Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Question Regarding The OGL & 4e

If tomorrow Wizards of the Coast dropped the GSL and instead released the core of D&D 4th Edition under the Open Game License (OGL), do you think it would give the game any spike in popularity? Why or why not?

Monday, November 29, 2010

How's The Current Gaming Scene In Your Area?

Our group has definitely had some ups and downs as of late, as has my gaming circle at-large, but you definitely get a feel for whats going on in gaming, at least locally. One of the things I love about anecdotal reporting is how two cities less than an hour apart, or even different slices of town, can have such radically different gaming scenes. Here's a quick overview of how things seem to sit in my little area of the world:

-4e holds steady. One of the local stores was having some trouble with its Wednesday night Encounters planning, but I know of a couple groups running 4e campaigns. It's very much a hot or cold game, I think, but fortunately not as polarizing as it once was.

-Pathfinder remains the game of choice among my more immediate contacts; I'm in a Pathfinder game currently, but I know of several others. I'd say in terms of actual play, it's running roughly even with D&D 4e.

-I don't get the feel that a lot of groups are "locked in" to a system. I think that folks are willing to try lots of different games; there isn't as much of the "we play 3.5 and that's all we ever play" deal anymore. Why, I don't know, but that's just how it seems to me.

-Dresden Files still excites a lot of comment and interest, but aside from the brief flare-up from the unusual format of Warhammer Fantasy 3e, that game seems flatter than flat right now.

-I've been invited to two "OSR"-type games, one with Labyrinth Lord and one OSRIC, but I have been unable to make either. Still, it's nice to be asked.

-Aside from what I and several others introduce, small-press games and products are still, well, small-press. ICONS and Eclipse Phase have made an appearance, as have Swords & Wizardry and some issues of Fight On!, but it's spotty.

So how are things right now in your neck of the woods?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

My RPG Playing/Running/Planning Survey Results

Not too long ago, I started a survey over at theRPGsite on what board members were playing, running, and planning. Mos Eisley TheRPGsite is very much a RPG generalist board, so it wasn't surprising what a wide range of responses were garnered. I thought the results might be interesting to RPG Blog II readers as well, as an informal scan of what some folks are interested in just now. As always, this survey comes with the disclaimer that it is in no way scientific.

I tried to identify the core system/RPG being used in each case--there were a few that could only be described as homebrew. Games that had finished or hadn't started weren't counted under Running/Playing.

We had 62 respondents at the time of cut-off, and few more that trickled in afterwards. As usual, my math is approximate at best, but this should be close to the mark:

Playing: We had 55 different systems represented in the Playing Section of the survey. There were plenty of people not playing anything at the moment.

4e: (Encounters, Essentials, etc.): 8 total

AD&D 1e: 2

D&D 3.5: 4

Dark Heresy: 2

Nothing: 21

OpenQuest: 3

Pathfinder: 5

Savage Worlds: 2

Star Wars Saga Edition: 2

StarCluster 3e: 2

1 response each: AD&D (Unspecified), AD&D 2e, Alpha Omega, Apocalypse World, Barbarians of Lemuria, Barbarians of the Aftermath, Basic Fantasy, Battlestations, BRP, Burning Wheel, Call of Cthulhu, Castles & Crusades, Changeling: The Lost, D&D Rules Cyclopedia, d20 Modern, Deadlands Classic, Dresden Files, Earthdawn (Houseruled), Fantastic Worlds/War Rockets, FUDGE, Guildschool, GURPS 4e, HERO 4e/5e, ICONS, Iron Heroes, Labyrinth Lord, LotFP RPG, Marvel Saga, Mechwarrior, Microlite 20, Mini Six, Mutants & Masterminds 2e, OD&D, OSRIC, Promethean: The Created, Shadowrun 3e, Song of Ice & Fire, Starships & Spacemen, TAG: Spacers, Talistanta (Unspecified), Talislanta 4e, Talislanta 5e, True 20, Weapons of the Gods, WFRP 2e, WFRP 3e, Witch Hunter


Next was our Running Section, with 50 different systems represented, plus 14 responses for running Nothing.

4e (with Essentials, Encounters, etc): 6

Call of Cthulhu: 2

D&D 3.5: 3

Dark Heresy: 2

Dresden Files: 2

Nothing: 14

Pathfinder: 6

Savage Worlds: 3

StarCluster 3e: 3

1 response each: Aces & Eights, AD&D 1e, AD&D 2e, Alpha Omega, Arduin, BASH, BD&D, Blood Games, Burning Wheel, D&D 3.5/Pathfinder hybrid, Dr. Who, Guildschool, Hearts & Souls, High Valor, ICONS, InSpectres, Kobolds Ate My Baby, Marvel Saga, Marvel Super Heroes, MechWarrior, MiniSix, Mongoose Traveller, MRQ II, Multiversal D&D, Mutants & Masterminds 2e, OD&D, OHMAS, Openquest,OSRIC/AD&D, Pendragon, Rifts/Robotech, Simply Horrible, Spirit of the Century, Starblazer Adventures, Star Wars d20, Swords & Wizardry, Talislanta 3e, Werewolf: The Pure, WFRP 2e, WFRP 3e, Witch Hunter


The Planning Section was much larger than the Running or Playing sections, which goes to show that likely more than few campaigns never make it to actual play. This is my favorite category, because it shows what's on people's minds right now. There are around 68 different systems, with 19 of them mutliple responses, represented,

4e (Encounters, Essentials, etc.): 5

Atomic Highway: 5

Basic D&D: 2


Call of Cthulhu: 2

Eclipse Phase: 2



Homebrew: 3


Legend of the Five Rings: 2

Mongoose Traveller: 2

Pathfinder: 3

Rogue Trader: 4

Rules Cyclopedia D&D: 2

Savage Worlds: 3

Swords & Wizardry: 2

Swords & Wizardry White Box: 2

WFRP 2e: 3

1 response each: 7th Sea, AD&D/OSRIC, Amazing Engine, Bloodsucker: Angst Express, Basic Role Playing, BTS/Chaos Earth/Rifts Mashup, Bushido, Call of Cthulhu d20, Chav: The Knifing Express, Classic Traveller, D&D 3.5, Dark Heresy/Deathwatch, Deathwatch, Delta Green, Derelict Delvers, Dresden Files, Earthdawn, Flashing Blades, Freemarket, Galaxy Atomic, Gamma World (WotC), Guildschool, HERO, Legends of Anglerre, Leverage, Lord of Olympus, MiniSix, Moldvay/Cool D&D, MRQ II, Nothing, OD&D, Outremer, Paranoia, PrimeTime Adventures, Robotech, RuneQuest (Chaosium), Shadow of Yesterday, Shadow Sword & Spell, Star Wars Saga Edition, Supernatural RPG, The Tools of Ignorance, True 20, Ubiquity, Undecided, Vampire: The Requiem, WFRP, WFRP 3e, WitchHunter, WizKid: The Cheapening, X-Plorers


So, all in all, the survey seems to indicate what we already know--there are a lot of people going a lot of different directions in this hobby!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

30 Things I Am Grateful For In Gaming (Roll 1d30)

From RPG Blog 2, a Very Happy Thanksgiving to all of you out there!

30 Things I Am Grateful For In Gaming (Roll 1d30)

1 Having a regular gaming group that’s running a solid game of Pathfinder

2 Fight On! Magazine, for getting my writer’s legs back under me after a rough spell

3 Shadow, Sword, & Spell, for energizing my campaign and world development

4 The still-awesome Open Gaming License

5 Castle of the Mad Archmage—completed!

6 Palladium Fantasy, because you never forget a first love

7 The smell of old gaming books

8 Rediscovering Lacuna

9 Mountain Dew—still the gaming drink of choice

10 Mini Six, for restoring my faith in Open d6

11 Rolling a 99 right after a 100 on a set of encounter rolls


13 Maps of all shapes and sizes

14 Kitchen-sink gaming

15 Rolemaster Criticals

16 Geeky Clean Soap

17 Traveller not only endures, but thrives

18 RPGnet’s Game Index

19 Gamescience dice

20 Having books like the Hackmaster GM’s Guide as a resource for nearly any fantasy game

21 The boys at RPG Circus, for tolerating my presence in the podcast

22 Michael Wolf and Jeff Uurtamo, for being wonderful guests at Gen Con this past year

23 Living in the city that hosts Gen Con each year

24 Clash Bowley’s games (StarCluster 3!)

25 Adding the descriptor “plasma” to a weapon type to make it more awesome

26 Rob Conley’s excellent map work and writing

27 Little Caesar’s Pizza—perfect for feeding poor gamers

28 Two-Fisted Tales, for still being a great go-to Pulp RPG

29 Great, insightful, and funny comments from readers on my gaming blog

30 The d30, of course!

Sure, Julie Andrews might not be in a hurry to sing it, but I think these favorite things are just fine, don’t you?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pathfinder Playtest: Words of Power

Paizo has released the 2nd part of their Ultimate Magic playtest, "Words of Power". This allows players to build their own spells using (you guessed it) power words. I'm curious to see if it's like the building blocks in Ars Magica or Diabolism in Palladium Fantasy in any way, and how things are constructed.

The Pathfinding-inclined can check out more here.

Followup: From Game Master To Player

As/ I've mentioned before, I've been taking a bit of a break from most of my face-to-face GMing, focusing instead on playing in my buddy's Pathfinder campaign. It's been a welcome break, and I think it's benefiting me enormously.

Behind the screen, it's easy to forget at times that your mental processes aren't the only ones going; every player out there is processing information, trying to play a character, and working towards a goal (even if it's just to hang around and have fun). I think in several of my past few forays as GM, I set back a little too complacently, waiting for the players to entertain me or pick up on things. That works both ways; if the players are in the doldrums, as GM, I need to see if I can't pick things up a bit at times.

It's been very fun to watch someone else run these guys through a campaign; the current GM and I have different ways of dealing with conflict and different personalities, but I know next time I GM, I'm going to have a few new insights on how to challenge and react to those players.

I enjoy Pathfinder, and for the most part our group doesn't fiddle around for 15 minutes every turn in combat, but I'm also convinced that when I'm up again, it's going to be running a much lighter system.  I wince when I think of giving up the critical tables of Rolemaster, but maybe I don't need to leave those behind; I've adapted them before, and can again.  Still, right now, Shadow, Sword, & Spell, Mini Six, or possibly one of the retro-clones have to be my first picks for next time out.

Monday, November 22, 2010

More Map Love: Wilderness Maps!

You'll want to check out this thread at theRPGsite, detailing some of the best user-created wilderness maps. I continue to be impressed at the talents of so many of our hobbyists!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mini Six: Post Apocalypse

All things lead back to our first loves in gaming, I think.  Why else would I keep envisioning Rifts-With-The-Serial-Numbers-Filed-Off for Mini Six?

-Could it be because I have fond memories of d6, where one of my Jedi once became powerful enough to slice a small asteroid in half?

-Could it be because I see the scaling rules working really well at handling the wide range of power levels inherent in the ideas behind Rifts?

-Could it be because I want to tempt Jason Richards to write his best vision of Rifts/Chaos Earth for said system?

-Could it be because I wish to coax the elusive Doc Rotwang out of his virtual hermitage with so grandiose a vision?

-Could it be because I am really digging this generic system?

Random thoughts on a random Saturday, after a Pathfinder session last night which saw our monk die in a freak prizefighting accident, which split the group, which...well, let's say my (Archivist) Bard's Bluff roll may have had something to do with the monk fighting in the first place. Ooops.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Discussion: More About RPG Message Boards

It's time for that most cherished of RPG Blog II institutions, Friday Discussion. Nothing too serious, nothing too heavy, just gamers talking about the hobby they love.

Today's topic is something we've discussed before, but that I wanted to come back to. There's actually a couple of parts to today's question:

-Do you frequent any RPG message boards? If so, which ones and how often?

-Do you feel those boards are a) more useful, b) less useful, or c) about the same as they were a few years ago?

-Has your presence on RPG message boards increased, decreased, or remained the same in the past couple of years?

Thanks for answering, and have an awesome weekend!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Season 2 Episode 21 of RPG Circus: Mini Six, Traveller, Large Parties

I was under the weather and was only able to fulfill my hosting duties for the first 75% of the show or so, but our latest episode of the RPG Circus podcast is available!  In this episode, we discuss:

-A review of the Mini Six RPG

-The various version and editions of Traveller

-Running large parties

Plus, news and commentary! Check it out!

EDIT: We re-edited the show just a bit. Link here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What Happened To The Gygax Memorial Fund Page?

Because I'm just getting a 404-Page Not Found.

Did I miss something?

Review of Complete Characers #7, Jason Richards Publishing

The right NPC (Non-Player Character) can be a godsend to a Game Master.  Not only can a memorable NPC inspire your characters, but they can provide plenty of plot hooks themselves if done properly.

Many GMs (yours truly included) run short on prep time for all facets of their game, be it maps, background fluff, or yes, writing up key NPCs. Enter the Complete Characters line, from Jason Richards Publishing. Jason, a published RPG author who also writes his own blog, has created a line of system-generic NPCs for easy use in multiple RPG genres.

I've previously covered Jason's current giveaway of the first few entries in this series, which should be enough to give you an idea of the quality of writing you're getting. This isn't someone putting together a slapdash product to make a quick buck; it's a well-considered product with actual thought put into it.

To do a quick mini-review of one of the titles, I thought I'd take a look at the most recent in the series, #7, Sir Aric Devilkin. To start, Richards fleshes out characters with 5 "S's": Setting, Strengths, Setbacks, Skills, and Special.  Setting deals with the sorts of settings the character might fit into, with suggestions for alternate setting placement as well.  Sir Aric, as an Evil Knight, is well-placed for fantasy campaigns which feature the supernatural.  Strengths describe a character's potential advanages over other characters.  Sir Aric has Protectors, is Noble-born, and is quite Intimidating as part of his Strengths.  Alas, Sir Aric also has the Setbacks of being Compulsive, a bit Obsessed, and the Stigma of his chosen path. Aric has notable Skills in Horsemanship in Command, but what really set him apart is under his Special Abilities; as the alleged son of a demon, he has numerous fell powers ascribed to him, to include Curses and Plagues.

Also included is a nicely-written character bio, which describes a bit of the character's background, and is generally open enough to fit into most suitable campaigns. The product finishes up with Tweaks, which can change the NPC's powers or personality in new and interesting ways; Twists, which are ways to adjust the character to introduce new plot hooks or devices, or to work them into the story; and Extras, which can outline another minor character, offer additional hooks, background info, etc.  For Sir Aric, we are presented with Extras regarding just what this evil knight might be searching for.

Complete Characters #7 does what it sets out to do in 4 pages, and the layout is pleasing and clean. The single piece of art in the product, a portrait of the NPC himself, is ably provided by Joseph Scott Lawn. Unlike many products in this price range, I have no quarrel or concern with the layout or art for Complete Characters.

Right now, the other Complete Characters are on sale for 99 cents (from $1.49), which seems like a fair price. I'll leave it to the reader to take the initiative to check out the Complete Characters line for yourself, but in my opinion, it's another welcome tool for the hurried, harried GM.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Review of Mini Six: Bare Bones Edition

Today, I’m reviewing Mini Six: Bare Bones Edition, from AntiPaladin Games, written by Ray Nolan and Phil Morris. Mini Six is available both as a free pdf or in print for $8 (with free shipping in the U.S.). Mini Six is a generic, 38-page, d6-based system that seeks to provide a faster, but still-compatible version of the West End Games-derived d6 system.

As a brief commentary, d6 has been an ill-starred system in a lot of ways. It shined in such lines as Ghostbusters and Star Wars, but the history of d6 has been one of struggles since then. The mercurial, frustrating nature of the last days of the last incarnation of West End Games served to turn a lot of people off d6, fairly or unfairly. Honestly, when I first heard of Mini Six, I sort of glossed it over--that’s how tired I was of the d6 drama. That turned out to be a disservice to both myself and the fine folks at AntiPaladin Games, who have made a really nice product here.

Mini Six strives to simplify itself from traditional d6 in many ways. There are 4 stats (the self-descriptive Might, Agility, Wit, and Charm) instead of 6, and there are some tweaks to how combat is handled (more on that in a minute). The Wild Die remains, but is different in Mini Six; unlike standard d6, a result of 1 on your Wild Die doesn’t spell catastrophe. However, results of 6 still explode.

The basic of character generation are described in less than a page. There are 4 basic steps involved. First, you distribute 12 dice amongst the 4 attributes mentioned above. No attribute may begin with less than one or more than 4 dice assigned to it. Then, you distribute 7 dice to skills, with a cap of 2 dice for any skill at the start of the game.

As with standard d6, skill and attribute dice may be split into “pips.” Each die is equal to three pips. To quote from Mini Six “An attribute may have dice only (no bonus pips), +1 or+2. Going to “+3” advances the die code to the next largest die. Example progression is 1D, 1D+1, 1D+2, 2D, 2D+1, etc.”.

After these first two steps, players can choose Perks and Complications, if they so desire. Perks and Complications are little quirks, abilities, hindrances, or special circumstances that modify the character. Perks cost you in skill dice, and are things such as Lucky (cost 2D, lets you reroll an attempt once per session) or Sidekick (costs 3D, gain a minor accomplice and sidekick in your travels). There are also Esoteric Perks, such as Telekinesis and X-Ray Vision, to provide examples of the sorts of Perks a powers-based game might have.

Complications are flaws or hindrances for the character; they don’t cost dice, but when these problems come up in play, a player can earn up to 1 Character Point per session. (Character Points, or CP, work not unlike XP in other games. They may be spent to better skills or attributes). Complications are limited to two per player, and are items such as you would expect.

The last section is to choose gear, which is presented in Mini Six in abbreviated form--unsurprisingly for a generic ruleset.

The basic skill resolution in the game should be familiar to d6 fans, and easy enough for new gamers to grab immediately. In essence, you roll relevant attribute + relevant skill vs. a Target Number, or TN. A Very Easy Task may have a TN of 2-5, whereas a Difficult roll may have one of 16-20. Truly Heroic Tasks may be in the neighborhood of 31+ TNs.

Mini Six also includes Hero Points, which are rewarded by the GM for various incentives. They can add to rolls, help reduce damage, and other various benefits. This is a subsystem that has been featured in similar ways in many RPGs, and is an easy enough option to turn on/off as the GM prefers.

Combat is presenting in a single page. Traditional d6 combat is also presented and compatible, but the default combat sets up as the Fast Static system, where defensive abilities of opponents are set as static TNs to be overcome. Depending on how far over the Target Number the attacker rolls, the defender may be anywhere from Stunned to Dead. This is a sort of damage track/level system, where each level of damage has adverse affects. For example, a character who is merely Stunned will suffer -1D to all actions for two rounds, whereas a Wounded character (the next step up) is a -1D to all actions until healed. The penalties are even more severe as the character spirals to Death. The Fast Static combat should be a time saver for a lot of groups.

Mini Six also takes some time to discuss vehicle rules, and features a nice, if short section on various vehicles that might be encountered in various genres along the way. Along with this are Mini Six’s scaling rules, which help to define the difference between things such a player firing a laser pistol and vs. a starship attacking. It seems like a little thing, but I was impressed that this oft-overlooked detail was addressed, quickly and reasonably.

Mini Six contains a lot in these 38 pages: several sample settings are presented in abbreviated form, from a Willow-esque fantasy realm to Precinct ‘77, a love letter to 70’s cop shows. These are fun, inspirational settings, and I hope more than one of them is fleshed out further.

Rounding out the book are conversion notes for Mini Six and d6, a simple magic system (I have seen several people suggest pulling WEG’s d6 magic systems instead; I don’t see either option as a problem), some optional rules to suit various game types, GM advice, a reference sheet, and a great Rogue’s Gallery. And as with all proper-thinking RPG companies, yes, there is a copy of the character sheet in the back. All in all, this is a remarkably full smaller product, which manages to be so without being cluttered.

One complaint some readers may have is that the game isn’t always completely clear on gaming concepts. I understand they are working with a self-limited page count, but a thorough example of play for skills or combat would have been nice. The authors of Mini Six do assert this is generally not a game for novice gamers, but hopefully there will be an edition that is, as I think the d6 basis is a pretty solid one for your rookie RPGer.

The other issue some may find with the product is that the layout could be better. Things seems “squeezed in”, and crowding is evident on several pages. Even with a “Bare Bones Edition”, layout still counts. This isn’t a fatal flaw by any means, just something to work on in future products.

Even with a few bumps in the road, Mini Six should prove a welcome addition to the arsenal of setting-independent rulesets.  I’ll give it a standard 3 on Style, but an enthusiastic 4/5 on Substance. If you’re looking for a simple generic system that doesn’t feel too sketchy, or want a somewhat streamlined, cinematic d6 experience, give Mini Six a look--I don’t think you’ll be sorry. It’s definitely worth the $8 I paid for the print copy, and of course the pdf offers a free look at the system before you buy. The d6 system has had a rocky, winding road as of late, but with products like Mini Six, it looks to be back on track.  There are plenty of generic systems out there from you to choose from, but few are perhaps as well-considered, significant in legacy, and quickly grasped as Mini Six.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Followup: My Cards For Tweaking Single-Dice Games

I had some solid commentary on my article the other day mentioning swapping out dice types to keep single dice-type games fresh, and at least one person wanted to take a peek at the cards I made to do just that.  Here they are, with the template to make your own, along an example set. I ended up using 4 of the templates, changing them up, to create a deck for both Shadow, Sword & Spell and Mini Six.  Enjoy!

Are There Too Many Retro-Clones?

It's been in the mix for a while, but recently, I've noticed more about more folks railing against the number of retro-clones and retro-cousins we have available out there. Games such as Labyrinth Lord, Basic Fantasy, and Swords & Wizardry were all "first wave" games of this effort, and now we have games like Lamentations of the Flame Princess WFRP, Dark Dungeons, and the upcoming Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.

First, some of these games aim to honor or emulate specific versions or editions of Dungeons & Dragons. That's why you have Dark Dungeons vs. Swords & Wizardry White Box, which are concerned with two different iterations of D&D.

I'm not going to say every clone coming out grabs me; they don't.  Ultimately, the market will bear what the market will bear. If Raggi's LotFP ends up more popular than another RPG on the OSR circuit, so be it. It isn't as if these are giants issues of compatibility we're talking about here. At worst, it's like two people speaking American English--one from Texas, and one from Boston. It's still the same language, just with some quirks. The two people can still use the same textbooks, read the same newspapers, watch the same TV channels. In the same way, just because you're using Labyrinth Lord and I'm playing around with Swords & Wizardry, we can still use ideas from old-school supplements, Fight On!, or ideas passed around online.

But I'll tell you this: you will never get people to line up between a single retro-clone.  Even if Wizards of the Coast tomorrow made OSRIC an official, supported line, you'd still have people producing for other retro-clones. And I get that some really great gamers don't get much out of the entire neoclassical gaming concern, but that doesn't change the fact that it's got an interested, self-publishing audience.

We're seeing a hundred different tweaks, variants, and alternate presentations of a venerable and inspirational source material, and I think it rocks.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Keeping Single Dice-Type Games Fresh

There are many truly amazing games, such as Traveller, Shadow, Sword, & Spell, or one of the d6 versions out there, that only use a single type of dice. Usually, this is well and good, and done for simplicity's sake, possibly the approximation of some bell curve or result array, or just because. But as gamers, I think we love our dice, from the caltrop d4s to the sacred d30. And if we're in a game where the d20s or d10s are sidelined for an extended period, we can feel like something's missing.

Well, for certain games, you can add a bit of variety and the unexpected by swapping out dice for a large dice type as a reward, even if that's not normally the mechanic. For example, take the two systems I'm really keen on just now, Mini Six and Shadow, Sword, & Spell.  The use d6s and d12s exclusively, respectively, but I've developed "Bonus Cards", which can be drawn for various deeds such as good roleplaying or to mark a new campaign arc.  These Bonus Cards can be redeemed to swap out the normal dice roll with varying dice. Here's a few examples, taken directly from the cards themselves:

-Replace Your 2D12 with 2D10 For Any One Roll (Shadow, Sword, & Spell).
-Replace A D6 With a D12 (Mini Six).
-Replace 2D12 Roll With Single D30 (Shadow, Sword, & Spell).

Does it sometimes skew the results and make rolls more unpredictable?  Yes, but to me that's a feature, not a bug--and I like to tinker.  And nothing hurts more than being up against the Big Bad Evil Guy, playing your bonus card to roll 2d12 instead of 2d6 and rolling...a sum total of 3.

I need to test it out in a longer campaign, but I really think this could be a good idea for keeping players involved in a system without quite as much wanderlust, as well as a chance to exercise their cool dice regardless of system.

Of course, this wouldn't work with percentile games such as Rolemaster, but Rolemaster has enough results range already, wouldn't you say?  Thoughts?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Donate & Get Stuff!

If you read yesterday's post, you know I'm trying to do a bit of a fundraising bit this week.  Any amount you put in the hat (Paypal at o_clever_odysseus(at)yahoo.com, or via the link on the sidebar) will help me and the kiddos through a bit of a rough patch around the holidays.

The nice folks at Purple Duck Games are also getting in on the act.  For a limited time, when you donate here, you'll get a complimentary copy of Horrors of the GOW, a monster supplement for use with Pathfinder.  I've mentioned how much I like their  bestselling Legendary Blades, so you know you're in for some quality.  Thanks again to them for their helping out!

That's not all.  I'm also doing a drawing wherein one lucky donor will get--and you're going to like this--a copy of The Traveller Book, GDW, 1981.  This book is in fair condition, but is an absolute keepsake and godsend for the classical and sci-fi gamers, encompassing all the rules of the first 3 Traveller LBBs, plus some additional adventuring material.

The drawing prize will be announced, and the winning donor will have their package sent (likely Media Mail or Flate Rate) as soon as I get their mailing address.

Thanks again, and have a great week of gaming! Oh, and this week I plan on releasing (gratis, natch) the 16-page setting primer for my upcoming Middle Isles Campaign, based around an awesome map from Rob Conley.  It's that same mix of Greek mythology and classics, Scandanavian sagas, Earthsea, sword & sorcery, and a hint of the ol' Gygaxian D&D that I had mentioned earlier.  I can't wait to share it with you all!

Friday, November 12, 2010

RPG Auction Update & Fighting Trousers

UPDATE: Sold already! Now we can focus on what's important, like this Victorian Steampunk Hiphop:

As a reminder, if you have a spare buck and have enjoyed the articles and resources that this site provides this year, why not put a coin in the hat via Paypal? It’s much appreciated, and will go a long way towards getting me and the kids through a rocky holiday patch.

Looking at my outgoing bills vs. my income, I’ve realized that it’s going to be hard to keep up with everything and still give my family a decent Christmas this year. To that end, I’m sadly auctioning off my opened-once copy of Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works boxed set. This puppy was going for $200 on Amazon not too long ago, but I have it on ebay starting for half that. I will also do free shipping to anywhere in the USA.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembering RPG Campaigns In The Military

I was 24 years old, stupid, and homesick as can be. Across the Pacific, my young wife waited, (high-risk) pregnant as a "souvenir" to her visit early on in my remote assignment. I couldn't go to her doctor visits, I couldn't see the ultrasounds; no, I was stuck in Korea, miserable, cold, and hating life.

But I also had a lot of buddies there who were into gaming. They were each just as homesick as I was, away from their families for the holidays, missing out on an entire year of their children's lives. So, to help try to pass the time, we gamed. And gamed. And gamed.

We'd start with Rolemaster on Friday nights, which would stretch into wee Saturday morning. Saturday nights it was time for D&D, which would stretch into Sunday. Sunday afternoons, we'd play Rifts or Palladium Fantasy. We also tried a couple of different games during the week, but those didn't stick.

But as miserable and longing for home as we all were, that remains the best gaming I've ever had. I have fallen out touch with many of those guys, but I will never forget them. Rich, Moose, Z, Shane, Chris, William, Petey, Post, George, and all the others, I hope you're doing well. Thanks for helping get me through it all.

To all our servicemen and women serving past or present, have a memorable, meaningful Veteran's Day, and God Bless. I know it can be an ordeal out there, whether you're in harm's way or just away from your loved ones, but we owe you so much, and honor your sacrifice. Thank you so much.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Inspirational Art

One of my favorite places to do when in need of inspiration is the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  Many people don't realize what a fine collection this museum has, with notable selections from artists from El Greco to Seurat and beyond.  However, my favorite piece in the entire collection isn't on canvas, it's glass.  To be more precise, it's a stained-glass piece from Tiffany that was created in memory of President Benjamin Harrison, entitled Angel of the Resurrection.

When you go into the oval room where the piece is located, you walk into an area of dimmer light. In front of you is the stained glass sculpture, beautifully glowing in the backlighting, resolute and firm in its conviction of the Good Race in this life and the surety of the Hereafter.

Photo by Monroedb under a CC Non-Attribution license.  See here for details.

This beautiful stained glass piece has helped shape many of the churches and temples in my gaming as hallowed places of peace, of quiet, dignified splendor tempered with the humility of mortality. It's also a wonderful place to be alone when I need to recharge from a rough patch of gaming or real life.

Do you have a particular piece of art that truly inspires or refreshes you for your gaming?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

D&D Misses Induction Into Toy Hall of Fame

Reader Alonzo linked me an interesting article here.  Sadly, it looks like Dungeons & Dragons was passed over for the Toy Hall of Fame, despite being a nominee this year.  Playing cards and the Game of Life made the cut as inductees, however.  From the website, it says:
To make the cut as a finalist - Bensch says the toys must have longevity, be easily recognizable, and cultivate learning, creativity and discovery.
Well, D&D definitely has the longevity, learning, creativity, and discovery parts down. I think where it fails at being as easily recognized or iconic as Hot Wheels or a Rubik's Cube to the wider populace.  Perhaps someday...

Don't feel bad, D&D loyalists.  You're already on at least one list.  Now, who do I talk to about getting Rolemaster's Crit Tables inducted?  I'll even roll for it...

Monday, November 8, 2010

How Will Open d6 End Up?

There was a time when the d6 system was as popular as any on the market.  Games like Star Wars, and Ghostbusters were critically acclaimed.  It was an easy system to learn, and it thrived.

I don't want to paint the picture that everything was rosy; we know the old West End Games had troubles, and of the scattershot, uneven history of d6 for more than past decade. Many of us also became extremely tired of the uncertain nature and on again/off again changes and plans of Eric Gibson's WEG for the past two years, and took a bit of a break from considering or thinking about d6.

I don't want to relive the past, but d6 was already pretty minor when people thought about generic systems, having been eclipsed by active, well-supported systems such as Savage Worlds.  But there's still a fan base out there that knew about d6, and probably played some Star Wars back in the day.  And now we have Open d6, and resultant projects such Mini Six, which I think is the cleanest version of d6 we've had in quite a bit.

But what else is going to come out of Open d6?  Looking here, we can see there's a lot of folks planning to create products for 2011.  How far it'll go, who knows, but I have to be encouraged that as many people as are listed even want to try.

I think it's going to be very interesting to see if projects like the D6 Magazine that's been floated about or the dark fantasy RPG Destiny6 have legs.  Those might be good bellweather indicators.

So, I don't know.  I don't think d6 is going to take over the hobby, but I don't think it's quite finished yet. Obviously, judging from the forums, it still has a dedicated core, perhaps not unlike FUDGE or Fuzion.  To see if it goes past that is up to the creative minds of the Open d6 movement, and just how active they are, and what sort of audience they're able to pull back in.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

How Does Your Favorite RPG Company Do With On-Time Releases?

One of the commonalities of many gaming companies large and small is their total inability to keep a deadline.  Now, this isn't a new complaint, but it is one that's a perpetual irritant.

To me, it seems that companies such as Paizo and Mongoose do the best on keeping their release schedules. Of course, neither of those companies are 1 or 2-man operations.

On the other side of things, we have Eden Studios and Palladium Books, who sadly are leading vendors of vaporware and severely delayed titles.  They aren't alone, but they quickly jump to mind as prime offenders.

As someone who grew up with Palladium Fantasy, I have been waiting for a new release for that line for years now. We were told repeatedly Mysteries of Magic was "coming soon", and to be fair, after a long, long, looooong wait, and seeing it on every press release for about five years, it came out. Agonizing as it is, and not to pick on Palladium, but after the 57th straight product was not released on time, why not start managing expectations?

Honestly, I understand. This is a hobby, and things get in the way. Lord knows they do for me. People are excited to share what they've written, I know.  But perhaps, just perhaps, it's a good idea not to promise something until you can actually deliver on it.

The smart ones, I think, won't announce things until they're actually at the printer, or closer to it. Even then, you can have delays, but at least the product has been written and sent off to be printed.

How does your favorite RPG company do with keeping release dates?

 Above: Was Vaporware For Better Part Of A Decade

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Zack Dozen Update

If you haven't already, make sure to check out the updates I've made to Zack's Dozen, my list of some of the gaming items, old and new, that currently have my interest.  We've had quite a few products hang on, but also have some new entrants!  Check them out and see if anything grabs you.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday Discussion: Which RPG Would You Buy For The Gamers On Your List?

We're still a few weeks from Black Friday and the official start of the holiday shopping season, but today marks the return of RPG Blog 2's oft-imitated, oft-duplicated Friday Discussion.  Nothing too serious, nothing too heavy, just gamers talking about the games they love.

Today's Question: Which game would you most like to get all the gamers on your list this holiday season?  Something familiar? Something obscure?  Generic or focused?  Rules-light or rules-heavy?

Better yet, if you already plan on getting someone on your list a certain RPG, be sure to share that with us!  I'm personally hoping to pick up a couple different RPGs for some of the guys in my gaming group, finances willing.  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Legend of Gary

I spoke with an old buddy this weekend, wherein we revived the topic of using the Marvel FASERIP or the 4C System with Rifts. I still contend it just might do Rifts better than Rifts itself, but that’s not my main topic today.

No, we got on the topic adding skills Castles & Crusades, wherein I mentioned that one of the last things Gary wrote was an optional skill system for C&C’s Castle Zagyg. There was a pause on the line, and my friend said “Really?” with more than a hint of deep respect in his voice.

Among most of my gaming friends, we still have a reverence for Gary Gygax and what he did. Some of us started playing after AD&D 1e, some of us were hardcore readers of the early Dragon Magazine, and others go indie all the way. But one of the common things that binds us is that the opinion or words of Gary Gygax are not lightly discounted. Certainly we don’t agree with everything he’s written, but he still commands our respect to the highest degree. We aren’t all OSRers, or 4ers, or exclusive D&Ders, but we are Gamers, and those that weren’t around for some of Gary’s highlights are now picking it up secondhand. A new generation of gamers progresses, and soon enough, they’ll know about him, too, so long as gaming endures.

That’s the way legends grow. And in a world where we’re expected to be hyper-critical and cynical (and yes, I definitely put myself in there), it’s nice to still have legends. We know Gary wasn’t perfect, but none of the best legends are, are they?

Jason Richards Gives You Free Stuff!

My esteemed friend and colleague, the excellent RPG author Jason Richards, has launched his exciting line of Complete Characters, which provide you with a well-written, fleshed-out NPCs to drop right in your campaign, not to mention Tweaks, Twists, and other ways to make the character even more useful! Even better, for the first week of business only, you can download his products for free!  More products should be added either later today and/or tomorrow, so make it count!

Above: Mr. Richards After A Dreadful Accident Involving A Polymorph Spell and Blue Dye.

This definitely isn't some chintzy pdf offering either; Jason does good work, and is willing to put these offerings out there for free to prove it.  Check it out, and bookmark his page for the future!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Here's The Attention You Crave, Ron Edwards

Yesterday was a big day of change, and no, I'm not just referencing the U.S. midterm elections in this instance. Ron Edwards announced the "winter stage" of The Forge, which some people took as a re-purposing of his site, and others took as game over for that particular instrument.

Edwards seems inclined towards these gestures now and then; we go from his early references of gamers as "brain damaged" to his damnation of Indie Press Revolution as too impersonal or commercial or...something, and now we have the "winter stage" of the Forge. Only, you know, the Forge isn't going away, quite. Edwards also declares victory or something, which is great for him.  I guess you can do that, since none of the rest of us can quite figure out exactly what the parameters of victory, or, fittingly, the rules of the game were in the first place.

Of course, there's a time to let everything go (2003 or earlier, by my watch, but let's be charitable for the moment). For Edwards, desperate to hang on to edginess or some manner of relevance long after having been eclipsed by more coherent and affable game designers, he can only hope to send up these dimming flares now and again, hope some poor, equally irrelevant blogger, bored on Election Night, will take a few minutes to blog about him once more.


Damn you, Edwards. Perhaps you did win, after all.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Democracy In Action: Gaming Groups

Like many Americans today, I am going to vote in the midterm elections.  Unlike many other Americans, I realize you probably have precisely zero interest in my political opinions, especially on a gaming blog.

But it does make me think about the democracy of the gaming group. I've made no bones of the fact that my style as DM is more dictatorial than anything. That doesn't mean I don't solicit feedback or anything, it just means that I am the final arbiter/judge of all in-game decisions. There's not a lot of shared narrative in our games, and they're not exactly decentralized in terms of power.

That sounds harsh to some people, but I think when we talk about our GMing styles (and the trend and backlash against softer, group-consensus game mastery), even the most dictatorial GM forgets that without the democracy and populism of group social formation and cohesion, nothing is sustainable. Quite frankly, you can be a tyrant GM directly up to the point that your group says "screw you, pal", and decides that there are a dozen better ways to spend a Saturday than watching you on a power trip.

The realm you create at the table only last as long as people continue to stand for it; the moment it becomes not worthwhile, all the strict GMing in the world won't save you. All someone has to do to break that is to not show up. So long as you're a dictatorial GM, you preside at the consent of the players, and their continued tolerance of the arrangement.

Thank you, and may God Bless America.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween, Spiky Armor, and the Generation Gap

Taking the kids out to Halloween last night was an absolute blast.  It's the first time all 3 of them have been old enough to dress up, and even my not-quite-two-year-old absolutely tore it up out there.  (For the record, we had a horse [after a Batman costume malfunction], a Care Bear, and Princess Peach).

It was interesting to see the costumes this year.  I felt like perhaps, at least in my neck of the woods, there was a little less anime, and a little more traditionalism this year.  I'm not talking Raggedy Andy or anything, but there were X-Wing Pilots, police officers, firemen, knights, medieval ladies, pirates, and, of course, plenty of ghouls.  I passed one kid who had a tremendous--and I mean, tremendous--Ghostbuster outfit on, who couldn't have been more than 11.

It's also interesting to see the comic book heroes that come out.  No matter how many times they want to kill off heroes or re-invent them as "dark and edgy", everyone has an ideal of Superman, of Captain America, of Spiderman that doesn't change with comics trying to pander to middle-aged collectors instead of kids.  I saw probably a half-dozen Captain America outfits in the span of an hour--who knew it'd be such a popular choice?  Of course, Supes and Batman are classic choices.

Perhaps most blessedly, I did not see any Dragonball Z outfits.  Nor did any child attempt to engage me in a 24-minute monologue before attacking me, or inform me that I had foolishly underestimated him, that he had only used 84.444444444445% of his power. It's the little blessings in life, you know?

Granted, this is one corner of my little section of Indiana, but it was sort of heartening for me.  We always hear about how the cultural influences of the past twenty years aren't what they were, and that's true.  It's part of the reason we have less standard full plate and longswords in our RPG books, and more unnecessarily spiked and buckled armor and ridiculously huge swords.  But I do believe there's still an undercurrent of identifiable cultural concepts that span the AD&D generation with the 4e generation, so to speak.  We hold more in common than we hold in differences.

Sure, you could subtitle this "Cranky 30-Year Old Pleased That Cultural References Are Not Totally Obsolescent", and that's a fair cop.  But I like that on Halloween, regardless of age, we're all goblins, we're all ghosts, we're all Superman. And that's pretty neat.