Tuesday, June 30, 2009

WotC and Paizo: Action and Reaction

October 16, 2009

Renton, WA--Efective today, Wizards of the Coast announced it is raising prices on its Digital Initiative by 25%. Fresh off a move this past summer that saw prices already raise by 20%, this move is certain to anger some fans still upset that the long-promised Virtual Tabletop has been indefinitely delayed. However, the entire library of pdfs will be available to purchase for Digital Initiative subscribers for up to $5 off the print copy price…

October 17, 2009

Bellevue, WA—Effective today, Paizo Publishing is reducing the price on its Pathfinder subscription line 10% across the board. Fresh off offering the pdf of their game for $9.99 in August and a pdf Customer Appreciation Sale this past spring, this move is certain to delight some fans pleased with the continuation of discounted Paizo products…

Janaury 12, 2010

Renton, WA—In what has become a dreadful post-holiday tradition at Wizards of the Coast, WotC has fired beloved designer and D&D frontman Scott Rouse, along with 11 other departmental positions. This is not expected to impact the release of WotC's Digital Tabletop, which the company promises is coming out "very soon". The firing of Rouse is certain to anger some fans who felt he was the only one at Wizards of the Coast who understood Wizard’s fans from a “gamer’s” point of view….

January 13, 2010

Bellevue, WA—In what has become welcome news in a thus-far depressing post-holiday season, Paizo has hired beloved designer and former D&D frontman Scott Rouse to work on their Pathfinder RPG line. The hiring of Rouse is certain to please some fans who felt he was the only one at Wizards of the Coast who understood Wizard’s fans from a “gamer’s” point of view.

June 22, 2012

Renton, WA—John Gladstone, who replaced Greg Leeds as Vice-President at gaming company Wizards of the Coast, was accused today of cruelty to animals by kicking an adorable small puppy that piddled on a display outside a gaming store touting the release of D&D 5th edition. He followed this up by punching a small, recently-orphaned child who was attempting to assist the dog. This is not expected to impact the release of WotC's Digital Tabletop, which the company promises is coming out "very soon"…

June 23, 2013

Bellevue, WA—Paizo Publisher Erik Mona was lauded today by several animal-rescue groups for rescuing an adorable small puppy that had been kicked by Wizards of the Coast Vice-President John Gladstone. To celebrate, Mr. Mona sang to orphan children at the local cancer hospital, donated parts of his kidneys to several, and later took them all out for ice cream.

March 14, 2058

Rentoncity Washingtonplace—Representing the giant corporate conglomeration that controls the majority of the post-nuclear holocaust ex-United States West Coast, the Wizards of the Coast Mega-Corp today announced plans for a super robot soldier (the Flamestrike Deathdealer) that will destroy the last hope of democracy, the United Republic of Bellevue, led by Erik Mona III. Additionally, the Flamestrike Deathdealer is being touted as the measure that will “stamp out electronic piracy once and for all”, despite both the Deathdealing Flamestriker and the Flamedealing Strikedeather failing in that regard in the two previous attempts. This is not expected to impact the release of WotC's Digital Tabletop, which the Mega-Corp promises is coming out "very soon"…

March 15, 2058

United Republic of Bellevue—Erik Mona III, hereditary Publisher of Paizo Publishing and leader of the United Republic of Bellevue, announced today that in response to attempts of the WotC Mega-Corp to eradicate all life West of the Rocky Mountains, it would lead its followers to a new paradise 13.7 light-years away using discovered alien jump-gate technology. This trip will cost only $9.99 in Bellevue Credits…

20,000 years in the Future…

A man stood before a dying sun. The place his species originated had been lost due to the hubris of this carbon-based, bipedal race, so many, many light years away from this last outpost.

There were so few left, so few. And the others were dying even now, he knew it, so that he could do what must be done. He alone had the knowledge needed to the seed the knowledge of his people throughout the galaxy, so that perhaps whatever fantastic races came after his own could avoid his people’s mistakes, and would have a chance to live in harmony with the universe.

Breath did not come easy. In this last floating, battle-scarred city, the atmosphere was thin, almost gone. All the systems were offline, their power drained to support the launch of this golden satellite back into the heavens. He just needed to download the information into the--

A rusty creaking came from behind him. He turned. A Flamestrike Deathdealer Mark XXI, its auxiliary power readout showing almost gone, closed in, its dual ion blasters trained on his chest. He turned, hoping he was fast enough to do what needed to be done. He had to--

A green data disk fell to the floor, shattered.

The Deathdealer had exhausted its power. Its visual input screen went dark below lettering that now spelled “W z r” in the tongue of the Ancients. In a last message for creators who were long gone, it managed one more vocalization from ancient circuitry.


(EDIT: Where are my manners? This was submitted [a day early] for this month's RPG Bloggers Carnival)

Monday, June 29, 2009

We're #3! Thanks!

It isn't a strict measure of blog popularity, but I'm pleased to say your clicks have made RPG Blog 2 the #3 referring site for the RPG Bloggers Network! Thanks for supporting the network and your friendly local gaming bloggers. Obviously, we're in it for the fame and the chicks, but it's nice to share gaming stuff, too. I was also happy to see my podcasting compatriots Dice Monkey and the Bone Scroll make the list. The RPG Bloggers Network is a tremendous source of entertainment and gaming inspiration for me, and I'm pleased so many of you have decided to check them out with me.

And really, because I don't say it enough, thanks for taking the time to read. I sometimes like to fancy we make a little virtual gaming store counter online here, where we can B.S. and swap gaming lies.

Bear Lore Still Makes Me Laugh

Because I haven't seen it posted in a while:

Given these examples, what would a DC 5 or DC 10 Bear Lore check be?

(Thanks, 1d4chan).

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Announcing Palladium Week: July 6-11!

OK, Palladium fans, your voices have been heard. July 6-11 will be Palladium Week on RPG Blog 2! I've lined up some great interviews, and am working on some other special features as well! I'm also looking for 1-2 special guest articles, so if you're interesting in contributing (and getting some linkbacks to your blog or site), be sure to email me using the address on the right side of this site.

Hopefully, this will be a nice event for the Palladium fans out there, and might bring some news ideas and illumination on Palladium's games and practices even for those who aren't. Either way, it should be a great week!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Paizo Remains Friggin Brilliant

As noted on threads here and here, as well as elsewhere, Paizo will be selling the pdf to their monster 576-page Pathfinder RPG for only $9.99. Aside from a bit of complaining about how this will affect the friendly local gaming store, the reaction to this news has been very positive. In short, all the larger gaming companies who were selling a pdf for the same price as a deadtree are going to have to re-evaluate how that looks. For what it's worth, I think you'll see some nice crossover between pdf and book sales because of this. I know I'll personally be getting a pdf from Paizo and a Pathfinder deadtree copy from the FLGS.

Paizo continues to do things that keep them in the picture and compare favorably to the competition. At this point, it's hard to point much they've done wrong. Let's hope they can keep it up. All I know is, it's nice to have companies out there that feel like they're run by gamers--and well-organized gamers who can keep a schedule, at that.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Discussion: Buyer's Remorse

Let's face it. We've all bought into the hype of a shiny new (or shiny old) gaming product. We bring it home, unwrap it or open the box, open the pages and..... blech.

That's right, there's a lot of "buyer's remorse" out there in RPGland. Whether it's from listening to a tremendous sales pitch online, or finding out that you completely spaced that Bunnies & Burrows was about playing a small herbivore, we all have gaming purchases we regret. This Friday's Discussion question is just that:

What RPG products have given you Buyer's Remorse, and why?

I'll look forward to our usual discussion below. Have a tremendous weekend!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Kevin S. on Small Press Publishing Options

It seems like the past week around here has seen Palladium mentioned a bit more than a normal week, but this is a topic that might interest some of the independent and small press RPG folks out there. I found this while browsing Kevin Siembieda's "Murmurs from the Megaverse", detailing the comparison between a "book printer" and "print on demand services". Here's an excerpt:

Did you know that a “book printer” can do print runs of 1,500 copies for the same amount of money as 500 P.O.D. books?

I have found the answer to that question is usually an excited, no.

I recently talked with an author who was looking to print 1500-2000 copies of a new book. The author was confident he could sell that many in six months to a year, but lamented to me that his Print On Demand quote was $7.78 per book – $3,890 for 500 copies. Making the large press run an unaffordable $11,670.00.

The person sounded crestfallen, until I said, “Um, you know a book printer – or at least, Palladium’s printer – could print that book for you for around $2.25 a piece.”

I was wrong about that. It turns out Palladium's printer, McNaughton & Gunn could print 1,500 copies for under two dollars each!

In fact, the actual quote for a . . .
- 192 page book
- 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches trimmed book
- Perfect bound
- Softcover book; four color front and back laminated cover
- Black & white interior pages
- 60# white paper stock
- Plus proofs of the cover and interior pages for approval

. . . turned out to be $1.77 per copy!

The total amount was less than it cost to print 500 P.O.D. books even when $700 was added to ship the books to his out of state location. It was a gigantic savings. This person freaked out with joy.

Depending on the P.O.D. company, that savings might only be half of what they charge, but that savings is still incredibly HUGE and you get 3x the number of books.

Cheap printing – modest press runs

What surprised me is that most small press and self-published authors I have been talking with do NOT seem to know about Book Printers who use web presses. P.O.D. printing over the last 10 years has become so omnipresent that many people today, don’t even know there are alternative and cheaper printing that provide large press runs and superior quality.

I had similar discussions with a couple other people who had been printing through Print on Demand (P.O.D.) companies. They also freaked out to learn they could do a modest press run of 1,500 copies for the same price (or close to it) as a measly 500 P.O.D. copies.

In each and every case, these were very smart people who knew nothing about web-printers, and assumed (incorrectly) that the big book printers required massive print runs of 6,000 copies or more. It ain’t so.

...the article goes on from there (you can read the entire thing here), but I found it interesting. I've been around long enough to know that posting anything from Kevin S. online is akin to drawing a circle on my stomach, dousing it with lighter fluid, and holding a sign saying "ignite here", but I wanted some feedback from some of the small-press folks that read this site. Is this something you've looked at, or are you ok with your current P.O.D. options? What are your thoughts? Is this something you'd look into in the future?

I firmly believe many of the small-press publishers these days are putting out books not only every bit the equal of those from larger publishers, but with more personal support and less corporate oversight influencing their moves. So it's things like this article I find interesting, and would like to learn a bit more about from their side of the fence.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mailbag: Re-Discovering Palladium Fantasy

Following my post on Palladium the other day, I had a nice email the other day from reader Jeffrey, who was gracious enough to let me re-post it here.

Hi Zach,

I really enjoyed your post this week on Palladium Books. I used to run Palladium Fantasy Revised back in the day ('92-93), but it seems like an awful lot has gone on with the system since then. If I'm looking to get back into it, what should I look at as far as purchasing? What if I wanted to get one of the world books? It's a different edition, correct?

Thanks and keep up the really nice work on the website!

Best Wishes,


First, thanks for the kind words, Jeffrey! I really enjoy hearing from folks when they enjoy something I've written. I think most bloggers will tell you the same.

Now, there's still a contingent out there who enjoys Palladium Fantasy First Edition (Revised). It sounds like you still have yours, but aside from out-of-print pickups, the pdf is now available on DriveThruRPG.

Palladium Fantasy 2e
(now going new for $26.95 from Palladium) in my opinion, is a little more high-powered than Revised. The 2nd Edition came out in 1996, and is a little more in line with the later "Megaversal System" (close to what you see in Rifts). It's a little less gonzo, and I've found that I do tend to streamline some things, but it really comes down to your own preferences. You can work between 1e and 2e fairly easily, if you have old products you're thinking of bringing over. At 300+ pages, it remains an attempt at a "complete" old-style RPG.

Although there's baddies aplenty to fight in the main book, most folks who stick with system eventually pick up Monsters & Animals, which gives you some new and unique races and foes, and Dragons & Gods, which lists out the various dragons and deities of the Palladium world. Both are pretty hefty sourcebooks, so there's a good chance you felt you got at least what you paid for.

If you're looking to pick up a world book, Old Ones is a nice starting point, giving you a completely detailed Kingdom and plenty of trouble areas to start with. Other favorite world books of mine that I can recommend are Adventures on the High Seas, Northern Hinterlands, and Eastern Territory.

I hope that helps--please let me know if there are any additional questions!

And for all the readers, if you guys like hearing a bit more about games like Rifts and Palladium Fantasy that aren't represented all that well on the RPG Bloggers Network, let me know, and I'll be sure to throw some more articles and posts that way.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Fractured Player Base

A big thank you first off to everyone who's checked out RPG Circus. If you enjoyed it, please tell someone else you think would enjoy it. We also accept free plugs on blogs!

There was interesting post earlier in the week over at theRPGsite (thanks Gamedaddy) on the Saturday D&D lineup at this year's Origins Game Convention. It breaks down roughly as follows:

BD&D/Oldschool Includes basic D&D & Clones
Four (4)

1st Edition
One (1) specifically listed (maybe one or two of these above?)

2nd Edition
Two (2)

3rd Edition / 3.5 / OGL
Thirty-Nine (39)

Eighteen (18)

Living Arcanis (Technically 3.5 variant/d20...)
Two (2)

4th Edition
Thirty-Seven (37)

Unknown (Host deliberately omitted D&D version and couldn't ID version based on game host/sponsor)
Six (6)

Now, as you can see Wizards of the Coast is again not on the Origins vendor map, and that might bend things a little than what they otherwise would be. Still, as a snapshot, it's interesting that things remain not only so fragmented amongst the player base, but so darn close to even. With Gen Con being the premiere RPGA event of the year, I imagine 4e will see a healthy swing the other way there. But I wonder what the split is at smaller conventions?

Monday, June 22, 2009

RPG Circus Episode 1 Released!

I hope you'll enjoy the 1st episode of RPG Circus, which is now available (warning: direct mp3 link)! Bonemaster, Dicemonkey, and I discuss Free RPG Day, the term "Neoclassical Gaming" (and the use/overuse of labels in RPGs as sort of a side discussion), and thoughts on Palladium Books. We also hit a couple of gaming news topics on the way!

Please, download, take a listen, and tell us what you think. Once we got into it, I think we had some nice give and take, and I hope you find the "3-ring" format keeps things moving and fresh. We're planning some special guests in the future as well, so if you're interested in being involved, let us know!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Announcing RPG Circus!

I want to let everyone know that I've been part of a group working behind the scenes for this past month on a new podcast: RPG Circus.

With a unique and fresh "3-Ring" format, The Bone Scroll, Dice Monkey, and I will be tackling a number of RPG topics each week. Once it's up here in the next 24 hours, I hope you'll decide to download it, participate by audio comment or email, and let us know what you think. It's my hope that RPG Circus leaves you entertained and thinking positively about this hobby. From classical gaming to news to current RPG events and more, please join us each episode as we bring you RPG Circus, "The Greatest Show on Gaming".*

*-See what we did there?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

More On Necromancer

There’s been an interesting update over at Necromancer Games. Basically, it doesn’t sound like they think the have much of a market for 4e supplements. For my group, who’s enjoying Pathfinder, that’s good news, as hopefully they’ll be free to throw more of their weight behind that RPG instead. To my way of thinking, what would be even better is if Necromancer started throwing it’s weight behind one or more of the retro-clone/neoclassical RPGs such as Labyrinth Lord or Swords & Wizardry. I understand Clark Peterson has stated to others before he has no interest in OSRIC, but either of the games above, or perhaps a game like Castles & Crusades, would be much closer to their “1st Edition Feel” mantra.

At times I feel like Necromancer is a bit rudderless these days, and that’s a shame, as I think they generally do a fine job and have an appreciation for earlier editions. If they do get their direction back, I hope it is the one I’m headed in. Give me a reason to buy your stuff. Be a leader amongst established game companies and support the retro-clones and/or their cousins. If you’re really interested in a classic feel, the tools and (I believe) the audience are out there.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Suggestions For Free Ad Space?

I'd like to give some small, free ad room on my site to a worthy gaming-related endeavor. I do ok for a gaming blog on daily hits, so hopefully it will push some traffic towards whatever's selected. I want to shy away from any specific gaming company, I think. Thoughts on who should be considered for this, and why?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Passion of Palladium

In terms of tone, some RPGs read like dry old college professors. Others are warm and engaging. Some read like a drill sergeant, and other like a guy earnestly reading his bad poetry to a Friday-night cafe crowd.

Palladium's books read like the two most excited wrestling announcers in the world witnessing a zero-gravity caged death match when a guy with a chain saw bursts up through the mat and one of the wrestler's managers rampages into the ring riding a grizzly bear. Also, there is a laser light show going on.

And perhaps more than anything, that is the reason I love Palladium Fantasy and Rifts in the manner in which I do. Kevin S., the dear, departed Erick Wujcik, and many of the others through the years conveyed an almost "can you believe this?" sense of excitement throughout their books. And when a company is excited about the product they're putting out, I am, too. I hate when companies make a product and make it feel like they're just filling in the blanks for different niches or requirements. (Latter-era D&D 3.5 was especially bad about this--little passion, subdued writing--nothing but the base requirements so that would have this type of caster, this race, or this prestige class).

Whether it is breathlessly describing the exact number of demons killed in a battle (743), or becoming so excited about the damage of a weapon it must be expressed in italics and multiple exclamation points (4d6x4 S.D.C.!!!), or assuming that each idea presented is a veritable gaming revelation, Palladium tends to write their books with a fervor usually reserved for religious dissidents. Palladium Fantasy basically says, "Look, this crap is amazingly fun. Here's some charts, here's some classes, here's 5 types of magic, and unlike Russell in your last gaming group, we think it would KICK ASS if you played an Ogre who worships Thoth and wants a Souldrinker Runesword. Now let's go to the Isle of the Cyclops and see about buying some Lightning Weaponry!"

To be sure, there's little subtlety in the approach, and I suppose that tone could get on the nerves of some. It's also very easy to mock, as anyone who's ever gone within three links of RPGnet will tell you. But I find it utterly charming, and part of the best asset Palladium has--crazy-ass, fantastical ideas, put forth with nary a shred of restraint or moderation.

She may not be the prettiest girl in the bar, but Palladium is a tigress in the sack.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hackmaster and Faith In Kenzer

It seems as Gen Con and the release of Hackmaster Basic draws nearer, there’s been a lot of talk (especially from the grognard contingent and some vocal folks on the Kenzer board) about the direction of Hackmaster. I get that this edition of HM may not be the classical homage many people were expecting after the previous HM edition (and the previews of the Otus cover), but I have to mark myself down as excited for this game.

I’m excited if for no other reason than I trust Kenzer as much as I trust any gaming company out there. They make a good, entertaining gaming product. Their Hackmaster GM’s Guide gets more use than my AD&D 1e DMG, and is still referenced for use with such RPGs as Palladium Fantasy, Castles & Crusades, Rules Cyclopedia D&D, and others.

Then there’s Aces & Eights. I thought this thing looked like a ridiculous gerrymandered mess of sub-systems. Oh, there’s a lot of sub-systems, alright. But it is also one of the most enjoyable, engrossing RPGs I’ve seen in the past few years. The final product was polished and very functional. I suspect we just might be saying the same thing about Basic come this fall.

The boys at Kenzer know what note they want to strike, and in my experience, they’ll hit it just fine.

I understand they went a different way with Hackmaster Basic, and perhaps this is a bit farther from the delightful 1e send-up/tribute that the old Hackmaster than they felt the license revocation warranted. And perhaps it won’t satisfy the current trending we’re seeing among a lot of online tabletoppers towards rules-light/loose play. But I think the final product, although a completely different creature from what came before, will be a great game. I have faith. The next time Kenzer disappoints me will be the first time.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Noble Knight Testimonial

Once again, I cannot say enough nice things about Noble Knight Games. They've made my most recent selling transactions a breeze. Aaron at Noble Knight is very helpful and knowledgeable, and even covered the shipping on the books I sent in (which was a very good thing). I ended up getting a bit of store credit, which was very easy to use in their store. In an industry where delays and lags seem to be far too frequent, Noble Knight stands out as a customer-friendly business.

I definitely can recommend Noble Knight for any game selling or older/out-of-print RPG purchasing (as well as newer titles for that matter) you're looking to do.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Best Free Setting?

Posting might be sort of light this week, due to some computer troubles, but things should be back to normal before too long.

What I'd like right now is input on the best free RPG setting out there. Meaning, a setting hosted or available for free somewhere online. Something that puts numerous professional settings to shame. If you can, please provide in the comments a link and a few words as to why it has such a high AF (Awesome Factor).

To start things off, I really enjoy the World of Farland (new mechanics and writing to rival the big boys) and Agyris, for great cartography and a deep, engaging style. Your turn!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Neoclassical Gaming

While I'm of the mind it doesn't matter much what you call 'em so long as you play 'em, some terms of reference can be nice. Stuart over at Robertson Games has coined the term "Neoclassical Games" to encompass a lot of what we now refer to as the firestarter terms "retro" and "old school" RPG products.

I'm fine with this. They aren't the original, classic RPGs we played, but they're a direct attempt to return to that style. I'm not so sure about it being classified as a reaction against the Baroque style of 4e alone, as I think 3e was pretty ornate in a lot of ways.

(However, does this mean now the usual flamewar suspects can refer to 4e as "Baroque-en"?)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Discussion: How Often Do You Frequent the FLGS?

Another week gone, but we here at RPG Blog 2 know just what to do to keep the good times rolling into the weekend. That's right, it's time for another round of Friday Discussion. Nothing too heavy, nothing too serious--just a bunch of gamers talking about their hobby.

This week's discussion question is: How often do you frequent your FLGS (Friendly Local Gaming Store)? If you're lucky enough to have one, what would you do to improve it? If you've had a good or bad experience lately, here's where to share as well.

Have a great weekend, and May Cold Steel Avail You!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Greyhawk And WHAT?

I do dream of gaming now and then. Crazy, crazy dreams. At times I wake up with only a brief remembrance of what I've dreamt.

And so it was this morning, when I woke up with only two words running through my brain.

One was Greyhawk.

The other was Mecha.

Now, the very idea of this will likely drive Greyhawk partisans mad, but I can't get it out of my head:

-Iuz sending giant spiked mecha piloted by damned souls to keep order in the lands of the Horned Society.

-Greyhawk's walls threatened by mysterious obsidian war machines bearing the symbol of Nerull.

-The Shield Lands turned into a rusting scrapyard of burnt and broken gears and torn metal skin.

-Against the Giants? Yes, with steam-powered Iron Behemoths!

-An ancient stockpile of terrible mecha weaponry unearthed by covetous interests in Ket...

-Some unscrupulous soul trying to shift the balance of power by providing some of the barbarians with brand-new suits of mechanized power armor...

No, I don't want to just play Eberron or Iron Kingdoms. This is all about how mecha would change the face of Greyhawk.

It's amazing how you can take a single setting, say "add this one thing", and the entire things is changed. And it will now be even more awesome for some, and total anathema for others.

For you Greyhawk stalwarts (those of you who haven't already deleted this blog forever), what might some of the interesting scenarios be if mecha were unless upon Oerth?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Hidden Temple of the Founders

Like many others, I entered the one-page dungeon contest not too long ago. When I did my entry, I was keenly feeling the loss of so many founding fathers of gaming, as well as really thinking about appreciating those who are still with us. I wanted my entry to be a fun tribute to so many of the people who gave us D&D and the adventures and material of our youth (and beyond!). Enter my submission, The Hidden Temple of the Founders:

The good people of this region hold that their old gods, makers of the world, known collectively as The Founders, appeared in a dream to their followers centuries ago and demanded that their followers build a temple honoring them. The instructions for the temple were like none ever seen—a bewildering array of chambers carved into the side of a mountain, one specifically for each deity of the religion. The names of each deity were labeled on the doors of their dedicated room, and can still be used to identify each to this day.

In time, new religions came to the forefront, and the order of monks tending the sacred place dwindled to nothingness. But true believers and desperate adventurers alike still believe the complex is full of danger, riches, and perhaps divine power in turn. The Old Ways do not sleep.

Download the free pdf of The Hidden Temple of the Founders here.

Download the basic map by itself here.

OK, so in terms of style it gets its ass kicked by a vast majority of the other entries in that contest. But this is my "easter egg"-laden tribute to some of the founders of our hobby. I wanted something with a classic look, that'd be fun to play while honoring some of those who've gone before. See how many references you can find, and feel free to report back if you think you caught them all! (This module definitely relies on a strong DM, able to play off the base encounters included). I hope you guys enjoy it, and if you think to say "thank you" to one of the Old Guard after playing or browsing through it, that would make my day.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

If Gamers Were Civil War Generals

Brian Gleichman had a very good post the other day that mentioned as an example the qualities of a couple of U.S. Civil War generals. And, because I am a big Civil War nerd in addition to being a big RPG nerd, I figured it'd be fun to classify gamers by which Civil War general they most resemble. See if you can find anyone in your group (or yourself!) below:

The McClellan: This player buffs and buffs, meticulously plans every possible avenue of attack, and would never dare fight without being at full Hit Points. But they're also easy to bluff and intimidate, and despite their tactical skill, if you can bloody their character, chances are they'll backpedal.

The Sherman: Burn, burn, burn. The moral question of orc babies in the dungeon is no question for this player. When they clean out a dungeon, it stays cleaned. It's brutal, but at least you don't to worry about those orc raids now. Dungeoncrawling is cruelty; you cannot refine it.

The Lee: The player everyone wants. Gracious, a solid tactical thinker, but definitely not afraid to move the action forward. If there's any problem, his battle plans can be a little too hazy at times. Sometimes gets a little too gutsy and pays for it, but without risk, where's the glory?

The Forrest: This guy just showed up at your table. No one in your group particularly likes him, and it's clear he didn't learn gaming from any sort of orthodox boxed set. But man, can he roll the dice. This is the crazy S.O.B. who somehow managed to escape when surrounded by 4d6 bugbears.

The Pope: Arrogant, dismissive of other players, and a bit of a one-true-wayist. You're pretty sure this guy could be a good roleplayer (and he seems to do fine at conventions), but at your table all he's ever done is nearly get everyone TPK'd.

The Burnside: Likeable and self-deprecating, this guy does ok as the quiet backup, but every time your GM tries to give him some "spotlight" time, it all goes horribly south. He's ok being the quiet one at the table, but your GM insists in putting him on the spot. He knows he's not a great roleplayer or gamer, and you wish everyone was ok with that, as it would save your group a lot of heartache.

The Grant: This guy has a crappy job, drinks too much, had to move back in with his parents, and possibly writes bad Star Trek fanfic inexplicably involving Alyson Hannigan. But when he shows up at the gaming table, he's an All-Star. He isn't always the #1 tactician or roleplayer at the table, but he's always there, continually moves things forward, and is generally the type of player every GM enjoys having around.

The Stonewall: You're fairly certain this guy is certifiable. He misses one out of every 4 sessions, and half the time when he's there, you're not entirely certain what he's talking about. But he does some of the most incredible, brilliant things you've ever seen at the gaming table, and that makes it all worth it. When he's on, he's untouchable.

The Butler:
This guy probably plays in your game because a) he's someone's ride, or b) he owns the store you're playing in. No one really wants him there, but you have to admit, he has his uses. When it's his turn, he's brutal, to the point, and likely to cause a spot of trouble for other players. But it seems like you'll just have to grin and bear it.

The Fremont:
This guy tells you he was "huge" in the RPGA a couple of years ago. He's doing you a favor by playing at his table. When you tell him to tone it down, he angrily threatens to have his network of gamers "boycott" your table unto perpetuity. Continually talks about his own game he's writing, which you're pretty sure is just a mix of Naruto and Exalted.

Monday, June 8, 2009

New Editions: Explanations of Anger

My excellent colleague NewbieDM asked a question this weekend that we've seen many iterations of over this past year in gaming.

"Why get upset over a new edition of a game? Your books don't disappear... You can still play the old one, what is the big deal?"

That's a great question, and as it is asked in the shadow of the 3rd Edition/4th Edition split of Dungeons & Dragons, I'll try to look at it in that context through my experiences.

Let me back up for a moment--there was a point during 3e D&D (likely The Book of 9 Swords, but possibly before) where I began to realize that a lot of the things 3e was doing--over-codification and formalization of character ability, for one, stylistic direction for another--really wasn't jiving with my idea of D&D. I enjoyed games that were kin to d20, but stripped out some of the bulk (Microlite 20, more recently Castles & Crusades).

Then came 4e, and that was even further away stylistically and system-wise from what I wanted.

And so you wake up one day and realize the game you've supported since your awkward adolescence is no longer for you. It isn't for your play style, or there are games that do it better. It still has that brand name that you were an adherent of, but you aren't the target audience. And for me, that stung. And I griped when each new 4e announcement came out--upset that they were going so far from what I wanted out of the game. When you're a part of something for so long, and then no longer feel like you're a part of it, one of the ways you react is to lash out.

But you know what? I eventually got over it. I think it's fantastic people are having fun with 4e. I love reading ChattyDM's recaps. I realized that while one company might control a certain name consisting of two consonants and an ampersand, the spirit of that was alive in countless other products. And the more time I spent griping meant the less time playing the stuff I liked. Which meant there was a staggering increase in the kobold populations of our campaign worlds during that time, inversely proportional to a shocking drop in Player Character mortality rates. Clearly, that couldn't stand.

There are people with other reasons for being upset with the new edition. Some of them having nothing to do directly with the game itself, but in wanting to support WotC, but not feeling they can, either because they aren't selling what they want, or because of their former ineptitude in Public Relations. And, of course, whatever the edition or game, you have the purists and the self-absorbed, stunned that anyone wouldn't care for their game, or having to validate their own preferences by denigrating those of others.

I'd like to say the last one isn't the most common online, but we all know it likely is. And if people want to stay upset, it isn't as if WotC isn't good for a PR flare-up every quarter or so. But, at least for some of us, I'd say some of the anger was in just part of learning to let go and take this new path. The Game didn't remain the same. But we just had to remember Our Game never left.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

RPG Blog 2's Site Redesign

After my previous template went belly-up, I decided it was a pretty good indicator that it was time to switch templates and change up the site a bit. As you can see, I went to a 3-column layout, which I think makes the site a little easier to use and navigate. I was to the point where I just had too much material for a 2-column layout. I think this look will be a bit less cluttered and "long" overall.

In any case, I like the readability of this design; perhaps a bit bland compared to my previous effort, but I can work with that. I'll probably have a few additions here and there, but I believe this is the basic look of the site for now. Enjoy, and, as always, feedback is quite welcome.

RPG Haven Podcast

My buddies over at the RPG Haven have started a podcast, and I let them know I'd help put the word out. Episode 1 is an interview with Cynthia Celeste Miller about Cartoon Action Hour Season 2, as well as Slasher Flick. Add it to your queue, take a listen, and see what you think.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Technical Difficulties

We are having some pretty rough technical difficulties this morning. I'll be working to get this restored, but I'm not sure when that'll be.

Pinch-Hit Shatnerday

With Jeff Rients taking a break, I volunteered to step in for Shatnerday.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday Discussion: Pet Peeves in RPG Products

Fridays can be pretty slow for bloggers. For whatever reason, folks seem to completely check out. I have no idea if this extends to Twitter as well, but whatever the case, Fridays seem pretty quiet in regards to RPG conversation. Here at RPG Blog 2, we do our best to change that

Here's today's discussion question: What are your pet peeves for RPG products? Lack of an index? Typos? 40% of a source book of filled with interminable "edgy" fiction? Gimmicky mechanics? Preachy GM advice? Here's your chance to let loose! If you need to go Anonymous, I understand.

Have a great weekened, and Good Gaming!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cugel the Clever or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Vancian Magic

A while back on this blog, Vancian magic was brought up. In an email resulting from the discussion, Norman J. Harman, Jr. of Troll and Flame, was nice enough to expound on his preferences and attitudes towards Vancian Magic. I asked if he'd mind doing a guest post on the topic, and he agreed. Here we go:

From the beginning D&D has used so called Vancian Magic inspired by the "Dying Earth" science fantasy novels written by Jack Vance. Throughout the D&D editions Vancian Magic has been both loved and hated. Personally, I couldn't stand it. But, I've since warmed to it and this post explains why.

First, Vancian Magic is defined by the following major traits:
  1. Unique named spells that are learned individually. Typically with fancy names, detailed descriptions, and disparate effects.
  2. Memorization of spells and subsequent "forgetting" of a spell after it is cast.
  3. Limited capacity to memorize spells. aka spell slots.
Second, it's not the only magic system I appreciate. For example, I'm very fond of Ars Magica's system. But, I do believe Vancian Magic is one of D&D's signature traits and I'm not sure I'd want to play D&D without it.

My transformation from hater to admirer happened over many years in small bits and pieces. Picked up from play experience, learning a great many other magic systems (I suffer Gamer ADD), and reading many insightful articles on blogs and forums. I can't tell you when exactly I became a convert. But, in hindsight, there were three epiphanies.

I learned about Dying Earth (via Pelgrane Press's eponymous RPG, no time for books, remember that Gamer ADD) and how baroquely, awesomely atmospheric Vancian Magic could be. Although, D&D (esp latter editions) have failed to live up to the source material some of the mysticalness is still present and a crafty + dedicated DM can enhance that.

I discovered a "fantasy realistic"* explanation for spell slots, spell levels, memorization & forgetting, the whole Vancian System! A post of the Tales of Wyre campaign journal mentioned valence levels --
"...spell levels are analogous to the quantum shells occupied by electrons orbiting the nucleus of an atom, in that they can only have discrete numbers (1,2, etc.)"
Casting a spell releases the quanta of arcane energy represented by that spell/valence level thus wiping memory of that spell from the caster's mind. Memorization is required to again "fill" that valence with magical energy. Through practice and experience a caster may expand his mind to hold new valence levels (more spell slots). This all gave a fairly bitchin and elegant in game reason for what I had previously seen only as an odious meta-game mechanic.**

I read several forum threads and blog posts (I forget exactly where, Grognardia? K&K Alehouse?) the gist of which was: That having each spell be it's own little set or rules with weird names and wildly varying power/effects instead of some unified & coherent system where for example the higher level fire attack spell is the same weak fire attack spell just with more power applied. Makes Vancian Magic more phantasmagorical and mysterious, less mechanical and logical. All things that greatly appeal to me as I try to escape rules-heavy, min-maxed, mechanical focused games. Too many players (and DMs) have forgotten that magic shouldn't be reduced to numbers and effects, shouldn't be mundane or well understood.

[Bonus epiphany] Power/mana points seem cool until you actually have to track them in game.

In short, Vancian Magic is a Puissant Thaumaturgic Artifice because
1) It's not just some stupid system bolted on from a naval war game or something.
2) It has a cool in-game explanation which adds depth and verisimilitude.
3) While not being great mechanically/rule/crunch wise, it is very good from a game play and style/atmosphere perspective.

* Fantasy realistic is my term for in-game explanations of game rules/systems/mechanics that make sense within the framework of the setting. i.e. they maintain suspension of disbelief and enhance verisimilitude. This disaster is the opposite of fantasy realistic.

** Not having arbitrary meta-game mechanics intrude into my fantasy is one aspect that sets RPGs apart from other games. And it really irks me when I'm forced to deal with them, esp if they're for game balance reasons.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Veteran Advice

A huge thanks to Treebore over at the Troll Lord forums for resurrecting an old thread from the Necromancer forums. While some entries pertain mainly to 3.5, there's some great advice. I'd urge you to check out the entire thread, but I'm going to post some of my faves (feel free to post your own favorites or reactions to these):

1. Always do your legwork. Investigate the town before moving into the surrounding areas. Knowledge is power. Use Gather Information and use your Rogue and Bard to get the inside scoop on what is going on. Have your wizard make magical inquiries. Have your cleric visit the local temples. (Orcus)

4. Don't overlook your low level spells when you get higher level. Sure, it is tempting to focus on the big boom spells you can cast at higher level, but things like low level divinations and low level buffs like bless and things like that are very effective. (Orcus)

7. Avoid head on confrontations. (Orcus)

12. This isn't Diablo. You don't have to clear the level. In fact, playing like that will lead to death. (Orcus)

13. Players need to understand that in dungeons designed by people with a clue, there will be monsters of varying power levels. Guess what, monsters don't nicely divide themselves by "CR". Sometimes a den of dire rats is near a den of trolls. So don't metagame things and say "this is the first level of the dungeon, so the DM will only use first level monsters." WRONG! (Orcus)

14. Use tactics. Don't charge, retreat to a more tactically advantageous position. Generally small rooms or doorways are good as you can limit the number of creatures that can attack you. Large open rooms usually suck for the PCs. In fact, you can even strategically retreat drawing the monsters into an ambush. (Orcus)

20. Don't be afraid to run away. (Orcus; Fortinbras 48)

32. Never underestimate the power of information. At low levels, this is usually limited to talking with townsfolk about local problems (what's marauding around the countryside today?). They live here, they sure know what's happening better than you. Maybe one of them has seen somebody else in town acting somewhat shady; a link to a nefarious plot, perhaps?

Don't forget to stay in contact with any organizations your PC may belong to. As Orcus said, priests have temple superiors, wizards have academies and masters, rogues have guilds, and fighters may have trainers. All of these people are important for knowing what's happening in your world.

As you get higher in levels, your skills and magical abilities will improve. This will garner you different ways of gathering info. Your wizard becomes an incredible scout with arcane eye and true seeing, the cleric can gain divine insight through spells like augury and contact other plane, and the rogue and the fighter make an effective good adventurer/bad adventurer team when interrogating prisoners.

There's something else to think about: when possible, don't kill all the bad guys. Subdual rules are in the game for a reason. Take as many prisoner as possible, then question them, mundanely and magically. The more you can get from them, the better. In a dungeon situation, the odds are already stacked against you. Every ounce of information you can get improves your chances for survival. (Mistwalker)

35. Expect the DM to play the bad guys with creativity and intelligence. The guys in room 5 will not just sit their patiently while you mop up their mates in room 4, then give you a few minutes breather or hold off battle until "you've got your wind back." (Stormdale)

65. Players: never underestimate the value of good notekeeping and organization. Be sure to have someone with good spatial sense do the mapping, someone you can trust keep track of the undistributed loot horde, and someone who's meticulous keep notes of important NPCs, clues, etc.--keeping a regular campaign journal is even better. And whoever keeps the journal should review it every so often to remind themselves of any clues or information learned many sessions earlier that might come into play. (Damien the Bloodfeaster)

76. You're friendly neighborhood DM is a volunteer. He's not paid for doing his job and their is no reason he should take crap from you just because you disagree with him. (gondolin)

82. Players and DMs should communicate with each other outside of the game and give each other constructive feedback. This will help make the game more enjoyable for everyone. (Guido 1999)

83. If you somehow find a secret door that was almost impossible to discover, or enter into an antechamber covered with unholy writings that send chills down your paladin's back, don't whine to the DM when you press on and your party gets slaughtered. See the references for "knowing when to run" above. (Damien the Bloodfeaster)

85. DMs: be sure your new players know of any house rules before you begin playing. And be sure to get their approval before introducing any new ones. You may love critical hit/fumble tables, but your players may not... (Damien the Bloodfeaster)

90. Sometimes you CAN parley with the monsters. Particularly if you note something of "residential politics" going on in the dungeon, you may be able to work it to your advantage. See if you can negotiate. It may win the day, and it'll also give your bard a chance to shine. (Ragathor)

92. Be specific in your actions! It may depend upon the DM, but I will award circumstance bonuses for specific actions. If you are specifically searching "under the bed" for something, you may get a +2 or so to your search roll to find something there as opposed to someone who's just 'searching the room'. It also helps roleplaying, and visualizing the action for everyone. Just so long as you don't slow down the game with your detailed actions, it's a great thing to do, and helps keep the DM entertained. (Ragathor)

101. Do not whine. Do not whine because the monster attacked you. Do not whine that the trap went off. Do not whine because you thought you were hiding. If the DM is good, they are playing by the rules, and the only time that they are bending them is in YOUR favor. Whining about anything bad happenning is usually making everyone else hate you, and making them wonder why they invited you to play in the first place. (Fortinbras)

120. Dungeons etc. have tons of neat things you can use. Those wall sconces can hold your torches while you investigate the room. Those moldering old books make great tinder. As do used up scrolls. (mythusmage)

124. For DMs, please try to give the party a personal reason for doing whatever you want them to. This keeps them focused on the prize and generates more interest than the standard "Undertake this action for the good of the Barony, blah blah blah." Further, players are much more likely to contribute to the "created storyline" when the plot hits them hard in a personal spot. One good way to do this is to create and keep up continuing NPCs which become dear to the PC's hearts. (sessestophelzine)

125. For DMs, most of us need a home - a place to prop up your feet and relax for awhile. We PCs don't like being 'on the run' all the time and just need a haven every so often. So provide one for your PCs. They will appreciate it. (sessestophelzine)

135. For PCs, not all your dungeon denizens need be fought. In fact, it's much much more fun to play them off of each other, as if you were playing a game of Illuminati or Diplomacy with them as opponents. Strong divinations before entering could alert the PCs as to who the main power brokers are in a dungeon, and often it doesn't take a genius to figure out how they can be manipulated for fun and profit. (sessestophelzine)

137. If you are getting burned out, take a break. If your DM is getting burned out, give him a break (not a physical one, as in no arms, legs, ribs etc..) (Fire Mephit)

138. Have fun. If you're not having fun, find out why, and talk to your group. (Fire Mephit)

R.I.P. David Eddings

"Fantasy author David Eddings has sadly passed away, aged 77, last night. Best-selling and popular are often epithets that are applied to authors on writers' press releases, but in David's case, it was well deserved. His commercial success, says fantasy author Stephen Hunt, paved the way for a whole generation of doorstopper sized fantasy series".

More here.

I really enjoyed Mr. Eddings' work, especially his later books. His Belgarath the Sorcerer and Redemption of Athalus really gave me a feel for doing epoch-spanning backgrounds that were still accessible. He will be missed.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Setting Organic Boundaries

The players are exploring a new wilderness (perhaps not unlike this one or this one), and they discover a ruined temple. They remember that that crazy old trader back in the Imperial Town said a Black Dragon nested somewhere in here. They beat a hasty retreat; they know that they'll need backup or better specialized weaponry before going toe-to-toe for the dragon's horde. They sneak off to find easier pickings elsewhere.

Only a few miles away, on the remnants of a long-forgotten trade road, they are accosted by a band of hobgoblin bandits. It's a tough fight, but they manage to eke it out. Under some less-than-friendly persuasion, the one hobgoblin they capture tells them that there is an entire horde of hobgoblins in the foothills to the nearby north.

Moving on, they come to a small village on the edge of the river. After engaging in some bartering, they learn that the swamplands to the south are relatively safe, with a very few lizardmen and the sunken remains of an old shrine. One villager tells a crazy story about this abandoned dwarven mine down the river--abandoned except for an Ogre warlord and his followers, that is. But supposedly, there's still some mithril left--how much, no one can say. It is said the warlord controls at least one of the passes through the nearby foothills, though--and can be bargained with.

In the preceding example, level-appropriate challenges do not instantly appear. There are threats in the various hexes of the above adventure map that are fixed. It is up to the players, through exploration, trial and error, negotiation, information gathering, and interrogation, to gain an impression of the threats and features of their adventuring area. Challenges in an area do not scale because of their level; the world does not change itself because of the level of the players.

This can be included as an element of "sandbox" play, but I also see it as setting "organic" boundaries. There is no artificial challenge level adjustment--it is up to the player's characters to decide when and where there challenges occur. They decide the path of least (or greatest) resistance through the world, as well as when and where to gamble when the reward might be worth it. This approach puts info gathering and character interaction with the world at a premium. At worst, if the characters are reckless, heedless, or supremely unlucky, it can result in more Total Party Kills. At best, it makes the game less predictable, increases the feeling of exploration and danger, and gives the players a sense that the world will not bend to their whims or forgive their weakness.

I doubt I'm doing anything more here than codifying for my own thought process a practice that gamers have been using for a long time, but I do believe I prefer it to the "challenges remain or adjust appropriate to level approach".

Anyone use this style of encounter planning? Anyone shy away from it or dislike it? Thoughts?

Monday, June 1, 2009

The End of A Campaign

I'll admit, I've never handled campaign endings well. OK, so, if a campaign is allowed to die a natural death--that is, we mutually agree to an endgame, we retire the characters, or otherwise find a nice way to close things out smoothly--I'm fine with that. It's when stupid little things get in the way and a campaign goes tails-up that I get really frustrated.

The campaign in question was being run with HARP, and though it wasn't perfect by any means, it was a lot of fun. But we kept running into problems with the apartment clubhouse where we play--the front office kept messing up, causing people to drive long distances only to find we were locked out. We tried to play at my house--too crowded. The local library wasn't open the right hours. The FLGS was too far away for some folks to make it. Scheduling killed us.

And so, for now, that campaign is a goner. It looked like it would work, but between all the errors and foul-ups and inconveniences thus far, we're just going to have to punt. I don't take it well--I miss gaming face-to-face when I'm between campaigns, and my e-mail and online campaigns only go so far. I tend to wallow in my own self-pity for a little bit for awhile before getting out there again.

For the appropriate sound effect, I direct you here.

A minor tragedy as far as things go. But I still don't handle it very well.