Old School Gaming vs. Online Gaming

In a world where RAM pertains more to computers than a castle siege, dice are thought to belong only in board games such as “Monopoly”, and random character name generators take the place of good old fashioned creativity, there is still a great deal to be said for playing “old school” games using actual miniatures, dice, paper and pens. This was written to explain from one participant’s viewpoint why and how such “antiquated” gaming actually improves and amplifies the experiences in an online gaming experience.

What a man does with his own minions in his own bathtub is his own business.” This rather bizarre and amusing sentence actually has a rather inauspicious origin, but it is one of my favorite game night jokes. Paper and pencil roleplaying has not gone the way of the dodo bird, but rather can actually make online gaming a more enjoyable experience. From inside jokes to a better understanding of your team’s fighting style to using already proven strategies in another field of battle, the older version of gaming doesn’t have to be ignored by modern gamers, but instead can actually benefit their pixelated preferences.
The first time I played “old school” Dungeons and Dragons, we would gather in the food court of the local mall every Sunday; when the mall closed, we would call a brief respite and cross the street to McDonald’s continue the chaos. I was also attending community college at the time, and the inevitable black cloud of doom known as examtime was a week away. From this came a confused dream with elements of Buffy the Vampire Slayer mixed with Dungeons and Dragons and a bigger test than any teacher could bring about: my persona in the dream was charged with saving the human race from the army of vampires that had sprung out of nowhere. Fighting and tracking them back through a labyrinthian building, I managed (with the help of my trusty sidekick) to locate the boss. Eavesdropping at the door (much like a cutscene in a game) I heard the boss, also known as our dungeon master (DM), planning his strategy and pointing out that I would never be able to suspect him as being the orchestrator of this because he’d been commanding his troops from his bubble bath, so that he could honestly say he’d been taking a bath all day long. I still flash back to listening to him plan the murder of every member of our little resistance from his bubble bath (which is funny in and of itself considering he was well over 6 ft and a burly karate black belt), and every time the memory makes me smile in amusement, even as it inspires me to go into battle to defeat the guy trying to take us down.  How does this better my gaming experience in World of Warcraft, or any other game of this nature? I’d mentioned earlier that this was not the first time through the dungeon. This means there have been previously failed attempts, and tension is starting to mount. Your blood pressure is rising, so being reminded of an old joke is a quick way to blow off steam, thus clearing your head and restoring your ability to focus clearly on the battle at hand.
As for understanding your teammate’s fighting style better, this is a key factor in successful combat. There’s a reason that the instinct when faced with a stressor is known as “fight or flight”. I’ve heard several arguments that video games encourage violence; I think that this is a scurrilous argument made by people who keep their eyes firmly closed to reality. If someone plays a game repeatedly, it is because they identify some portion of their character in themselves. Would I go into a town, swinging my sword frantically  at whomever might approach me? Heck no! However, I would be a total liar if I said I never felt my blood boil in complete indignation and even ire at the problems in the world around me, be it injustices in foreign countries or the idiot who cut me off in traffic and slammed on the breaks while I’m trying to get my little boy home in one piece in the middle of the insanity known as Rush Hour Traffic. My husband and I get on our respective computers, and he knows me; not only the me I present to the world who is well mannered, well-spoken and ready to bend over backwards if that’s what it takes to help someone or feed my family, but the me who feels the need to run blindly into a room full of dragon whelps or throw a fireball at Onyxia just to see if she notices. Yes, I am the Leeroy Jenkins in my family; my attention span makes a long discussion of strategy difficult, but we’ve long ago learned to perfect our work accordingly. I have a macro set up to poke my husband when he aggros before we’re ready. Why do I have this? I know him enough to realize he’ll do this at least three times in a gaming session. If he groans in a dungeon, I know he was too busy healing the rest of the party to pay attention, and needs a resurrection. Likewise, if we’re in the middle of a complex cave system, and I randomly say “Shinee!” (Yes, this is how I pronounce it, dragging out the “E” sound at the end as I run down a tunnel.) this means that all combat has been forgotten for the fifteen seconds it takes me to hit a mining deposit, and then the rampage will continue with all of the enthusiasm of a 7-year-old with a candy bar. When we game with old friends, even if I haven’t gamed with them a bit, I remember who liked to tank, and who was likely to moon a boss in an attempt to aggro or flash a villain if that’s what it took to keep them in a room. I’ll remember who would back away from combat with a wolf vs whomever would leap at the chance to improve their skinning skills, and can direct combat even when a corpse.

How does this lead to my final point? When you know your teams strengths, that makes it easier to fight. However, what if you already knew not only vaguely how they might participate, but actually knew how they would respond? It’s easy to operate on a supposition, but if you’ve had the opportunity to fight along side them in a dungeon before, then it’s entirely probable that your gamemaster (or DM, as we D&D gamers specify) has created a similarly laid out room. This means that you’ve faced it before in some way, even if you’ve never played that dungeon before. If your rogue snuck into a position to sneak attack while your mage prepared a fireball, and that worked, then guess what? That’s probably what you are going to do in this instance, and with the same results! You may not have seen it on a screen that time, but you’ll remember your DM talking about the tree monster’s look of confusion before collapsing in a pile of sticks at the ferocity of the attack.
So whether it be a joke about minions and bathtubs, knowing your teammates well enough to plan for the hothead, or a sense off deja vu leading to victory, there are many advantages to picking up the pen and not just focusing on clicking a mouse or tapping frantically at a keyboard.

Picture this: you find yourselves deep in the bowels of a dungeon, preparing for a boss fight. You listen to the cutscene as the boss outlines his plan as you try to strategize over your headset; this is the 5th time you’ve done this dungeon run and you are determined that this time will not result in the total party wipe you’ve experienced every single time today. You just know that your resident “Leeroy Jenkins” fan is going to race in, so you prepare accordingly for how to draw the roomful of monsters into a more organized form of chaos- one in which you have a chance of surviving. My husband can usually tell when I’ve drifted back to the dialogue in the cut scene when he hears me snickering. Invariably, it’s because the boss has said something that drew me back to a dream I had and it’s inevitable resulting quote, “What a man does with his own minions in his own bathtub is his own business.”

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Orc Women an Orchish Mythology

The fire burned low, coals glowing in a comforting manner as Aunt Garbo’sh tucked the little girl orcs into their furry beds. “Now girls, tonight I will tell you why the orc woman has the most important job of all.” One small voice piped up from the nearest pile of furs. “Aunty Garbo’sh? Will you tell us about when orcs were created?” With a smile that showed her well maintained fangs, Garbo’sh responded in a soothing tone, “Of course, my dear, for it is the same story.” Settling down near the radiating warmth from the coals, she cleared her throat and began.

A long time ago, when Mother Earth was young, she checked her lands and seas for someone to keep her company, but found no one to talk to. She checked the sky, but it was always dark, with no stars, no source of light. Sadly, she called out to Grandmother God. “Please, O Mother, I am all alone. I love you, but you have other children that live too far away for me to speak with. Might you create children for me to play with, to take care of, and to love as my own?”

Grandmother God listened to the sorrowful request, and then thought for an age. Finally, when Mother Earth thought she would be ignored, Grandmother God spoke up. “My children are my greatest joy, and my heart breaks at the thought that you would be so lonely. If I created children for you, you might never know the joy I know for creating, so instead, I shall make two suitors, and they shall fight for you by turns.

With that, she created Father Sun and Father Moon. Every day, Father Sun rose into the sky, showing Mother Earth beauty. He struck the leaf of the tallest tree with the first bolt of sunlight, and eagles came to be. He shone with fierce brightness, and the flames of his face warmed the heart of Mother Earth, for truly, who is immune to beauty? She smiled back, and that day, mankind was born of the fiery bonds of first love.

That night, as Mother Earth smiled at her young children and mourned the fact that she would not see her first love for many hours, she decided to look up into the sky, and saw a cooler face, but equally beautiful. Moon and Sun were both made to love her regardless, and so Moon spoke to her.

“Beautiful Earth, you are lovely with your lands and seas. I would grant you a special gift!” The Moon shook like a dog leaving a pond, and the sky filled with stars. Moon smiled and said, “These are nowhere near as lovely as you, but I wanted to give you some way of knowing my love for you.”

Earth mourned the quick passion she felt with the Sun, and said, “Truly, your gift is beautiful, but I have created children with Sun, and he is their father.”

Moon was touched that she would also have feelings for him, and suggested a compromise. “Sun cannot shine all day long, and will always leave, just as I must leave when daylight comes. However, I promise to come back at night. I will occasionally depart to find you treasures, but I will always come back as soon as I can, and always will I return with presents for your children, whether they came from me or not.” So touched was Mother Earth that she literally split apart, torn by duty to her firstborns and remembered heated passion of the Sun versus the deeper, quieter love she found herself feeling towards Father Moon. So, after three nights consideration, after which she found that Sun did leave her every day and Moon did come back every night, she agreed to have children with Moon also. Thus were the Orcs born.

In keeping with Father Moon’s promise, men go out and hunt, bringing home dinner as a present for their loved ones. Just as Father Sun and Father Moon competed for the affection of Mother Earth, so do the races that are her offspring- this is why Humans and Orcs fight. In keeping with Mother Earth’s gift of life, females bring forth life and raise them up, that they might keep her children races in good health and favor. That is why an orc woman has the most important job of all- the creation of new life. The End.

Seeing that her nieces were asleep, Aunt Garbo’sh smiled and crept outside for tomorrow’s firewood.

Dragon Scale: War of the God’s

When the world was new, the four dragon gods lived high on a mountain; it was the only land mass on the earth at that time, and built for them to live on. Well, after a while, they became bored with only one another for company, and began to quarrel with one another.

Darius, god of war and intrigue, spoke to Ludmilos, god of the deathgate. “My friend,” he said, “When we came to this planet, did our sister Aeriona not promise us life forms to play with? I see nothing amusing about fish, but what but ocean life can live in the oceans?” Of one accord, they began to gather dirt together on the ocean floor. However, Aeriona, Goddess of the skylight, heard there discussion and felt offended that they would not take their grievances to her. She spoke to Aquaius, goddess of the sea. “Sister, our flameheaded brothers think we do not notice when they act in secret.”

“Agreed,” Aquaius said, “even now, they are gathering pieces of my ocean floor together. What, do they mean to make life from the dirt?” She asked with a chuckle. Aeriona, however, became as enflamed as the sun she oversaw every day, and said, “They mean to make a lifeform greater than any who swim in your waters, sister dear. I would not laugh if I were you; once they have made these lifeforms, they will surely make enough for armies and bloodshed. Then, there goes our peaceful existence. Let us challenge them. What they did not realize was that this was exactly what Darius had hoped for.

That evening, as they prepared for dinner, Darius offered to bring them sweet nectar to drink, slipping in a potion to weaken their scales. This potion was so powerful that even a drop could loosen your scales. With a cunning smile, he handed them their drinks.

“Brothers, we have noticed you gathering dirt from the ocean floors, and this must stop!” Aeriona said in her most imperious tone. Darius rolled his eyes at his brother. “When we came to this earth, did we not agree to be equals? Now our dear sister thinks to command us!”

Aquaius, eager to keep peace, said, “Brothers,that was not her intent. She worries that you plan a folly that we might not recover from.”

“So now it’s folly is it?” Ludmilos pitched in. “Do you hear that, brother? Our sisters, in their infinite wisdom, think to save us from our folly!”

“Brother, you twist my words!” Aquaius protested. “Come, let us drink our nectar and set aside our protest for now. None can be their most rational when they thirst!”

Darius stopped them before they could drink. “Before we drink, let us agree to a challenge. Whomever is the victor will decide how things progress!”

Aeriona quirked an eyebrow and pondered this briefly. “What challenge would you recommend? My sister rules to the deepest depths of the ocean, and all fish that live therein. I rule the skylight and every feathered beast. You have no minions to do your bidding. Is this not the very nature of your protest?”

“True, we have no minions,” Darius said in his most cunning tone, “but we have ourselves. I propose a challenge. Male against female, as it were. Our scales are our treasure, are they not? They protect our hides from the elements and maintain our beauty. I propose this: the males and females shall quarrel. Whichever side is the first to have each player lose a scale, loses the challenge.”

“Brother!” Aquaius protested, “You speak nonsense! Why should we do harm to one another?”

“One scale does not really harm us, does it sister dear?” Ludmilos said. “I guard the deathgate and all who pass therein. We dragons do not die because we lose a scale or chip a claw. It might hurt for a moment, but we all know that only a wound to the heart is a killing blow!”

Sadly, seeing that she could not reason with her brethren, Aquaius looked to Aeriona. Seeing her nod in agreement, Aquaius also agreed. “When does this challenge commence? Can we at least quaff our drinks in peace before this begins? I have a powerful thirst from all this talking.”

Darius said, “Yes, let us not quarrel anymore until after we have consumed our nectar. For only fools would engage in tiring combat without some form of sustenance.”

Ludmilos chimed in, “Yes, let us toast. May the dragons who are right be the victors!” He did not know that Darius had placed a potion into the sisters drinks, and Darius could not argue the toast without his plan being ruined. Therefore, wincing, he raised his drink. “Victory to the right!” He agreed. The sisters raised their drinks, and all four drinking horns knocked together. When this happened, Darius kept his glass raised slightly higher, but Ludmilos was a little shorter than the others, so his sisters drinks spilled into his cup. “Victory to the right!” the sisters agreed, then drank deeply from the horns, consuming all that was left of their nectar.

Now that their horns were empty, they rose to engage in combat.

Both sisters tackled Darius, evading his face, tail and claws as they sought to pluck a scale. Ludmilos came from behind Aquaius to pull her off. “Now sisters, we are fighting for scales, not blood!” He teased, as he pulled on Aquaius. However, Aquaius, like oceans, is only calm until provoked. Blind to all but her task, she turned to her brother Ludmilos. “Back off, brother. We shall get to you in due course!” Aquaius hissed, then turned once more on Darius. In her preoccupation, she did not notice that Aeriona had lost a scale. “Aeriona has lost a scale. She must retreat!” Darius crowed gleefully. “The battle is not yet won, brother dear!” Aeriona growled, her voice echoing thunderously in the heavens. “Now I fight to protect my sister!” She wrapped her body around Ludmilos to pull him away. “Aquaius! You are being blinded in your fury!” Ludmilos tried again to reason with his sister, for he saw her eyes glazing with bloodlust.

She turned angrily upon him. “STAY OUT OF THIS!” Aquaius screamed, and raked hard with her claws. Ludmilos fell, for in her raking, she had dislodged a scale from his chest and stabbed him with a claw.

“Rise, brother!” Aeriona screamed. “Darius! Our brother is gravely injured!”

Darius ignored her. “I would not expect such a petty trick from you, sister dear!” He argued as he again tried to dislodge a scale from Aquaius.

“No trick! See the heart blood flowing?” Aeriona protested. This effectively stopped the combat.

Now, when a dragon wounds another dragon, the only way they can heal the most grievous injuries is with a scale from the one who did the harm. Knowing that this was the only way to save her brother, Aquaius looked at Darius and Ludmilos. “You win,” she said dully. With that, she retreated to her brother’s side, pulled a scale from over her heart, and ground it to fine powder between her forefeet.

Then, she placed the powder over the injury, sealing it with dragonfire. “My pain for yours, brother dear.” She said, then chanted a spell to take his pain into herself.

Ludmilos quickly revived, and saw his sister on the ground. “We have won!” Darius crowed.

“At what cost, Darius?” Came Ludmilos’ response.

“We win; therefore, we shall make continents and races to rule over. They shall have a higher mortality rate, so that when they are done warring on the land, they shall pass over into Ludmilos’ domain.

Ludmilos chimed in. “However, they shall also worship you, sisters. They shall seek flight, live off foods grown in the sunshine and fish from the sea. They shall always remember where their continued survival comes from, and shall adore you as much as they fear us.”

With that, Ludmilos and Darius plucked the scale that had fallen from Aeriona and Ludmilos off the ocean floor, as well as what was left of the powder from Aquaius scale. They planted the scales. Ludmilos’ scale had been spattered with blood, and volcanoes formed on the island grown from his scale. The powder from Aquaius’ scale formed several islands and a small continent, and Aeriona’s scale grew into a large continent, complete with forests and mountains, that the races might climb them and dream of the heavens.