Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Let's talk soldiers + expertise in 5E!

As I progress in what sort of feels like an overarching plan that's been in the works for a while...just needing the proper attention paid to it...I'm trying to make my way through these guys...

On the left is the most basic Cobra infantryman.  On the right is the most basic Cobra infantryman.

...along with some others from my childhood that I grabbed from my parents' house last summer. I'd like to have a nice little stock of figures/fodder to play out battles with, and it makes sense for me to start by fixing up some of my old guys.  With (I'm sure) a bit of a nod to the old OCD, I always took pretty good care of my toys as a kid, so while that means I don't have much in the way of stories about tying them to bottle rockets or YOLOing maximum fun out of them in any way, it also means that picking up a kit to replace their O-rings will go a long way toward setting me up with a nice bunch of gamepieces...

The cure

The happy patient

Old vs. new

As far as gaming goes, I'm looking at really streamlined 5E classes that make an action figure skirmish doable without going crazy from number-and-ability-overload.  Now obviously, for the universe of G.I. Joe, the most important class to have is Ninja.

For now, though...I just want a nice, basic Soldier class that can fit most infantrymen, both Cobra and Joe.  And it seems to me that one of the easiest ways to do that is to just make them experts at fighting, at least with certain weapons.  Like how Rogues can have Expertise in thiefy things, it'd be nice to give Soldiers expertise in fighty things.

I'm realizing, though, that there aren't many who seem to think that doubling a proficiency bonus on an attack roll is balanced.  I guess I figured this would be the case; while 5E's designers did an impressive job taking the unification of combat and skill/tool rolls to the next level with proficiency bonuses (and the elimination of basic attack bonuses and skill ranks), excessive combat bonuses can be a tough sell.  Even if they "make sense," it's often easier to avoid them, just in case.  It's just that...well, it kinda seems like the math for fighting and for using skills should work out about the same at this point.

So why is weapon "expertise" (as in double-proficiency) still seemingly off the table?  Is the bounded accuracy of 5E so precise that a few more points can really break it?  Are there just too many other ways to boost attacks that are unavailable for skills and tools?  Is it forbidden just in case?  And is it time we break this rule and finally grant full, proficiency-bonus-doubling expertise for every sort of proficiency?

Maybe not, but I'll probably try.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

The Brigade to Advance the Destruction of Government, Environment, and Resources

As the battlefield comes into focus, we see a large group of inexplicably colorful foot soldiers advancing on our heroes' headquarters.  Some of them have jetpacks.  Some have laser guns.  All share a rallying cry:





Whatever the specific pronunciation, it sounds maniacal, I can tell you that much.

So, as I'm hoping to get caught up on my own little Terror Drome this weekend, I find myself spending a fair amount of time thinking about an evil(?) organization that serves as a tribute to the "bad guys with fun names" found in countless IPs...but largely these guys...

I think I'm pretty settled on the naming of my take as the Brigade to Advance the Destruction of Government, Environment, and Resources.  Or...of course...BADGER.

Note:  There are actually a lot of organizations of this type in fiction, so if I happen to find out that this name is already taken by something prominent - and please feel free to let me know if I'm overlooking one(!) - I may need to switch it up.

Obviously, the most important characteristics of these groups are their iconic logos.  (Sarcasm?  Not sure...)

So, I headed over to to see if I could find something that might come close to fitting the bill.  Choosing hues that diverge from the big C's red and blue (although I really love those as Cobra's default colors), I worked with this awesome badger icon from Caro Asercion:

Adapted from Caro Asercion's original design, used under the CC BY 3.0 license.

Overall, I do kinda like it, although I think it's a little too...cutesy, I guess.

So how would it look on the genuine Cobra articles?  Let's look at one that is both natively violet and among the cooler looking troops in the organization, the good old Techno-Viper.  Applying my next-level Photoshop Paint and PowerPoint skills...

And adding it to the classic Crimson Guard...

Eh, still probably a little too cutesy.  Not sure though.  Any thoughts on adjusting this to suit its purpose, or the best way to start from scratch and generate what I'm looking for?


Oh yeah!  And speaking of huge evil organizations bent on global domination (HARHARHAR), Hasbro has doubled back in a pretty major way in this whole OGL fiasco, eh?  There's a part of me that thinks this series of events has been a real net positive for D&D players.  We got a gentle (less so if you thought your livelihood was going to be affected, but still lacking in conflict overall) reminder that there are limits to what we should expect from friendly agreements with big companies, AND a bunch of 5E rules officially became usable under a Creative Commons license.

And now we still get to watch as the apparent error by Wizards of the Coast inspires creative reactions from some of the best minds in the game.  So, with one big obligatory caveat (that I do recognize that the worries caused by WotC's bungling of this are still impacting many who make a living in RPGs)...that all actually sounds pretty cool to me!  

Monday, January 23, 2023

So how are your year and your dungeon and your open game license going?

Hello friends!  I hope your 2023 is going well!

What a crazy time to be an avid fan of D&D, eh?  (I'm assuming anyone reading this blog knows a thing or two about the recent saga of Hasbro/WotC's plans/attempts to alter the Open Game License, but if not, no worries...I'd recommend throwing some stuff like "new OGL" and "OGL 1.1" and "OGL debacle" into Google and reading a little bit about the storm that's been raging.  You can also check out this Ars Technica article which summarizes some of the details.)

And now, my long-awaited* response to the fiasco:

So, I get to say this from the privileged perspective of not having my livelihood rely upon the actions of a soulless corporation, but it's difficult to not be entertained by the magnitude of the misstep Hasbro has taken in this whole thing.  I mean...they were on top of the world with D&D.  Big industry leader again after the previous misstep that was Fourth Edition...recognizable and arguably "cool" in modern pop culture...big-$$$ movie on the way.  And then they drop a bomb that alienates a LOT of their biggest customers and supporters.  It's remarkable, really, and while I hate to just jump in the boat with folks who can't wait to say "the damage is done"...there probably is some amount of damage here that simply can't be recovered without some drastic steps (that WotC is unlikely to take).

I still love many aspects of the core D&D experience, Magic: The Gathering is still probably my favorite game ever, and I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about gaming with G.I. Joe Hasbro is almost sure to keep getting some portion of my disposable income.  BUT now we've seen that putting too much faith in the corporate overseers opens us up to having the rug pulled out when we aren't expecting it.  Even if WotC makes everything "right," what happens in another 20-something years when there are different head honchos making decisions, who want to revisit some legalese and see if they can squeeze a few more bucks out of the property?  We, as players, do own the D&D experience, but this was a nice reminder that we don't own Dungeons & Dragons the trademark.

And I guess that's okay.  I do hope that the publishers who have quite understandably depended upon the OGL are able to weather this, and who knows, maybe come out stronger on the other side.  One positive from my perspective: The shift to Creative Commons licensing for some of the core D&D rules seems like an "about time" sort of change, and while I understand that, legally, it may change nothing, it is a nice result of this.  I mean...I think.


So, how's your Dungeon23 going?  To the surprise of no one, I've already fallen behind on more than one occasion, but I do actually have something in the works!  Here's the first day, and then first full week (as laid out in the planner I'm using):

The plan is for this to be a headquarters for a Cobra-style organization that serves as the villain for a fantastical military setting.  I'm thinking maybe the Brigade to Advance the Destruction of Government, Environment, and Resources.  And this is their version of the Terror Drome.  Like I said, I've been thinking a LOT about gaming with G.I. Joe figures, and this is playing into that effort.  Hope to share more soon!  (That "more" will include subsequent weeks of my Dungeon23 work...once I finish some more...)

Until then...well, every time I think of the words "Terror Drome," I'm reminded of this fantastic Funny or Die video, which I first saw at my bachelor party at Con Nooga in 2011.  So well done...

Would love to converse regarding the OGL and your Dungeon23 project if you feel like it!  Talk to y'all soon!

* By my mother

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Happy 2023!!

Wishing the happiest of new years to all who come across my scribbles and thoughts.  May your goals be realized and...heck, why not have your dreams come true, as well?

Hoping to be a bit more active on here this year.  At the very least, perhaps that will be influenced by the fact that I'm IN on #Dungeon23...

DG baby...

My inspiration looks something like this:

From here...

Best of luck to all you fellow D23ers!  And Happy New Year to all!

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

So this Dungeon23 thing is really taking off, eh?

Seems like I can't go five minutes on the nerdweb without seeing another reference to the yearlong megadungeon effort widely known as Dungeon23.  Which is awesome!  In case you haven't seen it, it appears to have been launched by a tweet from Sean McCoy of Mothership fame, who started a movement with these words:

Megadungeon for 2023. 12 levels. 365 rooms. One room a day. Keep it all in a journal.

There's a whole post about it over on his Substack site.  (Is that just called a Substack?)  And people are freaking out about it.  In a good way.  There's a subreddit and a ton of mentions on Twitter and a lot of people happy about being creative and helping each other be creative.  I mean, when I see an RPG project get mentioned on Gizmodo, Grognardia, and The Other Side, I should probably pay attention, right?

My initial thought was something along the lines of, "well, there's another longterm hobby goal for me to slack on...I should probably steer clear."  But now that I'm seeing so many folks getting excited about prepping for it...might just be FOMO, but I'm kind of thinking I should give it a shot...!

Maybe I actually craft a "traditional" megadungeon to get the archetypal experience?

Maybe I use 5E rules and try to pare them down to my own take on OSR-inspired modern D&D?

Maybe I put together a neighborhood for Ravnica?

Maybe I stretch the megadungeon idea a little further and instead make that a neighborhood for Light City or Dogwood City?

Maybe the megadungeon is actually a human body, and I finally follow through on gaming in micro?

Or, maybe I just dream big for a little while and ultimately realize that it's time better spent on a project that I'm feeling a little, at the moment, rules for playing with some of my action figures.

I never finish those either, though.

So, those who stumble through my little corner of the blogosphere...anyone thinking about taking this on?

Monday, December 26, 2022

The Christmas party on my desk at work

A bunch of folks at work put some real effort into their cubicle Christmas decorations this year.  I think I held my own (with coworkers helping on a couple of festive touches), BUT if you ask me, the real party at my desk was in on in the corner.  I documented it over the course of the season...


Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Terry Hall, 1959-2022

News broke yesterday of the death of Terry Hall, singer for one of my favorite bands, 2 tone legends the Specials.  This is truly a loss, and at only 63, clearly much too early.  I like this sentence posted on the band's Facebook page: "His music and his performances encapsulated the very essence of life... the joy, the pain, the humour, the fight for justice, but mostly the love."  If folks can say something that's anywhere close to that when I leave this world, it will probably have been a life pretty well spent.

From his Facebook page...

I've been listening to some of his work today and wanted to share a few songs here.  While much of the greatness of this first one is defined by its group vocals, I have to post the most iconic version of one of the most iconic ska or rocksteady songs of all time, the Specials' take on "A Message to You Rudy":

The Rude Boy archetype and the "character" of Rudy are a topic I've long thought I should write about in a Geeky SKAturday, and this tune probably leads the way in representing Rudy's image in a lot of people's minds.

There are a couple of songs, though, that I think exemplify Hall's strengths as a vocalist and will be forever imprinted on the musical portion of my mind.  "Dawning of a New Era" might have been the first Specials song I ever heard, and I really never get tired of it...

And then Hall's performance in the grand alloy that is the Specials' epic "Ghost Town" is absolutely timeless:

Of course, Hall had projects other than the Specials, with Fun Boy Three being perhaps the most well known.  Even many who have never paid much attention to his musical performances would probably recognize this pop gem that he co-wrote with Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Go's:

Finally, I know I'm not the only one recognizing today how poignant Hall's performance in this classic cover is...especially considering the young age at which the world lost him...

I definitely hold some regret that I never seized an opportunity to see Hall perform live.  And I would love to honor him in a very Monstrous Matters way, by statting him up for a game, but I'm not sure I have the tools and chops (yet?) to do that well.  If I were to go the 5E route, I think I'd put him close to the max (if not THE max) level used in the campaign world at hand.  Of course, he'd be a Bard.  And he'd be the first one I construct that belongs to the College of Ska.  But I haven't put all that together yet.  One day, maybe, and hopefully soon, and until then, I'll enjoy the incredible art he left for us.

Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think.