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Posts Tagged ‘Kickstarter’

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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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.

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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.

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TSR was all about work for hire and held on to all the art they commissioned. Eventually TSR was taken over by Wizards, who had a policy of returning the art to their artists – However, Jeff Dee’s art was destroyed before wizards ever got their hands on it. The story is that a “clueless functionary” dumped all of the files to make room at TSR for other, more important things (although rumors persist of some of these originals existing in private collections).

Jeff Dee's Brain Devourer - once lost, is now being recreated

Jeff Dee’s Brain Devourer – once lost, is now being recreated

In case you are unfamiliar with Jeff and his work, he’s one of the iconic artists associated with early TSR products and other RPGs like Villains and Vigilantes (which he co-designed). He’s also worked on computer games like Wing Commander and the Ultima series.  Jeff started working for TSR when he was 18 (apparently by drawing Snits  for Dragon Magazine) while still in art school. He was inspired to some degree by comic book artists like John Byrne and Terry Austin, which shows in his early art.

So far Jeff has successfully funded seven Kickstarter projects to faithfully reproduce the lost art, which then will become available on his Deviant Art page. He’s also partnered with another lost art artist Diesel LaForce (who he occasionally still games with).

Reproduction in progress from Jeff Dee's Deviant Art site

Reproduction in progress from Jeff Dee’s Deviant Art site

Much like Erol Otis, Dee’s art really defined the genre for me – even more so than some of the more “famous” artists (like Todd Lockwood or Larry Elmore). I especially loved his work in Deities and Demigods, his renderings of unique DnD monsters, and most of all when he drew adventurers in various crazy scenes (I would love a compilation of those, they were littered throughout multiple early DnD publications).

Jeff's Vampire Ambush

Jeff’s Vampire Ambush

Little known fact – Jeff’s signature (D with two dots) is a twist on Thror’s map from Tolkien’s The Hobbit and mirrors Durin’s signature.

Jeff still stays busy these day with a new project called Cavemaster – an interesting RPG take with very simple mechanics – among other things:

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First Baldur’s Gate Enhanced edition coming to tablets, then Black Isle’s resurrection – now it’s Project Eternity by Obsidian Entertainment — Kickstarter – it’s the Return of the classic RPGs.

“Project Eternity (working title) pays homage to the great Infinity Engine games of years past: Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, and Planescape: Torment.”Project Eternity (working title)

Sounds good – and Obsidian has the talent to pull off a decent tactical, mature, isometric rpg-style game, but a million seems like a tiny budget for the project (I’m sure its a fraction of what their games usually cost to develop) – maybe if they focused the money solely on the in-house content and not tech at all…I’m still looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

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There’s a lot of innovation happening in RPGs, but it doesn’t seem to be led by Wizards.

DnD was an innovation itself (of the miniature tactical war gaming scene), and in its lifetime TSR has come up with so many new concepts that have become mainstream, from the Underdark and Drow, to dungeon deathtraps like Tomb of Horrors, to DragonLance and Kender, to Ravenloft. Wizards has created also added quite a bit, from Dragon born, Tieflings and Aasimir, Sorcerers, etc.

But decades of innovation has made DnD very involved. This is a problem with 4th edition, where the rules are too overwhelming. Unlike early editions that were fairly easy to pick up the game is no longer intuitive for new players, and there are so many class skills and special abilities that play requires hours of rulebook thumbing and magic items have lost their sense of power and wonder. It’s also all so very, very polished, almost to the point of feeling like it has lost its soul (aka Diablo III).

Old vs new

Old vs New

That’s why I loved DnDnext – picking up the original playtest harkened back to the days when rules where simple (if unbalanced) – at least up until the latest class updates. Listening in on the online rounds of complaints (mine in included) with the addition of the sorcerer and warlock classes, already the game is seemingly veering away from that hardcore whitebox feel that us veterans were drawn to.

Can you imagine DnDNext without a sorcerer? Without Dragonborn? I can. I happen to agree with Mxyzplk; we don’t need a wizard and a sorcerer and a warlock in the core rules, and I was never really onboard when these were brought into the game originally. But a whole generation was, so somewhere out there I suppose there is a hardcore sorcerer fanbase that would be up in arms if the class wasn’t a primary choice in DnDNext, even though I’m still having a hard time seeing how the class is anything other than a mage with a slightly altered casting mechanic.

But this is Wizard’s crutch. Their goal can’t really be to innovate, it has to be sustaining the current system, which means being stuck trying to appeal to their giant, existing, grumpy fanbase, which includes a generation who somehow think the sorcerer belongs, and others like me who somehow expect them to re-systemize a multiple-decades long stream of rules additions. To innovate, they would need to somehow crib their market and fanbase.

I still have hope – At GenCon Mike Mearls spoke to making the rules modular, having it look more like a classic version of DnD, and focusing on simplified rules and stripping down the mechanics to make way for adventure, exploration, and storytelling.

And of course there’s also all this other innovation to keep us fanboys happy. Paizo is doing an amazing job of wowing their customers (they don’t seem afraid to put out material that appeals to only small segments of their customers). Open Design has spawned a whole new type of sponsorship and Kobold. Shockingly, despite the downed economy, other custom rulesets continue to show up in the online/non-print space and other Kickstarter RPG products that target niches keep popping up left and right (see Aleph, or Homicidal Transients, or The Dwarven Adventurers Project, or the Random Dungeon Generator as a Dungeon Map). In many ways, RPG design and innovation has never been as strong, diverse and as pervasive as it is today – even though retail appears to be dying.

So what am I trying to say? Not sure, exactly.

Maybe I’m just nostalgic for the Whitebox – maybe I’m mis-interpreting my youthful days when everything seemed sunnier, simpler, and cheaper.

Maybe I also want new rules that “play fast, that disdain minutiae, that are easy for the GM and players to mutate on the fly, and that punish character mistakes with sudden death.”

Maybe what I want is a true fork, with a revised simple Whitebox hardcore DnD, separate from the evolving editions (coke vs coke classic, maybe)? Would that free up Wizards enough to keep core profits yet have innovation? Maybe they need to spin-off another Paizo for DnDnext?

Maybe what I want is something totally different, like a completely online / electronic version of the game built from sharing advancement in technology and standardized MMO parts, or a diceless version that uses cards only.

Steve Jackson Games is relaunching Ogre (Designer’s Edition) on Kickstarter – maybe I want to see Wizards do a similar Kickstarter edition vamp with Whitebox.

Maybe I should just stop whining and tackle some of the above projects myself.

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