Monday, July 14, 2014

The Great Kingdom Documentary Q&A

The fine folks behind the Dave Arneson / Gary Gygax / early TSR documentary, The Great Kingdom (facebook page), took the time to answer a few questions about their film and its production. The primary filming is complete, but the filmmakers need our support to finish production. They created a KickStarter campaign to fund the final Production of The Great Kingdom. I really would like to see this film and have made a pledge. Watch the trailer and decide for yourself.

Filmmaker Questions & Answers

CH: Chris Haifley (director)
AP: Andrew Pascal (producer)

How long have you been working on the The Great Kingdom?

CH: We have been in production on The Great Kingdom for almost year. If you count the years playing, we've been working on this project for 30 years. It's been an incredible, rewarding if not heartbreaking journey.


What was the most challenging obstacle in filming The Great Kingdom?

CH: One of the most challenging obstacles in any production is logistics - getting equipment, crew and schedules to match up with the busy lives of our interviewees. A challenge that we love to overcome.

AP: We're a small crew (3-5 people usually) and so everyone puts on a different hat at different during production. The hero of our production is James Sprattley. At any given moment, he is a Camera Operator, Grip, Make-Up Person, Producer, Craft Service, Driver, etc. It's been challenging, but great fun.

Editing transforms a pile of footage into a compelling story. But, there are many hard-core gaming/history buffs that might be interested in seeing behind the curtain. Is there any pledge level or possible future plans to release outtakes, extras, raw footage?

AP: We've discussed this only preliminarily. Of course we would love to show every bit of interview footage that we've filmed. Perhaps a website where everyone can access the interviews is something to consider. Paul Stormberg, one of our experts, has told us many times that what we are doing should be archived...these are testimonials that have never been recorded. We agree. It's something everyone should have access to. I would like to add that our website ( has a bunch of "behind-the-scenes" pics that might be of interest to anyone who would like to know how we work and who we are interviewing.


What time period does the film focus on?

CH: The time period that The Great Kingdom focuses on is from 1972 -1985 - from the inception of the game through the point when Gary Gygax is fired from his own Company, TSR. We picked that timeline because we felt the flashpoint of the story happened between those years. The story of Dungeons and Dragons is a big story, bigger than a feature length film. We didn't want to be the definitive documentary about Dungeons and Dungeons. There's a compelling story about the triumph and heartache that came with the development of the game - this is the film we wanted to make.

Did you interview any of the iconic TSR artists?

CH: We have not interviewed any of the original TSR artists. There is a core group of interviewees that support our origin story. We are focusing on those interviews right not now. If we had the opportunity we would have interviewed the great Dave Sutherland (Dungeon Masters Guide, Monster Manual). He was there at the very beginning of our story.


Do you have a total number of people interviewed for the documentary?

AP: We don't have a large number of interviewees as we wanted our story to be intimate and personal. Having too many people would have been confusing to any one watching the film. 12-15 people at most for any decent documentary and that's been tough to follow as there have been so many great people that we've interviewed already and there are still a couple of hold-outs. We'd like to keep the list a mystery for now as there are a few surprises we'd like to share when the film is released. The pictures on our website will give a glimpse of some of the people we've interviewed.

After you reach funding goal, when might the film be finished and released?

AP: We are hoping to have something to show by Gary Con next year (March 2015). If the stars align, we would love to be finished sooner, but that would be our projected date. We felt that it was our small way of giving thanks to the wonderful people in that community. After all, it all started in Lake Geneva.

Any thing else you'd like to say?

AP: Please support our efforts on KS ( We need as many people to get the word out as we can get. We are so excited to tell this story. It's a story for the ages, something every true fan of documentaries, D&D, RPGs and games in general would be interested to watch.

Andrew Pascal, Jim Gavin, Chris Haifley and James Sprattley 
(the filmmakers)

Thanks guys, and gook luck!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

5th Ed, Dwarven Armored Wizards?

I understand this is v0.1 and "basic" rules. But... Dwarves don't get any Intelligence score increase, but Mountain Dwarves do get proficiency with light and medium armor.  Combined with "Casting A Spell" section has this to say about casting in armor;
"... blah, fluff, blah, you must be proficient with the armor you are wearing to cast a spell."

Means, unless I missing something, Mountain Dwarves are the only armor wearing wizards (by RAW and presuming no multi-classing). With multi-classing and super low XP for 1st level it is eminently min-maxish of any Wizard to take a level of Fighter.

Now, DMs are free to plug this "hole". It's just weird (still assume I missing something somewhere...) Although, maybe armor is not a big deal with all the "impossible to die" rules (full hp regen every night, partial hp regen rests, multiple saves before death, lots of spells to auto-make saves / heal / be not dead, healing potions in the equipment list, etc.).

Personally I like Dwarves to be the antithesis of magic and Elves to be fighter/mage types. I'd house rule Dwarves to have advantage on saving throws against magic and be unable to take Wizard levels. And Elf Fighter/Wizards being one of the very few multi-class options available.

[wtf is up with basic PDF jacking cut and paste?]

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Six Systems in Six Months

Because I have too many games I want to run and I like "promoting" RPGs at my FLGS's I came up with scheme to run small "campaigns" with six different (less common, but currently available) game systems in roughly six months.  I'm sure with holidays and scheduling it will take a little longer than that. But the goal is run 3-5 connected sessions of each RPG. Long enough to get real feel for system, not too long the DM burns out.

Candidate Systems

Dungeon Crawl Classics - too 'popular" for list but friends are begging me to run it...

FATE - Thinking something Hong Kong Action like. "Big Trouble in Little China" with some "Escape from New York" thrown in.

RuneQuest II (Mongoose) - cause that is version I have.

Brutal Big Bad Ball Bustin Bloody Battles - Fast light fun.

Something Sci-Fi; Stars Without Number, Star Frontiers, maybe classic (TOS) Fasa Star Trek  but that's not really "available".

HARP / MERP - My most favorite system I've never (well vanishingly rarely) played.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Vaults of Pandius 18th Anniversary

Is *the* mega official resource for the "Known World" from Expert Box D&D.  Later renamed Mystara.  The wealth of material here is overwhelming. It's existence makes me want to run a campaign in the Known World. Much of the material is generic or easily adaptable to any RPG. There are also options, house-rules and other crunch for the die hard BECMI fans.

It has active community and is regularly updated. And Pandius / Mystara s is supported with message boards, email list and forum.

All this and more. 

Check out some of the stuff in Mystara Atlas for one of my favorite nations Glantri. Including my favorite Gazetteer style maps of Glantri.

It is really and incredible amount of material and effort. I laud the authors, supports, fans, and game companies for keeping this reference work alive and thriving!

Vaults of Pandius

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Great Kingdom D&D Documentary

A kickstarter to pay for post-production of "A feature length documentary uncovering the true tale of the rise and fall of the creators Dungeons & Dragons."

"In 1969, GARY GYGAX, a family man and an insurance underwriter with an entrepreneurial mind meets DAVE ARNESON, an idle, yet brilliant game designer. Their collaboration would change the world, their families and themselves.
This is the remarkable true life story of the rise and fall of Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson and the people behind the creation of the epic role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons.
THE GREAT KINGDOM explores the personalities behind the game and the families they engendered. This is the saga of the people who brought a company from its humble basement beginnings and transformed it to a multi-million dollar corporation. A story for our time that parallels the rise, fall and redemption of Steve Jobs and echoes the who-invented-what question of the creation of Facebook."

Dave Arneson (seated, with glasses) at Gen Con II

Gary Gygax (striped shirt) at Gen Con II

Friday, June 20, 2014

Hex World Project

Followed pictures on Pinterest to the blog of this Norwegian? artist ->  (Make Google Translate your friend)

Explanation of their hex map and other projects

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How Mana Came to be Used in Fantasy Games

Great, long, article about how a Polynesian concept and word came to be used for "magic energy" in games and across western culture in general.

Monday, April 21, 2014

My DCC Characters

Every other Tues at Whose Turn is it Games in Austin, TX I transform into the Elf warrior wizard, "Malifoi the Chaotic". That is, I did until he got turned to stone last session. Although I'm sure one day he'll be returned to flesh and continue his rise to power, fall into corruption.

Malifoi the Chaotic

Tomorrow, I'll be breaking the new funnel of death survivor and backup character "Gary".  A former Game Designer who is now A Witness to the Great Eagle. Gary, along with a vice cop (dead), disco dave (alive), auto-factory worker (dead) arrived on a bus from 1970's Lake Geneva, WI. Other survivors include a former lifeguard "Chester the Crimson Conjurer", a history teacher who styles himself "The Professor" another wizard.

Gary, Witness to the Great Eagle

My first character, "Bubba Two-step" turned out to be a thief. After a couple sessions decided I wanted to sling spells and so put him out to pasture.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Kickstart the City State

I should spend more time writing blog posts and less on Kickstarter...

I *so* don't need this. I have all the original stuff with extra maps.  Still, in at $40, totally reasonable price for softcover and all those digital maps. I'm sure to get all of them in print for $5 a pop. Totally passing on the miniatures. Got too many. Plus Wilderlands minis don't excite me.

City State of the Invincible Overlord, the first and one of the largest fantasy RPG city settings in gaming history, written by Judges Guild founders Bob Bledsaw and Bill Owen, defines sand-box roleplaying by giving information for over 350 shops, taverns, inns, palaces, barracks, temples, and the NPCs who inhabit them! City State of the Invincible Overlord was first released at Gen Con IX in 1976, along with Wilderlands Campaign Map I: The City State. The City State was written for the Judges Guild's Wilderlands of High Fantasy Campaign Setting but can be easily adapted and dropped into any setting.

Kickstart Metamorphosis Alpha

I should spend more time writing blog posts and less on Kickstarter...

In at $80. Long ago I got the Amazing Engine Alpha to Omega and it has inspired me to put various amounts of mutanty science into almost every game I run.  Totally worth having it's 1st edition and the progenitor of Gamma World, Mutant Future, and all the rest.  Wikipedia Metamorphosis Alpha

METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA is the first science-fiction role playing game. Originally released in 1976 by TSR (publishers of Dungeons & Dragons), it is now in its fourth edition, and is the predecessor of Gamma World and other science-fiction RPGs. The original 1976 edition of METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA is considered by many to be among the most important RPGs of all time. As Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, wrote in the book “Hobby Games: The 100 Best”:

“Furthermore it blends fantasy with weird and super science in a unique manner that is captivating to players with imaginations suited to such a startling mixture. METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA – in any edition – stimulates the imagination, encourages keen thinking, and breaks the mold of typical fantasy and science fiction roleplaying games. If that doesn’t make it one of the best hobby games ever, I don’t know what would.”

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