Welcome to another Ten Links post, this time focused on what I’ll call “Reviews from Elsewhere” – all the great reviews from other sites scattered across the Internet.
(1) Even as D&D Next inches closer (it’s still a ways off), 4e Still Raises Hackles
So it appears the edition wars are still in full swing and that WotC isn’t really helping its cause with the pendulum swing away from 4e towards D&D Next… The inevitable axe will once again fall on another version of the venerable D&D rules, just like it did with all the previous versions. And if they kill the online Character Builder available as part of DDI, that may in fact be one more nail in the coffin to speed the divide.
Mike Shea @ Critical Hits wonders if in fact the writing truly is on the wall for 4e. Though 4e was a huge departure from 3.5e, it has its own share of fans (including myself, though I came late to the party) even while kicking the 3.5e fans to the curb. (And when that happened, Paizo picked up the 3.5e pieces and created the thriving Pathfinder empire.) There will always be beginnings and endings for games. They can’t live forever trapped in amber. But I hope WotC is smart enough to avoid some of the big potholes by killing 4e before its time…
Meanwhile on the other end of the spectrum, some people like the Dungeon Master @ Ask the DM have never really embraced 4e. Is D&D Next the answer they’ve been looking for? Who knows.
But whether you’re for or against previous versions, 4e, or future versions of D&D, you’re likely to not be alone. I know folks who still happily play 1st edition rules. Does the version war need to matter at all?
I still hope that WotC releases more of the older materials in their collection. They have a hell of a back catalog going back to the 1970s. Why not release it all and come up with a collection of conversion guides for the various combinations of D&D editions?
(2) Speaking of D&D Next…
Stress testing is popular in engineering disciplines – making sure that various components of a system can handle extreme or prolonged abuse. And David Guylll @ Points of Light recently did some stress testing of D&D Next with his gaming group starting with 1st level characters. Random encounters made for some intriguing results, including the fact that zombies really are overpowered and nuked the party quickly. Obviously there’s still some balance work to be done with the system, which isn’t shocking.
I’m wondering why we don’t see more of this “stress test” approach to trying out new RPG systems more often. It would be cool for publishers coming out with new systems like BareBones, DungeonWorld, and others to offer not just sample modules but some random encounter generation to test the boundaries a bit. Consider it just more playtesting but with a Quality Assurance spin.
It’s a wonder there aren’t companies out there whose sole purpose is playtesting tabletop RPGs and offering reports with solid feedback to developers. Maybe there are? Anybody out there doing that?
(3) Midgard – a Flat World Everyone is Happy to Navigate
Sailing, sailing, over the edge of the world… The Midgard Campaign Setting continues to set hearts all aflutter and inspire gamers far and wide.
There’s a user thread over at RPG.net about it that offers some very unique perspectives on the material, comparing it a bit to The Adventures of Baron Munchausen combined with the novels of Martha Wells.
Martin Ralya @ Gnome Stew took a deep dive into the hardbound book (which looks gorgeous) and explains in detail what many of us have already discovered. Wolfgang’s Midgard is amazing. ‘Nuff said.
Even Wolfgang himself wrote a great article over at Black Gate (amazing quarterly magazine of fantastic fiction) extolling a few of the book’s many virtues.
(4) A Civil War in X-Men Land
I missed the whole Civil War plotline because I’m not a huge comics guy. I love when those heroes leave the page and head to TV or movies, but I’m only an occasional reader of comic books. That said, the whole Civil War: X-Men event
for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying from Margaret Weis Productions has really blown up in the gaming community.
One of the writers for the book, Joe Blomquist, wrote about how the project came to be and how he gained the opportunity to work on it at his blog – Underwear on the Outside. Sounds like it really was a labor of love.
Unfortunately, not everybody loves the book. Tommy Brownell @ Most Unread Blog Ever thinks it might be a bit unnecessary unless you really need all the datafiles…
What do you think? If you’re a Marvel Heroic Roleplaying fan – how do the Civil War supplements work for you?
(5) Bored? Play a Board Game!
In the world of modern board games, I’m a relative newbie… But I’m slowly coming up to speed. If I can get my family to play Pandemic, I will have achieved some modicum of succes.
That said, I love it when I see game designers having fun. And how can you not have fun with a game called Beer & Vikings? Martin Rundkivist @ Aardvarchaeology had some time to review this new Italian board game from Albe Pavo. Sounds like it’s a lot of fun with a few “finicky rules” to deal with…
(6) Megadungeons, Island Getaways, and Assorted Adventures
Whether you’re a GM or a DM, you’re often on the lookout for a new adventure to run or plunder. Why not pick the brains of other folks who have run them or read through them already? You never know what you may find…
Brendan @ Untimately dove headlong into the Barrowmaze Megadungeon written by Greg Gillespie recently. This a dungeon so big it is broken into two separate volumes! And though it’s enormous and well written, the presentation leaves a bit to be desired apparently. Even so, this looks like a ton of OSR fun.
If megadungeons aren’t your thing, how about islands of the bizarre Isle of the Unknown by Geoffrey McKinney and published by Lamentations of the Flame Princess? As I’ve stated before in my own review, this is a strange place to visit full of wonders and horrors aplenty. Martin Ralya @ Gnome Stew seems to agree that it’s a bit out there but can be useful as inspiration and to provide some truly unusual experiences to your players they won’t be expecting.
If it’s more of a traditional module you’re looking for, then Wild Thing (A11) and When the Ship Goes Down (A12) from AdventureAWeek.com for PFRPG may be right up your alley. Endzeitgeist @ Nerd Trek reviewed both recently and found them both to be solid adventures showing AAW at their best!
Lastly we have Michael @ Neuroglyph Games taking a look at Way of the Wicked (Book Two: Call Forth Darkness) from Fire Mountain Games in a review at EN World. He may not like evil campaigns much, but it definitely sounds like it could be entertaining playing the bad guys for a change. Definitely something to check out for Pathfinder!
(7) D&D From All Angles
First, let me say I tried to sit through the Dungeons & Dragons: Book of Vile Darkness when it aired on the Syfy Channel some Saturday night a while back and couldn’t even get through the first scene after the opening credits. There’s “so bad it’s good” and “so bad how did this get made”? For me it was in the latter category.
Somehow Michael Holland @ Flames Rising managed to sit through the whole thing and found it amusing. I’m guessing he has a stronger stomach than I do for bad movies. But if the MST3K team got back together to review it I think I’d enjoy it a lot more. Michael deserves a medal or trophy or something for watching the whole thing!
Derek Myers @ Dungeon’s Master reviewed the November edition of WotC’s Lair Assault series a few weeks ago - Temple of the Sky God. Not meant for weak heroes of low levels, this sounds like quite a challenge – even for 7th level characters. Myers offers some good tips on numerous fronts and a list of the glory points available.
And the folks at The Tome Show entered the Underdark to explore Menzoberranzan from WotC – an edition-proof book all about the famous city of drow elves. What’s more impressive is that they survived their trek and came back to talk about it on their podcast!
(8) A Gaming Grab Bag
Now we have a bit of a grab bag of RPG reviews and miscellany.
Erik Tenkar @ Tenkar’s Tavern has been doing a great job not just offering links to the Kickstarter projects he’s interested in, but shaking the tree for those projects who haven’t lived up to their end of the bargain. One of these is Metamorphosis Alpha from James Ward and Jamie Chambers. This project has been floundering a bit – was due in September and here we are in December (November when Erik wrote the article)… I’ll be curious to see if shaking the tree achieves any results.
As Erik’s article hints at – there’s not a lot of accountability when Kickstarters fail to meet their end of the bargain. Should there be repercussions for basically not delivering on promises? Heck yeah.
Meanwhile @Armchair Gamer, Alexander Osias wrote up a short review of Night’s Black Agents from Kenneth Hite and Pelgrane Press. Seems like a bit of the spy trade mixed with the supernatural using the Gumshoe system, which actually sounds pretty cool. Almost an X-Files vibe with vampires calling the shots behind the scenes.
Next is a review of AdventureAWeek’s A Learning Time adventure for BASIC-PFRPG, which is the simplified version of PFRPG that comes in the box I believe. Thilo Graf @ G*M*S Magazine definitely has a few opinions about this one, but it sounds like it’s a well-produced module for younger players that offers a few challenges without being unwinnable.
And lastly we have a review of Kuro by Cubicle 7 from Jay Anyong (pointyman2000) @ Life and Times of a Philippine Gamer. This is another game like Night’s Black Agents that mashes up some genres to good effect it sounds like – this time cyberpunk and Japanese horror.
(9) He Ain’t Lazy, He’s My GM…
Do you do a ton of preparation for a game if you’re the GM or DM? I’ve gone both ways – sometimes I prep a ton and other times I simply have some rough idea and wing it when we get started. Either way, we have fun.
Apparently The Weem is more of a “wing it” kind of GM who improvises and everybody has a good time. There may be a little prep, but the emphasis is on “little” not “prep” there.
So he took a look at a new book from Mike Shea (Sly Flourish) called The Lazy Dungeon Master to see if he could glean any new ideas or techniques. He says the book isn’t aimed at people who don’t prep enough, it’s aimed more at GMs who prep too much and need to cut back a bit. Seems like there are plenty of ideas and “inspiring bits” leaving him wanting to run a game immediately.
Anybody else checked out this book? I’m a regular reader at Sly Flourish, so will eventually pick up a copy myself.
(10) A Smattering of Tools…
this week I want to cover a few tools links that have languished in my pile for a while:
- Need some random tables (or need more)? C @ Hack & Slash points us to Abulafia – a wiki filled with random generators for RPGs. Not only are there tools to use already, but you can add more!
- Looking for ideas for adventure or campaign themes in a fantasy genre? The whole Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) has been added online. I’d specifically point you to the Themes list, which offers a ton of links to articles waiting to spark a thought or two.
- Do you need a star map? A really cool one? This one at Emichron.com generates a sector of space complete with planet or galaxy names and all sorts of fun info for Stars Without Number by Sine Nomine Publishing, but could be used for any science-fiction themed campaign. Instant galaxy. Just add the click.
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 time!