News from Around the Net: 1-JUL-2011

What? July already? Will somebody please slow down the year? It’s making too much noise as it zips by!

Now that we are officially halfway through the year, it’s impossible to consider that 2012 and the inevitable “end of the Mayan calendar” apocalypse is but a few months away. Guess that just means I’ll have to get more gaming done in the next six months than I did in the last six.

Food for Thought

  • Ray Harryhausen. The name alone evokes images of cool stop-motion skeletons fighting Jason and the Argonauts (1963) and dinosaurs in One Million Years B.C. (1966). How can you not be inspired to create great monster encounters after watching this video of all his animated creatures through the years in chronological order?
  • Do you have players who occasionally mess up the plot of your game? Maybe deliberately, mostly not – this can happen when metagaming takes a front seat to gaming. Keith Baker tries to offer some suggestions about dealing with that very situation in Dungeon Master’s article – “Question Keith (Yeah, that Keith) #3: Those Meddling PCs.
  • Sometimes history beats fantasy for sheer weirdness. You have a witch bottle in your house to keep the evildoers at bay, right? What? No? Why not? We may think such things are silly now, but in medieval times people were using witch bottles, shoes in the chimney, or even going so far to wall up a cat to keep evil away. Check out AJ Walker’s article where he muses about such things and more…
  • Or maybe the modern world is more up your alley? Why not check out these cool PSYOPS patches for inspiration for military, police, or criminal missions? #10 is my personal favorite with the big gray alien head. Looks like something out of Stargate SG-1!

Games and Gaming

  • Graveyards are always good for an encounter or two, especially if there’s a necromancer running about causing trouble. The Grumpy Celt at Nevermet Press knows this. And so he created the Horror of the Long Stones encounter, which pits some powerful PCs against bog mummies and corpses that just won’t seem to stay dead. As a player I always hated facing mummies ’cause they are darned tough to beat. Bog Mummies it seems are no exception to that rule!
  • What kind of tools should a thief carry? Blindgeekuk offers a larger list than I have ever seen in one place – from the standard lockpicks, to lifting rods, oil, a collapsible pole, and myriad other items I would never have come up with but slapped my forehead after I read about them… Anybody who plays a rogue should look at this list.
  • How do you end a campaign? Do you want to go out on top or let it peter out over time until nobody comes any more? DungeonsNDragons has some suggestions on how to avoid the biggest problems and end with a sense of personal satisfaction for everybody involved. I have to say that the two-column approach threw me off a bit, but establishing an endgame sounds like a good plan.
  • Meanwhile at More than Dice, the Gestalt Gamer has some words of wisdom when welcoming a new player into your group. You may be tempted to “steer” a new player to create a character that fits a need in the party. But long-term it can lead to bad feelings over time if they decide that class or character type doesn’t “fit them”… Wise words indeed.
  • What’s up with the gods? They all seem to be selfish beings bent on satisfying their own desires, whatever they may be. Ameron at Dungeon’s Master explores the possibility of the Greek gods living among us as described in Marie Phillips‘ novel – Gods Behaving Badly. I love ideas like this – which sounds sort of like Neil Gaiman‘s American Gods a bit – offering some interesting ideas for deities in a campaign!

Publisher News

  • First BADASS and now A Wanderer’s Romance? Stargazer Games is certainly keeping busy, this time teaming up with SoogaGames for a Wuxia-themed game of martial-arts duels and tea ceremonies. An odd combination perhaps, but if they have some cookies, I’m definitely up for some tea…
  • There’s nothing better than diving into the mind of people in the RPG industry and this week I found a recent interview of Jeff Gupton of Blackbyrne Publishing done by The Id DM. Blackbyrne creates supplements for Pathfinder and D&D 4e and has a new setting project (Age of Lords at Kickstarter) if you want to help fund some awesome art!
  • Open Design seems to have a golden touch with writers, artists, and products, and the Kobolds are starting a new project – Dark Roads and Golden Hells. It’s already being compared to Planescape, which for me was one of the most unique settings in the classic years of D&D. This project will explore the outer planes of Midgard – with influences as widespread as Jack Vance, H.P. Lovecraft, Michael Moorcock, China Mieville, Neil Gaiman, and Planescape itself. Dan Voyce will be leading the charge into these uncharted lands and seems to have a good appreciation for what’s come before so I wish him and the talented team at Open Design all the best. There’s still time to get in as a patron – so definitely check this one out!
  • The Origins Game Fair in Ohio has come and gone again. And like always, I was unable to attend. But thanks to folks like Dave Chalker summarizing the high points, I feel a little less out of the loop than usual. He also put together a list of the 2011 Origins Awards winners! Thanks Dave!
  • And over at Evil Hat Productions, Fred Hicks announced a new family board game – Race to Adventure! I love the fact that it’s meant as “an entry point for younger and casual gamers… while also having ample strategy to appeal to a wide range of players.” Definitely something to keep on the radar for later this year or early 2012.
  • Savage
    Worlds Deluxe Edition
    has been gaining all sorts of attention this week as well and all I’m hearing is how much better it is than the Explorer’s Edition. The Chaosmeister at Chaotic/GM has offered his opinions in a “First Look” article that details a few of the changes. Sounds like there are some good ones!
  • Also released this week is the new City Builder Generator Pack from Swordgleam at Chaotic Shiny Productions. She has put together some awesome generators and I’m sure this one is no exception!
  • Do you ever wonder what happens with those games that die too soon and sometimes come back from the dead? Well, Lowell Francis at Age of Ravens has been following a few of these “reboots and relaunches” which dramatically changed the game, not always for the better.
  • PaizoCon 2011 has come and gone, but thanks to a series of podcasts on the 3.5 Private Sanctuary, you can benefit from the wisdom of several different panels at this year’s con. I’ve listened to “Secrets of a Small Press Publisher” already and will tackle the other topics as time allows. But I noted more than a few ideas as I was listening to that one, so I can only imagine what I’ll get from the others…
  • Does Sigfried Trent ever sleep? Open Design has just released a new book of feats – The Might of the Magus – and Sean Holland at Sea of Stars offers his review of this latest collection. I’m looking forward to reviewing it myself!
  • Though Da’Vane is still recovering from surgery, that hasn’t slowed her down too much. This week she talks about Reinventing the Wheel in RPGs. From splicing together ideas from disparate games to seeing where clear overlaps are with skills between games. A designer’s work is never done, but half the fun is seeing what’s been done before and seeing how you might be able to do it better.
  • Does setting beget action? Or does action beget setting? Robin D. Laws ponders how setting serves the action in the new game Ashen Stars.

Reviews

  • Learning about new RPGs is one of my favorite things about GKR, so I love it when other sites take the time to dive deeply into games when I haven’t yet had a chance to do so. Paul Weimer at SF Signal posted a great dive into The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game from Evil Hat Productions. As a huge fan of the Dresden universe, this is a game I’ve wanted to pick up but haven’t yet – I may have to soon!
  • This week I posted an opinion piece asking where GMs and players draw the line in their gaming between what’s acceptable in-game and what’s not. To say that it generated some philosophical discussions at Reddit would be being an understatement. One of the comments pointed out this review of a game that can be used to find out where the lines are in your group – and it’s something I’m definitely going to have to explore further. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to run or play in a truly evil campaign, but this Vampires game certainly tests the waters.
  • Monte Cook not only writes amazing games, but he also has been playing a few lately. This week he offered a few mini-reviews with his opinions
  • What exactly is Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale? Campaign guide? Monster manual? DM Samuel at RPG Musings offers his observations on what’s good and bad about the release, but it sounds like it’s a good product overall.

Tools

  • Are you in need of a dungeon map? If you have a few minutes, you can’t go wrong by checking out Dave Millar’s Mapping Tool. And Rob Lang over at The Free RPG Blog has posted a great review that takes a serious look at all the bells and whistles.
  • How about a good demon name? Do you need any of those? I have to say that only rarely have I come up with a need, but it’s kind of fun to do with Sean Holland’s Random Demon Name Generator over at the Sea of Stars. Let me know if you run into the “Bloody Lackey of Pain” (I love randomness) and his pals!
  • How do you describe the indescribable? At Stargazer’s World, Andrew Modro (aka “Corvus”) describes the process through which he described an ever-changing landscape with qualities shifting based on the season… Random tables to generate landscape features? Count me in!
  • Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? I have it more often than I’m willing to admit, but am always on the hunt for advice on how to deal with it. Darlene McFarlane at WritingHood has some ideas on how to regain your creative edge. And I have to say that a change of venue works wonders, but I’ll have to try drinking more water, which sounds like a good idea regardless of any creativity problems.
  • Have you heard the phrase “idle hands do the devil’s work”? Well, some creative types believe that idleness is an essential ingredient in creativity. Working too hard eliminates that idleness – so you need to take a break every now and then. Check this article by Jessica Stillman out at WebWorkerDaily for some examples of how downtime can help you be even more creative than you might think…

That’s it for this week – I hope everybody has a great weekend and a safe July 4th weekend if you’re in the USA!

As always, if you feel I missed something (and it would be impossible NOT to), drop me a quick note via my contact page and I’ll add it to the list for next week!

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