Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Using The Internet To Help With Your GMing

Google rolled out a new toy on Google+, the ability to take G+ posts and embed them anyplace that will allow embedding HTML code. This can be cool for sharing things, but it will also have the potential for abuse as we start to see an upswing in "Ha! Ha! Look at what this idiot said" posts on blogs.

However, it is a good way to share gameable information. For example, I shared this post earlier today on Google+:

+Dirk Puehl's post gives GMs a great inspiration for an NPC. Marie Laveau can be used as the basis of an NPC in any variety of campaign, from fantasy to historical to even modern horror. The great thing is that the NPC doesn't have to be Laveau in order to inspired by her. Looking for a strong female character with connections to the occult world? There you go. File off some the specific details, or change them enough to fit into your game world, give her a new name and you have a brand new and fleshed out NPC for your game world.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Dear RPG Publisher On Kickstarter

Dear RPG Publisher on Kickstarter,

You've sent me a direct message on Twitter, or Google+ or an email, and you want me to talk about your project. Many people might not think of it this way, but you treat gaming bloggers like you would the media: you give them the tools that they need to talk about your project. Otherwise, we are going to assume that you don't know what you are talking about, or worse that you won't be able to manage your project.

You want buzz for your project, and that is great, but being prepared is the way to go about it. If you send me a link to your KS page, or to your website, and ask me to talk about your game, you aren't giving me the tools with which to do your project justice. Yes, a blog post with a link and "content" that consists of "Wow, this is cool...go spend your money!" may be what you want, but it isn't really helpful. See, we've worked hard to get the traffic that you want to be pointed at you, and we want that work to be respected. Enthusiasm is great, but it takes a lot more than just enthusiasm to get a Kickstarter funded and get your game finished and out to market. There are long time professionals who can't seem to get their games finished after a successful Kickstarter, so it isn't as easy as it looks.

We want to talk about the cool new stuff, and we want to be excited about what you have to offer...so show us what makes you so excited. I strongly suggest having a press kit ready (preferably before your Kickstarter starts) with some images (or concept art is you are using the Kickstarter to fund art) and either a preview of the game or a beta version of your game's rules. Even just a PDF of your Word file is good enough for this. This way, it gives us as bloggers something meaty to talk about, and the more excited that we are about your project the more likely we are to blog about it and spread it around on our social networks. Also, make yourself available for interviews. Interviews are good because they show 1) your enthusiasm and 2) your plan for getting things done.

I am not trying to berate anyone with this post, I am just trying to share some successful methods from others that will help to get you the publicity that you want (and the traffic that we all want as well).

Yes, I know that I don't put an email address here on the blog. There are reasons for that. :) However, I am on Twitter as @dorkland and on Google+ as +Christopher Helton. It isn't hard to find me if you want to talk, and if you want one of the Dorkland! bloggers to talk about your project, or just offer help or suggestions about getting publicity those are your first ports of call.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Voices Carry: Dorkland Sidles Into Vblogging/Podcasting

One of my favorite songs back in the 80s was 'Til Tuesday's poignant (at least to the teen me) song Voices Carry. Really, the video is here only because I like the song.

When I added the new bloggers to the blog a few months ago, one of the reasons for that was because we had talked about doing some form of podcast. After appearing recently on +Ben Gerber's Indie Talks podcast, I thought that recording via a G+ Hangout on the Air was a good (and cheap) method for making a podcast. Things are progressing behind the scenes and sometime soonish there we should start on out podcast. Joining me on it will be +Stacy Dellorfano, +Josh Thompson and +David Rollins. Much like the posts that you see here on the Dorkland! blog it will be a mix of news, opinion, reviews and nonsense, as we talk about geeky things that come to our attention. I don't know yet about the frequency of the podcast, maybe bi-weekly, but we will work all that out as we go. We don't even have a name yet.

This is all a part of the growth of the blog as it celebrates its 10th anniversary later this month.

Just as an update, here is the "logo" for the podcast, complete with name.

September 24th will be the recording of the vlog, and then shortly after I will upload it to my Soundcloud page (complete with RSS feed for those of you who use those to follow podcasts).

Friday, September 06, 2013

"My" Hobby Isn't Mine: It Belongs To Everyone Who Wants It

It seems to come up every few months or so: another round of people on social media proclaiming what is wrong with their hobby and how, by God, they're going to do something about it. The problem with that is that none of us own the tabletop RPG hobby outside of the play that happens at our tables, or the games that those of us who are publishers or designers create and publish. No one gets to impose their worldview or morality upon others. I don't want people thinking and gaming like I do, and I certainly don't plan on thinking or gaming like others do at this point in my life (or, really, any other point for that matter).

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Purple Ducks Games' The Twice-Robbed Tomb For Labyrinth Lord

The Twice-Robbed Tomb is an adventure module written by Perry Fehr and published by Purple Duck Games for the Labyrinth Lord system. The module suggests "4 PCs of 3rd level, or 6 or more of 2nd level." The asking price is an easy $2. And, to get the last of the technical bits out, it comes in at 10 pages, including the front cover and an OGL page. The eight pages in-between are packed full of material, more than enough for a single adventure over one or two play sessions.

So, how is it all? Well, the adventure could fit in easily with any campaign or setting (it uses a desert, but could easily be replaced with anything else). If I would have one slight problem with it, it is that the opening hook for the adventure might be a little too suspect. As a gamer, it would make me highly suspicious – which might be its intent – but it could work for your group, or with just some slight editing. There is also a section on rumors from the villagers near the Tomb, which may help get the PCs curious.

Apart from those two little sections, you have the tomb – the bulk of this adventure. I will note that the module does provide two maps – one for players and one for the GM, both in the module and separate printable copies – which are easy to read and use with or without any battlemats. As I mentioned before, this is an adventure you can play through in about one play session as the tomb is not terribly big. However, it does have a trick or two up its sleeves that may keep the party busy for a bit – or even lead to a really out-of-this-world adventure.

Story-wise, this can be placed into an on-going campaign without interrupting anything, used to help further it (with a tweak or two), or as a starting point for a campaign based off what happens within the tomb. As to the story in the module, on its own, it’s a simple, complete story. Nothing terribly complex, but realistic to a fantasy setting.

The part the party cares most about – loot – is present in decent quantities here. A few magical goodies, though not a massive amount – you may want to add a little more to it, depending on preference.

I will take a moment to touch on the art – there are a few pictures in the module to illustrate the monsters and one of them does feature some nudity. The store page for the module mentions this, as well. So, that could be a positive or a negative for you. Maybe both, somehow.

And, lastly, the part the GMs will care about – how quick and easy would it be to run? The answer: very quick and easy. The module has everything you would need – maps, monster stats, flavor text, and plenty of instructions. The flow of the module is also easy to follow and, since there are not tons of pages, getting to the part you need is quick. The tomb is a little linear, but has the potential for the party to “go off track” and find some interesting things. Overall, the prep-time should be minimal, so it’s a good option to pick up right before game day.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What Do You Mean, Gordon's Alive? Flash Gordon and The Phantom in Fate Accelerated

These guys were super-heroes before there were super-heroes, and their adventures set many of the ground rules for the super-heroes who would come later. I have also been a fan of these characters for a very long time. Flash Gordon! The Phantom! Mandrake the Magician! Don't let the awful movies that two of these characters had to endure (or the equally awful live action TV programs) set your expectations for them. These are not campy characters.

In honor of Dynamite Comics upcoming launch of these characters in the Kings Watch comic (named after the fact that all three were syndicated and owned by King Features), I am writing up Flash Gordon and The Phantom for Fate Accelerated Edition. I have to think a bit about how I would do Mandrake, so he may come in another post after the comic comes out. I think that I need to see how Jeff Parker is going to handle the character before I write him up. Gordon and The Phantom are pretty primal, so I think that my write-ups should match them regardless of what the writer has in mind for them in the upcoming comic.

Flash Gordon
High Concept: Interplanetary Adventurer and Warrior
Trouble: Romantic Fool

Careful +0
Clever +1
Flashy +3
Forceful +2
Quick +1
Sneaky +2

Because I am an Interplanetary Hero, I get a +2 when I Flashily overcome when I’m trying to do the right thing

The Phantom
High Concept: The Jungle's Protector
Trouble: The Ghost Who Walks

Careful +1
Clever +1
Flashy +0
Forceful +2
Quick +2
Sneaky +3

Because I am a Jungle Warrior, I get a +2 when I Sneakily create advantages when I’m in the jungles.

I only gave these two the basic two aspects, I thought that leaving a couple of the aspects open would make it easier for GMs to adapt the characters to their settings as NPCs, or to allow players some space for customization if they want to play Flash or the Phantom.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

DC Nation: Wonder Woman Short

DC Comics has put the first three parts of a Wonder Woman short that is going to be part of their DC Nation block on the Cartoon Network. It is sort of Wonder Woman meets Aeon Flux meets The Prisoner set in the 1970s. Check these out.

I hope you enjoy them. I know that I did.

Paranormal Friction: Jimmy Jam (Sample Character)

Hopefully next week I am going to be starting up a new bi-weekly campaign on Google+ called Paranormal Friction. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge fan of paranormal romance, and one thing that I have wanted for a long while was a role-playing game that tackled the genre. Well, I got tired of waiting, so I started work on my own game. Paranormal Friction is a hack of the Fate Accelerated Edition rules onto which I am building guidelines for creating the characters from the genre. I am also hoping to work out a couple of sample campaign frames as well, because I think that giving worked examples helps when dealing with a genre that people might not be familiar with, or when dealing with people who might not be gamers (but fans of the genre) and would need a bit of guidance.

I really like the simplicity of Fate Accelerated. It gets right to the heart of creating cool characters, and lets you get to the role-playing with a minimum of effort. Thanks to the guiding design principle of the Fate Fractal, it also makes it easy to design things for a game (like magic and supernatural abilities) without having to come up with a long list of new rules and excepts so that a character can cast a spell. My approach (ha!) is to use the approaches that help define a character also define a character's supernatural abilities, along with their high concept aspect. This should make for a game that doesn't need a lot of extra rules and just reuses the basic concepts of the game's design to do a variety of things.

This is (probably) the first of a series of posts about the game as I work on it. Today I am going to post a sample character made up using the rules. The bit on the supernatural powers will probably be confusing, since it isn't in the baseline rules, but hopefully it will be easy to to figure out.

This is a sample character, Jimmy Jam, a half-demon wannabe rapper. Imagine that the demon with the silly headband (the art is a panel from the excellent Justice League Black Baptism miniseries) is our boy, Jimmy.

Jimmy wants to be a rapper. He mostly means well, but he has to deal with being the result of a night, regretted by his mother, that she spent in the bed of someone that she didn't know was a demon until it was too late. Jimmy has a lot of urges and emotions that he doesn't understand because of who his father is. He isn't always sure about the flames either. Jimmy has not yet met his father.

High Concept: Horny Demons
Trouble: Who Is My Dad?
Aspect(s): White Boy Rapper, Look At That Fire

Careful +1, Clever +0, Flashy +2, Forceful +3, Quick +2, Sneaky +1

Because I am a badass rapper, I get a +2 when I Forcefully attack someone in a battle of rhymes.

Creates fire in a Flashy way; Uses Fire in a Forceful way

Refresh: 3

And that is really all that there is to a starting character. That's the beauty of the system, for me. I write a paragraph with a bit of background and then go.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

The Flying Man: Call of Cthulhu With Super-Heroes

Special effects artist Marcus Alqueres has done effects work on the movies 300 and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Now he has done a short film that features a horror-take on the idea of super-heroes called The Flying Man.

This seems like it would make for an interesting Call of Cthulhu scenario to me where instead of dealing with Mythos horrors, the characters would have to deal with enigmatic and inhuman superbeings seeking to rid the world (or their city) of crime. The characters could be criminals, normal citizens, or just people who live on the fringes of society. Wouldn't this make a cool idea?

Monday, August 05, 2013

Chamber Band: The Soundtrack To Your Next D&D Game

I know that you've heard of nerdcore music before, and while that can be cool I am really only going to listen to so much hip-hop music. I was then surprised to discover that there was a nerdy band (doing music inspired by gaming and D&D stuff) that had more of an "indie" rock sort of vibe to them. Think of The Lumineers or Of Monsters and Men (maybe with a harder edge at times) singing about their D&D game, and you have an idea of what the band Chamber Band sounds like.

Photo by Jay Hoffman

You should check the band out at their Bandcamp page and pick up their digital record Deities in your favorite digital music format. I really got into the songs Lawful Neutral and Shapeshifter. Asmodeus is well worth a listen as well. The production values on this record are slick and hold up to comparison with any mainstream or big label release you might be listening to. I am a fan of bands with boy/girl harmonies with their vocals, and Chamber Band delivers on that with crisp singing of well-written lyrics that you don't just have to be a nerd to want to listen to.

Photo by Lauren Bilanko
Seriously, if you haven't already clicked on the link to their Bandcamp page and bought this, you need to do that right now. Gaming is about the DIY approach to things, and now bands can do the same thing (with sites like Bandcamp and many others). Just like how gamers can put together a game book that they want and need and put it up on sites like Lulu.com or RPGNow/DriveThruRPG and get it out to the people that it will connect to, musicians can do the same thing. This is something that we should all support, because that cool virtual garage band of today could very well be the next big thing, and Chamber Band definitely has the talent to be that thing. All that is needed is that missing piece...you.

Tell me what you think of this record once you have it. I'm curious to hear your takes on it as well. This record should be the soundtrack to your next D&D game.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

The Next Doctor Is Peter Capaldi

I'm not going to call him the 12th Doctor, because I think we all know better (and I'm pretty certain that they'll acknowledge the counting of John Hurt's Doctor after the anniversary special). But, in case you haven't already heard...they hired a new guy to play the part of the Doctor on Doctor Who. On the off chance that you haven't seen this on every other website in the world, check it out.

This is a bit fuller of a video than what was broadcast on BBC America, so enjoy. Now begins all the speculation. I'm hoping for a new Master. Perhaps Capaldi's Doctor will be the one to turn into the Valeyard? As long as you're here, click the tag and look at my other Doctor Who-related posts.

Friday, August 02, 2013

The Arduin Adventure

As you know, about a month or so ago I received a shipment of classic Arduin material from Emperor's Choice, the current publisher/rights holder of Dave Hargrave's Arduin game and setting. Even with just a few of the books in the line, I have enough gaming material to keep me busy for a long, long time.

As I have been discussing the Arduin stuff on Google+, one of the things that I brought up was that I wanted to see Hargrave's first attempt at a game (the early Arduin Grimoires were really intended as supplements to OD&D) as a stand alone game. Called The Arduin Adventure, this boxed set was a simple, OD&D inspired set of rules for fantasy gaming that could be expanded upon with the Arduin Grimoires. And now, The Arduin Adventure is available in PDF from RPGNow/DriveThruRPG.

Dave Hargrave's Arduin and Steve Perrin's "Perrin Conventions" were influential in creating the West Coast style for D&D back in the late 70s and early 80s. Both of these lead to a style of play, and a style of game worlds that were different from the "mainstream" D&D that TSR was selling. This West Coast style lead to The Arduin Adventure and also to Runequest. There are references to DMs and designers like Perrin and Greg Stafford throughout the Arduin Grimoires. Like Bigby and Tenser in the OD&D rules, there are spells and monsters named for both Perrin and Stafford.

So, what is the Arduin Adventure? It is a fantasy role-playing game, class and level-based, very much in the mold of OD&D. In fact, these codified rules owe a lot to the Holmes boxed set for D&D that helped to codify and mold those rules into something cleaner and clearer. The influence of Holmes' rules, however, are filtered through the imagination of David Hargrave.

If D&D is Tolkien's Middle Earth and Moorcock's Young Kingdoms as filtered through the imagination of Gygax and Arneson, then Arduin takes those influences and a number of science fantasy ones (Star Wars being very important to Hargrave) and pulls them through the psychedelic experience that was the mind of Dave Hargrave. I consider this to be very much a plus because Arduin definitely has a much stronger voice to it than D&D did at the time, perhaps because it was the vision of one person instead of a growing committee. Don't get me wrong, D&D is a great game (I play one of the retroclones of OD&D on a regular basis), but it does not have the voice to it that Arduin has. For some this might be considered a weakness, but I think that it was a strength of the game. I believe that Arduin was the first RPG that was as much the vision of its author, rather than just a way to come up with some rules that could be used within a certain genre. I think in this way, Arduin is the spiritual father of games like Kevin Siembieda's Palladium Fantasy and Rifts. There are a lot of similarities between Arduin and Palladium Fantasy to me (but that is probably something for another post).

Now, while The Arduin Adventure has everything that you need to play, it is really not a complete game. Much like how the Holmes version of OD&D covers only the first three levels of play, so does The Arduin Adventure really only cover the equivalent for Arduin. You have enough to get play started, and play for a bit before having to "upgrade" to a fuller version of the rules in order to continue. If you have The Arduin Adventure and the first three (at least!) Arduin Grimoires you can fill in a lot of the gaps and play for a while. If you're interested, Emperor's Choice does offer a print version of The Arduin Trilogy that contains the first three of the Arduin Grimoires and The Arduin Adventure. This thick book will give you a lot of gaming, whether you use Arduin's native rules, or plug them in to D&D or some retroclone of it. If The Arduin Adventure whets your appetite for Arduin, then I really recommend getting the Trilogy in print.

All of the things that are familiar to OD&D players will make Arduin easy to pick up. The classes are basically the same, races are handled in a similar manner, and spells and advancement are very similar. Moving between the two games would be ridiculously easy. Picking up Arduin will not be difficult, if you already have a familiarity with OD&D or various OSR games that duplicate the experience of it. If you aren't already familiar with the "old school" approach to fantasy games, Arduin may cause some problems for you because it does assume a familiarity of that style of play. However, at 66 pages, reading Arduin and picking up the rules shouldn't be that much of an investment of your time. Whether you want to pick up Arduin in order to learn about an old school game that you may not have known about previously, or if you want to pick it up because you want to supplement your OD&D/OSR games with some new material, I think that you should be picking up The Arduin Adventure (and then moving on to as many other of the Arduin Grimoires that you can find). You will not be disappointed.

Combat is a bit more complicated in Arduin than in OD&D. Dave Hargrave liked his critical hit and fumble charts. Each weapon hits differently, depending upon the Armor Class of a character's opponent. This looks more complicated, but the combat tables in The Arduin Adventure and The Arduin Grimoires make this process much simpler than it should be. Regardless, this is still OD&D at its heart, and that game really only gets so complex. Some may see this added complexity as a boon in their old school games.

On the negative side, this is an ugly PDF, however as it is a reproduction of the original game (layout warts and all), I don't know that I can hold that too much against the publisher. Much like with the older edition D&D PDFs available, this book is an artifact, a reflection of its time. If pretty and shiny is a requirement of your role-playing games, then The Arduin Adventure may not be for you. However if you like rough and tumble RPGs that do at the table what they say they will, you will want to pick this up for your gaming library. And then, go to the Emperor's Choice website and buy more Arduin stuff.

All in all, if you like old school style D&D and you haven't already experienced Arduin, you should buy The Arduin Adventure and kick the tires. I think that you will like what it can bring to your gaming table, even if it is as a supplement to your OD&D/OSR game of choice. Go out now and get your copy.

I still have some more Arduin posts in me. There's a lot of material in the books that I have, and a lot to talk about. I may try to run Arduin, or perhaps an Arduin-influenced Swords & Wizardry game. Really, I think that the only thing that I could ask of the publishers of Arduin to do is to open up some of the content of the game (spells, monsters, maybe even some of Hargrave's original races) under the OGL so that homebrewers and hobbyists and pull Arduin into our games, and maybe even share what we've done with it.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Teasers For Valiant Comics Unity

What does it all mean? Unity comes to Valiant Comics. The original Unity was the blueprint for the modern comic event, so what will happen this time?

We will find out in November, I would guess.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Machinations of the Space Princess: Some Talk From Our New Game And A Rule Variant

As you may (or may not) have noticed last night, we started a new Machinations of the Space Princess game last night via G+ Hangouts on the Air. Now, if you've read my previous review of our playtests of Machinations using an earlier version of the rules, you'll know that we have a sort of love/hate relationship with the game (although hate is probably too strong of a word, really). Now, we have the really final copy of the game from the IndieGoGo campaign that a couple of us pledged on and we're taking another swing at the game. As fans of pulpy, sexy stuff and science fiction, we should be in the target demographic of this game. We're trying to like it.

One of the main problems that we ran into last night was the fact that the organization of the game made it difficult on us at times. Important pieces of information that should have been together wasn't, and the general information organization could have been better. It also would have help to better explain things like which attributes the Saving Rolls are derived from (hint: you have to look at the character sheet in the back of the book to find this information rather than the text). The section on racial/cultural traits is cool, and offers some great options for character customization, but how you pick traits for your characters could (still) stand to be better explained. You know that you get three traits for a character (before you start to take penalties) but the rules are kind of vague on how you take those traits. Rather than picking three of the traits listed, when you get your options for the characters you instead pick from the list under each trait. For example, the Chiropteran trait (which is what you would use for bat-like creatures) has the Acute Hearing, Echo-Location and Flight traits listed off of it. When you pick your character's three traits, you pick from those (I guess we could call them) sub-traits. We had problems with this in our first playtest, and in the final rules things aren't really that much clearer.

Now, the real reason for this post was to put out a rule variant that we will be using for the game. It isn't a secret that I am not a big fan of the skill system for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. That is one of the things that I've hacked around for our own games, but I never found something that I liked. However, with the larger number of Saving Rolls in Machinations of the Space Princess, I find that it is easier to implement a variation of Akrasia's Saving Throws As Task Resolution variant for Swords & Wizardry. Actually, I am not a fan of that variant for Swords & Wizardry itself, I'm not sure why exactly, but I think that the single save just isn't granular enough for me.

This is how it will work for use. If you look at pg. 13 of Machinations of the Space Princess you will see the initial writeup for Saving Rolls. There is the boxed text about rolling high. We use that, where the saving roll becomes a modifier to the d20 roll. Add the rank that the character has in the skill and get a total over 20. Simple enough. For our purposes, skills will likely default off of Dexterity or Intelligence.

I will bring up variant rules and our approaches to the game through blog posts as things come up.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Analog Pixels: The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot

A new type of article for the Dorkland! blog and one that I've been toying around with for quite some time. An overview: I’ll be throwing around ideas and thoughts for tabletop RPGs that I get from computer games -- in this particular article, The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot. (TMQ from here on.)

For those unfamiliar with the title, TMQ is an action RPG/dungeon builder that is currently in development. Those two elements of gameplay are what really make this game ripe for the picking (of RPG ideas) and provide us with the first two ideas to take: dungeon delving and dungeon building.

“We already have those!”, you say? True, many (if not most) RPGs do have those concepts. There is a slight difference here though -- every player in TMQ participates in both parts. The gist of the game is building a dungeon to protect your treasure horde from other players, while also invading the dungeons of other players to raid their coffers. And that leads straight to the central idea to take from it -- each player designs their own dungeon, and they go through all of their rivals’ dungeons. In the case of tabletop, this would most likely be a gaming group’s worth of people -- each designing and running their own dungeon in turn, the rest of the group using their characters to run through them as far or as fast as they can.

That’s all very basic though, isn’t it? Something that gaming groups have had to of tried before. Well, it’s after that general idea that things get a teeny bit more interesting, and the part where the computer game aspects start to come through a bit more.

There are limitations on the dungeon building -- limitations put in place to help keep things reasonable. Now, I know that limitations are often the bane of some tabletop gamers, but in this case it really is for the greater good. The limits here largely deal with the number of monsters you can place within your castle, the density of monster placement, the density of trap placement and the number of rooms allowed. Rooms in this sense being more like geomorphs -- which actually helps immensely with converting that part to tabletop.

Explanations ahead, followed by immediately by the potential tabletop applications and ideas:

Starting with the monsters, the cost works a bit like armies in war games or building encounters in the newer D&D titles. Every monster is worth a set amount of Defense Rating and your dungeon has a hard cap on how much Defense Rating  you can use at a particular time. For the monster density, each monster has a zone around it that merges with other monsters to form an encounter and each encounter has a set maximum Defense Rating that can be placed within it (with the special Boss encounter being a bit higher). While this does put a cap on how big an encounter can be, you have free reign over what you can put in it, so long as it fits within the cap. For TMQ this provides a core for the dungeon building strategy -- making encounters as challenging as possible within the limit.

Bringing the monster rules to the tabletop should be fairly easy, depending on the rules you would use. I mentioned D&D in the previous paragraph and for good reason -- the encounter building rules in that game make it very easy to use with this style of play. Just set a maximum amount of XP for the entire dungeon, along with the maximum XP in any particular encounter and you have most of it already finished. For other rules, such as OSR-type games, you could use things like Hit Dice to set limits. Other limitations that the game tends to place is by applying a level to every monster in the dungeon -- this helps give the dungeon an overall level rating and helps prevent the abuse that might come with throwing in one single, very high level monster that, while fitting the limitations set, would still wreck the players.

Traps have no hard cap on the number you can place. Instead they also have a zone around them that prevents them from being built too close to other traps -- so you cannot stack a bunch of traps to instantly destroy the players. You can, however, place traps and monsters on the same area -- making synergies between the two very useful.

The traps in tabletop tend to be a bit more deadly than in TMQ and, as such, the usage of them might have to be looked at differently from the monsters. It’s perfectly reasonable to use them as they are, just spacing them out a bit more than you usually would. The best means of doing so might would use a certain number of squares/hexes or feet/meters buffers from other traps.

And, lastly, the rooms -- or geomorphs, as mentioned. Each of the dungeons in the game have two particular rooms that must be included -- the entrance and the boss room/treasure room combo -- but the amount of rooms and the types you include can be customized after that.

Rooms are the easiest to rule in -- just have the group create a pool of geomorphs to draw from and set a limit to the number of them that can be used. The actual make-up of the geomorphs can vary depending on taste, but, for reference, TMQ tends to have around one large room or up to three small rooms in one geomorph. Though, the dungeons are deliberately made small in order to encourage faster dungeon runs and to better accommodate the solo hero. Alternatively, you could easily set a total number of squares/hexes, set number of individual rooms, etc.

The last issue to concern ourselves with is that of resources. In TMQ you have two primary resources -- Gold and Life Force. These are what you try to protect in your own dungeon and what you try to steal from other players. Using these resources you upgrade your character and your dungeon.

Once again, there are mechanics here that can be taken nearly whole-cloth to the tabletop. Gold is generally used in the same way that gold is already used in tabletop RPGs -- to buy equipment and potions. It is also used to level your hero up, but leveling up can just be done as normal, per your rules. Life Force is primarily what you use to buy and upgrade monsters. Both of these resources are also used to upgrade various machines and tools within TMQ’s dungeons, but I don’t think that system is terribly necessary to convert to the tabletop.

Anywho, in TMQ you obtain these resources in two ways -- the good old fashioned way of dungeon delving/slaughtering monsters and by having mines in your dungeon that generate them over time. In the second case, I feel a decent conversion would be to have a set number of resources given per session or per rotation of dungeons. For dungeon delving, the resource drop rate off of monsters should be a little random or set in a per encounter manner -- basically like how you might do it in a normal game. The drop rate will probably be the harder part to convert over, though, as the amount should scale to provide for a little bit of improvement in the players’ own dungeons each run, with upgrades for their characters coming once or twice per dungeon rotation. Though all of that should be tweaked for preference -- I’m mostly comparing it to TMQ and trying to replicate it, to then tweak from.

And that about wraps it up, I think. Below you should find a video featuring the game and some commentary to give some visual references to what I mentioned above. I’m still working out the format and functions of this type of article, so please let me know what you think -- critiques and comments are welcome!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Bruce Cordell Leaves Wizards of the Coast

courtesy Wikipedia
Over at his blog, Bruce Cordell announced that he was leaving Wizards of the Coast:
It’s with mixed emotions that I announce the end of my 18-year run at Wizards (and TSR before that). I gave my notice last week and will be leaving the company.

This isn’t an easy departure for me, both because of my long history with Wizards, and my recent good luck to be a member on the D&D Next design team. I’m thrilled to have been part of Next, and proud of what we accomplished: a kick-ass set of D&D rules. The team is on track to carry D&D Next to wide success.
 Hired by TSR in 1995, Cordell worked in both game design and fiction, writing adventures, sourcebooks and novels for both TSR and Wizards of the Coast. Outside of novels such as Plague of Spells and City of Torment, Cordell is probably best known for seminal adventures such as Return to the Tomb of Horrors and Die, Vecna, Die (both for AD&D 2nd Editions), as well as for writing (and re-writing) the D&D 3.5 psionics rules (both officially in the Psionics Handbook and Complete Psionnics, and "unofficially" in Malhavoc Press' If Thoughts Could Kill and Hyperconscious supplements).

Hopefully his next work will as inspiring to gamers. We all look forward to seeing what he does next.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Shaintar: Legends Unleashed Preview + Kickstarter

Shaintar: Legends Unleashed is the sequel to Shaintar: Legends Arise and expands upon the previous Savage Worlds content to introduce Heroic and Legendary levels of game play. The Shaintar setting was created by Sean Patrick Fannon and will be published by Evil Beagle Games, with the Kickstarter fulfillment being published by Savage Mojo.

For those that might not know, the world of Shaintar is one of world-spanning conflicts, mysterious ancient magic, and plays for power among elites – both ostensibly and covertly. It is a world ripe for adventures of both small and large scales.

But enough of the introduction stuff – what does Legends Unleashed hold in store for the Veteran Hero looking to advance further? Well, quite a bit.

Legends Unleashed is bringing dozens of new Heroic and Legendary edges including race-specific and plenty of Leadership, Combat and other edges. For the casters out there, High Magic, War Magic and rituals within both will allow you and any fellow magical buddies to weave spells that have truly massive effects – even covering entire battlefields to turn the tides of battle! And there are dozens of these new spells to get your gnarled, magey fingers on.

The game is going to include many new armor and weapon pieces – having played a rogue in Chris’ Swords & Wizardry game for the past year, the arrowhead options caught my eye in particular. I really would have loved to have some of those. Arcfire devices – a sort of magical technology – appear as well, bringing a bit more flavor to the potential equipment you can use. The Arclance reminds me of a staff weapon from the Stargate universe, which means it should provide a pretty good time (on the using end).

And that’s just a brief highlight of what is included in Shaintar: Legends Unleashed. If you are a fan of Shaintar: Legends Arise (which is out already) then be sure to check this title out and continue your adventures. Speaking of checking it out, it’s currently in the final stretch of its Kickstarter campaign!

As of this writing the Kickstarter is sitting at a week left with it’s initial pledge goal already more than doubled. Of the stretch goals given, ten have already been reached, unlocking even more content in the form of guidebooks that go into detail on various realms within Shaintar and other books on some of the more mysterious organizations that exist. (The books in the stretch goals are included for backers at the $45 tier and higher, with higher tiers getting more of them.) In addition to the stretch goals the kickstarter also has separate bonus goals which currently include some bonus content for the slightly higher tiers (starting at the $55 tier and higher).

But, suppose you don’t have quite that much to spend – what’s the minimum buy-in you need to get the book? Well, starting at $15 gets you a PDF copy of the Player’s Guide and at $25 you get a PDF of the full book. As far as I can tell, these lower tiers do not automatically include the books from the stretch goals which most likely will need to be purchased separately or by backing at a higher tier.

If you would like to know more, the kickstarter can be found here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/764802981/shaintar-legends-unleashed.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Revelations of Jim Steranko

If you're a fan of comics you should know who Jim Steranko is. Even if you aren't a fan of comics, you really should know who Jim Steranko is. Steranko has sort of exploded across Twitter, like a comic creating money shot.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Shadowrun 5: A Preview/Review

Honestly, I had hoped to get this done a few days ago, but the July 4th holiday weekend took a huge bite out of my time to get this PDF read.

The new 5th edition of Shadowrun is (almost) here. You've seen the quickstarts and previews that have surfaced since the Origins con, and now the book is almost here. I am going to predict that Shadowrun 5 is going to be the runaway hit of this year's Gen Con.

Let me start by saying that I have always had a sort of love/hate relationship with Shadowrun. I played it in college a few times, one of the benefits to going to college near Chicago when FASA Games were still in control of the game, and my experiences with it were always mixed.

I love and have always loved the setting of Shadowrun. Yeah, I know...as a fan of cyberpunk I am supposed to be upset by the fact that they mixed elves and magic into my peanut butter, but I just can't get upset by that. The world of Shadowrun has always been the draw for me, rich and vibrant and full of the excitement that makes you want to run a game. In this new edition, that is no different. The world of Shadowrun is still alive, and brought to you with gorgeous art, vivid and well-written vignettes, and clear, precise descriptions of the world. The text does stumble a bit in a few places, only because the "in character" style of writing comes across as forced in places. That style can help set the mood and tone, but if not done well it can be jarring. In this case, there were just a few instances where the in character stuff sounded a bit silly. Context is everything.

There are always pieces of art that don't work, and the art in here is no exception. However, when the art works it is phenomenal in setting the tone and feel. And women in the art wearing sensible footwear? Awesome. I can't imagine going on a 'run in heels (but that might just be me).

This is a huge freaking book at nearly 500 pages. For me, anymore, that is a turn off. I'm personally willing to trade a concise rulebook for getting rid of things like fiction, but for the intended audience this is a good thing. Although I have to admit, there is a little whisper in the back of my head that wishes that they could take these up-to-date mechanics and present their own "clone" version of the first edition book. Wouldn't that be fun? But basically the high page count is only a detriment if you don't like that sort of thing, so I am not going to hold that against them.

The mechanics of the system are clear and well-explained. This is the fifth edition of this game, so that shouldn't be an issue by now (you would hope). Character creation goes through things carefully and slowly, step by step, so that no one gets left behind, or gets confused, during the process. Shadowrun 5 has one of the more clearly written sections on character creation that I have read in a while. This is a big part of the reason why the book has the page count that it does, and frankly if I have to have a big book I would like it to be because the options for character creation are well-presented and well-explained.

I have to admit that reading Shadowrun 5 did something that hasn't happened in a very long time: it makes me want to play Shadowrun. Yeah, I said that. Despite my preferences in gaming systems being for non-dice pool games reading this book did what a game book is supposed do...it made me want to play it. However, for me at least, running/playing a game off of a PDF of this size is just not going to happen. Maybe once the book is available the Dorkland! bloggers can have a try at a game on our livestream.

So, is this game worth the price of admission? I am going to give that a hell, yeah. Even if you don't want to use Shadowrun 5 as-is (and really, what gamer doesn't hack? I'm already seeing a number of new Shadowrun hacks showing up online), this book is definitely worth getting. If you are a Shadowrun fan then I don't need to tell you to pick this up. Regardless, this is a good quality book that has inspiration dripping off of the pages. Fans of mashup settings who haven't tried Shadowrun really should use this edition as the opportunity to get to know the game.

RPG Review: All For Me Grog From Mt. Zion Press

All For Me Grog is a family-friendly pirate-themed storytelling game written by Ryan Shelton and published by Mt. Zion Press. The game aims to provide a simple rules set that will not get in the way of the story building.