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Archive for the ‘DnDNext’ Category

I’m always churning on a handful of side projects but I went to Gencon with the goal of pitching a couple of my designs to publishers. I succeeded, got some great feedback, and outdid my own expectations. I’ll be recapping that experience over the next several days but before I get into that I want to put out my Gencon highlights.

Highlights

Wow

Really, wow – it was about as big as I expected, but there was such variety in what you could do and see and experience. I was overwhelmed from the moment I walked in the door, and disheartened when I realized there was no way to do all of it, especially with my busy schedule. There was just way too much to see.

Indianapolis is an amazing city – the current leadership has really gone out of their way to make this a place for those who visit, from the new airport to the way the area around the convention is clean and well planned. They rolled out fireworks (not for us but for the motocross people) and had a strong police presence wherever there was a crowd, so you felt safe. Really a great place to visit and they know how to handle large crowds.

I spent half my time at the con volunteering for Paizo. They make this little game called Pathfinder and released their Pathfinder Adventure Card Game at the convention. I demoed the game in the exhibition hall and in return they helped offset the cost for going. In retrospect, the free time to wander may have been worth not volunteering, but if you are short of funds this is a great way to get to a con. I also got some nifty swag out of the deal, met some great people, and had a lot of fun demoing what may have been one of the most popular demos at the convention (the game sold out the first day and we had a consistent line the entire time).

The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

I only made it to a couple of non-work / non-volunteer events. Two of these were stellar. The Fantasy improv Roguish Skullduggery (by the Damsels of Dorkington) was hilarious but not for the sexually conservative or easily offended. The True Dungeons event (haunted house meets LARPing) was also a highlight. It helped that other players shared their Tokens with me but I would have loved the experience regardless.

Lowlights

Radisson Flood

Radisson Flood

I didn’t stay near the convention center. You really need to book a hotel 6-8 months (maybe earlier) to get anywhere near the convention center and my plans hadn’t firmed up at that point. I stayed at the Airport Radisson, thinking I could just do the airport shuttle as transport. Unfortunately theAairport Radisson isn’t anywhere near the airport. The city tore down and rebuilt the airport recently leaving the Radisson (and one another hotel that I understand is facing bankruptcy) alone in the middle of nowhere. The hotel must be suffering because of this and they had some hurdles. For instance a pipe broke and flooded their downstairs rooms, and then they were without water. They also had old advertisements that didn’t really apply to their current reality. Transportation by Taxi is really expensive, too (25-30$) each way to the convention center.

Advertised breakfast buffet versus actual breakfast buffet

Advertised breakfast buffet versus actual breakfast buffet

Luckily I found a great shuttle service called Personal Touch who had great rates and was staffed by very friendly, helpful folks. They saved me about 150$ in traveling costs over the con and made sure I got to all my events on time.

Convention food is worse at Gencon than any other con I’ve ever been to. The worse. Bar none. Pack snacks. Pack Healthy snacks.

Coffee is also terrible at the con but there are Starbucks waiting across just about every sky-bridge (each hotel adjoining the convention center seems to have them).

Always carry snacks and coffee with you

Always carry snacks and coffee with you

Wil Wheaton never called me once

For next time

Don’t expect to be able to buy all the new releases you are hearing about unless you line up outside the exhibition hall early to beat the rush to the booth you want on the first day. Most of the exhibitors explained that you could have pre-ordered stuff online for con pick-up, which is what I’ll be doing next year.

Bring cough drops. If your voice is wavering after long days of demo-ing  cough drops/throat lozenges work wonders.

Next time I vow to spend more time playing games and less time demoing them.

Pro Tip

If you wait till Sunday exhibitors who aren’t local can be bartered with for their goods. Truth is, they don’t really want to have to pay to ship all of their boxes back to whatever city they originated from.

I’ll leave you with this photo of a Dark Elf playing Lords of Waterdeep.  More about my games coming up.

Dark Elf plays Lords of Waterdeep

Dark Elf plays Lords of Waterdeep

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Evangeline-Lilly-The-Hobbi

Its old news that Evangeline Lilly plays an elf warrior in the second Hobbit (The Desolation of Smaug) movie, but photos of her started renewed discussion between side A (excited about adding some stronger female roles to the story) and side B (Tolkien traditionalists) over on RPG.net

I’m actually for adding a bit to the story, and I think there’s plenty of room to focus more on the elf characters (when you have three movies). Not sure how I feel about the romance angle to it all, though. evangeline_lilly_as_elf_warrior_tauriel

Best part – reading up on the argument led to a rather amusing threads on what the heck Bilbo Baggins actually did for a living, and Tolkien inspired rap (Lord of the Rymes).

While Hollywood continues put out movies with women archers I’ve been putting off writing about DnDNext. Summary is that I’m looking forward to getting my copy of Ghosts of Dragonspear at Gencon in a few months. In the meantime Mike Mearls has been pontificating about dragonborns, the elemental planes and going all Moorcock in the next update. I’m not all that excited about dragonborns but the rest sounds promising. The latest playtest update came out Friday with new adventures, spell updates, and half-elf, the half-orc, and the gnome races.

Speaking of DnD here is a reminder that you only have about a day to support Jeff Dee’s latest effort recreating classic DnD art (including the cover of Isle of Dread):

isle_of_dread

In other Kickstarter news the Cthulhu Wars Kickstarter campaign is here. Play cult factions trying to awaken your own elder god in this gorgeous looking strategic board game from the designer of the original Cthulhu RPG which is already gnashing through funding levels like a malevolent entity hibernating within an underwater city in the South Pacific.

cthulhu_wars_2

Its pricey, and due to popularity you probably already missed the first come early supporter slots, but it looks amazing.

Finally, Disney’s slew of acquisitions has opened the door for various franchise mashups and at least one is coming to screen this summer that I (and my kids) can hardly wait for:

Phineas_and_Ferb_avengers

Happy Wanderings!

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Lyric the Lying Gymnast

 “Friendship and coin: oil and water.” – Lyric the Lying Gymnast

Oil is common staple and rogues commonly carry a bit for lubricating locks. Although this kind isn’t suitable for burning, it’s fine for making a smooth surface slippery, especially when enemies are chasing you down a staircase. Grease or soap can also be used to slick up a stair, although it takes a lot more time to set a stair with soap.

CR 2: Slippery Stair:

  • Location trigger
  • No reset
  • Search DC 20
  • Reflex save DC 20
  • Multiple Targets
  • Attack +10 melee – 2d4 damage on stairs, and also falls prone.

“Cunning leads to knavery. ‘Tis a quick step from one to the other, and a slippery one.” – Lyric

A single piece of string or cord, or even a long shoelace, is all that’s needed for a simple lasso trap. A small loop is good for tripping and delaying a human sized opponent (works even better against animals and beasts), and because of the magic of the slipknot a victim’s own inertia and struggling works to your favor, tightening the knot.

Slipknot How To

Using the slip you create a loop as large or as small as you need (from foot sized for those moving quickly through brambles, larger for pursuers crawling through small places). Loop the rope and secure the end to something solid, then pin apart the loop using branches or tacks or some other means to leave it wide open for someone to stumble through.

CR 2: Tripping Lasso:

  • Location trigger
  • Manual reset
  • Search DC 23
  • Disable Device DC 10
  • Attack +10 melee – 1d4 damage (2d4 if moving quickly) and also falls prone.

“Men don’t trip on mountains, but they’ll trip on wire stretched across a hallway.” – Lyric

Lasso From Cloth

Lasso From Cloth

A Tripping Net is a small fiber or metal net (usually 1×2 feet or so) lined with tiny hooks designed to snag flesh and cloth. It’s a

mechanical floor trap that that will catch boots and flay about the legs. Its purpose is to slow movement, and possibly trip someone up, but not severely damage or hold. It can be fashioned by the crafty using wire or small fishhooks and appropriate fibers (DC 20). Its small enough to be folded into something wallet sized and, If prepped correctly with, say, greased paper in between folds to keep the hooks from snagging each other (DC 15) it can be set for a quick release and dropped in front of pursuers.

CR 3: Tripping Net:

  • Location trigger
  • Manual Reset
  • Search DC 23
  • Disable Device DC 15
  • Attack +15 melee touch – 2d4 and prone. Movement halved until net is removed

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Lyric the Deceiver Aerialist

“He who travels lightest travels fastest and bestest.”- Lyric the Deceiver Aerialist

Most rogues are familiar with caltrops and marbles that have become sourcebook staples, but a devious player can carry all sorts of tiny tricks and traps to spring in an instant on the unsuspecting. This article speaks to an array of simple, easy to carry tricks and pocket traps.

“Humor goes into the making of a poem as flour flies into the faces of the annoying.” – Lyric

We’ll start with powdered chalk which is useful for the climber and commonly carried by adventurers for pinpointing invisible creatures. But powdered chalk, along with flour, soot, charcoal dust or similar materials is also a good momentary blinder – useful for distracting marks or making a quick getaway.

CR 1: Powder in the Face:

  • Touch trigger (consider this a ranged touch attack)
  • No reset
  • DC 10 Fortitude or be blinded for 1 round

The powder ante can be upped by throwing loose raw pepper into enemy’s faces.

CR 1: Pepper in the Face:

  • Touch trigger (consider this a ranged touch attack)
  • No reset
  • DC 12 Fortitude or be incapacitated for 1d2 rounds, sneezing

“He who has the pepper… may season his targets as he lifts.” – Lyric

Pepper also has other useful variants. Concentrated Pepper is made in part from ground chills and cayenne pepper, and against humans it stings the eyes and constricts the throat.  A successful ranged touch attack can blind an opponent.

CR 1: Concentrated Pepper:Dust Blow

  • Touch trigger in melee (consider this a ranged touch attack)
  • DC 15 Fortitude to resist. Blinded for 1d4 rounds.
  • DC 20 to Craft (alchemy)

Combat Pepper is designed specifically to fell a man, and is similar to modern pepper sprays only in a dry form. It creates a very painful burning sensation with continuous tearing, uncontrolled coughing, choking, nausea and disorientation. All this causes temporary blindness and instant breathing problems.

CR 2: Combat Pepper:

  • Touch trigger in melee (consider this a ranged touch attack)
  • DC 15 Fortitude to resist. Blinded and prone for 1d4 rounds, takes 1d4 damage
  • DC 25 to Craft (alchemy)

Dog Pepper is made from spices keen nosed tracking dogs are particularly susceptible to. Dog pepper can be used as a ranged touch attack or just left behind on the trail for tracking dogs to succumb to.

CR 1: Face – Dog Pepper:

  • Touch trigger in melee (consider this a ranged touch attack), or location trigger
  • Dogs (or similar creatures) DC 15 Fortitude to resist. Those who succumb are hysterical for 1d4 rounds trying to remove the powder and unable to track by scent for 1d2 hours.
  • DC 15 to Craft (alchemy)

A spring-Loaded wrist sheath (normally around a 5gp investment, see various equipment guides) can be altered to hold peppers or powders (DC 10 to rig) and used as a swift action to surprise an opponent. Powders can also be hidden in a hollow pommel or coin purse. They store well, just don’t get them wet.

 

Wrist Sheath

Wrist Sheath

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“…its 2013, and you just bought a print magazine.”

So begins the launch of Gygax magazine and the relaunch of TSR. I finally received my fedex’ed mag and sat down by the fireplace this weekend for an old-school page flipping magazine experience.Gygax Magazine

And the crew has really delivered on that. They’ve captured and faithfully reproduced the experience from the font, tone, look, and even feel of the pages. There is plenty of nostalgia captured, and the read is a wish-fantasy of time-travel fulfilled back to when, as the writers claim, things were simpler. Back to a time when imagination filled our hours instead of computers or touchpads or what’s online.

I loved the whole experience and will certainly continue to purchase issues. Highlights for me include:

  • Cory Doctorow’s DMing for your toddler was an article I can relate to being the parent of a four year old. It was great how the rules he presented were “kinetic” since I think one of the major detriments of our hobby is that it is quite sedentary, and also how the hobby can be used to teach basic math and other skills. I pulled an unstated point from the read of how imagination and story creation matters more than mechanics with children, and how simple rules can suffice for endless entertainment.
  • I loved Tim Kask’s pontifications on why it’s still all about the story.
  • It wouldn’t be old-school without Lenard Lakofka (aka Leomund) presenting a new table charting something or other and a collection of random thoughts. The brief synopsis of what he’s been doing (and struggling with) was a nice touch. His take on damage versus to hit was great crunch, although the modern game designer in me is now questioning why we need different rolls for damage and hit anyways.
  • The setting presented (Gnatdamp) was high quality and well written with plenty of strong material for visualizing the locale and great hooks built in for adventuring. I can easily see myself using this in an existing or new campaign.
  • Wolfgang Baur’s Kobold popping up again (as he says of kobolds they pop up where they aren’t necaessarily expected).
  • And of course the comics – What’s new with Phil and Dixie and was especially fun and The Order of the Stick pleasantly broke down that 4th wall. The comics were worth the price of admission.

There was some disappGygax Magazine Unboxingointment. I was expecting Jeff Dee art in all its glory instead of the small, poorly printed frame that looked like a V&V Madcap (is that the right name? My memory fails me) cutting room floor piece.

Also, Although Gnatdamp was great and the Kobold’s Cavern contained useful material for campaigning, most of the magazine was devoted to discourse on the hobby as a subject, not necessarily useful things a gamer could use in daily play. A third of the articles were about the state of the hobby, and although these were great reads and perhaps necessary to place the magazine’s context in today’s world, and I don’t want them to disappear entirely, I look forward to seeing more material one can use in campaigns.

I’m sensing overall an anti-technological tone. That perhaps video games and an online, conected world are a waste of time and responsible for destroying imaginative play (or at least DnD’s market share). I’ve said before that this tone may be off-putting to a younger generation necessary for the hobby’s survival.

The final disappointment is that the mag is only available quarterly. If only the market would support this as monthly, but for now the new TSR has gained at least one subscriber.

gary gygax

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Any doubts to there being an old school tabletop renaissance should have been quashed this week, first with WOTC’s re-release of the DnD back-catalog, and then with the unboxing of the new Gygax Magazine. Disclaimer – I’m an old-school fanatic myself and I’m typing this while waiting in front of my mailbox patiently awaiting the first issue of Gygax magazine like a crushing schoolgirl. Yes, I know its Sunday.

gygax-magazine-banner

And from what was unveiled during the live unboxing yesterday Gygax magazine truly is old school. Editorial is owned by Tim Kask, the original editor of Dragon magazine, and much of the art (corralled by Jim Wampler) is commissioned from old-school talent like Jeff Dee and Rich Burlew (order of the stick). The magazine is a venture from Luke & Ernie Gygax (Gary Gygax’s sons) – although not all of the Gygax’s are behind this latest use of the Gygax name.

From the glimpses of the online unveiling the magazine has that old school feel. The layout and font are copied from the original Dragon magazine format, and some of the topical areas are carried over. Instead of Dragon’s Leomunds Tiny Hut there is a Leomunds Secure Shelter, for instance. There’s an ecology article (the banshee, possibly a tribute to Susie the Banshee who is their public relations person)  and there’s the familiar running comics at the end of the mag: Phil Foglio’s What’s New With Phil and Dixie, Jim Wampler’s Marvin the Mage, and Rich Burlew’s Order of the Stick.

Gygax_magazine_stack

Despite the old school focus there is a lot of new school talent in the first issue. Kobold Quarterly is now defunct, but Wolfgang Baur appears to edit a regular area of the mag called Kobold Cavern. Cory Doctorow has an article focused on bringing in young gamers (DMing for your Toddler) and there’s an article titled DnD Past, Now and Next  by Michael Tresca.

Although the team talked about being focused on the hobby both as it was and the community that it is today, I worry about some of the commentary and attitude being off-putting for newer generations. There’s a complete lack of video or electronic gaming focus, and there did seem to be a prevailing attitude that the whole thing is a waste of time (except for virtual tabletops). On one hand it’s incredibly refreshing to get it straight (“Tim don’t do twitter – Tim has a dumb phone”), but time will see if the magazine will really appeal to the newer generations so vital to the hobby’s survival.

Despite some cross promotion shenanigans (Roll20 was announced as the official Gygax Magazine online thingee, promotional product prizes, all of the magazine advertisers brought up during discussion) the group does seem invested in the community. They are not coming out with a new system (saying plenty of that is going around already) but instead want to focus on content. There will be no reviews, or letters to the editors, which they say belong on the web now instead of in a physical magazine. Instead the focus is feature articles and game related content.

Some other key points made during the event:

  • Its a quarterly publication
  • Digital versions will be made available on Feb 7th
  • They are still working on submission guidelines (next 10-12 days)
  • Focused on material for current, existing game systems (DnD and all sorts of variants including pathfinder)
  • Looks like a new setting and new adventures in that setting
  • Will not be focusing on reviews unless it’s timely (reading between the commentary it seemed to be “unless we can get an exclusive”)
  • Missing from issue one but promised for later: more focus on board games, historical miniatures, Call of Cthulhu, and Chainmail naval rules
  • Only 5000 for the first original print run (hints of this run being collectible)
  • If all goes well, issue two will be in your local hobby store

The best part of the live event, though, was the online commentary and live responses:

  • Sorry, I cast darkness on Jim & Tim – Ryan Thompson (when the live video dropped)
  • Any plans to let JJ Abrams direct? – Eric Reiter
  • Sound Interesting So Any Info On The Xbox 720 or PS4? – Elijah Ramos
  • Could i get Ernie to throw up a peace sign, for the ladies. – Ollie Haldon
  • …There are a plethora of advertisers… – Luke Gygax
    +500xp for using the word Plethora – Lloyd Metcalf
    Of course he used the word ‘plethora’, he’s a Gygax. – Michael Mornard
  • Has Wil Wheaton got his Gygax mag copy yet? – Lloyd Metcalf
    I Don’t know what Wil Wheaton’s got in his hands. – Tim Kask

More when I get the actual issue. Grognard was able to attend the live event and has some nice photos. Oh, and you can watch the recorded event and order the magazine here. I think Gary himself would be pleased.

gygax_FUTURAMA_Gary_gygax_simpsons

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Continuation of part 1 here, our best and worst of 2012 in RPG stuff. Enjoy and a have a happy New Year!

Computer Games

Best RPG Computer Game: The Walking Dead

Here we have IP done right. Using Telltale as a studio was a risk for the franchise in and of itself, and then they took several risks with the game (episodic releases, point and click, storytelling over-all-else) but managed to pull off a wonderful, poignant and emotional experience that shines brightly over all the other first person shooting crud that seems to dominate the market.

telltales-the-walking-dead-on-disc-december-4

Worst RPG Computer Game: The Game of Thrones RPG

Fantasy is finally cool again, but Martin’s books, and the terrific HBO series, deserve better than this mediocre effort. Shoddy gameplay, unpolished presentation, and meh graphics at best.

Biggest RPG Game Disappointment: Diablo III

On the one hand, Diablo III was a decent, fun to play action-RPG, but DRM and over-design drained the joy out of it, and even with a decade of polish it’s half the game Torchlight 2 is.

Honorable Mention: Knights of Pen&Paper

An indie turn-based retro style pixel-art RPG where you control the playing characters and the dungeon master in a simulation of a traditional pen and paper RPG.

Knights_of_pen_&_paper

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Best Fantasy Book: Throne of the Crescent Moon (Saladin Ahmed)

Detail, humor, and one thousand and one nights inspired – the book is simply great storytelling in that classic swashbuckling sense as you follow a charismatic thief that leads a revolt in a magical and political city.

Best Sci-fi Book: Pirate Cinema (Cory Doctorow)

Still not tired of brilliant, passionate kids taking on the oppressive system in a dystopian near future. Keep these coming, Doctorow.

cory_doctorow_pirate_cinema

Best debut: vN (Madeline Ashby)

Some love and hate from critics but this is a great first novel and a wonderfully dark story about a rogue artificial woman becoming dangerous.

Biggest Sci-Fi Loss: Ray Bradbury

We lost some great storytellers (Harry Harrison) and story makers (Neil Armstrong) but the passing of Ray Bradbury (Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked this Way Comes, Fahrenheit 451) is one of the year’s biggest blows. A muse for Steven Spielberg, Neil Gaiman, and Steven King, Ray’s storytelling gift has expanded minds for nearly a century now, and although he resisted the label of science fiction writer he is credited as the one most responsible for bringing sci-fi into the literary mainstream.

Stupidest Comic Book Death: Spider man #700.

In an obviously not-permanent brain mind meld switch the body of Spider Man is now housing Dr. Octopus, Peter Parker has died in Dr. Octopi’s body and fans everywhere sigh their collective sighs.

Amazing-e1356793834433

Best Sci-Fiction Becomes Reality: NASA’s Faster-Than-Light Warp Drive

What can be cooler than FTL made possible by donuts?

300px-Star_Trek_Warp_Field

Most Amazing Robot Monster: DARPA’s Running Cheetah

DARPA’s Maximum Mobility Program revved up their Cheetah Robot this year. The previous iteration ran at a speed of 18 mph, but the new version clocked upwards of 28.8 mph. Finally, what we’ve always needed – robots that can outrun humans.

Movies

Biggest Movie Winner: Decent Geek Movies

Great geek movies are everywhere nowadays. Go Avengers! Go Hobbit! Go Batman!

Biggest Movie Loser: Nostalgic Franchise Reboots

Promethius (Ugh), Dark Shadows (Huh?), Men in Black III (Really?) and Total Recall (Yawn)

Best CGI Character: The Hulk

Puny God. ‘Nuff said.

Most disappointing CGI Character: The Hobbit’s Goblin King

The very definition of CGI overacting.

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

Best CGI actor in a CGI Scene: The Hobbit’s Golum

The Riddle Me This interchange was perhaps the best CGI scene ever produced in film (don’t see it in 48p though)

Golum

Golum is basically amazing

Movie Weapon of the Year: Bows

Let’s get Hawkeye, Katniss and Merida together in a hunting super hero party. Really. With these guys.

Finally, Monster of the Year goes to: Giant Spiders

Not only have spiders been effective hunters for over 100 million years but new, undiscovered species keep propping up (like this one that builds web dopplegangers). This year giant spiders were sighted both in Germany and in Seattle under the Space Needle – hats off and a happy new year to our giant, hairy, eight legged brethren.

giant_space_needle_spide-2000-px-949x768

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