Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Wizarding Schools in Greyhawk

Hello, gamers!

Almost everyone in Western Civilization has heard of Harry Potter -- or at least have heard of the series of books or movies that tell his story. Reading the books so many years ago got me to thinking of how a "Wizarding School" might look in The World of Greyhawk setting. I am one step closer to this now that I have picked up the wonderful (PDF) book, "Larius Firetongue's School of Sorcery" by Ray Chapel and his company, Quasar Knight Enterprises. (Check out his blog at the last link.)

I cannot give Larius Firetongue's School of Sorcery a full review, only because I have not been able to give it a proper and thorough read. I was able to tell Ray in a chat hosted by Tenkar's Tavern that I had picked up the book and was thrilled by its contents read so far. I have only given it a cursory read, but so far, so good. I hope to tweak it and insert it into my World of Greyhawk campaign after finishing my reading.

What ideas do you have for such a place fitting into The World of Greyhawk campaign setting? I personally keep my Greyhawk material limited to mostly pre-1986 releases, with rare exception (mostly those by James Ward, Rob Kuntz, and Greyhawk's creator, E. Gary Gygax), but there are post-1986 releases I use for anything from insertion as-is to inspiration to something I call "What Not to Do in the Same Way the Dad of the Berenstain Bears Taught Us What Not to Do."

I have thought about an existing college being located in the City of Greyhawk while something like Larius Firetongue's School of Sorcery being a rival school in Dyvers. I have previously thought of using the 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons book, College of Wizardry as the school in Greyhawk City. That's another book on my ever-growing "To-Read List" (it's more of a pile on my bedside table). Perhaps the two books could be used in conjunction to inspire this rivalry.

Maybe they have football games instead of Quidditch? 😉

Happy gaming,

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Gaming Simpler is Gaming Better, a Theory

A recent blog entry over at Tenkar's Tavern regarding the popularity and "less is more" approach of Swords & Wizardry, both as a game and as inspiration for other games, got me to thinking. The game of Dungeons & Dragons expanded from its wargamer beginnings, became more and more detailed, saw its focus change from "players in a Dungeon Master's world" to "players wanting to play heroes in need of a willing referee," became increasingly crunchy and rules-heavy until gamers took the initiative to use its Open Gaming License to create other games (clones that mimic any of its iterations, Advanced or not, in "feel" if not mechanics) to splinter the hobby as much as new edition releases have, and then retreat towards the 2005+ Old School Renaissance or games that are D&D in everything but name like Paizo's Pathfinder RPG (a revised Third Edition D&D game). Erik "Tenkar" writes that many designers are tweaking games. This is once more like what Tabletop Role-Playing Game referees and players did in the 1970's and 1980's. "The rules are the rules" mentality that spawned a new generation of rules lawyers after 2000's release of D&D's Third Edition appears to be receding as players want more time playing in-game and less time fussing over rules, mechanics, and minutiae.

There were similar discussions to this, 10-12 years ago on Troll Lord Games' message boards. In the middle of the transition to 3.5 edition from standard third edition D&D, folks who became overwhelmed by the voluminous rules commented how having less things to manage in TLG's Castles & Crusades game was liberating. This was explained thusly: features that told what a PC could do in fact told what a PC could not do except for the few choices made in feats and skills. In the first seven iterations of D&D (OD&D, Holmes D&D, OAD&D, Moldvay/Cook B/X D&D, Mentzer BECMI D&D, AD&D 2e, & RC D&D) player choice was about making decisions in-game. Post-1999 player choice was a litany of decisions made on the character sheet, limiting what could be done by players once the game play was underway. Post-2005 games have mostly worked their way back to the "OSR style," even if they do not fully explain or realize the reasons for why simpler is better for many.

Of course, OSRIC and Basic Fantasy RPG released not long after C&C. By the end of 2006, there were three games intent on being simpler at the table (S&W would come along in 2008, by which time a few more "Old School" or "Clone Games" had been published, further taking the field to clone earlier D&D games for the sake of gamers who longed to play in a previous manner). By the beginning of this decade (2010-2019), unshackled Game Masters such as myself began to be able to adjudicate at the table once more rather than simply be the "to the letter" judge of the rulebooks-as-law.

I should note that those players who still owned their 1970's & 1980's books and never moved on to the newer editions of D&D that had Open Gaming Licenses never needed to take a circuitous route. They were still playing the games that others have tried to clone so that new material could be written for the older games. At least, that was the proposed reason for the OSRIC game being produced. Its popularity, though, spawned revisions if only to make the game more palatable to those who did not own or have access to the original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game.

As Erik writes in his blog, what game masters have discovered in their wanting to run their own house-ruled versions of these OSR and Original School games is: It is easier to start with a simple game and add on house rules than it is to take a rules heavy game and subtract them. This is especially true of game systems where they have many interworking parts. Take a cog out of a machine and you get the same result: an unworking system.

Until next time, Happy Gaming!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Lendore Isle Series - Session 1

Several Sundays ago (1/15/2017), I was able to run the third session of my Greyhawk 576 CY Lendore campaign. This campaign's group of players features my friend from our last town of residence, my friend's son, my friend's brother, and my son. I had already run the two prior sessions before I decided to take a swing at blogging. So, I shall recap now:

*Obligatory Dramatis Personae*
Friend: Fallon von Schroeder, Human Bard (CG)
Friend's son: Garuk Wornfist, Dwur Barbarian (CN)
Friend's brother: Ulradune, Human Cleric of Norebo (CN) [joins the group in Session Two]
My son: Vithshond, Olven Magic-User/Thief (CG)
NPC: Pseudodragon, Vithshond's familiar

[Note: Being that this is a Greyhawk 576 CY campaign, I enjoy using the Flan language terms of the 1980 World of Greyhawk Folio and 1983 The World of Greyhawk Fantasy Setting box set for the various non-human races. I will try to remember to denote what they are, as I write. For now, olve is elf, olven is elven or elvish, olves is elves; dwur is dwarf, dwarven, or dwarves; and euroz is orc, orcish, or orcs.]

7 November, 2015

In the first session, the party had infiltrated a Haunted House (courtesy of U1: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, which in my campaign is being ported from the Keolandish coast to Lendore Island, east of Restenford, as suggested by +Stuart Marshall several times on the forums at They decided to venture there based upon the word of Reginald the Poacher, whose own tales of traveling to the Haunted House perked up the ears of Fallon von Schroeder, a human bard; Garuk Wornfist, a dwur barbarian; and Vithshond, an olven magic-user/thief. Upon hearing of Reginald's visit to the ghostly locale, the trio decided to form an adventuring party to see what they could see -- and gain what treasure the house's former alchemist owner had inside before all went quiet over the last two decades.

As I was saying, the party infiltrated the house in the first session, only to be thwarted by the centipedes in the ground floor kitchen. Garuk makes quick work of several of the vermin. Fallon the bard nearly died, due to a venomous bite, so the party decided to immediately take him back to Restenford. Vithshond casts a spell just outside the Haunted House so the bard could be transported on a Floating Disk of Tenser's make. Since the clerics in Restenford could not neutralize the poison, only slow its progress, the party headed north for the Dweomer Forest, wherein could be found The Church of the Big Gamble. They were told the High Priest or one of his brethren there could probably heal the bard.

Soon after leaving, the trio was beset north of Restenford by a bandit group led by a pair of half-orcs. Vithshond responded with a sleep spell, which knocked out six orcs. The remaining bandits panicked into disarray at this and the three heroes fled north, continuing toward their destination. Upon reaching the Dweomer Forest, they were relieved that no other mishaps occurred on the way. They came to a large clearing inside the forest, where an egg-shaped building sat upon a domed hill. The trio were welcomed, after waiting inside for several minutes, by a cleric of Norebo. Vithshond and Garuk explain what has happened to Fallon. The clerics agree to heal him in return for magic items and/or gold within a year's time. They also state that they have rewards to give to anyone that rids the bridge of the bandits (the very same ones who had just accosted the group) and/or destroys the undead said to be haunting Bone Hill. The priests do not know what sort of undead are there, but they have news of nasty creatures haunting it at night.

At last, the party asks to stay the night and makes an offering. The priests share a small evening meal with the travelers before sending them on their way at first light in the morning. A stag is sent with them as a guide, so that they can avoid the bridge until they have greater numbers or are more capable of taking on the half-orcs' band. They leave the Dweomer Forest and their stag guide behind and make their way back to the coast, to once again enter the Haunted House.

This time, the trio enters the basement through the stairs near the kitchen and scullery -- in spite of the awful sounds emanating from the bottom of the stairs. Fallon and his fellows see a body in the middle of this wine cellar, but nothing else that would have caused such horrendous screams as were previously heard. He investigates the corpse of the armored man, only to have seven rot grubs infest his arm. Thankfully, he knows what they are -- being a well-traveled bard from the Flanaess mainland -- and quickly burns them off with his torch. Better a burnt arm than a dead heart! The bard then follows tracks he had noticed from the stairs as they go past the corpse to the wall of the wine cellar.

Vithshond the olve discerns that there is a secret door and discovers it after searching. On the other side is a large, brightly-lit, and well-furnished hall of sorts. Although there are 10 beds (each merely a thin mattress over a board), a giant table with a dozen or so stools, and plenty of meat, drink, and other foodstuffs; there is just a single occupant at the moment. His back is to the secret door as he whittles away at a model boat he is carving from wood. The bard and olve fell the man with unsuspecting missile fire. The bard checks him and then the footlockers located at the foot of each beds.

The three  examine a connecting room and loot it. They find a map of sorts that appears to contain some sort of code, but are unable to decipher its meaning. Frustrated, they then foolhardily ignore a barred and nailed-shut door that is clearly marked, "DANGER." They remove the wooden beams from across the door and open it to find a room that is cloaked in darkness.  Within moments, they are attacked by six skeletons, spotted by Garuk in the dark. Vithshond brings light to the room via casting a spell. The trio prevail but get scratched up in the process.

Beyond the skeletons' room, the olve finds another secret door. Upon entering this room, the group sees what must be the alchemist's laboratory. The olve fires an arrow at the alchemist, who is seated facing away from the door. He appears to be lost in thought, as he does not move. The arrow takes the head off of body of the deceased alchemist, who must have died years prior, judging by the state of his body. Fallon, the dwarf Garuk, and Vithshond thoroughly search the laboratory and pile their findings into their sacks and pouches. Several books are taken, as they figure they can be sold -- even if they have to find specialists that would buy the tomes. Now they want to further investigate just what is going on here at the Haunted House.

Here ends the first session of The Haunted House near Restenford...

Thanks for reading. Happy gaming!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Greyhawk, Rejoice Over Spouse's Selection

Greetings! Real life became incredibly busy in September, as it does every year due to school starting, hockey season starting, and a number of family birthdays. That led to a busy October (more birthdays, Halloween preparation), an even busier November (more birthdays, Thanksgiving preparation), and we-all-know-how-busy-December-is. Thus, blogging took a back seat to all of that and the busyness of being a parent of a 14 year-old son, a 3 year-old son, and a 1 year-old daughter brings. Now, though, I get to report on an awesome event!

"It" took me awhile to recover from the shock: "It" has finally happened. After six plus years as a married couple, my wife told me before the weekend of July 23-24 that she wanted to roll up a character and try her hand at Tabletop Roleplaying Games (TRPGs). I was so surprised and happy that I froze, in reaction. She made it known by asking if we could travel to a couple of gaming stores so that she could purchase her own dice.

After selecting two sets of dice containing the usual 7 dice needed to play, we rolled up a character later that week. (Did I mention free time is scarce?) It was, indeed, the same week that Gary Gygax Day occurs. My wife had rolled up a PC in Method I fashion (via the Advanced Dungeons & Dragon's Dungeon Master's Guide). She said she wanted to run two PCs, all by herself, so she could get accustomed to the rules and the game before trying to play with anyone else.

We have since played some form of AD&D either by ourselves in my wife's "solo campaign" and in a larger campaign with my son and my brother-in-law (now over two years old) a LOT since August 1st. It may have slowed down because of school, hockey, and the holidays, but I am so thrilled!

It is refreshing playing with someone brand new to Tabletop Role-playing Games (TRPGs). My wife knows of fantasy tropes because of her experience watching many sci-fi and fantasy movies & TV shows (like Legend, The Last Unicorn, Willow), reading MANY books, watching me host and run TRPGs over the last several years, our occasional watching of Critical Role on Geek & Sundry together, and through watching other people's tabletop games online. She is well-read in Mercedes Lackey's works, especially.

***WARNING -- CAMPAIGN LOG TO ENSUE (skip below for TL; DR version)***

Before long, Morna Raenar en Eryn (Olven, translates to "Storm Walker of the Woods"), olven magic-user of the Welkwood was created along with Zharina Török, human fighter of Sterich. My wife had no issue with placing her characters in my World of Greyhawk campaign. It did not take long to start playing. She came up with their meeting somewhere between Sterich and the Kingdom of Celene.

Zharina had previously stumbled upon an owlbear cub and named him Ozbert. Her family was put out by her adopted pet (figuring it would be dangerous), so Zharina took to the road. After meeting Morna, the olvenwoman invites Zharina to return with her to the Welkwood, where her father is Captain of the Guard of the Northern Welkwood, a Celene post, along the border with the Gnarley Forest. Morna suggests someone in Celene might be able to help Zharina with Ozbert's future (because owlbears are believed to become feral by the time they mature to adulthood).

At the start of the campaign, Zharina, Morna, Ozbert, and the pretentious red-tailed hawk, Captain Sable Diamond (Morna's familiar) reach The Gnarly Oak Coaching Inn & Tavern (thanks to +Steve C for sharing this cool locale!). It sits on the road between Verbobonc, an independent town to the west, and Narwell, member city of The Wild Coast to the east. Morna is greeted by Lamurne, the proprietor and family friend, and the traveling pair are seated while their animal companions rest outside. After the wench receives their orders, a group of four (one woman and three men) enters the Inn and sits at a nearby table. Morna and Zharina overhear their talking about missing children. The eldest male, Hagar, father to the other two men, seems to be trying to dismiss the woman's obvious worries while his son, the woman's husband, tries to console her. He scolds his father for taking the matter so lightly. It is revealed four of the missing children are the woman's. Nine kids are missing, 5 boys and 4 girls, in total. They range in age from 8 to 12.

While this conversation is happening, one of the dwurfolk enters the Inn and sits at another nearby table, his own empty mug already in hand. He has an empty scabbard (his sword being checked in upon entering, like everyone else) and a runic tattoo on his right shoulder. The dwur catches some of the conversation at the other table and tells of a band of goblins he had seen earlier this very day west of the Inn -- near the pond where the children were said to be fishing the day before, it turns out. Zharina asks the dwur for more details. She finds out that the kids' fishing equipment was gone when he had passed by, but their towels and blankets were still near the water's edge. Morna takes the woman outside to console her, as she cries at this news.

Zharina offers the dwur to join her in forming a search party with her olvenfolk friend, but he declines, as he is newly-retired from adventuring because he wants to open his own tavern. In fact, the dwur is here to see this very tavern, as its fame is widespread. He is thinking about building one like it, but with dwarven influence in its design, decor, and fare. "How does 'Tenkar's Gnarly Tavern' sound?" he asks out loud. He then introduces himself as Tenkar, one of the dwurfolk of the Lortmil Mountains. (The dwarven NPC is a nod to +Erik Tenkar and his wonderfully informative site and its encouragement of community within the ranks of the Old School Renaissance.) Tenkar suggests his friend, Arkzud, join them instead. Arkzud is Tenkar's contact here and former adventuring associate, he says. He then calls to Lamurne, asking her to fetch Arkzud. He follows Lamurne upstairs to Arkzud's guest room, when she replies that Arkzud is likely still in bed.

Zharina soon asks Hagar for provisions for the search and he dispatches his younger son, Gargan, back to their homestead to get supplies (torches, lanterns, oil, foodstuffs). Gargan gazes longingly at the warrior woman as he leaves, a smitten man.

A dwarf at another nearby table stands and addresses Zharina. A cleric of Fortubo, he holds his hammer aloft and says he will take Tenkar's place as "dwur substitute" in the search party. Zharina agrees to this.

Tenkar soon returns down the stairs, boxing the ears of a halfling, "Ye'd best make some money soon -- my coin was to pay for your travel here and find out if the rumors of the Gnarly Oak's grand design were true. That was weeks ago! ...You!" he says to Zharina, "You and your elven friend. Please take this miserable excuse for a hobbit and make him earn his keep. His sneaky ways may prove useful. Maybe he can help you find the children -- and goblins." At this, Arkzud bows and his feather promptly falls into Zharina's held mug of honey mead. "Charmed," she musters, probably wanting to sock the uncharismatic prat.


Rather than bore with more of what was a typical Tavern party formation, suffice to say my wife enjoyed the role-playing elements of the game and slid into it without thinking about it. Earlier in the week, she balked at talking "in character" but once it happened that a NPC was talking with her, she just used her normal voice to "be" both Zharina and Morna.

Since that first week of August (when we first began actual play), we have played quite a bit -- even if for no more than 30 minutes. My wife has put together ideas of a "stable" of characters like my brother and I used to do in the 1980s. Both PCs were discovered to be the youngest of 5 (per her using the other sourcebooks to help flesh out the characters' family backgrounds) and she later fleshed out all 5 elves and 3 of the 5 humans (deciding 2 of those are merchants in Sterich).

As my TRPG preferences are 1e AD&D (AKA OAD&D, but also includes the very nicely put together +OSRIC game book) and Moldvay/Cook Basic/Expert D&D (AKA B/X D&D), I am trying to keep the game more in tune with them than with the games played since 2000. I am trying to come up with more ideas on how to find a middle ground, though. I re-read a Facebook discussion I have had over the years with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (AS&SH) creator, +Jeff Talanian, and he hit on things I want to avoid. Where I prefer AD&D most is in terms of class abilities. Thief skills, for instance, are given a flat percentage chance in AD&D and increase over time, as the thief increases in level. In more modern games (3e D&D, C&C, etc.), the thief's rogue's bonuses to his abilities increase, but so do the "Difficulty" or "Challenge" of the things he is trying to accomplish. As Jeff put it, locks are locks in AD&D but in the newer games the increase is countered by more difficult locks. It is unnecessary sliding of both ability and challenge. In video game terms, the world levels with you -- one of the characteristics of Oblivion (of The Elder Scrolls series from Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks) that I loathed when I first tried playing it. I am keeping an eye on +Chris Gonnerman's +Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game to inform my game. The whole reason for switching to AD&D back in 1982 was because that's what kids in our new town were playing when we moved there. My brother and I liked the idea of separating race and class. BFRPG keeps that separation while still feeling like Moldvay Basic/Cook Expert. Some of the tools in the aforementioned AS&SH and +Joseph Bloch's +Adventures Dark and Deep are getting consideration, too, as I have mentioned before.

Thanks for reading my ramblings!

Happy gaming,

P.S. I'll probably abandon the shtick of naming each blog via the G.R.O.S.S. formula soon. Hopefully, sticking to it this time did not prevent folks from reading.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Gross Revelry Over Spotted Stash!

Greetings, gamers!

Real life has been far too hectic for me to continue blogging on a regular basis at this time. I am happy to report that my wife has joined the fold, as she asked me to create a stable of PCs back in the summer. We have been gaming on and off ever since. It slowed down with the new school year and our son's hockey season, but is still active and (best of all!) discussed regularly.

In other news, some may know I have been looking for my Top Secret RPG box, known to have been stored at my parents', for a long while now. Well, I shared this with my Tabletop Role-Playing Games groups on Facebook and want to share here for those who played TRPGs but do not partake in the FB groups celebrating them:

At last, I have found the rest of my old TRPG collection at my parents' house, save a character sheet here or there that may be interspersed with papers belonging to my siblings. After a summer jaunt into their attic proved too hot, my older son and I were able to visit the attic again on 12/29 and take home what we could not previously find. Thanks to my mom for finding the boxes that eluded me before. The last of the collection features Dragonlance Module DL2: Dragons of Flame, Marvel Super Heroes RPG Advanced Set, a few Marvel SHRPG modules, books to the original MSHRPG box set that had been in the Advanced Set box, the map to the Lankhmar city supplement I found last time, AD&D PC Record Sheets, the Avalon Hill RPG "Powers & Perils," and -- the holy grail for me, as it was what I'd most searched for in the last 5+ trips -- the Top Secret RPG and various modules/supplements.

Lastly, I added in my Dungeon! board game picture because my older son (14) and I treated my younger son (3) to his first game of it this evening after dinner. He had a blast being a "Hero" and fighting monsters for treasure. Add to this the arrival of the El Raja Key DVD Archive in today's mail and all in all, it was a great Old School Gaming day.

Until next time, Happy Gaming!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Gamer Requests Other Sensible Solutions

There are things I would like to see come into being in this life, but have no idea how to do it myself. So, if necessity is truly the mother of invention, what a mother she is....

Um, here are three inventions I want or have need for, but no means to produce:

1) Scrapple Parmigiana. I love scrapple. I love chicken & meatball parmigiana dishes and sandwiches. Scrapple seems like the next meat that should get the parm treatment.

2) Creamy Iced Tea. They make hot coffee, hot tea, and iced coffee with cream and sugar. Why does iced tea get no cream and sugar love? I make it myself this way and it is magical.

3) Family friendly web series of tabletop role-playing games. Critical Role is the king of web series featuring role-playing games being played amongst friends. The 'Advanced Dungeons and Dragons' episode of "Community" (the TV series) was the best episode of its six season run. Acquisitions, Inc. and Harmonquest are also web series that feature tabletop RPGs (TRPGs). None of them are family friendly.

The first two are easy enough, so for the purposes of this blog, I will tackle the last.

If we want the OSR to grow... If we want to gain new players, some of whom do not have TRPG-playing parents... If we want to use the best technologies available to spread the word of how much fun and enthrallings TRPGS can be...

Then why do we have no family-friendly web series of TRPGs?

Critical Role is brilliant, funny, and exhibits much of what makes TRPGs fun. The same can be said of the Acquisitions, Inc. and Harmonquest series. What cannot be said is, "I would be willing to let my child between the ages of 4 and 12 watch this series."

I am a Dungeon Master/Castle Keeper/Game Master/RPG Referee. I have some acting and voice skills I would love to put to use (I have been slowly working on reels for eventual upload to Behind the Voice in the hopes of landing some roles). I have no way of making this happen anytime soon, but I do believe kids that have access to YouTube, Twitter, Periscope, and the like could watch a D&D-based or Star Wars RPG-based show that would be to TRPG Web Series as Kix are to cereals: "Kid Tested, Mother Approved."

That's all I am asking. Sites like those of The EscapistGeek Dad, and Geek Mom tell me I am probably not alone in finding such a show needed, enjoyable, and acceptable.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

G.R.O.S.S. - Gamer Resolves Ossification from Saturday and Sunday

Last week, I said I was planning on writing weekly. That appears to be more of a goal than a plan, at this time, but hopefully writing more will mean being able to write more frequently, in time.

This past week, I read the AD&D Monster Manual, taking notes in an old notebook that I had unearthed on one of my gaming shelves. I was pleased to find inside my old brainstorming notes and clarifications from my time writing on the Yggsburgh Rivergate district project. (That project being what was supposed be one of several districts fleshed out for The Free Town of Yggsburgh book from Troll Lord Games, leading up to the eventual release of “Castle Zagyg,” which is E. Gary Gygax’s Castle Greyhawk in everything but name.)
Anyway, on Friday night, I became drowsy after making it about halfway through my article, so I hit the hay in mid-stream. I told myself I would finish the article on Saturday before our planned family day-trip out to Lancaster County, PA. That did not happen, as I found myself stuck. So, I told myself I would plug away at it when we got home Saturday night. Instead, I found myself in the same spot as Saturday morning. Sunday became my new target date to finish, either before or after my brother-in-law and his wife came over for some tabletop gaming. More mental paralysis visited instead. Perhaps reeling off a Monster Manual glossary explaining statistics and characteristics was a mistake? So, I set it aside and decided to start afresh today.
Saturday was our first summer Saturday where we had nothing planned for several weeks in advance, so we decided at the end of June that July 16th would be “the day” we take a trip somewhere. The destination would depend upon where the weather was nice. Our first choice was Lancaster County and it worked out nicely. Not only have I enjoyed visiting many sites in the area over my 40+ years, there is an awesome gaming store nearby in New Holland, PA. More on that soon….
My wife and I picked The Amish House and Farm to visit, as it would be both educational and fun for all of us. Our daughter, 1, is too young to fully appreciate the tour, but we knew she would like seeing the animals and hearing the sounds they make. Our younger son, 3, is right in the wheelhouse of enjoying the farm portion as well as the playground. Our older son, 13, would get an educational presentation in the Amish House as well as the fun of sharing in his siblings’ fun outside. My wife, a history teacher by trade, and I have long enjoyed visiting places like this together. Our 11:45 AM tour of the house featured a lesson on the daily life of the Amish people, their history, their adapting to America, their own tradition keeping, and their future in the US, Canada, and portions of South America. The farm followed and we did what we could to beat the 95º heat. We kept the youngsters well-watered, coated with sunblock, and in the shade as often as possible. They enjoyed seeing the horse-drawn carriage, the plastic cow you could “milk” for picture opportunities, and the turkeys, pea fowl, sheep, donkeys, alpacas, and (especially) goats with their youngster bounding around energetically.
We left the farm just before 2 and headed to the car for a late lunch trek. We settled on Kitchen Kettle Village and dined at the Cafe there. The air conditioning felt so delightful as the heat had been quite palpable once again as we exited the car. After eating lunch, the two youngest were ready for naps, so we decided not to shop further but instead head to the aforementioned gaming store in New Holland.
Six Feet Under Games has a vast selection for tabletop games, whether role-playing, card, board, dice, or anything else. The games were fairly priced in most cases -- but I was pleasantly surprised at the price of the older RPG works in stock. I mean, I found games and accessories for games that I had never seen except in Dragon advertisements growing up: GURPS, Runequest, Mayfair Role Aids for AD&D, Paranoia, and more that escape me 24+ hours later. I found a copy of Goodman Games’ Dungeon Crawl Classic RPG, TSR’s AD&D adventure module OP1: Tales of the Outer Planes, and Palladium’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness (Revised Edition)” -- all for less than what I had seen when I had priced each of them online(!).
The grognard in me was happy with these findings and purchased them. The dad in me was pleased when my older son picked out a set of Runic dice he wanted from Q Workshop. My wife and I were able to purchase a cool kids’ game, “My First Orchard” from Haba Games, for our younger son to play -- and our daughter could play it, in time. With the knowledge that my recently-received copy of “Hero Kids RPG” sat at home awaiting my younger son to get a little older, I saw in the future “The Plan” to get our younger two into RPGs like our oldest son already is. This would hopefully be followed by “The Other and Best Plan” where my wife caves and decides to try role-playing games with the rest of us, at long last.
Anyway, the staff at the store were friendly and helpful, as they had been the two prior times I visited -- especially (this time) to those who were running Magic: The Gathering and other games at the tables. I would guess there were about 40 players inside, most playing Magic, but I was surprised to see a GURPS game going on. I say surprised only because I do not have much experience with it and have never seen it played. I wanted to watch it, but I am actually quite shy when first meeting folks and I had my daughter in my arms so as to prevent her from causing havoc or getting hurt because of her halfling-like size. She was excited to see the foam dice like what we have at home and was pleasantly noisy pointing them out. Each time we visit Lancaster County, I now make it a point to stop at Six Feet Under Games.
When we arrived home, my wife played some “My First Orchard” with our son before he went to bed while our older son and I went over the rules to the new but not-yet-played card game, The Red Dragon Inn. I bought the original set and set 5: The Character Trove because I loved the idea of one set being a storage case as well as an add-on. We also needed more than the 4 original characters to play because we would have 5 players on Sunday. After the youngest two were in bed, the three of us remaining played one hilarious and fun game of The Red Dragon Inn. This just might be my new favorite game (aside from role-playing games, of course). My older son won the game. It was so delightful to play and see him win.
On Sunday, my brother-in-law and his wife came over for some gaming. We started off with a 5-player game of Red Dragon Inn (I won -- through sheer luck!). Our guests concurred that the game is awesome. Next, we all played a game of Castle Panic (with two add-ons, apparently). This game, *we* had never played before, so our guests showed us how to play. It was a cooperative loss as the monsters defeated us despite our wise counsel and resolute cooperation against the evil tide. Heh. The gaming day wrapped up with my sister-in-law playing “My First Orchard” with our younger son upon his waking from his nap while the rest of us played “Alien Dice.” This was a neat game where the object is to collect cows, humans, and chickens for points, avoiding tanks from the defending human race. It was easy to learn and quite enjoyable. My brother-in-law won that one while my younger son and sister-in-law were successful in beating the raven to the fruit to win the game of "My First Orchard.”
So, my weekly blog changed course, but I think that the Lancaster County visit will help inspire my RPGs in future with different examples of interaction and culture that I can use in my own DM writing. The gaming material I purchased will prove a fun read (as RPG books always do for me). Finally, an FLGS (“Friendly Local Gaming Store”) that is just too far away for us to be considered regular customers or to dive into games there shows it is still the wonderful and friendly store it was during my two earlier stops in. Lastly, I scored some great gaming reads that I plan on consuming soon!

Happy gaming,

P.S. For those interested, here I am providing links to the places we visited, should you have opportunity to visit yourselves:
  1. Six Feet Under Games:
  2. Kitchen Kettle Village:
  3. The Amish Farm and House: