This week we had our first taste of Autumn weather in Colorado Springs. I expect the leaves to start changing and snow to start collecting on Pikes Peak soon. And all that is fine because Fall is one of my favorite times of year. Plus, with all the rain we got this week my yard should look fantastic!
Weather aside, it’s been a fantastic week. The 1st anniversary of the blog was a huge milestone and if you haven’t heard about it yet, I’d encourage you to see what prizes are left in the box.
I’m hoping that I have time to contribute to the Speak Out With Your Geek Out campaign this weekend (started by writer Monica Valentinelli), but even if I don’t – I think it’s a great effort spreading a positive message about the Geekdom-at-large. We’re not misanthropic misfits – we’re just people. We just may happen to like television, movies, games, RPGs, the SCA, and who knows what else more than other so-called “normal” people. We’re not outcasts. We are creative, imaginative people with a knack for finding and staying with those things we get excited about. So thank you Monica for kicking off this effort!
This week we have an eclectic collection of links – but I don’t think a Friday goes by when it’s not at least a little eclectic. So enjoy and let me know if I missed anything!
About this week’s sponsor – Escape Velocity Gaming… Escape Velocity Gaming’s City Slices 1: Marketplace Fun offers a collection of ready-made encounters, vendors, stalls, and challenges to spice up markets in D&D 4e campaigns. You can check out my review of this great book, but be sure to check out the site for links to some of William Pfaff’s other great products, including some fun freebies!
Food for Thought
- Music and gaming go hand in hand, so I don’t know why I’ve been so surprised by recent efforts like “Tonight (D&D Song)” by Allie Goertz. She’s not alone creating cool music based on games and fantasy worlds however. Check out “The Ballad of Helm’s Deep” by The Fellowship of the Strings – a cool bluegrass-infused homage to one of the pivotal battles of The Lord of the Rings. (As an amateur guitar player, they even included chords so I would be able to play. )
- I can’t argue with anything Chuck Wendig has to say over at Terribleminds about writers needing to play a pencil-and-paper tabletop roleplaying game now and then to reinforce their storytelling skills. Can you?
- Ah, the index. It’s the boon or bane of many a RPG book. When done right, it’s incredibly useful (like Engine Publishing’s Masks). When done wrong, you end up wasting more time than you might have simply flipping through the book from front to back. The Four Color Critic at Four Color Criticism has an opinion to the oft-asked-question “Does my tabletop roleplaying game need an index?” I agree with the answer: “Yes.” Included in the article are some superb details and suggestions on how to make your index great.
- Though I’m not a huge South Park fan, I have to admit that the show has kept a loyal following for many many years now. Trey Parker and Matt Stone visited a college class to talk to them about writing at NYU – and I’m guessing it might have been a bit of a shock to the system of some. But it’s worth mining for ideas from these two creative minds!
- Folklore. Myths. Legends. D&D sparked a love for these in me that I’ve been chasing for nearly 30 years. So I love learning more about some of the traditional beasties like trolls. At the Trollish Delver, Scott Malthouse offers some background about these giants taken from Norse myths.
- Along with stories on paper, sometimes movies can also inspire our gaming. Scott Taylor at Black Gate has put together an interesting article comparing some of the classic fantasy films from the ’80s to today and how the recent Conan the Barbarian 3D film with Jason Momoa didn’t work. According to Box Office Mojo, with a production budget of $90 million dollars, it hasn’t even made $50 million when you combine domestic and foreign box office totals. So why did some of those classic films work better? Anyway, Scott’s article reminded me of some of my favorites, like Krull, The Beastmaster, the original Conan the Barbarian with Arnold, and more. Memory lane is fun to visit at times!
Games and Gaming
- Can you imagine playing in a game without a “to-hit” roll? Apparently there are posts at B/X Blackrazor proposing just that. And those posts have caused ripples like the post at …and the sky full of dust this week. If you cut some of the rolls out of systems like D&D and move more towards a streamlined, simplified system I’d be very curious to see how gameplay was affected. Combat sucks so much time out of every gaming session (usually), would this potentially be a cure?
What do you do when you have lots of games on your shelf you want to try, but a gaming group who’s content playing D&D? Create a second group, of course! Scott Boehmer at This is My Game has done just that and will be playing different games from his shelf with this new group trying a new game each month. I look forward to hearing how that works out!
- In recent weeks, the kid-friendly 4e character sheets from James Stowe have continued to be a very hot topic. So I was interested to see a simplified two-page approach to making character creation easier from Roger the GS at roles, rules & rolls. There seems to be a flurry of activity around simplifying character generation, as Lasgunpacker has done for Deepest Sea, in recent months. And as a fan of simplified and rules-light gaming these days, I’m happy to see it!
- What happens when the fear of being a low level character peters out and you achieve the status of awe-inspiring heroes? High-level characters are tough to motivate. Tough to scare. But what if as the party gets more experience and stories grow of their exploits that they are feared by the populace more than revered? I think Wrath of Zombie is definitely onto something with this point of view… Think about it. Would you feel safe hiring someone to do a job who had killed a dragon? A major demon? A god? Prolly not.
- Martin Ralya is the Gnome-in-Chief at Gnome Stew and this week came up with an approach to campaign structure that not only makes total sense, but it was an “oh, duh!” moment. Of course most campaigns work in the framework of this “tipping point” structure, but I hadn’t looked at it quite that way before. But it embraces a bit of challenge at low levels and gives the party the power at higher levels to decide what’s most important to their world. They’re more invested in things by that point, so why wouldn’t they start to drive a bit of the action? (By the way, congrats on the amazing milestone of 1,000 posts at Gnome Stew!!)
- Unless you’re the Highlander and always seem to have your sword handy (we won’t ask from what dark place it came from), your characters are going to be caught without weapons occasionally in combat. Ameron at Dungeon’s Master has some great options on how to make such “naked” combats work. All four have merit and it’s up to the GM to decide which way to go.
- FATE seems to be everywhere these days. So it should come as no surprise that folks are looking to convert their existing games, settings, or campaigns to work in the system. John Lewis at Stuffer Shack has a terrific article about converting your game to the Strands of Fate game system. And Stacey Chancellor at The Fate Archives has a huge list of the various FATE-based games that are out there today… Superheroes, Steampunk, science fiction, fantasy… it’s all there folks!
- I don’t know about you, but I love laughing during games. Whether in character or out, if it’s genuine laughter I know I’m having a great time with friends doing something that I love. Not all games are meant to be funny. Sometimes however it’s those snide comments out of game, a SNAFU in game, or any of a million other things that makes us laugh anyway. But what about games that are supposed to be funny? This article over at The Artifact has some great suggestions on what to keep in mind if you’re going for more of an in-game kind of funny.
- I want to wish the folks at Tower of the Archmage a happy 2nd anniversary! May your well of ideas never run dry.
- The Kobolds are at it again. Richard Pett offers a fun list of 50 Strange Treasures to give your players fits… I can only imagine what some of my old gaming groups would think of if they saw a “mummified baboon head gourd” (#20) show up on a store shelf somewhere.
- I love it when smart, imaginative folks do something unexpected. Michael Tumey, Johnn Four, and Mike Bourke from Campaign Mastery have produced a 200 page adventure called Assassin’s Amulet: Life Is A Dangerous Business. Though I don’t know when the book will be available, it’s Pathfinder RPG and 3e compatible – and all Open Game Content! Be sure to vote on which cover you think is best!
- Paizo announced a new coordinator for their huge Pathfinder Society Organized Play program – a worldwide program of shared roleplaying. Mike Brock, who coordinated OP in Atlanta, Georgia will start this massive job in October. Best of luck to Mike! (And thanks to ICV2 for the news!)
- Are you in need of a new magic robe for your Pathfinder RPG character? Well, you’re in luck! Raging Swan just released Robes of Summoning, which contains detailed write-ups of the Robe of Summoning you won’t find anywhere else. Included are the Robe of Bones, the Robe of Animals, the Robe of Caves, the Robes of Vermin, and the Robe of the Waves – each designed to offer some new critters to summon forth (along with full stat blocks for those critters)! Check it out at RPGNow and other online retailers.
- LPJ Design has released Ultimate Chase Decks: Forest & Jungle Chases for the Pathfinder RPG, containing 34 full-color cards to add some obstacles as your heroes are chasing evil through the forest. After seeing how cool the Critical Hit and Critical Fumble decks were in my last campaign, I can see how these would really come in handy for a GM trying to add some crunch to a chase scene.
- Rite Publishing released #30 Haunts for Objects for Pathfinder RPG late last week and it’s been getting some great reviews. Alex Lucard at Diehard Gamefan thinks the book “is something any GM should pick up, even if they don’t play Pathfinder.” Megan Robertson in a review at the Paizo store says “Plenty to play with as you design your next game and pick one or two to terrify, annoy, or distract the characters.”
- Apparently the Kobolds are stuck at eleven on the 1-10 knob permanently. They just released the Kobold Guide to Board Game Design last week and it’s getting rave reviews from folks around the ‘net. Megan Robersten at Flames Rising says “Even if you never design a game, you will look at every game that you play in a different light.” What more can you ask out of a book than a certain amount of enlightenment?
- Paizo isn’t sitting twiddling their thumbs either. One of their recent books – Pathfinder Campaign Setting: The Inner Sea World Guide – has also been garnering praise. As with all of Paizo’s books, I expect the artwork, layout, and writing to be top-notch, but I’m glad the imaginative bits are there too. Ed Grabianowski at Robot Viking says the book is “Everything a Campaign Book Should Be.” High praise indeed! (Plus, it has a poster map, which reminds me of all the old TSR box sets from long ago!)
- If you’ve been debating picking up the 4e starter set, you might want to check out Mike’s review at 1d8. Sounds like more than a few things are missing, like more examples to help beginning GMs figure things out…
- Tenkar at Tenkar’s Tavern had a chance to review Seal the Rift! for Savage Worlds. I think he enjoyed it – and I love the details about bookmarks, art, maps and the adventure. Sounds like he had fun helping to playtest it.
- Playtesting is one of those activities every game designer must do some of. It’s not enough to create a game and test it with your regular group. Typically you would seek one or more independent gaming groups to test a new game. Well guess what? Now there’s a rpg.net forum thread set up just for game developers looking for playtesters! (Thanks to Orion at Zombie Toast for this one.)
- Last week, I saw an article about zone markers used for 4e monster and player power zones. Well, it seems that Thursday Knights has released some templates for creating your very own zone markers at home. With a little work and some Photoshop magic, you’ll have some cardstock corners in no time.
- Do you use Hexographer? Do you like icosahedral projections? I never got the hang of that particular mapping perspective, but I know a few folks who like them. Joe over at Inkwell Ideas is working on a plugin that will do just that sort of projection – and the samples are definitely cool to look at.
- Speaking of maps… There were a few articles about them over the last week. Dyson Logos offers an unfinished level to spark your imagination. Over at North of Nowhere, there’s a cross-section map of some mines that uses Dyson’s cross-hatching methods and looks really good for a first attempt! And at Ruby Saturna’s blog, there’s a great tutorial on how to create a fictional satellite map. Honestly I don’t know how these electronic artists do their wizardry but it turns out great!
- Or maybe you’re looking for figure flats to use? Chaosmeister at Chaotic/GM found a great free Java tool to create them from any PNG with a transparent background. Looks like a quick and easy way to create trifolds for your table.
- Do you ever hunt for cool old-school woodcut images? The University of Houston has a huge digital library with quite a variety of images. “Topsell’s The History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents Woodcuts” has 175 items that might be useful for book or game art. I’m not sure what the usage rights are, but it might give you some ideas anyway.
- Also in the artwork category are these great old Civil Defense pamphlets. Sniderman at Savage Afterworld posted links to some fun ones like “The H-Bomb and You” and “Bert the Turtle says Duck and Cover.” These would fit in perfectly into a Fallout-style campaign.
That’s it for this week on the news front.
Don’t forget to check out the great list of giveaways for the 1st anniversary of Game Knight Reviews!
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 the contact page and I’ll add it to the list for next week!
- Roleplay as “Escapism” in the Media from More Than Dice (morethandice.com)
- Free Third Party Roleplaying Publications from Geekcentricity ” Role-Playing (geekcentricity.com)
- My new games are waiting for me from Cradle of Rabies – From role to games (cradleofrabies.blogspot.com)
- What Good Are RPGs, Anyway? from Elthos RPG (elthosrpg.blogspot.com)
- Pen and Paper: How Writing Helped My Roleplaying from The Player’s Side of the Screen (playerside.blogspot.com)