Saturday, July 31, 2010

Warrior, Rogue, and Mage

I want to hold off on a full review until I have some time to run it under my belt, but if you're looking for a new fantasy RPG that isn't super-heavy on rules, I'd encourage you to download the free Warrior, Rogue, and Mage (WR&M) RPG. Written by Michael Wolf of Stargazer's World, you build characters based on a mix of the three archetypes named in the product's title.

Here's a quote:

A character with a high rank in Warrior is a born fighter: strong, tough, and fearless. Characters with a low rank in this attribute will be weaker and less daring. Someone with a high Rogue attribute is witty, stealthy and quick with feet and mind, but a low Rogue attribute means the character is clumsy and inept. A highly ranked Mage attribute is a sign of intelligence, strength of will and mental discipline, whereas a low Mage attribute means the character is dull, flighty and easily influenced.

It's a tight little system, and Michael shows his crazy-good layout skills all the way through.

In any case, if you're looking for a little light reading on the way to or waiting for Gen Con, WR&M is the way to go--happily enough, it's also released under a Creative Commons license!

You can download Warrior, Rogue, and Mage for free at RPGNow.

RPG Circus Season 2 Episode 14: Raggi, Gen Con, and Thou

If you’re getting ready to hit the road for Gen Con, or if you’re just starting your travel preparation, why not take along some entertainment? Season 2 Episode 14 of RPG Circus is out, and we’ve got James Raggi of Lamentations of the Flame Princess as a guest in high form, plus some stray thoughts on Gen Con. Add in news and reader commentary, and we’ve got plenty to keep you entertained, whether you’re heading to Gen Con or are just wishing you were.

Download Season 2 Episode 14 of RPG Circus here!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Why Gen Con Is Special

Every year before Gen Con, I try to write a single post an idea of what Gen Con is all about. It's probably the toughest assignment I give myself all year, in a lot of ways. You're basically trying to sum up a mid-size city, a unique community, in just a few lines. It's not an easy task.

It's one of the reasons my dearest wish for you, friend gamer, is that you make it to Gen Con at least once in this lifetime. It's hard to explain the electric thrill I get when I realize that for another year, I've made it to Gen Con. How I feel that for another year, I've made it to a place that feels more like home than any event that lasts only a few days should.

Now, that probably sounds overwrought and sentimental, but I can't help it. It is remarkable each year to watch the transportation of my midwestern city into what I refer to as "Gamer Mecca". Gen Con is still the preeminent event in the hobby; the place where you can still meet legends, demo new games, find events going 24 hours of the day, and generally revel in your element to your heart's content.

Every year, at night, I like to walk through the convention halls, hotel lobbies, and interconnecting skytubes that make up the layout of Gen Con. There are little RPG sessions going on in the lobbies, by gamers who are unwilling to crash for the night without getting in one last game. There are gamers who, bereft of energy or excess funds, have found a quiet corner wherein to grab a few hours of sleep before doing it all again the next day. Gen Con quiets a little during the early morning hours, but it never really sleeps.

And the dealer hall! Whatever sort of transitions or struggles our hobby might endure, the dealer hall is amazing. So many dice vendors, small and large press publishing companies side by side, and people trying to push The Next Big Thing. All the katana and anime booths in the world can't change that.

There's an energy to Gen Con, one I start to feel at least a few weeks from the convention. It grows every day the convention gets closer, and crescendos when I walk through the door, not abating until I say farewell for another year on the last day. So for another year, bring on the LARPers, bring on the people telling me, unsolicited, about their Tiefling Nightspawn Hellsbane Paladin, bring on those whose showering habits are what could charitably described as "irregular". Because all that stuff is part of Gen Con, too, but Gen Con is more than the sum of its parts. We accept these things because throws the great parts of the con in even greater contrast, and appreciate more every special moment we have.

Gen Con is still a unique entity in our hobby, a sprawling, wonderful, hectic, pervading, sustained celebration of a hobby that for a few precious days, refuse to be "fringe". We take over. Any morning might find you in line for coffee behind your favorite game designer, every day the potential for finding your favorite dice set of all time, and every evening gamers roaming about, discussing the day's conquests and discoveries.

For around 360 days a year, we are singular outposts of gaming in our own little slice of the world, separated by distance and circumstance. We are office monkeys, academics, students, blue collar workers, or perhaps even someone who's been working on this crazy dream of a gaming company. But for 4 days, we have come into our own. This is our community, one made of dozens of micro-societies, groups, fads, fan followings, and interests. But it's home for all of us.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Gen Con Preview, Part 3

We're continuing our Gen Con coverage with the 3rd article on what to expect from some of the gaming companies that will be in Gen Con's expansive dealer room this year. Enjoy!

Dealer Hall Highlights (L-Z):

Lone Wolf Development (1417): Lone Wolf’s HeroLab software works with an ever-increasing number of RPG systems. It’s nice to stop by and get a try-before-you-buy demo, especially if you like a system like Pathfinder, Cortex, Savage Worlds, or the 3.5 OGL. I'm also looking forward to seeing more about their upcoming Tournament Ace software for minis, CCGs, and other sort of game tourneys.

Margaret Weis Productions (2020)
: Get ready for the Smallville RPG, which should be making a splash at Gen Con this year. MWP is another company with a fanbase that travels extremely well.

Mayfair Games (933/1139): Mayfair has officially jumped the Catan Shark with Catan Plushies, but they will also have the brand-new board game Age of Industry, which lets you tear it up during the Industrial Revolution. Yes, I know I am a giant nerd for thinking that sounds amazing.

Miniature Building Authority (1535): MBA always makes me feel like a poor kid looking longingly in the window of the candy store. Their miniature buildings are aesthetically stunning, but usually out of my price range. Actually, some of their prices aren't that bad, depending on what you're looking for. Another great Wish List booth…

Mongoose Publishing (421): Mongoose should be busy this year, with the release of Cults of Gloranatha and Traveller Compendium 1. Everything old is new again at Mongoose! Mongoose has also been busy raking in the IPs; we may possibly hear a hint or two about their new sci-fi setting, if we’re lucky.

North Star Games (1339): I got to play a demo of the excellent Wits & Wagers trivia board game last year, and I look forward to seeing Wits & Wagers Family Edition this year. If you’re looking to take a family game home with you, this might be a good booth to check out.

Out of the Box (1439): My wife loves board games, and she loves no booth at Gen Con more than Out of the Box Games. There are plenty of fun free game demos to be had, and I’m looking forward to the highly-anticipated board game 10 Days In The Americas. Always one of the top Gen Con booths.

Pagan Publishing (315): A great booth for Cthulhu-lovers, as always. Pagan will also have about 200 copies of their limited edition hardback Delta Green: Targets of Opportunity.

Paizo Publishing (2302): It's doubtful Paizo will see anything like the mad rush we saw for Pathfinder in 2009 (who could?), but they should stay busy with the release of the Advanced Player's Guide. Paizo should have a fun, full booth, with plenty to do.

Paradigm Concepts (1233): If Living Realms or Pathfinder Organized Play isn’t scratching your itch, you could do worse than to check out Paradigm Concepts. Their Living Arcanis Campaign (renamed to Chronicles of the Shattered Empires) was just relaunched, with a new release at Origins. The new Shattered Empires RPG itself will also be available at Gen Con. Fans of organized play may want to head over and see what it’s all about. The Witch Hunter RPG is still also plenty neat, too.

Pegasus Publishing (1801): Stop #2 on our quest for the perfect ironic gamer t-shirt! Plenty of steampunk, anti-Twilight propaganda, and math jokes here, of a decidedly mixed level of quality. And before you ask, yes, you still can shirts of unicorns, fairies, and dragons with various background scenery. Because I know that is important to you, the reader.

Pinnacle Entertainment (320): I think Savage Space 1889: Red Sands is going to be a big hit at the show--I know quite a few people planning on picking it up or having a friend stop by and do the same. Savage Worlds has really grown in the past couple of years, and I expect this booth to reflect that. The availability of the Deadlands Reloaded Player's Guide won't hurt, either.

Posthuman Studios/Sandstorm Productions/Wildfire (2009): OK, if you like your sci-fi or horror Lovecraftian (and who doesn’t), make sure you visit this booth. Not only will Posthuman’s Eclipse Phase be there, but you’ll also be able to peruse sneak copies of the upcoming Chthonian Stars, which isn’t going to be out until the fall. May make a bid for Coolest Stuff All In One Place At Gen Con.

Privateer Press (1201): Privateer always has a massive crowd around its booth. Massive. Warmachine fans travel well, you could say. They also offer a lot of casual play with prizes for your “scars” , and have some of the best volunteer event people in the business. If you’re wanting to get some minis gaming in, Privateer also has the new Voltron Battle Miniatures game. But expect a packed area.

Q-Workshop (927, 2117): This Polish dice maker is known for making some of the most beautiful (if somewhat expensive) dice sets out there. A great place to go if you're looking for ornate dice or something that will stand out.

Reaper Miniatures (1521): Reaper Minis is one of the best places to find that perfect mini. Aisles of miniatures of every type and a helpful staff make this booth a joy to visit.

Rio Grande Games (1401,1529)
: Rio Grande is a leader in hobby and board games, and they're also sponsoring free the free WiFi at Gen Con this year! Rio Grande is also stepping up with two booths and what should be an impressive display of their popular game lines, to include Carcassone and Dominion.

RootJack (506): RootJack's orange-flavored pirate- energy drink/root beer turned out to be 10 times better than I'd expected. Stop by, get a sample, and see if you agree. And yes, it does fight scurvy.

Rogue Games (1539): The Rogues are not only selling Shadow, Sword & Spell for only $13, but also Thousand Suns: Starships and Colonial Gothic's campaign Flames of Freedom: Boston Beseiged for about the same price. I think that getting SS&S for under $15 may be the best grab of the show--I'm calling it ahead of time. Yes, I'm that sure.

Scrying Eye (2739)
: Scrying Eye offers a line of dry-erase tiles printed with such scenes as inns, a keep, castle grounds, and village aspects. If, like me, you love your dry-erase maps for your gaming, you'll want to stop by. The have a sewer map set, dungeons and more due for a Gen Con release.

Tabletop Adventures (530)
: TTA will have electronic copies of the One Page Dungeon Codex, and is sharing a booth with Expeditious Retreat Press. They'll also have some old school goodness, hosting Black Blade Publishing's printing of Swords & Wizardry and some classic-style adventures. In addition. From 0e to 4e, this booth should be pretty packed.

Thunderbolt Mountain Miniatures (1309)
: This minis maker has some of the most beautiful classic-style minis I've seen. If you're looking for a more classic fantasy character, you may wish to check here.

Tracy Hickman's XDM (1921): Mr. Hickman will be selling his X-Treme Dungeon Mastery at the con. He's got a lot of fans who like his brand of humorous DMing, so I'm sure it'll get some attention. Me? I just think it's cool he's at Gen Con, as always.

White Wolf (1105)
: WW is again a much smaller presence this year, as they continue to diminish from where they once were. Rumor is they'll be making some announcement at the show, but I haven't the foggiest yet what that will be.

Wizards of the Coast (1721): WotC should come back from a somewhat lackluster 2009 con with the release of the Dark Sun Campaign Setting, which I believe will be available at the convention. They will also have the Castle Ravenloft board game.

Z-Man Games (215):
Z-Man is another generalist booth offering RPGs, card games, and boards games. Readers of this site might be most familiar with Cartoon Action Hour, which is a tribute to the action-packed cartoons of 80's weekend mornings.

Zack/Zachary (Houghton): OK, so I don't have a booth, but I will be walking around in my snazzy RPG Blog 2 shirt, and I'd love nothing more than to say hi to you or hear how your convention is going. I'm a chubby white guy with a goatee and short haircut at Gen Con--how difficult can I be to spot? :)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gen Con Preview, Part 2

We're continuing our pre-Gen Con coverage with our 2nd article about what to expect from some of the companies that will be attending in the expansive dealer hall. I want to make it clear this is just a highlights feature. Some of the biggest joys at Gen Con can be found in visiting booths off the beaten path—a hundred undiscovered gems await!


Dealer Hall Highlights (E-K)

Edhellen Armory (517): Several years ago, the family and I purchased a number of foam swords with which to bludgeon one another. We are still happily doing so to this day.

Elmore Productions (1309)
: It was really cool to get to meet Mr. Elmore a few years ago at this booth. Many of his prints are on sale, but he's in and out of the booth quite a bit. Good luck!

ENnie Awards (1332): The ENnies booth has information on the awards themselves, as well as the various nominees. If you miss the awards ceremony Friday night and have no internet at the convention, you can come here Saturday morning to get the rundown.

EpicTable (2122): Aha! Another virtual tabletop! More playing and testing out to be done, I suppose.

Evil Hat Productions (2339): There should be a goodly crowd for Dresden Files.

Expeditious Retreat Press (530): XRP was known for some of the best-researched books under the OGL, and still strongly supports lines from 4e to classic gaming. Whatever your tastes, check out one of the standard bearers for small press companies. XRP will be sharing with Tabletop Adventures, covered in tomorrow's preview.

Fantasy Flight Games (720, 811, 915, 921)
: Fantasy Flight's area of the hall was slam-packed last year, and with Warhammer 3e out to complement their 40k releases, it should be no different. My advice: try to hit it a little bit before closing on Thursday. Otherwise, good luck. I've also been hearing good buzz about the Cadwallon board game coming out, which will be available in limited quantities.

Fat Dragon Games (1305)
: If you want to see how truly great paper and cardstock minis can be, check out Fat Dragon's booth. Castles & Crusades fans, I believe this will also be where you're going to find any sort of Troll Lord presence at this year's convention.

Fireside Games (2541): I've had a couple of people recommend checking out Castle Panic, so I will make sure I do so. It looks like a fun, balance-cooperation-vs.-winning sort of game.

Flying Buffalo (810): This is Flying Buffalo's 40th year! How awesome is that? Tunnels & Trolls, Grimtooth's Traps, Nuclear War, and Mercenaries, Spies, and Private Stop by and check it out, and enjoy!

Gamer Concepts (2109): Indeed, the places to get your ironic gamer t-shirt are many at Gen Con, but I've always found Gamer Concepts has some uniquely funny gamer gear and accessories.

Gamers For Humanity (627): GFH is involved is some very worthy causes, and it’s also a great place on the floor to relax for a minute, or even let your kid make a simple craft. If you want to donate a few bucks, well, you can feel good that it’s going to some nice people doing some nice things.

Gamestation (Gamescience) (1221)
: Much to my dismay, I have found out Louis Zocchi will NOT be in attendance this year. Damn it all. Still, Here There Be Gamescience, and that means lots of gorgeous precision dice--ah, let's face it, they're the best damn dice in the world, bar none. Their display, with a synced music/light tower, was pretty cool last year, so that will great to see once again!

Gamewick Games (1906): Gamewick has a couple of interesting games, but none piques my curiosity as much as WEGS Old Skool. Rules-light fans and those interested in classic-style gaming will want to keep this booth on their list.

Gaming Paper (1429): Gaming Paper was a surprise hit at the show last year, and with a year to spread the word and plenty of good publicity under their belt, I have to think this year will be just as great for them. A great example of a simple idea that’s taken off.

Geek Chic (903): Chances are, to put it plainly, you cannot afford one of Geek Chic’s deluxe, beautiful, handcrafted gaming tables. But if you can sell a kidney or something, you will be the envy of your plebian, two-kidney friends. One of the booths to drool over.

GeekyClean (2539)
: Soap at Gen Con? I know it seems unlikely, but GeekyClean has some type of soap for every geek--from scented soap with a d20 in the middle to soap that looks like a Stargate portal. And you know you have to bring home Lego soap for the kids (or, erm, yourself). How this woman is not the richest in Indiana already, I have no idea.

Green Ronin (827): The much anticipated DC Adventures should be out, as will the Pocket Edition of Song of Fire & Ice Roleplaying. This should be a very good year for GR.

Hamster Press (1235): You're probably not going to out-rules-lite Hamster Press. They have a line of hybrid board-RPG games that you'll want to check out to get. It's an acquired taste, but one worth spending a few minutes scoping out.

Heliograph (532)
: Space: 1889 is still out that, and it still has some die-hard fans. Steampunk and Victorian Sci-Fi aplenty abide here.

Hero Games (535): Hero Games is spearheading the GPA showcase booth, where a number of smaller games companies will have their wares on display. In addition, this will still be the first look many gamers will have at the new edition of HERO System.

Hirst Arts (1835): Hirst has a wonderful display of just what you can make with one or many of their various molding sets. I don’t think it’s possible to see this booth without wanting to make your own miniature terrain and buildings using their products. Every year, my gaming group and I talk about pooling our money to buy some of the molds. Maybe this year…

Indie Press Revolution (2339): IPR offers a huge array of both traditional and non-traditional RPGs from a veritable bevvy of small press companies. A great spot to find something new or catch a quick demo.

Iron Wind Metals (911): Has both sci-fi and fantasy miniatures, but what I love best are the Ral Partha classics that they've brought back.

Kenzer (615)
: Jolly Blackburn is doing original sketches, which you can get upon a certain purchase amount at the booth. The Kenzer guys are friendly, and great fun.

Kobold Quarterly (2439)
: The Kobolds have a ton of products coming out, a wheel of freebies (with $20 purchase), and their Gen Con issue of Kobold Quarterly.

Koplow Games (1315)
: Koplow sells standard dice, but is also the prime location for cheater dice. So if you see your players skulking around this booth, be careful!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Gen Con Preview, Part 1

Throughout the rest of this week, we'll be doing a 3-part series on Gen Con, and the highlights of what some gaming companies will be bringing to the show. Both big and little companies are featured, and I hope it gives you a little more of an idea of what to expect from the massive Gen Con dealer room. I'd also like to mention Living Dice's excellent web directory of this year's attending companies, which is an excellent resource.

If you aren't attending, you can still stay tuned--you might find out one of your favorite gaming companies has some new and exciting plans!

Dealer Hall Highlights (A-D)

Acheson Creations (Booth 1834): Fans of miniature terrtain and scenery will want to stop by. Moderate prices (mostly), but very high quality stuff.

Adept Press (1730): If you like indie games or a somewhat more eclectic gaming experience at Gen Con, you may want to stop by here. Adept is also hosting a number of ashcan games, so we'll see what ends up there.

Alderac Entertainmnent (601)
: This is the 15th Anniversary of Legend of the Five Rings, and AEG is planning on celebrating it properly. Check their booth for special products and related events.

Alea Tools (1635)
: Alea Tools is coming out with the color pink for their magnetic markers this year (apparently, that's the most requested color!). Also featured will be a clear marker, and stickers for the edge of their condition markers, both for 4e and Pathfinder. Interesting stuff!

APE Games (1507): Not only is this the company responsible for the Order of the Stick board game, I wonder how long I can resist getting the game duck duck Go!...for, um, my kids.

Bible Battles TCG (2542): The name alone intrigued me, and after reading up on this a bit, I want to check it out. I talked a bit to one of the developers, and it what they had to tell me was enough to want to see a demo.

Blue Kabuto (1927): This company is pushing their Cookie Fu game, and they'll have free dice and demos, and flavored fortune cookies besides! What more could you want?

Burning Wheel (1732): The Adventure Burner will be available at the show for Burning Wheel. Get it while it's hot!

Catalyst Game Labs (703): Some of us wondered if Catalyst would make it to the show after their financial issues earlier in the year, but they will be there. Catalyst always seem to have a lot of fans at Gen Con, and this year I know there's a new HexMap pack that should be ready just in time for the show.

Chessex (117, 1015, 1621): Chessex seems to be everywhere at the show--probably because they have 3 different booths. It's a great place for picking up a roll-up gaming mat, or picking dice, a flagon at a time, out of huge barrels filled with nothing but polyhedrals.

Chubby Hubby Undies (2735): OK, so I saw this on the vendor's list, and decided I would never forgive myself if I didn't at least mention it. Mrs. RPG Blog 2, however, is forbidden from venturing within 50 feet of the place.

Cipher Studios (2210): Cipher has some beautiful miniatures, and their Alien Encounters: Bounty sci-fi minis game looks worth checking out.

Cloud Kingdom Games (1301): Cloud Kingdom is the Riddle booth. Not only do they sell riddle books for your gaming needs, but they also can pose you some stumpers for fun. Swing by and see if you're up to the challenge.

Conquest Gaming (612): If you've got the wargaming itch, or just want to hit up a quick micro-demo on one, you probably wouldn't go wrong dropping by this booth. I've had my eye on the very impressive-looking Warlords of Europe for a while, and can't wait to see it in person.

Crocodile Games (2221): Wargods of Aegyptus is one of the coolest-looking wargames I've ever seen, but I've never taken the plunge. Still and all, I wouldn't miss the wonderful game display they have up for the world.

Crystal Caste (521, 1817): Crystal Caste always has wonderful dice displays. Their normal dice are nothing to write home about, but their higher-end Crystal Dice and Dwarven Dice. Yeah, you'll drop at least $30-45, but no one in your group will be able to compete with your Obsidian or Brass Dice.

Cubicle 7 (315): There will be several associate companies represented here along with C7, which means this will be your chance to pick up a print copy of the awesome supers RPG ICONS, from Adamant Entertainment. I believe there may be a signing session with Steve Kenson, Dan Houser, and Gareth-Michael Skarka! Also at the C-7 booth will be Arc Dream Publishing (Road Trip [Monsters & Other Childish Things]), as well as products by ENnies nominees Rite Publishing and Triple Ace Games. This should be one of the better booths to check out for a wide variety of new and new-ish gaming product.

d20 Pro (1417): I'm always interested in new virtual tabletop software, and this will be a good chance to check this one out. I like that it's Hero Lab-compatible, and seems to possibly have applications even for non-network games.

Dark Platypus Games (1424): Dark Platypus seems to have a mix of things, from RPG accessories to gamer gear. It's a fun sort of generalist booth to check out.

Dark Sword Miniatures (1309)
: Dark Sword always has some unique sculpts by some of the fantasy genre's best-known artists. It's nice to come and here see some people doing some beautiful minis work.

Days of Wonder (1515)
: One of the best booths to visit if you're looking for a new board game. The Ticket To Ride, Memoir '44, and Shadows Over Camelot lines, among others, are all well-represented.

Duncan Toys (1932)
: That's right. Yo-yos at Gen Con. I don't see how that could possibly go wrong. I now wait for some kid walking behind me to knock me out on a failed attempt to "walk the dog". (I'm still totally going to visit the booth).

Dwarven Forge (1215): Dwarven Forge is one of the best places to go for various types of miniature dungeon terrain. You'll want to ask them what specials or deals they have going on--there's usually something. Even if it isn't in your price range, the display is worth seeing.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Gen Con Preview Week

Just a quick reminder that tomorrow starts our Gen Con Preview Week! We’ll be looking at places you’ll want to hit in the dealer hall, as well as a few more tips for con-goers, just in case you missed our Gen Con Dos and Don’ts!

For those of you who won’t be able to go this year, take courage and stay tuned here—we’ll cover as much of what you want covered as we can, and will do our best to make you feel like you’re part of the show!

Sneak Attack: 10 Questions With Rogue Games

Today, we have an interview with Richard Iorio, one of the two minds (along with James Maliszewski) behind Rogue Games. Rogue Games recently celebrated an ENnies Honorable Mention (Best Rules) for their Colonial Gothic Revised RPG.

They also have two much-anticipated releases coming up, both with Thousand Suns Revised and the brand new Shadow, Sword & Spell (which, I have to tell you, is as exciting a fantasy RPG as I've read in a good while). Rich was kind enough to answer 10 questions about their upcoming products, Jamie Mal's Dwimmermount, and more on this small press publisher's philosophy and future.

Rich, first, congratulations on the ENnies recognition. Is this your second time being named in the awards announcement? Not too bad for a relatively "small-press" company, I'd say.

Thanks. Yes, this is the second time. Our first nomination was for the cover of Thousand Suns, and that was a surprise. The second nomination was another shock. James Maliszewski (business partner and co-Rogue) and I never thought we would be here when we started in 2007. Hell, we never thought people would notice us. It is humbling to see that we are not only still doing this, but gamers like what we do.

Shadow, Sword & Spell (SS&S) is up next for Rogue Games, right? Why will people wanting to check out this fantasy game versus the others on the market?

Yes. Shadow, Sword & Spell is the next game for us. When we started James and I wanted to do games that applied to us. That is why we went with Colonial Gothic and Thousand Suns. We love fantasy and when we worked together at Zeitgeist Games when they had Dave Arneson's Blackmoor, we had lengthily discussions on what we liked and did not like about fantasy. For the longest time we held off on pulling the design trigger on the game, but eventually, we realized we had a different vision for the game, and a clear goal in what we wanted to create. This leads me into the second part of the question.

I think one of the appeals of Shadow, Sword & Spell is the approach. From day one, what we really wanted to do was create a fantasy game that was humancentric and inspired by pulp fantasy. The three writers, for us, who are important for the genre, and the inspiration for the game is Howard, Lovecraft and Smith. What we really strived to do is create a game that would allow you to run a fantasy game similar to how these three wrote. It is fantasy filtered through the Three's lens.

The first release of SS&S is the Basic Game, right? What will be included in that, and what are plans for the "Expert" followup?

To be honest, Basic would be the only book you need. In designing and writing the game we wanted a game that was complete. Everyting from a setting to monsters is in the book. Basically "Basic" is all about the early years of being a hero. Think of Howard's Conan stories of a youth. He is still learning about the world. Basic takes this approach. It stands alone.

Expert is the End Game. Using Expert you will find rules and guidelines of running games when a hero becomes powerful and gains their own domain. Expert, in many ways, is influenced by Howard's Kull, in that the Kull stories are about a hero who gains a throne. So Expert is the end game, but it introduces more powerful topics and rules that do not fit with Basic. You will find Relics, as well as rules on creating items of magical power, monster design, and a mass combat system which will allow you to run battles easily.

Expert and Basic is all you will need and using them you could easily create a campaign that is either focused on a small area or allow you to have a world spanning game.

You've released the Revised version of Colonial Gothic, and are also working on Thousand Suns Revised. What can purchasers/users of the original Thousand Suns expect from this?

James has said that Thousand Suns Revised is being done because he wants the game clearer and cleaner. We have learned a lot since we've released the game, and we want to take those lessons and make the game better. Nothing is changing when it comes to the rules. If you like the original book, that is still valid and anything new we add will be given to you for free. Yet, if the denseness of the game puts you off, we hope that a cleaner version invites you to take a second look.

Basically, we do not want anyone to feel as if they are getting ripped off. The game is the same, and the Revised is being done because we want to make the game cleaner and clear up a lot of over writing.

So in short, expect a clearer game that is not as sprawling as the first.

OK, I have to ask, for all the grognards, and Grognardia fans: what's going on with Dwimmermount?

I do not know what you are talking about. :P

Dwimmermount, as many know, is James' sandbox megadungeon. We never thought we would release it, but demand for it became to much to ignore. The plan is, at least currently, is to release the first five levels at the end of the year. James is writing the book now, and it is moving fast. Eventually the whole thing will be released, but we are starting small. What James wants to do is create a supplement that shows you how megadungeons work.

I know you'll be at Gen Con this year (booth 1539). What will Rogue Games have going on at Gen Con?

Selling games. :)

Every year Gen Con grows more and more chaotic for me. I am running a pick up game the night before the con starts, and I might be running another pick up game on Friday. Basically when I am not in the booth, I am in a meeting.

Paizo Publisher Erik Mona has said some extremely complimentary things towards Rogue Games. That had to feel pretty good.

Yeah. Here comes the word many people hate that I use, but I was humbled.

This hobby and business is such a thankless thing sometimes. You design in a vacuum, and sometimes you wonder if people realize what you do. When someone like Erik Mona mentions you and complements what you do, it is nice, but it is humbling. We just try to design games that are fun and are games we would want to run. We hope we live up to all the good words people say about us. In the end, however, it is about the games. If people play them and have fun, then we did our job.

If you could, talk about community and fan support. What can a small press publisher to offer a better or different experience than some of the larger companies? What can you do to stand out in those areas?

This is a good question. My rule of thumb with Rogue Games is very simple: Treat people they way you want to be treated.

This hobby is so small, that it is very easy to forget that without a community of gamers, we could not do what we do. Smaller companies have one advantage that the larger ones do not have, and that is our size. Because we are small, we can interact directly with the customer. James and I answer all emails within 24 hours. I reply to messages via twitter and IM. It is important to keep the channels of communication open, and we really strive to let people know what is going on. Customer Service is the key, and many forget this. For us smaller publishers, this is the one area we can really stand out.

The big way we can stand out is our approach to selling our product. We can be more personal.

Back to the ENnies for a minute: as a publishers, have you noticed an uptick in interest or sales on products nominated or mentioned by the ENnies?

Somewhat. What I notice more, however, is the uptick whenever we release a new title. What is more noticeable is web traffic post announcement. When the ENnies nominations were announced I did not know until I checked my daily webstats. I saw a spike, and that clued me in something was up. Nominations and awards a good, but for us, releasing new product is our biggest uptick.

What else is coming up for Rogue Games?

A lot. :)

This year we have Dwimmermount. Next year three will be three new Colonial Gothic releases (New France, French Indian War, and Flames of Freedom: Philadelphia), at least two Shadow, Sword & Spell releases (Expert and either city or a campaign), and Thousand Suns (two releases). There might be some other things, but these are big ones.

In short, we're going to be busy.

EDIT: Wanted to add that Shadow, Sword & Spell will be available at Gen Con Indy!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Louis Zocchi Explains All: The D-Total

I found another video by Louis Zocchi (dicemaker and pitchman extraordinaire) explaining the D-Total, the die that does the function of 17 different dice. Listen in as he explains the glory of Dr. Simkin's polyhedral wonder:

Not That We're Excited Or Anything...

...but the first Gen Con signs have been spotted in downtown Indianapolis:

(h/t Gen Con Community)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Industry Vs. Hobby, And Why The Forge Hasn't Conquered The World

I saw on the always-enjoyable Retro Roleplaying yesterday a link to a blogger bemoaning (I think) the insensitivity of “old school” gamers towards “new school” products, and the failure of the Forgey games to be commercially successful.

The guy’s certainly entitled to his opinion, so long as Blogger accounts are free, but I have to echo Retro RP here: I’ve never really seen Pathfinder and 4e described as “old school”. Apparently, by his definition, “new school” would pertain to the more Forge/GNS/Deconstructionism of the traditional GM/Player roles, and everything else is old. OK, then. I guess I should be grateful he didn’t use “quaint” or “rustic”.

Many of the remaining Forgies, deep from their mountain redoubt in High Afghanistan, cite their influence on games as diverse from Warhammer 3e to D&D 4th Edition. Certainly there are those who wish for more shared “narrative control” between GM and player. It isn’t my style, and never will be.

But that’s not really important; what got me about the article is how the author seems to push towards “growing the hobby” by catching cosplayers, comic book fans, etc. Although I’m sure there’s anecdotal evidence out there that could be presented to the contrary, I don’t think that GNS games have proven to be sold to be people through anything other than what sells more traditional RPG games—human contact.

Here’s a quote from the article:

This all leaves me with a dilemma. How do we get the innovation of the new, with the stability and business potential of the old?

Do it yourself.

I don’t mean that too snarkily; I mean that if you have an idea you think is going to bring the masses, then do it. If your “new school” is superior, then it should grab gamers. Marry it to whatever traditional or alternative publishing model you want, and prove the superiority.

Or, it could be, just maybe, that Forgey games aren’t any better at converting the masses to this hobby, regardless of medium.

I believe increasingly, even as I continue to evangelize when I can about the hobby I love, more of us have come to the realization that the RPG “industry” is largely smoke and mirrors. There isn’t this huge backdrop of powerful RPG companies with dozens upon dozens of employees. There’s one or two big publishers, a handful of mid-size publishers, and hundreds, if not thousands, of one or two-person operations keeping their main inventory in the garage.

That isn’t a knock on gaming; it’s just the realization that with more and more “DIY” tools out there and more and more entertainment firms to contend with, there’s not much of a unified “industry”, but a hobby. That’s why I very rarely refer to any sort of RPG industry on here; it isn’t defeatism, but just the reality of what you and I likely interact with most on a day-to-day basis. The spread of RPGs is grassroots, and isn’t found in any single ideology, theory, or movement. To think otherwise would be a disservice to the chorus of voices that make up the creativity of this hobby.

Some companies, like Paizo, ensure cost-analysis for each product before it is released, and they’ve done well on it. Others, like Evil Hat, combine newer mechanics with a dedicated fan following as part of their success. But this is a social hobby, and the size of a company doesn’t really matter if there’s no one to teach the game or no group to join. Certainly it’s great to have a supported game and have product on the shelves, but that’s just one piece of the puzzle.

If something happens to catapult tabletop role playing games back into the public’s greater consciousness, it likely won’t be due to people discovering the benefits of the magic of Shared Narrative Control and Story Gaming. Yeah, it’ll probably appeal to some non-gamers. So will old-school (old-old-school, if we’re to go by that article) hack n’ slash. So will the gun porn of Rifts. The RPG hobby is far too diverse to be pigeonholed.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Discussion: Diamonds In The Rough (Take 2)

Another Friday dawns, and here at RPG Blog II, we turn towards that most favored of traditions, our Friday Discussion. I throw out a topic, and you comment. Nothing too serious, nothing too heavy--just gamers talking about the games they love.

Today we're talking about "diamonds in the rough"--those RPGs, for whatever reason, that you think are brilliant, but never get quite as much love or publicity as they otherwise might.

This Week's Discussion Question: What RPG or RPGs do you consider a "diamond in the rough"? What RPGs deserve more love or attention than they normally receive?

I've asked this question before, but I like to get different inputs from time to time on what might be flying under the radar out there. For me, I'll give some of my stock answers for the topic to get things started: Epic Role Playing and Two-Fisted Tales, to name just a couple.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

RPG Purchasing Habits: A Raised Bar

Like many of my peers, I suffer from Gamer ADD (aka Corvus Disorder, if you prefer). I’ve discussed this before, but it’s very hard for me to focus on just one game, and I already have more games lined up then I’ll ever get to play or run. I’m better than I was, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been left with a metric ton of games I want to use before 2012 comes and (circle one) the sun explodes/the earth explodes/the universe explodes/Nicolas Cage stars in another crappy movie/the Nephilim-Chupacabra-Arctic Nazi Axis proves Coast to Coast listeners right.

That, and the fact that I have less and less discretionary income as family needs seem to become more and more expensive, mean that in a lot of ways, the bar has been raised for what I’m willing to actually pay for in terms of RPG product. The idea of DIY or DIWEG (Do It With Existing Game)* becomes stronger, even as some truly amazing products are coming out the door.

This doesn’t mean I don’t spend anything on RPG product, but it does mean I find myself more and more selective with what I’ll buy. Multiple “core” rulebooks become a bit of a turnoff, with the “Collect all 10!” mentality being extremely so. Being able to view a solid review, sneak peek, or read through the book in a game store matters more than it once did.

I don’t know how many other gamers have this, due to the economy, getting older, or both, but I know I do. Basically, there’s more product out there than ever before, but I can’t keep up like I did. My dollar has to go farther than ever before. And whereas 5 years ago my RPG budget probably went 80/20 between RPG systems and accessories, today the split is likely 50/50 and going the other way. The reason? People keep making new toys and accessories for our gaming, and I’m thrilled with a number of RPGs I already own. The accessories can be used regardless of system, which makes them a better investment for me right now.

Of course, there are great games that I still pick up; most recently was ICONS, but I guarantee I’ll grab at least one other new RPG this year. It’s just a more competitive field, with more stringent requirements, than it was for me in 2004 or 2005.

This is still a young hobby, in a lot of ways; things are still being sorted out, different models tried. But some of the experimentation we may have gone with when younger has settled down somewhat into an expected framework as we learn (often by trial and error) just what we want out of a game.

So how about it? Have your gaming purchase habits changed as you get older or gained new responsibilities? If so, in what way?

*-RPGnet’s version, DIWW, (Do It With Wushu), is less welcome here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Quick 6: Things I Was Thinking About Gaming Today

It’s been awhile since I did one of these, but here goes:

-I finished reading a pre-release copy of Shadow, Sword, and Spell, the pulp fantasy RPG coming up from Rogue Games. James Maliszewski and Richard Iorio have really found the strengths of their 12° system. I was able to explain the system yesterday to a buddy in about 20 seconds. There’s a lot of fantasy games on the market, but I really think this one is a winner, by merit of ease of play and a nice rules balance between customization and simplicity. And $13 for a print copy of a 154-page book? I can’t wait for it to be released at Gen Con!

-The more I play with the ICONS RPG and the character folio program, the more enamored I am with this game. It’s much lighter than Mutants & Masterminds, which I like, but let’s be clear, this is not a game for differentiating to the umpteenth decimal of who’s stronger between Superman and Captain Marvel. Someone said the default level of a superhero in the game is somewhere around that of the X-Men, but I would say it feels more like a group with a wider scale of powers, say like members of the Justice League, or the TV show Justice League Unlimited. I’ve had a wide range of characters come out, and I’d say in power levels they’ve ranged between Wonder Woman or Batman to guys like The Question or Green Arrow. None have been useless, or conversely supreme in all areas.

-A friend of mine last night said “your ideal RPG would have 32 pages of random tables, followed by 32 pages of actual rules”. He’s probably more right than he knows.

-I would like to see James Raggi selling his products at Gen Con Indy next year (sure, no problem, right, what with hotel, and transatlantic airfare, and…). I can’t help but think that would be one entertaining booth.

The ENnies made the right decision in handling the entire Kennon Bauman issue. Basically, Kennon had sent out an email in which he told people to vote for him from multiple computers. Given the sensitivity of ballot-stuffing in the ENnies (see: the removal of Fear the Boot from the nominations a few years ago, and the furor over Shelly Mazzanoble doing something similar), there really isn’t much room for compromise on the issue, especially when it comes to judges that should be above reproach or suspicion. The ENnies were quickly responsive and sensitive to the issue, and Mr. Bauman did the right thing in withdrawing his name this year.

-The number of people now crashing at my house for this year’s Gen Con numbers at least 3, assuming none of my local buddies sleep over so we can get an earlier start (it will be early already!). To me, everyone gaming their butts off, then crashing hard to do it all again the next morning is part of the experience (and possibly a rite of passage) at Gen Con. Next year, instead of commuting in, I hope to afford a hotel room right by the convention center. But it will likely be filled with gamers then, too.

When The GM Becomes The Player

This Friday, I get to take a step back from my normal role of Game Master and actually just play. One of the guys in our group is running the Tri-Tac Games classic Stalking The Night Fantastic (1st ed, I believe). Augmented with plenty of extra charts and tables to roll some entertaining background notes and aspects on, character creation was a hoot.

I have more often than not been in the position, as I am sure many of you out there can sympathize on, of being the only one to ever take a turn at Game Master. Happily, our most recent gaming group has been far more egalitarian.

I admit, I’m really looking forward to a few sessions on the other side of the GM screen. I look at it not only as a) time to work on my next campaign or b) a nice break from the extensive GM prep I usually do, but also a chance to remember what it’s like to be a player. It’s nice to be just a player, sometimes, and see how GM decisions or styles can affect the mood or energy at the table. Plus, it’s always nice to see different styles at play.

The biggest thing to remember, of course, is that you are no longer the GM. You don’t adjudicate, you don’t hand down rulings, and it isn’t your game, at least in the more traditional, authoritarian models of RPGing. No Game Master needs the last Game Master hovering about like a ghost, warning about pitfalls or perils while they’re trying to run the game.

So, Friday we’ll see if I’m still any good at being a player. Aside from a few demos and one-shots at Gen Con, it’s been a couple of years for me. And rolling those dice in the open seems so foreign a concept…

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

WotC Designer Firstson Familyname Surprised At D&D Naming Backlash

In an exclusive interview with RPG Blog 2, Wizards of the Coast Associate Dungeons & Dragons Designer Firstson Familyname seemed perplexed at the backlash against many of the noun-verb, noun-noun, and adjective-noun type of naming conventions used in D&D, such as the Fire Archon Blazesteel, Bloodspike Behemoth, Shadowfell, Trollhaunt, and Thunderspire, to name a few.

“I just don’t get it. From the earliest days I can remember, when my parents got me my first Poopmaker Puppy, that’s how we spoke,” Familyname confessed.

“We lived in a Redbrick Ranchhouse, and all in all my childhood was pretty normal, from playing with a Bestfriend Neighborkid to falling in love with a Teencrush Heartbreaker.

Why any Gamerfan feels like I’m naming D&D monsters or powers strangely, I’m not sure”.

Mr. Familyname admits the criticism has been trying.

“My wife, Spouseunit Nicewife has turned into a Spouseunit Nagwife, and that's been hard for my kids, Firstborn and Uplannedbaby".

Still, Firstson’s faith in himself and a higher power keep him going.

“I just have to trust that I am an Elite Firstson, and my life is in the hands of Personalsavior Jesuschrist”.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Review of Truth & Justice (Reprint)

Introductory Note: I've been asked a fair amount the last couple of days about Truth & Justice, a superhero RPG I've long been a fan of. It definitely draws comparisons to both Marvel FASERIP and the more recent ICONS RPG. I thought the best way to discuss T&J a bit more was to reprint one of my old reviews of the game, from the original RPG Blog (I), way back in July 2005!. Normally, I don't do reprints, but I thought it justified in this case. Thanks for reading!

I have a lot--and I mean a lot--of Supers-genre RPGs on my shelf. So when I was given the chance to review Atomic Sock Monkey's newest offering, Truth & Justice, I wasn't sure what to expect. On one hand, I thought Chad Underkoffler's Dead Inside was a fantastic game, and I am rather fond of the utilitarian Prose Descriptive Quality (PDQ) system, but what would this game bring to an arguably crowded Supers market? Turns out, a lot.

T&J uses the PDQ system to great effect here. If you haven't seen PDQ in action in Dead Inside, it's a vaguely-FUDGEy system that manages to present perfectly serviceable mechanics while not interfering with game play. PDQ also presents three various ways to resolve a situation: one, if the respective skill or action has a higher rating than a difficulty modifier, it immediately works (sort of a pass/fail bit). The second resolution method is a slightly more complex system, wherein a dice roll accompanies the various skill or rating to surpass a target number. a continual back-and-forth battle, not unlike a duel, until one character calls it quits. Lastly, there is a continual back-and-forth battle, not unlike a duel, until one character calls it quits. All three work, and work without much complication.

My first sigh of relief came when I realized T&J was not a "freeform" Supers game, nor was it a my character can do x+23 squared, whereas yours can do x+23 cubed. That is to say, there's enough meat on the system here that there won't be arguments over accurately portraying the super-strength of The Hulk, versus that of, say, Spiderman. Your average stat or ability in this game is centered on 0. Aunt May, for example, might have a -2 (Poor) Strength, I would likely have an Average, or 0, Strength, whereas Captain America would have +6, or Master Strength. The game also scales between normal attributes and supers, so that +6 Normal Captain America is strutting around with would be nothing compared to The Hulk's +6 Super-strength. There's a very handy chart in the game that cross-references abilities vis-a-vis the attribute scores, so there is no doubt what a +2 or +4 means in any particular situation. The scaling between normal and super also provides a simple mechanic for a greater range of ability description.

As always, with PDQ, the system consists basically of what I stated above. Everything--be it a trait, a skill, or an attribute, or defined as qualities. Individual games can tailor the quality system to as specific or general as they like. If they want the character quality "Detective" to cover the gamut of all detective abilities, that's fine. A more detailed game, might split it into Forensics, Investigation, and Street Smarts. Like the rest of the PDQ system, it's enjoyably scalable.

In the first few pages, we're also introduced to different styles one might wish to employ for their game. Gritty, Four-Color, Cinematic, Animated, and more are described, and tips are given on how one might to wish to play this type of setting. This part was a great resource, and I actually would have like even a bit more in here.

We've already read about how the PDQ system defines a character, and the fairly quick, yet possibly detailed Character Generation follows this to a T. An interesting point to CharGen is the addition of Hero Points. One garners Hero Points during game play by basically--well, being a hero. This could involve foiling a robbery, taking a bullet for an innocent bystander, sacrificing something to stop a villain, and many other actions that fit that whole "heroic vein". In our playtests, it seemed to make the players a bit more willing to risk their skin while not implicitly forcing them to do so. These Hero Points can be used much like Fate or Luck points in other game--increased attack power, discovering vital information, resistance against attacks, and so on. All in all, they fit nicely with the system.

You've been waiting for me to come to the Superpowers part, haven't you? Well, they're all here, from Adaptation to Transformation. The powers are well-described for immediate use in game play, but there are also parameters for designing your own. Powers like "Bolt of (Something)" are always a good sign, as they leave room for expansion and usually mean the writer isn't going completely crazy trying to itemize every power from the past 4 decades of Marvel. T&J also touches on "stunts", or creative ways for powers to be used. It does get boring using the same old ice beam every time--it's nice to come up with a new, ingenious use for it.

The last third of this book is taken up with NPC creations and several sample campaign settings, as well as examples of play. Nice stuff, and the NPCs are handy for those times when you need a quick villain or lackey to throw against your Super-group.

Production value (PDF vesion)? Well, I'm not a big artwork guy, but I do enjoy a clean-cut design with easy-to-read type and highlighted examples. Truth & Justice does all three, and the artwork looks at least respectable in my eyes.

All in all, Truth & Justice was a very pleasant surprise for me, and has quickly moved towards the top of my Supers games list. If I had to say anything, I would say to me it seems to be sort of the spiritual successor to the old Marvel Superheroes game. It's fast, it's fun, and it's got just enough crunch that those wanting to make clear just how fast or strong their character is can do so. I'd feel equally comfortable here creating a well-known DC hero as I would my own creation. I ran both a Saturday Cartoon-esque and a Silver Age-style game with Truth & Justice, and between Chad's continual examples and fun, light writing style, both went quite well. I'm especially appreciative of the fact that T&J can support any of the Supers sub-genres with equal ease.

If you'd like to read a bit more abut Truth & Justice or want to go ahead and pick this game up (which I heartily recommend) visit ASM's Truth & Justice page. There, you can learn more about the game, or try a T&J preview. There's also a great free supplement, Dial S For Superheroes, which gives you 30 illustrated characters to introduce into your game. I can definitely recommend picking it up.

One Last Note: It's been 5 years since I wrote this, and Truth & Justice has held up well. I might want just slightly more "crunch" than T&J offers now, but not by much. If you fall on the rules-lite side of the spectrum, I'd still think it's worth comparing to ICONS, FASERIP, or Resolute before deciding on a new Supers RPG. It's always gratifying to find a game (and review!) has held up over time.

Special Deal & Interview: Rite Publishing

Today, we're interviewing Steve Russell, of Rite Publishing. Rite Publishing garnered two separate ENnies nominations this year, both for Heroes of the Jade Oath BETA and To Kill Or Not To Kill. Right now, especially for you, Heroes of the Jade Oath BETA pdf can be had for the sale price of $19.95, with a free upgrade to OMEGA when released. If you're a fan of Oriental Adventuring and Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved, this will be a product you won't want to miss! This deal runs through August 7th, and Steve asks that if you like what you see, support Jade Oath by voting in the ENnies for this small-press dynamo.

In our interview, I asked Steve about the ENnies, his Diceless Patronage project Lords of Gossamer & Shadow, his upcoming work for the Pathfinder RPG, Rite Publishing's relationship with Cubicle 7, and more:

Steve, congratulations on the ENnies nomination! You've got two nominations this year: Heroes of the Jade Oath and To Kill Or Not To Kill, both in the Best Electronic Book Category. Were you surprised both were nominated? If only one could win, do you have a sentimental favorite?

I was blown away by getting two nominations! They say you only have a 2% chance of getting a nomination, and the adventure that proceeded To Kill or Not To Kill (A Witch's Choice) did not get nominated last year, so I know "the agony of defeat" I feel like I rolled two natural 20s in a row at the penultimate showdown with The Dragon.

I am the designer, developer, and publisher of To Kill or Not to Kill. While I did some additional design (1 chapter), and am the publisher of Heroes of the Jade Oath BETA. So I would like to see Heroes of the Jade Oath BETA take the gold. But really the honor of being nominated is huge.

Will you be at Gen Con this year, and if so, where can people find you?

I will be at GenCon this year but I am attending as a fan and as a nominee. We are still a micropress with a permanent staff of 1 (me) with a vast array of dedicated and talented freelancers. We are running a few pick up games for our patrons, but your most likely to run into me in seminars and I will definitely be at the ENnie award ceremony.

Lords of Gossamer & Shadow, your patronage product using Erick Wujcik's Diceless Roleplaying, has definitely excited the interest of a lot of Amber fans (including me!). Can you give us an update on how the project is progressing?

Well we blew away our patronage goal nearly doubling our threshold goal, The Wide Open patron brainstorming thread is going strong, The patrons and designer (Jason Durall) are discussing of inspirational material beyond Amber, how Attributes will be handled, and Jason has posted his initial outline for the book. Jason also came up with a nice idea for the play examples in the book using the first names of our gold level patrons.

On the publishing side of things I have secured a print/distribution deal with Cubicle 7 to see that the product reaches your Friendly Local Gaming Store as a full color interior product, though the final price still won't be less than the cost of a bronze patronage. So becoming a patron is still the better deal. And yes, patronage is still open.

Do you think we will see more patronage products from more gaming companies?

I think you will see more of them from micropess companies with a small but dedicated fanbase. It gives them the ability to produce a product of the same quality as WotC or Paizo without the huge financial risk. In reality, a patronage project is just a preorder except you get to go behind the scenes and help create the product, this input helps increase the quality of every part of the project.

Plus, just look around at the companies already using it; there is Open Design (Streets of Zobeck), LPjr Design (A Place Beyond Hell), Machine Age Productions (Maschine Zeit), Otherworld Creations (P20 Modern), Happy Birthday Robot...the list goes on.

You've been working on the Pathfinder-compatible Book of Monster Templates. How's it progressing, and what can people expect from this product?

The book is 50%+ complete and I have enough preorders so far to print about 88 copies (we have only been accepting preorders for about two weeks), as this is the first book I am attempting to put in the print distribution channel on my own, so we are are doing a direct only preorder through our website, The preorder will be available until Oct. If your really want to know what to expect I would recommend checking out our Free Preview. Preorder customers get a new exclusive free preview every week, also one of our preorder customers is performing an interview with me on our website. But what I hope to provide DMs with a tool to keep even their most veteran players off balance, with templates like the Tax Collector Creature, the Boundfury Creature, and the Exemplar Creature templates.

It seems like Rite Publishing has really increased in terms of notice and recognition for their product work in the past year, especially in 2010. Looking back, are you doing anything differently, has there been any changes in the makeup of the hobby you've noticed, or is it just hard work finally paying off?

I think its a combination of things, our recognition at the ENnies comes from hard work done back in 2008 and 2009, but also "Fortune Favors the Prepared Mind." We were in a position to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came our way. From early access to the Pathfinder RPG, to the license for "Powered by Erick Wujcik's Diceless Role-Playing", which then lead to our partnership with Cubicle 7.

I know you're working in a partnership with Cubicle 7 now--what does that relationship entail? What else is coming up for Rite Publishing?

We provide the product, C7 prints and distributes the product, we split the profits. That is the most simplistic way to put it, however they do much more than that, and distribution through the 3-tiered system alone is a hell most fans can't imagine. C7 also helps us with marketing, playtesting and demoing our products; This is a new relationship for us so I expect there will be even more to come, and our first product with them Coliseum Morpheuon (PFRPG) is on track for a November release.

What else is coming? A lot! We are wrapping up we are working on the patron exclusive adventure for Jade Oath, the Omega version for Jade Oath, a conversion for Pathfinder RPG, Ceremonies of Sacrifice, the 4th adventure in the Rituals of Choice Adventure Path (To Kill or Not to Kill was adventure #2). The Breaking of Forstor Nagar our Virtual Tabletop adventure for Pathfinder RPG is in final edits, We release a new part of the 101 Series on the 1st of each month (I am working on 101 3rd Level Spells right now).

As I look to the horizon, our patrons want me to do do a patronage project for my Pathfinder RPG Homebrew/Default setting Questhaven, The Evocative City. For our Arcana Evolved fans we are hoping to do a Faen racial book, and there is also support for a Kaiden patronage project (a Japanese ghost story); and when it comes to wild speculation there is a Super Heroes Diceless game.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

BREAKING: Precis Intermedia Acquires Last West End Games RPG Properties

RPG Blog 2 has learned that the last of the West End Games RPG properties, in the form of Masterbook, Shatterzone, and Bloodshadows, have been secured by Precis Intermedia.

Eric Gibson, the long-beleagured proprietor of West End Games, had previously released most of the d6 books under the Open Gaming license, but intellectual properties such as Masterbook and Shatterzone were excluded from that release. In June, it was revealed he had sold the rights to the TORG RPG to the German gaming company Ulisses Spiele. This latest move should mean that Gibson no longer has the rights to any West End Games RPGs.

Precis Intermedia is a well-regarded smaller RPG company, with such popular lines as their Disposable Heroes miniatures line, the ENnie-nominated pulp RPG Two-Fisted Tales, and recently, the introductory RPG Ancient Odysseys: Treasure Awaits! Right now, plans are for Precis Intermedia to do full reprints of the WEG works, to include the cards.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Indie Gamer Attempts To Assert Narrative Control Over Bear; Dies

--Indianapolis An accident at the Indianapolis Zoo yesterday claimed the life of a promising young game designer, in town for the annual Gen Con Indy gaming convention.

Crispin Macavoy, 32, of White Plains, NY, fell over 20' into the zoo's Grizzly Pit after a loose guardrail gave way. Macavoy them found himself face-to-face with a 12' tall enraged Alaskan Grizzly, but refused the frantic rescue attempts and offered rope thrown by zoo workers.

"[Macavoy] just wouldn't stop talking to that bear", bystander Rashida Johnson recalled. "He kept saying stuff like 'OK, we're shifting stances, bear. OK, bear, we need to dictate story to push the conflict. Bear, you need to relinquish control. This is a safe place to explore this theme, ok, bear? Now, bear, the narrative structure is...'"

"If anything, I think it just made [the bear] angrier".

Police now believe Macavoy was attempting to gain what he called "narrative control" over the situation, by dictating to the animal what should have been happening in the "scene" of the Grizzly Pit. Detective James Portnose was one of the first responders on scene.

"Witnesses say he kept try to 'frame the scene' to the bear. He kept saying, "Look! I use 2 levels of Resolve to add a tranquilizer gun in easy reach!'. Of course, that didn't stop the animal from almost immediately disemboweling him with his claws", Portnose added.

Macavoy was known as being very dedicated to the "craft", which on his personal blog he wrote about using to explore what it meant to alternately be a Holocaust survivor, a pedophile grocery store clerk in a small Bulgarian town in the 1960's, and on at least 4 separate occasions, a Gypsy lesbian dealing with personal financial ruin in postwar Prague.

"Even as the bear was gnawing on his face, he was still shouting something about the bear being a Gamist", friend Lorenzo Ackman recounted.

"I knew Crispin, and he would have wanted to die if meant avoiding the deprotagonization of one of God's creatures".

Macavoy had recently been named as one whose small, eccentric games "rocked out", according to comments found at the gaming website His most recent game, Ennui, was a 16-page look at the jaded life of married college intelligista that alternately asked players to roll 20-sided dice, plums, and clippings of their own hair to gain control of the story.

His friends described him as an intense fan of gaming, who would have been grimly satisfied with the emotional impact his death would have upon their game.

Friday, July 16, 2010

ENnies Voting Has Begun (And What To Do About It)

ENnies voting is now live. I want to focus for a moment on the Best Publisher Category. This is the only fan-nominated category, and it’d be great to see one of the deserving community-friendly publishers get this award.

My recommendation? Lamentations of the Flame Princess, for both keeping fans entertained, wonderfully aware of the entire process, and, oh yeah, creating some AMAZING adventures. There are tons of great companies on the list, but I’d love to see a Bat In The Attic Games, Posthuman Studios, or Mythmere Games get the nod. I think there a number of companies (not limited to just those 4!) on the list that realize product is only part of being the best possible publisher; interactivity with fans is a huge part of what is becoming an increasingly online community.

Let’s see if as a community we can speak up and get one these Little Giants a rightful place among the winners. Do your part, if so inclined!

Friday Discussion: Your Most Recent RPG Purchase

With another Friday upon, I decided it was time for another round of Friday Discussion. Nothing too heavy, nothing too serious, just gamers talking about the hobby they love (remember how that works?).

Today’s discussion topic is also a bit of informal polling: What’s the most recent RPG product you purchased, and when? Was it print or pdf? Were you happy with it, or is the jury still out?

Have a wonderful weekend, and may it be full of happy gaming!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Swords & Wizardry Quick Start Available Again

Back after his self-imposed exile, Michael Shorten has again made the free Swords & Wizardry Quick Start available for download. This is a nice little product that will get you into some classic-style gaming in short order, so if you haven’t grabbed it yet, now’s your chance.

Gen Con Do's And Don'ts

We are a mere 3 weeks out from the first day of Gen Con Indy 2010, the center of the gaming universe, and pretty much the most awesome thing I get to do all year that isn’t related to my kid’s first words or something. I’ll be starting some of our Gen Con coverage with a short list of Do’s and Don’ts that first-time or less-experienced Gen Con goers may find useful. This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list, just a topic-starter; if you’re a cagey old Gen Con vet, feel free to add your own wisdom below. (I left out “DO SHOWER”, because the people who would listen already shower, and the ones who wouldn’t never will).

-Do a little homework.
I know, I know, you’re there to have fun! Who wants to do homework, right? Really, though, a little bit of research on the web can fill you in on new releases at Gen Con, find out which booths have the best swag (a dwindling number, sadly), and which vendors will be there (and at which booth numbers). One of the things I like to do is write down booths, events, and contact information in a PocketMod. It’s fun and quick to make, recyclable, and is a really handy quick reference when you’re trying to remember where to visit Reaper Minis (booth 1521) or Tabletop Adventures (booth 530). See? With my PocketMod in hand, that was a snap!

-Don’t stuff your schedule.
Gen Con is huge. Like, really, amazingly, tremendously big. I have been going for years and I still haven’t done and seen and played everything I want. It’s very easy to look at the massive list of events and fill up your schedule so that you have no time for anything else.

Give yourself time to do demos, sign up for games on-site after trying them out, and to walk that magical dealer room floor. What I do is have a list of events and free seminars I could attend over the course of a day if I find myself with nothing to do. Leave yourself time to be spontaneous.

-Do get one good meal in/dine selectively.
The food in the convention center can be quite good, if by good you mean “canned instant diarrhea”. Bring a couple of snacks, avoid the immediate vendors whenever possible, and walk over to the Circle Center Mall or one of the nearby restaurants for at least one meal. If that doesn’t work for your budget, well, a nice peanut butter sandwich will do the trick nicely. I've found having a solid breakfast lets you keep your energy much more than a big lunch, which can make you sleepy. Having a nice meal with good friends while talking gaming is an all-too-rare pleasure in this life. Take the time to have a sit-down meal—your body, mind, and digestive tract will thank you. Oh, and bring a water bottle you can fill. Drinks are overpriced, and hydrating will keep you going longer.

-Don’t Touch Things or Take Photos Without Permission
Last year, I watched a fat-fingered gamer grab an expensive sculpture and promptly drop it, breaking it into tiny, expensive shards. Another guy was taking pictures of a young girl dressed like an elf, and niether she or her kilt-wearing dad looked too happy at being bothered about it. We’re not animals, guys and gals. Many items on display are fragile or limited editions for display only. It never hurts to ask before handling something, especially if it looks breakable. If you’re wanting to take a pic of someone in costume, be nice and ask permission first. Besides, you get better poses that way! Basically, remember your manners—our hobby doesn’t need any additional rude, grabby jackasses.

-Do Wander
Gen Con fills a dizzying array of skywalks, hotels, and various nooks and crannies of the core of downtown Indianapolis. Take a couple of hours one afternoon or evening and just walk around. You’ll find singing pirates, movie screenings, impromptu games and demos, roaming bands of gamers heading towards fun activities you’ll want to tag along for, and if you’re like me, you might even find yourself an unwanted guest in a LARP of some sort (sorry, vampires and Victorians). To me, seeing more of what Gen Con holds can give you a much better appreciation of what it is. Gen Con is alive 24/7, and you want to experience the maze-like mysteries it holds.

-Don’t Judge A Booth By Its Cover
Some of the best games I’ve found were off the beaten path, at small 10’x10’ booths that might escape the notice of many busy conventioneers. Listen to some of the pitches, be polite, and give their game a chance. Big ideas start small, and the next diamond in the rough might be in the next booth over. Of course, if you aren’t interested after hearing about it, be polite and move on.

-Do Take Advantage Of The Free Stuff
C’mon--$8.00 to sit in on an RPG game you aren’t going to like? Basically all the seminars at Gen Con are free, and many booths with games with have free demos in the dealer room for you to enjoy. Limit those 6-hour marathon blocks you’re paying for to the ones you really know you want, and look on ENWorld, RPGNet, and even the Gen Con boards for free gaming events. No one’s saying ditch all organized play or anything, but be aware you do have options out there if you’re trying to do the “Poor Man’s Con”.

A smart fella could arrive at the convention with only a crisp $10 bill and the clothes on his back, and end up with the same $10 unspent when it’s all over (granted, somewhat smellier, but that’s normal for Gen Con). I don’t recommend trying it, but it is possible.

-Don’t Forget To Enjoy Every Minute
It may happen, that between games, in your caffeine-addled state sometime on the evening of Day 3, you begin to feel a wee bit tired, cranky, or--although I scare can credit it--fed up with Gen Con.

This is nonsense. You’re in the greatest convention our hobby offers, surrounded by thousands of people who love what you love! You’ve come home! A game designer who made something you love is probably within 300 feet of where you’ve collapsed! Love, treasure, and enjoy every moment. Every Gen Con is different, and only comes along once. Get a nap if you have to, rest your eyes, drink a beverage, and get back in the game.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

There Sure Are A Lot Of Superhero RPGs

Superhero Gaming is definitely considered a level behind your standard fantasy in terms of gaming done and titles available. I personally think they continually jostle with sci-fi, pulp, and horror for the 2-3-4-5 spots in the hobby. But that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been an explosion of superhero games in recent years.

Of course, Green Ronin has Mutants & Masterminds and the DC Comics license waiting in the wings. Besides these, you have the hot new ICONS RPG by Adamant Entertainment. Add to this the ENnie-nominated BASH! Ultimate Edition, Margaret Weis Productions and Smallville, and Superhero RPGs seem to be getting a lot of attention just now!

Aside from all this, there’s still Heroes Unlimited floating around, adherents of Marvel Superheroes, its derivative 4C System, and small-press efforts like Capes, Resolute, Hearts & Souls, and one of my favorites, Truth & Justice. Plus, let’s not forget Hero Games and Champions!

Oh, but we’re not done. Superworld, Mayfair’s old DC Heroes game, Squadron U.K., Brave New World, Silver Age Sentinels, Aberrant, Godlike, and Wild Talents are out there, too, in one capacity or another.

Add in the recent re-release of the classic Villains & Vigilantes (tearing up the charts at RPGNow, don't you know?), and superhero games just might be enjoying a—dare I say it?— small renaissance of sorts.

(Now, a harder question--which ones stand above the fray? I like the old Marvel FASERIP system, Truth & Justice, and I'm really liking ICONS. All are lighter on rules, I suppose. But there's no shortage of games to try in this category).

Review of Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots

Psst! You know those posts and stories you read online, scribed by Game Masters who run perfect, long-running campaigns and never seem to run into trouble?

It's ok--here in the real world, our campaigns aren't like that. We all have our issues as Game Masters, and that can include being stumped on which way the material for a new campaign should progress.

Enter Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots by the minds at Gnome Stew and Engine Publishing. Gnome Stew has made its mark as the premier gamemastery blog on the web, and now the lads behind that effort share some of that advice in this volume aimed towards providing plots and adventure hooks for every main type of RPG genre.

At 314 pages, Eureka is not a small product, and it certainly isn't a fly-by-night effort. The Gnomes put a lot of work into this system-neutral product, and it shows. The initial advice chapter sets the stage with some "how to use this info", but also a nice comprehensive review of the 36 Dramatic Situations to be found in various plots.

Eureka identifies the various adventure plots not only by genre and the aforementioned themes, but also by "tags". These tags are a sort of shorthand for identifying the type of plot involvement. For example, the tag "difficult choice" would mean the characters would likely face a tough decision in the course of the presented plot, whereas "epic challenge" might feature world-changing or high-level challenges.

Each genre receives its own chapter. There are generally 1 or 2 plots presented per page. As an example here, in the Fantasy Chapter, "The Unexpected Uprising" covers the potential for a full-scale revolt involving the characters. Linked events to take place before or after the main plot point are also detailed, and a small section for the tags and potential adaptations to other genres is also present.

I'm not going to say that every idea in the book appealed to me; with 501 of them, the law of averages tales care of that possibility on its own. But the ideas presented are usually well-considered, and I can definitely see the potential for many of them to turn the lightbulb on in a plotting or struggling Game Master's head.

Heightening the usefulness of this tome are two indexes, arranged by genre and plot tag, which make finding the right source of inspiration much easier. I also appreciate the hyperlinking present in the document, which is very useful in a larger pdf such as this.

If the product falls short anywhere, it's on the strength of the art. Andrew McIntosh's cover illustration is charming and appropriate, but as in so many other small-press products, the interior art is a mixed bag. Philip Miller does yeoman's work on his part, but in a book that's supposed to inspire, some might feel the art should be more frequent, and perhaps a bit more evocative. The layout, however, is pleasantly uniform and easy to follow.

Eureka can be ordered from Engine Games. If you're a Game Master who likes a little help with his brainstorming, Eureka will be a welcome addition to your bookshelf, virtual or otherwise. There are plenty of Game Master resources out there, but only a very few strike me as being as immediately handy and above all, usable by a GM, as Eureka. If you've got it all figured out and never seem at a loss for inspiration, well, keep on walking. But the rest of us mere mortal Game Masters are grateful for the help...