Category Archives: Junk

If You’re Not Metagaming, You’re Not Trying Hard Enough

Metagaming Foolish Narrator!Whenever an obnoxious pedant decides that people on the Internet need to hear their opinions on RPGs, it’s only a matter of time before they pen a condescending diatribe about metagaming. And I’m nothing if not an obnoxious pedant. So, after six years of angrily foisting my RPG opinions onto the Internet, it’s about time I got around to this.

TL;DR, metagaming is fine, and trying to stop your players from doing it is bad. This is old fuckin’ news to a lot of you I’m sure, but after some recent discussions I’ve had, I feel compelled to explore the reasoning personally. Before we even get into what metagaming is, though, I want to take a look at the name of the game. Literally, “role playing game,” and specifically what is meant by “role playing.”

Some folks will argue that it refers to thespianism. That the player “plays the role” of their character, in the same sense a stage actor does. The goal of the game, then, is to get inside that fictional character’s head. To understand them, and to portray them as faithfully to that understanding as you can.

This interpretation makes a certain kind of sense. I can see where it comes from, but it ignores the fact that RPGs grew out of the miniature wargaming community. The people who coined the phrase “Role Playing Game” were trying to describe what made their game different. And the people they were describing it to had a background of controlling dozens or hundreds of toy soldiers on a field.

In this new kind of game, instead of controlling an army, the player controls a single playing piece. That might sound limiting at first, but, they’re controlling it in a much more intimate way. The player doesn’t simply issue orders to the unit, they are the unit. If the player wishes, they can make their playing piece dance or sing, or recite an endless string of references to Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The playing piece will never lose morale and flee from battle, unless the player decides it’s time to flee. In other words, the player doesn’t merely control their piece, they take on the role of their piece.

Now, I’m not a historian. I don’t have factual evidence that this is where the term “Role Playing Game” came from. As far as I’m aware, nobody present at the time ever bothered to put their reasoning into words. I’m happy to be proven wrong if someone has a source, but until then, I find this to be a much more likely explanation than any thespian interpretation.

Of course, none of that actually matters. Aside from etymological curiosity, there’s no reason to quibble over why the name is what it is. After 40 years, and countless thousands of iterations, you can’t break down the name of the genre into its component parts and expect to draw any meaning from them. The phrase “Role Playing Game” has a definition separate from the words “role,” “playing,” and “game.” Much like the genre of Science Fiction is no longer strictly about fictional science, as it was in the days of Jules Vern.

I’m not interested in restricting what an RPG can and cannot be. Things grow, and change, and evolve from their original intent. That’s a good and beautiful thing. I only bring any of this up because it’s the source of so many misconceptions about the oldschool style of play. On more than one occasion, I’ve been told by very angry people that “if you’re not role playing, why participate in role playing games?” It’s a silly attitude, and it’s one that perpetuates the myth of metagaming into the modern day.

Angry Old ManSo…what is Metagaming?

Metagaming is bringing your own real-world knowledge to bear against game problems. A classic example would be using fire against trolls because you (the player) have read the monster manual, despite the fact that you (the character) have never encountered a troll before. Other examples would be making a decision based on the referee’s facial expression (“She’s smiling! Retreat!”); or their past behavior (“Don’t open the chest. Molly always traps the first chest in every dungeon.”); or even just genre convention (“Dead bodies always end up turning into zombies. I chop off all their heads.”) Some people will even argue that it’s metagaming to make good choices if you don’t think your character would make those choices. (“Obviously the dragon is too powerful for me to defeat, but I’m really angry it killed my parents, so I have to attack it anyway.”)

Within the context of this conversation, “Metagaming” refers only to knowledge a person already has, or comes upon incidentally. It does not refer to information a person intentionally seeks out. If a player goes out and buys the module their referee is running, and keeps it open on the table next to them while they play, that’s a completely different sort of problem. It’s called “being an asshole.” The solution is not to play with assholes, and there’s no need to discuss that any further.

“Metagaming” is an inherently pejorative term, in that it only exists as a way of identifying bad behavior. Or, in this case, what some people claim to be bad behavior. As far as I know, there are two basic justifications for why metagaming is a bad bad no no:

First, there are those who stubbornly want their games to be challenging, while refusing to put in the effort required to make them actually challenging. The trolls I mentioned above are a good example. This kind of thinking is rank laziness, and deserves no consideration.  Second, there are the thespians, whose first priority is to embody the character, rather than to play the game. Romeo kills himself every time the play is performed, even though the actor knows Juliet is only faking.

Advocates from both schools will make noble speeches about the importance of “staying in character.” In the latter case, those speeches will be more sincere, but regardless, what we’re actually talking about is asking the players to sabotage their own efforts in order to maintain the ideological purity of the game.

The whole concept of self sabotage undercuts the adversarial relationship between player and referee. It’s become something of a taboo to advocate for that relationship, but I believe it is essential for the players and the referee to sincerely try to best one another.* Not because the referee wants to “win,” but because the PLAYERS want to win.

In order for them to win, there must be conflict. In order for there to be conflict, there must be something to be in conflict against. As referee, I can give my players a fake conflict. A cardboard cutout that only exists to be knocked down. Invariably, they will overcome, and they’ll experience a cheap imitation of victory. Alternatively, I can give my players real conflict. I can create an environment that is trying to defend itself to the best of my ability. Then, IF the players overcome, their victory will be a truly meaningful thing. The result was not predetermined, it was earned.

Without real conflict, we’re just going through the motions. Kids with sticks, who are afraid to poke each other’s eye out. Except the sticks aren’t even real.

To expound on one of my examples above, lets say I’ve got a group exploring a dungeon, and they encounter some big bad scary monster I’ve created. One the players says they should attack, and I fail to suppress a grin of delight at the hell they’re about to unleash upon themselves. The players see this, and decide to take a more cautious approach.

Certainly I’ve made a mistake in tipping my hand to the players, but once that mistake was made, why shouldn’t they take advantage of it? The worst case scenario is that they waste some time, but ultimately, are satisfied that they followed up on every lead. The potential alternative is that they pretend nothing happened, get themselves killed, then resent the fact that they could have survived if only they’d been trying their hardest.

There’s basically no downside to encouraging players to metagame, which cannot be said of the reverse.

Now, obviously, people prefer different styles of play. It’s not bad-wrong-fun if you enjoy thespianism in your RPGs. If you’re playing D&D I think you don’t really understand the game, but, this post is not an angry rant directed at your existence. It really isn’t. You do you, and I sincerely hope you have fun doing it.

My frustration is that the thespian outlook so thoroughly dominates discussion of RPGs, that most folks take it as a given that metagaming is bad. To the point that any defense of metagaming is made out to be ludicrous.

But it’s not ludicrous, because I’m a very smart person who would only ever advocate for the correct viewpoint. Ipso facto, metagaming is fine, and trying to stop your players from doing it is bad.

Yes, No, and Maybe

MaybeSometimes it’s useful to put your thoughts down in clear, precise language, even if those thoughts aren’t particularly novel.

As arbiter of the game world, the referee fields a lot of questions. Whether explicit or implied, these questions are usually of the form “Can I?” Such as “Can I climb the wall?” or “Can I sneak past the guard?” Even questions which don’t seem to follow this form often do. For example, if a player asks “What is the statue made of,” what they’re actually asking is “Can I tell what the statue is made of?” And while the full answer to these questions will be more complex, it will always boil down to either Yes, No, or Maybe.

There’s a well known dictate of improv comedy: “Always say yes.” As a fundamental rule, it’s useful if you need to create a coherent narrative for an audience. Unfortunately, some misguided folk have spread around the idea that the rule works just as well for D&D. It does not, for the simple reason that D&D is not a performance. The game is not meant to move smoothly through the familiar narrative notes of exposition, action, climax, and resolution.

In D&D, it’s important that it be possible to fail. Not just once, at a dramatically important moment, but over and over again until the failure becomes boring and you have to choose between continuing to bang your head against the wall, or going off to do something else. (The beauty of D&D, of course, is that you can go do something else in the game). If all the referee is needed for is to say “yes,” then they should just be another player at the table. The group can all participate in improvised fantasy theater for the amusement of themselves, or an audience. Given the proliferation of minor celebrities streaming their games on twitch, I suspect we’re going to see a lot of that.

That being said, I don’t want to make it sound as though saying “yes” is bad. If anything, I think the above misconception is so particularly dangerous because it’s so close to the truth. If you take the “always say yes” motto and apply it to D&D, you will have a good time. Then, if you’re observant, you’ll start to notice how all these dice and rules and systems are just getting in the way. You might reasonably think they’re getting in the way because they’re bad, when in fact they’re getting in the way because they’re meant to support a D&D game. But if you “always say yes,” you’re not playing D&D; you’re playing an improv game, with unnecessary baggage.

A better dictum might be “Try to say yes.” Think about the situation the players are in. Is the thing the they asked to do something they reasonably could do? If so, then say “yes!” Don’t muddy the game with unnecessary barriers, but do bear in mind what barriers exist, and enforce them. Never say “no” just because saying “yes” would trivialize a challenge. Taking clever action to trivialize a challenge is half the fun of good D&D.

This isn’t all that difficult to do. As referee, you have all the details of the game world in your head. Even the ones you haven’t bothered to come up with yet are in your head. And, as an adult human, you’ve spent a not-insignificant portion of your life observing other humans. You’ve got a good idea of what they’re capable of.

So when your players are in a room with a statue, and they ask “Can I push the statue over?” just look at the image in your own head. What kind of statue were you picturing? Do you think an athletic person could push it over? If so, say “yes”. If not, say “no,” and explain why. Is the statue too heavy, is it bolted to the floor, or is it just magically un-push-overable? If you’re not sure whether a person could push it over or not, say “maybe.” I’ll talk more about maybe a little further down.

First, while we’re still on the subject of “yes,” I want to talk about qualifiers. Qualified yeses give the players complications to overcome, and are almost always more interesting than a simple “yes” or “no.” Which isn’t to say you should invent complications that don’t exist, but you should take a moment to think about the specifics of your player’s proposal. What problems might they encounter?

A chainlink fence is a good example. If your players want to climb over a chainlink fence, you can’t really say “no” to that. Climbing over a chainlink fence is easy. You yourself have probably done it many times. But, it’s also noisy.

Instead of just saying “you make it over the fence,” you can say “Yes, you can climb the fence, but someone may see or hear you.” Razorwire is also a common feature of chainlink fences, so you might say “yes, you can climb the fence, but you’ll take damage from the wire, and there’s a chance you’ll become tangled.” The more you try to spot these hiccups in your players actions, the more your players will think about their actions. Your game challenges them, and they’ll be more engaged with it as a result.

Which brings us to “Maybe.” Maybe is easy: if you don’t know whether you should say “yes” or “no,” roll a die.

In a lot of cases, the die you should roll is spelled out by the rules. “Can I stab the goblin?” roll an attack. “Can I find food in the wilderness?” roll a Bushcraft skill check. These pre-established cases are easy to resolve, but just because the rolls are established in the game’s rules, doesn’t mean the referee shouldn’t consider whether “yes” wouldn’t be a more appropriate answer. “Can I stab the sleeping goblin?” Yes! Anyone who makes you roll for that is an asshole.

It should be noted that the inverse is not generally true. If the rules have established a roll that determines the success or failure of a specific type of action, it’s almost never appropriate to say “no.” Better to simply penalize the roll. After all, skilled foragers may still be able to find food in a barren landscape, it just probably won’t taste super good.

Then there is the other kind of maybe. The ones without any pre-established resolution mechanic. You still need to roll dice, but which ones?

Some folks use roll-under ability score checks. They figure out which of the scores best represents the kind of effort needed to successfully accomplish what the player wants to do, and have the player roll a d20. If the roll is equal to or under their ability score, the check is a success.

Roll under checks are an elegant solution. As far as I’m concerned, they’re just about the only good justification for having ability scores at all. But, since I think the ability scores are kinda sloppy, and want to move away from using them, I avoid this method. Instead, I just pick a chance-in-six that seems appropriate for whatever the player is attempting. I default to a 50/50 chance (1-3 success, 5-6 fail), and modify up or down based on circumstance, and any clever planning the characters put into their attempt.

That is all I have to say. This post is done now.

8 Reasons Why D&D Is Better Than Video Games

Dont You Just Hate ThisDumb people think D&D is an outdated game. That it served us well as the midwife of video games. But, now that video games are here, it’s stupid to go back and play something so much less advanced.

Ironically, this view seems to be most common among people who actually play tabletop RPGs. Specifically, the folks who emphasize the thespian aspect of role playing, to the exclusion of all else. They seem to think anyone who didn’t get rejected from Shakespeare in the park is a pleb, who would be much happier playing video games, rather than sullying the good name of their noble and artistic hobby. 

My frustration with this pervasive idea led me to start collecting these reasons that it’s wrong. So if you’ve got any to add to my eight, I’d love to have a few more.

1. Tactical Infinity

In any given situation, there are only so many actions you can attempt in a video game. If it’s a game about punching, you’ll have a punch button, and most problems will be solvable by punching. There may be other options (kicks, jumps, headbutts), but the list is necessarily finite. This is not a bad thing. Video games work best when they focus on doing a small number of things really well.

Adventure games, like Zork, probably have the greatest number of possible actions you’ll ever find in a video game. But even still, the player is limited to whatever actions the game designer was able to predict they might attempt. If the player is clever enough to come up with something the designer never expected, rather than being rewarded for their cleverness, they’ll be slapped down with some variation of “You can’t do that.”

When you play D&D, the game designer is sitting right there with you, creating the game moment to moment as you play. So when you decide that the best way to defeat the Cult of Filth is to buy a pig and convince them it is the avatar of filth on earth, the game can accommodate that. Maybe you will fail spectacularly, but at least you were able to try.

Rube Goldberg2. Having a Real Impact on the Game World

The other side of tactical infinity. You could call it infinite reaction.

In a really good video game, the player will see the world change in big and small ways as a result of their successes and failures.  If you save the farmer’s son, then when you go to the farm she won’t be crying anymore. Instead, she’ll be happily going about her farming, with the help of her son. This is good. When the player sees the impact of their actions, it will make those actions (and by extension, the game world they happened in) feel true.

But the game’s reactions are limited. It’s not even proper to call them reactions in the first place, since they’re scripted in advance. It’s a Rube Goldberg machine. Complex enough that it’s fun to follow along from point A to B to C, but the end result is already there, waiting for you to reach it. Even if the player does make a choice, it’s always between two, or three, or ten different pre-scripted results. And, once you see them, the message is usually pretty clear: you’ve reached the end of this road. Go do something else.

3. Infinite Play

By now, a pattern is emerging that a lot of what is good about tabletop RPGs is the various ways in which they are infinite. This one, infinite play, is what prompted me to go from being casually interested in D&D, to being in love with the medium.

One of the worst things about falling in love with any fictional world is that someday, you’ll need to leave it. I can go back and play my favorite video games over and over again, but there will never be any new areas to explore, or enemies to defeat.

With tabletop games, all you need is one set of rules, and one set of dice, and you’re set to play for the rest of your life. You may choose to stop playing a specific campaign, move on to a different game system or a different group, but the possibility that you could go back for more will always exist.

4. Complex Lateral Thinking Puzzles

Some video games do a great job of creating good complex lateral thinking puzzles. But, because they lack tactical infinity, the solutions to those puzzles must always be intentional. The designer must go to great effort to carefully inform the players of the tools they have for solving the puzzle, and must ensure themselves that those tools are sufficient for solving it.

In a tabletop game, the referee is often not even aware that they’ve created a complex lateral thinking puzzle. But they put the locked treasure vault next to the anti-gravity room, which is itself only two stories down from where the troll is sleeping. And the players have a paperclip, a spool of dental floss, and an iguana in their inventory. And somehow, putting all those things together, they figure out how to get into the treasure vault without trekking across the world to find the key.

That’s beautiful to me.

Women playing D&D5. D&D is a Party

D&D is an inherently social activity. Sometimes this is is a boon, sometimes a bane, but one way or another it’s always going to be true.

“But wait” I write, anticipating a likely objection so I can preemptively respond to it. “Many video games are multiplayer, and ergo social activities. This is hardly unique to D&D.” And of course, that is true. I myself have spent an immense amount of time bonding with friends in World of Warcraft. D&D is just better at it.

Even in the most social of social video games, everyone is looking at the game. The focus of their discussion will usually be on overcoming the challenges created for them by a person they will never meet. In D&D, everyone is looking at each other, talking about their own ideas.

Maybe that seems like a trite, or shallow difference. But, to me, it is important.

6. Investing Your Character with True Personality

When you disagree with 95% of what a person says, it’s easy for that 5% of overlap between your views to get lost in the rhetoric. I’ve spilled a lot of digital ink explaining why I find a thespian approach to games boring. But my distaste for prewritten backstories, and anyone who uses the word “spotlight” doesn’t mean I hate role playing. I just view it as a nice sauce, rather than the whole meal.

Vidya attempts to approximate this in different ways. Sometimes the protagonist is silent, so players can project their own thoughts and emotions on to them. Other games create dialogue trees, and multiple paths which give the player some character-driven choice about how they approach a problem. But in the end, unless the player wants to skip out on game content, they’ve always gotta do what the game wants them to do.

In a tabletop game, I can make a firm decision about who my character is, and stick to it. If I decide to be a good guy, then the game can never force me into a situation where my only choice is to go against my character, or skip part of the game.

Character Death7. Failure is Actually Meaningful

When you lose at a video game, the only thing to do is go back and try again. You play through the same bits over and over until you succeed. Maybe the game is randomized so the bit you replay is never quite the same. Maybe there are failures states which allow the game to continue, such as losing a party member. But, one way or another, the ultimate failure state always requires you to play through some part of the game over again.

In tabletop RPGs, there’s no such thing as starting the same game over again. When you die, a new character comes into the world, and must deal with the consequences of the previous character’s actions. All their successes and failures.

8. Zero Barriers to Entry for Designing Games

Obviously, there will always be a difference between a good game designer and a bad one. (I’ll make no claims about which group I fall into). But all it takes to get started is to come up with an adventure, and run it at your table. Boom: you’re a game designer.

If you’ve got a cool idea for a video game, even if it’s something small, you need to develop skills with coding, and art, and music. If you don’t know how to do any of those things, you’ll need money to pay someone to do them for you, or you’ll need to find someone you’re comfortable sharing creative control with. You need all of those things before you can even begin to develop good game design skills.

The barrier for getting your stuff published is only slightly higher than the barrier for making it in the first place. So, of course, there’s a lot of childish garbage out there, but there’s also a lot of phenomenal stuff that may never have made it to production otherwise. Stuff like Stay Frosty, Crypts of Indormancy, Hex Kit, The Sleeping Place of Feathered Swine, or The Tower of the Weretoads. Just stay away from anything published by the Mongrel Banquet Club. They’re a disgusting little band of degenerate filthmongers.

Kids Playing Vidya

None of this is to say that video games are bad for their limitations. A book is not bad because it lacks a soundtrack. A painting is not bad because it lacks motion. Different mediums have different strengths, and that’s really what this is about.

Video games are not an improvement on RPGs. They are different beasts that share some DNA. It’s possible to compare and contrast them with each other, just like you can compare and contrast books and movies. But both are capable of doing things the other will never be able to achieve.


Your Dragons Suck

D&D Dragon Toy TiamaatBack in 2012, when I had only just started to immerse myself in the OSR, I was playing in Courtney Campbell‘s Numenalla. Because of timezone fuckery, the game started at the ungodly hour of 5am for me. On a Saturday. It was always a struggle to show up, and when I did I was groggy as all get-out. But, Courtney was one of my OSR heroes at the time, and it was worth it to rub elbows with him. Plus the game was pretty damn fun.

Usually the sessions were packed, but on this particular morning, none of the regulars showed up. Aside from Courtney and I, it was just some dude I barely recognized, and a woman I’d never met before. It was a small group, but enough for a quorum, so we delved into the halls looking for a bit of adventure.

Being groggy as I was, and playing a healer to boot, I had become accustomed to letting other players take the lead in our adventures. So this dude I barely knew wound up taking the reins of the party, and leading us around the dungeon. As it turns out, he was kind of a twat.

At one point, when presented with a hall full of doors, he kicked them all open. Not one at a time, just kick, kick, kick, kick, kick. Don’t bother telling him what’s inside the rooms he’s just revealed, that would slow down the process of moving to the next door and also kicking it open. Unsurprisingly, this strategy exposed us to some serious danger. Namely, a dragon.

As soon as I heard that, I wanted to run. Most of my experience up to that point was with D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder. My context for dragons was that they were these immense creatures of unfathomable destructive ability. A challenge meant for a full group of 15th level characters. But the twat wasn’t in any mood to slow down, so he attacked. And, being the loyal dumbass that I am, I refused to leave a party member alone to die.

Then a funny thing happened: we killed it. We slew the dragon.

Not without cost, mind you. The twat got himself killed, and the rest of us were pretty banged up. But the dragon was dead, and for the most part we were alive. That’s how I was introduced to oldschool dragons, and it has stuck with me ever since. The idea of dragon designed to be fearsome and terrible, but also to be conceivably so. A creature that can be an ever-lurking threat, without being a guaranteed TPK.

In other words, a dragon that looks like this:

Rather than like this:

“But wait!” I imagine you saying, because I’m a hack writer who relies on cliches. “Most editions of D&D have a whole range of dragon sizes, some of which are small enough to challenge a low level party without being a guaranteed TPK.

And you are correct, imaginary strawman. But what do they call those dragons? Wyrmlings, Very Young, Young, Juveniles. They’ve got these diminutive fuckin’ names that make them feel like a joke when you encounter them. Nobody tells stories about the cool time they killed a Very Young Dragon at level 3. And anyway, this is about much more than the number of hit dice a creature has. It’s about keeping the game on a relatable scale.

That one encounter in he Halls of Numenhalla changed my whole perspective. Truth be told, I’d long hated dragons at this point. I thought they were a goofy cliche. Something that might have been cool once, but which had been overplayed so often in fantasy games that it was cringe-inducing to see them used. Plus, they never really made any sense to me. They’re these friggin’ apocalypse machines that desire nothing so much as wealth and adoration–both of which they could easily take for themselves. But they don’t go out and get them because they’re…lazy.

If they wanted to, a modern fantasy dragon could rule any world it exists in. But most people don’t want their campaign setting to be ruled by the iron-scaled fist of a draconic dictator. So, instead, dragons spend most of their time sleeping on piles of wealth. It’s bourgeois, yeah, but it’s hardly an act worthy of the pride-of-place dragons hold in the annals of fantasy villainy.

Once the scale is dramatically reduced, though, all that nonsense falls away. Dragons want wealth, and they’re powerful enough to take a lot of wealth, but not all of it. They can’t just knock over castle walls with a sweep of their claws. Indeed, if they cause too much of a ruckus, knights will be sent out to kill them. And since they aren’t towering behemoths capable of squishing knights into paste, that’s a serious threat they need to worry about.

It also helps if you assume all dragons are just walking bundles of mental disorder. Traditionally they’re already portrayed as narcissists. Build on that. Narcissism doesn’t just mean that a person likes praise; it means that a person is incapable of understanding that some things are not all about them. They believe that everything good is somehow a result of their desires, and that everything bad exists only to make them suffer. If dragons are not the god kings of all monsters, then they can be pathetic.

Dragons are also noted for their hoards of treasure. They sleep upon mountains of items they’ve collected and cherish, despite having no use for those items. I’m sure I’m not the first person to point out that hoarding is symptom of obsessive compulsive disorder. Dragons should have rituals and rules which completely govern their lives and the way they interact with others. They should be carefully avoiding the cracks in the dungeon floor, or closing every door they pass through 7 times before moving on. They don’t breathe fire every 3rd round because their breath needs time to recharge, they’re doing it because they have a mental illness.

The best monsters have always been more defined by their flaws than by their strengths. This conception of dragons, as deeply flawed and broken creatures who none the less wield immense power, has transformed them into one of my favorite monsters. It’s why I include dragons on every single encounter table I use.

Which is appropriate, right? They’re literally half of the game’s name. Yet in my experience, I see way fewer dragons than I do dungeons, and that’s a shame.

Do not attempt to place dice in another person.

Earlier today I was at the thrift store with my ladyfriend. As I am wont to do, I spent some time pulling through the board games. It’s 99% crap, but there’s always a chance of finding something cool. Like I did today!

Collective Wisdom ABC Dice GameThis unmarked tin caught my attention, so I popped it open and discovered these large dice with letters on them. These by themselves would have been worth the $2 price sticker. My immediate thought was that I could use them for generating the names of people or places. But also included were some rules for a fairly simple scrabble-like game where players roll dice, then try to create as many words as they can from the letters they roll. All in all, a very neat find. This is exactly the sort of thing that I love about garage sales and thrift stores.

But then there’s this:

DACE CAN KILL YOU BRUHThis warning takes up the entire back side of the 8 1/2″ by 11″ page that the rules are on. For the benefit of Lynx users (and google), here it is in normal text:

Do not play this game on a surface of glass or on a fragile surface that may be cracked, scratched or dented.

Do not forcefully toss the dice so as to damage the playing surface. Never throw the dice: Do not throw the dice at another person because this can cause severe injury. The corners of the dice can cause injury if contact is severe.

Do not throw the dice at glass or other objects because this can cause property damage and broken glass which is hazardous.

Place the dice back in their box when you are finished using them.

Store the dice in a place out of the reach of small children (under the age of 3 years) or pets who might try to chew or swallow them.

Do not leave dice on floors, steps, beds, chairs, sofas, or other places where someone might step on them, trip over them, or recline on them.

Do not beat dice with a hammer or heavy tool, which may cause them to chip or crack. If dice become chipped, cracked, or broken, discard the dice and broken pieces.

Do not place or attempt to place the dice in your mouth or any other body part or in that of another person.

The dice are not designed to be used in conjunction with any other product.

The dice should not be used to support the weight of another object.

Children should use the dice only under adult supervision.

Warning: Severe bodily injury could result from a failure to follow these guidelines.

This makes me feel very odd, because I can’t even.

LAWL! Plagiarism.

Castlevania II Box Art
Castlevania II Box Art

I’ve kinda got a thing for oldschool video games. No cutscenes, no fluff, just a rockin’ 8-bit soundtrack and a challenge that needs to be completed. Among my favorite oldschool games is the original Castlevania. It’s a game I grew up with, and which is very dear to my heart. The bat at the end of the first level is the very first video game boss I ever beat, and I’ll never forget how excited I was. Unfortunately I don’t currently have a copy of it, but I do have a 1987 copy of Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest. It’s an odd little game where the player experiences a lot of nights, and a lot of curses.

I pulled it out recently, and noticed something which had not caught my eye before: the background art looked a lot like the original Ravenloft module’s cover. I pulled a picture of the module up to confirm, and it turns out they aren’t just similar. The artist for Simon’s Quest straight-up copied Ravenloft. Check it out:

Castlevania II Closeup

Ravenloft Cover Art

Since this game was released the same year I was, I knew I couldn’t be the first to notice this. The internet didn’t turn up much further information. Of course this was back before the Internet existed. There were no organized droves of fans demanding answers for the plagiarism. But at least TSR seems to have noticed, because when the game was released a little later in Europe its box art looked like this:
Castlevania II Box Art Europe
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