Today I turn 50

Hey everyone, today, July 16 2014 I turn the big Five-Oh!  Yes, I cannot believe it.  Its pretty incredible to think I have been around for 50 years — that seems such a long time, yet now I realize it is nothing at all.

I have had a lot of adventures in my first fifty years and hope to have just as many the next fifty.

I have journeyed to Japan and England and been to many states.  Travel is beautiful and I hope everyone gets a chance to see this incredible planet and the wide and varied assortment of civilizations.

I now count so many friends from around the world. Because of the web I have friends in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Germany, England, Scotland, South Africa, Brazil, Sweden, France.  The list just goes on and on.

I am also a published author of numerous game books and here this month I will finally publish my debut novel, Amish Johnson and the Pegasus Chamber.  I still have so many stories to tell, even though they may be a bit disjointed and cobbled.  I hope to still be writing 20 years from now, telling everyone adventures.

I have enjoyed my computers over the years, and I can appreciate them coming from an era where there was none.  When I was a kid, there was no Xbox or even computers.  No MMOs, No first person shooters, no turn-based command & conquer games. I lived in a world without email, and cell phones, and if you wanted to watch a show you better be home when it was broadcast.  I remember the introduction of the microwave, or at least when my family got one it was real special.

I was a kid during the greatest time for movies:  Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Star Trek, ET, Jaws, etc…  What a wonderful time to grow up.

Here is looking at the next fifty years.

My Gaming History

I knew I was hooked on gaming ever since my brother came home from the store with an Avalon Hill board game called Starship Troopers. I am not sure what year that would be, but I would have to think it was the late 70s. It wasn’t until high school that I came across D&D; I remember pointedly each time I bought a brand new copy of the 1st edition set of AD&D — still to this day can I remember the smell of the binding, cracking open the Dungeon Master guide. It was only a few years later that I started constantly DMing and then writing my own adventures. During those formative years we use to play a different RPG every month, trying out dozens of games — Sadly after three moves I own only a small percentage of my original core rules booklets.

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In 1980 I home published a little book called Phantasm Adventures. I typed all the pages up on a typewriter and photocopied and bound them. Perhaps 100 copies of this game exists, yet only recently I had people from Canada and England asked me if they could buy a copy for their RPG collections. I own one original copy of the game — the where about of the other 99 are a mystery to me.

It was during this time that Jeff Dee (the creator of many of the original art found in the 1st and 2nd edition D&D rules, and also the writer of Villains & Vigilantes), and later Jack Herman (co-author of V&V), both moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan. I am unsure of the reasons he moved here, but I think it was a comic-drawing gig. The funny thing is I remember asking my mother if I could go down to this guy’s house and do some gaming, and my mom, always the worrisome type said no because it was in a rather unruly side of town (for Grand Rapids). So it wasn’t during the first alignment of the planets that I met Jeff Dee and started my game design career.

But the second time when again he posted a sign at a local hobby store looking for gamers a year later, I did finally get to meet him. It was here that I was introduced to V&V (the first super hero role-playing game). If I had to put a date, It was probably around 1984. Jeff Dee was the best GM I have ever played with — his campaigns were so imaginative, the stories were intricate, and best of all the battles were engaging. I remember always wanting to go to his house and game.

During this time, I also met up with Scott Bizzar (president of Fantasy Games Unlimited) and I pitched him a number of ideas on different full length gaming system including my little brown book called Phantasm Adventures. This was before the time of true word processing or very early on. If my memory serves me in 1984 the Lisa computer came out for Apple and that was the start of what I would call personal computing — although it would be another 15 years before I owned a Mac for a brief period of time. Alas, during this “StoneAge” everything had to be typed on either a typewriter or a bit later on my archaic Commodore-64 word processor.

mv8_ZrX3FaFTktNE5dUjE3wIt was in 1984 the I wrote my first adventure module for V&V called The Devil’s Domain. The adventure centered around a demonic figure trapped in another dimension trying to escape to Earth and a group of stalwart heroes trying to stop him. To this day I still get small royalty checks from the company every year.

In 1985 I released a compendium of super villains for V&V called Most Wanted III, having the prior two Most Wanted written by Jeff Dee and Jack Herman. This was another great production value module with artwork predominately done by Jeff Dee.

In 1986 I released my third and last V&V adventure called Return to the Devil’s Domain. By this time the franchise was seeing great growth but the overall production standards having slipped with shoddy artwork and poor editing.

Phantasm

In 1987 through 1988 I moved to Japan for a year. It was during the early part of my stay that I visited a bookstore and bought a Japanese game magazine called Game Graphix. On the back they put their address in English, I suppose because they thought it looked fantastical — as if a game’s magazine here would put their return address in elven, I guess. I wrote to the company and within a week I was sitting in their offices talking about games. The rest of the year saw the formulations of a dozen game books — I would write them in English, then present them to the editorial staff that would translate them into Japanese. It was during this time that I wrote and published Phantasm Adventures, Bloodbath, Bloodchant, and Multiverse.

in 1990 I was nearly considered for the producers position at Interplay, the maker of games like Fallout and Bard’s Tale. I was to work on a game called Castles. I flew out there and had serious talks with the president, but in the end I did not take the position.

WorldGuide

When I returned to the states I continued to work on RPG designs for 10 years, working with every major publisher including TSR, Steve Jackson Games, Iron Crown Enterprises, and Different World Magazines. I still banged out expansions, modules, and map sets for the Japanese.

Castle Guide

It was between 1987 and 1997 that I wrote such works as The Castle Guide and the Equipment Guide for 2nd edition AD&D. I also wrote a huge compendium for RoleMaster under the name of Heroes & Rogues. I also took a hand at editing for Hero Games, working on several super hero adventures for Champions. the Japanese continued to buy my creations including Advanced Phantasm Adventures. You can see more about this English version here:

http://emeraldtablet.wordpress.com/phantasm-adventures/

It was during this period that I was on fire on creating home-brewed game systems, just as desktop publishing was taking off. I created a dozen RPG systems all seeing a very limited print but I became a center of gaming fury in Grand Rapids. At one point, I remember, I had 12 guys in my house playing one of the games. I created such systems as TED&D (pronounced Teddy like the bear) which stood for Troy’s Enhanced Doom & Death; Realms of Ardaan; and Star Traders.

I finally got to work at a computer game company when I accepted a position at Bethesda Softworks, the maker of Skyrim among other computer games. I was to work in the offices and also collaborate on Dagger Fall. My stay at the company was short lived as I discovered that working in the industry was not as glorious as it sounded.

After returning from Bethesda, I entered the “Dark Ages” of design, not producing anything of real quality for 10 years. It was a time of placid existence, without thought of worlds beyond ours — even my gaming dried up and I became lost in the world of gaming.

Multiverse

In 2007 I returned with several community mods for Civilization IV, a computer game of conquest from Firaxis. Although not a programmer, I did figure out how to make large modification to the rules. To this day, I still get people from all over the world emailing about how much they enjoyed my mod.

in 2010 I was contacted by Jeff Dee and Jack Herman about writing a new module for V&V; This project is in the works. It was during this year that I was also contacted by some of the original editorial staff of Game Graphix in Japan and they sought to release a new version of Advanced Phantasm Adventures. Sadly, this project keeps lapsing because of many outside factors.

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In 2011, I started another design project called Iron Age. It was built off from my game rules system called Bloodbath, but a bit more complicated. It was also backed up by historical research, hoping to put players into a relatively real world environment of history. My hopes is that playing the game will spur the players to learn more about the culture and history during the Iron Age. The development continues, but slowly.

Trying to Return to Blogging

A month before the end of the year and I am trying hard to get back into blogging again.  Is this my preemptive strike on my New Year Resolutions?  I am unsure?  It is Sunday night, the last day of my Thanksgiving Vacation and I am just looking over all the stuff I did not get done.  One of my goals during the four day vacation was to do writing.  I think I failed quite miserably.

This site has been here for years, treating those that occasionally stopped in for my editorial on games, history, and writing.  Every year, for the last six, I have been good at writing my ideas, thoughts, and rants about my gaming and clever ideas. If I make an effort, I am sure you will find once more I can offer some interesting ideas and comments to games and history.  Thus, I am dusting off the site again and hope to start using it a bit more.

Five months ago I changed the theme to my site, to a Halloween motif, but I never really liked it.  I wanted the site to be more “spooky” and “adventuresome” but there was really nothing in the free themes to fit the bill. I settled on a cheesy Halloween theme, but it was horrid and drained my creative each time I went to visit this site.

Today I changed it to a rather ordinary but consistent theme.  Please poke around on the tabs and some of the archived material.  I know one bland post doesn’t make for a great blog, so I am not asking much of those who stop by.  I would ask a favor of you though — come back in a week and see if I have added some interesting content?

What can you count on here:

  • Challenging thoughts on history
  • Scientific curiosity and quirky scientific discoveries
  • Civilization IV modding secrets and stories of my play-testing progress.
  • MMO stories from the games I play: Everquest 2, Guild Wars 2, Path of Exile, and perhaps even some Rifts.
  • Podcasting
  • Gaming editorials

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Bloodbath and Bloodchant RPG rules.

2012-04-09 19:02:46My favorite super hero MMO, with me, Joe, and Wade’s characters.

New gear made by my own guy!

New gear made by my own guy!

Fair enough?  I hope to see you next week.

Guilds Are Not For Everyone

When I first returned to Vanguard I joined a very progressive guild. Most of the members seemed very helpful but the mistake I made was that it was a very high end guild, limited to 55th level characters. Although my highest level guy is only 35th, they let me in — not sure why? They should have told me, listen come back in 20 levels and you are more than welcome.

I quickly realized that unless I had a 55th level character, I really had no voice or even access to 99.9% of the guild’s activities.

I like how Sony structured guilds in the game. They really serve as a focus for raiding groups but not to abolish the needs of cities or outposts. There are no guild rifts, no guild crafting stations, no guild merchants. All of this still must be performed in town by and large.

Certainly there are guilds in the game that cater to lower end characters. And being in a guild like that has its advantages, mostly as pre-50th level crafted gear is often better than farmed stuff. Its also fun to banter and carry on with a more select group of players, leaning on them for various needs across the gamut of gaming.  Getting groups and finishing quests are so much easier  dealing with a 50 players rather than 5000.  Guilds have a distinctively different feel however in Vanguard than other MMOs.

As for my involvement in a Vanguard guild, I am pulling out for the time until I know really what I want. I don’t think a single person in the guild I had joined ever said three words to me, and why should they as I was only 36th level? I love my characters and their progress, but I want to be able to actively contribute to a guild, and I really hate sitting back in the nose bleed seats while reading what others are doing.

Perhaps six weeks of playing the game again is too short of a time to even think about guilds. More than likely my judgement has been clouded by other games that have guilds — certainly in EQ2 guilds are a must even for solo players, not so in Vanguard.

Are others in guilds? What are your thoughts about joining or being in a guild?

SSD Makes a World of Difference

The other BIG news for me this weekend was that I added an SSD (Sold State Drive) to my computer. I bought a Samsung 840 series, 120 gigabyte drive and with a bit of trouble added it to my computer.

I cannot STRESS more the change in the game that it made. Literally went from horrid to glorious. If you want to do an upgrade to the game, do not add a video card or RAM but buy yourself a SSD.

I got mine for $110 bucks. Make sure you get the kit with cable and bay, which may run another $20. Simple to add, a bit awkward to fit into the computer.

A++ idea: Get an SSD

Moonbe, Toddan, and Darkmaze hunting some giant ants

Moonbe, Toddan, and Darkmaze hunting some giant ants

Vanguard Goals for the First Week in April

For me, Ratook my main, is going to be making everyone new harvesting gear. Okthank, my blacksmith, is going to be making a ton of arrows and iron horseshoes for all my alts. Dagulas, my carpenter, needs to get up some levels and do his Banisher quest line up to the point he gets his gem of NT port.

I also want to get Daarnash and Pumpkinpuss out harvesting a ton of metal and textiles.

I have a handful of other alts that I wouldn’t mind taking to Lomshir and into the depths of that dungeon in that beached boat along the coast — that is a little secret spot between you and me. Don’t tell anyone else.

I will be posting some pictures of the guys later on tonight. Can’t wait until I get home to start the weekend.

Things Vanguard Does Right!

I think it is too easy to simply sit back and complain about what Vanguard did wrong. Certainly there are innumerable aspects of the game that need polish and perhaps even a complete overhaul, and there is a place for that. But the worse thing to do is dwell on only the negative aspects of a solid and well designed game, mostly since the game has done some really incredible things right.

I am curious what other players feel that the game got right. Here is my 10 aspects that Vanguard did right. Do you agree? The following list is in no particular order but represents my free spontaneous thinking of all the glory of what Vanguard does correctly.

Rich Character Development: I have said this before but I really enjoy characters that are full bodied with stats, scores, attributes, and skills. I hate the paper cutout games where one character simply is another with a skin. Vanguard nails this. The stats, skills, and attributes are robust. It feels like your character is always growing and developing.

Large World: Many MMOs have huge land but they make the mistake of inserting some kind of system to move quickly around in it. I know when I lived in Tokyo I never truly realized the size of the city because subways would wisk me around the city and it just felt so much smaller. In this way, other games do the same. Vanguard on the other hand just makes the world seem so expansive. Certainly they have some modes of quicker transportation including mounts, boats, riftstones, and even caravans but they do it just right where it isn’t too much or too little.

Mounts: Up until just recently I think Vanguard did the mounts right. Recently with some garish looking ground and flying mounts, I begin to question this but overall I like how it works. You gradually increase in ground movement speed as you level. You start with basic mounts at 10, so it feels like you can have something right away but there is so much to improve. I like how they get the crafters involved with horseshoes and barding and how that increases in level.

Classes: I love classes. I so dislike games that just glom all abilities together into generic pathetic classes. Vanguard nails it with unique and specific classes. Each class feels special and has its own unique way of playing. It doesn’t water down or generalize anything. I am a altaholic and specifically in this game I can never decide what class I want to play because each is so unique.

Races: I love races. I love a race that is more than a skin but has some special ability or something unique about the race. I so dislike games that make races just a graphic skin. Vanguard does this well.

Travel: Much in the way of two aspects above, the size of the world and mounts, but I love travel in the game. They do not trivialize it like so many other games. It takes a bit of time to get to places, so the travel feels real as well as the world. I remember the days before riftstones and the world felt even larger, but they implemented the changes well. Nothing more fun to be in the wilderness and see a fellow player run/riding past you on his way to some far flung quest.

Crafting: I was initially wrong when I said that crafting was a bitch. Well perhaps it is a pain in the ass, but that’s what makes it so special. That is what they did in the game. Other MMOs trivialize crafting because those devs think that crafting is tertiary to the game, but in Vanguard each sphere is challenging and fun. Each has its own quests and gear. They make all the spheres seems special. I so hate MMOs now that you just grind recipes until you can find that 1 item that you need.

Diplomacy: I have done very little in the way of diplomacy but that mere fact is cool that there is some aspect of the game that I could always turn to if others get a bit boring at the moment. So cool for it to be taken seriously and to have their own quests and gear.

Death: Don’t make death nothing more than respawning and running back into the fray. Vanguard does it right. You die and its going to hurt. You don’t go back to your tombstone — it’s really going to hurt. You don’t have the time to go to your tombstone? Well, summon it but take a hit on XP. Perfect. Simply the way it should be. Period.

Dungeons: These formidable places aren’t to be trifled with. Mobs inside these places are mean and dangerous. In other games I would just charge into a dungeon and not think twice about it, but in Vanguard you need a group and you need to find one. No instant dungeon group makers and other sissy lazy ass systems. You want to do a dungeon, you better have guildies or a network of ingame friends. Period.

 

 

 

 

Vanguard Secret II

Last night my friend and I wanted to try something new and unknown. So we packed up three guys, him with his monk and I dual boxing a cleric and a bard, and we headed for Lomshir.

Now new players may say, “I heave heard of that place, but it is off in god’s country and too hard to get there!?!” But there is a secret that you may or may not know. There is a riftstone in Lomshir. If your map does not show it, you can stand by a rift stone and type: /rift Lomshir

Your character will teleport to the stone. Nearby of course is the town of Lomshir and it nearly has everything any new character may need except for a Market. I think there is one further down the road in a town called Dark Horse Downs, though I have not been there in a long time.

Along the shore is a wreck boat and inside are double and triple dot 13 to 20th level mobs. The deeper that you explore, the larger you will realize the size of the dungeon. This place is huge. It has some very nice quests along the way, too. The loot from what I have seen is horrid — I almost wonder if at one time this dungeon was for 2nd to 10th level monsters rather than what assuredly s for a 13th to 21st level crowd now. The devs updated the mobs, but not the treasure.

This dungeon appears to be a great little secret. We never saw another player all night, and yet this area is just rich with so much possibilities. A great list of resources, monsters, treasures, and quests await. I don’t necessarily want to give out this information but I would be remiss in not telling my fellow Vanguardians that this is the place to take 10th level guys — screw the Qa river area, come here.

So much potential here in the Lomshir area you must take a low level guy here.