Ever since I started writing full-time for Ain't It Cool News, it's been in the back of my mind to restart this column. Massawyrm did a fine job with this - if I can do half as well as he did, I'll consider this column a success. But a few things have happened that made me decide to dust this off, and if all goes well we'll be bringing you more news on tabletop gaming more often. First off, I've decided to get back into tabletop gaming. I've always been a dabbler, ever since I dropped a ton of money on Dungeons and Dragons books back in junior high, too far ago. But recently, I've just had an itch to get back into it. Perhaps it's due to the movie, ZERO CHARISMA, which I saw at SXSW and just adored. Here's the trailer, if you haven't seen it:
Anyone who has ever gamed before needs to see it when it gets released. It's such a fun movie, but it's not a comedy that makes fun of gamers, but a movie that understands just why gamers love gaming so much. There's a passion to ZERO CHARISMA that is undeniable.
This past year, I've started playing Munchkin, the Steve Jackson Games card game which approximates dungeon hoarding anf monster fighting. But the real fun of the game is just fucking over the people who play with you. I don't think I've won an game of Munchkin in the past year. But I've made my friends' gaming lives a miserable hell, throwing down cards and cackling as they try to fight their way out of a double Katrina Level 20, and all Katrina's little friends. And now I'm completely hooked. I've bought so many booster packs and supplementals that I had to drop some money on a seriously decent mechanical card shuffler.
This year, Steve Jackson Games will be coming out with Munchkin Pathfinder, based on the popular role-playing game. They're also coming out with a new version of CAR WARS, which I'm especially excited for - in one particular game in my youth I had the armor on the left side of my car blown out by a missile, so I did a Bootlegger and drove in the opposite direction of traffic just to stay alive. Now that was a memorable game, and I look forward to the new edition. Steve Jackson and his team have entertained us for many years, and what I love the most about their product is that they make it very easy to just pick it up and play.
This Saturday I'll be running a Munchkin game in celebration of International Tabletop Day, at 8th Dimension Comics and Games in Houston. I'll hopefully also get to play many of the other games they have in store that day - I'm especially curious to try LAST NIGHT ON EARTH, the zombie board game that whenever I see it being played, it looks like a hell of a lot of fun. I own it and haven't even cracked it open yet. My friend Jeremy will be running LARP Night On Earth at Comicpalooza this May, and I have to take part in that.
Wizards of the Coast has done something quite wonderful - they've re-released Gary Gygax's original ADVANCED DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS books, gave them gold trim and nice covers, and are paying tribute to the man who started it all. Ever since Wizards of the Coast bought up TSR's properties there's been a general feeling that Wizards may not have been treating their legacy with the proper respect. But these new editions are gorgeous (if a bit expensive) and for those people designing their own games these books are a wonderful lesson in gamebuilding. And for those who say that they'll just make their way to their local discount book store and scoop up the older books, these new editions do have a nobler purpose in mind. Each purchase of these books helps support the Gygax Memorial Fund, which seeks to build a memorial to the Father of Tabletop Gaming in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
This week, the latest book from these editions came out, and any fan of D&D will want to own it. It's the famed S-series of modules that Gary Gygax created, including TOMB OF HORRORS, possibly the most well-known dungeon of all time. I bought this edition myself and just marveled at the illustrations and the maps, and it took me back to my youth. I never made it far in TOMB OF HORRORS, It's a well-known character killer, and through the many modules I've played since, it's the standard. Ernie Cline even references it in a terrific way in his novel READY PLAYER ONE. Acererak is one of D&D's best villains, and he's just a damn skull! It's a testament to the clever writing of Gary Gygax that players still remember fondly that hellbitch of a dungeon. I hope to play it again very soon.
Also included is WHITE PLUME MOUNTAIN, EXPEDITION TO THE BARRIER PEAKS, and THE LOST CAVERNS OF TSOJCANTH. The book is full of the original maps and illustrations, and for fans of these seminal adventures, it's a must-have. I especially love EXPEDITION, which when I played it I had no idea of the weird twist involved. But those particular weapons made for nice editions for my character, even if they didn't last much beyond that adventure.
Even more editions are coming, including Gary Gygax's AGAINST THE SLAVE LORDS series this June. I always dug his riff on the works of Lewis Carroll with his DUNGEONLAND and THE LAND BEYOND THE MAGIC MIRROR modules, and I'd love to see those released again. Tracy and Laura Hickman's RAVENLOFT was also one of my personal favorites, and Wizards of the Coast re-releasing those great adventures again would go a long way to getting the good will of the older fans. I look forward to what they release next in this series.
Finally, I want to introduce you to Abstruse, who will be helping me write this column. I may be a dabbler, but Abstruse is the real deal - he knows gaming and he's a good writer to boot. Anyone interested in contacting Abstruse - to review product, for news, or just gaming advice, because he certainly knows his stuff - can email him at TheAbstruseOne@gmail.com or follow him on his Twitter feed at @Abstruse. Here's a few words from Abstruse:
Hello, I’m Abstruse. I’ve been playing games since my counting abilities were up to Candyland levels and I haven’t stopped since. The first roleplaying game I ever played and the game that has a special place in my heart is Shadowrun. My standard game-night games are Castle Panic, Small World, Settlers of Catan, Zombie Dice, Tsuro, Risk, and Ticket to Ride. Once alcohol gets involved (and when is alcohol not involved on game night?), Cards Against Humanity and Munchkin come out (I’m a purist, only dungeon-based expansions).
I’m currently running a Shadowrun game set in 2053 using 3rd Edition rules and updating my conversion of T1: Village of Hommlet to Dungeons & Dragons Next’s newest playtest packet released this week. No, I can’t share or multiclassed Ninja/Assassins from Wizards of the Coast will murder me in my sleep. Give me bourbon and polyhedral dice and I’m a happy guy.
And feel free to click on the games and books above, which will take you straight to Amazon if you're interested in purchasing them.
Take the initiative!