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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Playing at the World - maybe the deepest history of rolegaming yet

Playing at the World, a history by Jon Peterson, is available at for $17.99 (ebook) or at most bookstores for around $35 in paperback.

Jon seems to be angry with Ken St Andre, for he bad-mouths him frequently in this volume. Otherwise, the research seems pretty objective - a nearly impossible task considering the meager documentation and vague memories of the principles involved.

It seems so long ago, and yet I was around and occasionally involved with some of the principles and innocent bystanders. (No big feat. If you live long enough and travel enough, you eventually meet everybody.) I doubt any would remember me, but I do remember much of what they said - but only because I journaled it at the time.

Jon captures the freewheeling feelings of anything being possible, of the "can do" attitudes of so many of the principles, and almost - but not quite - captures some of the feuds which inevitably occur in creative endeavors. Business sense and creative sense do not usually reside in the same brain (and when it does, we see self-made zillionaires who stepped on no one - these are historically rare) so there are a lot of stories of creative people who got cheated or fell along the way or just couldn't explain what they could do instinctively.

It probably raises as many questions as it answers, and this is what makes it a good history. People are complex, contradictory, and fascinating. Creative people are doubly so. Gamers and game creators are more off the wall. Combine all these, and you have Jon's very satisfying, very fascinating history book -- which is screaming for a sequel as soon as possible!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Scratch Your Itch! Fleabitten Provides Adventure, Laughs, and Fatalities.

This is one of the reasons why I recommend Tunnels & Trolls to any person who has or hasn't experienced rolegaming: Because the most nonconformist and, perhaps, dangerous ideas seem to run through TnT (the preferred acronym, which does imply its danger) first.

Yes, there have been humorous scenarios before, going all the way back to Blackmoor. Yes, there have been humorous solos, going at least as far back as Deathtrap Equalizer Dungeon.

Despite the precedents, there has been nothing quite like Fleabitten, and I don't know how to categorize it.

It's humorous - a lot! And it has the sort of absurdist logic of Lewis Carroll. It's deadly, but only if you treat this adventure as you would most RPG adventures. And it's a solo, which can be adapted for GM use, especially if the GM is just a little bit cracked.

The main track (which you may choose to not take) concerns an underwater adventure of discovery and deduction. You will discover a new type of dwarf and a LOT of things about undersea life that you never suspected. And you would, if this were a Call of Cthulhu adventure (and it could be), lose a lot of Sanity Points.

As always, Mark provides options to options and options OF options. Almost every action has a consequence, and the characters (though absolutely ridiculous at times) usually come off as 3-dimensional - save for those who are not intended to seem realistic at all.

You'll interact with some of your favorite fictional characters from comics and elsewhere...though they may seem a bit more eccentric than usual. They may even carry different names and forms. It's always a toss up whether Mark is seriously challenging your sense of humor, your sense of honor, or your gaming skills. Few people can pull off a comedy which is equally an adventure, or vice versa. There is a difference.

Steve Jackson, decades ago, gave one of my favorite sayings when he stated that there's just not enough silly in games right now. Of course "now" was THEN, but I hope you get my meaning.

And if you understood that last paragraph, much less the previous ones. "Fleabitten" is for YOU.

You'll find it in the usual downloadable places, such as DriveThruRPG/RpgNow, and nowhere else of which I know. But you can always write Mark and annoy him to death. It would serve him right!

Friday, June 14, 2013


Review: Deathbed, a Tunnels & Trolls solo by Mark Thornton, aka Khaghbboommm. $1.99 at


Mark has a talent for creating solo adventures which are NOTHING like the plots which came before. When he has options, he has options for the options; and the results may or may not be to your liking - but you probably won't know until you hit that Hitchcock twist in the plot!

I was overjoyed to play this adventure, and even emerge in a - um - better (?) status than my PC started. If nothing else, he now is wiser and has some facts in hand that will help in the future.

Yes, your "Deathbed" character has a future of adventure and intrigue. If Mark doesn't create sequels for this, an obvious prologue to a long epic story, then you should immediately prepare a long epic campaign and draw in more players.

At one pivotal point, you may choose to be quested, in any number of ways, in any number of forms (literally) and I was lucky enough to have a chance to AVENGE the epic murder of one of the better characters I've seen. No, it was not one of mine - let's just say that "Deathbed" ranks high in honor for cleverly and effectively sequeling from perhaps the best campaign in which I've played.

Mark, you actually lived up to a legend. Go forth and write more chapters!