Somehow with the Libyans finally catching Moammar Gadhafi I’m contemplating monsters this week. Sometimes it’s not the biggest, baddest creatures who are the scary ones. It can just as easily be the humans with power mad schemes and insane ambition who are the scariest. That said, if Gadhafi had a pet dragon and flew around looting, pillaging, and burning with dragon fire, he might have been a little more impressive.
So what do you find scary? Halloween is fast approaching and I have been looking for monstrous RPG supplements to review. I reviewed the cannibalistic Hungering Legion in The Breaking of Forstor Nagar from Ben McFarland and Rite Publishing, checked out the amazing creature art in RPG Creatures – Bestiary 1 from Nicholas Cloister and talked about the disappointing lack of zombies in recent releases in my Gassy Gnoll column. We even had the Walking Dead Season 2 premiere on AMC this past weekend!
Next week I’m looking at the Bandits of the Rampant Horror by David Posener and Raging Swan Press, which has some great creepy villains, but I ask you – the readers – for suggestions on what else I should be looking at before Halloween 2011 arrives. What would you like me to review? I’m looking for scary, folks!
Sponsored Advertisement –This week’s sponsor, Escape Velocity Gaming, has an incredible new monster product coming out at the end of October. If you’ve ever wanted to customize monsters on-the-fly… If you’ve ever needed guidlines to tweak your monsters from beginner, to normal, to “nightmare” mode… If you’ve ever wished to modify the role a monster plays and make them each unique all using the same stat block…then it’s time to come on in to WCP’s Monstrous Garage. In the Monstrous Garage you can slap on some new armor, hack off a limb, and change out the “parts” of a monster to make it your own. By visiting Escape Velocity Gaming’s website now you can get a free preview entitled “Tentacled Terrors”. The terrors in that book represent a simplified version of the garage. If you like it…then be sure to pick up WCP’s Monstrous Garage!
Now on to the week’s news!
Food for Thought
- In case you want to break out your Crayolas this week, I saw that The Official AD&D Coloring Book (illustrated by Greg Irons) made the rounds again this week at Monster Brains. I keep meaning to print these out and color with my kids…
- Monte Cook seems to be getting quite a bit of attention since he took over the “Legends and Lore” column at WotC‘s blog. And this week, Monte waxed philosophical about nearly 40 years of monsters in D&D’s history, which raised a few eyebrows around the web. There are some odd critters scattered through the AD&D Fiend Folio and Monster Manual II, but I think he’s right – there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging and preserving the game’s roots. Though not every monster works for every GM (who really needs a flying deer-bird like the peryton zipping around causing mischief?) that doesn’t invalidate those monsters. I don’t think that he’s suggesting WotC is going to bring back every monster ever invented – but that we should occasionally mine the past for good ideas that may suit the future of D&D. What do you think?
- Along those lines, T.W. Wombat at Wombat’s Gaming Den of Iniquity posted “An Open Letter to the D&D R&D Team” last week that sums up a few interesting points in response to Monte’s 4-OCT Legends & Lore article. The idea of having a base system with multiple options for expansion later is terrific and one I’ve seen done in numerous other games. If 5e is to be a lighter rules version of D&D, it would be great to have a core that could be tweaked more easily for multiple genres, power-levels, gaming styles, and so on. Hopefully the powers that be are listening to the chatter because there are many people in the blogosphere offering some great suggestions.
- I have to admit I have a love/hate relationship with rolling dice. I’ve even invested recently in the Chessex Pound-o-Dice so I could have more dice to roll… And even though I don’t like rolling for every little thing, there’s that thrill when you have to leave it up to chance and your favorite (or cursed) dice. Derek Myers at Dungeon’s Master recently posted an article about keeping players more focused by having them roll more dice… by adding a defense roll. I’m not sure how I feel about it, but it’s definitely an approach that keeps characters engaged throughout a combat as opposed to just when they get to attack.
- Books. In medieval times, there was no printing press, so books were hand-crafted, carefully constructed, and cared for (usually) by people who liked books. So why should books be ubiquitous in our fantasy RPGs? Over at Old School Hack, there’s a great article about making books much more varied, wonderful things worthy of searching around the world for… Journals, magical treatises, histories of places long gone… Imagine the places and resources that you can tempt your players with to get them to go where you want… Loot with a purpose!
- Are you hunting for some new organizations for your game world? Check out Dennis N. Santana’s article at Spirits of Eden about three groups looking to hire adventurers for various jobs. Perhaps it’s time to look for work on an expedition from the Andaliel Archaeological Society. If not that one, then I have two other doors to knock on and carry resumes to…
Games and Gaming
- Villains are an integral part of some stories. It’s good to have a foil for the players. So why not let the bad guy have an adventure too? Martin Ralya at Gnome Stew proposes that GMs play their most important villains like the players play their PCs. And I think this is a brilliant idea! If nothing else, it can help you fill in an adventure from a different point of view and make it that much more interesting for your players!
- Meanwhile, Kenneth McNay at Dungeon’s Master suggests that GMs design more encounters to encourage cooperative play. And I totally agree. I think some of the recent adventures (like The Breaking of Forstor Nagar) show this technique used in a great way, proving that not everything has to end in bloodshed. Why not use skills and abilities to work towards less combative solutions?
- One of the monsters I remember in a big way from my early AD&D days was the Mind Flayer. These unpleasant squid-faced creeps who would like to eat your brains always meant trouble when they showed up. Well, the Grumpy Celt over at Nevermet Press has thought of a few ways to reinvent these nightmares. And if it was at all possible… he made them creepier! Good work GC!
- Dungeon crawls. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re a part of the fantasy RPG experience. Matthew Brenner at Blood, Sweat, and Dice has some thoughts on keeping players engaged by doing turn-based dungeon exploration. Honestly I’m not sure that I’d ever try it because describing every brick, rock, and speck of dust seems a bit like overkill to me, but after playing years of computer games like Might and Magic and Eye of the Beholder I can see where there’s some merit to the idea. It’s just not for me.
- The folks at Intwischa have quickly become one of my new regular stops when looking for material… And last week BryanMD had a great article about making evil plots for your villains more easily. Having a handful of standard “nefarious schemes” that are cross-genre is definitely a plus, and I’m a fan of both the “Devilish Dealings” and “Elected Evil” plots which are oldies but goodies… I can see mixing and matching a few of these with a villain making a deal with the devil to rise to power and falling further to the dark side. [Evil thoughts are ticking away in my head as I type this...]
- October isn’t over yet and it’s still “Play a New RPG Month” – so have you tried a new one yet? Perseus at DM Fiat offers some great points as to WHY you should try a new game… You can always go back to your old system, but you never know if you’re going to like something if you don’t try it. (Dang I sound like my mother!)
- Rite Publishing has been busy this week… Jonathan Roberts, cartographer to the stars, has released another maps supplement – Fantastic Maps: The Arboretum. Matt Banach and Justin Sluder have let loose an assassin of aspirations in Faces of the Tarnished Souk: Nix Ra Bael, Dreamkiller (PFRPG). And Jonathan McAnulty offers another glimpse into the weird world of Kaidan with an unseasonable snowstorm to trap your PCs in Frozen Wind (PFRPG)… Nothing like being trapped in a frozen monastery and trying to survive a storm!
- Louis Porter Jr. Design has kicked off a new gaming line – Absolute Magic. Check out some cool new spells for your Pathfinder Clerics like “Breath of Wasps,” “Ghost Blood,” and “Undead Slumber” in Absolute Magic: Clerics. As I saw in the announcement – “Who couldn’t use another 100 spells for their cleric?” If that’s not enough, LPJ Design also released two new image portfolios that look great – 1.30 and 1.31.
- It seems like Nevermet Press just released Stories in the Ether, Issue #1 and Issue #2 is almost here. I’m going to have to read through the first issue fast if I’m going to be ready for the new one! The cover featuring Paul Hagwood’s awesome art was revealed this week…
- Precis Intermedia is releasing some reprints soon of Bloodshadows and Shatterzone, plus the first of four Bloodshadows novels and a new Open Supplement License opening up the MasterWorld for affiliates to spin their own adventures and supplements!
- Raging Swan Press announced their latest PFRPG GM’s Resource – Caves & Caverns by Creighton Broadhurst and David Posener. What adventurer doesn’t like exploring dank, dark caves? Who knows what treasures and terrors await! As the GM, you get nearly 30 ready-made encounters, 60 stat blocks, details on features and hazards found in deep caves, and more… Plenty to torture your PCs in the darkness! [insert evil laughter here]
- And Crafty Games released their teaser for the upcoming Mistborn Adventure Game. The Mistborn Adventure Game Primer is available at RPGNow/DriveThruRPG and offers a taste of what’s to come with the full release in early November 2011. So far the primer getting great reviews! (And yes, it’s on my list to check out.)
- Do you feel like setting some Polish adventure ideas free? Check out the new IndieGoGo campaign from Robert Oglodzinski to get all of the adventure ideas on AncientScroll.pl translated to English for all to benefit from. I’ve already tossed a bit of $$ in that and would encourage you to do the same – who knows what ideas lie hidden?
- Looking for another project to give some love on Kickstarter? Check out the Shadowlands: Epic Fantasy Sci-Fi Mashup Setting project from Blackstar Studios. This project just sounds cool from the get-go, with a more realistically modeled world down to the Nth degree. It’s compatible with d20 and has been in the works for 15 years from a variety of folks. Looks like it has amazing art and concepts, so I’ve already thrown my money in this hat as well (it was a good week). Definitely check it out – there’s a lot to like here!
- Small publishers have it rough getting noticed sometimes i n the crowded marketplace of ideas. And the Gamerati guys (hi Ed!) are doing their best to help out by enabling ads to be served in places that gamers are going to see them. But what ads are the most effective these days? Monica Valentinelli at Geek’s Dream Girl posted an interesting parable for you. I don’t think it offers any hard and fast answers, but it asks some great questions. For those published authors out there, what advice would you offer folks looking to get some experience in the industry? Where would you start today?
- Ever since I saw Paizo’s Critical Hit and Critical Fumble card decks work well in a D&D 3.5e campaign I played in over a year ago, I’ve been curious about other, similar, products. Apparently Paizo now has Condition Cards and Chase Cards, which handle adding some extra flavor to chases and defining the conditions that have become more prevalent in D&D over the last couple of editions. Steel Wind at ENWorld has done a great job offering an overview of each deck and an overall verdict on usefulness, so be sure to check it out.
- I still haven’t given into the urge to try Heroes of Neverwinter on Facebook, but that hasn’t stopped other folks from checking it out. Michael Harrison over at WIRED’s GeekDad column offered his opinions about the experience recently and discussed it with fellow GeekDad Dave Banks. The resulting article is quite entertaining.
- Tommy Brownell at the Most Unread Blog on the Internet recently took some time to review Totems of the Dead: Game Master’s Guide to the Untamed Lands for Savage Worlds from Gun Metal Games, and I think he likes it overall. There have been a number of great bestiaries coming out recently, which is interesting, but I like the concept of a built-in adventure generator. Though random generators may not give you things you can use without tweaking, I find them invaluable for providing inspiration about possible ideas.
- Alternate history settings are hit or miss for me. But Lowell Francis’ review of GURPS Castle Falkenstein: The Ottoman Empire at Age of Ravens kind of intrigued me. It sounds like it sort of offers a bit of an Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express mixed with the magic of the Castle Falkenstein universe. Hmmm… Might have to look into this one myself…
- A few weeks ago I posted a link to the first part of David Flor’s “Mapmaking for the Non-Artist” series of articles at A Walk in the Dark. Well now there’s a part 2!. This time it’s about focusing the map on a particular objective, and he focuses on a single 10′ x 10′ room. He does a great job of breaking it down into small enough steps that it’s pretty easy to follow along and I suspect that many of the steps will work in GIMP, so I look forward to having a chance to try them myself.
- I’ve known people who swear in Klingon, German, and Pig Latin, but never in Goblinoid… Now that there’s a glossary at the World of Azolin wiki, I may have to give it a shot. Goblins are already annoying – why not make the players work to understand what the heck they’re talking about too. I mean, why would they talk privately in Common?
- Do you need a coat of arms for your game? TyphoonAndrew over at The Iron-Bound Tome has found some generators to do just that.
- Encyclopedias used to be wonderful tomes. We had a collection at home when I was growing up and I used them for all sorts of school projects and plenty of research while gaming. Now the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has gone online and there is a staggering amount of information up there if you like SF. And if you’re browsing for ideas, I’d encourage you to check out the “Themes” link – it has a laundry list of concepts to choose from that may inspire you. I’d love to see a similar encyclopedia for fantasy fiction!
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!
- Free Third Party Roleplaying Publications from Geekcentricity ” Role-Playing (geekcentricity.com)
- Supplement Review: Incredible Insects, Volume 1 by William C. Pfaff and Esape Velocity Gaming (gameknightreviews.com)
- Supplement Review: RPG Creatures – Bestiary 1 by Nicholas Cloister and Cloister Publications (gameknightreviews.com)
- Let the Players Roll More Dice from Dungeon’s Master (dungeonsmaster.com)
- Skills without Dice from rpg (sarahdarkmagic.com)
- Balance, Monte Cook, and Stuff, Part Two: Friday is Rantday from The Rhetorical Gamer (morrisonmp.wordpress.com)