Happy Black Friday to those of you in the U.S. Those of us not hitting the malls and shopping centers are most likely still recovering from our turkey-induced comas.
I have to say that for Thanksgiving this year, I have to say I’m very thankful not only for the fact that I’m back gaming semi-regularly this year, but that I’ve had the opportunity to interact with some truly amazing individuals over the Internet over the last year. Gamers, publishers, artists… everyone in this hobby has been very kind to Game Knight Reviews since it launched back in late 2010.
If you’re looking for a few gift suggestions from The Gassy Gnoll for the gamers in your life, here’s a few…
- For inspiration, I definitely recommend Masks and Eureka from Engine Publishing. You can’t beat the nearly infinite number of combinations available in these books for plots & NPCs to fill any adventure you can think of.
- Along the same lines the Adventure Creation Handbook from Cherie “Jade” Arbuckle and rpgGM.com fame is another awesome resource for anybody wanting to construct great adventures for a gaming group.
- For a fantasy adventure, check out the Breaking of Forstor Nagar from Rite Publishing. Creepy. Challenging. Awesome.
- And for a combination of inspiration and adventure, you can’t go wrong with any issue of Kobold Quarterly or a subscription.
For other suggestions, check out the 2011 Dice Hate Me Holiday Gift Guide, the 40 tabletop gaming gifts list from Ben Gerber at Troll in the Corner, …
And now that the shopping’s done – let’s dive into the week’s news, shall we?
Food for Thought
- Looking for some classic fantasy art? Check out Scott Taylor’s latest “Art of the Genre” article at Black Gate, focused on the amazing art for the ’80s Middle-Earth Role-Playing game from Iron Crown Enterprises. The first part of the article details the background and work of Gail B. McIntosh with some gorgeous module covers from the first boom time of RPGs.
- If you’re not interested in Middle Earth, perhaps a blast from the past when Scott talks about the Wizardry series of computer games? I remember long hours in front of a green-screen monitor on my Apple ][+ and later on an IBM-compatible clone finding my way through dungeon after dungeon. Memories of another age of computer gaming.
- Or maybe you’re looking for some inspiration from Arabian fantasy like 1001 Nights? Check out this Everything I learned about Arabian Nights, I have to say I learned from Bugs Bunny, so looks like I have some reading to do…
- What is a game? Are games “art”? Deeply philosophical questions. But Tadhg Kelly at What Games Are has some ideas after listening to a talk from the founders of Bioware… The best tabletop sessions for me are those that invoke an emotional response, whether it’s glee, sadness, anger, frustration… When my PC is engaged, I’m engaged. What do you think?
- Some of these “zombie safe” house designs are a bit out there, but I have to admit there’s some true inspiration at work. Check out the article at io9 from Cyriaque Lamar.
- If you had all the time, money, and resources to design a game or game supplement – what would you do? The Chatty DM has given it a great deal of thought…
- Though I haven’t read a Dragonriders of Pern novel in years, I was sad to see that Anne McCaffrey died this week at age 85. I’m positive that her stories have influenced RPGs and campaigns all over the world as long as people have been gaming. And she will be missed.
- I like combat, occasionally. But I’d rather adventure without causing a ton of damage and destruction along the way. My last campaign was a bit overbearing because one character refused to accept that there were consequences to actions (like killing guards or stealing things). So A.L.’s article on “Adventure Doesn’t Mean Violence” at Reality Refracted really hit home for me.
Games and Gaming
- Levels in gaming have always been a sore spot for me. When a friend and I built our own system, we made it so that XP would be directly spent on stats and skills instead of suddenly bumping everything up equally. As such, I kind of like The Sky Full of Dust’s suggestion on adding the purchase of “talents.” That said, the balance issue mentioned would definitely be key – but a GM has to adapt situations accordingly anyway so I don’t think it’s a huge issue.
- In this era of economic uncertainty, articles like Scott Malthouse’s “4 ways to play roleplaying games on the cheap” at the Trollish Delver is not only on topic, but a welcome collection of suggestions. And I think I’ve used all of these at one time or another in my nearly 30 years of gaming!
- Geoffrey at the Stuffed Crocodile has a few issues with his Call of Cthulhu campaign. But those issues are the same ones I think every GM hits eventually. And I think I’ve been on both sides – the frustrated GM and the clueless player. Any suggestions you can provide Geoffrey? Drop ‘em on his blog post.
- Have you ever wanted to revamp D&D 3.5e to use a spell point system instead of the system that’s there now? Well, there’s a variant in the d20srd.org, but the “Lazlo-Cos-Pathfinder” campaign at Obsidian Portal has summarized those rules in a one page post…
- Encumbrance. It’s a burden no matter which way you approach it, but have you ever visualized how loaded down your characters really are? Check out this great article at BoingBoing from Rob Beschizza and maybe you’ll get a better mental picture!
- Scott Martin at Gnome Stew brought up a topic this week I used to love like Fred in the Scooby Gang – traps! He raises some interesting points about merging old-school traps with a more skills-led approach.
- Looking for a few new monsters and hazards for your game? Check out the Bestiarum Vocabulum at the Tower of the Lonely GM. I especially like the Bile Petal Medusa… Medusa + Poison Ivy from Batman is just brilliant!
- Or perhaps you need an odd cult to drop into a city campaign? Trey at From the Sorcerer’s Skull offers five different ones for inspiration. Perhaps I’ll join the Electrovangelic Church of the Machine Messiah and wait for the Terminators to take over…
- There were some interesting articles this week about 4e D&D – where it works and where it doesn’t. Mike Shea at Sly Flourish says the “sweet spot” of 4e is levels 1 to 10. Matt James at Loremaster suggests that the 4e system can be easily rooted to randomize the challenge levels a bit more. And Panzerleader at Wielding a Bohemian Ear Spoon points out five problems with 4e.
- Is there a library in your campaign? Have you ever thought about using it to help launch an adventure or two? Ameron at Dungeon’s Master has 10 fun adventure hooks found in a library. Maybe your PCs should go check out a book or two?
- Paizo’s been publishing paperbacks and eBooks for a while now, exploring the world of Pathfinder RPG in long and short fiction. Bill Ward at Black Gate recently had a chance to interview James Sutter, who’s heading up Pathfinder’s new fiction line and just published his first novel – Death’s Heretic.
- Have you ever considered starting your own game business? I think the blog “How Not To Run a Game Business” has more than a few articles that you should consider. While you’re reading, Tourq Stevens at Stuffer Shack has a great list of the 10 commandments of making your own RPG. And Paco Garcia Jaen at G*M*S Magazine also had a great article on the “impossible art of trying to make everyone happy” - basically the D&D business. Though the barriers for entry as a RPG publisher have dropped quite a bit with electronic publishing, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask yourself some hard questions before diving in and having it take over your life.
- Interested in a look back at the Fey in D&D? Check out D&D Alumni: Fey by Bart Carroll at the D&D blog. I’m a big fan of the old school black and white faerie art included in the article.
- Panzerleader at Wielding a Bohemian Ear Spoon offers his opinions on the Pathfinder Beginner Box, comparing it to its predecessors (one of which still sits in a box at my house – the good old original “Red Box”) and going into a great deal of detail about every nook and cranny of the items provided.
- Need some background on the history of RPGs? Paco Garcia Jaen at G*M*S Magazine has a good suggestion for reading material – Designers & Dragons - from the folks at Mongoose. This one is going on my Christmas Wish List this year.
- Maybe you’re looking for a supplement for the Corporation RPG? Silveressa at Roleplaying Tips took some time to take a look at Gate 22. Though it ends a bit abruptly and has little artwork, it sounds like a well written adventure for a creative GM to sink their teeth into.
- Thilo Graf at G*M*S Magazine checked out Caves & Caverns from Raging Swan Press this week and gets a glowing review! This is definitely something I need to put on my review list soon.
- Have you seen Legacies: The Ancient from White Wolf for Mage: The Awakening? Brian at Geekcentricity took a look and thinks the book is excellent, offering some “examples of how culture influences magic” and is something of a throwback to older WoD books.
- Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? I certainly do. So inspiration is always a good thing to find… Shelly Mazzanoble has some tips at Omnivoracious.
- Omnivoracious also had a great article featuring writers Ed Greenwood and Erin M. Evans talking about how to jumpstart your writing and avoid writer’s block.
- Have you ever considered making your own miniatures? I have the art talent of a stump, so I definitely haven’t – but Benoit and Artsy Wumpus at Roving Band of Misfits have created a very cool “flumph” mini and explains how to make your own. (For more on the flumphs, see the article about 4e stat blocks for them.)
And if you need a bit more news, be sure to check out the “What’s Up With D&D?” article for the week at ENWorld from Gaming Tonic’s Chris Hackler.
That’s it for this week on the news front.
If you missed any of my articles this week, here are some links to catch up:
- A few words from Christina Stiles, lead designer on Open Design’s new Journeys to the West project for the Midgard Setting
- The Gassy Gnoll offered a few thoughts on summarizing gleeful villains as NPCs for your game
- And spoke briefly about the ghost stories in Walls Can Talk and the odd items to stock your adventures with from 101 Curious Items
I hope everybody has a great weekend and had a wonderful Thanksgiving (if you celebrated in the US)!
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!
- Book Review: The Adventure Creation Handbook by Cherie “Jade” Arbuckle from rpgGM.com (gameknightreviews.com)