Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I'm Tumbling Now

In an effort to keep A Pack of Gnolls focused on D&D and other RPGs, and not sully its good reputation with all that CCG silliness, I've started a little blog over on Tumblr that will be specifically about Magic: the Gathering.

You can follow me there at Mana Burns.

I'm regularly getting distracted by deck-building, but I am also still working on Hyrulian Adventures, more Microlite material, and more stuff from my kids' game to post as well.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sentimental Sunday

I was in a fairly nostalgic mood this morning, and started flipping through my recently acquired Palladium Games Heroes Unlimited 2nd Edition. I picked it up for super cheap, along with Ninjas and Superspies, at the Fantasy Shop's Used Gaming Auction in January. 

Looking through it, I am confronted with the same thoughts I have every time I look through a Megaversal book: how the crap did we ever figure this out, or run it, or have any fun with it? Maybe these books only make sense when you're in middle school and high school. I have so many issues with lots of the system, from skills to combat, SDC vs Hit Points, that I don't even know where to begin. 

I do remember having some completely ridiculous fun with the system though. Perhaps it had more to do with the company I was keeping than the game, though. We always went completely over the top with our Supers games. 

I used to have a nice little collection of Palladium stuff: Palladium Fantasy, Systems Failure, Nightbane, and a couple other Heroes/Rifts items. I put them in the Fantasy Shop's Used Gaming Auction a couple years ago and only got ten lousy bucks for all of it; I didn't think I'd ever use any of it. I'm still pretty sure I won't ever use it, but a Microlite-type Heroes game could be pretty fun, especially with my goofball kids. 

So I'll have to ponder some kind of conversion. Yeah, I think I've got a bad case of gamer ADD at the moment, but that's par for the course. Hey, at least I'm never bored! 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

My Gateway to D&D: Magic the Gathering

I've been working overtime through most of this week, including today, and along with a hectic schedule for the gnollpack, I haven't been able to make much progress on much of anything gaming related, but I have had some thoughts brewing. And hey, look at that, I didn't post for a week and just jumped up to over 100 followers here! Thanks people! 

To make up for lack of posting this week, here's a fairly rambling and long-winded one about Magic: the Gathering and D&D, with a little personal introspection to boot. 

I have been playing a little Magic: the Gathering every night lately, a couple games before bedtime with one of the minions. I find myself going further down the Magic rabbit hole these days. Don't worry, A Pack of Gnolls isn't going to morph into a Magic blog; I won't bore you with decklists or strategies or synergies here. 

However, Magic served as my gateway to fantasy gaming. Sure, I'd been playing Star Wars D6 and Palladium's Heroes Unlimited and Robotech with my buddies, but when Padre showed us Magic, my imagination really came alive. The old Dragonquest RPG was introduced to our little group soon after, and we were all hooked. 

I find Magic to be a loving homage to D&D. It is clearly drawing a lot of inspiration from its D&D roots, even to this day. There are dwarves and orcs, goblins and paladins, rogues and knights, devils, demons, skeletons, zombies, necromancers, fireballs, druids... The list goes on. If it appeared in D&D, more than likely it shows up in Magic, too. I've written about this before, but the current expansion, Innistrad, is quite clearly an homage to Ravenloft; its full of vampires and werewolves and zombies and ghosts, and is all about humanity on the brink of destruction at the hands of merciless undead and demonic overlords. And it's a lot of fun to play. A lot of the cards are awesome plays on horror tropes; one of my favorites, purely for its creepiness factor, is Village Cannibals. 

Magic was my gateway to fantasy gaming, so it will always have a place in my heart. I didn't play it for a long time; my original collection contains cards from 1994-1998. I only recently started picking up Magic cards again, when my in-laws gave the minions each a starter deck from the recent New Phyrexia and Innistrad sets. That's a good twelve years! The more I've played with the kids, the more I've gotten into it, and I started picking up boosters, deck-builder kits (220 or so cards for $20!), and Fat Packs. Now we've got a halfway decent collection going. Each of the kids has their own deck, and there are a few others I've put together that they all play with. What's really important is that we're all spending good quality time together. The kids are all pretty sharp and have challenged me on several occasions with their decks. 

I'm not a great Magic player; I'm about as good at Magic as I am at video games. I can do pretty well, but not great. I'm never going to be a pro Magic player; I'm not going to shell out ten or twenty bucks for a single card to perfect a deck. I love opening booster packs, and I'm really liking booster draft-type games. 

What's really ironic is that the things that I love about Magic are basically the same things that drove me away from 4E D&D. Character Generation for 4E is incredibly similar to building a Magic deck. You choose your role and power source, you find synergies within the various available options, and you put it all together in one package. I got sick of all that with 4E, but I'll happily spend hours doing the exact same thing for Magic, looking over the cards in our collection, finding synergies and combos and marveling at the art. 

It's weird, I know. There's just something viscerally satisfying about handling the cards. The same activity in 4E is a major chore on the computer screen with the Character Builder, and even more so with a hand-written sheet with the books open! 

Anyways, I know a lot of grognards out there can't stand Wizards of the Coast for what they've done with the modern incarnations of the D&D brand, and with the way they've treated their D&D customers through the years. I find myself in a funny position here. I thoroughly enjoy Magic, and I thoroughly enjoy old-school D&D. So I'm a bit of a contradiction in terms here, as far as my gaming is concerned. 

Actually, now that I think about it, that's how I've been my whole life. I was a gifted athlete who played at the top local levels in my chosen sports, but eschewed jock culture for sci-fi and fantasy geekiness. I was a liberal working-class kid who went to high school with a bunch of upper-class conservatives. Now I'm a union construction worker, and the people I work with all have hobbies that primarily include either firearms or automobiles, while I'm playing D&D and Magic with my kids. 

Yeah, I never made much sense to me either.