proceed to waste several turns thanks to an ill-placed Floating Room.  Chad steals wantonly from Andrew, who keeps throwing caltrops in my path.  Mike makes a premature declaration and it's down to the wire for a surprise win!





I positively love Drakon.  If you're a sucker for a fantasy theme and like watching your opponents rip their collective hair out, this is a must-buy.  It's simple, easy to teach, and rife with strategic possibilities.  And, as part of Fantasy Flight's Silver Line series, it's also not gonna break the bank in these tough economic times!

Five pips outta six! 


                     


Sunday, March 11, 2012

No, "Eclipse" Most Certainly Did NOT Kill "Twilight"

Andrew missed our inaugural play-through of Eclipse so, when he started to threaten the rest of us with random nut shots if any other game was tabled last week, it didn't take us very long decide.  Besides, the first game was so fun that we didn't exactly need to be water-boarded in order to play it again.
 
So, with Chad away on bidness, me (yellow), Andrew (red) and Dean (blue) ran the game again  Wednesday night.  Here's how it went...


Oh, if you need a rules overview, you'll find one back on the first post.  

Part One


I kick the game off by exploring an "Outer Rim" system that gives me a quick jump on victory points and a meager cash prize.  The second is a core world that boosts my other resources.  I also prove to be a sucker for star destroyers and fembots, but not necessarily in that order.     

Meanwhile, Dean discovers a planet full of Reed Richard-types, explores a system rife with hostiles, constructs his own army of  Kelly LeBrocks and hits the science lotto after stumbling across an otherwise mediocre system.

Andrew, in his first game, does his best to explore the game's boundaries.  He bumps into a galactic hornet's nest, claims a decidedly-less-hostile world, declares his contempt for victory points, finds a derelict ship, keeps turning up danger and then cobbles together his own Battlestar.

Bonus: the destructive power of a miss-heard earworm is revealed!      


Part Two


Andrew builds a pair of little red space corvettes, buys upgrades as a preamble to fighting "shitheads", mobilizes for invasion and then promptly gets his ass kicked up around his ears.

Dean institutes his trickle-down theory of Dean-O-Nomics, bumps into more aliens who aren't keen on the concept of "annexation", builds some sweet new rides, performs a foreclosure on a colonist and then gives Andrew a great big paper cut and pours lemon juice all over it.

I plant my flag in two juicy new resource worlds, discover monies in deep space, slap together some plasma cannons and keep mindlessly gobbling up victory points like a fat kid with a bag o' Smarties.  

Bonus:  We humbly propose a bold choice for the inevitable soundtrack to Eclipse: The Motion Picture.  Plus: COOKIES!!!


Part Three


I give my economy a hummer, build some cruisers, upgrade my ships to run on pure awesomonium, install some BFG's, strap on some ablative armor and finally discover some innocent locals to slaughter.  

Dean hires Space Dwarves, sneakily researches and upgrades in silence, gets his ship assembly line a-crankin', moves his armada into position and then proceeds to annihilate indigenous aliens like an Intergalactic Conquistador.      

Andrew begins the painful rebuilding process by funding his brainiacs, discovering a planet filled with Stephen Hawking clones, settling a prosperous system and performing a power upgrade.  He's also mortified to learn that his costs aren't cumulative after all.  Whoops!  

Bonus: The Hulk Hogan sex tape becomes an unfortunate topic of conversation and Andrew destroys half the galaxy with a Z-Ball-shaped Death Star.       


Part Four

 
I finally venture into hostile territory, cobble together a few DS-9's, build a shit-ton of new ships, tap a system for untold riches, win my first battle decisively, make an ill-advised non-aggression pact, explore deep space and promptly find myself painted into an interstellar corner. 

Dean's production goes into hyperspace, he invests in some non-pregnatable shielding, keeps upgrading his ships in silence, frets about subjugating Coruscant, subjugates Coruscant and then horns in on Andrew's revenge.

Andrew snags a money planet, buys (used) sexbots to celebrate, goes missing for a bit, hires professional excavators, christens a dreadnought, upgrades the bejesus out of his ships, rallies his fleet to take on his old rivals and then proceeds to destroy his own game board.

Bonus: The immortal phrase: "Turtling is the ticket to second place" is uttered.         


Conclusion and Review

I buy a figment of Arthur C. Clarke's imagination, start grasping at victory point straws, engage in a self-fulfilling prophecy and then stand by helplessly as history repeats itself.

Dean stealthily follows suit, keeps piling on the build actions, transforms his ships into Voltron and dishes out a shellacking.

Andrew finally confronts his old nemesis but it turns out to be a kamikaze action.  


The General Consensus: Eclipse is a pretty awesome little galactic empire building game that, unlike it's big brothers, can easily be played in one evening.  The at-a-glance reference card simply and elegantly simulates ship customization, tech development and the game's clever economic engine.

But comparing it to Twilight Imperium is like comparing Green Day's "Coming Clean" with "Only In Dreams" by Weezer.  They're both awesome, but for totally different reasons.

Speak of the devil, next week on "YAFGB", it's Part One of our epic series on Twilight Imperium.  

Well, it was nice knowing y'all.   


Thursday, March 1, 2012

League of Paper Champions: "A Piece of Paizo"

After such a long-winded preamble, you might think that the Pathfinder Beginner Box is an odd first choice for the League of Paper Champions to tackle.



After all, didn't I just finish saying that the 3 *slash* 3.5 edition of D&D was like an RPG albatross hanging around my neck?

Yes, but if someone were to put a crossbow to my cranium and force me to run a game right now, I'd probably fall back on Type 3 / 3.5 just 'cuz it's been my sole sustenance for the past twelve years.

Besides, there's a coupla things that actually make some sense in this version.  At least in theory.  Examples:
  • Players seem to dig having more quantifiable things to do in the form of Skills and Feats.  
  • High rolls = good times in every possible situation.
  • There are only three saving throw categories modified by character ability.  None of them refer to avoiding peril at the hands of a phallic object.  
  • Armor classes go up not down.  I.E. adios, THACO! 
  • Simple tactical modifiers for things like flanking, charging, attacks of opportunity or firing into a melee. I don't want a simulation of a medieval scrum, but, hey, a bit o' chrome is always nice.  
  • MINIS!  MINIS!  MINIS!      
As for the conversational hot potato that is 4'th edition, I just wanna say that it's not for me.  I haven't played it myself, but after listening to every Penny Arcade podcast of the game I know for sure that it's not for me. Honestly, it looks like a cool, innovative system but it's just far too removed from the game I grew up with.  

Ergo, the concept of a cleaned-up 3.5 in the form of Pathfinder is still pretty attractive to me.  'Specially when it comes in such a lurvely box packed to the rafters with all kinds o' cool bitz.  

So, after scoring a copy of this bad boy on a steal just before the holidays, I was chompin' at the bit to take 'er out for a spin.  Last Saturday I assembled the League of Paper Champions together at Casa del Me to play out the introductory adventure included in the Game Master's Guide.        

Player Bios:

Cheryl has the least amount of fantasy RPG experience.  She might not be totally acclimated to the sometimes-overwhelming appearance of a fully-loaded character sheet, but her keen tactical mind and a wealth of common sense has proved indispensable in the past.  She's predisposed to playing elves and has gravitated towards Druids or Wizards in the past.  She's much more interested in parleying and problem solving then chucking daggers and making goblin-kabobs but when her hand is forced, she's not to be trifled with.    


Due to her recent experience in playing a stealthy character in Skyrim (who seems to be able to steal the pants off a guard commander at will), she agreed to play the elf Rogue Merisiel

Dean is a veteran player who often gets stuck playing the Cleric just because no one else wants to play the Cleric.  Even when forced to assume this role, Dean does a commendable job healing his compatriots and providing well-timed buffs.  Since he probably grew up at the mercy of several sadistic DM's over the years, Dean has a tendency to be overly-cautious at times.  But, as a great man once said, "When everyone's out to get you, paranoia is just good thinking."  


Once again Dean got stuck with the last remaining character: a human fighter which he promptly re-dubbed Fred Manfredgensen.  Listen carefully as he takes what might have been a thankless role, alters his own play-style to fit the character and instantly creates a dynamic and memorable session.

Mark is another experienced dungeon crawler.  To counter-balance Dean's previous tendency to tip-toe, Mark is a lot more likely to swing a sword and ask questions later.  As a result, he typically plays fighters who, for some reason, always ends up with less hit points then the party mage.

Here, Mark gets to play a Wizard (with the decidedly cool handle of Sel-Kun) and seems a bit tentative due to his comparative squishiness.  Nevertheless, his character proves to be pretty effective in combat, which I believe was Mark's primary goal.  

Sabina has a bit more spelunking under her belt then Cheryl, having participated in a side campaign run by another DM along with Dean, Mark and I.  She doesn't seem particularly married to any specific character type, having portrayed Rogues and Fighter/Wizards in the past.    


Of all the members of the League, I think she'd be the one most traumatized by playing olde skool D&D, since she has a habit of lobbying for free experience points and additional abilities at the start of the campaign just for coming up with an elaborate character backstory.  This time out Sabina tried her darndest to play a "war-like" Cleric named Kaylan but she just kept sliding back into her natural role as diplomat and peace-maker.

 ***

WARNING #1: Since this is a play-through of the starter adventure included in the boxed set ("Black Fang's Dungeon"), the entire thing is one big spoiler!  If you're a potential player, do not listen to this or you'll ruin all the surprises.  If you're gonna DM it, feel free to listen with a pen and paper handy to help catalog my incessant fuck-ups.

WARNING #2: In the immoral words of Jerry Holkins: "This podcast features adults using adult language.  You have been warned."  

Pathfinder Introduction

In which I give the players a quick orientation of the generally-well-laid-out Pathfinder character sheet. Everyone gets a chance to inventory their own abilities and equipment and then ponder the odds of successfully killing their fellow Leaguer in order to steal their shit.  




Part One

In which Cheryl proves to be wily (not to mention stabby) with her Sneak Attacks, Dean discovers that he couldn't hit a cow in the ass with a shovel, Mark does his best impersonation of a certain Thunder God and Sabina revels in some neo-OD&D clerical blood-spillage.  





Part Two

Cheryl realizes that the best path may not be the most obvious one, Dean creates a new alignment called "Lawful Belligerent", Mark has no qualms about paying a hot goddess for her "boons" and Sabina wins the "World's Most Ironic Cleric of War" Award.    

Meanwhile, I bring an Italian Goblin King to vivid life, moderate an impromptu debate about the comparative size of demi-human naughty bits and risk life and limb after failing to posses half the hutzpah of a Zak Smith.











Part Three


Cheryl is rankled by her new nickname and mistakes "humility" for "humiliation", Mark magically manifests the hoariest of hoary D&D cliches and manages to resist the temptation to de-pantaloon, Dean does a little arachnid cranial surgery and Sabina just can't resist a quest for an obscure limited-edition toy. 

On my side of the table, Shelob fails to confirm her crit and I realize to my horror that the group I've assembled consists of one narcissist, two crazy people and Rick Santorum.       






Part Four

Dean gets "raked" by the living-challenged, Mark tries to make a case for putting the fighter down like Old Yeller, the skellies feel the Wrath of Sabina and Cheryl makes the highlight reel.








Part Five

The group spies the dungeon crawl equivalent of a dangling carrot, "Black Fang" makes a stunning entrance (proving that the locals weren't just being colorful), Dean does his best John Belushi / "Samurai Deli" impersonation, Sabina blesses her eclectic flock, Mark sticks his staff in a hornet's nest and, despite insisting that she's "dextrous", Cheryl gets slimed.  





Part Six

In which Deep Blue is tapped to calculate the group's "to hit" bonus.  Sabina ends up resembling a certain flame-haired, steroid-ridden "comedian" and then dreams of cheese and evisceration.  Mark pays the price for hitting a dragon in the 'nards with a Magic Missile but his mutant healing powers eventually kick in.  Dean performs a timely surgical strike and then earns the dubious title of WORST PARAMEDICS EVAR.  Cheryl stabs outside the box and earns the slightly-less-dubious title of LEAST INCOMPETENT FIRST-AIDER (EVAR).

An extended (and humorous) bout of analysis paralysis then follows.







Part Seven & Post-Game Analysis

In the final segment, Dean and Cheryl shake hands with the goblins while concealing knives behind their backs, Sabina enacts that old chestnut "physician heal thyself" and reveals that she's a War Priestess With A Heart Of Gold.  After finding a certain pyromaniacal scroll, Mark does his best Beavis impersonation ("Heh, heh.  FIRE!!! FIRE!!!").  

We also give some post-game commentary about what we liked about the Pathfinder Beginner Box and what had us scratching our heads.  




Origins

I really miss my role-playing games.

Every week as a kid I'd guide my peeps though a death-trapped maze in Dungeons & Dragons, have my players tangle with The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in TSR's Marvel Super Hero RPG or encourage them to blast stormtroopers in the mush courtesy of West End Game's take on Star Wars.

When Dungeons & Dragons first exploded in the public consciousness back in 1974 it wasn't just considered the domain of nerds.  The game was attractive to a whole cross-section of backgrounds, ages, professions and interests (if not a variety of genders, regrettably).

In 1975, the game was even featured prominently in Jon Freeman's book The Playboy Winner's Guide to Board Games:

"Dungeons & Dragons...is far and away my favorite game.  It is appallingly addictive: I know several enthusiasts who spend more time at it then they do at work.  Nonetheless, while its appeal is wider then I once believed possible, it is not for everyone.  If you find fairy tales hopelessly childish, playing until 4 a.m. unthinkable, exercising your imagination difficult, and 'play acting' a bore, you are obviously not going to be happy with FRP (fantasy role-playing) games.  If, however, you were interested enough to read this far and don't find those caveats daunting, D&D may be one of the most exciting discoveries of your life."

Freeman's love for the game is obvious, but his insistence on adopting those awkward "caveats" is exactly what earned pen-and-paper role-playing games their scarlet letter of geekery.  I've played D&D (and their ilk) many times over the past thirty years and I can tell you in no uncertain terms that:

(1)  The flavor of D&D is entirely dependent on the person running the game.  It doesn't have to be an infantile high-fantasy wank-fest that plays out like a bad fusion of Masters of the Universe and My Little Pony.  It can be a combination of Flesh + Blood meets Evil Dead meets The DaVinci Code if you want it to be.

(2) I have NEVER played the game until 4 a.m.  EVER.  I had a strict curfew as a kid and as an adult my lame ass has to be up (and reasonably mobile) every morning @ 7 a.m. sharp.  Apparently Monsieur Freeman thought that the only way to play these games was to organize weekend sleep-overs.

(3) Exercising your imagination is required, but this is no more strenuous then activating your mind's eye while reading a good novel and then thinking up fun and creative ways to fuck around with the plot.

(4) 'Play acting' has always a point of contention for me.  Yes, you can speak in the voice of your character if you want, but if aren't aiming for an Oscar nomination then you can simply say: "My character asks the blacksmith why he's acting like such a douche".  Having said that, while running the game, I tend to adopt all kinds of kooky voices and accents just because I'm a shameless ham who's middle name might as well be "Toupie".

So, largely due to the vaguely aberrant behavior associated with role-playing games, the entire hobby got lumped in with wearing fake Spock ears and eschewing a regular regimen of personal hygiene.

This is all kinds of funny to me since I think it's super geeky when dudes talk pornographically about power tools, debate whether or not Rollie Fingers was the undisputed pioneer of modern relief pitching or willingly venture out in public wearing nothing but purple body paint, a g-string, an oversized foam novelty hand and a beer helmet.

I guess it's just a matter of what society deems "acceptable".  Just bear in mind that this is the same society that deemed Jack and Jill acceptable enough to be green-lit.

Curiously enough, most of us don't seem to have an issue playing D&D when we buffer the experience with an X-Box controller or a keyboard.  After all, what is Dragon Age, Kingdoms of Amalur, The Elder Scrolls, Baldur's Gate, The Witcher, Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, World of Warcraft, Kingdom Hearts, Neverwinter Nights, Diablo and Dark Souls if not D&D rendered digitally and bereft of face-to-face social interaction?

So, because of all the stigma, I dropped out of RPG's for the longest time.  But when Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films captured the collective imagination of my friends back in 2001 I leapt at the chance to (re-)introduce D&D to them.  Since I was working full-time back then, I convinced myself that I didn't have time to world-build from scratch.  So, not knowing any better, I picked up the 3'rd Edition starter box set which was available at the time and let my players rechristen the pre-gen characters lurking inside:


(As a side note, I've always thought that the cover to this thing was kinda ridiculous.  Shouldn't these clueless morons be facing the other way?  Okay, maybe they're running away from the massive adult red dragon in the background, but if that's the case, shouldn't there be four adventurer-shaped holes in the door like in a Road Runner cartoon?  Shouldn't they look completely shit-baked instead of supremely confident? Hmmmm, maybe the dragon's actually a member of the party.  Exactly how grossly overpowered was the Dragonborn race when it was first introduced?  Oh, well, whatever....)

The six quests included were kinda 'M'eh' but I had fun knitting them into what passed for a cohesive campaign and my players seemed to have a ball with it.  But even with everything served up to me on a cardboard platter, I still felt like work.  Mainly for three reasons:

(1)  For the last adventure I added a sixth player against my better judgement.  I should have trusted my instincts: it proved to be one player too many.

(2)  I'd never run anything other then my own original adventures before.  Trying to adapt someone else's material always seemed unwieldily.  No matter how "prepared" I was, I always felt like I was forgetting something or shortchanging the source material.  

(3)  Although the rules contained herein featured a lot of logical evolutions over my familiar (and beloved) red box D&D and AD&D, it still felt oddly foreign and, as a result, kinda cumbersome.

So, the game fell dormant for me again until last year when I resurrected the campaign in order to give us all a sense of closure.  This was the first original adventure I'd crafted for my campaign and, looking back on it now, I fear that it was hideously linear, restrictive and rail-like.  Once again I feared that my beloved past-time would fall by the wayside.

But then something miraculous happened.  I started reading the tireless RPG blogs of Zak Smith, Jeff Rients, Michael Moscrip and many more.  In doing so I had an epiphany.

My illusory mental blocks melted away.  Turns out, I didn't have to settle for the most recent iterations of D&D just because it was the more "up to date" or "evolved" product.  Regardless of what edition I played, I didn't have to mindlessly adopt every single rule.  I could jettison the rules I hated and adopt the ones I liked from any edition!  Hell, why not explore options completely outside of D&D?         

I know this probably sounds kinda elementary to a lot of you, but until you see someone do this in creative, effective and easy-to-run practice, it all seems like intimidating theory.

So, last month, I hand-picked four gaming friends who I thought would, at the very least, make for an interesting group.  I assembled this fellowship (hereby dubbed "The League of Paper Champions") for three main reasons:

(1)  To determine what RPG experience they'd enjoy the most.
(2)  To discover what game was the most fun and easy to run.
(3)  Based on the two previous answers, I want to know what system game is most likely to hit the
       table in the future.  

I kicked off the first of four experiments in role-playing this past Saturday.  

In the next entry you'll actually hear what happened.