Monday, December 22, 2008

Wicked Books

Recently John Wick put a couple of his gaming books back in print. One of them is what drew me into the world of indie roleplaying games. That games is Cat. The other book he put back in print is a collection of articles he had written on stepping up your roleplaying games, titled Play Dirty.

I already have a copy of Cat as a pdf but I think I'll get a paper copy since I prefer having them on my bookshelf. It's a great feeling to hold a book in one's hands and flip the pages while reading. Besides it's great to have an actual book at the gaming table along side all those dice.

So, I suggest you check both books out. Even if you don't get them in paper form pick up a pdf copy of them. You won't be let down. Besides, they are cheap books, packed with priceless hours of fun.

Play Dirty

I'll be back more often, hopefully with some game design posts so you can check out my progress. Yeah, I know it's been slow but I am trying to make headway with it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Two Cows and a Donkey

Chris Engler over at his podcast, Wapcaplets, in episode 32 announced his participation in a charity to help people with life essentials who cannot afford them on their own. I know I can't put the urgency behind this charity the way Chris had so here's a link to the episode.

Wapcaplets Episode 32

He started with two cows but it now looks like he added a donkey, so if you can help out please do.

Two Cows and a Donkey

Friday, October 31, 2008

Big Winner

This past week I found out through one of the podcasts I listen to that I was the winner of a $25 credit to be used at Noble Knight Games. The contest was hosted by a set of podcasts. Each had a secret code in an episode. Long story short, I just got an e-mail from Noble Knight saying my books just shipped. I can't wait to see them.

The loot:

Houses of the Blooded by John Wick (creator of Cat)
Spirit of the Century by Evil Hat

The podcasts:

Atomic Array
The Tome Show
OgreCave Audio Report
Brilliant Gameologists
The Podgecast

They are all great podcasts so check them out.

As a side note, I am in the middle of typing up what I have for Islands of the Sun. I'll post how it's going when I have more ready to show.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Islands of the Sun

Okay, I just took some time at lunch to come up with a title for my game that I like better. It seems to suit the feel I'm going for. The flavor of the game is intended to be a fusion of the Inca, Aztec and South Pacific cultures. Structure, beauty and brutality are a major part of the game and honor is it's core. It's a place where people struggle amongst each other just as they struggle against an environment that actively pushes back. All the people know are the powers of the wind, waves and sun while struggling to live on the islands they call home.

Having that decided I then asked what exactly my game is about. With the people living in such a struggling world they impose order where they can. They live by an honor code that governs every aspect of their lives. So, honor is the core of the game. It's what will be used to measure how the characters are doing as they use honor to measure the status of others around them.

The following is my power 19 for Islands of the Sun. It's not intended for anything other than a guide to keep me organized and heading in the right direction.

1.) What is your game about?
It is about honor in the face of adversity, which comes not only from other characters but also from the world itself.

2.) What do the characters do?
The characters are tasked with maintaining and improving their honor while accomplishing things for the beliefs they hold dear. These beliefs come from their pasts.

3.) What do the players (including the GM if there is one) do?
There are both players and a GM who play the game. The players each have a character. They push their characters through challenges to better them. The GM is the adversity the players put their characters against. He is not supposed to play against the players but he is supposed to challenge the characters for the fun of everyone playing.

4.) How does your setting (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
The setting is an idyllic set of thousands of islands. With the beauty of the islands as they are the environment is just as brutal to those living there. In addition to the environment being challenging there have been a few settlements that have gained dominance and hold sway over the places around them.

5.) How does the Character Creation of your game reinforce what your game is about?
One thing I want to include in character creation is a structure to build some past into them. This lifepath system will build the beliefs the characters rely on for their honor. Characters also have aspects that mimic the environment around them for their strengths and weaknesses.

6.) What types of behaviors/styles of play does your game reward (and punish if necessary)?
I want to encourage play between the players. If they feel a need to play antagonistic to one another that needs to be a decision they made to increase the fun of the game for all playing. Whether the players choose to cooperate or be antagonistic they should be playing to their beliefs and aspects. Everything should work toward the honor their characters need to improve.

7.) How are behaviors and styles of play rewarded or punished in your game?
As long as players are using their beliefs they are able to increase their honor. When their honor goes up it allows them to better their aspects and talents. When they let their honor bottom out or they are defeated in a contest they take scars of shame. When they gain too many scars the characters leave play in disgrace.

8.) How are the responsibilities of narration and credibility divided in your game?
The GM is responsible for the stability of the world. He is there to run the opposition to the characters and describe a consistent setting. The players are responsible for their characters. They get to narrate the outcomes of contests they go through with moderation of the GM.

9.) What does your game do to command the players' attention, engagement, and participation? (i.e. What does the game do to make them care?)
By using the honor scale to regulate character improvement the players are encouraged to work toward their character's beliefs. By allowing the players to narrate the outcome of contests they will be able to flavor the action/intensity of those contests.

10.) What are the resolution mechanics of your game like?
Contests are resolved with opposed rolls. To win a contest the victor pushes the loser's aspects further than their thresholds allow. Also, the players are encouraged to use differing aspects in their contests to think outside the box. For example, an NPC could be pushing with strength but the PC could push back with intelligence or with their social acuity to defeat the NPC. They do not have to go strength against strength.

11.) How do the resolution mechanics reinforce what your game is about?
They are intended to push the player to use their character's beliefs to increase honor and better them.

12.) Do characters in your game advance? If so, how?
The advance through pushing their honor to the top of it's scale. That will allow die increases on their talents and attributes. When players use their character's beliefs they can, through those contests, improve them. Through play they can even add new beliefs.

13.) How does the character advancement (or lack thereof) reinforce what your game is about?
Advancement is intended to increase the stakes for the characters. When they advance they do better and thus they can take a bigger bite off the challenges they go for.

14.) What sort of product or effect do you want your game to produce in or for the players?
I want the game to push the players to try something new. I want the players to take an active role in the flavor of their play sessions when they describe outcomes of contests.

15.) What areas of your game receive extra attention and color? Why?
The conflict between the character and everything around them is what I want to be the focus of the game's color. I want them to feel like small fish in the ocean. I also want them to feel they have something they have control over, their honor.

16.) Which part of your game are you most excited about or interested in? Why?
The thing I am most excited about is putting the flavor in the hands of the players. I feel giving them that opportunity increases the excitement of game play. When they can take that extra control of their characters they should feel just as excited describing failures as it is to describe successes. Beliefs are also things I like to see in a game. They help lead the motivations of the characters for their players.

17.) Where does your game take the players that other games can’t, don’t, or won’t?
This one I'm not too sure about. Other than the setting having a different cultural twist I hope the honor system gives the game some more tension during play.

18.) What are your publishing goals for your game?
I don't intend on anything that will blow off the shelves but I do want to have a game that is very professional looking and solid in rules.

19.) Who is your target audience?
My audience is the RPG community in general, but I want to aim more for those gamers of the traditional RPGs who are looking for something where they, as players, can take more control of their characters. I want more story to come out of play. I want the game to sit in that snug middle ground between traditional RPGs and the indie games that have drastically different rules. Hopefully it can be a transition game between the two extremes.

So, that's about it for now. I'm not too sure if I hit the mark completely with those answers but it's my attempt at the moment.

By the way, I had to pick a different name for the game because I didn't want to use IE as an acronym for it like my earlier idea would have done. This title also, hopefully, has a better feel.

More to come later.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

YouTube Game Design

It's been a while since I've posted but the other day I found this really great game design seminar by John Wick on YouTube. He's the guy behind a bunch of really cool indie press roleplaying games along with materials for 7th Sea and Legend of the Five Rings by AEG.

Last night I watched a string of his videos and was really impressed with the practical info he relates for game design. Though I haven't put much into my game so far I feel it's just spinning wheels, but John Wick's videos have really given me some inspirations. I think I'm going to take another stab at creating a solid foundation for my game starting with the theme. Sure I can come up with mechanics but starting with a cool mechanic seems to get in my way. Maybe starting with theme will get it going in the right direction.

Here's the first video John Wick posted on game design. You should also find practical game play advice in his set of play dirty videos. Have a watch. I hope your gaming grows because of it.

Hopefully I will have another post up here soon with better results on kicking off my game.

Monday, September 8, 2008

D&D American

I was just listening to one of the many podcasts in my catcher and heard a piece of news I had to look into. The guys at Pulp Gamer in their Out Of Character episode 57 were talking about how the conventions they attended went and they mentioned something political I had to check out. They mentioned Mr. Goldfarb's ignorant comments posted on the McCain campaign web site and they mentioned the gamer feedback concerning it.

This is the best response I have found. It sums up exactly how I feel about the issue.

So, take the chance to listen to the Pulp Gamer guys and check out this great YouTube feedback to McCain. They are both worth your time.

To be fair to all parties this is a link to the McCain blog post in question from August 18, 2008.

Hopefully this will be the last time I feel the need to post anything remotely political on my blog.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Cat Gaming

Last Sunday I got the chance to do some GMing again for the first time in years and I think it went pretty well. Being a fan of many different games and since we were playing at our local Barnes & Noble I ran a game of Cat by John Wick. It's a game anyone who knows of cats can relate to even if they happen to be a dog person let alone a non-pet person.

The game went well from the feedback I got from the players. They all seemed to have a good time. We were a bit late getting started and even though I wasn't too sure I judged the adventure length right for the time we very nearly finished when the store was closing. Since it's been a while from when I last GMed I was sure I would not get the timing right. I was also concerned I could keep the players all engaged, but from all the advice I've been feeding on over the years I kept my eye on each of them and tried to keep from relying on any one player as the action went along.

In my opinion, the game itself was awesome. It's a great one for when you get to play with some people new to roleplaying games even though all the people in our group were prior gamers. It's a simple game with rules that really stay out of the way of play. Also, even though the game is great, I think I was a bit rough around the edges with my GMing but smoting that out comes with hopping back on the bike and running more games.

This Saturday me regular gaming group will get to try out Mutants & Masterminds under my GMing. We'll be making characters and I have an intro adventure that should give them a feel for the game. Then I can find out what they like for their heroes so I can direct the campaign in a direction they will thrive on. We are starting a rotating GMing schedule so I will be up again the first Saturday of the next month. By then I should have a grand scheme planned out.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Island Empires

I needed to come up with a title to be able to reference my RPG as I work on it. So, even though it's a pretty weak title now I am going with Island Empires. The only reason I am using this at the moment is the genre that seems to stick in my head. It's an archipelago where there is an empire along with many island states that struggle for control and identity in their world. I'm not too sure if that's too stable a base to build on but it can change as the game comes together.

The next thing I wanted to do is answer three questions for a feel focus. The answers are something to keep me on track with where I want to go. These questions can be found in the RPG Design Handbook.

What is the game about?

It's about maintaining honor and posturing both socially and politically. This will be done at a personal level where they affect their local impact, not a world moving level where the characters might be the rulers.

What do the characters do?

The characters are the citizens of the island states trying to make their way in the world. They might have some impact on how larger things happen but their focus will be on family, friends and their beliefs about the world they live in. They could be the soldiers who go off to war for their island state but they could also be citizens who go off to the core of the empire to find help for their home that's in danger of dying from an emerging plague. In anything they do their focus is on how they present themselves to the world.

What do the players do?

As said in a previous post, I mostly like the GM/Player form of roleplaying games. Having said that, the players are responsible for their characters' actions. But that's not all. They are also in control of their backgrounds and how they fit in the world. They are not reliant on the GM to tell them how or why they fit into the world.

Players also build their characters through play. During character creation they will create a framework for this development to build on. The framework is more than just character stats; it's also a set of beliefs and outlooks on the world.

Well, those are the answers I have for the first set of three questions. I'm not too sure on that third question and answer but this is what I came up with for now. It seems a bit nebulous at the moment and will hopefully focus itself in my head now that I have it typed out.

Once I have my base mechanics nailed down I will describe what I am trying in order to give the impression I'm going for with the game.

Friday, August 22, 2008

My Insanity

I was working, or at least trying to work on the ideas I have for a game and started browsing my shelves of game books. Then I got curious of just how many RPGs I actually have accumulated over the years. Mind you, this is sans the couple I have lost over the years as well, for one my AD&D 1st Edition.

Anyway, on with the list.

All Flesh Must Be Eaten Revised Edition
Battletech (just the armored combat box)
Burning Wheel Revised Edition, Jihad and Blossoms are Falling
Call of Cthulhu 4th, 5th, 6th, Dark Ages and D20
Cyberpunk 2013 and 2020
Dangerous Journeys: Mythus
Doctor Who Fasa Edition
Dogs in the Vineyard
Don't Rest Your Head
Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules Cyclopedia, 2nd Edition, 3E, 3.5E and 4E
Earthdawn 1st Edition and Revised Edition
Fate 2nd Edition
Indiana Jones
James Bond 007
Lord of the Rings Decipher Edition
Marvel Super Heroes 1st Edition
Mutants & Masterminds 2nd Edition
The New Argonauts
Pathfinder Beta Edition
Savage Worlds Explorer Edition
Space 1889
Spycraft 2nd Edition
Star Frontiers
Star Trek Fasa Edition
Star Wars 2nd Edition, D20 and D20 Revised
Tri-Stat dX
Twilight 2000 1st Edition and 2nd Edition
The Wheel of Time

Yes, I'm a list person. haha

Lately there has been such an explosion in the number of awesome RPGs that I have a want list that's growing the more I hear about these wonderful games. I may not get to play them all but I really do enjoy reading the books to wrap my mind around the rules and the settings. Some of them are so unique that I never would have thought them up and others are the old favorites that take me back to childhood just seeing their covers.

I hope you enjoyed that little tidbit for a blog post when I should be working on my master plan.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Why Design?

The first thing I am going to start with for my game designing ideas is to look at why I want to design a roleplaying game. In doing so I should be able to get a focus on where I am with my own play style, my likes and dislikes, and just where I intend to take the players of what I'm building. This focus should give me an anchor that will keep me from straying too far from what I intend on doing. After coming up with this focus I want to commit to having something written and in at least ashcan format for GenCon 2009. I don't know if this is too ambitious of a deadline but I won't get anything done without attaching at least something for a deadline.


What do I like in a roleplaying game?

  1. I like the GM/Players structure because it seems to keep to a focused world yet keeps that world a bit of a mystery for the players.
  2. Players should have a definite control over their characters and how they impact the world they inhabit.
  3. The players should also be able to take control of their background and not have it controlled by the GM.
  4. Player characters do not live in a bubble, but they are interrelated with the other characters, both PCs and NPCs.
  5. The GM should be saying "yes" to the players as the world is as much theirs as it is his.
  6. I like using many different dice.
  7. Less crunch and a more cinematic feel is essential for more dramatic play.
  8. Flexibility should be built into the rule system to allow for varying play styles.
  9. I love action/hero/plot points!
  10. I want to see player characters suffer the consequences of their actions.

What don't I like in a roleplaying game?

  1. I can't stand constant fudging of rules that aren't broken.
  2. I hate GM stonewalling when the players want to do something they feel would add to the fun of the game.
  3. I also hate GM stonewalling when the players are not following the letter of his planned adventure.
  4. I loathe a GM telling a story instead of opening the world for the players affect.
  5. A rule that exists just to add fiddly bits when it does not add to the flavor of the game shouldn't exist.
  6. Combat is never the only solution to a given situation and should also not be the only thing rewarding the players.
  7. I don't like Monty Hall gaming.
  8. I hate downtime between character actions.
  9. Games that are all one thing annoy me whether they are all dungeon crawl, court intrigue or self-focused internal struggles.
  10. I can't stand having to shut down a planned gaming session just because one person chould not show.

What are some things I do in my gaming?

  1. My preference is to be a GM in my gaming but I have not been able to do that in a while for lack of a gaming group.
  2. Now that I have a gaming group I am a player but hoping to get into the GMing role.
  3. I am a voracious reader of new and different game books and game systems. I read them to see what makes them tick.
  4. I am usually a quiet player at the gaming table but am stretching my wings into more control of my characters' surroundings.
  5. I've been looking for ways to tie my characters' into their world whether it's finding a relative to help our party out in a large city or struggling with character emotions over an action they needed to take.
  6. I tend to roll with the punches at the gaming table and have been keeping my eyes open for the fun of my fellow gamers. If I can help them have fun then I will try to do just that.

I'm sure this is just a starting point. As I learn more about my play I will refine these three sections. They aren't written in stone but they are a guide for my design and should not be disregarded.

These are a couple things that got me thinking about designing a game in the first place.

  1. I have a dice mechanic that should hopefully encourage players to do more than just combat in a sticky situation. It will hopefully also allow for a more realistic feel when it comes to non-physical injury, such as mental, emotional and social.
  2. I want a game with a genre of my own. I know that could be a setting book for someone else's game system but I am a believer in the rules needing to fit the feel of a genre. After all, how scary would a book be to characters in Call of Cthulhu if there were no sanity rules?
  3. With all the amazing indie games out now there is so much inspiration to break the old hard-and-fast rules and reassemble them in some new bizarre fashion to see just what they could be pushed to do.
I think that's it for me today. I am off to play with my design notes.

The Sultan of Gaming Tables

I have to get one of these!

The Sultan Gaming Table

I heard about it when listening to Paul Tevis and Ryan Macklin's GenCon 2008 podcast This Just In From GenCon. They said there was this stunning table in the vendors' hall during their coverage of the convention so I looking for a company site for the ultimate gaming table. I don't think I was expecting it to look as nice as it does. It's one stunning piece of gamer kit.

Now I just need to come up with the money for one... oh, and the room to put it in.

Monday, August 18, 2008


I've recently started posting on The Forge about my game ideas and asking for advice on where to start. My first post was replied to by a few helpful and encouraging people. One mentioned a resource on the net that was all about RPG design, though it is still in a creation process of its own.

RPG Design Handbook

After reading the pages that are written I think I will try out it's advice. First, is asking myself what I like and don't like from play and then to see how that actually fits in the gaming sessions I play in. Once I am done with that I'm going to go through some questions on what I want to see in the game I'm thinking of creating.

As this process continues I'll post my thoughts here and see if I can't bore you all. haha

Friday, August 15, 2008

Step One

After listening to many podcasts and hearing about all these wonderful indie RPGs I checked a few of them out at Origins this year and took Burning Wheel (with Jihad due to Fred Hicks' description of it) and Don't Rest Your Head (because I love that Dark City/Neil Gaiman feel in a game) home with me. They are amazing! I love the uniqueness of the concepts that make the players (and GM) jump out and take a risk with their characters. Since then I have ordered a few more from IPR (Dogs in the Vineyard, Blossoms are Falling and Agon). I guess they won't ship until after GenCon due to when I placed my order but I am thrilled to watch for that box in the post.

Now, to the point. Over the years I have had inspirations to create settings for other games such as D&D. However, after reading all these other game systems I am itching to just make my own game. The unique concepts have me coming up with ways to steal them, twist them and come up with new ones that work toward a specific feel to fit a setting. Over the last couple weeks I have been scribbling notes for rules I like and how I want to play around the gaming table.

With all the indie games that are out there and how impressive they are, where does one start? I have few setting ideas at the moment but I have piles of mechanics ideas. I used to come up with setting ideas all the time but at this point I don't want to just create another version of a different game that already exists. I don't want to rehash a setting by just adding a new set of rules to it. This dilemma could end up dropping a brick wall in my way.

I think I may go a slightly different direction with this blog and use it as a means to keep me working on the game design ideas I come up with. Please comment and let me know what you think.

Thanks for listening to me natter on.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Origins or Bust

A few weeks ago GAMA released the event schedule for Origins Game Fair and I signed up for my events when the list came available. This is the first year I have been able to get into all the games I wanted to play. At this point I have my schedule full and am really looking forward to the weekend in June starting on the 25th.

When I go to Origins I play a lot of roleplaying games because I don't get a chance to most of the time to play them. I also have a board game scheduled and a couple seminars on the industry of gaming.

At this point I have the following scheduled.

  • Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition - Gotta give it a try since it will be out on the shelves this month.
  • All Flesh Must Be Eaten - Because zombies are cool when kept in the rear view mirror.
  • The Savage World of Solomon Kane - Pulp adventure in Robert E. Howard's world could never be better.
  • Pathfinder - The continuing saga in the D&D 3.5 rules has me intrigued with Paizo's world.
  • Mutants & Masterminds - There's a little superhero in everyone.
  • Call of Cthulhu - H.P. Lovecraft's world of strangeness is always a blast (sometimes more literally than others).
  • Serenity - The big damn game I miss out on every year at Origins, but not this time.
  • Star Trek - Not my favorite setting for a roleplaying game but the event description sounded really cool.

And this is the board game I wanted to try out before buying.

  • Arkham Horror - Another game based on H.P. Lovecraft's imagination.

Those things should keep me busy for most of the weekend. There was a time when I would have been able to sacrifice more sleep for gaming, but I am one of those gamers who started playing in the early 80's, thus I am one who just doesn't have the energy for all-nighters anymore.

If you are planning on being at Origins this year I would love to hear what games you are looking forward to. So, please post a comment or e-mail me.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

MMOing in LotRO

The last several weeks I have been playing with a game I have not played in a long time. It's Lord of the Rings Online. Way back then, when the game was about to go live, I started an account in beta testing. It was great! There were players everywhere. Everyone who had been on for any period of time was fun to play with and friendly with those new to the game. Then it went live and the limits on where people could go and everyone went. It was a couple weeks after going live that I was able to play again and when I logged in there wasn't anyone around. It was really surreal. I was all alone. So, I stopped playing.

Over a month ago I logged in again. There were people! Over the last month or so I have been playing on a regular basis. My main character, Gorlin, has been leveling well and exploring the places I have always wanted to see from when I read the books. At first, coming back was slow going and then I came across a kinship (guild) I really fit well with. They were fun to play with. They were helpful. And, most of all, they were not power-leveling focussed. I like experiencing the environment and interacting with others at my own pace.

Then it happened. It always happens with a guild at one point or another where you get many different people trying to get along in a cohesive group. There were a few people who felt dumped on, and from what I have heard they were by other people in the kinship. So, they left the kinship. I stayed along with a few others and we still get along with those who felt the need to leave. What happened is that the kinship was passed on to another player for leadership. That player set me, along with a few others as officers. There was some cleaning of the ranks. Now the kinship seems to be clear of the selfish ones who made our friends leave the kinship in the first place. From here on out we will be taking a lot more care with who we invite to be members. We want a fun place in the world of Tolkein for everyone.

So, why am I playing an MMO instead of playing a pen-and-paper roleplaying game? I don't have a regular gaming group. I should try and start one myself as I am perfectly comfortable being the game master, the toughest part about playing a roleplaying game. The other day I stopped in my FLGS to see what new books they had available and asked if they have a gaming group that meets regularly there. There wasn't but they did say that if I wanted to start one I could use their facility for meeting. I might give it a go.

But then, I do really love my dwarf online. So, for now, Gorlin will be traveling the lands of Middle-Earth.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


I was at my FLGS (friendly local gamings shop) and even though I went in for a Fantastic Four trade paperback I could not leave empty handed of something gaming related. And, what did I pick up? Dice!

That got me thinking about how I've accessorized my games in the past. Plus, it's one of those laws of nature or something that states gamers have to leave a shop that sells games with a set of cool new dice. Don't ask me why but it seems to hold up in most cases.

The biggest accessory I use is my dice collection. By many standards it is not a large collection but it is a collection that brings back memories. Many of those sets were bought at past conventions or when I invested in a new roleplaying game. So if you dumped out my bad of dice I could tell you the names of the different styles and tell you when and where I got them. They are also kept in a very nice suede bag that's about fist sized and sits on the table standing up. It looks a bit like those pouches used for gold in the movies with a leather drawstring.

Other gaming accessories I have used in the past are my Chessex battlemat with wet-erase markers and painted miniatures. I print out cheat sheets for quick rule reference, NPCs maps and PCs involved in the current adventure (as I am normally the GM). Lately I have added, due to Savage Worlds, playing cards and poker chips.

Battlemats and miniatures make it easier sometimes to show where the players' characters are standing when the rubber hits the road and every second matters. With a mat the local layout can be drawn and the players can move their characters around as the GM can move everything else from opponents to innocent bystanders. It helps when some people can't grasp where everything is in relation to everything else. It also helps when the location they are at is very complex to describe.

The reference sheets help smooth out the game and keep things going as quickly as the situation calls for so the cinematic feel can move from one situation to the next. Having sheets, even simple ones, with limited data from the players' characters helps for those moments when tension relies on just how much the players think they don't know of what's going on. ... Does his blaster still have a shot left or can I make it across the room?

Next is using other things that relate closer to the rules of a specific system. The playing cards are used in Savage Worlds for initiative giving it the feel of a fast, tense situation. They would even lend a feel of the old west if that were the setting you were playing in. Poker chips also give that feel but I picked them up for the Bennies mentioned in the Savage Worlds rules. It's a feature that lets the players have more control over what goes on with their characters in the game. If they think they need a little extra luck or don't like how a situation is shaping up they can spend a chip and modify it slightly. They can also be used for similar rules in other games like Hero Points in Mutants & Masterminds, or if you like that mechanic and want to add it to games that don't have it. I've found that letting the players have more control of the world makes the game experience much more exciting.

Something else I picked up that can be used with many different types of roleplaying games, as they all have some level of combat or turn based situations in them, is a Combat Pad from Paizo. This thing is a metal board sandwiched between two pieces of card, one side with info and the other blank. Then there are some plastic coated magnets that can be written on with wet or dry erase markers. All you have to do is mark down the character and opponent names and put them in turn order once everyone has determined initiative. It's really handy for the GM who is good at forgetting someone's turn when the action gets going.

There is one accessory I would love to try for my game but just haven't had the money to get. Dwarven Forge makes some miniature terrain that really has a cool fantasy feel to it but the sets sure are pricey. I have gone looking for some printable terrains that are done up with fabulous graphics but they tend to get knocked all over the place when playing and the Dwarven Forge stuff doesn't.

The thing is, the accessories don't stop there. I have seen so many different things to help roleplayers play their games. All you have to do is think of what you would like to be able to do in your gaming sessions easier and there is probably something that can be Googled, and if it doesn't exist as something specifically for gaming you just have to look into other hobbies for their supplies.

If you have a favorite or unique accessory please post a comment about it or e-mail me. I'd love to hear what it might be.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Role of Generics

First there were roleplaying games based on their own rules but it was not long before game publishers began coming out with generic rule sets not linked to any specific setting. When I was a younger gamer the major generic set was GURPS (Generic Universal Role Playing System), by Steve Jackson Games. It was a rulebook that had everything from character generation to combat and other things that could come up during a game session. What it didn't have was a setting, unlike things like D&D which was really tied into its Tolkeinesque fantasy setting. How GURPS got around not having a setting was by having additional soucebooks. They had anything you could imagine in those sourcebooks. One could be a fantasy setting, one in the far future with aliens, one in the old west with six-shooters and so forth.

I never quite got into the GURPS thing but over the years I have seen the roleplaying game industry move back and forth. For a time it would focus on setting specific rules and then generic rules. Most of the setting specific rules had some design decisions based to give a specific feel for that genre of play where as the generics tried to be so generic that they could handle anything from cavemen with clubs to sci-fi with psionics and phasers. In my opinion some of those earlier ones tried to be too generic.

Since that time there have been a few well designed generics that have their own feel, as opposed to the earlier ones that didn't have a unique feel of their own, which is what originally threw me off them.

There is one I am really impressed with on the market now, plus there are others that companies are beginning to put forth for the players who like making up their own settings. The one I have been drawn to recently is called Savage Worlds by Pinnacle Entertainment. It's built around simplicity and flexibility where the older ones were built around handling everything with specific rules. It leaves judging situations that happen at the gaming table up to the Game Master so play remains fluid.

What Savage Worlds does excellently is give the feel of an action movie. For the fans of pulp settings like Flash Gordon, The Shadow or even Indiana Jones, this is the best choice. But, an idea I had when first reading the rulebook, which is just a $10 investment by the way, was to try and use it for the long out of print Star Frontiers setting I loved as a young roleplayer. Since I was first learning to play roleplaying games I realized there are all sorts of clunky rules in that original Star Frontiers game, but this Savage Worlds set of rules is really formed to fit the feel of that sci-fi setting. At least I think so.

Recently I heard that the rules used in Serenity and Battlestar Galactica, both by Margaret Weis Productions, will be released as a generic set without the setting flavor of those two games. From owning Serenity and really falling in love with it's rules I am really looking forward to this upcoming release, the Cortex Roleplaying Game. It should be another set of rules for those who love to design their own setting around something fast paced and free flowing.

In addition to those rules there are others to check out. Here are some I know of at the moment. Some are purchasable and some are fan created and free to use.

  • Core (fan generated system)
  • Fudge (independently produced system with free pdf version)
  • Fate (created by Evil Hat Productions for their games but released separate also)
  • Fuzion (used by R. Talsorian for their Cyberpunk games)
  • Tri-Stat (out of print I think, but here's a fan update)
  • True20 (Green Ronin's generic roleplaying system with several setting books available)
  • Unisystem (created and used by Eden Studios in their games)

So, if you like some setting and there is no game specifically designed for it, go out and try some of the generic sets of rules to see if you can find one that has that perfect fit.

Hmmm... I wonder if Doctor Who could stand up to a Savage Worlds treatment... or even a Cortex treatment...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Who Wants to Play?

I was talking with a friend over the weekend about all these controversies going on with geeks and gaming today and we came to a conclusion. Even though there is always something to wrangle over, geeks are some of the most friendly people in the world. Sure they are loyal to their favorite game and sure they get defensive when someone says their superhero is better then everyone else's, but you will never find a group of people more willing to invite you to play a game if you just ask.

Over the years I have noticed this is what makes geeks one of the most social groups of people. The key is that they have their preferences about what they enjoy doing just like everyone else has. So, not being a sports nut does not make them anti-social just as preferring to get a group of friends together to play games around a table doesn't make them anti-social either. Everyone has their personal preferences when it comes to things they enjoy doing in their personal time.

Every year I go to a convention that's somewhat local to me. It's called Origins and it hosts games during a four-day weekend at the end of June for thousands of geeks, and has been running since 1975. There are people who show up in the costume of their favorite sci-fi or fantasy personality, but there are also those people who show up in t-shirts and jeans, people you would not be able to tell where just like everyone else you could run into in daily life. That's because they aren't any different. They are just average Joes who like to play games.

What kinds of games do they play? Anything.

That's the short answer, but the long answer isn't hard to understand. They play anything that catches their interest. What's more is they are more than willing to show new people how to play their favorite game at the drop of a hat. Every year I go to Origins and every year I have a blast. I intentionally pick out some games I have never played before and give them a try. Normally I end up in a group of people who where there are others like me who don't know the rules but there are always those who do and really take the extra steps to encourage everyone else to have a great time.

So, next time you see some people who prefer to play games in their free time, think of them as very social people and ask them to show you how to join in the fun.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Find Your Own Path

I hopped into Paizo's web site last night not expecting much out of the ordinary and found this. They are intending on keeping their Pathfinder series of adventures under the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5E set of rules. They will be publishing, in August, no doubt for GenCon Indy, a little game they are calling Pathfinder RPG that uses the D&D 3.5E rules. Their articles on the topic seem to say they will tweak a couple things, but because many fans really want to stay with 3.5E, they plan on giving them what they want. Amazing concept, huh? Giving the customers what they want? Brilliant!

Anyway, here's the link to more info on the topic at Paizo's site.

Pathfinder RPG

Once I read through their news and download the Alpha demo to read I will post my impression of the whole thing. No doubt it will be positive as Paizo has done some amazing things for the 3.5E boom that both helped the industry and eventually flooded it with too many books for players to buy. They have consistently provided very high quality in their supplements and have listened to the fans to see what they really wanted in the game.

On another note, it seems White Wolf has decided to take a different tack with regard to the upcoming D&D 4E release looming and the fans wanting to stay with their current version of the game. They will be running a "graduation" promotion for players of the D&D 3.5E rules. All the players need to do is sacrifice their Player's Handbook to White Wolf and they will get a copy of Exalted for free, and thus "graduate" from the lowly Dungeons & Dragons game.

If you want some info on what they have planned check it out here.

Exalted Graduation

I'm not too convinced this is the best move they could have made but I am holding my breath to see what the fans do as June gets closer for the D&D 4E rules release. It just irked me a little bit that White Wolf had to come out with this deal as a means of moving up from D&D, when in all fairness, it is a lateral move for players from one game to another. One thing you won't catch me doing is making one game out to be better than another. A game is a game and if you don't like one then try another. Not everyone is going to like everything.

The plus side of this promotion comes for those people who are planning on moving away from their D&D 3.5E rules to the upcoming 4E release. If they don't plan on playing 3.5E again or if they have multiples of the Player's Handbook, which many gaming groups do, they have the opportunity to try out Exalted if they hadn't before.

If you have an opinion or spot any additional news on these two developments please make a comment. I would love to see what you have to say.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Beginning Geekness

A couple weeks back, I'm sure you know about it if you are a roleplaying geek, news came out that on March 4th, 2008 E. Gary Gygax passed away. Most of you might know who he was and what impact he had on the world of gaming, but for those who don't here's a little background.

In the early 1970s Gary along with Dave Arneson came up with an idea for a game by the name of Dungeons & Dragons. It wasn't like any other game out at the time. It was one where the players didn't compete with one another to win, but one where players cooperated to attain a common goal. Usually that goal involved, at least in my gaming group, chasing down monsters, taking their treasure and helping hapless victims they had captured. It was a game that turned many shy geeks into heroes.

Since then their idea has gone on to spawn an entire gaming industry. It has changed ownership and has evolved in format, including the upcoming fourth edition. But during that time it affected the lives of many thousands of geeks in a positive way. I count myself as one of them.

I first came in contact with D&D at the beginning of the 1980s when my dad brought home from work a photocopied flier promoting it. One of his coworkers had passed it along since they knew he had kids. Soon after that he took me in town to a tiny hobby shop that carried everything from model trains and cars to rockets and the all new D&D game. At that time the game came in a basic set (the red box) and an expert set (the blue box). I no longer have those original sets but I do have fond memories of playing with my friends. It was something that we could get together and play that didn't accentuate those things we were not good at but gave us a way to exercise what we loved, our imaginations.

Soon after that initiation into roleplaying we found the company producing D&D also had other similar games. Our next was Star Frontiers, which was a science fiction based game with different species to encounter on many different worlds, and the third was Marvel Super Heroes, where we could play all those heroes we read about in the comic books. We used to get together anywhere we could find table space enough to play and we had the best time in the world.

Since then I have accumulated and played many different roleplaying games. I'm proud to be a gamer geek and have been greatly saddened to hear the news of Gary's passing. Even though I didn't know the man, I have heard how great he was from others who had, and in some small way, through playing the game he and Dave created, I feel I've gotten to meet him too.

So, even though this is a sad post, this news has spurred me to create a blog about my favorite hobby. Hopefully it will be around for a long time so I can share a bit of my enjoyment with others.