Have you noticed that September 2012 has almost slipped by completely? Soon October will be upon us and then we start the cascading series of holidays. Fall already started, which means Halloween can’t be too far behind. Ack! I’m never ready for Halloween, though giving candy to kids in cute costumes is kind of fun. Then like dominoes falling we get Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years’ 2013!
Well, that is unless the doomsayers are correct and the Mayan Calendar “end date” of December 21, 2012 holds up. Of course if that happens, all those last minute shoppers should feel momentarily smug knowing they didn’t waste that time frivolously. And since The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens the week before the end of the world, I think I’ll probably die fairly happy.
Somehow the last two paragraphs got a bit dark. Ugh!
Anyhoo, welcome to the last Friday news round-up for September! It’s been another crazy week around here, but in a good way:
- I had a chance to talk with Emmett O’Brian, lead designer for The Artifact, a science fiction RPG Kickstarter with a cool setting. We’re trying to escape a failing planet and found a great new home manufactured by an alien race thousands of years ago. Unfortunately it’s already inhabited and many of them don’t want us moving in! (Less than a week to go in the Kickstarter, so help out if you can!)
- We reviewed a couple of products – Gibbous Moon from Raging Swan Press and The GM’s Field Guide to Players by Cherie “Jade” Arbuckle of rpgGM.com fame.
- And the Gassy Gnoll took a personal day, but I’m still looking for feedback on what *YOU* want to talk about. Want to vent about something or share the virtues of something else? Go ahead! Really! Drop me a note and let me know what’s bugging you about gaming these days!
But hold on your hats. Next week we’ll continue puttering along at GKR, but we’ll have some new voices sharing their thoughts on some fun topics too!
So on that note… Let’s dive into the week’s news!
Food for Thought
- My entire life I’ve been surrounded by strong female figures, so I’ve never understood why some guys insist on saying women can’t do certain things. That’s a bunch of bull. And now there’s even more reason to see strong female characters in fiction (including gaming). Writer Liz Bourke @ Tor.com wrote a great article this week offering some great examples of what strong women have done throughout history… getting the job done! So GM’s, it’s time to get your female NPCs out of the distressed princess and barmaid costumes and put them in whatever roles they want to be in.
- Do you feel guilty that you’re not spending more time on your passion project? That novel that’s been sitting in a drawer. That RPG setting or adventures you’ve been pondering for years but haven’t taken the time to put to paper? Well, throw that guilt out a window! Take a look at what you’ve accomplished and toot your horn. So it’s not done yet. Who cares? By sharing your passion, you may regain your confidence and get the energy you need to get it done. This great article from Thorin Klosowski @ Lifehacker has more…
- Or if you feel like you’re not writing enough, whether for your blog, your fiction, or whatever – it seems that Nike may have it right. Just do it. Joel Gascoigne @ Lifehacker offers five tips that helped him write more regularly.
- If the size of your projects and the time necessary to work on them is the problem, maybe you need to break it into smaller chunks? Quinn @ Thought Crime has some great suggestions in finding 5 or 15 minute blocks to work on projects. Easier to find than an hour or two, definitely!
- Once you get a project done, do you edit it yourself? Or do you hand it to someone else? Or both? Ryan Macklin suggests an online tool that will help you find some of common issues. It’s not perfect (only as good as its programming), but it might help you find a few things you missed.
- How do you design your games? Where does reality come into the equation? C @ Hack & Slash suggests that perhaps simulating reality shouldn’t be the goal. Based on this article, I would say his reality is more flexible than yours and mine – and maybe we should aim to be as elastic.
- Lauren Davis @ io9 has written some intriguing articles of late, but this is one of my favorites. It covers the odd ways people died in the Victorian Age. I think anyone doing Steampunk fiction or game material needs to find ways to work ALL of these into their next project. In the meantime, please don’t stab yourself with an umbrella or try to swallow a billiard ball. Bad things happen. Bad. Things.
- If you’re looking for a bad thing that’s awesome, check out the picture Joe Sparrow @ Dungeons & Drawings did of a Pit Fiend. Those wings are very cool.
- How would you describe your character to an artist if they were going to draw it? Andrew @ Geek Native, as part of a pledge reward, had to describe the character he wanted a custom token for in Tabletop Forge. I think James Hazelett (aka Devin Night) did a great job – and there are several examples of other tokens.
Games and Gaming
- Lowell Francis @ Age of Ravens continued his amazingly detailed History of Horror RPGs this week, dealing with 2008-2009. I’ve only heard of a handful of these games, so it’s been educational for me. Plus it’s been fun just to ponder all the games from 1981 to nearly the present.
- Craig Stern @ Sinister Design has also been diving into a bit of game history… He’s been documenting the evolution of character creation in RPGs… from the 1810s to today. As Spock might say, “Fascinating.”
- Wizards. They can be secretive bastards at times – the ultimate in closed-source development. Well, ZZarchov @ Unofficial Games has a great list of rare books wizards might want in their collections… and why they want them. Personally, I want the “Book of Aarrgh…” in my collection right now! (ZZarchov also created some great ideas for a “Fantasy Polynesia” this week. Be sure to check it out too!)
- Or perhaps you need a government to go with that cool world you just created? Why not take a look at some examples from Rob Conley @ Bat in the Attic for some ideas? Confederations, empires, kingdoms, and much more!
- Random algorithms. Love them or hate them, occasionally they help GMs or players find inspiration in strange places. But here’s a random generator I’ve not seen – one that generates random items a group of random characters may have. Alex @ EmacsWiki has some interesting numbers for 1000 randomly generated characters to share. They all have a backpack and iron rations. Go figure.
- Good GMs know that player characters are more than pieces to move around on the table. And players know their characters should be at the heart of the action. But sometimes the plot or story takes control and the PCs become second fiddle. One Die Short @ Dungeon Mastering has some great suggestions this week on how to balance your goals as GM and the player’s goals.
- What’s the balance of combat and roleplaying in your campaigns? Vanir @ Critical Hits just had a session that seems like 90% or higher of roleplaying and maybe 5-10% combat. I don’t have a problem with that.
- How much improvisation during a game session is too much? Good question. I often came up with a few ideas on a piece of paper, started the session, and let the players run wild. We ended up with some intriguing storylines that way. MorrisonMP @ The Rhetorical Gamer has some great ideas on how to work more improv into your games while getting the players more involved too. (And be sure to read the comments, which also offer a couple of great tips.)
- If you want more story in your campaigns, you might check out the article from Phil Vecchione @ Gnome Stew where he describes some great ways to use Story Forge Cards. I have a set and have only used them once so far, but was impressed with the way they helped form ideas quickly… Phil uses them to help create more personal stories for individual PCs.
- Along the personal story lines, Ryan Macklin had an interesting idea for incorporating “cliques” into character creation. Sometimes it helps to define your character in terms of other groups and may help form an initial impression (I like these people, don’t like these people, and these people hate me because…).
- Sometimes a GM will present side plots that the PCs somehow latch onto until they get derailed from the main plot of the game story. Mark @ Ethos RPG suggests that perhaps all we have to do is occasionally “round off” the corners to keep the PCs coming back to the main thread.
- Would you ask your players to collaborate on a dungeon design? Ameron (Derek Myers) @ Dungeon’s Master wonders if the collaborative city-building process of The Dresden Files RPG could be applied to D&D. My issue would be the lack of surprise I think, but at the same time perhaps it would be fun for different gaming groups to collaboratively put dungeons together and stock them and then swap them with other groups… That could be a lot of fun.
- Everyone knows that making an entrance can be fun at times. But what about dungeon entrances? Do you think about them when you put a dungeon together? Tower of the Archmage was inspired by an article from Michael Garcia to ponder using some of the ideas of Torchlight (the computer game) inside dungeons…
- Michael @ Neuroglyph Games brings up an interesting topic for game design – skill lists. Do you go with a static list? Let the player choose? Or forgo skills for professions instead?
- How do your players fight battles? Do they go in guns blazing until they’re outmatched and run like hell? Or do they have a plan? John @ The Wandering Gamist suggests that maybe that’s based on their culture. Some great tidbits from history on the logistics of war and what it might mean for your PCs…
- Should Dungeons & Dragons have been called Dungeons & Demons? Probably not, if purely because of the controversy that already surrounded it in the media. But Joshua Dyal @ Dark Heritage has a point. Early D&D included a lot of demons. And… how many of them are D&D specific vs. in the public domain?
- How do you come up with names for your NPCs? Is it a painstaking process or do you just point to a name on a page in the phone book? Black Vulnea @ Really Bad Eggs had a heck of a process for his Flashing Blades campaign.
- What happens at your table when a character has a critical hit? Mobius @ Ennead Games has some fun ideas. My favorite? #8 – “Even after years of campaigning, the grinding sound of your axe blade successful digging deep into collar bones still makes you wince a little. But in this case of finally overcoming the raging foe in front of you, you’re prepared to put up with it.” Awesome.
- Need some ideas for a mutant future? Check out this PDF filled with 10 short adventures from Hereticwerks. For free. (Or take a look at last year’s Short Adventure Challenge that has all sorts of fun ideas.)
- Have you ever wanted to look inside the toolbox of a great GM? Check out the article from LS @ Papers & Pencils that offers a great assortment of campaign tools in no particular order. Maps, calendars, and more. Or check out his 8 rules for Dungeon Improvisation and see what happens…
- Intwischa is amazing. Honestly you should just go read all the articles there. I’ll wait. Done? CWhite offered a unique idea to help set the tone and style for a campaign and group. It’s definitely a collaborative effort, which he takes into account when setting the expectations for a game.
Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and Crowdfunding
- Tracy Barnett must not sleep much. He just got School Daze done and out the door and now he’s started a new Kickstarter for One Shot – “A Roleplaying Game of Murder and Vengeance.” Check it out if you’re over 18 and exploring murder in a game world excites you!
- Or if revenge isn’t your thing, maybe James Desborough’s Machinations of the Space Princess will be. Described as “a sexy, sleazy, swords & Sci-fi fantasy game and toolkit derived from Lamentations of the Flame Princess.” This is the latest IndieGoGo in a series of from the LotFP folks and definitely NSFW and not for youngsters either.
- If you’d rather play some Savage Worlds, the folks at Savage Mojo have a new swords-n-sorcery setting for you… Dungeonlands sounds awesome, from Aaron Acevedo and the rest of the crew. The story is dark, ominous, and deep, and the art is beautiful. (Plus there are some great music tracks that gave me goosebumps.) Back this project folks, they know how to pull a story together that really gets your attention.
- In case you thought Kickstarter was all sunshine and rainbows, you’d be wrong. We’ve known about projects who raised money only to fail in delivering on their promises or who didn’t budget wisely… But apparently Obsidian Entertainment’s Project Eternity project was asked to do something hinky (story from Rollin Bishop @ Geekosystem). Imagine if you were asked to ask other folks for money, use that money to build a product, then give that product to the publisher fully-formed only getting a small part of the profits. Would you do that? Put all that time, passion, and energy into something only to not really get to keep it in the end? It’s different than work-for-hire or contracted work… this is freely done. Ack.
- Along with this bit of bad news, I’ll add some controversy. If you don’t know the main difference between IndieGoGo and Kickstarter, it boils down to who gets the money when the project ends its funding run. If a project fails to get fully funded at Kickstarter, you don’t lose your money. At IndieGoGo, it goes to the project founder regardless of success or failure if it’s set as “Flexible Funding” (check the IndieGoGo FAQ). Andrew @ Geek Native wonders if this is ethical. What do you think?
- AfterEarth: The Fall is an interesting Kickstarter RPG that mixes post-apocalyptic bits with dark fantasy bits to come up with something unique. And Jeremy Penter, the designer, is asking backers to help develop the game. MazeController @ Flames Rising had a chance to interview Penter and gained some additional insights into the process.
- And sometimes Kickstarters don’t come through in the time they think they will, as shown by Erik Tenkar @ Tenkar’s Tavern. I need to do this for my own list of Kickstarter projects I’ve supported…
- George @ RPG Circus posed an interesting question this week. Why do all RPGs seem to have a “What is a RPG?” section in them? Don’t we all know what it is by now? Can’t someone write the definitive version on Wikipedia and just include a link?
- Creighton Broadhurst and Raging Swan Press are back with a new town product this week - Village Backdrop: Thornhill. Sounds like a great place to visit… not. Unless you’re interested in exploring some of the nearby tombs. Check out the product page for more info.
- Rite Publishing released a new book for Faces of the Tarnished Souk called Balduros Thundrsen, the Roaring Hammer (PFRPG) by Matt Banach and Justin Sluder. Balduros sounds like one heck of a bard and I’d hate to get him mad or he might beat me like a drum!
- Justin Jeffers @ Diehard Gamefan wrote a review this week of Creation: The World Building Game from Guy Fox and Okiju Smith for B. Brother Press. Despite all the things wrong, it sounds like it has a cool concept at its core.
- Sean Holland @ Sea of Stars had a few reviews this week… Grimtooth’s Traps, which I haven’t thought of for years… And a number of short reviews of products from Rite Publishing - In the Company of Henge, Faces of the Tarnished Souk: Belladonna, the Face of Love Unrequited, and 101 Magic Armor and Shield Properties.
- Endzeitgeist @ Nerd Trek took the time to review a massive PDF full of unusual PC races in Remarkable Races: Compendium of Unusual PC Races. This is a huge review befitting a huge book and shows both the good and the mediocre (there really isn’t any bad). He also reviewed Amethyst Renaissance, which is even bigger and got a great review!
- The Game Night Blog Carnival for September is wrapping up but had some great reviews all over the web this week. Glimm @ Glimm’s Workshop reviewed Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game. Benoit @ Roving Band of Misfits reviewed Pandemic. (Great game I’ve played a few times!) Geek Ken checked out the board game Kingsburg.
- At Between Are the Doors, they reviewed Advanced Adventures #15: Stonesky Delve from Expeditious Retreat Press. Sounds like it has some very creative bits and consistency!
- Margaret Weis Productions’ Marvel Heroic Roleplaying has really taken the RPG market by storm. And their release of the Civil War adventure has turned some ideas on their heads as well. Jonathan Lavallee @ Gamish Designer took a look at Marvel Civil War and came away singing its praises.
- Dice Monkey took a look at the card game Chaos & Alchemy, which is hand assembled and apparently brilliantly put together. We should all order a copy before it’s too late!
- Beware the goblins! They’ve taken over at Crimson Bastards and now the blog is called “The Goblin Beat” - I hope their goblin overlords are kind!
- Have you ever wanted to ask the folks at Bedrock Games a question? Now they have a new feature called “Ask Bedrock” and you can do just that. Ask about Servants of Gaius, Arrows of Indra, Crime Network, or any of their other games.
- Want to create and run your own virtual starship? Artemis – the Spaceship Bridge Simulator – will let you do that across multiple Windows computers where each “station” on the bridge is a laptop or desktop in the network? Sounds cool, doesn’t it?
Ok… I hit critical mass, so here are a few articles that didn’t make it into the list above due to time constraints:
- My character isn’t a fighter – how can I contribute to a combat? | Large Polyhedron Collider
- Design Notes for Three Parts Dead | Flames Rising Horror & Dark Fantasy Webzine
- a place for cloud giants « Blog of Holding
- Kontamination – Gameplay – Tweet RPG
- THE LAND OF NOD: The Bar Fight Matrix – A Way to Handle Fantasy Slugfests
- Author – Brian N. Young: Review for the Crimson Pact is here! It is Good!
- Adventures and Shopping: Inked Adventures goes Geomorphic
- Musings from the Dungeon: Underground Cities
- roleplay-geek: More D&D Comicstrip Adverts from the 80s
- Blog Carnival: Posts from Around the Web So Far | Dice Monkey
- Forgotten Runes: Dinky Dungeons Review
- The GURPS Fanatic: Lead by Example
- The Generic Villain Feigns Godhood | Exchange of Realities
- Playing with Unbalanced Levels in Pathfinder | Papers and Pencils
- From the Ashes: Playtest – Mike Nystul’s Axes and Anvils
- From the Ashes: One Year Down
- Preview of Locations | Colonial Gothic, News | Rogue Games
- The Cobalt Kobold: A Princess, a Dwarf, and a Gnome walk into a Mansion…
- Valley of the Old Ones: Floating Horror – Vile menace to man and beast
- What’s that you say? TCPN Gets a Newsletter? » Troll in the Corner
- The Power of Random | Keith Davies — In My Campaign – Keith’s thoughts on RPG design and play.
- Back to the Keep: Monday Miniatures – Using visual reference for painting
- Godsend: the City of Bones: Architecture of the City
- High Level Characters, Low Level Adventure | The Iron Tavern
- D&D Encounters Map Gallery — Dungeon’s Master
- Dragonmark 9/26: What Makes A Monster?
That’s it for this week on the news front. If you want a bit more, check out:
- The Weekly Assembly @ Gamer Assembly
- Links for the Week @ Intwischa
- The Weekly Roundup @ Roving Band of Misfits
There’s definitely plenty of news go go around!
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 or drop me an e-mail at news(at)gameknightreviews(dot)com and I’ll add it to the list for next week!