Dungeons & Dragons: pencil and paper roll playing games: Analog Win

The Savage is back to discuss one of the great analog wins, pencil and paper roll playing games, and the king of them all, Dungeons & Dragons.  

     Have you ever seen this guy?

     That is Gary Gygax (RIP) and way back in 1974 he gave the world (along with Dave Arneson) something great.  He gave us Dungeons & Dragons.  

     You may never have heard of this game.  You may have heard of one like it.  You may have heard of this one in a less than favorable manner, as it has a notorious reputation that is utterly undeserved.  I’m not going to go into it, but lets just say the zealots blame this game for a lot (along with metal and Harry Potter.)  This kind of thing is amazing.  I was brought in when I was around nine by my cousin David.  Later as an adult I joined the army and moved away, but any time I was home I was welcome in the games of David, My cousin Seth, or my Uncle Lonnie, family gathers around the table.  

    If you know the game, even a little, if you just know about it, then the mere mention of a D&D session causes something in your soul to spark, the promise of adventure, the smell of the trees and grass, the calm before something sinister comes into being.  If you are a player, then this is, of course, paired with the smells of Mountain Dew, cheetos, and a table full of books and dice.  The pleasurable tingle of an impending D&D session SHOULD be like the opening sequences of Skyrim in your head.

     That is the point, it is kind of like video games, but better!  Why better?  Well it forces you to get in touch with something you may have forgotten.


    People have forgotten their imagination.  Here are some more reasons that tabletop RPG is superior to the video game.

  1. It involves books.  You get locked into the books, you learn the worlds, lets face it, books ar amazing.
  2. No video game will ever be as open world as a pencil/paper RPG.
  3. It involves real people, gathered together, doing real things.  
  4. Going with the imagination, it does not involve artificial stimulation, it allows you to exercise your creativity.
  5. It allows you to get locked into a pretty serious dice collection.  
  6. Again, you have to talk to people, with your mouth.
  7. No call of duty kids.  You start being a nine year old and suddenly the other players might just roll up on you and straighten it out.  

     I tell you this.  You need a place to play.  Most of the games I have ever played, were in the homes of other people, or my own.  In fact, that is how I met my best friend Carl…by spying through the window on a session being played in his home, which I was later welcomed into…but that is another story.  You will also need a place to acquire your books and dice.  I’m going to slam down my die hard belief in shop local for this kind of thing.  The local game store must not die.  The game store does not neccesarily end up being where you will play, but in my case it is, and that is why I buy my stuff from them, they give us a place to play with local soul and players.

    I give you Knight Watch Games of San Antonio Texas!  This place is amazing.  The owners have made such an amazing store that, it has a Facebook players community all of it’s own.  That was how I got my current game put together.  The owners told me about the community and within a couple of hours I had players.  That can be one of the hardest parts of playing, is getting committed players together.  I was concerned about this when we moved recently, having to leave Carl and all, but Knight Watch and their community made it all a lot easier.  Now I am there till closing a couple of nights a week.  The new boy has made friends.  

    You don’t have to know all the lingo right away. Here’s a primer though.  

  1. Numbers paired with an E is a reference to the addition of D&D.  
  2. Editions last quite a while.
  3. 4E was pure garbage.
  4. Hot garbage.
  5. Most people stuck to 3.5.
  6. Others turned to pathfinder.
  7. 5E is amazing.  It is simple, elegant, beautiful, and gets back to the game.

In my opinion, 5E is what always should have been.

    If you have been on the fence about getting into a game like this, let me give you the push, go for it, get into it, give it a go.  However, some things to keep in mind that will enrich your playing experience, and that of those around you:

  1. Shower. 
  2. Be willing to commit to play semi regularly, everyone needs to sit down with their schedules and plan as much in advance as possible.  Some land mines are unavoidable (my last game was made up mostly of fellow college students and a night cop from campus.  I didn’t make it easier by getting into a play during the semester.)
  3. Do not expect to have an easy go.  Embrace player death.  That is part of it, if there is no risk, the game is no fun.  Be ready to be written back in as a level 1 and enjoy the hilarity that ensues. 
  4. If you witness a player argue with the DM a few too many times, ask the other players if the DM sucks, if not, punch that argumentative person. (Kidding)
  5. The real number 5 is for the DM.  If you are new, utilize the guys who have the books mostly committed to memory.
  6. Have fun.
  7. Try to imagine.
  8. Play the character that makes you happy.  They are not always practical (bards), and may die fast (bards), but you will die smiling.

A side note:  D&D is obviosly not the only game like this.  It is kind of a rule #34 effect.  If you want it, there is most likely an RPG for it.  Star Wars, Warmhammer 40k, Zombies, The Lord of the Rings (which is actually set up to work with the current edition of D&D *happy noises*).  Try one, try them all!  I really want to play the Star Wars games, and am hunting on eBay for the old Robotech RPG books.

    Get off Xbox and fire up the brains.  Sharpen your #2 pencils, and prepare to roll the dice.  Be ready for the thrill of success and the plunging sickness of a rolled 1.

Brandon Bledsoe

Analog Savage
Some Shots of myt current game, players, and the much beloved Knight Watch Games of San Antonio Texas.

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Analog Win: Kettlebells

Ok, so let us be honest, no one has ever shown a digital means of exercising.  There was an interesting bit on how that might go in Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, but that is still not a serious option for people to entertain in this century.  

     So what would warrant the use of the word analog for the win in this case?  Machines, exercise machines.  The rise of the exercise machine is not something we here at Analog Savage celebrate.  We subscribe to the philosophy of Pavel Tsatsouline, great destroyer of the machine, turner of the Soviet themed phrase, and all around bad ass.  Give this guy a google.  He is hilarious, his videos are dramatic and over the top, and I am inclined to believe that maybe his accent is not that thick, but he is still awesome.  

    Let us keep this simple, Pavel says machines do not work, and that a gym should look like a rusty junk yard full of heavy junk on the ground that needs to work against physics by being forced to cease to be at rest.  Now, given machines probably do have their uses, if you are trying to build some kind of crazy mass for looks or the cult of body building.  Pavel is not concerned with looks overall, he wants you to get strong, and believes that the appearance of strength will come with it.  Bring in the kettlebells.  

     This will not be a primer course on kettlebells.  In fact, I will do my very best to avoid giving you any actual directions on fitness or anything like that, as I do not want to have a lawsuit brought against me when someone fails to practice proper safety while swinging balls of iron.  What this is, is my opinion.  

    The kettlebell is the simplest fitness tool, once you know how to use it.  It is wickedly effective and punishing.  This thing goes where you go, I have moved twice since starting kettlebells and each time, I stick them in our car and take them with us.  They are compact, the gym goes where you go, they could be used inside of a jail cell (I believe).  

    Let’s get this out of the way, this is not crossfit.  Crossfit has incorporated kettlebells into their programming, but that does not make everyone who uses the tool a participant of the latest fitness craze.  You can focus on kettlebells without joining that particular cult.  

    Find yourself a trainer, and if you listen to me, buy yourself some real Russian iron here.  The Wal-mart or local sporting goods place probably has some wad of concrete, painted in some form of metallic paint, that you can get a result out of, but they will not last you very long.  Take this one from me, once that paint comes off, the concrete underneath is going to grind your hands away in a big hurry.  Kettlebells are an investment and like many things, you get what you pay for, buy the real deal and you great-great-great-grandkids can tell the people in their hover chairs stories about you and the kettlebell you passed down to them so they would be fitter than the future people.  The same goes for some good training.  Listen to me again, these things wielded properly will carve you from marble.  Used improperly they will devastate you, permanently injure you, and potentially kill you or someone who has a close proximity to you.  I am not being dramatic, iron enjoying some speed and force will wreak havoc and destruction on anything short of a larger kettlebell.  

     How do you spot a good trainer?  I do not know, but I will say to rule out anyone who cheers you on for getting injured.

    The Savage says kettlebell is a winner.  I will leave you to form your own opinion.

Do you really like that? Using caution and discretion on the road to analog

My Great-Grandmother passed away recently.  She lived through a lot of things that we study in school, The Great Depression and World War II come to mind first.  She was a young woman when the Chicago Cubs were in their second most recent World Series.  Her death was preceded by about four years of being in assisted living due to not being able to care for herself, basically Alzheimer’s.  When my family began to inventory her home, it was found to be stuffed full of dollar store deals, yard sale finds, and things that had been on sale in bulk.  Notebooks by the hundred, odd singing bears, crap from every era since not long after the sixties.  The house was not all, there is a smaller house and multiple falling in storage buildings on the property.  In short, she had been hoarding.  Not the worst I have ever seen, but some of it.

Last year David Sax published The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter.  I have not read it.  I may, it is nothing personal to the author, it is just another book on the stack…yes, an actual stack.  I hold firmly to my belief that you can run a page and blog called Analog Savage without having to read a book about analog things.  The point here is that the title reflects a point I had made before, the idea of ‘The Real.”

The real to us is things that matter.  It is the quilt I am making for my son and the hours of my life that are sewn into it.  It is the tactile experience, it is the activation of the senses.  The real is craftsmanship, it is something original, something with a purpose.  There are a million ways to describe the real, and it is almost certainly easier to point out what it is not, rather than what it is.

That brings us to the dark side.  The real involves real things.  Physical objects.  They actual mass, real things take up real space.  I would say they cost actual money, but you can blow money on digital things as well.  The real, being analog, it all involves actual crap that takes up space and has to be stored and maintained.

I am the worst about it.  I am not a hoarder, but my friend Carl says that my hobby is having hobbies.  My wife says that my largest collection is my collection of collections.  These statements are both true.  Let us introduce the book pile.

There it is.  That is my personal monster.  Now, before you set about judging, I did not buy all of those and just not read them.  Many of those I was given by my Great Aunt, in a story that goes back to the Great Grandmother, and I have just not been able to get to them, or I have been listening to them as audiobooks.  There is a convoluted twisty canyon of thought that you do not need to sort through here, but they are on the floor because if they are on the shelf I will forget about them.  I am working on them.

We seem to always be in a race to outperform previous generations in materialism.  We just have so much crap.  Those books are not crap, they are heirlooms, and a chain of the thoughts of someone I love.  My Baseball cards on the other hand…

I love comic books, despite my hate/hate relationship with the publishers right now.  When I was in my latest collecting and reading frenzy of comics, before the writers decided that having a good story was the wrong way to sell books and titles proliferated into madness, I carried a monthly collection of twenty books or more.  When the storylines started to turn, I kept buying.  When it had advanced well past the point of sticking it out, I kept buying.  When even my favorite characters failed to please (google Bat-Chappie), when they made sure to involve each character in multiple series and big world shattering events came every quarter to squeeze every cent from us (secret wars…) I kept buying.  Why?  The same reason that a lot of people buy more and more, to bee seen as being current.

Keeping up with the Joneses is not just about the house and pool anymore.  It is now about showing how much you love something by keeping piles of it to sleep in apparently.  I had to buy Batman comics no matter how much they sucked due to my status of self-appointed supreme Batman fan of the world.

Now I have to apply a simple test, asking myself “Do I like this or do I wish to be seen as liking this?”  It does not break the cycle immediately, but it does confront me with the truth of some things.  Am I going to enjoy this, play it with friends, read it, use it, or am I going to try to find a corner in a closet to get this out of sight out of mind so that I do not need to feel bad for having spent the money on it, maybe pulling it out once in a while to show off when the thing is mentioned.

If it fails the test, just be honest.  Being analog is about actually enjoying the thing, not piling the thing up.  Am I going to interact with my Soviet Stamps every day?  No.  Am I preserving something that there will never be any more of, and getting a truly rewarding experience while doing so?  Yes.  Will I interact with my baseball cards every day?  No.  Am I enjoying them for more than five minutes after having opened them?  Not really…

This post was just to caution you about the rabbit hole of the analog things.  Now people write books about how to get rid of crap.  One of them I enjoyed just for the irony of it.  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo is a book, in which there is a chapter about getting rid of your books.  This is where people got the notion of the whole “throw out things that bring you no joy,” I would caution against this extreme approach as I shove my treadmill, sister, and anything that resembles non-hobby work out the door.  The second irony is that they sell this book in the container store, and in the book she says that organizing is not tidying, it is just putting the crap somewhere else, somewhat neater.

This is the balance the tagline at Analog Savage speaks of, appreicate the printing press without buying one. To collect stamps you will need stamps, but start with a theme.  If you are going to explore the analog, be picky, be thorough, exercise discretion and judgement, and half fun without being buried under the weight of crap you do not actually care about.

Analog Savage

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