News from Around the Net: 23-SEP-2011 (Sponsored by Escape Velocity Gaming)

Happy Friday!

This has been a long week, but a productive one – at work anyway. This weekend I’ll actually be in Las Vegas, Nevada, for a mini-vacation with some friends of mine from high school, so I can guarantee I won’t be getting much done. But hopefully I’ll be having a good time doing a different kind of gaming. :)

But don’t worry – this week’s roundup of news offers all sorts of goodies for our kind of gaming! Plenty of news out of Wizards of the Coast about Monte Cook returning to the D&D fold; reviews of products from Cubicle 7, Rite Publishing and others; rules and tools you can use for your own games; and much, much more.

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!

So let’s move on to the good stuff, shall we?

Food for Thought

  • Everyone has their own version of roleplaying game history. Most have their own unique sets of highs and lows over the last 40+ years, from D&D on up, and John Kim has his own opinions in “A Critical History of Role-playing Games” at darkshire.net. I suspect it’s an older article, as it only goes to the mid-2000s, but I’m always curious about how other gamers view the world. Does anyone else know about histories such as this on the web? I’d love to create a collection of links.
  • Speaking of history… Flack at Retroist put an article together this week with a shot of his old AD&D books. I have a similar stack at my house (though I miss my original Deities & Demigods book, which someone absconded with in college). I love going back to the old days and exploring some of the fun characters and adventures of yesteryear. You never know what kind of inspiration you may get today from something from a distant yesterday! There’s something to be said for a certain amount of nostalgia about artifacts from a distant time… even if you have to move them a few times in your own lifetime.
  • Atlantis. Atlantis. Atlantis… Ever since Plato told the story of Atlantis’ destruction, people have been searching for it. But what if it was just a platform for his philosophical theories? Willie Drye at National Geographic offers some recent scholarly opinions about the possibilities of Atlantis and what it means to us today…
  • And also from National Geographic, I love that the idea of a planet with two suns like Tatooine from Star Wars could actually exist! A recent article from Andrew Fazekas explains some initial opinions about the new planet Kepler 16b discovered by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft. Even though it’s probably a gas giant like Saturn, it offers some interesting possibilities for space-based campaigns!
  • Are you looking for another blog carnival to contribute content to? Wombat’s Gaming Den of Iniquity is starting a new RPG blog festival – “Winter is Coming.” The idea is that contributors would come up with winter-themed RPG content and put the links into the festival post so they could be collected, much like the RPG Blog Carnival many of us already participate in. Time to put a thinking cap on and come up with some frozen content…
  • Or perhaps you’re looking at ways to boost your storytelling skills as a GM? Chris at Classic RPG Realms has had a couple of great articles this week about “lying for a living.” Start with the overview and I encourage you to read how he freaked out a classroom of middle schoolers, which made me get a big goofy grin, but offers some great tips on making things relevant and interesting with some story twists. I’m really looking forward to the rest of this series to see what other tidbits I can glean!

Games and Gaming

  • Railroading. Does that word set your teeth on edge? I’m a sandbox guy myself, so I’ve tended to shy away from railroaded adventures for the most part. That said, I’m seriously considering revisiting that decision and trying some different storytelling ideas. Chris Perkin’s latest Dungeon Master Experience article at the D&D blog points out that having a linear adventure path doesn’t mean your players have to strictly stay on the path… We all know that at some level as GMs. But the image plotting getting back on the path after straying away points out that you might be able to have the best of both worlds… scripted and unscripted gaming!
  • I’m a setting guy. Love ‘em. Love creating ‘em. But the sandbox approach often leads to a critical problem of “stumbling in the dark” for my players. Well, Ravyn at Exchange of Realities has some ideas on “Getting from Setting to Plot” this week that are practical and thought provoking. This set of questions will be one of those I ask myself whenever I create a new world… maybe I’ll avoid the aimless wander next time?
  • Trey at From the Sorcerer’s Skull has asked a great question this week about the usual collection of undead creatures that inhabit fantasy or horror game worlds. Why are there so many undead? We have ghosts, spectres, wraiths, vampires, mummies, zombies and all the variations I can’t recall. But is there a logical reason for them to exist? Is there a hierarchy? And honestly I haven’t a clue, but I’ll add this to my list of things to ponder…
  • Have you ever purposely put a NPC in your game who the PCs constantly go to for information? I know I have. So the tips Stu suggests at The Douchey DM put some solid, easily apparent limits on what your players can expect to get out of a NPC. I love the idea of potentially having bad guys kidnap the NPC. Not only could it lead to an interesting side adventure, but if the NPC dies during the attempt the PCs will hopefully learn something from the encounter.
  • Conan using the Dragon Age system? Vaelorn at Dragon Age Oracle has put together AGE of Conan
    which uses the AGE system for a Conan-based system. I’m very interested in checking out the PDF!
  • And what about the “Rule of Cool” in gaming sessions? I’ve encountered this a few times. “Why did you do that?” “Because it was cool!” Jay at Life and Times of a Philippine Gamer offers some guidelines on spotting “awesome but terrible” ideas. I think it’s definitely worth keeping in mind. As a player I think you’re more tempted to test fate than as a GM, but the temptations are still there even as a GM. Coolness tempered with a little reality is probably better than jumping into the dragon’s mouth to kill it from within… At least you’re more likely to survive if you avoid that kind of insanity.

Publisher News

Reviews

  • If you’re looking for a Firefly or Star Wars-themed independent RPG, I’ve heard nothing but good things about Lady Blackbird from John Harper. And MJ Harnish at Wired’s GeekDad article series has put together a great, deep review of the game that covers everything from the 15-page book itself to the mechanics, and there seem to be very few downsides. I love rules-light games and this one is in my queue to take a look at when I get a chance…
  • The blog at Petrie’s Family Games reposted a review from GameTradeMagazine.com this week about the new GUMSHOE-based game from Robin Laws – Ashen Stars. I know a few people (hi Stargazer) who were very excited about this book when it came out, so it’s great to get some different opinions about it!
  • Tenkar at Tenkar’s Tavern has put together a brief review of RPG Creatures: Bestiary 1 and loves the artwork. Though there’s a little conversion work required to get each beastie into your favorite system, we all do that anyway so that shouldn’t be too hard. :)
  • 6d6 RPG’s Quantum Flux sounds fun as a science fiction adventure using the 6d6 system. Morrisonmp offers a solid review of points both good and bad about the adventure. And I think the feedback is constructive about the potential problems he found. This is another adventure in my queue I hope to review eventually, so I look forward to comparing notes.
  • As a backer of the Far West Kickstarter project from a few weeks ago, I’m excited to start seeing details emerge about the shape of things to come. Mad Brew Labs offers some great details and comparisons to existing properties – and my favorite line is “A fantasy world that’s The Gunslinger meets Storm Riders meets Deadwood meets Afro Samurai meets The Wild Wild West meets Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon meets Django meets Bricso County meets House of Flying Daggers and more…” That’s quite a mouthful! Plus details about the FATE + d20 system that drives the thing. I’m very interested to read more!
  • Stargazer had a chance to review Cubicle 7′s new game Airship Pirates, a game based on the songs of Abney Park. It sounds like quite an interesting futuristic steampunk. Yes, you read that right – futuristic! Stargazer goes into plenty of detail, so if you’re looking for some impressions of this cool-sounding new game then I’d definitely encourage you to check out the review.
  • Megan at FlamesRising.com has put together a great review of #30 Haunts for Objects from Rite Publishing. This collection of leads to persistent haunts and spooky stories for easy introduction into any existing game. I’m a big fan of having this sort of content to easily plop into a game without much fuss.

Tools

That’s it for this week on the news front.

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!

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