Episode 15 — “All Berries”

It’s a new year. And that, of course, means we change everything. At least for a day or two. But, since this is already four days into the new year, we’ve already reverted to old habits. Which is just the way we like it. Santa, muppets, feedback, war games, and more all on the first episode of the new year.

Brian: https://twitter.com/Fiddleback
Scott: https://twitter.com/TheAngryGM

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Email: DigressionsandDragons@gmail.com

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Fiddleback

The voice and producer of GM Word of the Week, he is also a Freelance Tabletop Game Editor and Writer as well as a long time podcaster. He has written and edited for Fantasy Flight Games' Star Wars RPGs, Modiphius Entertainment's Mutant Chronicles and Infinity RPGs and several others. He is currently working on his own Transit RPG.

11 thoughts on “Episode 15 — “All Berries”

  1. I have DVD’s of those 1960’s stop-motion Christmas specials bought early this century when my kids were young. They were a staple of Christmas Eve until the last couple of years in my house – my youngest turning 15 next week explains why they have fallen out of fashion, he would now rather being killing people on Overwatch or PUBG as a more age appropriate way of getting in the Christmas spirit.

    Which brings me to the concept of belief: its not a binary, its a probabilistic state ranging from 0 (don’t believe at all) to 1 (absolutely sure it’s true). You look at the evidence, you weigh the evidence and you decide where you sit on that scale – if you are a rational person (not many people are) then you adjust your belief when new evidence arises.

    I believe in New York City at about 0.999, I mean, I’ve been there a couple of times, I can see lots of pictures, I can speak to people who claim they live/visit there, it gets mentioned in newspapers and books, however, one must be always cognizant of Descartes’ Demon. My faith in what I believe ‘about’ New York City is much, much lower – my personal experience of it is tiny so I have to rely on hearsay evidence and people are such terrible witnesses.

    My son’s belief in Santa Claus is about 0.002. I see him put out cookies and beer for him and it is eaten/drunk by the morning (I am sure (0.99) that Santa has a designated driver), I see him put out his sack which is filled with gifts in the morning. On the flip side, I know that he doesn’t go to see him at the shopping centre anymore and that he knows that he has seen objects around the house before Christmas that end up in the sack on Christmas and I suspect that he suspects that I eat the cookie/drink the beer. This may be a Pascal’s wager on his behalf but I also know (0.99999) that people are very, very good at ignoring or rationalizing evidence that contradicts their beliefs.

    I’m a trained engineer and scientist so I know (I’m stopping giving probabilities for all of these) that there is NO SUCH THING as objective, incontrovertible evidence. Every fact is provisional and subject to revision. Some facts are extremely UNLIKELY to be revised of course. I just watch the movies for the morality tale they are don’t sweat the plot points, after all, the whole holiday is premised on a virgin giving birth.

    1. To further rabbit on, I have heard Scott talk of people who live in a world with objective, quantifiable evidence of divine beings. While I personally think that this says more about the nature of humanity than the nature of divinity, there are many who believe that this world is such a world.

      Without initiating a theological discussion, my point is that people can hold deep-seated and fervent beliefs on the basis of little or no evidence and in the face of objectively strong evidence against that belief. People DO NOT use evidence to determine their beliefs, they choose and interpret evidence to support the beliefs they already have. What I see as a “statistical outlier” they see as a “miracle”, what they see as “objective fact” I see as “subjective opinion” (aka “lies” or “fake news”), what I see as a “body of evidence” they see as a “conspiracy”.

      Just because the gods are real doesn’t mean people can’t find a rationalisation to not believe in them.

  2. The war gaming section was great! I like how it went from “no, we’re not filthy wargamers” to “oh yeah, here’s all the fun war games we have played!”

    The timing was especially interesting. This holiday season, my father in law, brother in law, and I played a little BattleLore, and a whole lot of Squad Leader, a game from 1977. It was my first time, though he had played it back in his college days. I also got to borrow his copy of Chainmail! War gaming all over the place.

  3. Ok, deep breath …

    Re: wargaming: I could write for pages and pages on this topic, but I’m going to control myself and try to limit myself to a few interesting tidbits.. First of all, I own Star Fleet Battles (SFB), Air Superiority, Air Strike, Harpoon, and Starship Troopers, and have played them all (quite a bit, in most cases). I’ve played Car Wars and Mechwarrior a bit. And a closet-full of other wargames. I’m a fairly old-school wargamer (not to say, just plain old), which to MY mind really refers to hex-and-counter wargames. I consider myself a grognard (which come to think of it might make a decent Word of the Week), or at least grognard-adjacent. I still love those games, but I don’t get to play most of them any more.

    Back in my high school/college days we played SFB pretty much constantly – like, pretty much every day during summers. We would stage campaigns and huge fleet battles and leave games set up on the basement ping-pong table for weeks. SFB is a pretty hard-core, rules-intensive game, and although it doesn’t quite fit in the most traditional mold of a wargame typified by e.g. Panzer Leader or Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) or something like that, it definitely qualifies in my book. My one remaining regular wargaming “fix” is a weekly ASL game that I’ve been doing for more than 20 years. In the hopes of getting to playing SFB online with an old opponent I actually built a VASSAL module for it (www.vassalengine.org) but it’s hard to find the time even for remote play.

    Air Superiority/Air Strike were designed by J.D. Webster, a Navy (and later ANG) pilot, who you may also know as the artist/writer behind the old Finieous Fingers comics in Dragon magazine. Those are also very detailed, rules-intensive, “simulation-oriented” games, like ASL and SFB. They tend to be difficult to pick up and master, and are rewarding if you are really interested in drilling down into the details of modern air combat. Starship Troopers and ASL were published by Avalon Hill back before the TSR and WotC and Hasbro acquisitions — at the time they were mainly a wargame publisher.

    Hard-core, grognard-style wargaming was always a bit of a niche hobby, and it’s gotten even more so in the past … 20 years or so, I’d guess, as players age and also as a result of the boardgame revolution. There are a lot fewer games that are quite as hard core, but on the other hand a lot of good innovations have been transferred into the hobby. A lot of current wargamers don’t have the time to leave games set up for weeks or months, so a lot of newer designs are more streamlined.

    But anyway, definitely if you play those games, you are playing wargames. (Personally I wouldn’t call things like Warhammer and other tabletop miniatures games wargames, exactly, although there is a lot of overlap clearly.)

    1. Oh, yeah, one other thing I had intended to mention on the “why D&D as opposed to some other system?” question — I agree it’s mainly familiarity and inertia, but looked at from the other side you have to ask “well, what does this OTHER system have that makes it so awesome that it’s worth learning a new game and going through that long learning process?” Bearing in mind that all games and game systems have strengths and weaknesses, some new system will undoubtedly have weaknesses to be discovered; is it worth the hassle? Especially when you’re having to deal with the time constraints that come with adulthood.

      Oh, and ANOTHER other thing – I’d consider for example Axis & Allies to be a wargame. It’s a very simple one, but the key elements are there.

  4. 1. I love the old Rankin & Bass stop-motion Christmas movies. However, this year we found one on Amazon Prime streaming that was just a total trip. “Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July”. It has an evil wizard named Winterbolt, his two ice dragons, the power of Lady Borealis being what causes Rudolph’s nose to glow. It’s crazy.

    2. Fridge Logic was coined by Hitchcock. I think it’s a very interesting concept and useful for creators. Obviously it’s best to be internally consistent, but the beauty of fridge logic is that it doesn’t hit you until you’re at the fridge. Your suspension of disbelief was intact throughout the movie.

    3. I loved playing Mage Knight, it was a very fun game. I’m sad it’s dead, and now if you mention it people think you’re talking about the board game.

    4. I loved the discussion about sticking with D&D over other games. Getting people to play really is the biggest hurdle. I purchase and read through most everything just because I like to design my own stuff and I like to keep up on what other people are doing, but it’s very rare that I can get a consistent group that is interested in wanting to play anything other than D&D.

    I’d love to hear Scott talk more about how he wished WOTC had iterated on 4E instead of the direction they took with 5E.

    5. I have read through Genesys and it has a few interesting bits, but my biggest hurdle remains the dice. I understand why people like it, in theory at least, but I just don’t understand how you can resolve those rolls without the game slowing to a crawl. Identify and collect all the symbols, cancel out this or that, determine what the actual result is, and only after all that is done does the GM have to start interpreting the results. Maybe I need to see how more experienced Star Wars GMs run their games but it just doesn’t seem like it fits with how I like to run my games. Speed of resolution is something I am really big on.

  5. Good discussion on wargames, thank you. For your gents’ education, FASA did BattleTech, and Palladium did Robotech. Originally, FASA did a game called Battledroids, but had to drop the name when C&D’d by Lucas Arts over the use of the word “droid”, and changed it to BattleTech (yes, “droids” was always lower case and “Tech” was always uppercase). FASA used a lot of mecha designs from Japanese anime – Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Fang of the Sun Dougram, and Crusher Joe – which they thought they’d acquired the rights to use those images as mech designs, but they got them from the wrong people (or something, the story is convoluted, many parts were settled out of court and the details never revealed to the public, and it’s come back around again with the new BattleTech owner, Catalyst Game Labs). FASA just used the images from those anime as mech designs, and made up new names, statistics and background info, they just needed them for the artwork. BattleTech is generally considered a wargame, but FASA did release an RPG based on the universe, MechWarrior.

    At the same time (1984-85) that Battledroids came out, Harmony Gold licensed the animes Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross and Genesis Climber Mospeada to create a new anime for the US market, Robotech. In 1986, Palladium licensed Robotech from Harmony Gold, and legally uses images from Super Dimension Fortress Macross and the other animes, but unlike BattleTech, directly uses the background and statistics of those instead of making up all new material. Robotech is an RPG (using Scott’s favorite RPG ruleset, Palladium’s Megaversal system), but they tried in the past couple of years to Kickstart a wargame based on Robotech, Robotech RPG Tactics. Tactics has been an almost 5 year drama fest, including the attempted suicide by one of the designers… I’ll let you guys look up that one.

    So I can understand your confusion between the two. Even I had to reference The Repository of All Knowledge (TM) to verify my memory of the events was correct.

    What kind of gaming accoutrements do you gentlemen use, when you’re running a game in person? Minis for all the PCs and all monsters? Cardstock substitutes for minor players? Dry erase board with inch square grid? Dwarven Forge dungeon models? Background thematic music and situation appropriate sound effects?

  6. Another great discussion. I extensively played SFB in my youth, running an extended campaign with players using each of the races and trying to expand their respective holdings. Had a simple homebrew economics system for resourse collection for ship building. Some of the battles were quite large, long games but good fun.
    This put the question in my mind about errata. How should trpgs handle errata? Reprints, summary document, new edition only or …. ?

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