It’s been a long week already, but I can’t let it go by without at least mentioning the passing of Steve Jobs. I’m not an Apple guy, yet I own two iPod Touches and an iPad and use my iPad every day. Way back when, we owned an Apple ][+ and I worked in a store selling software for one of the original Macintosh computers. But it wasn’t until the phenomenon sparked by the iPhone that I really gained an appreciation and respect for Jobs as a visionary developer of products for an audience that didn’t know they would need such a thing. His attention to detail and his astounding gift for finding and guiding designers to make interfaces that make sense will be missed.
Though I have never been one of the many devoted Apple followers over the years, I wonder what kind of RPG product Jobs would have created if he’d had the inclination… Shiny, with a white or black cover and rounded corners… What do you think?
Beyond that, it’s been an interesting mix of items in the news. Plenty of reviews and new tools, but I was fascinated by many of the discussions of what D&D 5e might be and asking whether any of us is really playing the system in the book as written…
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Now on to the week’s news!
Food for Thought
- Tracy at Troll in the Corner raised an interesting question last week, asking “What system are you really running?” I find it interesting that Tracy has been using aspects of the FATE system while GMing even Pathfinder and 4e. I have to wonder how many other GMs (myself included) have been changing whatever rule sets they play regularly to fit their own play style or philosophy. And I wonder if all the discussions about 5e are made moot due to little house rules or wholesale rules changes made in existing games…
- Even Chris Hackler at Gaming Tonic wonders if we’re already playing some sort of 5e game. What would you add that you don’t already add to your own games?
- Sarah Darkmagic also has questions about a 5e D&D, but from a slightly different angle. She wants more guidance for beginning DMs as far as magic items go… and consistency with items that doesn’t border on the Monty Haul approach to gaming…
- Patrick Benson has smacked us all with a gauntlet over at Gnome Stew. He doesn’t want stories and summaries of the games you GM, he wants to participate! As he says – talk is cheap. “Expose yourself to the risk of failure, and then push yourself hard to succeed.”
- Chris over at Classic RPG Realms expresses a sentiment in a recent post – “Caveat Lector” – that I think we need to be reminded of sometimes. Like everything else in life, there’s a fine line between offering suggestions on how to improve your game and telling you how you should run your game. Nobody should do the latter. Chris merely points out the methods he uses to help with his own games and if they help you, all the better. I think this is the unwritten rule across the gaming blogosphere. Nobody’s telling you what to do – just offering tools and suggestions that have worked for them in the past. Try it, see if you like it, and go from there!
- Joining a new gaming group, have you ever issued a list of demands to your potential GM? I can’t say I ever have. And I definitely don’t think it would be a good idea. Vanir over at Critical Hits makes that crystal clear in his post “Be Careful What You Wish For.” Remind me never to tick him off if I have the opportunity to play with him.
- I think I knew from somewhere that Jim Butcher (author of The Dresden Files) was a gamer, but I never realized he knew Fred Hicks and that’s how The Dresden Files RPG was born… This episode of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast at io9 is quite an interesting listen!
- If Neal Stephenson can raise a call to arms for fiction writers to start working with scientists to write about the future, why can’t gamers? Sandra Tayler at Locus Online raises a similar question wondering how and when we stopped dreaming of the future? And Neil Degrasse Tyson when recently on Real Time with Bill Maher argues about the importance of a NASA budget so we can once again start to dream big… Why shouldn’t we as gamers start creating products that explore the utopian visions of the future as well as the dystopian ones? Oh wait – we’re already doing that! Can we do more?
- How did you start your journey as a gamer? This week Scott Taylor at Black Gate shares his love of gaming and a lifelong history with characters in a particular fictional family. I’ve seen something similar once (Glorg mark I to ?) but never this much conscious thought put into the continuity of a character’s identity. It’s quite remarkable!
Games and Gaming
- Chris Hackler at Gaming Tonic continues to put great articles together. Late last week, he discussed his group’s proclivity for deposing GMs and playing new systems without needing much encouragement. Well, the rest of us should have some reasons to try that philosophy since it’s now Play a New RPG Month!
- Monks always fascinated me in 1st edition D&D. There was something about their abilities, conviction, and the fact that only one Grand Master of Flowers could hold the position at a time… Well, Henri Hakl at Kobold Quarterly is bringing the monks back to the forefront again with a series on the “Wow of Poverty.” Each article in the series focuses on a different aspect of the vow of poverty and offers concrete examples of how to make the class work in your game. Check out part 1, part 2, and part 3, while we all wait for part 4.
- Need your villain to do more than cackle evilly in the corner and try repeatedly to kill the PCs? Check out Logan Bonner’s list of the “Top 10 Tricks to Make your Villain Stand Out” at Dungeon Mastering. Each offers a fun piece to the puzzle of making the bad guy more than one dimensional. I like the idea of having a villain with a widespread presence (Moriarty, anyone?) that the PCs can see evidence of everywhere.
- In a similar vein, Ravyn at Exchange of Realities doesn’t mind that your big baddie has left the PCs half dead and scuttled back into the dark – but you’d better have a good reason for leaving them alive. Why wouldn’t the villain just kill them outright to get them out of the way? Better be a really good reason!
- Do you need tips on creating a usable calendar for a fantasy world? Theodoric at Mythopoeic Rambling recently went through the process for his own campaign and shares his methodology and his results.
- Or if you’re looking for an easier way, look at the Forgotten Realms Calendar Tool at Wizards of the Coast. Everything you need to track time in Faerun!
- Sleeping in a dungeon. Besides the inevitable wandering monster, there are few good reasons to actually ever do such a thing. Yet, time after time, I recall doing just that in many campaigns. The Wrath of Zombie has a solution. It’s a cruel, creative random table that I will be using relentlessly the next time I GM!
- Remember the D&D Kids series on the Wizards of the Coast site? Well, it is no more due to some disagreement between WotC and author Uri Kurlianchik. Thankfully Jan over at Teutonic Blogging snared an interview with Uri to try and clear up that disagreement… It’s broken into three parts – part 1, part 2, and part 3.
- Zombies + Pirates = Epic Win? Over at Flames Rising, Daniel Davis wrote up a bit of a design journal about his supplement ARRGH! Thar Be Zombies forAll Flesh Must Be Eaten. He offers a great walkthrough on his design process and how he ended up with all the details he needed to write the book. I love getting another peek behind the curtain of how supplements go from inspiration to product.
- Speaking of Ben, he’s started a new Kickstarter project for a system neutral book of Encounters, Plots & Places. I’m a huge fan of system neutral projects, so I’ve already tossed my $$ in the ring for this one, but you should definitely take a look and help if you can.
- Do you like roleplaying spies during the cold war? In that case I encourage you to check out Rogue Games’ latest project at Kickstarter – Containment! The mixture of historical fact, black magic, and super-science sounds quite intriguing!
- Did you contribute to the Wayne Foundation Charity RPG Pack offered through RPGNow? According to Ben Gerber at Troll in the Corner, you helped raise over $1800 in two weeks for this wonderful charity! Congrats to all involved and best of luck to Jamie Walton, founder and president of the Wayne Foundation. He’s taken on an amazing and worthwhile goal – saving kids from people who would take advantage of them in ways most normal people can’t even imagine. Let’s hope for a world in which his cause never has to be fought at all and kids are safe to be safe.
- wonHave you seen some of the great art in products from Nevermet Press? Some of those pieces are from artist Rob Torno and Jonathan Jacobs had a chance to pick his brain to see where he comes up with all those amazing images…
- Are you interested in how Open Design and Kobold Quarterly came to be from Wolfgang Baur? Well, Shannon Appelcline has put together a multi-article series at RPG.net on Open Design’s history from 1989 to 2006, and 2006 to today. Check out part one and part two today… Enlightening stuff on one of my heroes of the modern era of gaming.
- Monte Cook’s return to Wizards of the Coast has produced quite a bit of speculation and angst on the RPG web in recent weeks, but I think his latest “Legends and Lore” article actually falls in line with the current RPG Blog Carnival topic – Making Loot part of the Plot. Magic items always have the potential to imbalance a game, but they can also be used to make things much more interesting as well. I think Monte has some good points! To learn a bit more about Monte, check out this new interview by Eldon Krosch Jr. at Hubpages. And from now on I will definitely avoid any orcs with pies!
- If you don’t know Ryan Macklin, he’s the production manager at Evil Hat Productions and has worked on several products including the Leverage RPG and his own small game products. Steve Donohue at RPGGeek put together an intriguingly formatted interview with Macklin last week that shows once again that there is no one way to get into the RPG industry – everybody comes at it via a different path.
- Raging Swan Press is at it again with a new product – Wondrous Treasures – by Creighton Broadhurst. If you’ve ever wondered how exactly to integrate something like a figurine of wondrous power or a robe of useful items with your character, wonder no longer!
- Over the past couple of months, I’ve become a bit more familiar with Cubicle 7 and the wonderful products they’re producing. So I was excited to see an interview from Stargazer with Sarah Newton, Cubicle 7′s lead writer and editor on multiple product lines. More info from behind the scenes!
- Over at The Art and Craft of Running an RPG, aatramor has written an interesting comparison between White Wolf’s Vampire: The Masquerade and Vampire: The Requiem defending Reqiuem over Masquerade. I haven’t played in a Vampire or Werewolf campaign for nearly two decades, but I was always impressed with the backstory behind some of WW’s products. There were reasons the clans and tribes were the way they were and deep histories to go along with them. I’d be curious what other folks think about this comparison – the debate seems pretty lively on the post itself, so be sure to check out the comments.
- In a similar vein (pardon the pun), Michael Holland, one of the Moderators on the White Wolf forums, kicked off the first article in the Vampire Retrospective Project at Flames Rising this week. It’s always intriguing seeing how folks get involved with gaming. It’s obvious Holland had fun with his first session of Vampire: The Masquerade and that fun has continued to the present day.
- I love it when reviews start with the most important point. Arcane Springboard at This is My Game says “Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium is a must buy for any 4e D&D Dungeon Master” and then backs it up. Sounds like there’s a lot to love in this book, from plenty of magic items, rules on using artifacts and curses, weapons, and more.
- GGG at Geek’s Dream Girl also reviewed Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium and had a similar sentiment – “I think no gaming group should be without this book.” Can’t beat that kind of endorsement!
- The Muppets are coming to the big screen with a new movie out in November 2011. But I never expected to see a review done by a dragon hand puppet! Check out the “Unnamed Dragon” reviewing The Tome of Horrors Complete for Swords & Wizardry over at Tenkar’s Tavern. Don’t forget to enter the contest to name the dragon so the little green thing is no longer “unnamed”…
- Need a goblin for your campaign? Check out the latest on the Pathfinder Battles’ Heroes & Monsters sets over at Mythopoeic Rambling with Theodric! These little guys look great – just like the ones in the We be Goblins! module for Free RPG Day.
- I am not a fan of gaming in Facebook simply because I have enough time sinks in my life, but it sounds like Heroes of Neverwinter, a new Facebook game, is getting all sorts of positive reviews. Wimwick (Neil Ellis) at Dungeon’s Master had nothing but nice things to say about it this week. Personally I’m waiting for my copy of Skyrim to arrive next month so I can disappear for hours at a time, but I can see the appeal of playing online with friends!
- I have been enjoying Berin Kinsman’s brief reviews at his Dire Blog of late, so I was happy to find his review of #30 Haunts for Objects, Volume 1 from Rite Publishing late last week. As he says – “There’s a ton of potential here, waiting to be exploited.”
- In case you’re an information junkie like myself, Mike Shea at Sly Flourish has put together a new tool to drain any free time away from things we *should* be doing vs. what we want to do (i.e. gaming). D&D Tweets brings together tweets and links from the D&D Twitter community every hour and offers more news than anybody will ever be able to keep up with…
- Another new tool recently launched is RoleplayGamers.org. This new site is similar to Access Denied, Nearby Gamers, and RPG Registry, but isn’t limited to just finding players for tabletop or multi-player console or PC games. You can also upload characters, run forum-based games, and schedule events on a campaign calendar. Would definitely encourage you to check it out.
- Speaking of finding games and gamers, have you seen ConstantCon? This site, from Zak S and others, enables you to find players or GMs and then set up online games via Twittter, Google+, and so on.
- Has anybody lost a kingdom? Somebody may have found it… Michael Garcia, the Crazy GM, has just released his campaign setting/template for free!
- I definitely fit this label – “non-artist” – so when I saw David Flor’s article at A Walk in the Dark – “Mapmaking for the Non-Artist” – it grabbed my attention right away. I haven’t yet tried GIMP with some of David’s techniques, but I’m very tempted to give them a shot! Check out part 1 here. I look forward to seeing what techniques future articles may illuminate.
That’s it for this week on the news front.
I do want to give a shout out to the Digital Orc, which just celebrated its one year anniversary! Congratulations! I recently enjoyed articles on “Creating a Biologically Logical Random Encounter Table” and “Two Thoughts on Railroad/Sandbox” at Digital Orc, and look forward to seeing more great content in the future!
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!
- Crafty Games proudly brings the Mistborn Adventure Game to Gen Con 2011! from G*M*S Magazine (gmsmagazine.com)
- Mistborn Adventure Game Sweepstakes (tor.com)
- World Building Part II: Communities and Politics (campaignmastery.com)