Monday, February 27, 2012

Raising a Girl Geek

Joy in September 2011
I was thinking over the weekend that since the sub-head of my blog is "A dad raising a little girl geek talks about RPGs, Comics, Fantasy, Science-Fiction and other Geek Stuff" that maybe it was time that I actually explain how I'm trying to go about raising the next generation of geeks.

It's certainly not rocket science - I'm basically just going about trying to expose my little 2 1/2 year old girl, Joy, to everything that I think is cool.  Here's a quick run-down of my efforts to date.


RPGs: Obviously the concept of an RPG is way beyond any 2 1/2 year old.  However, my wife and I do a lot to instill in Joy a sense of imagination, and it seems to be working. Joy will often say things like "I want to drive Daddy's car" and when we say, "But, Joy, you don't know how to drive!" she says, "I'm just pretending."  She does this a LOT regarding a lot of different subjects - eating food, cooking dinner, flying in a rocket ship, etc. "I'm just pretending."  Of course, pretending is an important first step toward playing RPGs later in life.  When Joy says, "Daddy, you have to climb in your rocket ship!" and we pretend that we're climbing in, closing the door, buckling ourselves in, and punching a bunch of buttons to set our coordinates for our destination.  I can just imagine her being a bit older (okay - a lot older) and re-enacting the same scenario while playing Traveler or even by taking my Star Frontiers boxed set off my shelf.  


Joy has also been with me to my local game store, Game Empire, many times, at both the old and new locations, and sat with me on the floor while I thumbed through various game books and browsed through the used game section.  I've also walked her through the open gaming area so she can see everyone playing various card, miniature, and role-playing games.  She asks a lot of questions and I try to answer them in a way that will help her understand what's going on.  


Comics: This past Christmas, I bought Joy a My First Batman Book from Pottery Barn Kids. She loves it and requests that I read it to her nearly every night.  It's a short book but tells you a lot that you'd want to know about Batman - that he's really Bruce Wayne who lives in "fancy Wayne Manor" (I still think it should say stately Wayne Manor, but that's a minor quibble) but when he puts in his mask he turns into Batman (and again - another minor quibble, but is Batman the mask, or is Bruce Wayne the real mask?), that he has a fancy car called a Bamobile, that he sometimes swings from a Bat-rope, that he's called using the Bat Signal (which glows in the dark), that he is very smart and uses a computer in his bat-cave to catch criminals, and that he has a helper named Robin.  Each description comes with a cool interactive device - the description of the bat-rope, for example, has a cut-out of batman on a line of string that you can swing between the buildings of Gotham. The description of Robin has a facing page with a little reflective mirror-like "face" with a black Robin-mask over the eyes where you can line your face up and "become" Robin. Joy loves that page.  


Using this book, I've taught her the name of Batman's rogues' gallery, even though their names are never mentioned in the book. She can now name the Joker, Poison Ivy, Catwoman, the Penguin, Mr. Freeze, and the Riddler by site.  Well, sometimes she has trouble with the Riddler.  But, as an example, one of our friends recently got a set of the Fisher-Price "Little People" Batman and Joker figures, and Joy was able to identify the Joker just from looking at his figure.  

I have a Green Lantern hoodie that I wear a lot, and also two different Green Lantern t-shirts, so she's able to identify old GL pretty well also.  It helps that his name is also the same color of his outfit.  


I've also listened to the Music of DC Comics 7th Anniversary Collection many times in the car on the way to daycare.  She loves listening to this, particularly the old 1960s Batman TV theme song, but also the ones the list the various members of the Justice League.  This morning I asked her what her favorite Superhero was, and she said, "Aquaman, because he helps me eat food." Yeah, I'm not sure what that was about, and believe me, I am trying to work with her, because, seriously... Aquaman?

Speaking of music, I should point out that while we do own some "kiddie tunes", I pretty much avoid playing these for Joy when I can help it. She listens to whatever I'm listening to in the car, which means mostly alternative rock, classic rock, electronica, and lots of jazz. I've made a ton of different jazz playlists for her with artists like Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Sarah Vaughan, and Louis Armstrong.  She's slowly learning to identify the names of the artists and their instruments.  I sorta figure - music is music, so why should I have to listen to "wheels on the bus" on auto-repeat just because I have a two year old?  I think it's important to expose her to a bunch of different styles of music so that she can learn what she likes.


Joy in September 2010 in her Star Trek onesie
Science Fiction: We've chatted about the various Star Wars t-shirts I own when I wear them.  She's asked me a few times "Who's that?" while pointing to the various portraits of the characters on my shirts.  She's also got two Star Wars books that were Christmas gifts from my sister a couple of years ago: Star Wars: Villains and Star Wars: Heroes, so she's able to identify many of the main characters.  Of course we haven't let her watch any of the movies yet, and she's even too young for the amount of violence in stuff like the animated "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" cartoon. 


She knows of Star Trek and has seen bits and pieces as I've watched both TOS and TNG on TV.  She's aware of the Enterprise and I think she might be able to identify it by name if I showed her a picture.  And of course, one of the first bits of clothing I bought for her was her awesome Star Trek TOS Command Onesie from Thinkgeek.  


Robots: I think I have Plex from Yo Gabba Gabba to thank for this one, but Joy likes to play robot.  I've taught her to walk around and stiffen her arms and legs and use a monotone voice to say "I am a robot."  It's hilarious.  We're going to work on making some of these next - I've been saving up our tin cans. 


Fantasy: Other than the more fairy-tale type stuff (see "Other stuff" below), and our visits to the game store, we haven't gotten too much into standard fantasy.  I showed her some of the pictures in my Time Life The Enchanted World series of books.  And, while my wife was pregnant, I read The Hobbit to her every night to help her relax and fall asleep, so I'm sure some of that got through to Joy via osmosis, along with the tons of episodes of "Star Trek: TNG" and "Battlestar Galactica" that my wife and I watched while she was pregnant.


Other Stuff: Before you think that I'm depriving my little girl of being, well, a "normal" girl, I'll tell you that her favorite things these days are Tinkerbell and the Disney Princesses.  But she also likes things like the castle where Sleeping Beauty lives. She's seen the Tinkerbell movie (the "new" one about all of the different fairies where Tinkerbell lives) as well as "Cinderella", "The Little Mermaid" and "Mulan." Even when we watch these, my wife and I try to use them as teaching opportunities.  While watching "Mulan," for example, we had to discuss what a "soldier" and an "army" were, why they were fighting and hurting each other, what a "war" was, what a dragon was, and all sorts of other things. 


So, that's all I can think of at the moment, but hopefully it's a good snap-shot of the kinds of things that I'm trying to do to help Joy learn more about the kinds of things that I enjoy.  I figure that she's going to get enough of the Sesame Street-Disney-Nickelodeon trifecta as she gets older, so I may as well do what I can to expose her to different types of things.  So far, she seems to like most of them, plus it's just fun for me to think of new and fun ways to share these hallmarks of geekdom with her.  


Hanging: Home Office
Listening: "Wonderful Night (Trash Remix)" by Fat Boy Slim
Drinking: Some rather inexpensive and not super good Bordeaux that my wife picked up at Trader Joe's. Meh.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Of Races and Classes

Recently, Erik over at Tenkar's Tavern has been writing a series of posts about the new Adventurer, Conqueror, King RPG system, which is, to my understanding, roughly based on the Labyrinth Lord mechanics, but is designed to be more specific to characters rising in level and gaining political power by running kingdoms, guilds, etc.  It actually sounds like a pretty neat system. 

One of the things that really caught my attention was the system's inclusion of racial classes - not "race as class" like in Original and Basic D&D, but instead classes that are designed only for certain races. The ACK system includes four such classes: Vaultguards and Craftpriests (for Dwarves) and Spellsword and Nightblade (for Elves). A supplement for the game includes three more racial classes: Dwarven machinist, Dwarven spelunker, and Elven ranger. 

The idea of having racial classes really intrigues me.  It's something I've thought about in the past during my campaign world design - specifically, once you "file off" the mechanics of dwarves having mining knowledge and elves being immune to sleep spells, what makes a dwarven fighter different from a human fighter?  Not much, really. And that does create some difficulty, I think, in trying to portray a character from a different race in an RPG. It's already hard enough to try to pretend you're a dwarf or an elf, so why not throw a bone or two at players and give them unique classes for each race that help define them.

When I developed my World of Samoth campaign, one of the things I did was write a short paragraph of each class for each race, explaining how members of that particular race approached the class.  For example, here are two entries for the "Wraith Elves" (aka "Dorai") in my world, below. The "suggested skills" and "suggested feats" are for 3.x/Pathfinder, but they could really be used with any version of the game.

BARD: Herald of the Children: A Dorai Herald takes great pride in crafting lyric poems to celebrate the birth of a new child, particularly since wraith elf birthrates are so low.  The Herald of the Children is responsible for planning all of the festivities that surround childbirth, including parties, meals, gifts, and the Ceremony of Naming, at which the Herald recites a specially prepared poem for the new child.  Heralds also assist the actual birth of the child, sometimes acting as midwives.  For this reason, the vast majority of Heralds are female.
     Suggested Skills: Heal, Perform (lyric poetry), Knowledge (local)
     Suggested Feats: Obscure Knowledge, Prodigy


FIGHTER: Ca Rier Defender: A wanderer without a family, the Ca Rier was adopted into an established Dorai house and is now a part of them.  She will go out of her way to right any wrong, real or imagined, done to her new family.  She spends much of her free time crafting elegantly scripted and illustrated family trees as gifts for her new family members, as well as ancestral weapons to pass down to her descendants in the family.
     Suggested Skills: Craft (Bookmaking-Family Trees), Craft (weapons), Knowledge (local), Perception
     Suggested Feats: Alertness, Combat Reflexes
 
In this way, I tried to use the different classes to help define what the race itself it like. This is one of the reasons that I love class-based systems and I really like new classes - I like trying to stretch my imagination to see how such a class could fit into my world and how each race would approach it.

When I wrote the Quintessential Aristocrat for Mongoose Publishing, I snuck in a racial prestige class for each race in the game in an attempt to show how a prestige class could be a fun and unique way to help define a race. I included some semi-offbeat ideas, such a the Gnome Representative, Elf Councillor, and Orc War Chief. The last one did get a few comments, but overall in the reviews for the product, most people pointed out that the racial prestige classes were unique and more than just the usual same-old-thing.  
As I think about it, I really do like the idea of just having different classes for different races.  The one thing that holds me back, however, is that racial classes tend to actually be a bit limiting.  As I look at the racial classes for the Adventurer, Conqueror, King system, they fall into the standard fantasy tropes for dwarves and elves. The dwarven classes (vaultguard, craftpriest, machinist, and spelunker) all provide good role-playing hooks around the familiar territory of "dwarves are underground miners" and that's fine if that's the kind of game you play.  But what if your dwarves are different and aren't actually miners but instead live in the desert or even in an urban, above-ground kingdom? Of course, you could create your own classes for them, but then that means all of the racial classes in the ACK system are of no use to you.  

I don't really have a solution. I'm just kind of thinking off the top of my head.  While I do like the idea of racial classes, it seems that it might create more problems than it's worth, especially if, like me, you have decided that your races don't necessarily conform to the standard Tolkiensian definitions.  

Also, as I've mentioned before, I don't subscribe to the theory that races in each campaign world act exactly the same throughout that world.  That is to say, in most campaign worlds, all dwarves act the same, no matter where they come from.  There is a "dwarven kingdom" or an "empire of the dwarves" and they all follow one banner, follow the same gods, and have the same exact characteristics and outlook on life, no matter where on that world they live.  Other races are treated in a similar manner.  Sure, there might be different clans or villages or such, but they are all treated pretty much the same.  Humans, on the other hand, are usually depicted as having a great variety of different cultures, following different religions, having different alliances, different agendas, etc.  I've always thought that was a major failing of most published campaign settings to not account for having as much variety among their demi-humans (or humanoids, if you prefer that terminology) as they do among their humans.

How do you all handle races and classes in your games, and on a broader level, how do you account for racial diversity?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Daddy Rolls a 1's First Anniversary

Those of you who go back and read my old posts will note that my first post here was made on February 11th, 2011, meaning that this past Saturday was my first year anniversary of posting about games, comics, fantasy, and science-fiction. 

While I guess it's sad that I missed the actual day, I think I have a pretty good excuse - I was out-of-town with my wife's family at a memorial service for her grandmother.  I did have my iPad with me and probably could've made a quick post, but I decided it was more important to concentrate on my family and leave the post for another day. 

I'm back now, and wanted to chat a bit about my past year blogging here at Daddy Rolled a 1. 

During the past year, a bunch of things have happened.  Many of them are, either directly or indirectly, related to this blog. 

  1. The biggest thing is, I have kept up with my blogging.  It's not as much as I'd like (you people out there who write a new post every day - how do you do it?!), but I think it's an easy thing to take for granted.  Writing is not something that the majority of people do naturally.  It's difficult to come up with things to say and then write them down in a public forum where you think people might be interested in reading your opinion.  So, I'm glad that I've been able to keep it up and make a new post at least a few times a month. 
  2. I read a ton more.  I think this is partly what's cut into whatever free time I might have available for blogging, but actually reading other peoples' blogs, especially those related to the whole OSR thing, have made me realize that I'm woefully under-read.  Over the past few years, I've pretty much devoted my only reading time to either graphic novels or RPGs and their supplements.  But, after starting to blog, I rediscovered my interest in reading actual books and over the past year, I've read more than I have in probably the past five years combined.  I've read everything from genre fiction like The Black Company to Hiero's Journey (a re-read since I'd read it before) to Coming of the Horseclans to non-fiction like A History of the World in Six Glasses and World Whiskey. And, I've kept up on my graphic novels and RPG reading, too, but have expanded it by adding things like Kamandi: Archive Edition, Vol. 1 and PDFs of a bunch of old-school retro-clones like Labyrinth Lord and Mutant Future.
  3. I expanded my gaming experiences. Up until this point recently, I'd pretty much specifically played whatever the current version of D&D is, with some dabblings long ago in the past into other TSR games like Gamma World, Top Secret, and Star Frontiers, and one Summer spent playing Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying (1st Edition). But, over the past year, I've played a bunch of different RPGs, most notably running an OSRIC game, playing in three different Savage Worlds games (a solo game in ancient China, a "Weird War II" game with zombies and vampires, and a Call of Cthulhu game), and helping collaboratively write the rules for a weird mash-up of Pathfinder, 4E, and Savage Worlds that we call "Cal & D." And I've done all of this while still continuing to run my 11+ year long World of Samoth game and playing in my friend Brian's Friday night "Andalusia II" game.
  4. I've met a lot of cool people. When I started this blog, the only blog that I read besides my friend Wil's was James' Grognardia. But I started seeing links to other blogs as I started writing more, and now I follow a ton of blogs and keep up with all of their updates every day on my iPad. Lots of people have commented here, which is awesome, too.  So, it's like I made a bunch of new friends, even though I've never had the chance to meet any of these people in real life, and none of that would have happened had I not started my blog.
  5. D&D has been through some changes.  I'm not exactly certain when the whole Essentials line came out, but I feel like it wasn't that long ago, and now they're talking about a new edition already.  It's looking pretty likely that I will get to playtest the new edition, which I'm really excited about, but I'll tell you more later once it's confirmed.  It's been fun to read the opinions and comments from all over the OSR blogosphere about the new edition.  I'm curious how my opinions will match up once I get to actually see the rules.  
As far as my little blog here, what are some of the highlights over the past year?
  1. I'm up to 62 followers!  It took me a long time to break the 60 follower barrier.  While it's not as many as a lot of other bloggers have, I feel pretty good about it.  I also know there are a lot of people who read the blog who didn't click on the "Follow Me" button on the side.
  2. The most read-post of all time is "Finally: A New Post (Updated Currently Watching)" from August 25, 2011, with 1,643 page views.  It has more than twice the number of page views of the second-most popular post of all time, "Really Cool Custom Action Figure Site" from May 14, 2011, with 769 views.  Interestingly, that Action Figure post consistently ranks #2 every single week with the most number of new page views.  
  3. It looks like the post with the most comments (13 total) is a relatively recent one: "Fun With Any Edition: AD&D 2nd Edition" from January 27, 2011.
  4. The majority of my traffic has come from Google (1,997), followed by Timothy Brannan's site in the #2 position with 1,356 and then Jeff Rients' site in #3 with 678 referrals. 
  5. The words searched on Google that most often lead to my site are:
    1. daddyrolleda1.blogspot.com (22)
      1. I always find it funny that someone would search for that, since that's the actual URL of the site itself.
    2. fleischer superman (13)
    3. d&d snacks
    4. daddy rolled a 1 (11)

I'll go into some more specific stats in an future post.

What's coming up for Daddy Rolled a 1 in the next year?  Well, here's a few things I have on my list to do:

  1. More frequent posting.  I'm not out of ideas, folks.  I have a HUGE list of topics to post about.  The problem is really time.  As I've mentioned before, since losing my main client, I've had to turn a lot more of my attention over to trying to win new business, and that comes at the expense of blogging time.  I want to blog more, but right now I need to concentrate on my business and my family to make sure that we're financially stable to pay all of our bills.  
  2. A new logo! I have an idea for the logo I want for the site, and just need to figure out how to get it made without spending a ton of money.
  3. A free RPG supplement giveaway.  I have an idea of an OSR type product that I've been working on for the past six months or so.  Once I finish typing it up, I'll need to lay it out and try to figure out how to handle the artwork and stuff, and then can offer it as a free download. I'm pretty excited about it.
 So, that's a look at the past year, both for me personally and for my blog, as well as a quick overview of some things to come.  I'd love to hear your comments.

Hanging: Home office, as usual.
Listening: "Roxanne (Live)" by Sting, on All This Time (Live) [Japanese Import Version]
Drinking: Pasadena's finest (water)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Updated: Currently Reading

I just updated my currently reading page (which really should be re-titled as "Currently Reading and Recently Read"). 

It includes a quick list of a few post-apocalyptic books and comics, some Batman and Superman graphic novels, and an awesome book on making Vintage Cocktails. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts and the ones I've read, and learn what you're reading yourself. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

So... Clients Suck

Yeah, it's another semi-work-related post (but there's more geeky stuff down below).  But, the reason I haven't posted for the past couple of days is because I've spent the past week working on a radio buy for one of my clients and after I finished it last Friday and sent it to them for approval, I was informed that they had also asked another agency to put a buy together (which is a breach of ethics as well as a breach of contract, by the way) and they want me to execute the buy that the other agency put together because it was "cheaper", but they won't actually tell me what the costs are that the other agency negotiated.  So, I'm having to negotiate in a vacuum and I've received written confirmation from my sales reps that the rates I negotiated were actually lower than what they gave the other agency.  The whole thing is a mess and it's sucked up most of my time this week for what's going to amount to less than 3% of my annual salary.  When you consider that, time-wise, I've already spent nearly 5% of my amortize annual hours working on this buy, you can see why I might be a little ticked off. 

So, onto some geeky stuff.  I've been thinking about this for awhile but I couldn't figure out enough of what to say to make it a complete post.

I have to say that I really hate change in general, but especially when it comes to comic books.  Why do comic companies see the need to "hit the reset button" every few years and mess things all up?  I drift in and out of comics, but comics are one of those things where... Batman has been around since 1939.  When I go to the comic store to pick up a Batman comic, I want Batman to be BATMAN. Bruce Wayne. Not Dick Grayson. Not some chick dressing up like Batman. I want Bruce F*cking Wayne. And now he has a kid who is Robin or something? And Barry Allen, the Flash, died in Crisis. Like dead-died. He was gone for decades. I got used to it. I was fine with Wally being the Flash. I kind of liked him, actually. But then Bart was the Flash, and now Barry is back again? And Hal was the Green Lantern and then he went crazy and became Parallax, but now they're saying that wasn't really him, and then he died and then he became the Specter but now he's back and we're supposed to pretend like none of that ever happened?  Um... What the Hell?

And don't get me started on the stupid ridiculous logo change that DC just made.  And then just late last year they completely re-booted the entire 80+ year history of DC Comics Character and just said, "POOF!  Gone!  We're starting over!"  And then the took the longest running comic book in history, Action Comics, and RE-NUMBERED IT starting at #1!?!!?!?! Why in the world would you do that?

I hear arguments from people saying, "The kids won't get into comics because there's too much baggage. If they pick up a comic that's numbered in the hundreds, they're going to think that they won't know what's going on, so they don't pick them up.  That's why kids don't read comics."

To which I say... Bullshit.  Kids not reading comics has nothing to do with the numbers on the cover of the book.  I started reading X-Men around issue #175 or so, and it didn't bother me.  Sure, there were things that I didn't get and characters that I didn't know, but if you read the damn thing for like four or five issues, you pretty much pick up anything that you need to know.  And, you know what?  These days we have Wikipedia. You can look up what came before if you're really that confused. 

So, why all of the "New 52" reboot stuff, except for marketing efforts?  I bet in a few years they'll go back on at least some of the main titles and re-number them back in the old style.  Like this is just a gimick or something.

So, what's my point to all this?  Well, I'm going to prove just how hypocritical people can be. I hate it when they change comics.  I absolutely hate it. I hate it when I go back to a stripmall or shopping center I haven't visited for a few months or years and find that a store I used to go to is now a Starbucks. I hate it when they change the TV schedule so my show airs on a different day and time (even though it really doesn't matter because I"m recording it on my TiVo to watch later anyway). I hate it when a band I like decides to "update their sound" to be more current. 

And yet... I was never really bothered with TSR and WotC updating D&D.  Well, that is, until 4th Edition. And then I was really annoyed.  I was annoyed before I even saw it because I'd heard rumblings that it was much different from 3rd Edition, and as I've said, I hate change. 

But, the change from 2nd Edition to 3rd?  I didn't mind that at all! I thought that was awesome! And this is a guy who had grown up with D&D from the Moldvay Basic Set back in 1981 or so.  So, yeah, I get that that's hypocritical and not consistent.  But, that's how I felt.

What about you all? How do you feel about all of these changes in comics and in the different versions of D&D and all that? 

PS: I know this was a rant and so there's some kind of OSR rule that I'm supposed to provide some kind of content or something. But, you know what? I don't subscribe to that rule.  :)
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