Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Future of Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeons & Dragons Keynote Address at Gen Con Indy 2012

The Future of Dungeons & Dragons
Dungeons & Dragons Keynote Address at Gen Con Indy 2012

INDIANAPOLIS (June 28, 2012) - Calling all heroes, your presence is required!  Join us for an unprecedented look into the future of Dungeons & Dragons, including the evolution of the game, the re-birth of a fantasy setting and the next generation of art.  Wizards of the Coast is proud to host its first-ever Gen Con keynote address on Thursday, August 16th  to share with D&D fans what is in store for the game that has changed gaming forever. Speakers include President and CEO of Wizards Greg Leeds, Senior Manager for D&D Research and Design Mike Mearls, and some of the greatest creative minds in the industry. 

The keynote begins at 7:00 PM in the 500 Ballroom of the Indianapolis Convention Center and will be live-streamed at

Greg Leeds quote: “We are honored to be hosting the first-ever Gen Con keynote address, and sharing with the legions of D&D fans what the future holds for the game that has changed so many lives.”


About Gen Con
Gen Con, LLC produces the largest consumer hobby, fantasy, science-fiction, and adventure game convention in North America. It was acquired in 2002 by former CEO and Founder of Wizards of the Coast Peter Adkison. Gen Con is a consumer and trade experience dedicated to gaming culture and community. For more information on Gen Con, visit

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Let's Talk About ... Agents of S.W.I.N.G.

Alternate cover image taken from the author's DeviantArt page.
Let's talk about a fun little game called Agents of S.W.I.N.G. It came out from Postmortem Studios and was written by James Desborough (you may have heard of him). I'm writing this review because because this is a cool little game that deserves the attention, and because James is a creator who also deserves the attention. Now, I'm not a fan of everything that Postmortem does, but I am a fan of this game.

Agents of S.W.I.N.G. uses a Fate 3.0 hack at its core, but unlike many other of the contemporary Fate hacks, this version is a bit more streamlined than what you are going to find in other third party builds. Don't let that 344 pages on the RPGNow fool you because Agents of S.W.I.N.G. is a digest-sized book, unlike the letter-sized books that the other Fate hacks have been. If Agents had been done in a letter size it would have been a much slimmer book.

James shows an understanding of the underlying concepts and mechanics of the Fate rules when he digs in and streamlines the mechanics to get to what he wants to do with them. I'll get back to that in just a bit because I want to talk about the setting, and then get back to how the rules make this setting work. Agents of S.W.I.N.G. is a solid game that everyone who enjoys cinematic, fast-paced espionage gaming should own.

Agents of S.W.I.N.G. is a game of Swinging 60s British Spy-Fi television and movies.Shows like The Avengers, The Man From UNCLE, Danger Man and The Prisoner are the basis of this game. For those who might not know about Spy-Fi, Wikipedia gives a nice definition:
It often uses a secret agent (solo or in a team) or superspy whose mission is a showcase of science fiction elements such as technology and ideas used for extortion, plots for world domination or world destruction, futuristic weapons, gadgets and fast vehicles that can travel on land, fly, or sail on or under the sea. Spy-fi does not necessarily present espionage as it is practiced in reality. It is escapist fantasy that emphasizes glamour, adventure and derring-do.
This isn't a game, or setting of gritty espionage, like the current James Bond movies or the spate of Bourne movies, but one that embraces the pulpiness of the genre. Agents of S.W.I.N.G. is a game where John Drake can rub elbows with the Doctor and go off and fight Communist tyranny. In fact, if you look closely at the extensive collection of NPCs in the book you might just find analogues for both of those characters. There is even plenty of support for the Sci-Fi gadgetry that is so important to this genre.

Then we get to Fate. As we all know, Fate 3.0 is the engine that was built for Evil Hat's Spirit of the Century game, a high-flying game of pulp adventure, that has been adapted to be used for everything from urban fantasy to space opera to traditional fantasy games. The inherent pulpiness of Fate makes it a great match for this genre. James then streamlines and customizes the rules in his build, to make the rules fit into the concepts of Spy-Fi even better. One of the fundamental (to me) changes is the change to the adjective ladder of Fate. Fate (and the Fudge rules from which it is derived) is built around the concept of the adjective ladder as both a tool for descriptions and as the core resolution mechanic. This is the adjective ladder used in Agents of S.W.I.N.G.:
+8: Out of sight
+7: Far out
+6: Fab
+5: Groovy
+4: Neat
+3: Solid
+2: Hip
+1: Cool
+0: Yawn
-1: Bent
-2: Crummy
-3: Bummer
James cooked the Swinging 1960s London right into the core of the system. This is a good thing, because the rules help to reinforce the mindset of the setting and pull the players both into the setting and their characters. Each time you roll the dice in Agents of S.W.I.N.G. you are sucked into thinking like someone in Swinging London.

Agents of S.W.I.N.G. introduces a point-buy system to Fate that does away with pyramids and extensive stunts and perquisites. The point buy system for Skills in this game is particularly good (and time saving). Something that I plan to use should I run another Fate game myself. Basically, what James does is make each rank worth a point (so a skill purchased at Hip costs 2 points and a skill purchased at Groovy costs 5 points) and then gives starting characters 20 points with which to purchase skills. You can get a surprisingly adept character out of this method, which I am sure was the point. Stunts are similarly broken down and streamlined.

Does Agents of S.W.I.N.G. do the job of capturing the feel that it is going for? I think so. The choice of the Fate system was a good fit for this system, and the further customizations to it by James help to reinforce this. Fate embraces the swinging pulpiness of the setting and at the same time enforces the setting in the minds of the players.

I cannot recommend strongly enough that people buy this game. Am I doing this review for political reasons? Absolutely, but not for the reasons that some may think. When creators are censored or pressured into making games out of political pressure that is ultimately not good for gaming in the long run. People cannot design if they are constantly looking over their shoulder, which is what happens in an environment of anger and hate. Once one publisher or designer crumbles, it is only a matter of time before the mobs move on to something else that they don't like, using their anger and fear as a justification to stifle further creativity.

Keep in mind that, should you decide to comment, this is not a public venue. It is my blog and my rules. I will allow, disallow and delete whatever comments that I want. The Thumper rule is in effect: if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Simple Skill System For Swords & Wizardry

Admittedly, not everyone want skills in their old school games, this post is for those people who do want to add the option to their games. This is written for Swords & Wizardry but could easily be ported to any old school game. The genesis of this particular variant comes from a forum post made by one of the players in the G+ Swords & Wizardry game. This is still in a very rough form, and I am posting this mostly to get it out of the headspace and into a format that can be commented upon.

The basic mechanic is that the player rolls 2d6, adds any modifiers from their character's Ability Scores, and compares it to a target number for the difficulty of the task (as set by the Referee). If the roll + modifiers is higher than the target, the character succeeds at using that skill.

Difficulty Determined by Referee
Die Roll
Simple Task
No Roll
Hard Task
Difficult Task

The referee should keep the difficulty of the task in mind at all time, and should also consider the general level/competency of the character in mind as well. What is a simple task for a 6th level character might be Hard or Difficult for a 1st level character. The referee is always cautioned to err in favor of the character when determining the difficulty of a task.

Modifiers are determined by the Dexterity or Intelligence of the character, using the following table:


If a skill is something that is dependent on the character's overall agility and coordination, use the Dexterity score's bonus/penalty. If the skill is something that depends on the overall mental capabilities of the character, use the Intelligence score's bonus/penalty.

At this point I do not include Thief skills, because I think that those skills should be a protected niche of that character class. An option for Thieves could be to convert the Thief "skills" over to skills in this system and just give the Thief a special modifier, like half their level. I'm not 100% on this specific listing of skills just yet. This is a part that I am still turning over in my head (yes, this list of skills was taken from an OGL source, and it will be properly attributed, should this idea make it into a polished and final form).

Arcana: Your character’s knowledge of the unknown and the magical within the game world. Note that this doesn't give a character any sort of spellcasting ability.

Athletics: Anything involving physical or athletic activities, including climbing, swimming, and acrobatics.

Communication: Your character’s ability to communicate with others, but not to persuade (see Social, below).

Focus: Anything involving concentration, observation or perception.

Nature/Outdoors: How good your character is at things like camping, fishing, hunting, survival, navigation and horseback riding.

Enterprise: Your character’s knowledge of how businesses and finance work.

Investigation: Your character’s knowledge of how to look for clues, searching an area for hidden things, and the like.

Languages: How good your character is at speaking/reading/understanding a particular language. Each language counts as a different skill.

Military Sciences: Your character’s knowledge of tactics and strategy, as well as military history.

Profession: This is what your character does for a living when not out adventuring. Sample professions can be: Blacksmith, Cooper, Brewer, Weaver, Veterinarian, and etc. The profession must be specified, and this skill can be taken multiple times for multiple professions.

Performance: Your character’s ability to perform in front of others, this can be acting, singing, dancing or playing a musical instrument.

Social: Anything involving using your charm or persuasion

Technical: How good your character is at technical tasks such as mechanics.

Transportation: How good your character is at driving or piloting vehicles. Also allows the character some basic mechanical knowledge of their preferred vehicle.

Skills do not have ranks, they are either trained (i.e. the character has that skill) or untrained. All character classes start play with one skill at first level, and gain another every three levels.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Random Spellbooks For Swords & Wizardry

One of the benefits to a game like Swords & Wizardry is the ability to quickly generate a character. Roll the dice, pick the class, fill out hit points and you are pretty much ready to go. The only thing that can slow down the process is figuring out what spells the Magic-User can have access to when starting out. The assumption is that a fledgling magic-user is given a (mostly blank) spellbook when completing their studies that has a handful of spells scribed into it by their teacher. The question is, what spells are in their spellbook?

This post helps you to quickly, and randomly, generate a starting spellbook for your first level magic-user. (It can also be handy for spellbooks found in the loot while dungeon-crawling.) We assume that your character's teacher is not going to be too helpful and provide them with too much magic...just because powerful magic-users tend to be covetous of the knowledge that they have gathered, and paranoid about how others might use that power against them. One house rule that I have for my Swords & Wizardry games is that Read Magic is a class ability for magic-users, rather than a spell. It seems silly that a magic-user would undergo that much sorcerous training and not understand magical languages.

Spellbooks are a repository of the accumulated magical knowledge of the magic-user, part documentation for their spells and part magical diary of their journey of discovery. A spellbook is very important to a magic-user because it contains the formulas and memory devices for each spell that they use. Losing a spellbook means that a magic-user is unable to rememorize spells as casting causes the spells to vanish from their minds. This makes a spellbook more valuable than gold to a magic-user.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Some New Options For Your Old School Cleric

I use the conflict between Law and Chaos as a central point in my D&Dish fantasy games. I like the idea of the conflict because it provides a central narrative to what is going on in the game and embracing and ramping up this conflict really makes a lot of the central concepts of a fantasy role-playing game really start to make a lot of sense. This post is about making Clerics a central part of this conflict in a mechanical way, as well as giving your Cleric a bit of extra juice. These rules were written with my Swords & Wizardry game in mind, but with a little squinting that could be easily adapted to most old school types of games. Obviously, not everyone is going to be as interested in applying these rules to Clerics in their home games, but I think that they add a nice bit of flavor to Clerics, particularly at lower levels, and makes them into something other than a slightly weaker Fighter knock-off.

At some point in the eternal conflict between Law and Chaos one side, or the other, hit upon the idea of having their own supernaturally empowered warrior to use as pawns in the battles. Fighters were helpful, but they would not always have the raw power that these forces would want or need and Magic-Users were useful but they ultimately served their own agendas. This was the origin of the Cleric. Once one side had their own Clerics, the other side needed them as well.

Clerics combine the qualities of a a warrior and a wizard, but into a package that is controlled by Law or by Chaos. The spellcasting ability of the Cleric is entirely dependent on their following the rules of their patrons within Law or Chaos. Not following those rules gets the Cleric stripped of their spellcasting, which can be very dangerous in the types of situations that Clerics tend to find themselves. However, since Clerics are typically chosen from the ranks of the most faithful, breaking these rules is rarely an issue.

Different Clerics fill different roles within an organization, and these roles are represented by Domains. A Domain is a class ability for the Cleric, but one that the player gets to choose. The Domain picked for a Cleric is like a theme for them, giving them purpose within their religion and sometimes within the adventuring group as well. All Clerics get one Domain at first level.

Domains are fairly generic because Clerics tend to fill the same sorts of niches within religions. Groups are encouraged to come up with their own Domains as well, using these as a basis for their own creations. One thing to remember is that these Domains do not work in the same manner as those from other editions of the original game.

Friday, June 08, 2012

The Next Round of Dorkland! Roundtables

I have really been enjoying doing these Dorkland! Roundtables. Sure, the technology is still in a beta phase and there have been bumps and hiccups because of that, but I have really enjoyed getting to have conversations with people who love tabletop gaming and are passionate enough about it to want to talk about it over the internet. The upgrade to Google's Hangouts on the Air, over regular hangouts, has made a real difference in being able to hold a focused conversation with designers and not have to worry about random people deciding that they need to come into your Hangout to grief, or try to hit on women.

James Maliszewski of the Grognardia blog and designer of Thousand Suns, a Science Fiction role-playing game. James is a respected gaming "pundit" and authority on the history of our hobby who is often credited as one of the early proponents of what has become known as the Old School Renaissance, a growing group of gamers interested in the traditions, history and early days of tabletop role-playing. He also has demonstrated his chops as a gamer designer with the 12 Degree, which has been used in Rogue Games Colonial Gothic and Shadow, Sword and Spell, as well as James' Grognardia Games published Thousand Suns. According to the game's blurb Thousand Suns is "a roleplaying game that takes its inspiration from the classic literary "imperial" science fiction of the '50s, '60s, and '70s written by authors like Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, Alfred Bester, Gordon Dickson, Larry Niven, H. Beam Piper, Jerry Pournelle, and A.E. van Vogt, among others."

I will be talking to James on June 18th at 9pm EST (United States).

The next Dorkland! Roundtable after that will be my first actual panel discussion and it is something that I am very excited about. I will be talking with five designers who have all created super-hero games, some are newer names that you might not be as familiar with while others have been around in game design for a while. All of them are united by a passion for comic book super-heroes that has driven them to design games around them. The panel will be:

  • Industry veteran Jeff Dee. In addition to being on of the early, and inspirational, artists for a good number of TSR's D&D and AD&D products, Jeff is know for having created the Villains & Vigilantes role-playing game while still in high school. Jeff has also developed the game Living Legends, a spiritual successor to V&V, and is back on the gaming scene with Monkey House Games doing a new edition of Villains & Vigilantes.
  • Steve Kenson has created material for pretty much every super-hero game that has been on the market, since he became a professional designer. He has created both the Mutants & Masterminds game (for Green Ronin) and Icons (for Adamant Entertainment). When not designing for games he also writes fiction for Shadowrun and Battletech, among other properties.
  • Marget Weis Productions Creative Director Cam Banks has spearheaded two of the new school approaches to super-hero role-playing with Marvel Heroic Roleplaying and the Smallville Role-Playing game. MWP is unique in that it has sort of "dueling" licenses with both DC Entertainment/Warner Bros. and Marvel Comics and has games dealing with the characters of both companies at the same time, and with close to the same system. Both Marvel Heroic Roleplaying and Smallville run off of variants of the company's innovative Cortex+ system. Like Steve, Cam is also published fiction writer.
  • Joshua Kubli of Imperfekt Gammes has created the Invulnerable Tabletop  Super Hero RPG. Joshua is the new kid on the block on this panel, and is probably nervous about appearing alongside all of these others. Joshua also designs a series of sandbox science fiction adventures for Occult Moon. He definitely has nothing to be worried about appearing here.
  • Chris Rutkowsky of Basic Action Games designed BASH! (Basic Action Super Heroes), currently in its Ultimate Edition. Other publishers, like Vigilance Press, also produce licensed material for the BASH! game. The genesis of BASH! was Chris' desire to create a game with minimal math and overhead that could be used with kids in an after school program that he was involved with.
While normally Dorkland! Roundtables are about an hour in length, due to the number of guests involved this super! Roundtable will likely be about an hour and a half (just to give all the people a chance to talk) and will start at 9pm EST (Unites States time) on July 2nd.

If you are a game designer or publisher and would be interested in a future Dorkland! Roundtable, please contact me via Twitter or Google Plus and we can talk about getting you scheduled to appear on one of the future broadcasts. All Dorkland! Roundtable are initially live streamed via YouTube and Google's Hangouts on the Air and archives are available for viewing on YouTube and Vimeo.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Gen Con Launches Educational Partners Program

INDIANAPOLIS (June 6, 2012) – Gen Con LLC has entered into a partnership with the Indiana University School of Informatics at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis that will make the IU campus the first institution in the nation to participate in Gen Con’s Educational Partners Program.

“Given the academic reputation, enrollment size and proximity of the campus to Gen Con, partnering with the IUPUI seemed like a natural fit for Gen Con Indy 2012,” said Adrian Swartout, CEO of Gen Con LLC. “The IU School of Informatics at IUPUI offers some innovative specializations such as Storytelling Fundamentals and Gaming, and their students and faculty will add a unique voice to discussions on current topics in the industry.”

With its new Educational Partners Program, Gen Con hopes to give programmatic access to selected academic institutions, allowing students and faculty to interact with key members of the game industry and participate in educational, informative seminars.

“We are proud to collaborate with Gen Con on its Educational Partners program,” said Mathew Powers, assistant professor at the IU School of Informatics at IUPUI. “The School of Informatics uniquely integrates computing, social science and information systems design to explore how people use computing and technology to live, work, play and communicate, so it only made sense for us to collaborate with Gen Con, which is known world-wide as the best place for the creation and development of truly original gaming fare.”

Gen Con will celebrate its 45th anniversary this fall, as well as its 10th anniversary at its show in Indianapolis, August 16-19. According to the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association, Gen Con Indy 2011 provided more than $36 million in economic impact to Indianapolis, largely attributable to its record turnstile attendance of 120,000.

For questions regarding the Education Partners Program, including how to get involved, please contact Jake Theis, Gen Con Senior Marketing Communications Manager, at

Friday, June 01, 2012

The Sound of Music: How You Can Use Music To Explain Your Campaigns

Today I get to talk about two things that I like in one post: gaming and music. Campaigns all have a tone and a feel to them, sometimes no matter how hard you try to describe the feel of a campaign to a prospective player the words just escape you. That's where music can come in. Sometimes music and songs can describe things that your words fail. For example, do you have a Cyberpunk game coming up? Try using Susie van der Meer's Somebody Has to Pay from the great Run Lola Run soundtrack. One thing to keep in mind...I hate movie scores and I think that they're abysmal for trying to set the tone for your own campaign. For me the connotations from the source movie are just too high. Yeah, you could say that I have a double standard, since I just linked to a movie from a soundtrack, but for me that is something different.

Digging through a box the other night, I found a bunch of old mix CDs that I had made for some old campaigns. Most of them had never moved past the planning stages but I saved them anyway. The CD in question was labelled "Santeria" and I am going to assume that it was for one of my many modern horror/conspiracy/magic games. From the choice of songs, I am going to date this CD at about 2005.

I listen to this now and a couple of the songs are clunkers, and I could have probably demonstrated the tones that I wanted in the campaign a bit less heavy handed. One of these songs I hate to admit that I listen to, like would be too strong of a term but there are some personal resonances to the song. It's amazing what history and relationships will do to a song.

I know that I was being cutesy with following Sublime's "Santeria" with Amy Winhouse's "Rehad" because I have always felt that Bradley Nowell would have had a much greater impact on American Popular music if he hadn't died of a drug overdose. I don't think the irony of Amy Winehouse's death was lost on anyone.

What I am going to do with these nineteen songs (provided I can find all of them on YouTube) is trace a pathway through them and show how they can be used to demonstrate the themes of a campaign. Now, this isn't an actual building tool. These songs didn't inform the actual campaign, instead they were intended to be used to explain the campaigns to others.

Be warned that some of these songs are not safe for work. Some of them might just get you odd looks from co-workers if you're listening to them at work. It also may be that some of these videos are not available in all countries. There's not a whole lot that I can do about that but wish you luck on finding them for yourselves.

After the jump, the songs from the long lost mix CD and a bit of explanation on how they can help to explain the tone and feel of a game.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

GenCon Is Coming!

INDIANAPOLIS (May 31, 2012) – Gen Con Indy 2012 is approaching rapidly with less than 80 days remaining before the convention. This year’s show stands to be the largest event in the convention’s rich history with attendance numbers dramatically outpacing prior years. THE BEST FOUR DAYS IN GAMING™ returns August 16-19, 2012 to the Indianapolis Convention Center.

Top Headlines for Gen Con Indy 2012

  • Gen Con’s 45th Anniversary- First held in 1967 by Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax, Gen Con has remained the “must-attend” event for the gaming community for 45 years. To celebrate its anniversary, Gen Con will award 45 complimentary badges for Gen Con Indy 2013 at this summer’s show.
  • Celebrating 10 Years in Indy- In 2003, to accommodate expansion, Gen Con moved to the Indiana Convention Center, and now, will commemorate its 10th year in Indianapolis.  According to Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association (ICVA) estimates, Gen Con brings approximately $36 million dollars in annual business to Indianapolis.
  • Badge Sales at a Record Pace- Last year, Gen Con reached a four-day turnstile attendance record of more than 120,000. This year, badges are moving at an even faster rate. With just a month left in pre-registration, badge pre-sales are up more than 22% year-over-year, putting Gen Con Indy 2012 on a record-smashing pace.
  • Exhibition Space Sold-Out in January- With the growing number of attendees at the show, Exhibition Hall space for game creators and manufacturers has achieved higher demand than ever before. Exhibition space sold out in January 2012, creating a waiting list of more than 40 exhibitors.
  • Largest Event Registration Opening in Gen Con’s History- With the surging rate of badge pre-orders, it follows that Event Ticket sales would increase as well. While badge pre-sales are up more than 22%, ticket sales on Event Registration opening increased by more than 50% year-over-year and more than 100% since 2010!
To attend
Gen Con Indy will be open to the public Thursday, August 16, through Sunday, August 19, 2012. Thursday through Saturday the Exhibit Hall is open 10 am to 6 pm and Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm. 24-hour gaming takes place at the convention center and at area hotels during the four-day event.

Everyone attending Gen Con Indy must purchase a badge. A badge allows the individual entrance to the show, admittance to the Exhibit Hall, Art Show, Anime events, seminars and any events happening in the public areas that do not require an event ticket. There area different badge types, from standard badges (4-Day or 1-Day) to Family Fun Day badges that can provide admission for a family of four for $40. For more information about attaining a badge visit .

About Gen Con
Gen Con LLC produces the largest consumer hobby, fantasy, sci-fi and adventure game convention in North America. It was acquired in 2002 by former CEO and Founder of Wizards of the Coast Peter Adkison, who owns the company headquartered in Seattle, Washington. Gen Con is a consumer and trade experience dedicated to gaming culture and community. For more information visit the website at For up-to-the minute details, check out

Wizards of the Coast Announces R.A. Salvatore’s 2012 Book Tour

MAY 30, 2012 – To celebrate the upcoming release of R.A. Salvatore’s Charon’s Claw on August 7th, Wizards of the Coast is thrilled to announce that Salvatore, a 24-time New York Times bestselling author, will head out on a multi-city book tour this summer to meet fans and autograph copies of his newest novel. 

See below for more information about Wizards of the Coast and R.A. Salvatore, as well as the complete summer book tour schedule for Charon’s Claw. Additional details about Charon’s Claw and the D&D® suite of products can be found at

Contact: Marisa Wohl for Wizards of the Coast / 617-585-5767


August 6

    Redondo Beach, CA – Mysterious Galaxy Books (7:30pm – 9:30pm)

August 7

    Los Angeles, CA – Barnes & Noble – The Grove (7:00pm – 9:00pm)

August 8

    Menlo Park, CA – Kepler’s Books (7:00pm – 9:00pm)

August 9

    Tacoma, WA – Joint Base Lewis-McChord
        McChord Main Store (1:00pm – 3:00pm)
        Lewis Main Store (4:00pm – 6:00pm)

August 10

    Austin, TX – BookPeople (7:00pm – 8:30pm)

August 11

    Houston, TX – Space City Con

August 13

    Lexington, KY – Joseph Beth (4:30pm-6:00pm)

August 13

    Cincinnati, OH – Joseph Beth (7:30pm – 9:00pm)

August 14

    Columbus, OH – The Book Loft (7:00pm – 9:00pm)

August 15

    Carmel, IN – Barnes & Noble (7:00pm – 9:00pm)

August 16 – 19

    Indianapolis, IN – Gen Con 2012

September 1

    Atlanta, GA – Dragon Con 2012

About Charon’s Claw
The third book in the Neverwinter Saga, Charon’s Claw follows Drizzt Do’Urden as he draws his swords once more to aid his friends. In this final book in the saga, Drizzt assists the beautiful elf Dahlia as she enacts revenge and helps an old foe break the bonds that have held him hostage for more than a hundred years.

About R.A. Salvatore
R.A. Salvatore is best known as the creator of the dark elf Drizzt, one of the fantasy genre's most beloved characters.  With over 17 million books sold and numerous game credits, Salvatore has become one of the most important figures in modern epic fantasy. His first published novel was The Crystal Shard in 1988, and since that time Salvatore has published more than 50 novels, with 24 New York Times bestsellers to his name, including The Halfling's Gem, Sojourn, The Legacy and Neverwinter, Book II.  For more information about R.A. Salvatore, please visit or find him on Facebook.

About Wizards of the Coast
Wizards of the Coast LLC, a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. (NASDAQ:HAS), is the leader in entertaining the lifestyle gamer. Wizards' players and fans are members of a global community bound together by their love of both digital gaming and in-person play. The company brings to market a range of gaming experiences under powerful brand names such as MAGIC: THE GATHERING, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, and KAIJUDO. Wizards is also a publisher of fantasy series fiction with numerous New York Times best-sellers. For more information about our world renowned brands, visit the Wizards of the Coast Web site at

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

2012 Diana Jones Nominees

The Nominees

The shortlist for the 2012 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming has five entries. Listed alphabetically they are:

Burning Wheel Gold
An RPG system by Luke Crane
Published by Burning Wheel

Burning Wheel Gold (BWG) is the newest edition of the Burning Wheel fantasy roleplaying game system initially published in 2004 by Luke Crane. If you're looking for a big system that can stand up to long-term campaign play as well as D&D but is designed with contemporary design sensibilities, BWG is the game for you.

The Burning Wheel system has introduced a host of design innovations over the years. A few examples: with the fail forward mentality a missed die roll isn't a failure, it's an unexpected outcome; instead of the GM designing adventures, players direct the action by listing their beliefs and what they intend to do about them; players can make world-setting contributions by creating NPCs using the Circles mechanic or historical facts using the Wises mechanic; and players develop rich character concepts using an elaborate (and fun) Lifepaths mechanic reminiscent of Traveller.

The latest edition, BWG, cleans up old rules problems and brings together material from a number of different books into one comprehensive and attractive hardback tome.

When historians of the hobby-gaming movement look back on 2011, they will certainly note the production of several fine games and gaming products, including others appearing on this diverse, exciting shortlist. The truly defining shift, however, will be found in the introduction of crowdfunding. By combining consumer micro-capital and community-building, all to the ticking of a suspenseful pre-order clock, it truly warrants the overused label of game-changer.

Forward movements in art forms have always depended on the opened purse strings of a few key patrons. By democratizing patronage and widening the field of opportunity for all game designers, this broader market transformation well deserves recognition as a cauldron of present and future gaming excellence. Within this recognition comes an acknowledgment of the movement's dominant force, Kickstarter.

Nordic LARP
A book by Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola
Published by Fëa Livia

Nordic Larp is a history of the Nordic larp scene, from its inception in post-D&D fantasy through experimental drama, historical recreation and far freaking weirdness, done as a massive and profusely illustrated coffee-table book, written by two gaming scholars. The book documents more than thirty larps that took place over 15 years, including ones with animatronic dragons and a space opera played out on a submarine.

Nordic larps have become an elaborate art form, featuring detailed costumes, interesting settings, and varied plots. While these larps can be massive productions in terms of time, players, and material, they can also be maddeningly ephemeral, with no official or comprehensive documentation. Stories pass from community to community, but ultimately “I guess you had to be there.”

The Nordic Larp book assembles photos, memories, and designer notes, allowing the reader to survey these fantastic and sometimes legendary events. These records are bracketed by an introduction that summarizes the recurrent elements of the larps and a final essay on Nordic larping as art, theater, and game. Nordic larping is a major, dynamic branch of the gaming family tree, fully deserving of this massive, beautiful book that takes larping and game-history as serious business.

Risk Legacy
A board game by Rob Daviau
Published by Hasbro Inc.

One does not expect to find ground-breaking innovation in a revamp of a classic family game from a market-leading publisher, but Risk Legacy produces not just one but three startling leaps forward. It is a board-game designed for campaign play; it does not allow players access to all the components, units and rules at the start of play, instead having in-game events unlock sealed sections of the cleverly built box; and it demands that the players permanently change the game, putting stickers on the board to alter it, and destroying other components. The game-world reacts to victories and defeats, and the game becomes a permanent record of its play, different for every group.

Risk Legacy combines these ideas into a brilliantly playable whole that’s recognisably Risk, yet something brand new. Rob Daviau and Hasbro must be applauded for such a risk.

An RPG supplement by Zak S.
Published by Lamentations of the Flame Princess

Vornheim radically strips the fantasy RPG city supplement to its foundations and erects dizzying Gothic buttresses of pure playability. Combining specific encounters terrible and wondrous with superb, table-tested techniques for on-the-fly urban adventure creation, Vornheim illuminates one fantastic city and all fantasy cities.

Literally not an inch of this book is wasted space: all of it provides game masters with tools, tables, and terrifying inhabitants perfectly suited to the powerful senses of possibility, wonder, and nightmare logic buried deep within fantasy gaming's very nature. Zak S's rococo, idiosyncratic production design and stark, febrile art brilliantly contain and present the mad glories within its covers – as with a proper necromancer's tome, merely opening the book plunges the beholder into a world of demonic genius.

The winner of this year's award will be announced on Wednesday 15th August, at the annual Diana Jones Award and Freelancer Party in Indianapolis, the unofficial start of the Gen Con convention.

About The Award
The Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming was founded and first awarded in 2001. It is presented annually to the person, product, company, event or any other thing that has, in the opinion of its mostly anonymous committee of games industry luminaries, best demonstrated the quality of ‘excellence’ in the world of hobby-gaming in the previous year. The winner of the Award receives the Diana Jones trophy.

The short-list and eventual winner are chosen by the Diana Jones Committee, a mostly anonymous group of games-industry alumni and illuminati, known to include designers, publishers, cartoonists, and those content to rest on their laurels.

Past winners include industry figures such as Peter Adkison and Jordan Weisman, the role-playing games Nobilis, Sorcerer, and My Life with Master, the board-games Dominion and Ticket to Ride, the website BoardGameGeek; and the charity fundraising work of Irish games conventions. Last year’s winner was Fiasco by Jason Morningstar.

This is the twelfth year of the Award.

More information is available at or at the Award’s Wikipedia page at

For more information or an invitation to the announcement of the 2012 Diana Jones Award you can contact a representative of the DJA committee:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dorkland! Roundtable with Sean Preston

My second Dorkland! Roundtable, this time with Sean Preston of Reality Blurs. I am really enjoying the live streaming format, more I think than I like the video archiving. Sean and I talked for almost an hour about tabletop RPGs, Savage Worlds, who our favorite pulp characters are, and many other very important things.

Sadly, Sean had some technical problems as Google Hangouts didn't seem to like his webcam. He could talk, or he could be seen...but not both. We figured that hearing his voice was better than nothing, and the little black box probably represented him as well as anything. I do hope that they get rid of the boxes at the bottom of the screen for the streaming and just go with the video flip-flop as each person speaks. I think that will be a better way of handling things and I don't have to worry about looking so fidgety when I'm on screen.


If you have any feedback, please let me know either here (in the comments) or over on Google Plus.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dorkland! Roundtable with Fred Hicks

I figured that I should put this up here on the blog, for people who may end up searching for the blog or my Roundtables. Fred and I talked for an hour about Fate, gaming, the Dresden Files, Don't Rest Your Head, and a few other things. I also fidget a lot.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Dorkland! Roundtables with Sean (Reality Blurs) Preston and Kirin (Old School Hack) Robinson

Well, with the next set of Dorkland! Roundtables, I received the good news today that my Google Plus account was finally approved for Hangouts on the Air over there. What does that mean for you? Well, it means two things: 1) we can have a decent, uninterrupted conversation between myself and the guest on each Roundtable (which means not having to have a Public chat and worry about "drive by" Random Internet Jerks trying to interfere) and 2) that the discussion will be livestreamed out onto the internet so that it can be watched by those who may not yet have Google Plus accounts (it also means that we can archive the discussions on Youtube for future blackmailing fun).

The Dorkland! Roundtables are an evolving experiment in new media, bringing fans of tabletop gaming access to the publishers and designers that they may not be able to get outside of one of the big gaming conventions. The bonus is that you (the viewers) do not even have to leave your home in order to take part in watching these. I am sure that there will be tweaks to things as we go along, as each of these has been a learning experience.

So, our next two Dorkland! Roundtables (keep in mind that the times for the live streams will be 9pm EST/6pm PST):

On May 28th I will talk to Sean Preston of Reality Blurs. You probably know Sean and his company from such Savage Worlds supplements as Realms of Cthulhu, Agents of Oblivion and Shaintar. We will talk about all of these fine games, and hopefully more when we talk to Sean on the 28th. If you, or a friend of yours is a fan of quality Savage Worlds supplements, be sure to check this Roundtable out.

On June 4th (the following Monday), I will talk to Kirin Robinson of Old School Hack fame. Kirin won a Gold Ennie last year at GenCon, and we will talk about that, his game, and many other things as well.

If you have questions or comments before or during either of these Dorkland! Roundtables you can post them to me on Twitter or my Google Plus profile. If you're a tabletop game designer or publisher, I would like to talk with you on a future Dorkland! Roundtable. You can contact me in the same ways, if you are interested.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Warrior & Wizard RPG: The Little Retroclone That Could

One of the hot things in tabletop RPGs right now is the "retroclone." For those who may read this and not know, a retroclone is a reproduction of an out of print game that relies on the legal concept that you cannot copyright game mechanics, only your exact wording of those mechanics. That basically means that anyone can come along and rewrite the expression of your rules with a completely new wording (that obviously explains the same basic mechanics underneath) and have a new game. This is something that has been happening a lot the last few years in tabletop gaming. The Open Gaming License and the various d20 SRDs have gone far in creating the foundation on which clones of earlier editions of D&D can be built, making these the most popular retroclones out and about. This makes sense, since D&D is the dog that wags the tail of tabletop gaming.

There have been other retroclones as well. There was a World of Darkness clone that came and went, which apparently disappeared because the creator had some legal issues that weren't properly skirted in his writing. I think it is still out on the internet in a place or two. Phil Reed did a super-heroic retroclone called 4Color that never really seemed to catch on like it should have. I'm sure that there are others out there that I don't know about, either.

Early today on G+ I posted a link to Warrior & Wizard, a retroclone of the old, out of print, Fantasy Trip game. It is a nice piece of work from author Chris Goodwin that really deserves more attention than it has probably received. That's why I made that post, and that is why I am making this post on my blog. Warrior & Wizard is available in two versions (both with the same text), one released under the OGL (to better allow mingling with other OGL-released open content) and one released under a creative commons license.

I put a copy and paste of the original author's document up in an editable format Google Document in my Google Drive folder, so that people can find and easily download something. I hope that you check it out, enjoy what you see and work up your own hack of the game. Hopefully the creator sees all of this and it spurs him to some further work.

Here's the link to Warrior & Wizard on Google Drive. [8/17/2018 Update: Because of the Kickstarter bringing back Steve Jackson's first RPG, The Fantasy Trip, I've taken down the link to this project.]

What unrepresented retroclone do you think needs more attention? You can mention it in the comments. Let's make this about those games that really aren't getting a lot of attention already out with other bloggers or forums. I think most of the D&D clones get enough attention already. What isn't being talked about out there?

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Valiant Debuts Archer & Armstrong #1 Cover

Valiant is proud to present Mico Suayan's skull-smashing cover for Archer & Armstrong #1 – the Summer of Valiant's next sensational series from the New York Times best-selling creative team of Fred Van Lente (Amazing Spider-Man) and Clayton Henry (Incredible Hercules)!

Obadiah Archer was raised to uphold three things above all else: the values of his parents, the love of his 22 brothers and sisters, and his lifelong mission to defeat the ultimate evildoer. Now, after years of training, Archer has been dispatched to the heart of America's debauched modern day Babylon, aka New York City, to root out and kill this infamous Great Satan. Unfortunately, dying has never been easy for Archer's target – the hard-drinking immortal known as Armstrong! Together, this unlikely pair of heroes is about to stumble headfirst into a centuries-old conspiracy that could bring the whole of ancient history crashing down on modern civilization.

It began with X-O Manowar, Harbinger and Bloodshot – could it all end here? Find out on August 8th when two mortal enemies come together to make an epic first impression on the Valiant Universe, only in Archer & Armstrong #1!

Pullbox Exclusive Cover by CLAYTON HENRY
Variant Covers by DAVID AJA & NEAL ADAMS

About Valiant Entertainment
Valiant Entertainment is a character-based publishing and licensing company that owns and controls some of the most cherished comic characters ever createdacross all media worldwide. Since their creation in 1989, Valiant characters have sold 80 million comic books and have been the basis of a number of successful video game franchises. Valiant's extensive library includes over 1,500 characters, such as X-O Manowar, Bloodshot, Harbinger,Shadowman, Ninjak and Archer & Armstrong. Visit:

Friday, May 04, 2012

R.I.P. Adam Yauch

This is going to be a controversial statement but, I think that in the long term (and in terms of musical legacies of my generation) that that Adam Yauch and the Beastie Boys are going to end up with a cultural and musical signifigance that's going to surpass Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. If it hasn't already.

It's time to pass the mic.

Rest in Peace, Adam, you've deserved it.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Review: Valiant's XO Manowar #1

I thought about doing a comparison to this issue and the first XO-Manowar #1 from the 90s, and then I decided that would not only be silly but it would probably be unfair to the creative teams of both books. About a week ago, I received a PDF of the first issue of XO-Manowar from the new Valiant Comics. You've probably read about this book on the various comic media site. The book has has massive preorders that (while nowhere near as big as the first first issue) are still pretty staggering for the comic book market of today. There may be some minor spoilers, so tread carefully.

Is this book worth those big preorders? Well, I can't really comment on that but what I can say is that this is an excellent comic that is well worth the cover price of admission.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dorkland! Roundtable Launches With Jason Durall and Fred Hicks

One of the great things about the internet is that it lets you do things (because of distance, resources, or whatever) that you wouldn't normally get to do. It also is great for allowing table top role-players of all stripes and predilections come together and cross-pollinate their ideas. In ways that even the forums of the 1990s and early 2000s were not capable of doing, entire communities are being built  around "Social Media" sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus, and entire new communities, like the Old School Renaissance, are growing up around blogs and their comment areas. Gamers are getting an unprecedented level of interaction with their favorite publishers, creators and designers because of the internet.

One of my favorite parts of gaming conventions are the panels. With panels, designers, creators and publishers get to share ideas on a topic and interact with fans, and other peers, who happen to be in the audience. It is a great way for people to learn more about their favorite creators, and to find out about their upcoming plans. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to go to conventions and take part in this. That's OK, because this where the internet gets to come in to the rescue.

One of the great tools of Google Plus is their "hangout," basically a multiperson audio/video chat that lets anyone with a Google Account and a web browser take part in things. No need for installing or running software. I have been using a Google Plus hangout for about a month now to run a Swords & Wizardry Whitebox game for a group of people around the country (and in Canada). It is a great tool and it can be easily utilized to create a "virtual game convention panel" that people can attend without having to travel, or even leave their homes. So, basically what I am going to do (under the auspices of this blog) is to host a bi-weekly moderated chat/panel discussion with a different table-top gaming designer, publisher or creator. These "Dorkland! Roundtables" will be beamed into your homes via the internet.

Our first Dorkland! Roundtable will be with Jason Durall, designer/editor of the current edition of Chaosium's Basic Roleplaying game. Jason will also, tentatively, be joined by Ben Monroe, a long time Chaosium freelancer who worked on the upcoming fantasy game from Chaosium: Magic World. This roundtable will be Monday, April 30th at 10pm EST/7pm PST. We will talk about BRP, game designing and influences and inspirations.

Our second Dorkland! Roundtable will feature Fred Hicks of Evil Hat Productions (and hopefully another Evil Hatter or two) to talk about their games, Kickstarter, and whatever else comes to mind...or you ask about. This roundtable will be on May 14th at 9pm EST/6pm PST.

Participating in these live discussions will require a Google account, and having access to Google Plus through a browser. You will also want to circle the Page for this blog, as well as my personal page to be able to take part, and be able to follow and find out about future developments on this new way of connecting to other gamers out there. Hopefully soon I will be announcing further roundtables with other gaming individuals.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Valiant Entertainment Unveils New Logo

To officiate its return to monthly publishing this May, Valiant Entertainment is proud to unveil a new interpretation of the iconic Valiant compass logo by award-winning graphic designer Rian Hughes. The newly redesigned logo -- along with Valiant's new distinctive trade dress, also designed by Hughes -- will first see print on May 2nd with the release of X-O Manowar #1 by New York Times best-selling author Robert Venditti (The Surrogates) and Eisner Award-winning artist Cary Nord (Conan).

"It is always a challenging and interesting project to design the visual identity of a publisher from the ground up in every detail -- logo, trade dress, title logos -- and to cohesively pull all these elements together so one strong visual identity emerges. Rebooting the Valiant line's design has been one such great project. The Valiant characters have a strong fanbase and heritage, and so the new logos are fresh and modern as befits a forward-looking publisher while still paying tribute to the originals, just as has been done with the characters themselves," said Hughes, whose previously published work includes logos and design pieces for Marvel Comics, DC Comics, MTV Networks, Virgin Airlines, Penguin Books, Archaia Entertainment, and the BBC, among many others.

Originally founded in 1989, Valiant Comics is one of the most successful comic publishers of all time and has featured work by many of the industry's top creative talents, including Jim Shooter, Bob Layton, Barry Windsor-Smith, Joe Quesada, David Lapham, Bryan Hitch, Steve Ditko and many more. Reincorporated as Valiant Entertainment in 2007 by CEO Jason Kothari and Chief Creative Officer Dinesh Shamdasani, the company is set to return to monthly comics publishing this summer with four new monthly titles featuring its most popular characters -- X-O Manowar #1 in May, Harbinger #1 in June, Bloodshot #1 in July, and Archer & Armstrong #1 in August.

"Rian and our Executive Editor Warren Simons put an incredible amount of energy into making sure that the new logo and the look of the books themselves accurately reflect our perspective on what the Valiant Universe was and can be," said Shamdasani.

"The day that Valiant titles return to the shelves of comics shops worldwide is one that fans have been eagerly awaiting for some time," said Kothari. "This powerful, yet versatile new logo is the perfect way to signify a new era for Valiant both as a company and a premier creative brand."

This is the just the latest in a series of creative endeavors Valiant has announced to coincide with its "Summer of Valiant" relaunch. Most recently, the publisher announced that it would be the first to produce animated, QR code-augmented covers for X-O Manowar #1 and Harbinger #1, as well as a series of "Pullbox Exclusive Variant" covers available only to comic shop customers who subscribe to Valiant's new #1 issues.

For more information, visit