Wednesday, April 20, 2011


The obvious question one might ask is "Hey Aaron you idiot, why are you starting a new blog?" After all, I'm already committed to Dreaming About Other Worlds, and an occasional contributor to The Arcane Hour, as well as holding down a full time day job, going to school in the evenings, taking Tae Kwon Do classes, and making time for my two wonderful kids. Don't I have enough on my plate already? Why launch a sister blog for Dreaming About Other Worlds with all the work and headache that entails? Isn't that crazy? Well, sure. But I'm also a gamer, and I have to scratch that itch somehow. And blog posts about gaming don't really belong on Dreaming About Other Worlds, and certainly don't belong on The Arcane Hour. So Playing in Other Worlds was born.

By "gamer", I mean a role-playing gamer. And by "role-playing gamer", I mean a table-top pencil and paper role playing gamer. Now before someone runs off and gets the idea that I'm some sort of role-playing gaming purist, I'm not. I have played some CRPGs1, although I gave up on Oblivion after about an hour, and never finished Baldur's Gate (it kept crashing on me). I did love the Temple of Elemental Evil CRPG adaptation, which should become apparent as this blog goes on. I have played one MMORPG2 on a semi-regular basis (Lord of the Rings Online for anyone who cares), and I like it. I also have a shelf full of table top wargames, and a pile of Babylon 5 and Illuminati: The New World Order CCG3 cards. All of these endeavors are fun, and I have spent many enjoyable hours engaged in each and every one of them. But for me, nothing can compare to sitting around a table with a group of friends, pulling out the polyhedral dice, and pretending to go somewhere else for several hours.

I have been hooked on role-playing games since that summer between my 4th and 5th grade years when I visited my best friend Sean Norton for an overnight stay and he pulled out a Player's Handbook and said "Do you want to go on an adventure?" I was primed. I had read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings earlier that summer, and I jumped at the chance. I made an elven fighter/magic-user and set out into the dungeon accompanied by four men-at-arms. We played all night, until my first character was killed just before dawn by a troll. Thirty plus years later, and I still love to metaphorically strap on a sword, fire up my spell book, and walk into danger in a dark maze of underground tunnels.

Or, as has happened, create the stage for others to do that while I play all of the villains in the piece. Because I love to create, and tinker, and design. Which means that I usually end up on the opposite side of the game mastering screen with a pile of books, a handful of notes, and a gallery of horrible villains to throw at the people in front of me. And I love every minute of it. This may be why none of the other kinds of gaming hold me rapt the way table top gaming does - with a CRPG, or an MMORPG, or even a wargame, you are a player in someone else's universe. Though you design your own decks to play with when playing a CCG, you are still stuck using the tools the game designer hands you. But with a table top RPG, as the game master, you have fairly free reign. if you decide that something should be added to your game world, then you just add it in. (Yes, I know you can make changes to a MUD4, or in some cases modify a CRPG, but you have to have programming skills that I don't have to accomplish that, and even then you are constrained in what you can do). So even when I'm not sitting at the table throwing dice, I'm noodling through ideas, writing down game modifications, campaign setting details, or just putting together adventures and scenes.

So what am I going to do for this blog? well, basically this is the opportunity for me to throw out all my thoughts on gaming, garnered over three decades of playing and game mastering. I'll point out at the outset that all of my ideas on how to be a game master, how to run a game, and how to design a campaign or a campaign setting are only what has worked for me. I think these are good ideas, but others may differ in their opinions. Also, I'll be putting together and refining a campaign setting or two, and putting up all the background information to use them on here. And I'll be explaining why I made the choices I did when designing these settings and the campaigns that I intend to run within them. And I'll be writing about just about anything else game-related that I think of along the way. So if you think this sounds interesting, get out your dice, your paper, and your game books, and join me Playing in Other Worlds.

1Computer Role-Playing Games, for anyone who doesn't know.

2Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, a hideously addictive and time-consuming form of gaming. I play LOTRO, but the most popular MMORPG is World of Warcraft,and there are numerous others, such as Champions Online.

3Collectible Card Games, colloquially known as cardboard crack for their addictive nature. The most popular CCG is Magic: The Gathering.

4Multi-User Dungeon, a text based multi-user game. For anyone who remembers Zork, a MUD is basically similar to Zork, except usually includes a much bigger play environment and is capable of supporting numerous players.

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