Today is an auspicious day… Not because it’s Friday… Not because it’s fun to see a numerically repetitive date like 11-11-11… Not because it’s the 11th Doctor’s Day (in honor of the 11th Dr. Who)…
So why? Because Bethesda Game Studios is releasing Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim which may prevent me from writing any posts for the indefinite future as I get lost once again in a virtual world. This first happened with Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion several years ago when I literally caught myself standing on the edge of a running stream admiring the water effects, the wind in the trees, and the carefully placed foliage that were at the time among the most stunning computer graphics I had ever seen. I’m not sure how many hours I played the game, but I have gone through it top to bottom at least twice. So I know with Skyrim that I should expect a similar lack of productivity.
Though I love tabletop roleplaying games, I’ve always been a fan of computer games as well. I vow to try not to let the
strong inevitable addictive quality of this game prevent the normal posts next week. But we’ll see how successful I am at avoiding the time sink.
But now… on to the news!
Food for Thought
- Are you a philosopher? Do you like D&D? Want to write an essay and possibly be published? Check out the Call for Abstracts for a new book on Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy (posted by undergarden on reddit/r/rpg). You have to submit your abstracts before 30-JAN-2012, so start writing now!
Guns in a fantasy RPG have always been a turnoff for me. And this week Creighton Broadhurst from Raging Swan Press reminded me that the great Gary Gygax felt the same way. Though it might be cool, the goal was more magic than technology and they were ultimately rejected. I look forward to seeing what other Gygaxian quotes Creighton brings up…
- Sometimes I forget that RPG art can be amazing and sexy at the same time. And yes, I know all I have to do is look back at much of the art in the late ’70s and early ’80s gaming books, but today’s art has gone a very different direction… Scott Taylor’s “Art of the Genre” columns serve as great reminders of artists we may have forgotten about. This week he interviewed Daniel R. Horne, who’s done work for I.C.E.’s Middle-Earth the Role-Playing Game and more. In addition to the interview, there are some gorgeous pictures in the article, so be sure to check it out.
- Many moons ago in college, I played MechWarrior and Battletech. We learned all about ‘mech engines exploding with the power of a thousand suns (thank you Michael Stackpole) and all about the myomer fibers which allowed these giant machines to move smoothly where their pilots guided them. Well, it seems science may have come up with an early version of these mechanical muscles with a new nanomaterial. And can I just say that a robotic Venus Flytrap is kind of creepy, but very cool at the same time?
- Or if you’re more into Steampunk than Battletech, check out these cool bird statues with a twist. There are a bunch of them in this article from Max Eddy at Geekosystem.
- Do you know the name Jeff Dee? If not, he was the artist who did illustrations for the original Deities and Demigods book for 1st edition D&D. (That book will always hold a warm and fuzzy spot in my heart even though it disappeared at some point in college…) Well, Dee is recreating all the art, starting with the Egyptian mythos, since somehow it was all thrown away at TSR at some point. If you want to support this great project (and who wouldn’t?), toss a few dollars in the bucket at Kickstarter.
- Game balance. It’s one of those key elements of design that’s tricky to get right. Well, Jonathan Jacobs from Nevermet Press has a few thoughts on the matter after some conversations with Sean Preston, Michael Wolf, Tracy Barnett, and Marshall Smith. See what you think.
- The planets. All 9 8 of them have offered inspiration to imaginative minds for many many years. Maybe you’ll be inspired by these comic pages from Planet Comics in the 1940s by Cyriaque Lamar at io9…
- Have you ever stopped to ponder what “Swords and Sorcery” really means as a genre? Apparently someone at I’d Rather Be Killing Monsters has taken the time to do just that… and in doing so has come up with a terrific list of books, television, and movies that fit the bill as examples. I’m going to have to add a number of these to my reading list soon!
Games and Gaming
- Tracy at Sand & Steam has been working on a campaign setting that works for Pathfinder, Savage Worlds, and FATE, which is a heck of a project. But late last week he posed a question to readers – Do Paladins (and Cavaliers, by extension) belong in the Undercity? A subterranean place may not be the best place for traditional Cavalier mounts, but Paladins may not be the most easily playable classes… What do you think?
- I love that other blogs are doing this style of news roundup now – Keith Davies put one up this week that has a ton of great links and Chris Hackler from Gaming Tonic has been doing one at ENWorld for D&D links as well. Good stuff!
Do you need a wildlife encounter for your 4e campaign? The great folks at Daily Encounter offer you “Savannah Savants,” an encounter on a wide temperate grassland. They integrated some tribal ideas with an alien, psychic ability for interesting effect…
- How to think like a villain… always an interesting experiment. This month’s blog carnival asks that very question, and Runeslinger at Casting Shadows has a long, detailed response that really boils down to what the players think of your villainous NPC. Design for them and you’ll keep them entertained with vile acts and tales of woe for a long time to come. (Of course, I encourage you to start at the Elthos RPG blog where VBWyrde is hosting the carnival!)
- Berin Kinsman takes a bit different approach to the “Tricks & Traps” blog carnival by discussing traps that are there for no reason at all. Traps have to do more than annoy your players!
- Chris Dias at Living Dice went through the exercise of comparing the language of D&D 3.5/Pathfinder with that of D&D 4e. Though I do and don’t like 4e, he makes some great points about how things were worded.
- Gaming is a two-way street at the table. Sure, GMs are trying to tell stories. And the players are the characters driving the action. But it’s the player’s job to give the GM enough hooks that his or her PC fits the story and offers some ways to push and pull the PC where they need to be from time to time. Chris Hackler at Gaming Tonic addresses this issue in “Give Your GM What They Need” at Gaming Tonic.
- And occasionally the GM misses the mark with a story idea… Sean Preston at Reality Blurs has some good tips on designing sandbox and one-shot adventures so they work for the target audience. Keeping the players in mind is a key idea, but there’s some great food for thought here.
- If you’re looking for tips on how to be a better GM, take a look at Scott’s “5 tips to make you a better GM” at the Trollish Delver. Not only does it include fun art, but the tips are right on target. I especially like tip #2 – Take a notebook everywhere.
- Are you looking for an adventure involving princes and princesses, thrones, betrayals, and pirates? Swordgleam of Chaotic Shiny fame has just such an adventure for you in an article at Stuffer Shack!
- I’m a long-time fan of Palladium Books, but it’s been a while since I’ve looked at RIFTS seriously. That said, I’d have to look at the Rifts Game Master Kit they recently released. The book collects useful references, skill lists, spells, and much more for your GMing pleasure.
- The “Real Steel” videos at Kobold Quarterly featuring Todd Gdula have been a guilty pleasure. There’s just something about watching someone really swing a sword or an axe at a target and destroy it that’s viscerally satisfying in some way. This week he demonstrates using a “Moon Hammer” ball mace, which would definitely have some stopping power on a battlefield.
- Ed Grabianowski over at Robot Viking this week talked about how Wizards of the Coast seems to try to help game store owners whereas Paizo really doesn’t. And though it’s not something I’ve contemplated myself, now that I think about it I have seen much more in the way of retailer interaction and distribution through WotC than I have through Paizo (except online). What do you think? Of these two big publishers, which is the most game-store friendly?
- The Id DM managed to interview Scott Fitzgerald Gray, a Freelance Editor and Designer for Wizards of the Coast this week. There’s a lot of ground covered in this article, so read thoroughly for juicy tidbits of advice and experience.
- Are you considering trying to fund a game project on Kickstarter? Fred Hicks offers a few tips he learned at Metatopia from Cindy Au of Kickstarter. Great tips and things to think about.
- The Inquisitor is a curious class in the Pathfinder RPG explored previously in Open Design’s Advanced Feats: The Inquisitor’s Edge. But now they’ve added Divine Favor: The Inquisitor to the mix with new class abilities, inquisitions, archetypes, spells, and feats. Berin Kinsman says “There’s a lot here for both players, and gamemasters looking for NPC options.”
- For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with character generation programs. I’ve heard good things about Hero Lab however. And now they have Pathfinder RPG support, which Ian Gray took a hard look at recently over at Campaign Mastery. Except for a few things like the ability to render the character sheet on paper you really want, this seems to have just about all the bells and whistles…
- The Pathfinder Beginner Box continues to attract attention around the gaming blogosphere… And Ashley Cook at Giant Fire Breathing Robot offers a take on a release party for the new product in Seattle.
- Or maybe you’re more interested in a darker world… Darren G. Miller at Geekcentricity took some time to review the Vampire: the Requiem core rulebook late last week. Seems he likes the gameplay, but has a few issues with the presentation and the fact that it’s not completely standalone as far as rules go.
- The folks at Fantasy Flight Games continue to pump out Warhammer 40k products faster than I can keep track of them, but Bigred at Bell of Lost Souls Wargaming News put together a good video review of their latest game - Black Crusade. It seems like with this book you can really blend aspects of all the recent products like Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, and Deathwatch, which I think is awesome.
- Over at Troll in the Corner, Sean Holland from Sea of Stars has been looking at Patfhinder RPG supplements and has a collection of products for arcane magic and spells. There really are quite a few publishers producing wizardry supplements it seems, which is cool for me considering that I love wizards!
- Random character generation can be a boon or a bane to any enterprising GM. But Grogtard at the Geek Life Project says that the Character Builder at Chaotic Shiny gives you details perfect for an on-the-fly NPC, complete with opinions, beliefs, and a bit of background to make each one unique. Check out the Character Builder Generator Pack at DriveThruRPG and at the Chaotic Shiny website…
- Cthulhu is as Cthulhu does. And if it’s done well, it should scare the crap out of you! The Red Eye of Azathoth from Open Design seems to fit the bill based on Satyre’s review at Fame & Fortune! (If you’re looking for a cool tavern to drop into your campaign, you might also look at “The Mason’s Jar” from Satyre.)
- I’ve been hearing all sorts of good things about WotC’s recent Heroes of the Feywild book. And apparently Antioch at Points of Light agrees with that assessment!
- On the other hand, though I’ve been hearing many good things about Ashen Stars, Sacha at Nerdtropolis seems to be growing tired of GUMSHOE. He loves the setting, but wants to swap out the rules.
- Are you making a potion and need to find a few ingredients? Check out the Grognardling’s list of potions and their major components inspired by the Judge’s Guild Ready Ref Sheets. Personally I wouldn’t want to be the guy sent out on a shopping run for Doppleganger Teeth or Beholder Eye…
- Now this is also handy from Chase at Intwischa… A cheat sheet of medieval drinks. Everything from water and milk to distilled alcohols and cordials… Bottoms up!
- Looking for public domain art for your project or tutorials on how to draw various subjects from wolves to clothes and skulls? Check out Fantasy Art Workshop, which has an insane amount of art resources available for your use!
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!