News from Around the Net: 22-JUL-2011

Some weeks are like running through a crowded hallway filled with upset porcupines and then jumping through flaming hoops while the very same porcupines are firing automatic weapons at you… But we’re here, right? Friday has arrived. And of course the funny part is that the exact same amount of time passes each week and yet every week seems to be different than the last.

I’ll complete that thought with a quote from Groucho Marx that sums up the whimsy of our perception of time beautifully…

“Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.” – Groucho Marx

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!

And on to the links!!

Food for Thought

  • In this world of conference calls, video phones, and isolation behind our computers, phones, and consoles, I think it’s a real fear that face-to-face gaming between friends at a table may be on the decline. Geek Ken offers a simple way to help stop that slow slide… Simply “Get out and game.” That’s all – hit the local game store, play in a library, or find an open table in a public space. When people ask what you’re doing – explain it and ask if they want to join. Easy enough, right?
  • Bookshelves 3 stories

    Image via Wikipedia

    Along the same lines, why not contribute to Michael Robles campaign at WotC to play games and raise money for kids at Extra-Life.org! He’s only about halfway or so to his goal of $500 – I bet we can help push that to the max in no time!

  • Do you consider yourself an introvert? Is that a bad thing? Carl King offers a list of “10 Myths About Introverts” that might make you reexamine how you look at yourself a bit… Great food for thought!
  • Are you a bibliophile? If you’re a gamer, odds are you have at least a little book lover inside. Personally I have too many boxes of books and not enough shelves. So I can’t imagine not being surrounded by heady tomes of words… Thadeousc at This is My Game ponders the death of print in “I Miss My Books.” I don’t see printed books going away, but I do like my iPad
  • I often wondered why wood weapons cost more than iron. But I’d never looked at it in terms of perceived lethality in regards to the rules… Phil McGregor at Campaign Mastery has obviously been thinking quite a bit on the subject in the first part of his series “Wood and Silver or Iron and gold? – Historical Inaccuracy in FRP, Part 1.” Thought provoking stuff for sure. How will this line of thinking affect modern fantasy RPGs?
  • Are bookstores dying out? I know all that we have locally are big-box bookstores like Barnes & Noble left in my neighborhood and these days the convenience of Amazon is one of my downfalls. Though I buy more books, I buy them from out of state, which doesn’t help the local economy. Well, Newbie DM suggests a new trend. On August 1st – let’s all go buy something at a physical bookstore. Even if it’s a big chain, it’s local labor – so you’re supporting a love of books AND the local economy a bit. Let’s keep the dream alive a little longer…
  • And if you’re already planning on hitting the
    bookstore, why don’t you find one of your gaming books and read in public for “Read an RPG Book in Public Week” July 24th through 30th? This is another great idea to attract new gamers to the hobby. When I worked in an office, I used to take RPG books to work and at one point even had a lunch-time gaming group at work for a while. It does get people curious about what you’re reading, so why not attract some attention to the hobby? You might find some new players!
  • No matter what line of work you’re in, you’re probably promoting yourself a bit. But for writers and small publishers, it’s often a part of the publishing package that some folks just don’t like doing. “Tooting your own horn,” is often thought of as a negative thing. However, if you don’t talk about your stuff or convince others to talk about it for you, nobody will know about it. Nathan Bransford, writer of Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow for kids in middle school doesn’t like it either, but accepts that he has to do it. So never fear – you are not alone in not wanting to shout from the rooftops, but the “If you build it, they will come” philosophy only works if you’re Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams
  • I love that mainstream magazines like WIRED and Salon are exploring RPGs a bit more these days. Check out this article in Salon from Ethan Gilsdorf about a summer he needed a way to escape the real world for a little while to destress after his mother suffered from a brain aneurysm. He proves that occasional trips to the imagination don’t lead to someone who’s scarred for life like Tom Hanks in Mazes & MinotaursMonsters.
  • Isn’t the gaming community a great place? Gaming Tonic is a relatively new gaming blog that is a lot like GKR – simply sharing reviews, ideas, and whatever else comes up about the gaming life with the community at large. This article said some nice things about GKR this week as well as offering a bit of insight into what’s coming up on GT in the future. I know I’ll be reading. :)

Games and Gaming

  • Experience points. There never seem to be enough to go around to get everybody to level up at the same time. Every GM has a slightly different method for doling out XPs in their games. Mike at Campaign Mastery asks a simple question – “Why not shift entirely to objective-based XP rewards?” Makes sense to me. Check out Mike’s article for the full story…
  • Late last week I was chatting with Jay (pointyman2000) online and he was talking about his Hollow Earth Campaign. The adventure he had planned sounded spectacular and a lot of fun if you were a player. So, I was happy to see him write up a summary at his site Life and Times of a Philippine Gamer. I wish we had teleporters and I could bounce wherever the best games were being run in the world!
  • How many times have you heard “Ok, so you’re all at this tavern and you happen to bump into each other…” to get a party of PCs together? Well, look no further than this article from Dungeons’N’Dragons for 10 ways to start a party without falling into that old trap. And I really like the idea of caravan guards getting laid off. No Monster.com board for you to put up your caravan guard resume on then!
  • Limitations are what you make of them. Sometimes it takes limits to make you see creative options within a smaller box when the bigger box would be too overwhelming… Jeff Greiner says “Embrace Limitations” in gaming and listen to what your GM is looking for as far as party composition. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find the best character ever!
  • Have you ever played in a game where you had a player cheat? Or worse, had the GM cheat? The occasional fudged die roll aside, I’ve been pretty lucky. But it’s that trust between the GM and the players that has to be there for it to be a collaborative process and not adversarial. Stargazer has some good observations about “Trust issues” and how to avoid them.

Publisher News

Reviews

  • Though I’ve seen Arcanis around, until now I haven’t seen a review that goes deep enough to give me an appreciation for the mechanics and crunch Paradigm Concepts is going for. Well, The Unemployed Geek has solved that problem in an extremely detailed article touching everything from presentation and character creation to action resolution and initiative mechanics!
  • Or maybe
    you’re more into roleplaying in the DC comics universe? Greywulf takes a solid look at DC Adventures: Heroes & Villains, Vol. 1 and covers everything as only a True Believer in comic books can do… And I think based on this review, Green Ronin may have outdone themselves with this one.
  • Every so often I get addicted to a computer game like Civilization, Elder Scrolls: Oblivion or Fallout 3, but a game based on the Call of Cthuluhu RPG? Count me in! Check this out for details on this single-player 3D game initially planned for iPhone/iPod Touch and Android… Just don’t go insane while you wait!
  • Open Design’s Book of Drakes is sitting in my review queue right now, but I’m getting excited to check it out after all the great reviews I’ve seen. Check out Tzimiscedracul’s review of Book of Drakes at Tower of the Lonely GM. Ack! I have to work my way through my queue first! Must… write… faster!!
  • Savage Worlds comes up again and again as one of those games I need to eventually check out… Well, check out this review of Savage Worlds Deluxe Edition from Andy Slack at Halfway Station! I love how he breaks things down and starts with “If you’ve never played Savage Worlds…” but also offers a list of what’s new & different for fans who already know all about it.
  • Stargazer (Michael Wolf) posted his first review on RPG.net this week! This is a review of Dark Harvest: The Legacy of Frankenstein, and he obviously fell in love with the setting. Imagine a modern Romania where science is used to keep members of the upper classes of society alive while using parts of people from lower classes to do so… All the benefits of immortal life can be yours, if your morals and ethics are a little more flexible than others. It’s great to hear about these books I wouldn’t ordinarily see on game store shelves in my area…
  • Azamar is a new game out soon from Wicked North Games I’ve been excited about since learning about it on Kickstarter a while back. Well, John Payne at Sycarion Diversions has offered the first part of a two-part review of Azamar. He points out the variety of choices – from races and magic, skills and deities, and everything in-between. Great review and I look forward to the second part…
  • Meanwhile, Jay at Life and Times of a Philippine Gamer offers his opinions about White Wolf’s latest PDF – Glimpses of the Unknown. Story hooks help GMs figure out where to go with a campaign or fill in between larger portions of their narrative, and it sounds like this book offers quite a few options for GMs to sink their claws into!

Tools

  • Whenever I play an established RPG such as D&D 3.5, Paizo’s Pathfinder, or 4e, I’m always looking for as great character sheet that not only captures the essence of the game with fonts, images, and style, but offers a usable sheet. I think Dyslexic Studeos has done an amazing job with these detailed sheets that go that extra mile to offer just about everything you might want in a character sheet… They even have an online character sheet creator to help you pick just the pages you need!
  • The brushed aluminum back of the iPad Wi-Fi

    Image via Wikipedia

    I’ve mentioned before my fascination with maps. Today’s maps are lacking the artistic flair of those with dragons where men feared to sail or explore. That’s where gaming comes in. Wimwick at Dungeon’s Master offers a list of different ways to find or create maps to use at the game table – from pre-produced dungeon tiles from WotC and pre-generated maps for adventures to hand-drawn beauties from Dyson Logos. Different tools for different styles. What do you use?

  • Speaking of maps… If you don’t have time to create one, why not let your players do the work? TheSheDM at NewbieDM suggests handing over the markers and giving them a time limit to see what comes up – I bet it’ll make things interesting!
  • This week for my campaign at home with my daughters, I was looking for a good way to create some graph paper with 1″ squares. I found the Free Online Graph Paper generator from incompetech, which fit the bill perfectly. They have squares, triangles, hexagons, circles, and much more… Great to have in the toolbox.
  • Another mapping tool that came up this week was the Dungeon Painter from pyromancers.com. Looks like another quick way to throw together a dungeon map for your adventuring pleasure. Something I’ll definitely have to play more with when opportunities arise.
  • Villains. Unless you know something I don’t, nothing brings a game to life like a well-constructed villain with a plan. Well, Ruth D. Kerce at Roleplaying Tips has some ideas on how to create an effective villain for your game. I love “2. Even Villains Have a Good Side” and “5. Don’t Overdo It” – wise words for any GM seeking a villain to cause trouble for his or her players for a long time to come…
  • Plotting out adventures and plotting out stories or novels seem to have some similarities… So when Robin Laws suggests how he’s using Hamlet’s Hit Points beat system to help plot his novel, I wanted to check it out. I’m still not quite sure how it works – but I’m going to dive in and figure it out!
  • Writer’s block is the dragon most (if not all) writers face at some point or another. I’m always looking for ways to slay the beast. Check out this great list of “25 Ways to Defeat the Dreaded Writer’s Block” at Chuck Wendig’s blog – Terrible Minds. These are good pieces of advice like “Kill the Shiny” (turn off the TV, phone, and computer distractions) or “Put Lipstick on tThat Monkey” (find a new font to offer some inspiration). Great ideas!
  • And I love my new iPad. I’m still figuring out how best to use it while gaming, but have been toying with a few apps now and then. Thadeousc from This is My Game offers a great list of apps for gamers to use as he prepares for his trip to GenCon (I’m jealous!)… I love this sort of mini-review collection of apps to look for and will be playing with a few of the ones on his list. Does anybody have a comprehensive list of iPad/iPhone/Android apps for gaming somewhere on the ‘net I can link to by chance? It would be great to have one stop shopping for gaming-related app news!

That’s it for this week. 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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