News from Around the Net: 15-JUL-2011

Every week seems to offer some new challenge to overcome, doesn’t it. But most weeks, like this one, there are usually plenty of good moments to outshine the other kind. Ah, the power of positive thinking, feedback, and reinforcement.

My Gassy Gnoll article this week about gaming with my kids reverberated across the Reddit universe to bring me my highest traffic day in the history of my blog, so thank you to those of you who left comments on the post or on the Reddit entry – I really appreciate the feedback. We’ve been having a great time playing Dungeonslayers and that’s the most important thing on that front – to have fun!

Beyond that, I received answers back this week to the interview questions I fired off to Johnn Four of Roleplaying Tips fame – so look for that next Thursday if all goes well.

And I’m starting to stretch my fiction writing skills a bit for a small writing project, so we’ll see if that goes anywhere.

So add all that to work, family, and life in general and you have another busy week! Shocking, I know.

Now on to the links! There are a ton this week, so I hope you stretched your eyeballs before you started reading!

Food for Thought

  • Can you believe that Dungeons & Dragons will be 40 years old in 2013? Dang I feel old! Well, Michael Tresca at the RPG Examiner announced that Anthony Savini and his partner Andrew Pascal are starting work on Dungeons & Dragons: A Documentary, a feature length documentary shot in HD to be released in time for the 40th anniversary. If you’re interested in keeping up with their progress, be sure to like their fan page on Facebook!
  • Text on the back cover, like the artwork on the front cover, can often make or break a game purchase for me in the store. But Ryan Macklin’s discourse about what makes back cover copy good, bad, or indifferent goes far beyond my own thoughts on the subject! Definitely something to consider for anyone thinking of publishing their own books…
  • I’ve been a software developer for more than a decade now and have to say that the book Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software made me more aware of the concept of patterns and anti-patterns (bad patterns) than I would ever have imagined. That said, I’ve never seen them applied
    to game design until now. In the League of Legends forums, there’s a huge discussion of Game Design Anti-Patterns that has to be seen to be believed. Definite food for thought for any designer here.
  • Are you fascinated by fantasy heroines? If you’re attracted to the female form, then look no further than Warrior Women: A gallery of S&S, swashbuckling, and high-fantasy heroines for inspiration. There are some truly amazing pictures there of Sif, Red Sonya, Guinevere, and many others through the ages. Definitely check it out!
  • Need more time? Why not check out the new prototype for a cloaking device that removes you from space-time? This seems truly Tardis-like to me, though a few nanoseconds may not be enough to do much with.
  • I’ve seen this sentiment quite a bit lately and even felt it myself at times… Big books and box sets from the big boys seem to get more press and fanfare than smaller books. And yet, a smaller book can be much more handy than a behemoth that’s only good for hand-to-hand combat. Patrick Benson at SinisterForces asks publishers to stop trying to sell him 3 pound textbooks!
  • Sometimes bad art offers even more inspiration than good art. Or maybe that’s just my warped brain trying to make sense of things again… Check out this collection of Terrible Fantasy and Sci-Fi Book Art put together by Andrew Miller at Something Awful. What exactly is that frog doing to the lady in skimpy clothing anyway?
  • Sometimes writing, like any other endeavor, can get a little too much like work. So what do you do when you’re bored? How do you not let that boredom show through to your readers? Well, sci-fi author John Scalzi gave an interview to Scott Francis at Writer’s Digest in June that covers just that topic. Scalzi suggests using humor to “make the reader feel the story has a natural flow.” And humor is definitely used in RPG materials!
  • Along the same lines, MLV at Geek’s Dream Girl suggests you take a good hard look at your strengths and weaknesses when you decide to start freelancing. Any would-be designers should check out the great words of wisdom in this article before you pin too many hopes and dreams on making it big. (Look in Publisher News below if you’re interested in a job with Fantasy Flight Games as a possible way to get into the industry!)
  • If you’ve been around a while, you probably have heard of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Well, did you know that Mike Mignola (the guy behind Hellboy) created a comic version of Fafhrd for Epic Comics? Neither did I! Learn more at Black Gate in Scott Taylor’s article about Leiber, Mignola, and Graphic Novels…
  • Speaking of Scott, are you interested in helping out with a shared swords & sorcery world? Check out his Nameless Pulp Project… Even I’m working on some ideas to toss his way!

Games and Gaming

  • “A fighter, a thief, and a mage meet in a tavern…” I’m sure you’ve never used that old tactic for getting PCs together! Well if you have, don’t fret – authorblues at Reddit/rpg has inspired gamers to write down other creative ways to get a party to meet… My favorite of those listed is having the characters wake up only to find they were victims in a sacrifice gone wrong. Heck of a way to wake up after a long night of partying, eh?
  • Bill Mahmet at Roleplaying Tips has some suggestions on easing the burden of being a GM a bit. It’s a lot of work, so why not look for help at the gaming table? Ask a player to take notes. Ask another one to sketch maps. Ask a third to keep track of important combat info… Many hands makes light work, right?
  • The third circle, illustrated by Stradanus. (Wikipedia)

    Can any game be fun so long as you have the right GM and players? Or are certain games less fun than others? This is the question posed at Level 30 Yinzer last weekend. For me, it’s more about the people than the game itself, but a good game certainly doesn’t hurt. Wishy washy answer? Maybe… maybe not…

  • Character classes have been a mainstay of RPGs since the beginning. But where do gamers get their classes from? According to a poll conducted by Jeff Greiner of Temporary Hit Points, you might be surprised. I know many of my characters are still stuck in the same roles I played in junior high – fighter, cleric, thief, and mage. And all of those were in my first PHB all those years ago!
  • Hate telling your players no? Maybe you should give them more obvious hints by creating impossible DCs to dissuade them from certain tasks, as suggested at a journey of sorts. Brilliant way to drive your players insane, while guiding them to making more rational decisions.
  • If you haven’t heard yet, Dan Voyce is working on a new project for Open Design called Dark Roads & Golden Hells, which is creating a Planescape-style setting for Pathfinder and D&D 4e. Well, at Kobld Quarterly this week, Voyce talked about an interesting twist in the war between Heaven and Hell. Did you know things get really ugly between angels and devils? Just keep your hands out of the tithing cookie jar, lest the Tithe Eaters eat you where you stand and send you to Hell for eternity.
  • Chris over at Gaming Tonic has some suggestions on getting your players more in a roleplaying mindset. What do I mean by that? Well, not everybody gets how to roleplay immediately. Maybe they’re shy. Maybe they’re inexperienced. Either way, it helps to offer some ideas on how to get better. Why not suggest they find a character from film or TV and mimic that behavior? Or suggest that they use class-based or racial-based behaviors to get some inspiration – like a cleric may have certain key phrases or actions they do before or after battles. It’s a group activity, why not get the group involved to help?
  • Do you think you can create a tabletop RPG game in a week? Check out the Game Chef’s 2011 Annual Tabletop Design Contest. If you can create a playable draft of a RPG between July 15th & 25th, Godspeed my friend!
  • Monte Haul. Yes, I remember him. When I first was playing D&D, we stormed into Tiamat’s lair and robbed her of her riches. Talk about Monte Haul – we were swimming in loot! But what do you do when your players have gotten too rich? Knock ‘em down a notch or two! RupertG at Dice of Doom talks about conning your players out of their riches so they never see it coming. Why does this seem like an episode of Leverage?
  • As a GM do you feel the need to confess? Can you do it in 140 characters or less? Thadeousc at This is My Game has put together a list of DM confessions, Twitter-style for your reading pleasure! (One of the most disturbing confessions – a DM going commando while gaming!)

Publisher News

  • Congratulations to all of the ENnie Awards nominees for 2011! Holy cow there are a ton – in categories from Best Adventure to Best Writing and Product of the Year. Best of luck to the judges – they definitely have their work cut out for them again this year.
  • Speaking of Ennies Judges – Josh Bazin, a judge this year, has said he’d be happy to answer any questions anybody has about the Ennies process. You can check him out at his target="_blank">Google+ profile or seek him out on many of the major forums such as RPG.net and EN World.
  • Maps. Can’t have enough of them at the gaming table. So why not transform ordinary 2D maps into 3D terrain you can use? Jon Roberts was approached with this idea and it formed the beginning of the Fold-n-Go Dungeon Kit, which consists of PDFs that you print out and assemble. But the robotic cutter sounds awesome… Don’t run with it though, it may get confused and cut more than the paper…
  • We’ve been seeing some interesting articles coming out from WotC about what might become the next edition of D&D… Mike Mearls is expounding on Minimalist D&D and the development of a universal task resolution system with abilities at its heart. Will D&D go back to a core system and offer other layers of the onion to add additional features?
  • Wicked North Games is soooo close to getting Azamar out the door! They’ve announced pricing (quite reasonable I think) and a Facebook contest, so be sure to keep checking back… Shouldn’t be too long now!
  • Do you wonder about fair use of images from publisher sites? I certainly do. And the recent story about Paizo sending a cease and desist letter to Obsidian Portal makes me wonder even more. But Frylock at Loremaster has tried to make sense of it all, so be sure to check it out…
  • Jade of Evil Machinations fame is releasing the Adventure Creation Handbook today, and I have to say it’s not only a gorgeous book with great use of layout and black and white images, but it’s the perfect size to get folks started creating better adventures. I’ll hopefully get a chance to write up a review of it soon – but in the meantime, check it out for yourself! Click here for more details
  • Looking for a new game that deserves some support? Check out Far West – a Western/Wuxia Mashup adventure RPG from Gareth-Michael Sharka. The Kickstarter project has been fully funded and then some, but they still have 41 days to go if you want to get in on the action!
  • If you’re looking for a job in the industry, Fantasy Flight Games is hiring for a few positions. Definitely give it a shot if you want a look behind the curtain of a game publisher.
  • Do you read the ID DM blog? Well, Michael Mallen has been interviewed for Flagons and Dragons recently. Not only has Mallen’s blog been featured as Stuffer Shack’s RPG Blog of the month, but it’s also listed among popular blogs on 4Eblogs.com! (The link to Grant Gould’s art blog is awesome as well – you get a great sense of what his artistic process is by following his progress post to post.)
  • Over at Troll in the Corner, Ben has been busy with new works about the world of Aruneus. Coming soon is Herbology of Aruneus, which features some cool art from Hayley Ehrenfeld, an up and coming young artist. The picture of a plant shaped like a hand is simply eerie!

Reviews

  • A review of D&D-inspired colognes and perfumes? Why not? Sucilaria at Critical Hits says that though they’re expensive, they offer quite an array of possibilities when combined. With six races, six classes, and five alignments to choose from – will you smell like a Chaotic Orc Fighter today?
  • You’ve heard me speak about Dungeonslayers recently, but it’s nice to see other folks like Jerry at Obsidian Portal mention it. Check out this recent “Free System Friday” article with links to Dungeonslayers and Dungeon Crawl Classics – both freely available (DS is CC licensed and DCC is in open beta).
  • Need a new dice bag? I’ve mentioned Dragon Chow dice bags before, but Thadeousc at This is My Game was shouting from the rooftops about his new Chompy Dice Bag – and I definitely love mine.
  • Have you seen Chaostle from Chivalry Games? Ben Kuchera at ars technica has put together a detailed review of the game, including some insights from Mark Jacobs of Chivalry Games. This looks like the old Dungeon board game got thrown into a 3D printer and combined with RISK!
  • Should new products mimic old ones? It’s a fine line. Imitation *is* the sincerest form of flattery, but sometimes it just doesn’t work. So seeing the beginning of James Maliszewski’s review of Rob Conley’s Blackmarsh campaign setting at Grognardia, you might think he hated it. Guess what? He didn’t. And I love the old hex-map style, so this might have to be one I check out…
  • Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game knocks another one out of the park for the gnomes at Gnome Stew, as evidenced by Dave Chalker’s review at Critical Hits. I have a review copy here that I’m dying to dive into but haven’t had a chance yet… But what I’ve seen has me very excited, just like when Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters came out last year!
  • Sarah Darkmagic just released her second 6-pack adventure – Black Rock Bandits – this week. The idea is great – pre-packaged adventures for 2-4 hours with everything you need – maps, tokens, and pre-generated characters. Sounds like she had a lot of fun, which is great news – I find that if adventures are fun to write, they’re usually fun to run!

Tools

  • Have you played with PCGen yet? This open source character generator for RPGs (d20-based for the most part) continues to get attention and looks like it supports multiple D&D versions and Pathfinder, so it might be right up your alley for players (character creation and maintenance) and GMs (combat tracking, experience handling, random generators, etc.). Always good to have another tool in the toolbox!
  • If you’re looking for tools to simplify your gaming tasks, be sure to check out Christopher Hackler’s article at Gaming Tonic. This is exactly the kind of article I’d love to see more of – with someone collating a collection of tool reviews so gamers don’t waste their money on something that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to. Power2ool.com looks pretty cool, Seventh Sanctum has some amazing random generators to help out any GM in a pinch, and I may have to check out Hero Machine or Factory Heroes to create some cool character sketches. Definitely need more of this kind of feedback!
  • How about mapping tools? Though I love world creating and dungeon making, I have to admit I suck at creating actual maps. That’s why I’m happy to see folks with actual talent in those areas creating tools for people like me! Check out this great page of Cartography tools at Inkwell Ideas – creators of Hexographer and Dungeonographer, plus a collection of random generators for your enjoyment.
  • What do you think about Google+? Is it really the Facebook
    killer? Probably not – but I liken it to Google Buzz on steroids. If you’re looking for gamers to stalk follow on Google+, check out this great list put together by Andrew at Game Native. And if you want to stalk me on G+, I’m good with that too. Check out my profile here.
  • Index cards. Not flashy like a tablet PC, but sturdy, old-school, and easy to use in infinite ways. Kurt Schneider at Gnome Stew has put together a couple of great articles (part 1 and part 2) on using them to help prep your game sessions. And let me say, he uses a LOT of cards – for everything from NPCs and locations to organizations, rewards, plots, and more. I seriously think the toughest part would be managing them in 200-card cases… I consider myself organized if I remember pen and paper some nights!
  • Do many of you use IRC for sessions? I’ve been debating trying it for a year now myself – and VBWyrde at Ethos RPG has compiled quite a long list of possibilities for tools and tips. What do you use? How does it work?
  • If you run a superhero game, you might want to check out Sean Holland’s Sea of Stars blog this week. He’s put together a list of some of the sites he uses for inspiration for his own superhero work – including a few websites and comics you may not know about yet.
  • I’m always looking for new name generators and came across one I hadn’t seen before from Samuel Stoddard at rinkworks.com. As a name generator, it offers a simple and advanced interface to generate plenty of variety in the names that come up.

That’s it for this week. If you click through to some of these great posts, please try and leave comments for the authors. Sometimes even the smallest comment like “Thanks for the great advice!” is enough encouragement to keep all these wonderful folks writing.

I hope everybody has a great weekend!

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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