Category Archives: Games

Write, you fool! [Arcade Games] [Bagman]

A couple years ago, I gave myself this challenge to post something new to my blog every day in the month of December. I liked the alliteration of Daily December and I needed to practice the discipline of creating and posting something new every day.

At the time, I hoped it would sort of revitalize my blog, which had taken a back seat (in a vehicle that was parked in a garage across town) to social media and the like. I hoped I would be inspired to keep writing in the new year, maybe get that vehicle out of storage and drive it around town.

But I felt like all the effort was for nothing. I wasn’t creating to satisfy myself; I was posting to create content. Eww. Gross. And the numbers on my blog didn’t move at all. Hardly anyone commented, I didn’t see an influx of returning or new readers, and when January rolled around, I remember thinking, “well, thank god that humiliating waste of time is over.”

Until just recently, I didn’t see any value in the exercise. Like I said, the goal was to generate interest by posting new content every day. And I didn’t hit that goal, because generic content isn’t what people came to my blog to read (and it isn’t what I like to write). I wasn’t all that interested in what I posted (though I love the Blades of Steel post I did, and still laugh when I think of calling my team “The Los Angeles Los Angeleses” as they played the “Vancouver Vancouvers”) and the old adage “When you are interested, you are interesting,” has an equal and opposite adage “When you aren’t interested, you’re labored, or trying too hard.”

You can see — I can see, rather — the very meaningful difference between the two. And with the benefit of hindsight and experience, I get why I didn’t achieve what I wanted. I went about it in a way that was unlikely to deliver what I was looking for. Lesson learned.

Yesterday, I saw that my friend John gave himself a Daily December last month, where he wrote about a different comfort movie every day. He said it was to get that daily writing muscle stretched out and warmed up, because he has two novels due this year.

I don’t have anything due, at least not right now, but I do have some things I want to finish and release this year, and the muscles and discipline I need to use them have been neglected while I’ve been focused on mental health therapy and complex trauma recovery for much of the last year.

I’m not ready to commit to daily posts. I’m going to do daily writing (I’ve written this over the last six days), but I don’t know for sure that I’ll have something to publish every day. I’m not going to pressure myself with expectations. I’m going to start out with weekly posts from a list of topics that interest me, in the hopes that I will be interesting when I write about them, as well as looking forward to the creative process involved.

Inspired by a lifetime of RPGs, I made a table featuring all the different topics that are interesting to me. I’m going to roll on the table, and use the result as my prompt.

Today, my rolls landed on Classic Arcade Games: Bagman.

Okay, here we go.

Continue reading… →

my biggest rpg surprise of 2023

Someone on Reddit in r/rpg asked what the biggest surprise of 2023 was for us.

This is the kind of thing I enjoy talking about, so I thought I’d share it here.


The biggest surprise for me this year was finding my way back into the depths of my library.

My first RPG was D&D Basic in 1983, and I’ve played ever since, tons of systems. I love it. It’s even part of my job.

But somewhere along the line, I lost the ability to pick up a module, some rules, a sourcebook, whatever, and just read it for the sake of reading it, to enjoy the prose, the box text, the illustrations, the fiction, unless I was going to play the game.

So I have entire shelves in my library that are filled with RPGs I haven’t read, but “want to play someday.”

This year, I read an AMA here from Stu Horvath, and someone asked if it was normal to just read RPG materials for fun, with no intention of playing them. He observed that there was nothing stopping anyone from doing just that, and for some reason, that’s what I, a 51 year-old Ur-Gamer from the Old Times needed to hear.

It was late in the year, but since then, I’ve gone through maybe a dozen of my books, some of them various flavors of D&D, most of them indie RPGs, all of them games I don’t think I’ll ever play, but *intensely* enjoyed reading.

The pandemic delivered a metaphorical (and practical) TPK to my group, and I don’t know how quickly or easily I’ll be able to assemble a new one, but when I do, it’s going to be one hell of a game, because I have all these new ideas and inspirations in my head, from reading systems and adventures I’ll probably never play.


When I was in my teens, I read every GURPS sourcebook I could, cover to cover, losing myself in the imaginary worlds they represented. I loved those things as much as I loved any novel. I read all the FASA Star Trek RPG sourcebooks, because I wanted to know everything I could about the imaginary world I lived and worked in. Also: blueprints. So many wonderful blueprints.

I’ve recently read The Skeletons (the players are the undead who guard a tomb that is defiled by adventurers), Maschinezeit (what if dead spaceships were possessed by Lovecraftian cosmic horrors and you went to one, anyway?), Mothership (in space, no one can survive), and about half of The Lost Mine of Phandelver (5e starter box) because I hope to run it in the new year for a small group of friends.

I have shelf after shelf of books from popular systems, indie systems, out of print systems, loved and hated systems, and 2023 was the year I stumbled into permission to read them on my terms, rather than reading them to prep for a test.

Maybe 2024 will be the year I played more RPGs than I have in a long time.

the post about assassin’s creed and baldur’s gate

At the beginning of summer, as I was nearing the end of The Witcher: The Wild Hunt, I asked the Internet for a game recommendation that would tick some very specific boxes for me, including open world, entertaining combat, some crafting, all that stuff I loved about The Witcher.

My friend Will texted me and said “The answer to your question is Assassin’s Creed: Origins. I know you’re going to look at every recommendation you get, because you’re a nerd like that, but that’s the game you want to play.”

We call sharing good, insightful ideas like this with each other, “Wil(l) thinking.” Of course, he knows me that well and of course he was right. It only took an hour of Assassin’s Creed: Origins for me to know I was going to be spending quite a bit of time in ancient Egypt for the near future.

So in late July, I while I was playing it, I wrote this on my Facebook, and for some reason I didn’t post it here. I think it’s pretty entertaining, so allow me to correct that right now:

I was playing Assassin’s Creed: Origins last night (61 hours in, level 31. Not sure how far I am into the story) and I tamed this hippo, because I thought it would be amusing to have a giant hippo waddling around with me.

I have this cool chain assassination skill, so I like to wait for Romans to ride by in a line, grab the one at the end and follow up with the one in the middle before any of them realize what’s going on. More often than not, the one in the front keeps on going and doesn’t notice his two buddies aren’t with him.

(SIDEBAR: Unless you want to kill an entire village, don’t poison the corpses. I’m real sorry about that, formerly-populated tiny village against the mountains.)

But last night, the guy in the front turned around and threw a spear at me … which REALLY PISSED OFF Harriet the Hippo, who charged the guy, knocked him off his horse, and proceeded to murder the fuck out of him.

So I’m like, “Harriet, you are such a good friend! Thanks for helping me fill the streets with the blood of my enemies. I’m going to set you free to celebrate!”

And that’s when I discovered that Henrietta the Hippo has two states: tamed and aggro. I was like, “Here you go,” and she was like “THANK YOU NOW I WILL MURDER YOUR FACE TO DEATH!”

I want to tell you that I ran away and climbed up a tree or something, until she calmed down and went on her way. But we all know that wouldn’t be true, and Bayek needed some hard leather to upgrade his armor, anyway.

So I thanked Henrietta the Hippo for her service and her sacrifice, looted the corpses, and went about my business.

Every villain is the hero of their own story.

So I finished the story about 10 hours ago, and since then, I’ve been running around the map, as a massively overpowered Bayek with a flaming sword and everything, Leeroy Jenkinsing my way across the world. I’m hunting the Phylakes, and have two left.

Hey, speaking of those guys, here’s a fun thing that happened. I was trying to draw a Phylake away from a populated area, so I could focus on him and not risk his allies showing up to distract me. I mean, I’m just trying to cut his head off with my flaming sword and honestly who can blame me he and his friends have been hassling me for literal months. GOSH.

I pull him into a field, and hit him in the face with an arrow that does not do nearly as much damage as an arrow to the face would do. But considering I climbed all the way up a mountain and then fought a bunch of Romans without pausing to catch my breath, maybe I can just agree to suspend my disbelief for a minute.

He comes at me in his fancy chariot, and I’m like “Yeah, buddy! Get ready to be set on fire!” and I roll out of the way, slash at him, and set him on fire. It was so great, until the grass I was in also caught on fire, which then caught me on fire.

Thinking quickly, I ran out of the grass, did the STOP DROP AND ROLL I’ve been preparing for my whole life, and jumped up onto the top of a … something with a grass roof.

This Phylake dude is super mad that I set him on fire (fair) so he starts throwing fucking JAVELINS at me (also fair). I switch to my secondary bow, a predator bow that is both on fire and able to be controlled by me in a first person view that is so much more fun than I thought it would be, I wish I’d bought it earlier.

I target the Phylake, and lock on. As I track him, the fire on my bow catches the roof on fire. Which catches me on fire. Which kills me.

I’m not saying I didn’t deserve all of it, because I was clearly the aggressor, but I will say that when I respawned, I put the fire weapons away and fought this dude with a spear, a pair of fuck you up swords, and poison arrows.

When I defeated him and looted his corpse, I got a Legendary flaming sword, because the universe has a sense of humor.

Okay, so I’m pretty much wrapping that up and looking for something new, which turns out to be Baldur’s Gate 3.

I haven’t played one of these CRPGs since the late 1900s, and I didn’t like it at first. It felt so different from the games I’ve been playing for the last twenty years, it took about 30 hours, spread out over a week or so, for me to understand how Baldur’s Gate 3 wants to be played, what kind of game it is. From the camera controls, to the turn based combat, to the very real consequences for every single thing I do, it’s just nothing at all like the Assassin’s Creed and Witcher RPGs I’ve played this year.

It took me all this time to stop trying to make it Baldur’s Gate: The Witcher’s Assassin Redemption, and actually play Baldur’s Gate 3. I did a TON of savescumming while I failed over and over to inderstand that this game will not to reward my choice to be a Murder Hobo at level 2. Instead, it rewards commitment to character and class choices, role playing, and careful battle strategy. It’s just as fun as being an OP Murder Hobo, but it’s much more satisfying. When I get through a difficult encounter or challenging series of role playing choices, I feel the same kind of accomplishment and joy I’ve gotten both of the times I rolled Critical Successes in my life.

Put simply, it’s the most faithful recreation of playing D&D I’ve ever experienced with a CRPG. It reminds me of everything I loved about the OG Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, Planescape: Torment, and Fallout: 2, but it’s refined by time and has clearly learned from all the great Bioware games. I just love it.

I love it so much that last night, I realized I need to start setting an alarm for my bedtime, because if I don’t do that, I’ll sit down when Anne goes to sleep to “just play for a little bit”, and the next thing I know it’s 2am. That’s also something I haven’t experienced since the late 1900s, and WOW does it turn out I’m a lot older now than I was then, and my body has comments when I stay up too late.

Update on A Study of The Limits To The Acquisition of Polyhedral Gaming Dice By a Single Individual Over Time.

For as long as I can remember, I and my fellow tabletop gamers have argued that it is not possible to have too many dice. It is known. This is The Way. It is only logical. Yabba dabba doo. And so on.

What I think we may have meant is, it is not possible to acquire more dice than any one of us would be happy to own. Obviously, if you can’t open your front door, you have too many dice. But how many dice tips it over from “this is cool” into “dude, you are a hoarder, but for dice” is unknown.

So about 10 years ago, I began a project to find out if it is possible for me to reach a point where I thought, “No, I don’t need that. I have enough dice.” Over the decade, people have given me various amounts of dice at conventions and personal appearances to support my research. (It’s been awesome to receive dice that come with stories of heroic battles, Wheatonesque probability breaking, dice that are almost as old as I am, dice from special events, OG color-them-in dice, and so many others.)

In addition to accepting these contributions, I pick up sets of dice the way I always have. The annual GenCon dice set, for instance, or the occasional “OH WOW THAT IS SHINY I MUST HAVE IT AND THREE OTHERS JUST LIKE IT BECAUSE OF REASONS” purchase from a game shop or random vendor.

Since the project began, I estimate I have collected a few thousand dice. Maybe around five thousand? I haven’t looked too closely because this is one of those very scientific studies that are about vibes, not numbers. These studies are very popular among think tanks.

The study remains ongoing. I did a vibe check this morning, and again just now. After measuring the vibes, I do not yet have too many dice. Looking to the future of the study, I suspect I could have two or three times this many dice, and still feel like there was room for more. If I acquire dice for the rest of my life at the rate I have acquired them the last decade, I will likely approach some value of “okay, maybe this has gotten out of hand” around 2060.

But now that I have all these dice, what do I actually do with them? Mostly, I just look at them and think about all the games they represent, all the hours of collaborative storytelling and strategizing, all the time spent around tables making memories with friends. I feel good about my game room being the place these dice live, now. I mean, from one point of view, it’s all just hunks of resin or metal, right? From another, though … I don’t have to tell you. You get it. For me, it’s humbling, and it’s an honor, to sort of keep watch over these polyhedral symbols of time well spent and remembered.

Okay, that’s nice, Wil, but what do you do with them? Looking at them isn’t doing anything.

Sometimes, I pull out a couple fistfuls and see how badly I roll random dice when there is nothing at stake (quite badly, as it turns out). If someone needs dice for some reason, I pull out what they need and let them keep it. It’s a version of paying (rolling) it forward.

Last week, though, I found something new (and obvious) to actually, physically, deliberately do with them. I was playing Galaxian in my arcade, and I had this idea to sort some dice into shapes and colors, and then use them to lay out a simple 8-bit sprite. (I had this fun idea about stop motion animation that keeps pitching itself to me. It’s getting a lot of support in the room, but I’m not sure it can pass a full vote.)

Because it’s what I’d been playing, and because it’s incredibly simple, I assembled a Galaxian guy, and I gotta tell you that I really, really like how it turned out.

My next attempt will be a slightly more complex sprite. It’s bigger, with four colors, and if it works … well, maybe I’m gonna make a lot of these things. I guess we’ll see.

so you want to try an rpg, but don’t know where to start

This came from my Ask Me thing on my Tumblr thing.

Q: You seem like a pretty good dude, Wil. Thanks for taking time to chat with your fans, and thanks for standing up for what is right. I love following you on social media. You’ve talked about D&D before, and I’ve been kind of curious about trying it out. I would be nervous though as I have no idea what to do. Any tips for 40-year-old beginners???

A: Thank you for your kind comments.

D&D! I love it. I love all RPG games (even the ones I don’t like to play. I’m just glad they exist).

I’ve been playing since the early 80s, and I can confidently direct you to the 5e Starter Set. It is the best introduction to the hobby, to the system, to the experience of collaborative storytelling that makes RPGs so much fun and so special, that I have ever read or played. It gently introduces you to the concepts behind the system and hobby, eases you into the rules, and is filled with sidebars and further reading if you need that as you get deeper into the adventure. By the time you’re finished with it (there’s several sessions in there, probably a few months of gaming if you meet once a week), you will have enough experience to know what questions to ask at the Friendly Local Game Shop about where to go next. It’s a small investment, and a really easy way to find out if D&D is for you.

If you want to make an even smaller investment, this page has TONS of information and resources. You could start here and spend hours without noticing the time pass. Or, at least, I can. YMMV.

I want to share a few warnings with you.

  1. Everyone has their definition of the “right” way to play D&D. You will find yours as you play. Don’t let someone else’s definition of “right” limit what yours may eventually be. Maybe you like minis. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you like homebrew rules. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you just want to roll dice and imagine you’re a fantasy hero. Someone is going to tell you you are doing it wrong. We’ve worked real hard to kick out the gatekeepers, but they just keep spawning. Ignore them. Send them to me if you need to and I’ll handle them.
  2. The D&D rules system is not the only RPG, or even the only popular one. Pathfinder is beloved by millions of people. FATE Core and GURPS have enormous player bases. Monte Cook’s Cypher System is filled with gorgeous lore and character inspirations (but I’ve never played it, full disclosure). I chose the AGE system for our series Titansgrave, and used a lot of what I learned from running D&D for decades to customize the experience for me and the players. What I’m saying is, RPGs do not begin and end with D&D. It’s as good a place as any to start, but it is only one of many systems.
  3. You are going to hear hardcores make impassioned arguments that continue long after you have lost interest about all sort of rules and setting and system crap. Trust me: tune them out. Eventually, you’ll know what you care to listen to/
  4. All those non-D&D systems support and encourage playing in different settings, from Science Fiction to Horror to modern warfare combat. The thing that I believe makes D&D VERY special is its singular focus on high fantasy and everything that means in our culture. All those other systems do fantasy very well, but D&D is kind of the canonical “storm the dungeon, kill the monsters, take their stuff” experience. It’s also the only one that is D&D, if that matters to you.

That’s a lot more information than I intended to deliver. I just get excited about this stuff because I love it so much. Whatever you choose, I hope you have fun!

And when it counts, may you roll high.