tomorrow is free RPG day

attention all gamers – your local gaming store will likely be hosting free RPG day tomorrow:

Much like its predecessor Free Comic Day, it is a day when the lions of the industry (and a few smaller presses) all send out free, smaller versions of their most popular lines to give folks a chance to check them out. Participating FLGS (Friendly Local Game Stores) will be giving these out (while supplies last) as well as running many of the games they receive. But it’s on a first come first serve basis, and each store will have different criteria for how they’ll give them out – so be sure to call your FLGS in order to find out when and how these will be made available. Some may be one to a customer, while others may require you to play in the demo of the game you’re getting. Others still might be throwing them at passers by just to get them out of their store.

Massawyrm has more details at AICN about what specific games will be given away – including a D&D 4E module, The Treasure of Talon Pass.

my gaming history

Kevin at DW has a nice summary of what’s changed in the new 4th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons. I really am eager to give this a shot – I used to play D&D heavily, starting with the red box (back when D&D and AD&D were two separate products. Anyone recall the Immortals box set? :), during grade school IIRC. I maintained my gaming up till college, playing 2nd Ed at the time (and enjoying the expansions like Dark Sun, Ravenloft, etc). We also dabbled in Shadowrun. However near the tail end of college, Magic The Gathering came out and basically obliterated D&D. I havent played Magic since leaving college either, so in a sense I am ready to come full circle again and give 4th Ed a shot. (there was a 3.5 Ed? wtf?)

I did try a lot of board games too – I remember Talisman very fondly from junior high, and there was also the Star Trek Starship Combat Simulator in high school. And in college we were heavily into Illuminati, whose second edition was still playable but we preferred the original. I also got into RoboRally while in college, which was another of those games with a simple concept and game mechanics, but tremendously complex play.

I am also very tempted by the new online gaming tool for D&D 4E, but it looks like WOTC is making a huge mistake with respect to its pricing:

Details uncorked at D&D Experience earlier this year revealed that Wizards of the Coast is rolling out a subscription model used by many massively multiplayer games. In order to gain access to the service, players will be asked to pay $15 a month. Buying in bulk months ahead of time can reduce that price somewhat — to $13 a month if buying a six-month block or $10 a month for a 12-month block.

For a hobby that has (despite the high prices of the actual D&D books) mostly been a fairly cheap pastime, D&DI’s pricing is tantamount to highway robbery. It may sound reasonable — until you consider that in order to participate in an online event, each player will need to be paying this fee. For an average group of four players and a dungeon master, that’s a monthly outlay of about $75. Even at the lowest price of $10 a month, that’s roughly $50 a month just for that one group.

That WIRED article makes the great point that if WOTC adopts a per-hour model for pricing, it will lower the barrier to entry for a lot of younger players, and encourage casual gamers as well – like myself.

pre-rolling the dice

The new episode of Darths and Droids – Ãœberstition – has this truly inspired meta-commentary at the bottom, which purports to quantify the dice superstition that all RPG gamers suffer from to varying degree:

Pete, being the highly logical, calculating person he is, rejects all of that as superstitious nonsense. He instead applies the scientific approach. Over the years, he’s collected somewhere around a thousand twenty-sided dice. Every so often, he gathers them all together. He sits down at a table and carefully and individually rolls each of the thousand dice, once. Of course, roughly a twentieth of them will roll a one. He takes those fifty-odd dice and rolls them a second time. After about an hour of concentrated dice rolling, he’ll end up with around two or three dice that have rolled two ones in a row. He takes those primed dice and places them in special custom-made padded containers where they can’t roll around, and carries them to all the games he plays.

Then, when in the most dire circumstances, where a roll of one would be absolutely disastrous, he pulls out the prepared dice. He now has in his hand a die that has rolled two ones in a row. Pete knows the odds of a d20 rolling three ones in a row is a puny one in 8,000. He has effectively pre-rolled the ones out of the die, and can make his crucial roll with confidence.

This is the sort of geek brilliance that you’d normally find over at XKCD (though this forum thread comes close).

Being the geek that I am, and also because I just sent in a draft of a paper so the ball isn’t in my court and I can goof off a bit, I wonder if we cant look at Pete’s empirical superstition more critically. First, we can write a script in MATLAB to actually implement Pete’s strategy and see whether the empirical results match expectation. Second, we can analyze the problem theoretically.

I’ll play with MATLAB later – as far as the theory goes, though, Pete is out of luck. Each die roll is a purely independent event, so the probability of rolling a 1 is always 1 in 20. Pete argues that the special dice have already rolled 1’s twice, so there’s only a 1/20*1/20*1/20 = 1/8000 chance of getting a third 1. But that calculation explicitly makes the die rolls dependent. In essence, Pete is arguing that the previous rolls represent a-priori information that can be used to modify the probability of the next roll. Pete is a closet Bayesian in a Frequentist world.

But forget boring statistics jabber – look at the superstition on its own terms. Pete rolled 1,000 dice, not just one, and so if you roll each one three times you would have a total of 3000 rolls, out of which 3000/20 = 150 should be 1s. Note that Pete set aside 50 dice that rolled a 1 after the first round, so there are 100 1s still unused. Pete rolls only those 50 dice again, and gets about 3 that roll 1s, so now there are still 97 1s left! Of course you could argue that Pete has only made 1050 rolls thus far, in which case there are only 53 1s expected, but if you make that argument then you’ve admitted that each roll is independent and thus the next roll would still be a 1/20 chance of a 1 again. Plus, you made all those 97 1s angry by not carrying out the other 1950 rolls. Don’t anger the dice, Pete.

in the eye of the Beholder

This insane rant against Gary Gygax is either satire or simply the product of the kind of person who the Adults always feared playing D&D was turning all us good kids into. I don’t know what game this jerk was playing, but it certainly wasn’t Dungeons and Dragons.

I cant take someone seriously who laments about a “hobgoblin holocaust”, nor someone who is still – STILL – hung up about the fact that elves didn’t have player classes. In Basic D&D.

I was just in Lake Geneva this past weekend. It felt like sacred ground. Here, an industry was born. Poseurs like Erik Sofge can only snipe from the sidelines, but they never really grokked D&D. Pity them.