Monday, January 27, 2014

Informed Opinion

First off, let me wish a very Happy Birthday to Dungeon's & Dragons. Today (or more accurately, 'As of this typing') marks 40 years that the game has been around. I have played it in one form or another for nearly 37 years. I may not be it's biggest fan but if it wasn't for Dungeons & Dragons and all those talented and creative people who took part in its creation, I would not have had the years and years of enjoyment in the hobby I have had.

Kudos to D&D.

Now then...


Another post on how differing experiences shape the individual gamer (coming up soon) inspired this one (and vice versa).


I recently got into a discussion with William Thrasher, one of the moderators of a video podcast created by the gaming website group called d-infinity. The vidcast is entitled, appropriately enough, d-infinity Live

Now before I say anything else, I will point out that I have had a conversation with Mr. Thrasher on the very subject of this post and mean no disrespect, ill-will or any sort of negative feelings toward him or any of the fine folks at d-infinity. This is a sort of review/opinion piece that in no way negates the care and attention the team puts toward their work. Imagine me as a movie critic (and we know how much we value those guys right?).

They are a fine bunch of folks and do a mighty fine job with their website and the d-infinity Live! video podcast. I just found it wasn't for me and I hope to explain why.

I highly recommend checking it out and developing your own opinion.


I discovered their website and video podcast through a RPG discussion group on Facebook (of all places). Their live 'broadcast' is one I've watched a few times but sadly, haven't been able to get into. While they are nice bunch of fellas and they are obviously really passionate about games, they seem to have a peculiar (IMHO) approach to discussing various subjects.

In the most recent episode for example, the panel (consisting of three people including Thrasher) devoted the entire vidcast to discussing Science Fiction RPGs. As this is a favorite subject of mine, I thought I would take another shot at listening to d-infinity Live! even though previous experiences had left me somewhat wanting.

I additionally noticed that the group, other than Thrasher, featured two individuals who weren't in the previous episodes I'd seen (or at least one wasn't - I honestly forget).

The group, lead by Thrasher, does some quick analyzing and defining of the Science Fiction genre, notes its many subgenres and discusses the Sci-Fi RPGs the group likes. It was all well and good except...there was practically no mention of how these fellows made their games work.

Then there were the games themselves...Gamma World and other Post-Apocalypse games were favored by one fellow who repeatedly mentioned having little experience with other types of Science Fiction games. He was the oldest of the group and the self-professed old school grognard. The youngest member mentioned D6 Star Wars (gaining him some points in my book) but little else. At all. Thrasher covered Fading Suns and a few others.

Space Opera? Mentioned as a game some of them had heard of but weren't really familiar with. Star Trek? Noted as never having gained a major foothold or being around for a long stretch. FASA's 9-10 year stint being a flash in the pan I suppose. Traveller, Star Frontiers or any of the others? Name dropped only. Mentioned in passing at best.

Look, I know not everyone is as big a fan of Sci-Fi gaming as I am. I get that Traveller is an acquired taste for some. Yet, if I did a podcast about Fantasy RPGs and I didn't discuss Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder, what would your reaction be?

I am looking to do a podcast myself this year and I am trying to touch base with and listen to a variety of different podcasts. I have my favorites and ones I'm less interested in, as do you out there who get a kick out of them as well.

For me, this one is not quite what I am looking for. I think they are intelligent and well read fellows who love games and I can't fault them for that. It just seems that their focus tends to be a bit limited.

In the first episode I listened to, nearly everything referred back to D&D or the D20 system in some way. Abstract wealth was dismissed as a silly idea since it wasn't the economic system of most Fantasy RPGs. Right, it isn't, but that doesn't mean it doesn't work for sooo many other RPGs and couldn't work for Fantasy. In another, one fellow, Thrasher I think was basically talking with only one other person and this individual seemed largely unfamiliar with every game Thrasher mentioned.

Now, their next episode  focuses on odd and unusual campaign settings and features none other than the amazing Andy Hopp*, weird imagery artist extraordinaire. I highly recommend checking it out if you can and seeing (and hearing) what you think. I'd be curious to know your own opinions.

In the interest of interest, this has been a Barking Alien video podcast critique...kinda, sorta.

Barking Alien

*Sorry Andy, I couldn't find your website. I will try again tonight and update this post once I locate it.


  1. I listen to a fair number of podcasts myself and I think you will find that within an episode or 3 you can tell whether you "click" with the show or not - hosts, format, subject matter, casualness, and even episode length all play into this. If it's just not working for you, keep looking - there are a ton of them out there.

    I had a similar experience where a show I was on the fence about had an episode on Supers gaming and none of the 3 people doing it had ever run a supers game and only one had ever played in one and none of them even owned a superhero game according to their discussion! WHY DO THIS SHOW? Did the Podcast Control Board hand them that topic for the week? It was 45 minutes of virtual shoulder-shrugging.

    Acquired taste or not, Traveller, Trek, and Star Wars are the "tripod" of sci-fi gaming and should play a big part in any discussion of that "genre". Post-Apoc is a big deal, bigger in the 70's & 80's than now but still relevant and probably worth its own discussion. Anything TSR has probably been big enough to join that conversation too. I'd even say Battletech/Mechwarrior (more 80's and 90's) and Warhammer 40,000/Dark Heresy/Deathwatch/etc/etc (more now) are pretty big players in that space too.

    Look, one comment and we have half a dozen games thrown in with more alluded to beyond those. This isn't that hard.

    I don't expect people to like the same things I do but if you're going to have a theme to a show I would hope you would have something to say about it.

    1. Precisely Blacksteel, that is all I'm asking for and frankly, I don't think it's a lot.

  2. I've noticed this problem with a lot of players who got into roleplaying through TSR or Dungeons and Dragons. Many of them (including the oldest players) don't seem to know of a lot of the other systems out there that existed. If TSR didn't produce it they don't seem to know about it which is a shame since there were so many other great games.

    My introduction to and first foray into roleplaying was through Robotech and the Macross line of books ("Cpt. Jack Smith, VF-1 pilot, reporting for duty"). We played that for years before we started playing D&D or anything fantasy. D6 Star Wars was a favorite as well (I still love that game and that system). I'm surprised they didn't even mention Rifts.

    Have you played any of the Palladium games?

  3. I am not a fan of Palladium games but adore the D6 Star Wars system. That should tell you something about me. That I am comfortable using the word 'adore' for starters.

    With the irrational exception of Champions, I prefer rules-lite, lower crunch games that are simple to play and easy to GM on the fly.

    I have always found Palladium RPGs to be rules heavy, background setting heavy and cumbersome.

  4. There is a subset of D&D players, a large subset in my experience, where RPG=D&D. That's what they like, that's what they've always played, and that's all they're really interested in playing. ANything else is at best, a brief diversion that they have to be talked into, and even then the assumption is that at some point they will "get back to playing D&D". I'm not coloring it right or wrong, it's just something I have run across. If you're going to play a lot of D&D they're good people to have. If you play a variety of games then they can be an unhappy anchor sometimes.

  5. Sadly I experience RPGs = D&D frequently. Getting folks to play anything else can be hard. Especially anything that's not the latest flavor and is out of print.