- Warning! Warning! Reveal, an author over at RPGCentric, cracked me up with their post "Be careful with that scroll: Warning labels in D&D!". Lighthearted posts like this just come along often enough.
- Don't Argue with a Wulf. Once again I find myself largely in agreement with Greywulf's "Why 4E D&D is Old School". There's a feisty discussion tagged on this post as well, 46 comments as of this post. Although I agree with most of what Greywulf's point about playstyle - I still think that the goal of 4E is very different from what the focus of old school D&D was all about.
- Gygaxian what? Purple Pawn author shadejon tries to define what Grognardia's "gygaxian" exactly is with "What is Gygaxian?". Some nice links that might also drop you in ForumLands (you have been warned).
- Skill Challenge Design. At-will's gamefiend continues his series on How to Design a Skill Challenge with Part 3 (Nesting) and Part 4 (Sequencing). The whole series is worth a read - and considering I'm collaborating with him and Mad Brew Labs on a project, I'd better be reading it too.
- New Skill Challenges. Speaking of SC's -- Dungeon's Master.com released "Skill Challenge: Rightful Heir" recently. With no comments, would someone stop by and tell him 'hello!'?
- Map Generation. Although Stargazer's website always crashes my browser at work, I still glad I was able to read "Roleplaying City Map Generator" at home on my trusty Mac. Hopefully the creator of that software is OK with him hosting it for download... so grab it quick!
- Pimp My Ride. Berin Kinsman rules. He rules so much that he recently pimp'ed the Open Game Table anthology project over at PulpGamer.com's podcast "PGOC 070: More On Mechanics"!
February 28, 2009
February 26, 2009
My FLGS is Dream Wizards in Rockville, MD, and I'm planning on "covering" the event. I mean covering as in how the press media covers events as they happen. I doubt I'll be live blogging it, but I will be posting a story about my impressions of the event at Dream Wizards later that day or the following day.
I want to ask the rest of the RPG blogging community to do the same. Visit your local hobby or game store and cover the event as a blogger, player, DM, or simple observer; whatever suites you best. Need to know the closest location where the event is going to be hosted? Use the WotC Store & Event Locator service.
Now... Why would you want to do this?
Well, for one, I'm not proposing we do this as a means to prop up WotC in the blogosphere. I'm suggesting we do this ... for us. By visiting your local game stores, and connecting with the owner and operators of those stores, you increase your own presence in your community. You will make a new connection between the ether of the blogosphere and your physical local community. You can gauge the intrest other gamers have in "RPG blogging" or, if they didn't know or hadn't heard about our community, you can challenge them to visit your blog and check out what our community is all about.
Oh, and don't forget to prop up the RPG Bloggers Network. This is the proverbial firehose of the RPG blogging community.
If you are a blogger, and plan to cover the event then leave a comment here. A few days after the event I'll post a blog carnival round up of the event with links to everyone's blog and their coverage of their local scene. I'll also post a reminder about this carnival the week prior.
I think it will be very interesting to see how each different locale varies from one another. Where are the best game shops? Who had the most fun?
February 25, 2009
The "adventuring company" is distinctly different from "the party".
It is, however, a common misconception that these terms are in fact synonymous.
They are not.
"Old School" is to Stronghold Building as "New School" is to Hero Building.
... there, I said it.
The meaning behind the phrase "adventuring company" has drifted away from its original intended meaning. This is likely due to a similar change in play-style (in general) over the more than three decades D&D has been around.
Our beloved hobby started with dynamic groups of players, sometimes as many as 10 or even 20, mingling and mixing between different Dungeon Masters and different campaigns -- all in a shared world. Characters moved around with their players too, from game to game, sometimes even between campaigns. Player characters had henchmen. Players would often play more one character, although not at the same time.
Nowadays, the focus is on the "the party". This likely started in the mid- to late-phases of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. The game started to shift its focus away from stronghold building and toward being heroic and playing "epic campaigns". I suppose this is what people wanted - I mean... just look at the success of the Dragonlance modules. Both 2E and 3E Dungeons & Dragons defaulted to a 4-person group of "heroes", making most viable games requiring 5-players (including the DM). In 4th Edition the default part has been expanded to five PCs. Other than for the obvious commercial advantage, the reasoning for the subtle increase in the default party size somewhat escapes me. To be fair - the 4E DMG does do a fine job of offering a very scalable system. You could easily play with fewer PCs without much house ruling, in terms of DM planning, etc. But I digress... the point is that it is easier to be heroic and epic if each player invests all their time into a single character's development. The more emphasis you place on Tim the Wizard, the more you want Tim to be a (super) hero. Whereas, if you have a whole entourage of characters to worry about then you just might be more interested in the development of the group over time (stronghold building) instead of just one of your PCs (hero building).
Your hero requires ever increasing challenges. Your epic gear must be upgraded to even epic'er gear. Your foes must become even more eliter than the eliterists. Your gold must become even biggerer. In the end, you become a god.
The funny part is that this is finally in the core rules. It's no longer implied, its explicitly the goal of the game. It is the RAW.
Now, you all know I play 4E D&D. I don't see that changing any time soon as my gaming group is somewhat in the middle of things. However, the next game that I run I'm planning on steering it more towards a stronghold building campaign - as a basis from which to have a fun time, etc. I just think I've realized something though -- this sort of game is going to be difficult, or extremely house ruled, if I stuck with 4E D&D as the rule set.
4E is to Hero Building as 1E/2E/CC/S&W/etc is to Stronghold Building.
Maybe if I run a stronghold building campaign I should use a different rule set? Maybe... because you know what they say...
"Always use the right tool for the job"
Share you comments, and I'd love to hear what game system is best suited, in your opinion, for a stronghold building game.
February 24, 2009
The other turn of events is that we've also been in discussions with several distributors. Most of them have, thus far, been very positive but ultimately turned me down simply because 1) the economy blows, and 2) I'm an untested publisher with only a single book to offer. For most distributors this is a non-starter. But all these discussions were not without some benefit.
For example... I was put in touch with Mark Easterday, the VP of Purchasing at Alliance Games, and although they turned us down in the end, he provided me with some excellent advice on how I might "get the word out" for the anthology. He also put me in touch with Aldo Ghiozzi, the owner of Impressions Advertising. Impressions is a distribution consolidator -- basically they take small press publishers and bundle them up for larger distributors to purchase (such as Alliance). So I contacted Aldo, who had very supportive words, but also ultimately turned me down citing the fact that -- since Key20 (another consolidator) went out of business -- they have a warehouse full of new, untested, and small publishers they are trying to clear out. So, they too are not looking for any new material to stock at this time. He did, however, refer me to Steve Chenault at Troll Lord Games. Apparently, they own their own presses and, according to Aldo, occasionally do printing for other folks as well. I made a pitch to Steve a few days ago - and I'm just waiting to hear back.
I've also been in touch with a number of other small presses and distributors, but haven't heard back from most of them. Indie Press Revolution, a direct retail / distributor, is currently the best fit for Open Game Table. As far as they are concerned, I've exchanged a few emails with IPR and they seem to be very accommodating thus far. I'll be sending them a PDF galley proof for them to evaluate as soon as I have it ready. Hopefully they'll continue to be as positive once they receive it and I'll be able to announce an agreement has been reached.
Why do I need a distributor?
(IPR, by the way, has its own RPG industry blog at The Voice of Revolution)
Well, its simple really -- the whole point of Open Game Table, from Day One, was to bridge the gap between the gaming community and the RPG blogging community by placing a book on the shelves of game and book stores that showcased our best talent. By working with a distributor, with established retail channels, this will become a real possibility. Without the use of a distributor such as Indie Press Revolution, we will have to rely on Lulu Marketplace and Amazon.com, which sounds fine... but in reality will likely be somewhat lackluster in its execution. A specialty distributor would be able to target those retail outlets that share our audience: GAMERS. There's no telling, once listed on Amazon.com, how likely Open Game Table would be picked up by anyone or if any retailer would even think to order it for their stores.
Now for some new art spots that will be included in Open Game Table (click for bigger versions)...
February 18, 2009
Well, if you remember, last week we had announced that Wolfgang Baur, from Kobold Quarterly and Open Design, was on board and is going to write the foreword for the anthology. I'm still stoked about this -- so I need to announce it again! Wohoo!
The artists had been given a deadline of Sunday to send in their final inks. While I'm still waiting on a few last outstanding pieces, what I have received in the last seven days has been amazing. To quote my wife, "Wow, the anthology is really turning out to be a beautifully done project!" Thank you Very Much! But don't thank me... thank the artists! Here's a sampling of the work that we've received thus far.
An illustration by Lee Barber for Stephen Dewey's "Extreme Makeover: Tavern Edition"
That's about it for this week. Stay tuned though... some very big news about the project is in the works, hopefully next week I'll be able to provide you with some concrete details.
February 14, 2009
- Your Party as Company. Kinslayer, a guest blogger at UncleBear.com, kicked my week of reading off with a thought provoking post titled "Getting the Troupe Together". The author basically asks the question: why is the party together? and makes some good suggestions that help with the good ol' "suspension of disbelief" issue. I particularly liked this post because it fits very well with entourage campaigns with a large number of rotating players.
- FONTS GALORE. Neitherworld Stories returns from the dead with a short post a great font making tool in "Great gaming tool: YourFonts". Apparently, Stargazer's World also posted about the same service a few days prior in "Create custom fonts for free". Suffice to say -- this is real cool for anyone looking to tinker around with custom fonts for there game. Along these same lines - I recieved an email from Crystal Frasier just yesterday pointing me to an extremely nice font company, Blambot.com, where many many of the fonts are free to use for non-profit purposes (like in your RPG campaign.
- 4E Rituals. A Hero Twice a Month posted the first in an upcoming series on ritual magic in 4E, "The Promise and Problems of Rituals (Part I)". I'm glad to see some people in our community are finally getting around to deconstructing this aspect of 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, because the existing rules as written could definitely use some tweaking. Actually, he inspired me to create some new ritual feats for 4E to address some of the issues raised in his post.
- Copyrights, Trademarks, and Patents Oh My! One of my favorite blogs, Mad Brew Labs, posted "RPGs as Intellectual Property". This extremely in depth post (for a blog) is a must read for anyone interested in getting into the (self) publishing field. Chad Perrin SOB followed up on Mad Brew's post with "RPGs and Intellectual Protectionism", once again a somewhat humorous take on the RPG industry. What's better is... he quotes Thomas Jefferson. It doesn't get much better than that.
- GET RICH QUICK WITH RPGS. I was going to post about this myself, but Purple Pawn beat me to the punch with "Mongoose Money". Mongoose Publishing just released a $30 PDF that apparently will show you how to get rich publishing roleplaying games. Go ahead, buy it. You'll .. um... get rich! [chuckles]
February 12, 2009
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February 11, 2009
Yesterday, Bill Slavicsek published the monthly editorial "state of the union" post, D&D Insider: Where We Are. In his post he writes:
"It was three years ago that we merged our plans for the 4th Edition of the Dungeons & Dragons game with a new digital initiative. It was two years ago that we announced these plans to the public, and then last year we launched the new game and laid the groundwork for D&D Insider."OK, so that puts it in 2006 when WotC decided they were "going digital" with the pen-and-paper Dungeons & Dragons game - the same year they ran the D&D Fan Film Contest [chuckles]. It's becoming clear to me that the emphasis for Wizards of the Coast is on the digital side of things - digital products like PDFs and online character gizmos are likely cheaper than books to produce. The books require a huge upfront printing investment, and might just sit in a warehouse if they flop. Digital products probably have the same development costs, but don't have the tail end printing costs - its a lot cheaper to provide server space and bandwidth than print 200,000 copies of Monster Manual XXVI.
Thus, is it possible that in the coming years we will see the printing of new D&D books go by the wayside?
Core rule books such as the PHB 1, 2, 3 etc probably will always come to print. Putting these books on the shelves of bookstores and game stores is nothing short of advertising for the game. Get them hooked, then they'll become subscribers! But, I would not be surprised if we saw supplements, accessories, and even most published adventures go all digital in the coming years. I mean... do we really need a print version of the Adventurers Vault 2 when a searchable online version is really more useful?
Another thing to notice about Bill Slavicsek's post is the following (chopped) excerpt:
"...We’ve learned a lot over the past twelve months. Now we need to take a moment, evaluate where we are and where we want to go next..."(emphasis mine) Wait... didn't they have a plan already? I called vaporware once before, I'm hoping they don't prove me right on this.
"...D&D Insider, like the D&D brand itself, is a living, growing, ever-expanding experience. It expands every month as we update the Compendium and Character Builder, and as we release new content via the online magazines. And it will expand beyond that, eventually adding new features and functionality. We won’t release any component, however, until it hits or exceeds the level of quality we’ve established with the Character Builder."(Wow... D&D sounds alot like a cult) So, is this basically saying the map maker, the online tabletop gaming system, the character 'visualizer', etc etc won't be released until... when?
"...I don’t have a ton of new information to pass along on a weekly basis. So, this will be the last regularly scheduled installment of Digital Insider..."But didn't Mr. Slavicsek just say D&D was a "living, growing, ever-expanding experience". This seems like marketing parlor tricks. Basically, D&DI is "going dark" unless something leaks out on the forums. I just hope they don't cut any more jobs from the WotC development staff.
Sorry if this has been a bit of a ramble. So, I'll leave it on a positive note - earlier I mentioned the PHB 3... this had me a bit stoked to be honest. Mr. Slavicsek also wrote:
"In May, come aboard to help playtest a class from Player’s Handbook 3… the monk!"Wohoo! That will be cool! I just wonder how similar it will be to Scott Schimmel's version at A Butterfly Dreaming. We shall see...
February 10, 2009
David Hargreaves : ... Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization were $654.3 million compared to $653.5 million a year ago...
Margaret Whitfield - Sterne, Agee & Leach : You mentioned the spending on emerging markets, digital, etc. Can you quantify the spending in Q4 and for the year?
David Hargreaves : I’m not sure we have added it all up exactly like that but we have certainly indicated in the earlier quarters it was running around $20 million a quarter and it was to tail off towards the end of the year. So I would say in the aggregate somewhere between $60-70 million of investment spending behind these various strategies which include the emerging markets, advancing our in house force to support our EA initiative where revenues only start in the fourth quarter but we had people on board all year, included our Wizards of the Coast digital initiatives which is Dungeons and Dragons Insider which if you go to the internet and see now and so there was a whole bunch of initiatives that were included in there and the aggregate spending over the year was probably in the region of about $70 million...
... In the U.S. and Canada segment we also had increases in product
development and marketing expenses related to the investments we are making in
our core brands as well as our Wizards of the Coast digital initiative ...
Drew Crum - Stifel Nicolaus : Can you say what the games and puzzles business did in the fourth quarter in terms of year-over-year growth or decline?
Brian Goldner : Games and puzzles for the full year was down slightly while board games was up a few percent.
Drew Crum - Stifel Nicolaus : How about in the fourth quarter?
Brian Goldner : In the fourth quarter games and puzzles were down a bit more significantly as were board games.
Take home message? Hasbro is an 800-pound gorilla. They love D&D Insider as it fits into the Hasbro wide initiave to get into "digital gaming".
Maybe the executives at WotC pitched a new edition of D&D, along with D&D Insider, to Hasbroas a way to keep the D&D brand alive and fall in line with their parent company's desire to get into the "digital gaming space".
February 9, 2009
Oh, maybe you don't know who Wolfgang Baur is? Well, check out his website site here or hop over to Kobold Quarterly. A list of his contributions to the RPG community for the last ~20 years or so can be seen at Pen & Paper here. Monte Cook also interviewed him as well. Let's just say -- I'm stoked.
In other Open Game Table news -- all the chapters have been put through a first draft and I'm in the process of assembling the final manuscript into one document. So far, it's looking to be about 120 pages in length (~85,000 words) at 8.5 x 11. The artists who are contributing have until the end of the week to send in their final inks, so as I receive them I'll be adjusting the layouts as needed. Also, I'm hoping to have made a decision about the cover art by the end of next weekend - that, along with Baur's foreword, will be one of the final pieces needed for the book.
Some of you have emailed me asking about a timeline - well, since this is a self-published book there's really no hard and fast deadlines. However, I do not want to get too far into 2009 before the book is published. That being said, I'm expecting to have galley proofs around the first week of March and the book to be available for purchase about two weeks after that. Stay tuned!
In the past I've put out a call for individual and corporate advertising sponsorships of this project to help offset the costs for printing the copies of the book that will be provided to the 50 or more contribute rs to the project. I was surprised when this call for sponsorships was so well received, and thus far nearly $300 in personal and corporate sponsorship funds have been donated. Donations have been made by individual readers of this blog, as well as by Otherworld Miniatures and Rogue Games. THANK YOU!!!
My own goal for sponsorship funds was $500, which is enough to cover most of the printing & shipping costs of 50 or so copies of the book. So, once again, I need to ask the community for their goodwill. If you are interested in sponsoring the project as an individual, please do! Any amount, no matter how small, will be deeply appreciated and you will recognized in the book as an Individual Sponsor of the project. Simply use the PayPal.com link below and donate what amount you feel comfortable giving. Thank you!
Furthermore, corporate advertising sponsorships are still available as well. If you would like to feature a full page or 1/2 page advertisement of your company, website, or blog - please contact me directly at jonathan dot jacobs at gmail dot com for details.
February 8, 2009
- The Ritual Caster feat is dropped and replaced by other feats listed below.
- Classes that normally gain the Ritual Caster feat as part of their design (clerics, wizards) gain, instead, three other feats (shown below).
Epic Ritual Caster
Prerequisite: Trained in Arcana or Religion, Paragon Ritual Caster Feat.
Benefit: You can master and perform rituals of your level or lower. These rituals are limited to those of level 30 or below. See Chapter 10 for information on acquiring, mastering, and performing rituals. Even though some rituals use the Heal skill or the Nature skill, the Arcana skill or the Religion skill is required to understand how to perform rituals. Clerics and Wizards automatically gain this feat as part of their ritual caster class feature.
Heroic Ritual Caster
Prerequisite: Trained in Arcana or Religion.
Benefit: You can master and perform rituals of your level or lower. These rituals are limited to those of level 10 or below. See Chapter 10 for information on acquiring, mastering, and performing rituals. Even though some rituals use the Heal skill or the Nature skill, the Arcana skill or the Religion skill is required to understand how to perform rituals. Clerics and Wizards automatically gain this feat as part of their ritual caster class feature.
Natural Study [Wizard]
Prerequisite: Int 13, wizard.
Benefit: You gain a +3 bonus to all ritual casting checks that rely on the Arcana or Nature skills.
Paragon Ritual Caster
Prerequisite: Trained in Arcana or Religion, Heroic Ritual Caster feat.
Benefit: You can master and perform rituals of your level or lower. These rituals are limited to those of level 20 or below. See Chapter 10 for information on acquiring, mastering, and performing rituals. Even though some rituals use the Heal skill or the Nature skill, the Arcana skill or the Religion skill is required to understand how to perform rituals. Clerics and Wizards automatically gain this feat as part of their ritual caster class feature.
Prerequisite: Heroic Ritual Caster, Paragon Ritual Caster, Epic Ritual Caster.
Benefit: You automatically gain mastery in two rituals of your level or below. You may take this feat multiple times to gain mastery in additional feats.
Scholar of the Sacraments [Cleric]
Prerequisite: Int 13, cleric.
Benefit: You gain a +3 bonus to all ritual casting checks that rely on the Religion or Heal skills.
Hopefully these rituals might provide a quick fix to anyone who is looking to make clerics and wizards the _real_ ritual casters in the game once again. At the same time, these changes don't prevent anyone else from learning how to cast rituals.
Comments? What do you think?
February 7, 2009
- Yet Another D&D Fanzine is going to be published by Goodman Games under the GSL license. Says Ogre Cave, "... According to Joseph Goodman, a primary goal of Level Up is to get gamers down to their local retail stores, so for the time being, a subscription plan has not been determined..." Well - at least the goal of the fanzine is somewhat novel. And I expect that FLGSs need all the help they can get these days to get more folks in the door. Purple Pawn also covered this news.
- Maps? What Maps? While not necessarily a post aimed at this months RPG Blog Carnival - Dragon Avenue wants to know where all the maps are for Thunderspire Labyrinth. Fortunately, a bunch of fellow geeks over at EN World made some to supplement those in the adventure.
- Oh THESE Maps... Speaking of maps... Zach over at RPG Blog II found another Hex Mapping application he likes. And NewbieDM gets a gold-star for being the first blogger to jump in on this month's theme for the RPG Blog Carnival. Monsters and Manuals also kicks out some new maps in "Unfinished Map of Mollusc-People States".. the Mollusk people. Mollusk people? Really? LMFAO...
- Join the Discussion... oh, and speaking of Zach... he makes an excellent point when asking the question "Are RPG Blogs Supplanting RPG Forums?". It's a topic I'm rather partial too... and from the looks of it... tons of other bloggers and blog readers are too.
- Remember the Masters. Uncle Bear wants the RPG blogosphere to remember Gary Gygax on the anniversary of his death by building a sort of "blog memorial". I think this is a great idea - but I'll likely honor the man by having a moment of silence on The Core Mechanic.
- Progressive Fantasy... I've been thinking alot lately about the evolution of technology in fantasy game settings. So, I've been doing a bit of rpg blogosphere research of sorts. Gamergrene wrote back in 2006 "Mix Genres, Open Doors", an excellent post about fantasy setting mashups. About a year later, the same site offered up "What I Bring to the Table #4: Magic and Technology" - which is a bit off target, but was worth the read nonetheless. Zach (again!) posted back in 2006 as well an article called "Failed Gnomish Weaponry", which gave me some ideas. KeyOurCars offers up "Warhammer Firearms for DnD" (which I may have linked to before) which is also relevant. I'm starting to think this sort of fantasy must have a name - but alas I can't find one so I'm dubbing it "Progressive Fantasy".
February 4, 2009
Very interesting at the very least...
February 1, 2009
As many of you know, I'm working hard at getting the RPG blog anthology finished and published. These things take time, but suffice to know that I've added another artist to the existing team of volunteer artists (7 total) and all the chapters of the anthology are now done and in draft form. The editors and I are now going over it with a fine tooth comb to copy edit the text while we wait for the last (excellent!) pieces of artwork to come in. Hopefully by the 15th I'll have everything in place for a final round of proofs.
So, what does the Anthology have to do with this month's RPG blog carnival?
Well, some time ago - early in the project - I did some market research to find out what people wanted in the Anthology. One of the top categories was "Maps" and another was "Monsters". The problem was that these categories were extremely underrepresented in the RPG blogosphere. Basically, the blog readers love these posts but we blog authors rarely post new maps or monsters for our readers to consume. So... to help encourage more MAPS and MONSTERS in the blogosphere I'm dedicating this months topic for the RPG Blog Carnival to the following:
"Post something that includes at least one map and one new monster for any RPG game system."What do you think? Hopefully if the Anthology has a second volume for next year this month's carnival will answer what the readers want.
Don't know how to participate in the Carnival? Simply blog about something that fits the above topic and link back to this post here at The Core Mechanic to indicate you are participating. Also, leave a comment here so that people can find your blog post as the month progresses. At the end of the month, when the carnival closes, I'll post a wrap up of all the participants and blog posts. Its going to be MONSTER & MAP MADNESS!!!
Please check out the excellent previous RPG Blog Carnivals too! They have included:
- "Character Death, Resurrection, and The Undead" (The Core Mechanic)
- "Homebrew" (The Fine Art of the TPK)
- "Super Heroes in RPGs" (Musings of the Chatty DM)
- "Religion in the Work Plac...eh I mean RPG Land" (The Dice Bag)
- "Transitions & Transformations" (Critical Hits)
- "New Year's Gaming Resolutions" (Uncle Bear)