News from Around the Net: 24-JUN-2011

Ha! Friday again! We made it! [insert giddy laughter here]

This was more of a normal week than last, but just barely. That said, I’ve been gathering links for this article all week so it’s a little less insane to put it together I hope! Again, it’s an amazing mix of bits and pieces from all over the place, so there should be plenty of articles to go around…

Food for Thought

  • Occultism has always been an interesting topic for discussion in my gaming groups. Over the years I’ve met people who are practicing Wiccans and have nothing against them, just like I have nothing against folks practicing any other religion. As an atheistic-leaning-agnostic I treat religious philosophy simply as philosophy and life is good. So when I saw Why I’m Not a Gnostic by IanC over at Into the Mound, I saw a well-reasoned approach to why he follows his Druidic practices and believes what he believes. His argument is worth reading by anyone considering playing a druid, cleric, or priest in any RPG, or anyone who is interested in rational views of the occult.
  • Have you ever wondered why some polearms have hooks on them? Apparently they were to help dragging enemies off their horses. Learn that and more by reading The Right Tool for the Job at Trollsmyth. Based on this one article I may have to start looking at flails and axes the next time I play a fighter type!
  • Who needs imaginary monsters when you have Disturbingly Evil Birds that really exist? Well – imagine your ordinary pelican as a Sarlacc from Return
    of the Jedi
    and you may have a whole different appreciation for fish (or other critters) that are swallowed whole… [Shudder]
  • Also with a philosophical bent this week is Roger’s article about Moral Disgust at Roles, Rules, & Rolls. Talk about going deep into theory – Roger dives headlong into a character’s desires. It reminds me of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde where Gray wouldn’t age, but his portrait would show the horror of what his desires had been doing to his soul… Roger then dives into how to apply this to different villainous types. Very interesting indeed!
  • Have you ever used a hoax to create or destroy a religion in your games? Sean Holland at the Sea of Stars offers some ideas on using False Prophecy and Hoaxes in RPGs that I honestly hadn’t considered before. Great ideas to provide a slippery slope for groups that might need a weakness or two.
  • How about using grief for your NPCs or PCs? Grief can tear people down and it can make them stronger than ever before. If you’ve been watching the Game of Thrones series on HBO and watched the season finale last weekend (great article on io9 about this very subject), you saw grief in action. It affects everybody differently and yet it was everywhere you looked in that episode. How do you use grief in RPGs? When was the last time you saw a NPC or even a PC overwhelmed by grief for a fallen comrade or family member?
  • Anybody remember the Fiend Folio from the mid-1980s of D&D history? What a cool book! Well, Scott Taylor at Black Gate managed to get a sample of some new art from artist Russ Nicholson, one of the artists involved with that great book. Be sure to check out the article to learn more about Nicholson, see a new picture – Lyssa – and to see some of those fiendish pictures again!
  • Matriarchies. As the only guy in my house (wife + 2 daughters + 2 female dogs + 1 female cat + 2 female rats), I know a thing or two about how they might work, but I’ve not really considered them for use in roleplaying worlds. Again, Roger from Roles, Rules & Rolls offers some interesting points through the use of a few examples from fact and fiction in Unsexy Matriarchies. The conclusion? There’s more to matriarchies than just the Drow…
  • And then we go from matriarchies to maps… At least they start with the same letter! BryanMD at Intwischa has mused about The Value of Maps of late, and offers some interesting observations about why maps and mapping is important in the context of gaming. As he says – “Simply put, it is easier for players (and their characters) to believe that they are adventuring in a believable setting with significant consequences if they can see where things are happening.” It’s definitely tougher to take things seriously when it’s all in the air and nothing’s written down.

Games

  • Dave Chalker at Critical Hits had a chance to not only preview the upcoming Guestbook RPG, but interview designers David A Hill Jr and Filamena Young to get additional insights. I have to say I’m intrigued by the approach – take two pre-made characters with different players and create 5 minute fiction, switch sides and do it again, then rotate to a different partner. Depending on how good each group is at improvising, you could end up with some quite interesting results!
  • Have you heard of Mandragora? Neither had I until I saw the Quick Mandragora Primer at Scott’s blog Huge Ruined Pile. Not only is there some great classic faerie artwork included in the article, but some great food for thought about faerie tales in fantasy settings. Perhaps it’s time to start dancing in forest glens and looking for faerie rings again?
  • How about grave robbing? Have you ever considered where all those crazy necromancers and mad scientists get their body parts from? Well, The Grumpy Celt at Nevermet Press has wondered about these folks evidently and came back with some thoughts. If you’re interested in exploring grave robbing as a career path, be sure to check out Gravesites: Grave Robbing for a few pointers.
  • In the past month or so, I’ve included a few links for the Technoir RPG beta. Runeslinger at Casting Shadows actually wrote up a playtest session where his group sat down to play the game. And it sounds like it went well! I like open ended games that encourage community storytelling and creativity – so it’s great to see some solid feedback about this game that so many people have been enthusiastic about.
  • Stargazer has once again offered something of great value for free over at Stargazer’s World (he’s a great guy, so I’m not surprised!). This time it’s a Fudge in a Nutshell condensed version that fits on a single page. If you play Fudge, this should be a great tool to have in your toolbox!
  • And at The Alexandrian, Justin Alexander has put together a few pages of inspiration for anybody running a fantasy campaign. Have you ever wanted to stick a few odds-n-ends in a wizard or scholar’s room just to see if your players are paying any attention? Why not throw in any of the 101 Curious Items that Justin has put together and see if it inspires you to create cool backstories for the item(s) you use or if you just want to drive your players nuts…

Gaming

  • It’s rare that a cartoon can make me do a spit-take or send whatever I’m drinking up my nose because I’m laughing so hard, but it does happen. This Goblins cartoon came very very close to creating a huge mess across my desktop this week. Even though it’s an older strip, it definitely still applies to several gamers I’ve known…
  • Math. Love it or hate it, it’s present in almost every RPG to some degree or another. And when I read D&D Math – Adding the Numbers by Ameron at Dungeon’s Master, I recognized the same issue I’ve hit in many campaigns over the years. I’ve even been guilty of it playing HERO and D&D every now and then. If you can’t do the math, come up with a cheat sheet for it. Write things down. Figure them out once and then refer to the crib sheet for the rest of the combat. But making everybody wait is embarrassing and frustrating when you’re in the heat of combat.
  • It’s tough to go too horribly wrong when you start an article with a picture of a silly Frenchman from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, isn’t it? Trey at From the Sorcerer’s Skull muses about the use of accents for NPCs while GMing. I’m fond of using the occasional outrageous accent for a NPC, but during a long session or after a long break between sessions that often gives way to simply remembering who the NPC happens to be more than a particular accent… What about you? Do you use them when GMing? Or don’t you?
  • And over at Sly Flourish, Mike Shea offers some details about Calculating Monster Damage that boils down the rules so they’re in one place. I haven’t played much 4e, but if you GM 4e at all, you should give it a look.

Publisher News

  • Chris Tregenza of 6d6 fame asks if it’s worth downloading/purchasing
    Mince Pies & Murder
    . I’m not alone in offering a hearty “yes” – along with reviews from G*M*S Magazine, Prince Azalea, and Post Mortem Studios. What do you think?
  • Da’ Vane at DVOID Systems has put out the word that she’s looking for writers and artists willing to submit their works for consideration in the DVOID D-Jumpers series. If you have any interesting cross-genre, open-ended adventure ideas that would fit in, I’d encourage you to submit them! If you’re looking for a good way to get a foot in the door as a RPG writer, it’s a great opportunity.
  • Black Library is also looking for writers for their Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 product lines. Be sure to check out their submission guidelines for details on submitting short story and novel proposals.
  • Martin Ralya and the gnomes at Gnome Stew have been offering more peeks at their new book Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game. First it was fantasy villains, then sci-fi allies, and now it’s modern neutrals. This book will be another must have for my gaming toolkit!
  • Looks like Catalyst Game Labs has been mighty busy lately, listing six different books streeting in June and July 2011. I love seeing Battletech and Shadowrun products new and old show up on store shelves!
  • Matt James at Loremaster has offered some interesting news about Bill Slavicsek, a legend at TSR & WotC for the last 20 years with Dungeons & Dragons and Alternity. Bill is leaving to go on “his next adventure” whatever that may be. I’m sure we’ll hear more in time, but wish Bill all the best in whatever he chooses to do next.
  • Speaking of WotC – is something afoot with a potential new edition of D&D? Speculation is running wild after Mike Mearls’ article – The Many Faces of D&D – went live last week. If nothing else, the article provides some insight on how D&D is viewed within WotC. But it offers some interesting hints at what may be coming in future editions of 4e or beyond…
  • In WotC-unrelated news, Green Ronin Publishing has announced the availability of DC ADVENTURES: Heroes & Villains, Vol. I for pre-order! This volume covers characters from A to K for your DC ADVENTURES games… With the summer comic book movie frenzy going on now, it seems like perfect timing!
  • If you’re looking to try your hand at writing fiction, Nevermet Press is still looking for entries for their Stories in the Ether – Digital Storytelling Anthology. They’ve had some amazing stories come up so far on their site and will be accepting stories through the end of the year, so everybody still has a shot to get their stories heard – why not throw yours in for consideration?

Reviews

  • Bartoneus over at Critical Hits has reviewed the latest D&D board game from Wizards of the Coast - Conquest of Nerath – and doesn’t find it lacking!
  • Sean Holland at the Sea of Stars offers a few words about the new book from Super Genius Games - The Genius Guide to Feats of Runic Might II: Runebinding. The book offers 24 feats, offering minor spell-like abilities to characters.
  • You might have seen my review of BADASS from Jay Steven Angyong and Stargazer Games earlier this week. Well, I’m not the only one reviewing this piece of work. Bob Zilla at Grumpy Old Gamers points out good points and some ways to improve it in his article BADASS - First Thoughts.
  • Megan at Flames Rising was kind enough to review The Gift: Curse of the Golden Spear Part 1 from Jonathan McAnulty and Rite Publishing a week or so ago and she liked it. As she puts it – “Oriental settings are fairly common, but this one has its own twist that should make for some memorable adventures.” Well said!
  • Over at Gnome Stew, they’re not just cooking up their next book, but still playing and reviewing games as well. Patrick Benson offers some insights into The Dresden Files RPG which I found extremely well balanced. It’s a beautiful book, but does the system hold up to closer scrutiny? You’ll have to read to find out…
  • Also over at Stargazer’s World this week is a tag team review of Battlelords of the Twenty-Third Century from SSDC, Inc. I like this style of review and hope Stargazer and Sunglar review other things in this way, as it makes the review more conversational – almost like you’re sitting in the room as they discuss the book.

Tools

  • ProFantasy Software, makers of Campaign Cartographer, has released a free issue of The Cartographer’s Annual 2011. Within you’ll find some awesome styles and bits from the Jon Roberts Dungeons style pack as well as an example PDF called The Crossroads Inn. Definitely something to check out to add some flair to your maps if you use CC!
  • Over at Writer’s Digest, Elizabeth Sims offers some interesting techniques for writing better characters in fiction, which I think translate fairly well to NPCs. Opinionated, thoughtful NPCs with something to lose tend to stand out more than many of the people who populate most of our worlds. Consider adding some of these features to your more powerful NPCs to see what happens…
  • Do you ever have trouble planning your campaigns and adventures? Well, the Campaign Mastery GM Toolbox series is offering some great tips and tools from a variety of perspectives. Great stuff!
  • Looking for a map? Why not check out Dyson Logos blog A Character for Every Game. Last weekend he put up a map inspired by the Fellowship of the Ring movie – The Ruins of Dreven Hill – complete with some encounter and history notes. Simple and to the point, I like the indoor/outdoor nature of this one.
  • Also map-related was the Dyson’s preview of the DungeonMorph dice this week. I’m excited about these buggers and will be happily plunking down some $$ for them when they become available. There’s something about the randomly (nearly) infinite possibilities of creating maps with these 1″ specialized dice that makes me giddy with anticipation!
  • Writer’s Block. It plagues us all at times. So why not try 5 simple ways to unblock yourself? Check out these 5 Ridiculous Ways from Dragos Roua at Lifehack!

Wow I didn’t realize I’d pulled together quite that much material! The Internet time sink strikes again! But that’s it for this week. I hope everybody has a great weekend!

Do you have any stories or news you’d like to include in next week’s installment of News from Around the Net? Drop me a line at the target="_blank">Contact Page!

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