It’s the Friday before Labor Day weekend for those of us in the United States, so many of us are getting ready for a few days of rest & relaxation. And I for one am ready for a few days off!
Before I dive into the news, I have to share some of my own. September 15, 2011 marks the one year anniversary of the first post on Game Knight Reviews. Amazingly after 150+ blog posts, more than 20,000 visitors have hit the site and all but 500 of those have come in the last nine months, so a huge thank you goes out to everybody who’s been reading. I hope to be able to announce some cool giveaways on the 15th, so keep a watch out for that in a couple of weeks.
And now… to the news.
Food for Thought
- Are you looking for a new t-shirt to increase your gaming cred at the table? Check out Fashionably Geek’s collection of new D&D-themed tees – from the Infinite Nachos spell to Troll haters and knight time for tacos… Though I have to wonder if my gut would be able to handle a magic trough of infinite nachos… Or as Homer might say… “Mmmmm…. Nachos…”
Once again, the kindness of gamers shines through. Irene may have only dealt a glancing blow to parts of the eastern seaboard, but apparently it hit Vermont pretty hard with flooding according to Tyler at Held Action. Matt Golec has set up a game auction on Boardgamegeek and proceeds from the items will go to the Vermont/New Hampshire Red Cross to help in relief efforts. Please support this great cause and help the rebuilding begin!
- Do you wonder if the rules of your favorite RPGs are dictating the play style you can use? Iron Wolf at Iron Tavern is wondering about D&D 3.x rule sets and whether they hamper immersion more than older D&D rules do. What do you think? Chime in on the blog post, but be sure to read the comments, as there are some great thoughts in that banter to consider.
- In a related vein, Chris Jones at Classic RPG Realms wonders if the core of RPGs has faded too far as we get further from the roots of the original Chainmail & D&D. Is that possible? Ultimately I think it’s less about the games themselves and more about the gamers and groups and how they approach the hobby, but I wonder if there’s some sense to Chris’s argument about rules purity since the beginning and all the rules variants that exist today… What do you think?
- When you get into a game, what is it that attracts you? The mechanics? Or the setting? Like Stacey Chancellor at The FATE Archives, I am attracted to the setting first. But I like the way Stacey breaks up the different kinds of settings – physical settings that describe a place, some that describe a particular genre or time period, and then the ephemeral settings that go with games like The Dresden Files RPG where the setting is in all the books from Jim Butcher and not entirely in the rulebook. What do you look for in a setting?
- It wouldn’t be a Friday without some art links for pondering… This week Scott Taylor at Black Gate found his inner child with a box of crayons and the Dungeons & Dragons Coloring Album from 1979. I’ll be printing some of these awesome coloring sheets for my daughters!
- And if you’re a Brandon Sanderson fan, he’s put the interior illustrations from The Way of Kings online for pondering. These are amazing – and I may have to go pick up this book for my reading pile now…
Games and Gaming
- Have you ever wanted to run a horror-themed RPG, but didn’t know quite how to pull it off? Well, Andy/GGG over at Geek’s Dream Girl has some great suggestions on evoking a more honest response from a horror session. His tips should work for LARPs or tabletop RPGs, so definitely read up on how to scare ‘em, shock ‘em, gross ‘em out, and entertain ‘em!
Learning better GMing techniques from the masters is always a good thing, right? So reading some of Chris Perkins’ tips and tricks at WotC’s Dungeons and Dragons blog definitely helps. Ideas like cutting a campaign the way a film editor cuts a movie, using subtleties, and keeping descriptions sparse to allow the party a chance to fill in the blanks are all great ways to keep things moving!
- Mechanics is not my cup of tea. World design, adventures, places, people things… I’m good. But mechanics and I don’t get along. That said, apparently Chase at Intwischa does get mechanics to the Nth degree. His article about mechanic elegance in RPGs blew my mind and it’s something I’ll keep handy as food for thought on a regular basis.
- Along the same lines, Lowell Francis at Age of Ravens obviously knows how to skin systems with homebrew approaches to fit a particular spin. I’m content to use classes as-is most of the time, but Lowell applies some interesting approaches with archetypes and professions to offer more choices yet keep an eye on balance at the same time.
- Being a better GM was a major topic last Friday as well, but Zzarchov at Unofficial Games continues the trend this week looking at it from his perspective. Narrowing the goal is a great start and I like his goal of keeping 4-6 people thinking for an entire evening. THAT’s a good goal for a GM IMO!
- I’ve never been much of a fan of the way D&D handled languages. I always felt you should have to work at learning (and maintaining) language skills. Apparently so does Jonathan Jacobs at Nevermet Press. I definitely like the concept of language fluency as a mechanic – as do others who have pointed out that HERO and WoD games use a similar setup. I love it when great minds agree and they don’t even know what they’re agreeing on…!
- This dude scares me… Essau, Exarch of Tharizdun, is basically a pillar of smoke who can smoke you and is basically invincible. The Id DM has started a new column at This is My Game called No Assembly Required – and Essau is the first bit of monstrous content for your campaigns. Just please don’t use him in any campaign I play in, ok?
- Modern 4e is something that I’ve not seen yet, but this article about chase scenes from C. Steven Ross at DMG 42 is really dang complete. I used to love GMing car chases in Palladium Books’ Ninjas and Superspies, so I’d be curious to see how they run in 4e.
- In a more fantasy-oriented 4e article, Matthew Brenner at Blood, Sweat and Dice details some fun Errol Flynn-style powers for 4e. I’m a big Errol Flynn fan – those classic sword fights are legendary and still amazing even after all this time. So why not swing on a chandelier in his honor from time to time in your 4e campaign?
- And then there’s Mark at Dice Monkey who’s been contemplating a stone age campaign for 4e. Talk about old school – all you’d need are a black obelisk and a few stone tools and you could reenact the opening scene to 2001: A Space Odyssey! Kidding aside, I really didn’t know 4e had this kind of range – from modern all the way back to early mankind!
- In case you missed it, PAX Prime 2011 happened last weekend in Seattle. Apparently there were some sweet new tabletop games that Matt Morgan at MTV Geek uncovered while he was there… From Super Dungeon Explore and Penny Arcade: Gamers Vs. Evil to Small World Underground, Paint the Line and any board or card game played on a custom gaming table. The table would certainly look sweet in my basement if I had room!
- Gamerati is very cool. Not only do they run Loot, but they have an ad network that helps publishers get a targeted message out to gamers. Ed Healy is one of the great guys at Gamerati and he’s currently on a tour around the US talking about gaming at stores. That’s dedication! Well, Rico at Dragon’s Bay had a chance to interview Ed – so check it out and see if Ed will be anywhere near you on his tour…
- Though I was bummed that Argyle & Crew didn’t quite meet its Kickstarter goal, I’m excited that Ben at Troll in the Corner is moving forward with it. You can get your own copy of the game PDF at DriveThruRPG now, which is awesome. I have yet to try this with my kids, but I think they’ll love playing with sock puppets!
- Rite Publishing has just released a handful of products – 101 Armor and Shield Properties, Fold-N-Go Singles: Altar, Fantastic Maps: The Ice Bridge, In the Company of Henge, and Faces of the Tarnished Souk: Belladonna, The Face of Love Unrequited. All of them are available at DriveThruRPG… And if you’re interested in The Breaking of Forstor Nagar, be sure to check out the Rite Publishing website for a trailer video that’s pretty cool!
- LPJ Design has also released Ultimate Traps Decks that offers a collection of 10 Pathfinder-compatible traps for use in your games. I have to admit I’m liking the card approach these days!
- Jonathan Lavalee of Gamish Designer picked up a copy of Bulldogs! by Brennan Taylor and Brian Engard from Galileo Games at Gen Con this year and likes it for its terse application of the FATE system, unlike some of the other FATE-based games from other publishers. The game sounds cool and I really need to get a FATE-based game sometime soon to read it through… I love the idea that the players define the captain and the ship, even though the ship is a wreck, and the goal is to complete the requests from the Corporation. A bit of Dilbert in Space perhaps with some Alien thrown in for good measure?
- I love this trend lately to review older modules and games. JB at B/X Blackrazor takes a look at the classic module B2: The Keep on the Borderlands and follows on the analysis of JimLotFP at Lamentations of the Flame Princess. It’s fascinating to me to see not only the detailed discussion of the good and bad things in the module, but some thoughts on what the real goal ought to be for players going through it. Now I wish I’d actually played B2 when I was in college when I had the opportunity.
- Cthulhutech just sounds cool. Piloting a giant robot in a world taken over by the forces of Cthulhu… Tracy at Troll in the Corner thinks so too!
- New Orleans is often used as a hub of supernatural activity in fiction. White Wolf released the City of the Damned: New Orleans book and Billzilla at Flames Rising says there are some good things and bad things about it, but the bottom line is that it’s worth the money. Definitely something to check out.
- WotC has just released the new Lair Assault: Forge of the Dawn Titan adventure for 4e and Ameron at Dungeon’s Master is very excited about it! The concept of the whole adventure being one giant encounter is very interesting… I’m wondering how long those four in-game minutes are going to take in realtime?
- Michael at Neuroglyph Games recently had some time to review the City Builder Generator Pack from Chaotic Shiny Productions and tested its ability to generate the bits for a medieval city or town. He includes plenty of screen shots and goes through each generator piece by piece. Overall he thinks there are a lot of useful applications for only a few bucks!
- I’m a sucker for random tables. James C at A Dungeon Master’s Tale has composed a series of tables to enable you to generate an arcane order from picking a name to figuring out how long they’ve been around and what arcane knowledge they actually know. I used the tables to create “The Arcane Luminous,” which has been around for 15 years, knows spells up to the 6th level and is going to be very stingy about sharing them with anybody else!
Or maybe you feel like creating a new religion for your group’s cleric? Staples at Grognardling has some unique tables you can roll on to do just that… When I went through the exercise, I ended up with an Animistic religion that’s friendly and doesn’t try to convert you right away. Unfortunately, the gods don’t really care – they’re pretty apathetic – at least until they start playing with mortals as entertainment. The religion itself is teaching a moral code despite their uncaring gods, trying to avoid moral degeneration. Worshipers sacrifice material goods – burning them in the weekly temple bonfire – which means it’s an expensive club to belong to or else you end up with no possessions. It would be interesting to see the player’s reactions when they stopped in a town with a local temple of this religion to get some healing and they asked for something to burn in return… Think a few eyebrows would go up?
- Outlining. You probably learned about it when you were going through school and forgot about it… but guess what? It’s still a useful tool for gamers too! Though Sean Preston at Reality Blurs offers a general overview of outlining practices, I think all of the techniques mentioned… from understanding the structure and not going overboard to making sure you have the right tools to outline easily… can be used in adventure design, world design, or simply writing up campaign notes in a way that makes sense.
- Here’s another tool idea in the “dang, why didn’t I think of that” category… Berin Kinsman experimented with creating a Player Knowledge Book that is shared between players and GM to help them not only collect all the important NPCs, places, and threads in a single place, but can allow the GM to compare notes and inject interesting clues, rumors, places, or people along the way. Shared storytelling made simple. What a concept!
- Drama. I live in a house with two daughters, so I’m getting a better feel for it. But sometimes as a GM you want to up the ante and increase dramatic tension for your group. The folks at The Artifact RPG have a suggestion. Put dice under a box! (Plus it’s a great way to recycle all those 12-pack soda boxes after everyone’s fully caffeinated!)
- Are you looking for some tokens for 4e Modern? C. Steven Ross at DMG 42 has pulled a ton of them together for you. Just print ‘em and glue them to a 1″ washer for instant counters!
- Character dossiers. Yet another great idea I wish I had. But Mike at Campaign Mastery has a heck of a detailed plan for how to set one of these puppies up for an NPC so you have tons of useful information in one location!
That’s it for this week on the news front.
If you missed any of my articles this week, here are some links to catch up:
- Review of Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game
- The last part of my Animals in RPGs series for the RPG Blog Carnival from The Gassy Gnoll – Heroes and Monsters
- Review of Wererats of the Roach Run Sewers
- Review of A Wanderer’s Romance
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!
- So Why Would You Want To GM, Anyway? from Geek’s Dream Girl” Dungeons & Dragons / RPGs (geeksdreamgirl.com)
- Kobold Comes of Age from Reviews from R’lyeh (rlyehreviews.blogspot.com)
- Scare, Shock, Gross Out, Entertain – Running a Horror-Themed RPG from Geek’s Dream Girl” Dungeons & Dragons / RPGs (geeksdreamgirl.com)
- CONTEST: Win the Neverwinter Campaign Setting (Sponsored by Gator Games) from Geek’s Dream Girl” Dungeons & Dragons / RPGs (geeksdreamgirl.com)
- Languages as Skills in RPGs from Nevermet Press (nevermetpress.com)
- Favorite site of the Month: Sept/2011 from STUFFER SHACK (stuffershack.com)
- Dungeons, Dragons, and Aspects from Points of Light (daegames.blogspot.com)
- Twin Suns Entertainment and the Fourth Generation of RPGs from Christian Lindke’s Cinerati (cinerati.blogspot.com)