I’m going to start my Friday post off with a question… What is gaming to you? And yes, I’m hoping you’ll leave me some feedback in the form of comments on this one… Is it the gathering of friends around a table to experience an adventure in a world of imagination? Is it the creation of people and places that may never exist in the real world? Is it the exploration of psychological, philosophical or behavioral extremes in a safe environment? All of these? None of these? I’m curious.
Why do I ask? This week’s guest post from Robert Oglodzinski (from AncientScroll.pl and his IndieGoGo project to get his site translated to English from Polish – he’d love some support btw!) raised a few questions about where the edges of a character lay in the communal tapestry of a campaign. Is it too much to ask a player to explore the ripples of his or her character in the game? I definitely don’t think so, but I’m a fan of deeper roleplaying – and by thinking of your character in terms of his or her influence upon the world in which they live that just ties them that much more closely to that world…
By the way, keep an eye peeled for more posts from Robert in the future. He’s agreed to help out with a regular column (though we’re still figuring out the particulars), so I hope you all enjoy some of his thoughtful articles in upcoming weeks and months!
On a different front, my post about my dislike of the D&D 4e minions rules also raised some hackles, but also generated a ton of great conversation (both on the post, on Google+, and on Reddit). I find it intriguing that the fact that a PC can mow down multiple 1-HP minions at a time makes them feel like that character is “powerful.” From where does that power come? So you can beat up a bunch of peons. Why is that impressive? Sure, the Kurgan cut huge swaths through warriors in multiple battles in Highlander, but why is that good? Perhaps the “power” in this case must be divorced from the character alignment and seen more as a boost to ego than anything?
I’m not a psychologist (and I don’t play one on TV), but I absolutely *LOVE* that roleplaying games let me ask these types of questions openly and that the community around our hobby is largely open-minded and supportive of such explorations. The act of gaming is obviously the more visible aspect of the hobby, but there are multiple layers that can be just as interesting to dive into.
Now… It’s opinion time. What do you think of this as a new logo (in addition to, not replacing, my coat of arms done by Jason Adams)? It was done by Aaron Acevedo, the Art Director at Savage Mojo. I think he did an awesome job and it just pops off the screen, but I may be biased. Any other opinions? Leave me some comments!
With all that philosophical talk out of the way, let’s dive into the week’s links shall we?
Food for Thought
- Just in case you didn’t think science was “science fiction” enough these days… Research is being done on a theory – Heim Theory – that seems to have potential for not only anti-gravity possible, but FTL, and who knows what else… Can flying cars be far behind? (Esther Inglis-Arkell at io9.com)
I’m late to the Steampunk party, but I love articles like Jonathan Jacobs’ post about Steampunk gear at Nevermet Press. Talk about inspiration… I researched Charles Babbage while in college, and he’d be a perfect candidate for a Steampunk world. The idea of “Babbage’s Cog Lock of Incongruent Thought” brings to mind an interesting clockwork creation something like the Nomad robot from the Star Trek: The Original Series episode “The Changeling” – “DOES NOT COMPUTE!”
- Two bits of inspiration from history this week – the “World’s Oldest Map” from Ancient Babylon that’s symbolic, not representative; and news of the excavation of the Moai statues on Easter Island and the discovery that they have bodies below ground level! Both of these hint at all sorts of fun artifacts for fantasy campaigns.
- Nevermet Press was on a roll this week… Rob Torno offered a very cool Mind Flayer coloring page for anyone to have fun with. I’ll be adding this one to the earlier D&D coloring book pages for my kids. Nothing like a squid-faced monster to inspire creativity in a 6 year old! (I’m just wondering what all the scary tools are on his little pouch…)
- Over at Black Gate, Scott Taylor has continued his “Art Evolution” series with an article about artist Erol Otus, who’s not one of Scott’s favorites but definitely had an impact on some early D&D art – like the cover of the original “Basic Box” from TSR, which was definitely a little psychedelic.
- Sean Preston often has interesting things to say over at Reality Blurs. This week, he talks about how the system influences setting design in RPGs. Personally I think he’s right, because I’ve done it both ways – starting with a setting and trying to fit a system to it, or designing a system for a setting – and no matter what I’ve tried the two are intrinsically linked.
Games and Gaming
- In case you missed any of the great articles in October’s RPG Blog Carnival – Making Loot Part of the Plot, hosted by Campaign Mastery – this week Mike pulled together a list of all the posts contributing to the cause (including one of mine). There’s a ton of variety in the posts, including discussions on the use of staves, badges of office, and symbolism and historical context to name a few.
- If you’re wondering about the November carnival – never fear, it’s about Tricks and Traps! Thoryn at Skyland Games offers some interesting thoughts about having his players run monsters defending their home after playing Orcs Must Die from Robot Entertainment.
- Have you ever considered an entire party of mages? How about rogues? The Cheese Shop has issued a challenge this week to give it a shot. I’ve often thought about a campaign involving a group of thieves in a guild trying to work their way up the ladder as a crew, but haven’t had an opportunity to try it yet.
- Looking for an adventure for the week? Check out “Escape from the Badder Warren,” a two-page mini-delve by Benoit at the Roving Band of Misfits. Perhaps your PCs can escape the Badder clan’s cave complex?
- How about a “Devouring Zombie” for 4e D&D? I am always looking for ways to squeeze more zombies into a game… And the Grumpy Celt at Nevermet Press has definitely added a vicious variety to the mix for Halloween. I love the fact that these critters can sometimes “stand still long enough for cobwebs to form on them…” But don’t catch their attention or you might become a snack and spread the disease!
- Jeff Xilon at Kobold Quarterly also created a scary extraplanar monster to give your players the creeps… the Antisoul. Just don’t die near one, or bad things are going to happen in an explosion of negative energy.
- Chris Hackler from Gaming Tonic continues to pull together great lists of D&D news over at ENWorld… And now I have to figure out what the heck a Banderhobb is…
- Are you looking for ways to quickly prep a game? John Arcadian at Gnome Stew suggests using his 3-3-3 Approach for game prep. 3 places, 3 NPCs, 3 rewards, etc. A bit of improv and some listmaking and who knows where your imagination will take you?
- Or maybe you’re looking for some quick NPCs for your players to annoy in town? SuperSooga at SoogaGames has 6 NPCs ready for just that purpose. Personally, I like Hurlett the Vague throwing rocks and shouting at one member of the party for no apparent reason. The occasional out-of-her-mind NPC can lead to all sorts of trouble in a hurry!
- This week, White Wolf released The Patchwork Scroll, which is a collection of material for Exalted Second Edition. The collection includes details on martial arts styles, new Wyld locations and more, and new Arcanoi for ghosts.
- Monte Cook’s latest “Legends and Lore” column at the D&D blog doesn’t really fit into the “Games & Gaming” category, so I’m putting it here this week. As someone who’s written instructional manuals for software (yawn!), I know from experience that NOBODY (NOT EVEN THE WRITER) wants to read technical documentation unless it’s a necessary evil. So if you’re a game designer and you write the most amazing game on the planet but write it in a dry, boring style, nobody’s going to ever play it. I agree with Monte in thinking that a good game designer can both entertain and inform his or her readers if they try hard enough.
- ICV2 released some data this week for game publishers. Apparently, the industry had a great summer across the board, which is great! And the top 5 RPGs of the summer don’t seem to have changed from the previous quarter… Not sure that my local game store would agree, but a little good news is certainly a welcome thing.
- Max Eddy at GeekOSystem had a great interview with designer Luke Crane this week, the inventor of Burning Wheel and Mouse Guard. More an article, than an interview, but it’s neat to get some insight into how the RPGs came about.
- Louis Porter Jr. Design has released a new Pathfinder resource – Trade Routes: Expanded Caravan Rules Sourcebook. And any GM who’s run a caravan will probably benefit from picking this book up, regardless of whether you play Pathfinder or not.
- Maybe you’re looking for some ways to spice up your wilderness encounters? Check out Random Woodland Encounters II from Raging Swan. It includes nine encounters ranging from levels 2 to 7 suitable for any woodland or forest.
- Perhaps your players have asked you to stuff it? Stuff a bag for an NPC that is… Well, Black Falcon Games has released D-Percent – 100 Fantasy NPC Backpack and Sack Contents for just such an emergency!
- What happens when your monster breaks down? Where do you take it? The Monstrous Garage, of course! Well, Escape Velocity Gaming has you covered. I reviewed it earlier this week, but it missed last week’s news round-up. Definitely take a look!
- In article earlier this month I said I’d like to learn more about White Wolf’s Exalted at some po int. Well, apparentlyMatt Machell at Realms felt the breeze of that butterfly of thought and reviewed it this week!
- Open Design’s Divine Favor: The Oracle has been getting all sorts of attention this week. Jatori at Tenletter enjoyed it and looks forward to using some of the options in the future. Berin Kinsman thinks it’s good, but not as solid as other Divine Favor installments.
- Thilo Graf at G*M*S Magazine checked out A Necromancer’s Grimoire: Paths of the Druid to see what Necromancers of the Northwest had to say about druids. Overall he seemed unimpressed. Seems like there are some cool ideas, but they didn’t go far enough to flesh them out. He has similar issues with Abbey of the Golden Sparrow from Tricky Owlbear Publishing… some good ideas, but they don’t go far enough.
- Like Mark Rivera from Boardgames in Blighty (posting at G*M*S Magazine), I’m a fan of the push in recent years for more cooperative board games (like Pandemic). Apparently Panic Station from White Goblin Games offers a quality entry into the cooperative game market.
- Paizo’s Pathfinder Beginner’s Box Set is out in the wild now, and Topher Kohan at CNN’s Geek Out blog took a detailed look inside the box… Sounds like there’s some good stuff in there!
- Matthew Neagley from Gnome Stew had a chance to look at Open Design’s Red Eye of Azathoth, an adventure for Call of Cthulhu. And like most Cthulhu-inspired adventures, you’ll likely lose your sanity before you’re done with the adventure…
- Though it’s not really a review, Jack at Ethereal Sunshine has made an interesting list of pros and cons for a FATE-driven game after playing Bulldogs!. He likes it, but he raises some good points on both side of the equation. Definite food for thought when I start looking at Spirit of the Century soon.
- Do you use MapTool and play 4e? Are you looking for ways to track conditions, the OnlineDM has you covered this week.
- Maybe you need to create a NPC? Check out the NPC Generator at Myth Weavers for a quick fix… I ended up with Aud, a female human fighter/rogue, Alya, a female half-orc, and Garret, a male halfling…
- Ok, so now that you have that NPC… You probably are rolling to see if they react favorably to the PCs. But why did they react the way they did? The Sky Full of Dust has a set of tables available to give you some ideas. Apparently, my NPC was downright hostile to whatever the PCs were attempting because adventurers on the whole are ruining the local economy by flooding it with looted gold. Who knew getting filthy rich was annoying the locals?
I want to give a quick shout out to Chaotic Shiny and congratulate Hannah (Swordgleam) on being Stuffer Shack’s favorite site for the month!!
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!
- Steampunk Gear on Twitter from Nevermet Press (nevermetpress.com)
- Mind Flayers on the Brain – A Coloring Book Extra from Nevermet Press (nevermetpress.com)
- [Nevermet Press] Devouring Zombie [4E D&D] (nevermetpress.com)
- What makes a Badass Steampunk RPG? from Nevermet Press (nevermetpress.com)
- Sneak Peek: Erol Otus’ Island Town from Cyclopeatron (cyclopeatron.blogspot.com)
- Indie Trailer Sunday: Steampunk Sci-Fi ‘Thelomeris’ Stunning Teaser (firstshowing.net)
- Ask The Readers: What’s your favorite Steampunk RPG? from Stargazer’s World (stargazersworld.com)