Sunday, January 16, 2022

Have you heard about the contest?

 So, you've been DMing for decades. You know how to create a dungeon, wilderness, city, or whatever sort of adventure. But are you able to organize that process you have in a way that would make a good teaching tool for new DMs? Can you film a video tutorial of your process? I bet you can.

Check out the first (hopefully annual) AUTHENTIC ADVENTURES TEACHING CONTEST

I'm one of the judges. Impress me!

First Prize $800 US

Second Prize $200 US

Third Prize $50 US

Plus one Honorable Mention to be awarded

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If I hadn't been asked to judge, I really would have joined this contest. One of my players is thinking of branching out into GMing for the first time ever (at 55!). My older son is every now and then considering if he'd like to DM a game or not. Having my thoughts organized in this way would be helpful for them. But since I'm judging, I'm relying on all of you!

Monday, January 10, 2022

Analyzing Prince Part 2

Today, I want to take a look at the first numbered axiom laid down by Prince of Nothing, in which he enumerates what, to him, makes old school D&D superior to a lot of the stuff being put out under an OSR label but is really more avant-garde than old school (again, according to Prince). 

1. The greatest DnD is neither a slavish imitation of the past nor a wholesale rejection thereof (conscious or unconscious), but a continuation of that old craft, with syncretic improvements from other areas.

I simplified this statement to: 

1. Some parts of D&D can (and sometimes should) be changed, but a core essence of "D&D" must remain.  

I can't disagree with the sentiment in general. My own frankenstein-edition, titled Treasures, Serpents, and Ruins, is very much a Classic D&D base with elements of AD&D, 3E, and even some 5E inspiration in it. And a few things from other OSR games or blogs that I like. 

So yes, I've taken D&D to a place that I think is a continuation of the old craft while incorporating syncretic improvements from other games. 

But MUST it be this way? I mean, it works for me and my players. And every table back in the original days was tinkering with the rules, adding, subtracting or modifying things to suit their own tastes. That's about as "old school" as you can get. 

But the statement as written would actually invalidate some old school play styles. There are people who run things as by-the-book as possible. Sometimes, because of gaps in the rules or because of incoherent explanation or because of different sections of the rules providing different mechanics for the same subsystem, there's no way to be 100% by the book. But there are games that seek to do that. 

Is it wrong to try to run OD&D (or any edition) in a way that follows as closely as possible what is in the books? I don't think so. There's definitely value in that. I've read plenty of blog posts and forum threads over the years where people do just that, and come out of it with a deeper or changed perspective on the rules as they have been presented. Sometimes, it's exactly that which helps people to understand why the rule was that way to begin with. 

Other times, it helps show people why the rules have been changed. In order to understand what we're modifying and changing, I think it's a good thing to have a solid understanding of the rules before they get changed. 

And of course, there is no accounting for taste. Some people like the quick and easy recovery of 4E and 5E. Some people hate Vancian casting. Do I even need to bring up demi-human level limits? 

That's why I modified my version to read "can (and sometimes should)" because I don't necessarily agree that a Frankenstein edition is necessarily the "greatest" form of D&D. I'm constantly tinkering with mine, and never satisfied. How can that be the greatest? 

Obviously, that is simply Prince stating his opinion, one in which I more or less agree with, at least for the first half. 

The second half is of course where things get tricky, and untold gigabytes of blog and forum and G+ posts and YouTube commentary and whatnot have been spent debating just what exactly is the line that demarcates "continuing" the old craft and where have you moved on to "wholesale rejection" of the old ways? 

I don't have the answer to that. Except as it applies to me and my table. 

In my previous post about Prince's 0 Statement, people got into this discussion in the comments. I put forth the proposition that GP = XP is the key tenet of that "old school continuation", and plenty of people whom I respect disagreed. And reading their arguments, I can concede that perhaps it's only one of the tenets of old school play, not the key one. 

So we have here a statement I'm happy to agree with on a surface reading, but the more I think of it, the harder it becomes to give full-fledged support to the idea. I definitely agree that you can "go too far" and make a game not feel like D&D (for example, I feel the Black Hack line of games lose the essence). But what exactly does it? It's like the Supreme Court definition of porn - I can't describe it, but I know it when I see it. Or play it, as the case may be. 

And here's the thing -- while I haven't perused all of the ArtPunk scene's offerings, a lot of the things I have seen, like say Ultraviolet Grasslands, still feel very D&D to me. I'd say UVG feels more D&D to me (on a reading, I haven't played it) than Black Hack does. But again, your mileage may vary. And I may be a bit predisposed to like UVG since Luka is a friend and played in my West Marches game back when he lived in Busan a few years ago. Personal biases shape a lot of how we will determine these things. 

So, final thought on this axiom: An idea I can completely understand and sympathize with, but don't fully embrace.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

2E: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

James M. has a new post up where he re-evaluates 2E AD&D. I read it, and the comments section (up to time of writing anyway) and it certainly seems to have got people thinking. And instead of write a big long comment there, I figured I would put some thoughts here on my own blog. And yes, I will be continuing with my ideas about Prince of Nothing's axioms on what makes old school D&D old school D&D, but not tonight. 

I've mentioned many times here that I started with the Mentzer BECM books (minus Immortals), but my cousin had a lot of the 1E AD&D books. We messed around with it a bit, but other than the occasional monster or magic item, we tended to keep D&D and AD&D separate back then (mid to late 80s), and when 2E came out, he picked up the PHB but it was mostly just a curiosity for us -- hey, it has arquebuses! Bards are a class instead of some crazy hard to qualify for dual classing monstrosity with unclear rules! I don't think he got much more of the 2E stuff, since it was more or less compatible with 1E, which he already had and hardly played. BECMI was our jam.

In the mid to late 90s, before I moved to Japan, I was working at Waldenbooks (remember those?) and was able to purchase books at a substantial discount (but not making enough to really afford lots of books, not that that stopped me!). I got into a group that ran AD&D, but it was a weird hodge-podge of 1E and 2E because the games were something like 90% compatible. And so when I could, I picked up the black cover core 2E book revisions. The plus side? The Monstrous Compendium was an actual book instead of a bunch of loose leaf binder pages. Down side? Not sure there is one (other than it being 2E, if you're a 2E hater!). 

I was never a huge fan of the 2E rules, but I'd never read through the entirety of the 1E books, so I never really knew what I was missing (at the time). I enjoyed 2E well enough, but like I said, the game I played in was not pure 2E. Half-Orcs & Assassins, UA Barbarians and Cavaliers, 1E OA, Illusionists as either their own dedicated class or as a mage specialization (not that anyone played an Illusionist that I recall). And it worked. My original group had pretty much used the BECMI engine with 1E classes/spells/monsters/magic items bolted on when we played 1E. And with the Evansville group, we just used whatever worked from 1E and/or 2E. And when I ran an OA campaign for them, we used 1E OA, the 2E Complete Ninja's Handbook, and my DMing was still basically BECMI procedures. And again, it worked just fine.

I've cracked open the 2E books from time to time over the years. I've pulled a few things from it into my TSR house rules. Would I play it straight? Probably not. But there are some good things in it. Here is my VERY SUBJECTIVE and incomplete (because it's late and I want to get this done and go to bed) evaluation. 

The Good: 

The rules are a lot easier to read and understand than 1E, and the books make good references. Like BX, in that regard, and like BECMI in that they serve as a good tool for learning the game without a group to teach you (to an extent). 

I like the way they keep classes fairly simple, but with lots of options for customization. Obviously anyone who has downloaded Flying Swordsmen or purchased Chanbara knows that I like kits/subclasses! Did they go overboard with splat books? Of course they did. But the concept of the kit to offer a small customization to the main class is still a good one. 

Illustrations for every monster! 

Consolidation of a lot of spells, magic-items, and monsters that were scattered around different books in 1E. Again, makes for a good reference.

Some general cleaning up and streamlining of rules for combat (closer to Classic D&D, but not quite).

I really like the single class Bard in 2E. It's far from a powerhouse, but it has style (although yes, the picture is kinda cringe). Also I liked, at the time, the customization of Thief skills by point allocation. Makes leveling up take a bit longer, but being able to specialize your Thief as the lock-picker or sneak or pickpocket was nice, and not overly complicated.

The Bad: 

Too much emphasis on creating a story for the players, and enforcing it with railroads and XP awards for compliance. Now, I know a lot of people were big fans of all the settings TSR put out back then. There's definitely some cool stuff out there. But the focus on story awards and RP awards really made 2E the mother-may-I edition of D&D, if played by the book. 

The endless stream of splat books. Some were good. Some had good things in them. There was just too much, junking up what was otherwise a nice, streamlined version of the game. 

The non-weapon proficiency skill system became the default. It has some problems, but I don't have time to go into them now. In brief, too limiting and created too much focus on ability scores, that has lasted through three WotC editions.

The Ugly:

The art, as James M mentioned in his post linked above, was much more technically well executed, but not always as evocative as in previous editions. Some of it was, but not a lot. I do appreciate that they put in full page, full-color art plates. And, as I mentioned above, every monster had a picture. But a lot of those pictures are pretty blah. And they're just the monster in a white field, no context. 

The "cleaning up" of the rules. BECMI gets some shade thrown its way for sanitizing the game for kids, but 2E turned that up to 11. Now, Half-Orcs and Assassins aren't 100% necessary for a D&D game. Neither are devils/demons (not in BX or BECMI, after all). But the emphasis on having to play heroes, and avoiding things that might make parents upset -- that is really what makes this game so different from other TSR editions. But as with my experiences with the game, if you run it like Classic or 1E, it still has all the old school charm. 

The technical manual tone, while good as a teaching tool and reference, is just not that evocative. BECMI taught me how to not just run a game, but to create dungeons and wildernesses. 1E has all sorts of random stuff that adds to world building and immersion. With 2E, you need supplements and splat books for that.

_________________________

In the end, I think the too strong story emphasis is what keeps me from returning to 2E for more than just inspiration for a few things to grab for my own Frankenstein-edition. That's the biggest flaw. Splat books and bland art can be ignored (and again, the Rules Cyclopedia for BECMI is much like 2E in that it's a great rules reference, but bland appearance -- no surprise, as they came out in the same era).

Friday, December 31, 2021

Analyzing Prince Pt 1

Today, I'm wrapping up 2021 by starting my series of posts discussing the points Prince of Nothing brought up on his blog regarding the value/benefit of old school D&D play compared to both newer forms of play and the artpunk movement. And of course, we need to start with his initial statement of why all this even matters:

0. The resurgence and longevity of the oldschool playstyle is no mere happenstance but an indication that there is something fundamental to its merits which modern TTRPGs largely fail to capture.

On its surface, there seems nothing to argue or quibble over. It's an opinion. But, it's worded as a fact, so let's take a deeper look at it and what it means. Or at least my interpretation of it. Feel free to disagree!

Have people continued to play older versions of D&D all the past nearly 50 years? Yes. That's a fact. It can't be denied. And I'm talking about people who started with the old woodgrain box sets of OD&D and still prefer that edition. Sure, they have probably tried other editions of D&D. Probably other RPGs. But they keep returning to OD&D. The same with 1E AD&D and the various box sets of Classic D&D. 

I'm one of the people who tried lots of stuff, still plays other games/versions, but prefers older D&D to newer. And IMO, yes, there's just something to the older editions that resonates with me more than the newer ones. The first question is, what is it?

Personally, I think it's something I've actually seen quite a few people mentioning lately. Old school D&D is focused on treasure. Gold = XP. It's not classes and levels. Not Vancian magi. Not the tropes. For sure not alignment. Gold = XP. That's it.

Gold = XP provides the impetus for GAME PLAY. I was just talking to my son last night about various RPGs. One member of our group wants to run another Black Hack family game this weekend. But in those games, we get leveled up after every X game sessions. Doesn't matter if we're sitting around town chatting with NPCs for 3 hours, or risking our lives in some gods-forsaken hellhole fighting monsters. We'll level up after X number of sessions. So why are we mucking around risking death? We should be sitting around playing cards with Dieter the Town Gambler all session, or hitting on the barmaids/stable boys, or wandering around town just seeing what's there. Do that for enough sessions to level up. THEN maybe go fight some monsters. And just why are we fighting the monsters anyway? Because like Mt. Everest, they're there? There isn't even XP for killing them like there is in 5E! 

XP for treasure gives us a reason to go adventuring. It's a goal everyone shares. And it drives play. THAT is the "something fundamental to its merits" that Prince of Nothing is talking about. Game play always has a default motive for when nothing else is motivating play.

But there's a second question we need to ask. If that quality is so fundamental to old school play, and other games/editions fail to include it, why have the vast majority of gamers moved on to newer editions of D&D and/or other RPGs entirely? 

Well, the answer to that is quite simple. Gold = XP is definitely a merit of old school play. Having a default motive to fall back on is nice. But it's not the only motive of play, and isn't a universal motivator. And for some people, the motive to play is to EXPERIENCE. They want to get into the head of their PC (especially if that PC is very different from themselves). They want to explore strange landscapes and social situations. They want to be taken out of the everyday. That is what the artpunk movement is targeting. I think it's also a big draw of a lot of the indie/storygames crowd. And also a big appeal of games like 5E and Pathfinder, where the number of fantasy races allowed keeps growing and growing and human PCs become the oddity rather than the norm. 

And I'm not saying these are the only two motives of play. I'm sure there are many more. But since Prince posted his list of axioms as a response to the popularity (or at least high sales volume and critical acclaim) of artpunk products in the OSR, that's the only other one I think we need to discuss right now. 

So on this statement of intent, I agree with the opinion being shared, but don't think it is quite as concrete as Prince's wording makes it seem. At least as I read it, there is an unstated "And this is why old school D&D is better."

I'm happier with my boiled down version: 

0. Older D&D has merit as a game.

It's stating the opinion in a way that people can, and will, still disagree with, but it's not implying something lesser about other games or newer editions that don't share the same merits. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Movie Review: The Matrix Resurrections

It's been a week since I saw the movie. I wanted some time to think about it, but also figured it would be hard to talk about it without spoilers. So I delayed writing this. 

Is there cursing in the movie? Yes. Similar to previous Matrix movies. Aside from that, the end battle scene has some disturbing elements to it, so I'm glad I went to see it with only my teenage son, not my 1st grader. Parents, you might want to see this before taking young kids to see it, and decide for yourself.

OK, on to the review. Did I like it? Yes. Did I love it? Not quite. It was definitely entertaining. It wasn't as philosophical/preachy/talky as the previous Matrix sequels, and the plot was much more direct and easy to follow. That was both good, and bad in some ways. Overall, I was entertained. It was a fitting sequel, and either serves as a fun post-script to the original trilogy, or as a potentially interesting jumping off point for non-Neo-centric Matrix productions in the future. 

The acting was good overall. Keanu and Carrie-Anne were great. They really slipped back into the roles well. Most of the rest of the cast were also well done, especially as some of the actors were constrained by how previous actors had portrayed certain characters in the original trilogy. The action was exciting and usually easy to follow along with. Some cool bullet-time special effects and what not. It's the Matrix. It was what you expect in that regard. CGI and special effects also were well done. The plot was clever in some areas, a bit lame in others, and there are a few plot holes. 

Worth seeing? If you're a fan of the original trilogy, or even just of the first movie? Yes. Fan of cyberpunk or PKD style psychological sci-fi? Yes. Tired of media properties that are just relying on nostalgia to get you to spend money on their new movies? Go ahead and skip this one until it's on a streaming service. They are clever at winking and nodding to the audience about this, but that's not worth the ticket price just for that.


----------------SPOILERS BELOW------------------------


OK, gonna give everyone some space to avoid spoilers on the screen, then discuss some specifics of the film that I liked and disliked. 


Ready? 


Alright then. Here we go. 


The Setup: I kinda liked how they had us return to The Matrix. The new Matrix contains all the events from the trilogy as an in-universe video game designed by Thomas Anderson. Neat idea, and it allowed the cheeky scenes where they make fun of the fact that they're making another sequel that doesn't need to be made just because they know it will make money (and WB will eventually do it without them anyway if they don't do it). Also, the "history" of the Machine Civil War was a great take to move the plot forward. If The Architect's faction had remained in control of the machines, this wouldn't have happened.

Characters: Like I said above, Neo and Trinity felt right. Not exactly the same, but that should be expected. Niobe's heel turn shouldn't have been unexpected, really, but I was surprised by it. Of course she comes around in the end, much like her arc in the trilogy. New Morpheus was OK, but kinda got lost in the second half of the film. Once Neo was made aware of the new Matrix that he was in, New Morpheus's role was pretty tangential. Bugs was cool, but I wish I'd gotten to know her crew a bit better. I can't even remember the name of her Operator. Business Partner/Agent Smith worked well, especially his face turn. The Analyst made for a very good opponent. Much more interesting and clever than the Architect. Not as interesting as Smith was in the trilogy, though. The Merovingian and his renegade programs being a bunch of homeless drifters made me smile. Nice reversal.

Plot: It was a rehash, but they made the rehash make sense (more or less) within the bounds of the end of the trilogy. Still not sure how they could have resurrected Neo and Trinity 60 years previous but yet they're still only 20 years older both in the new Matrix and in the real world (of the film). How was Smith's code recycled when it seemed the point of Neo connecting with the Source was to destroy/delete Smith's code? There were a few other things that also didn't quite make sense, but the overall plot arc and character arcs made sense. Having Trinity and Neo be two halves of The One in this new Matrix was a great touch. I loved that. Overall, though, the plot seemed a bit rushed and some subplot elements seem to have been lost to the cutting room floor.

Themes: I think they made a good attempt to reexamine themes from the original trilogy (Can we trust our senses? Is there free will?) but also worked in new themes (How do we deal with feelings of being trapped in the wrong body? How do we rebuild our lives after disaster? How do we cope with media addiction? Are we drugging ourselves into oblivion?) fairly well. 

The Matrix Resurrections is a solid movie. It's definitely not a must-see, but similar to Bill & Ted Face the Music, we get to see Keanu take up an old role that we loved and it's fun. But honestly, the film likely wouldn't work if it weren't for the nostalgia factor. While it does cover some old ground and break some new ground thematically, it's just not as tight or as gripping as the original Matrix.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Well, this is interesting

 Prince of Nothing apparently wrote a scathing post trying to destroy the Art-Punk movement, which has been deleted and I missed it. In its place, he sets out 10 (plus a few more) axioms that define non-Art-Punk OSR to him. It's worth taking a look at them and seeing how they can be deconstructed, criticized, modified, or accepted. 

0. The resurgence and longevity of the oldschool playstyle is no mere happenstance but an indication that there is something fundamental to its merits which modern TTRPGs largely fail to capture.
1. The greatest DnD is neither a slavish imitation of the past nor a wholesale rejection thereof (conscious or unconscious), but a continuation of that old craft, with syncretic improvements from other areas.
2. DnD is at its core about the emulation of fantastical adventures and expeditions in the spirit of the Appendix N. Deviation from that spirit is possible but if one strays too far something essential is lost.
3. DnD is, at its core, an Activity. This does not preclude a host of other things (e.g. subject of theoretical discussion, vehicle for creative endaevour, personal hellscape, lucrative side-hustle) but as in all things, Actually Playing the game is its purest expression.
4. Playing good (that is to say, entertaining, challenging, rewarding, fascinating) DnD and making good adventures is primarily a craft, which relies on knowledge and experience, and secondarily a factor of innate ability.
5. DnD is primarily a game to challenge the players. However, great DnD is also about exploration, and so incorporates elements of wonder, horror or whimsy against a versimilitudinous (?) backdrop. It is rooted in the real but contains the fantastic.
6. A good adventure is neither about pure system mastery nor abstract challenge resolution, but incorporates a variety of challenges (lateral, tactical, logistical, social, strategic) which tend to allow a variety of approaches. The answer is not always on your character sheet.
7. DnD play-skill grows as characters gain in levels and good adventure takes that growth into consideration. A level 20 wizard played by a new player is not the same as one that has incorporated every spell and magic item into his routine and knows how to use them.
8. DnD is at its finest when it is open-ended and allows for player decision-making; Maps, Sandboxes, Strategic options, side-quests, factions to ally with etc. etc.
9. DnD is more about mastering your environment then character building. You take what is given and put it to use. This does not preclude logistical challenges.
10. Standard practice is standard for a reason. It is possible to break with procedure, but consider the change in terms of trade-offs, not as the fruits of your brilliant auteur imparting his wisdom on DnD.
11. Art, Layout and Aesthethic Shall Be in Service to the craft of adventure writing, not an end unto itself.
12. DnD is a pasttime and place of solace from the evils of the world. Woe unto him who brings politics unto the gaming table, or by gaming seeks to further his political end.

If I were to try to boil these down to their essences (as I interpret them, of course, YMMV), I'd restate them thusly: 

0. Older D&D has merit as a game.

1. Some parts of D&D can (and sometimes should) be changed, but a core essence of "D&D" must remain.

2.  D&D works best for pulpy style adventure. It can do other genres but it is at its best pulpy.

3. Talk all you want about the game, but it's only relevant when we PLAY.

4. Good play requires players and DMs to develop skill over time.

5. Without challenge, there is no game.

6. A well-run game has a variety of challenges, some within the game system, others independent of it.

7. The game's challenges needs to to evolve with increasing player skill.

8. Without freedom of choice and consequences for those choices, there is no game.

9. Your character is a tool for interaction with the game world.

10. With great power to change the game comes great responsibility to keep to Axiom #1.

11. Providing good content is more important than surface presentation of that content.

12. Keep your politics out of my game.

Hmm, lots to think about. I definitely agree with some of these points, disagree with others, and have caveats about some as well. Looks like good fodder for a series of posts!

Friday, December 24, 2021

Flying Fists & Funhouse Dungeons

Sometimes, we get hung up on a certain paradigm or method, and it can be hard to break out of that way of thinking. For me, it's having D&D with classes and then subclasses or kits (2E style) for customization. Why have a Fighter, a Barbarian, Paladin and a Ranger all be pretty much the same class, but separate classes, when you could just have a Fighter with subclasses? 

Flying Swordsmen is this way, because I was cloning Dragon Fist. Dragon Fist was based on 2E, so went this route. If Chris Pramas were designing the game today, he might still go this route, since that's also what 5E does. 

When I made Chanbara, I did the same thing again. 

Working on Treasures, Serpents & Ruins, I've gone back and forth in my design. Completely separate classes. Core classes with subclasses. 

When I created my new Martial Artist class earlier this year, I made it with four subclasses, one that corresponds to each of the four basic D&D classes: the cleric-martial artist, the fighter-martial artist, the magic user-martial artist, and the thief-martial artist. This was to allow emulation of the basic classes of Flying Swordsmen within TSR. 

Two days ago, I started reworking that. Instead of one class with four subclasses, I rewrote it as two classes with martial arts. One, the Martial Artist, has more mundane powers, the other, the Xia, has more mystical powers and spellcasting. (Xia had been a spellcasting martial artist class in a previous version). This seems a bit better to balance, I think, because the Xia class should obviously take more XP to level up. It's a monk/magic-user hybrid (or monk/cleric hybrid?). I think I like this better than the previous four subclasses version. Also better than a previous version where I had martial arts subclasses for each of the four core classes, with very dissimilar powers/abilities to the core classes but very similar ones to each other.

Now I've got to decide if the Xia should use standard spell lists, or use a custom one from my previous version of the game. The custom list was small, and focused on spells that would more closely simulate powers you might find in a wuxia movie. 

Anyway, with this class setup, I can have weird martial artists wandering around in megadungeons and the wilderness looking for loot. 

As it stands right now, TSR-East Marches will have the following classes:

Cleric (Exorcist/Onmyoji, Shaman/Mudang, Warrior-Monk/Sohei)

Fighter (Knight/Hwarang, Vagabond/Ronin, Weapon Master/Kensei)

Magic-User (Geomancer/Shugenja, Scholar/Wushi, Soothsayer/SuanMin)

Thief (Gangster/Yakuza, Infiltrator/Ninja, Outlaw/Pantu)

Martial Artist

Xia

Dokkaebi (demi-human)

Koropokuru (demi-human)

Shenseng (demi-human, 4 varieties/subclasses)

Vanara (demi-human)

I think this setup will work OK. 10 classes (21 types of characters with subclasses). But now that I've broken out of the need to have subclasses for each base class, I've got a desire to simplify even more. 

For example, the Knight and Vagabond have fairly cosmetic differences. Maybe I just need a Fighter and a Kensei as 2 separate classes. The same could be said about the Onmyoji and Mudang, or the Geomancer and Wushi. For the Thief subclasses, they all have some distinctions, but the Ninja and Outlaw are more similar. Maybe I should get rid of those distinctions and let players just make the distinction by role play, as players have been doing for decades? 

And maybe I'm just way to fixated on creating cool classes for my games to tailor-make certain archetypes of the source material with game mechanics. I could go way overboard on individual classes, but I don't want to turn my house rules into something that looks like it was made by Siembieda (seriously, how does anyone choose a class in Ninjas & Superspies? So many of them have such small, fiddly differences!)

Well, enough navel gazing for this Christmas Eve. I'll likely move to simplify things even more over the next month or two. And then sometime next year, start tinkering to expand again. Maybe I should change the name of my houserules to Sisyphus. I keep rolling this rock up the hill over and over, and it probably doesn't matter in the end.

PS - My son and I saw the new Matrix movie yesterday. Expect a review of it soon.