Sunday, January 31, 2010

WOTC Blows It Again With Gamma World

How can one company screw up by screwing over their customers so often?

This time the product is a failure before it's even released.

Apparently Gamma World is going to be released with certain mutation cards coming in random booster packs. So the person who buys the most cards is the best player.

What a scumbag move--designed to just make money.

Check out the threads on ENWorld and TheRPGSite for more info.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Free Issue of Kobold Quarterly for Download Here

Just received this email:

Hi Joe:

Just wanted to let you know that we're launching a special offer today at Kobold Quarterly that your readers might be interested in taking advantage of. From now through January 31, they can go to the KQ Store and use the coupon code KQ10Free to download a free PDF copy of Kobold Quarterly #10.

Issue #10 features an interview with Paizo's Jason Bulmahn, Ed Greenwood's Dwarven Goddess, Ecology of the Hill Giant, John Wick's unique (and slightly disturbing) take on Halflings, Secrets of the Halberd, Monte Cook's Game Theories, Rampant Elf Lust, and more. We think it's one of the best issues we've ever done, and if you're inclined to share the coupon code on your blog, we hope it gives your readers some useful and entertaining content.

If you have any questions about Kobold Quarterly, this offer, or whether Wolfgang really does have a magical workshop in the basement full of clockwork monstrosities, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Shelly Baur

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Retro-Clone Fans: Would you give up the clones if WOTC would start re-publishing the older editions?

If the price of having older editions on the mainstream bookstore shelves was that the clones could no longer be published---not even for free download---Would you agree to that price?

Does the answer change if you found out no one could publish any material for the older editions and charge for it without a lawsuit or some other costly legal consequence?


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On Mearls and Balance, Game Expectations and Evolution.

Inspired by a conversation here and here and by Rob Kuntz' comments to my recent blogpost on the 4e promo movie...some thoughts...

I recently ran a AD&D game of a converted 3e module, Red Hand of Doom. Interestingly, the guys who played it at the convention were all older players who first learned on AD&D and older editions. They were very good, and turned the module on its head, with their goal being to avoid every single fight unless they absolutely had to do it, and to go right to the final guy to achieve the mission as quickly as possible. They used very creative ways to do it, some roleplaying, some taking advantage of the surroundings and environment. They kept me on my toes the whole time. It was fun and challenging to me as a DM to keep up with them, especially since I hadn't played in or run an AD&D game in over 20 years. Thankfully the stripped down bastardized 3.0 game we play is houseruled to resemble the older style of game, so it wasn't unfamiliar territory.

I don't think the newer school mindset would have understood that approach or thought along those terms at all.

Also, as to spells, much of the creative use of spells has been nerfed over the years, with the very detailed spell descriptions we see in later edition books. They specifically describe what you can or can't do with a spell. That is fine for consistent tournament adjudication, but takes a hell of a lot from the game of imagination and the creativity of the players. Rather than imagining what they could do, they have to see what the rules will let them do. A whole different mindset, but with kids these days having to go through metal detectors at school and taking it without protest, I guess having to conform to the rules is what they are used to.

As for balance, I never cared for it or thought about it. Sometimes your 12th level party came across 4 orcs on the road. Why? It made sense that the orcs of that level were there based on what was going on in the world that day. Just because the party is 12th level doesn't mean every encounter has to be a challenge for 12th level guys. In fact, it makes sense that the higher you go in level the less challenging most encounters will be. What's the fun in being a high level badass when everything you face is just as tough to kill as you are?

That being said, sometimes you randomly come across something that makes you run screaming like a little bitch while pissing your pants, both players and characters. Life's not fair. Sometimes you just get your ass kicked, or killed, totally randomly, or as the unforeseen but foreseeable result of a series of bad choices. Oh well. That's life. And death. To the extent the game represents that reality, I like it.

Speaking of reality, that's the other aspect of the game I don't like these days. I like what my guys are able to do to have some basis in reality, as long as it isn't magic based. Things like swimming, jumping, sneaking, etc. are real abilities people have. I don't mind skill systems which reflect some progression in skills like that. What I do have a problem with are abilities that a normal guy wouldn't have, which are essentially game mechanic based combat tricks, not based in reality. If I, Joethelawyer, picked up a sword and was trained in the ancient art of swordfighting by a master for 20 years, there is no way I would be able to do some of the things a fighter in 4e could do. I do like my games to be simulation-based.

I wasn't against 4e when it was first being talked about and previewed. I excitedly read everything I could find on it. When the game itself actually came out though, I realized why the game was so different than the vague claims made about it in the preview books and posts WOTC made. It was somewhat of a radical shift. It left me disappointed. Not only for the reasons deescribed above, but because the idea of different classes as professions with different skillsets was essentially gone. Now rather than the paradigm of a bunch of varied people from a living breathing medieval fictional society coming together to loot and plunder and explore, each adding their own unique abilities and talents to the mix (both as players and PC's), you had a homogenized group of PC's, all with similar things they could do every round. They were sort of morphed together, all powers essentially doing something similar, but each with a different name. Rather than a role in society, you had classes defined by role in a group, as if a dungeon group was the defining factor of roles in society. The rules were so restrictive that imagination was stifled

I like my characters to not just fight but to explore a fictional world around them. The kingdom to the south over the Mountains of Doom isn't ruled by Evil Strikers, its ruled by Evil Wizards damnit! I actually do want to create a book in a fictional place as I game, a book written by my characters through roleplaying with the DM. But I want it to be reality based, as much as possible.

To the extent that a game has so much of its core class mechanics and abilities divorced from reality for non-magical classes, and is so balanced around combat role rather than societal profession or role, and is designed with such a narrow focus due to catering to the greatest common denominator's lazy expectations and overindulged needs, the game loses it attraction to me.

Just so you don't think I'm picking on 4e, I feel the same way about 3.x and Pathfinder. I've had the opportunity to play Pathfinder rules as written these past few months. I wanted to learn the game most of you had been playing these past 10 years. We stripped many many things from our bastardized 3.0 game before we ever actually played it by the rules. Long story short, I don't like Pathfinder and by that same token the 3.x games, rules as written. It goes too far along the route described above which 4e lives on. I keep going back only because I play with a good group of players who know the rules intimately, so I am getting a good education in the game. And I'm still having fun. The group of guys I play with makes up for the rulesystem I am not in love with. I may take them up on their offer to play 4e with me someday, but from everything I've read and knowing my tastes and preferences as I do, I doubt even they could make up for the system dislikes I have.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

4E promo video...

"Your character is defined largely by the powers you choose" at 1:36 into the video.

They lost me with that sentence. I prefer games where "your hero is defined partly by your class/race, but mostly by how you choose to roleplay him."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Review of People of Pembrooktonshire, Death Frost Doom, Green Devil Face 1-3, but mostly James Raggi's Stuff in General

Just to state at the outset--I bought these items, they weren't given to me for free so I could review them. Also, with the exception of one of the traps from a Green Devil Face, I haven't played with them in a game---yet.

Lastly, I don't really review anything on a professional or even pretentious-pseudo-professional level. I have been reading this stuff today, and had some thoughts I figured I'd share.

That being said, James Raggi's stuff is very different than most. It's some weird shit. Good weird shit.

Green Devil Face 1 is basically a module, but really can be read like GDF 2 and 3, as a collection of odd encounters and traps. They are good and could be helpful, especially if you are doing an old school style campaign where you want either odd/whimsical or tough traps and encounters.

I think Raggi comes into his own with the weird stuff. By weird I mean horror/creepy/WTF?!?! weird. People of Pembrooktonshire is a collection of statless descriptions of some of the most fucked up people you'll ever meet. From dopplegangers polymorphed into cows with their memories wiped, to a candle maker who has been dead for 12 years, anything fucked up you could imagine is in there.

Or maybe not. And I think that's what finally got me to write this. The point I wanted to make is that it takes a hell of an imagination to make this stuff up. It's weird. It's pretty unique. Most of what you buy out there is standard-fare material. It's cookie-cutter and lacks character. Raggi's stuff definitely doesn't lack character. It's very distinctive, in a style all his own, but definitely inspired by the Weird age of Fantasy---Lovecraft, etc.

One thought I had after reading through Death Frost Doom was that it seemed like the module itself was a short story which had been turned into a module. Not that it was railroady, just that it seemed a distillation of a story put into module form.

In the back of my head I thought that Raggi ought to write short stories like this, instead of, or in addition to, writing modules and supplements. After reading Pembrooktonshire today I am convinced he should. The "creativity of the weird" is obviously there. All he needs to do is put it all together in story form, rather than module or supplement form. Based on the level of his writing on his blog and elsewhere, I think he has the ability to be a great fiction writer. Hopefully he tries it someday.

As for the rpg supplement/module thing he has going on, if you want to incorporate some weirdness into your campaigns, you can't go wrong with Raggi's stuff. I am really interested to see the final product of the boxed set Weird RPG he is creating.

Go to this link for more info on him or his stuff, and for links to purchase some of it.

Is WOTC Ending the Production of Miniatures?

Speculation here...