Friday, July 31, 2009

How Do I Play D&D

If you don't mind a laymen mocking your hobby, he's an old article about D&D.


Monday, July 27, 2009

RPG Angola

There really is no such thing as sub-saharan African nations before 1950 or so. Until the French and British draw imaginary lines in the ground. All of Africa is disparate tribes of varying size... with the Ashanti and Zulu best known among Westerners.


I'm going to make a deal with everyone right now. When I'm done with all of the nations, I will come back and write up what little I know about Africa (and try to do some research before then).

Until then, I will just post each nation, with some disclaimer text, like...

The Angolan Civil War was fought from 1975 to 1991 (although formally 2002) after the Angolans won their freedom from Portugal. I wonder if this is the last hold out of the Imperialist age? Does this beat out the Falkland Islands? 500,000 people died.

Khoisa and Bantu are the primary languages.

The Angolan Navy has only 3,000 men and women.

The country actually has a rabies epidemic.

According to Wikipedia:
Teachers tend to be underpaid, inadequately trained, and overworked (sometimes teaching two or three shifts a day). Teachers also reportedly demand payment or bribes directly from their students.
From the US State Department Website
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required and must be obtained in advance. An International Certificate of Vaccination is required. Visitors should allow several weeks for the processing of their visa application. Angola does not issue airport visas. Persons arriving without visas are subject to arrest or exclusion. Travelers may also encounter delays if they do not have at least one completely blank visa page in their passports for entry stamps. As of November 1, 2007, Angola no longer requires travelers to have an exit visa. Travelers whose international immunization cards do not show inoculations against yellow fever within the past ten years may be subject to exclusion, on-the-spot vaccination, and/or heavy fines. Visitors remaining in Angola beyond their authorized visa duration are subject to fines and arrest. It is illegal to attempt to carry local currency out of Angola and persons found attempting to carry local currency out of Angola are subject to having this currency confiscated by customs officers. Current information on entry requirements may be obtained from the Embassy of Angola at 2100-2108 16th Street NW, Washington, DC, tel. (202) 785-1156, fax (202) 785-1258.
That's a friendly country.


CRIME: Crime is a serious problem throughout Angola. While most violent crime occurs between Angolans, foreigners have occasionally been attacked as well. Street crime is a regular occurrence in Luanda. The most common crimes are pick-pocketing, purse-snatching, vehicle theft, and vehicle break-ins. Armed muggings, robberies, and carjacking involving foreigners are not frequent but do occur. Americans are advised to avoid Roque Santeiro and Rocha Pinto, and to only travel the “Serpentine Road” in front of the U.S. Embassy by car. In general, movement around Luanda is safer by day than by night. Touring after dark should be avoided. Police and military officials are sometimes undisciplined, but their authority should not be challenged. Air travelers arriving in Luanda are strongly advised to arrange reliable and secure ground transportation in advance; there is no regular taxi service. American citizens are advised to avoid the use of the public transportation known as “candongueiros” or “taxistas”; these multi-passenger vans are largely unregulated and often dangerous.

Check out the Ultimate Toolbox for Eastern, Southern, and Western African names.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Twilight 2000

Westen joined the group and the twilight team last night. He's playing an Irish Medic/Chaplain.

The team has also reached a critical moment in their attempt to escape Poland. Nearing the city of Weiland, the team has reached a small contingent of Russian soldiers repairing the road and bridges near the Warta River, along with a garrison of soldiers inside the village.

We only got to play for three hours, because of timing, but the entire game was spent trying to figure out how to repair the jeep they have and/or steal a Russian jeep. They are dangerously low on fuel, food, and morale. They are out of MRE, only have a few potatoes left, and four cans of peaches remain in their stores. The Land Rover has bald tires, and is out of fuel, with a small crack in the fuel tank, which is soldered now... but another hard bump is going to crack it open again.

The team is in bad shape, less than 30km from Kepno — a city where they believe Americans are hiding out — low on supplies, tired, and deep into several plot threads. They just don't realize it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

RPG Andorra

To be honest, I know very little about Andorra.

I know they have low tax rates and a long life-expectancy. The population is less than 100,000. Um. They speak Catalan?!? Cripes. I'm floundering here.

From the Government's Website:
Andorra is the last independent survivor of the March states, a number of buffer states created by Charlemagne to keep the Muslim Moors from advancing into Christian France. Tradition holds that Charlemagne granted a charter to the Andorran people in return for their fighting the Moors. In the 800s, Charlemagne's grandson, Charles the Bald, made Count of Urgell overlord of Andorra. A descendant of the count later gave the lands to the diocese of Urgell, headed by Bishop of Seu d'Urgell.

In the 11th century, fearing military action by neighboring lords, the bishop placed himself under the protection of the Lord of Caboet, a Spanish nobleman. Later, the Count of Foix, a French noble, became heir to Lord Caboet through marriage, and a dispute arose between the French Count and the Spanish bishop over Andorra.

In 1278, the conflict was resolved by the signing of a pareage, which provided that Andorra's sovereignty be shared between the Count of Foix and the Bishop of Seu d'Urgell of Spain. The pareage, a feudal institution recognizing the principle of equality of rights shared by two rulers, gave the small state its territory and political form.

Over the years, the title was passed between French and Spanish rule until, in the reign of the French King Henry IV, an edict in 1607 established the head of the French state and the Bishop of Urgell as co-princes of Andorra.
Not being a master of middle ages politics — not that I wouldn't mind knowing more — the storyteller in me thinks there's more story here than culture.

The Website also says the country is 1/2 the size of New York City.

Seriously. I've got nothing more to write. This is a nation filled with Catalan, French, Portuguese, Spanish, in addition to the native Andorrans… all descendants of Spanish and French I'm sure. Fantasy games are filled with these kinds of countries. If I were going to use this country in my game, I would set up a buffer kingdom, with a bishop/prince as the new ruler of this very small "Duchy" with all of the headaches of forming a new nations, while still dealing with an invasion force (Moors or otherwise). PCs get knighted after proving their worth and are encouraged to recruit more soldiers to defend the "Kingdom."

Good? Can I go now?

Andorra Names

Okay. Just do some research on French, Spanish, and Catalan names... or just wait until I post those nations.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

RPG Algeria

Before we can talk about Algeria, we must take a moment to talk about the difference between Arabs, Persians, and North Africans. Even though these countries share a religion and a language (Arabic), they are not all the same. In fact, to say that Arabs and Persians are the same is similar to saying French and English are the same.

And they are not.

Algeria is one of the largest nations in Africa, but unfortunately, most of it is desert. Useless desert.

Historically, Algeria was the home to Berbers (we'll get them later) and then Carthaginians who pushed their way in during the Punic Wars. Romans and Vandals have also been involved in the history of Algeria, but we really need to pinpoint an era of the country to do it justice, so I'd like to approach Algeria in this manner.

First, because most Middle Eastern and African nations today have boundaries that have little to match their historical cousins, I can't always explore the minutia of cultures like Mahgreb, Numidia, and the dozens of Berber tribes. I can only explore these ideas as far as time will allow. This blog is free, after all.

Secondly, there's a lot of research people can do on their own. I'm mostly working from my own knowledge of these nations, with some wikipedia help when I get stuck. North Africa is not my strong suit, but I am still fascinated by it. If I get something wrong, don't hesitate to correct me.

Gaming Algeria
As a fantasy nation, Algeria would have a long history of Berber influence and culture. In fact, even during times of occupation, the Berber culture and faith changed very little. That is until the Arab conquest, when the Berbers converted to Islam.

For roleplaying opportunity, I think this is an excellent time period to examine.

Imagine a culture, dominating a region as large as an area the size of the Gibraltor to the Nile, slowly subsumed by an invading force over 60 years, while converting to the invading faith — and not by force. Imagine two cultures, at their peeks, colliding and melding, to form a society that still survives to this day. [Culturally, modern Algeria is not very different than it was 1400 years ago.]

Now. Imagine that Berber land cut off from other portions of the Berber lands. To the far east, the Berbers quickly turn their back on the old culture, but to the west, their is a staunch need to adhere to language, customs, and traditions. In fact, this cultural "purity" would lead to the revolts in the mid-8th century to the notions of Berber slaves. Although, this revolt did not happen in Algeria, it is relevant to a discussion of the culture.

Culture and Character
"Berbers" as a sub-race of humans in a fantasy game would definitely show signs of high WIS and cultural acceptance. Berbers are tribal, semi-nomadic, and subsistence farmers. Tribes are small, and unified with so much variation in cultural rites from one tribe to the next, GMs could really develop anything they wanted here. Predominately patriarchal, some tribes actually allowed women to make decisions and be equal to men.

The people are expert weavers, producing fantastic tapastries. Traditionally, Berbers built small, functional cities, relying on their own work rather than the production of others (as would be typical of a Western Fantasy setting). Scholars and artisans only developed after the Islamic invasion of the 7th and 8th century.

From a roleplaying point of view, Berbers are a fantastic culture of study because of how long they remained constant. Without outside influence, Algeria never changes.

Recent History
Algerians, Iranians, and Turks have been nominated (over the years) by Rand McNally as the friendliest people on earth to travelers... which feels contrary to the negative view Muslim nations are attributed by the media. In a roleplaying context, this means a nation where people help foreigners, greet other nations, and in general do not make war, but rather extend and exchange culture.

Berbers are also studied for their genetics, since strains of Berbers and Maghreb DNA has been traced back 50,000 years. Hardly relevant to this post, but I read about it in the waiting for at the dentist's office.

Algerian and Berber Names
Female: Aicha, Asma, Assia, Basma, Fawzia, Hayat, Imane, Ismahane, Mariyam, Meryem, Mouna, Nadjet, Najiya, Naouel, Narimane, Nejma, Rachida, Rayane, Samia, Shada, Sihem, Sonia, Soraya, Souad, Soulaf, Yasmine
Male: Bakri, Bassam, Bilai, Farid, Fouad, Gabir, Hassan, Hatim, Khalil, Lounes, Mashaal, Qais, Reda, Said, Samir, Sofiane, Talal, Yassin, Yanis

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Polycon XP

Someone is going to have to explain to me why no game convention has ever undertaken the idea of handing out XP to attendees and making those XP mean something... seems like an obvious leap in logic. Just slap it on the badge.
However, today's post is about the POLYCON experience. Polycon is a small, university-sponsered convention in San Luis Obispo, California. It's a once a year thing, middle of the summer, and it's about as relaxed and slow as I've ever seen a gaming convention.

Seriously. These people were on quayludes or something.

Let's begin with the trip up. A four-hour trip up the 101 became a six-hour trip thanks to 4th of july-related traffic and bottlenecks in Santa Barbara. Add in a young drive (not me) who likes to text and surf the internet while driving and you have a very "unrelaxing" six-hour drive to SLO.

During the course of the next 42 hours of convention (yes, the con ends at 2pm on Sunday... what?) I played a couple of board games, tested my board game twice, ran a LARP, and watched a drunken idiot ruin one of the best Paranoia games ever devised. We also got in some Apples to Apples, with gambling (I lost $8).

I did play Small World on Sunday before the 2.5 hour auction. I also played DON with Tom Jolly and plaid $26 for two cokes and three sliders. Mmmmmm.

The trip home was a chore, and I won't go into that.

My ultimate review of the con is that people in SLO are used to gaming together all the time, so a CONVENTION isn't special to them and therefore the time spent at the convention isn't as important as it would be to someone who loves going to conventions.

Considering the 12 hours to travel time to get to a convention that lasts only 48 hours (that includes sleep time), I don't suspect I'll be going back. But if you live close to the convention, I would recommend attending at least once. The auction was awesome and the energy is really great. Very relaxing group.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Gaming Night

One of the players couldn't make it last night, so the remaining four of us played a few board games.

Don. A bidding game by Queen's Game. I think I've talked about this game before. While RA is the king of bidding games, this one is a very close heir to the throne. A lot of people don't like it because once you're behind you stay behind, but I think if all the players know that, bidding becomes more aggressive.

God Dice. We've played this one quite a bit before. It's a nice distraction of a gladitorial game. It's kind of like Yahtzee with violence. I actually hate to admit that I like it, considering how simple it is. My biggest complaint is the component quality. Someone spent good money on art and graphics, but not on typesetting, dice, or dice symbols. I can imagine how this happened, because I know the nature of deadlines in the industry... but it's still kind of a bummer. I'm also confused why they ordered a separate piece for the cover. With six expertly painted characters inside the box, the cover could have been a gorgeous collage.

Shadows over Camelot. Two of the players had never played before. And because I demo games like I learn them (by just digging in and playing), there might have been some confusion. However, we finished a four-player game in one hour... an unheard of feat. We didn't play with a traitor, since it was their first game, but we'll rectify that next time.

10 Days in the USA. Everyone knows this game. A quick little rummy-style geography game. I won. And rather quickly, I might add.

We stopped playing at 1130pm, but talked for another hour before going home. And Jason said he had to work.... whatever.