Did December sneak up on anybody else? Now I’m suddenly behind on my gift shopping and I never even think November waved as it zipped by…
We have a ton of news today, so let’s dive right in, shall we?
Food for Thought
- Ever heard of Schrödinger’s cat? Apparently Schrödinger isn’t the only one with a paradox. Ameron argues this week at Dungeon’s Master that we as players might act differently if someone was watching our characters’ behavior. If you knew that your character was being watched, would the character still kill that unarmed opponent? Deep thoughts… Not sure I’m ready to turn my campaigns into Big Brother just yet though.
- Do you drink alcohol when gaming? I usually don’t, but don’t mind some responsible social drinking. Tried playing at a group that was all about the booze and joint consumption once and it didn’t work well. To say the least, I didn’t fit in. But ReRow at The Dragon Fisters offers some interesting insights on balancing alcohol consumption and gaming – from drinking games at the bottom to video games, board games, and roleplaying games. Definitely some things to consider.
- Gaming history. We all know about the giants at TSR, but who else is on that list of influential gamers, writers, and coders? Thomas A Knight made a top 5 list that I sort of agree with, but I think there are some other folks who should be included – Lord British was brought up this week on Twitter, but I also think about the geniuses at Infocom who brought us Zork out of the ashes of Colossal Cave Adventure… Who else is missing?
- Need an undersea adventure idea? Here’s one right out of our own history books. Apollo 13′s small nuclear generator still lies somewhere in the depths of the South Pacific. What damage has that done to the surrounding area? Are there any three-eyed fish ready to crawl from the bottom of the Tonga Trench? Let’s just hope that Syfy isn’t writing another horrific Saturday night flick “inspired by real events”!
- In case you’re looking for a gift for the chocoholic gamer in 2012, you should get in on the “Gaming Dice in Chocolate and Sugar” Kickstarter project – a full set of dice (d4 to d20) made out of chocolate!
- Or if illuminated manuscripts from the 15th or 16th century are more your thing, check out the Voynich Manuscript at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. It’s hard to believe that these gorgeous pages have survived for centuries…
- How about a time capsule from the early 20th century? Jon Crispin has been documenting some of the suitcases left behind by patients at the Willard Psychiatric Center in New York. There’s also a fascinating online exhibit you can tour with more detail about certain patients along with their effects. I can see using many of these artifacts in an H.P. Lovecraft-inspired adventure soon…
- If it’s writing advice you need, you might surf this list of the “Top 90 Secrets of Bestselling Author” at Writer’s Digest from Jessica Strawser. Not sure how many of these will help with gaming specifically, but it never hurts to look for inspiration in other genres.
- In a webcomic this week by Yuko Ota and Ananth Panagariya at site of The Abominable Charles Christopher, I found myself pondering the role of therapy in roleplaying games. I’ve had several friends helped by professional therapy and wonder if playing RPGs has ever been used as an effective treatment anywhere? Anybody know? Not sure I’d want a mini-Freud playing in my game, but it has me curious…
Games and Gaming
- A couple of weeks ago, Dennis Santana at Spirits of Eden described a shop in such a way that I felt as though I might actually be able to walk in and peruse the shelves… Zuri Makavana’s Potion Shop might have been set in the city of Impel, but I think it could be at home in just about any setting. From the shopkeepers and potions on the shelf to the customers who frequent the shop, this place is amazingly detailed.
Is it possible to rework the Epic Tier in D&D 4e so the focus changes the higher the characters get? Dave Chalker thinks so and details a possibility at Critical Hits this week. The concept of a character lifecycle being modeled through level tiers makes a lot of sense, though as GM you’d need to keep a much closer watch on PC advancement.
- Looking for some new ways to challenge your players in a Dragon Age campaign? Check out the new Midgard hazards for the AGE system from Emmet Byrne at Kobold Quarterly. The concept of a storm of bone splinters is quite disturbing, and I’m guessing quite effective!
- In what’s probably my favorite article of the week, Ryan Costello Jr. at Kobold Quarterly evoked a “Who’s on First?” (Abbott & Costello) moment in “Weapons and Armor: A +2 What, Sir?” In game, nobody – PC or NPC – has any concept of what a plus anything weapon is. It’s just a sword, armor, shield, etc. But the concept of applying keywords to items to reflect different properties is brilliant. And somehow I think Abbott and Costello would approve.
- I’m slowly accepting 4e, though I really don’t like it all that much. This week Michael explores why 4e seems complex at the Id DM. The tables in the article are staggering by themselves and I really just need to sit down and read through the whole thing again so I can start to digest it…
- Campaign design for me is largely setting the stage in a sandbox and watching to see where the PCs go. And I honestly can’t recommend that as a good method. So it’s good that Mike at Campaign Mastery this week is addressing some of the common campaign structures – from sequential episodes and plot ladders to connected narratives, plot arcs, and more.
- Mummies are awesome… sometimes. I’ve been watching the new Thundercats series on Cartoon Network and think Mum-ra is very cool. Frail with the ability to Hulk out into a big baddie. So I like SuperSooga’s idea at Sooga Games this week about a frail, magical leader of an ancient army being a mummy!
- I was very excited a couple of weeks ago with Iain Lowson contacted me about new developments coming for Dark Harvest: Legacy of Frankenstein. Resistance sounds great and should answer many of the questions I had reading DH:LoF, but I’m also excited by the prospect of new DH:LoF fiction! Check out the Dark Harvest website for more details.
- Looking for a new rules-light storytelling system? Check out The Synergy Role Playing Game recently released from Raven Lake Games. I’ve added this one to my list to check out.
- Did you hear that Hero Games is down to one employee now? (ICV2) Jason Walters is keeping the lights on in this time of a rough economy… I wish him, Darren Watts, and Steven Long all the best. Hopefully things will get better soon for the publisher of the Champions RPG and the HERO System.
- Rev Lazaro at the Chaos Grenade this week made me a very happy guy. In the same week that I whined about book size, he took the WYRED book and pared it down from 38 pages and stripped it down to 8. It’s not as pretty, but amazingly he fit all the important bits in there… Can we do this for other games I wonder?
- Gold Piece Publications released OUBLIETTE Issue 7 this week, described as a “magazine for old school fantasy roleplayers.” It seems to cover Labyrinth Lord, Castles & Crusades, and older versions of D&D. I’m excited to see more of the “old school” movement offer this sort of thing for those of us who like a shotgun approach (scattered smaller items instead of one long item) and will definitely check it out.
- (Just added!) Raging Swan has just released Orcs of the Eternal Zenith for the Pathfinder RPG and it sounds Evil (notice the capital “E”) with a damned philosophy and a machine threatening to tear a hole in reality. Who knew the worship of a Sun god could be a bad thing? Check out details at the Raging Swan website.
- Chris Hackler at Gaming Tonic has taken a look at a new adventure published by Blackbyrne Publishing – BP-4: Sands of Despair. Now I’m curious to check this one out with such a glowing review! (If you’re looking for more from Chris, check out his “What’s Up With D&D?” article for 28-NOV at ENWorld.org.)
- I’ve seen ads for Hero Lab from time to time, but haven’t had a chance to play with it. Ben Gerber at Troll in the Corner recently checked out the “Ultimate Combat” dataset with Hero Lab and seems to like it except that he creates a character in the tool, then transfers it to a different character sheet…
- Do you remember the old AD&D Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide? I do. And like The Secret DM, it changed a few things for me from straight hallways to scarred stone walls etched with the names of the Dwarven craftsmen responsible for their construction… I don’t remember “The Alignment Wars” however – though it definitely does break the “fourth wall” as he puts it. When will we ever get past that damn alignment chart anyway?
- Meanwhile, Baz Stevens at Treehouse did something interesting to review the Leverage RPG. He made a bunch of G+ posts and pulled them together in a blog post… Not the prettiest post ever (could use a bit more white space), but I wonder if he did it manually or there’s a way to pull the posts together in G+?
- And Thilo Graf continues his reviewing campaign at G*M*S Magazine. This week he reviewed So What’s For Sale, Anyway? II from Raging Swan Press and found that it goes above and beyond to provide more than necessary for items, sellers, and curses!
- Over at Troll in the Corner, Ben took some time to review the Castle Ravenloft board game from WotC. I love the fact that it’s a team game that can be played with 1 to 5 players. Not many of these board games work for a single player. Looks like a lot of parts, but I always liked the concepts behind the Ravenloft setting and wouldn’t mind checking it out at some point. At $65 however, it’s not going to happen any time soon.
- By the way, congrats Ben! It’s awesome that Argyle & Crew has become a best seller at DriveThruRPG! Anyone with a plethora of unmatched socks should create a few soppets to celebrate!
- Recently there’s been quite a bit of discussion about tools used for campaign management. DNAPhil at Gnome Stew clearly delineated his toolbox early in November. Johnn Four (Roleplaying Tips) took a crack at it this week and broke it into four different tool types – group management/organization, planning/design/preparation, session aids, and backup/security. There are quite a few in both lists I already use, but I’m always happy to add other shiny tools to my arsenal.
- I was also pointed to a resource at the WotC Community forums that I’m going to have to mine from time to time. It’s a list of “1001 threads” – puzzles, items, characters, ideas, descriptions… dang near anything you can think of, there’s probably a list for it. Check it out.
- In case you need a few “damned things,” you should check out this great table at HereticWorks. Who needs the plagues of Egypt? There are some scary things on this list!
- Or maybe you need a few “Hardcore D&D items” for 4e? Scott at the Trollish Delver has you covered. None of my characters will ever be able to afford any of these items, but they’re very cool.
- And if you’re looking for a little “Divine Motivation” for your cleric, you might want to check out J.J. Sloane’s article at This is My Game. I’m going with #6 – “If I don’t complete [insert action], I will turn into a pumpkin at midnight.” Damn those blue fairies and fairy godmothers!
And Sean Fannon at DriveThruRPG/RPGNow has pulled together a collection of every comic strip he’s done in the DriveThruRPG Newsletter since the beginning, with lots of commentary. It’s selling for $5 and all the money is going to Doctors Without Borders. If you get a chance and have a fiver to toss that way, DWB can always use the funds for the amazing work they do. A round of applause should go to Sean for all that he and the rest of the OneBookShelf folks do around the world to help people who need it!
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!
- Who’s on First? (captainvideoandhisvideorangers.wordpress.com)
- Critical Hits Podcast #32: Mike Shea and Dave Chalker on Epic Tier Play (critical-hits.com)
- Dave Chalker on Epic D&D from SlyFlourish.com (slyflourish.com)
- Epic-Tier Anything Sucks (critical-hits.com)
- The Scaling Woes of 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons (critical-hits.com)