December 31, 2009

2009 New Year's Gaming Resolutions - How Did I Do?

Last year I posted my new years gaming resolutions for 2009 and I'm happy to say that I pretty much hit every point save for one. Let's review -

Five Resolutions for RPG Blogging
  1. Finish and Publish the Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs. Done. Volume 1 of OGT was a minor success, and I'm already looking forward to putting together Vol. 2 with the help of the RPG blogging community.
  2. Get the Anthology in the hands of at least 5 people who own and operate friendly local gaming stores. Done. Retail distribution was a major goal of OGT - the whole idea being that the RPG blogging community should find a way to reach gamers in the aisles of hobby, game and book stores. Having the support of Studio 2 Publishing behind the Open Game Table project has been a hugely satisfying part - and has placed the book on the shelves on game stores across the universe... ok - maybe only a few... but still!
  3. Collaborate with RPG bloggers on a published game product. With the founding of Nevermet Press back in July, this goal was recently achieved with the publication of NMP's first eBook - Portrait of a Villain: The Desire. Hopefully we'll see more released in 2010!
  4. Pitch and get published at least one article for an RPG fanzine such as Dragon, Kobold Quarterly or Paladin. DONE. This goal was achieved in the summer of 2009 when Quinn Murphy, Michael Brewer and I co-authored a three-part 4E Skill Challenge article for Kobold Quarterly. Wohoo!
  5. Hit 500 Feedburner subscribers by the end of the year. FAIL. I stopped bloggin on TCM in July when I shifted my focus onto Nevermet Press. When it comes to blogging, content is king, and the lack of blogging here meant that the community size, reader base stopped growing. This was not unexpected - but on the bright side, since I've restarted blogging on TCM a few weeks ago the blog has seen about 100 new subscribers and 60 or so TCM Facebook fans. So... color me silly because I'm excited to see comments from so many new faces!
Five Resolutions for Gaming
  1. Game as a player in at least one table-top RPG campaign. DONE. I played in my wife's 4E campaign and I am currently playing in a friends Deadlands Reloaded (Savage Worlds) game - great fun! Being a player for while lets me recharge my GM batteries and gives me the extra time needed to blog well and work on Nevermet Press's development.
  2. Try at least two new table-top RPGs. FAIL. I only managed to try one new game: Savage Worlds - which rocks by the way. I did manage to pick up Star Wars SAGA - but never managed to get a game going. I also have Faery Tales in the queue - but I won't start gaming FT until this spring once my son gets back into the grove of things. I'm looking forward to that, should be great fun as the imaginations of kids can be off the charts.
  3. Start a Diablo III game, and game with people from the RPG blogging community. FAIL. Diablo III was not released in 2009, and it doesn't look like it will be out until 2011... so, I blame Blizzard on this one. =(
  4. Buy some new Dice. DONE. Actually, I got the new dice for free from Open Design as part of a promotion! Thanks Wolfgang!
  5. Try 4E D&D without miniatures. DONE. Tried it. It works. Players tend to do a lot of groaning and moaning though since so many rules have to be clobbered -- so it works best with zombie battles better than anything else.
What, if any, New Years Gaming Resolutions did you make last year?  How did you do? Let me know in the comments! I'd love to hear your side of the story!

December 30, 2009

The Year In A Box

Inspired by a post by Rob Lang over at The Free RPG Blog - I decided to throw together a similar Year in a Box graphic for TCM.

Behold! A Year In A Box!

So, please accept many many thanks to you - the readers of this little blog - for all your continued support through the year. 756 comments?!? who knew?

Happy New Year To All!

New content on TCM will resume after the holidays.

December 28, 2009

Open Game Table Peer Reviewers - Last Call

January 31st is the deadline for Peer Reviewers for Open Game Table Vol. 2. You can apply to become a peer reviewer by following this link. Reviewers will remain anonymous until all nominations have been reviewed. More information can be found by following this link.

RPG blog nominations for Open Game Table Volume 2 will continue to be accepted until January 15th, 2010. Anyone who enjoys reading RPG blogs is welcome to nominate their favorite posts to be included using this form. If you love reading RPG blogs - including this one - please feel free to nominate your favorite posts from those blogs.

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If you are unfamiliar with the first volume of Open Game Table: The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs - jump over to the storefront. There you'll find plenty of reviews and testimonials. If you like what you see, please consider supporting the project by picking up a copy for yourself and perhaps a friend. Open Game Table v1 is available in print from Lulu, Studio2 Publishing and Digital eBook versions are available from,  Studio2 Publishing, and

December 24, 2009

I CAN Has Xmas!!!

we will resume our regularly scheduled posting after the holidays. Merry Christmas!!!

December 23, 2009

Faery's Tale - An RPG You Can Play With Your Kids

Nerd parents.

I think sometimes we have can have a tough time connecting with our kids.

The trick is to subvert your children into becoming just as nerdy as you are by playing table-top games with them (the best solution too IMHO [insert evil laughter here]).

Clearly your kindergardeners aren't ready for D&D or GURPS, but they may be ready to play some other games that are more tailored for them. Here's a list of games that are perfect for the nerd parent looking to spend some quality time gaming with their kids. If you have played any of these, or have other suggestions - please let me know in the comments.

Faery's Tale (Ages 6+)
Board games I've done, but this will be my first foray into RPG gaming with my kids. I figured, any game designed by Robin Laws is worth taking a look at; plus my son is the ripe for "gaming with dad" as his puts it. The Wii is fun, but it gets old fast.

Faery's Tale is a simple introductory table-top roleplaying game where the players choose to be pixies, brownies, sprites, or pookas in the realm of Brightwood. The game uses six-sided dice for rule mitigation and includes three adventures for you to get started. The rules are straightforward and easy to understand, so they don't get in the way of the game's storytelling style of roleplaying. Also, the genre (fairies, elves, and woodland creatures) works well with both boys and girls - which I consider a plus. In addition, the game seems to allow for full-campaigns to develop, which will appeal to older gamers who are looking continuity between games. Faery's Tale is available as both a softback book from (Faery's Tale Deluxe) and as a PDF eBook from Once we get a family game started (waiting till after the holidays), I'll likely start a campaign log here on The Core Mechanic so that you can get a feel for how it plays out.

December 22, 2009

The Future of the RPG Industry

Keeping your ear to the ground is important in any endeavor - almost as important as getting mentoring advice. When I started blogging about RPGs in 2008, I spent a lot of time adding blogs to my RSS feed reader to keep me "in the loop". I also added a variety of forums such as EN World and - and then I discovered the RPG Bloggers Network... soon I was getting over 200 posts per day in my feed reader labeled "GAMING". It was information overload at its worse. After some trimming, I generally limit the number of blogs or other "streams" I follow so that I'm not buried. One of the streams I do follow is the discussion forums tied to the Role Playing Game Designers Group on (You have to be a member to see it).

Recently, William Bradford started a discussion titled "When do you think the next pen and paper RPG implosion will happen and why?". This sparked an interesting discussion wherein it was suggested that the lines between tabletop and computer-based RPGs will become ever the more blurred overtime. This is already becoming evident with people exploring the use of Google Wave for RPG gaming; not to mention PbP email/forum games that have been around for years.

(The blogs Spirits of Eden and At-Will have some excellent posts to get people started on using Google Wave for RPGs)

Then, after reading through the comments that followed, I remembered that this is a topic that rears is head fairly often in the RPG blogosphere and in the rpg forums. I became aware of the shear fear of it all last summer when I read James Mishler's mult-part rant "The Doom of RPGs: The Rambling", which prompted over 60 comments.  He later followed up with "Rambling II"  and "Rambling III". His main issue is the pricing of the content, and how gamers are cheap bastards, and how once they have the rulebooks they never need to buy anything new again. And how gamers are old (Get Your Dice Off My Lawn!) and kids would rather play Pokemon or World of Warcraft. This makes it hard - very hard - (read:impossible) to make a living solely from publishing RPGs. A very entertaining read to say the least, but perhaps he missed the point. Or perhaps I did. He seems to make the a big issue of the cost to produce the game materials vs. the price people are willing to pay for them. Trollsmyth (and tons of other bloggers who I won't link here) wrote a comment on Mishler's rant, "Supply, Demand, and the Teetering RPG Industry" and presents another excellent insider-view of the of the industry and where it is heading. Things are not hopeless, there are shining spots for the future of the RPG market that do not lie in 30-year old brands that are in their 5th stage of revisions. The audience for traditional tabletop RPGs has grown old, and don't need to buy any more games. (Of course, if you are a collector of course, which Randall over at RetroRoleplaying pointed out is a whole different market and not enough to sustain the industry.) These old timers (me) have very limited time on their hands, and (unlike when they we in college) can't get together all that often with 4 - 8 like minded gaming nerds to roll dice and geekout. Technology, however, provides us with tools to make gaming happen anyway (see Google Wave above), and Trollsmyth argues that the future of "table-top" gaming will depend on how well RPG companies leverage the technology to support their games. WotC has managed to do this, or at least attempted to do this, with DDI. White Wolf / CCP is also following suite (see below); and I expect more companies to do so in the future. But again... perhaps I'm missing something. Joseph Goodman, of Goodman Games, seems a bit more optimistic about the future of our hobby - just read for yourself his view on 4E D&D and how much of a success it has been.

There have been tons of posts in the blogosphere about how technology is changing the game table (see Mad Brew Labs "Untapped Potential of Technology" for more).  There has been plenty of speculation about how tech is going to, or currently is, changing everything in table-top gaming; how technology is harkening the doom of the battlemat, the dice toss, and sitting around a table gaming together. John Arcadian, over at, wrote recently "Will Tabletop Roleplaying Survive?" where he comments on the impending effects of technology on tabletop roleplaying, and how our beloved hobby will survive or change as a result. Again, the future lies in the blurring of the lines between computer RPGs and their tabletop counterparts. He only scratches the surface of this issue though. Gareth-Michael Skarka of Adamant Entertainment, declares "Teh Fyooture is a' comin'" (great quote btw - prompted the graphic above) in a brief livejournal post "Rough Beasts Starting To Slouch....". Hopefully we'll see what he has to say about "teh fyooture" soon, but in the meantime you can read what he linked to in Malcolm Shephard's post "White Wolf: Now It’s Semi-Official" - basically pen and paper games are becoming "legacy products" for CCP - and they will likely be cancelling the production of printed hardback books for the foreseable future. Ouch. Sorry FLGS - you lose.

It seems, fair readers, that Technology Wins in this case.

For another view point - in "Whither D&D?", Trollsmyth suggests that
"RPGs may already have missed their best shot at a Renaissance in popularity." 
But a reader of his counters that perhaps instead
"it isn't roleplaying per se that's gone out of fashion so much as it's dice-rolling and character sheets that have fallen out of favour." 
This speaks nothing of the technology vs. tabletop experience - instead the issue is that people don't want to roll dice. In another post where he explores this issue more, and points out that the crunch is completely ignored by a new breed of "free-style" roleplayers.
"They need core mechanics and monster statblocks the way a fish needs a bicycle."
Well said. Players just want to have fun playing cops and robbers - there's no need for hugely expensive books if all you want to do is "pretend". No books means no industry, right? Trollsmyth adds
"If that's the general attitude, RPGs as a business are doomed."
But is it? I say no.

Matthew Colville takes a pro-technology viewpoint in his post "The Inevitable Future of Tabletop Gaming" where he writes: 
The future [is] about the younger generation to whom the hobby is best for anyway, who don’t have our hangups, don’t have our assumptions or experience and to them, an iPhone or something like it will be something they take for granted. 
Another view can be found by Noisms in his post "The Children are our Future!", but perhaps a comment left in the same article by Robert Fisher is more to the point:
"... don’t tell me we have to turn the hobby into something different to compete with all the newfangled stuff. My kids see the value in traditional games and activities that haven’t needed to be updated to appeal to them. They’ll turn off the TV, PS2, Wii, computer, iPod, etc. all on their own for activities that have stood the test of time. The even beg me to do it with them."
So... what does all this mean? Honestly, I'm not sure. It seems that the lines between cRPGs and table-top RPGs will invariable become blurred in the future. It's inevitable for no other reason that people like to tinker around with technology. I think the industry should not only welcome this change, but should embrace it and find ways to preserve the "feeling" of the table-top gaming experience with all the spinywiny that technology brings to bear. This is all assuming that the big companies can find ways to better market the games we love to a younger generation - otherwise, regardless of what changes come down the pipe, the games as we know them now will fade away into the collector bins. What we'll be left with then is a crowd of smaller, indie press companies who are producing "old school" games for no other reason than they love them.

But... would that necessarily be a bad thing? I think not.

post-edit: I should note that Wyatt Salazar, author of Spirits of Eden, blogged about this topic some time ago here on The Core Mechanic. You may want to jump over to that post to see a very different view on this topic.

Free Dwarven Rune #Font

My friend Paul King over at Creative Kingworks has created a free TrueType font of Dwarven Runes. Head over to his blog to download the file, you can preview the font below. This should make for some great DIY additions to your fantasy RPG campaign (assuming you have... dwarves in them...)

Have a good day!

December 21, 2009

Why Carcassonne is Great For Kids Too

I am a gamer, and one of the things I am always on the look out for are games that I can play with my kids. My oldest son is five - and with a few modifications to the rules - I've found that Carcassonne is a great game for us to play together. I'll outline my rules changes below, but first let me tell you why Carcassone is such a kick ass game for both kids and grown ups alike.

4 Reasons Carcassonne is Good For Kids
1. Easy to Learn, Easy to Play: Carcassonne is a "tile game". The tiles are well illustrated depictions of medieval towns, roads, farms, monasteries, lakes, and the like. You pick tiles at random and use them to build the game board as the game progresses. Thus, every time you play the game board is different - which is somewhat reminiscent of Settlers of Catan. Each player has these little wooden men that are used to claim the towns, roads, monasteries, etc as they are created. Points are based on how large the towns are, how many towns your farms reach, or how long the roads you own run. It's a straightforward system that scales well with a wide range of skill levels; new players can be introduced to the game and be playing in about 5 minutes or less. Kids included. Oh, and although the game officially says "Ages 8+"; kids as young as 5 can easily play with a few small modifications and with an adult player to help them along.

2. It's Portable: The basic Carcassonne boxed set is enough tiles for four, perhaps five, players to have a challenging game.  The box is small enough to fit in a backpack, and doesn't take up so much room that traveling with it in a suitcase is a problem. 

3. Reading / English Not Required: Another reason Carcassonne is great for little kids is because it doesn't require any reading. I know that some kids are already reading Catcher in the Rye at age 5, but my son's reading is still fairly basic - so finding a game that we could play together needed to limit the amount of reading required. Carcassonne's tiles are free from text, making the game easy to pick up for kids no matter what their native language.

4. It Builds Strategy Skills: A basic strategy of Carcassonne is that you hedge your bets - you don't know how the game board is going to end up being laid out, so you need to spread your men around as you play. Kids playing Carcassonne learn the basics of strategy through guesswork. Not knowing what tiles they will get leads them to be cautious about the size of the towns they build, or the roads they make. Especially at early ages, playing games that encourage thinking ahead of their turn helps develop the critical thinking skills needed to succeed at more difficult games later on: like the game of life.

My Simplified Carcassonne Rules for Little Kids
In my house, I've trimmed the rules to accommodate my oldest son, who was five when he started playing Carcassonne. These changes won't make any sense unless you are familiar with the game.
  1. Ditch the Farmers. The strategy of using farmers in basic Carcassonne requires a bit more planning than the other ways to gain points. There's a substantial amount of strategy involved blocking other player's farmers and pushing your own. And frequently, games can be won or lost solely on the placement of farmers during play. By ditching the farmers, you can let the kids focus on things that generate points immediately: towns, roads, and monasteries. 
  2. First one to 50 points wins. Instead of playing the game until all the tiles run out; by playing until the first player reaches 50 game are faster. With shorter games, kids also have more opportunities to "be a winner" which builds confidence and helps them master the rules faster.
  3. Limit the Number of Men. In the standard game, each player is given a dozen (?) pieces at the start of the game. For kids, I've trimmed this down to three pieces. By limiting the younger players to three men at a time, they can focus on finishing towns, building and finishing roads, or completing the squares around a monastery before moving on to the next man. 
That's basically it. Carcassone is a great game for kids and "grown ups" - and I highly recommend it for parents who are looking for a new puzzle or tile game to play with their younger ones. Plus, couples who enjoy playing games together can still enjoy Carcassone once the kids are in bed.

December 19, 2009

Mini-Games in RPGs

We all love mini-games, right? I mean, who doesn't love taking a break from battling Sephiroth's armies to race Chokobos for a hour or two. Heck, it might even open up a few quests for you too!

Wait... you DO like minigames, right?

OK, good. So what minigames are played in tabletop roleplaying games? Let's assume that the standard activities of combat, roleplaying, and leveling up found in most dice-based RPGs do not count in themselves as minigames. Let's assume instead that what I'm talking about are things like: playing poker as part of a particular encounter; using riddles or physical puzzles to solve a problem; or playing chess or checkers to decide an outcome. This is somewhat different from what Supah mentions in player skill vs. character skill over at RPGDieHard - I'm talking about the mixing of player skill and character skill to play a "game within a game".

On the surface, most table-top RPGs have few, if any, minigames built into the rules. For example, The Savage Worlds Deadlands Reloaded has Dueling built in. It's an excellent minigame that pits a single character against an opponent in a classic, Spaghetti Western-style shootout. The other PCs in the Posse can help however they want, but the main outcome of the shootout is decided by cards, not dice. If the two combatants survive the initial shots, combat begins as normal. It's a ton of fun during play because the players get to briefly use a unique mechanic, before returning to the normal rules. Another example of minigames was Trollball in Runequest (ok, going way back). Think trolls... and football... it was really fun. These minigames are fun because they all use a different mechanic from the rest of the game. Can you think of any other examples?

4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons is interesting because it essentially has one ruleset for all minigames: the skill challenge. The PCs could be racing chokobos or having a bikini contest among forest gnomes -- in either case, the core skill challenge mechanic can be used to resolve the outcome. Which sounds like a good thing, one system to learn, one way to determine success - but I would submit that this actually may be a draw back of 4E in general: outcomes for all outcomes are usually reduced to successes vs. failures - but situations are often more complicated than that. For example, a minigame that would have the PCs performing in a theatre play might have more than just two outcomes (success vs. failure). Even if a skill challenge was written to include different outcomes, you can't account for all the possibilities. That being said - skill challenges definately DO have their advantages in that they place a framework around non-combat, roleplaying encounters for DMs to award experience points and other rewards in a predictable way. Success - you get your XP. Failure - something bad happens. It's faster, cleaner, and works for the type of roleplaying experience 4E fosters.

I tried to find out if any game company has specifically produced a book or supplement specifically on this - like a "book of minigames"; but I was only able to find one. Avalon Games produces a Minigame line of PDFs, all available from But I haven't played any of them, so I don't know if they are any good.

So, what about minigames that are brought in from outside the RPG you are playing. For example, Wizards of the Coast games Three Dragon Ante and Inn-Fighting - both of which co-marketed with D&D. I've never played them, but I wonder how well they would work as a minigame for a D&D campaign. Or would these games be too long to work well? Steve Jackson Games' Munchkin, or Munchkin Dice, also comes to mind.

But what about other minigames that are not in the rule books or products in themselves. I'm talking about the ones like those mentioned in an article by Stuart from Neitherworld Stories ("RPG Minigames") from last January. Homebrewed minigames anyone? I've used chess and othello (once) to include a minigame into our games. I also played in a campaign where, whenever the PCs traveled long distances, we would have a minigame that involved shooting paper into a wastebasket. The further the distance before the next "encounter", the further the DM would place the waste basket. We called it "Travel Shot"... it was corny, but really made long distance travel in our game interesting. If we missed; we could try again - but something bad would happen with each miss. If we made the shot - then the PCs reached their destination without incident.

How prevalent are minigames in your campaign?

And, as far as video game RPGs - which ones were your favorite? The card game Pazaak in Knights of the Old Republic is the one I remember as being the most/worst addictive "game within a game". I must have blocked out the horrid interface (shown below)... it really is a fun game... honest...

December 18, 2009

3 More Books To Boost Your Game Before The New Year

Yesterday I posted about three books that I thought might make great offline reading before the New Year for anyone looking to improve their game. But, while driving home I realized !~DING~! I forgot to mention the obvious choice: Open Game Table, Volume 1. I have no idea how I forgot to add that to the list - not only is it a project I helped organize, but it's a damn good book to revisit time and time again. Just check out the reviews! Oh, and did I mention that Open Game Table Volume 2 is in the works? I think so, and nominations can be made until January 15th.

There's one more book I'd like to suggest, but only for pre-ordering. Sarah Bowman is a professor at U.Texas I believe and has written a book on roleplaying games and its "function" in society. It is due out this coming January, 2010. I've tried to contact her in the hopes of getting a review copy of the book ahead of release - if successful you'll be sure to see a review and possibly an interview with the author posted here at The Core Mechanic in the near future.

Oh, and the third book? Well... that would either have to Gary Gygax's Role-Playing Mastery (circa 1987, out of print, but still available somehow), or Nevermet Press's latest eBook - The Desire from Ok, ok... maybe Gary's book won't help you... but NMP's eBook will!

Ok... that's probably enough about gamemastering / RPG theory books for while. Let me know if you have read any of these -- I'd love to hear your take!

December 17, 2009

3 Books To Improve Your RPG Game Before The New Year

This post was inspired by comments left in this post by my friend Michael, author of another RPG blog - Mad Brew Labs.

So, the New Year is coming. Have you thought about your Resolutions yet? One of the things the roleplaying game blogging community is constantly churing about is ways to improve your game. This sort of advice is plentiful. Heck, I'm guilty of it too - all you need to do is look at these two tags here at The Core Mechanic. Some of it is obvious, some not. Some of the advice is specific to certain games (e.g. how to run a skill challenge; how save time prepping by playing Savage Worlds; etc.). And then, some is system or genre neutral. In other words: there's tons of advice to be found on the net on how to improve your game. Why then, this post?

Perhaps sometimes you don't want to be tied to a computer? Perhaps you might prefer to sit fireside, which a book, and ... oh, I dunno... read the same sort of content you might find on the net? So, keeping this in mind - I've assembled a short list of books that roleplayers from all games can enjoy and improve their game. Looking for a last minute holiday gift? Perhaps consider supporting The Core Mechanic by picking one of these up.

1. KOBOLD Guide to Game Design, Vol I
I picked this book up directly from Open Design when it first came out and absolutely loved it. It's a collection of whitty and insightful essays written by none-other than Wolfgang Baur - a game designer whom I respect and admire. While the intended audience is more freelance gamedesigners than gamemasters in general, the basic priciples of game design, world building, and adventure design presented are applicable to pretty much any campaign. It's a treasure trove of game mastering wisdom, in my opinion. What's more, the book is small - easily readable over the holidays and won't take up any room in your travel luggage. I should note that a second volume was also released, KOBOLD Guide to Game Design, Volume 2, which focuses on how to playtest and published RPG materials in the "industry". I reviewed part of Vol. 2 on TCM last spring when it was released.

2. Gamemastering Secrets, 2nd Edition
This I have not read - but looking at the contributors list makes me want to pick this up ASAP (I'll post a review as soon as I have it in hand). It won the Origins Award for "Best Game Aid or Accessory" the year it was released. Although not as "cuddly" as the first book - this hardback collection of essays written by dozens of game design notables including Aaron Rosenberg, Frank Mentzer, Jean Rabe, Mark Simmons, and many more. The table of contents lists essays on world building, flow charts for campaign design, styles of campaigns (sandbox vs. story line, etc), how to make memorable NPCs, running games at conventions, how to play RPGs with your kids, and way more. Alogether it is almost 200-pages of solid HOW TO for gaming. If you don't pick up the book - they have a website that is definately worth checking out:

3. Shared Fantasy: Role Playing Games as Social Worlds
There are only a few books out there that tackle the concept of roleplaying games as a entertainment and social medium; perhaps a dozen or less and many of them are out of print. This book, written by sociologist Gary Alan Fine, is still in print and does just that in a thought provoking and inspiring way. Although the book is more than two decades old - its one of those college philosophy style books that you can't put down after the reading the first page. It really makes me think about WHY we love these games so much, and how I might make the games I run more fun for everyone at the table. Although it is not a "gamemastering book" per se... I can't stress enough how much of an impact this book will have on the way you look at D&D or any other game after you read it. He covers everything from why we game, to the structure of games and why the complexity of RPGs is what facinates the group. It's a bit of a beast at close to 300 pages; but if you live in a particularily cold area of the world, you might be able to tear through this before the New year.

That's it. If you pick any of these  up.. let me know what you think!

December 15, 2009

New TCM Site Design

TCM debuts a new site design! Kick the tires, let me know what you think. I was shooting for cleaner, nicer looking site with easy to read fonts, etc.

The old one is kludged, so there's no comparison... but if something is missing; please let me know. I'm still putting the pieces together, so there's always room for improvement.

December 13, 2009

The Deadlands' Desire

A Deadlands Reloaded Conversion of Nevermet Press's The Desire

The Desire, also known as Desiree Turpis, is a vile Madame possessed by the otherworldly strength of demons. You can read more about The Desire here. Below you will find a Savage Worlds conversion of The Desire, and some of her close companions.

A 57-page eBook about The Desire, designed for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, was released recently by Nevermet Press. You can pick it up at or directly from Nevermet Press for $9.95. By purchasing the eBook, not only will you be supporting a very tiny micropublisher, but you'll also be getting some top-notch content for your medieval / fantasy / gothic campaign setting. There is also a free, system-independent version of The Desire (all 11 articles in an early draft state) also available from NMP if you follow this link. A bunch of reviews of the eBook, and links to other system specific conversions of The Desire should be coming out from a variety of sources this week. I'll update this post with links when they do - so, subscribe to the comments!

Honestly… I'm very happy at how it all turned out; and I'm sure you'll love it too. But.. enough about the eBook... on to The Desire for Deadlands Reloaded!\

The Desire for Deadlands Reloaded
If you play Deadlands Reloaded (or any Savage Worlds game for that matter), please feel free to make use of our conversion of The Desire that could easily be dropped into your Weird West campaign. My thinking behind the conversion was that she would still act as a Madame at a frontier town brothel, but instead of being a demon-possessed human; she is more an occult priestess (a veteran arcane spellcaster in game terms) who has made a deal with The Reckoners for her own personal gain. If you play DLR, and end up using The Desire, please drop me a line in the comments. I would love to hear how it worked out!

The Desire, The City's First Mistress
A few decades ago, Desiree Turpis made a pact with 'the devil' in exchange for absolute beauty and charm. At the time, The Reckoners had just appeared in the West, and 'the devil' was no devil at all, but in fact a manitous that now whispers in her ear from the Hunting Grounds. Within a few short months, she succumbed to the manitious's desires, and quietly went mad.

The Desire, as she now calls herself, is the Madame of a local brothel and gambling establishment. Through both traditional and supernatural means, she has built up a powerful and well-connected list of loyal clients over the years; all of whom are unaware that they are acting as pawns in The Desire's far reaching schemes. Her abilities are a mixture of her own study of the occult, and that of the manitous that shares in her soul.

Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d8, Spirit d8, Strength d4, Vigor d8.
Skills: Fighting d6, Guts d8, Intimidation d8, Notice d8, Persuasion d8, Stealth d8, Spellcasting d8, Streetwise d6.
Charisma +2; Pace 6; Parry: 5; Toughness 7 (1).
Hindrances: Delusional (minor), Greedy (minor), Overconfident.
Edges: Arcane Background (Magic), Attractive, Dodge.
Gear: English 1840 Derringer (5/10/20; 2d6 dmg.; ROF 1; Shots 8; AP1; Reload 2); Hellstrom Leather Body Wrap (Armor +1), Maiden's Gown (+2 Persuasion against male characters), Whip (see notes; DLR p. 45).
Special Abilities
Irresistible Voice: If The Desire speaks to her opponent and uses their true, she can attempt to charm them into complacency. When using this ability, she makes a Spellcasting roll opposed by her opponents Spirit. On a success, her opponent can never directly injure The Desire until the charm is removed. On a raise, her opponent suffers the same curse and in addition will treat her as a trusted friend for one full day – and even defend her from harm. The Desire suffers a -2 penalty on her Spellcasting check for every attempt beyond the first each day.
Whispers of Desire: The Desire merely needs to whisper into the ear of her victims to instantly subdue anything but her wishes. This ability mimics the Puppet power (DLR, p. 99) with the exception that the victim must only hear, and understand, her words. The Desire uses makes a Spellcasting check, opposed by her opponents Spirit for a success. If she has in her possession a personal belonging of the victim in hand, she gains control of the victim for as long as she possesses the item. Otherwise, the domination lasts for no more than one hour (two hours on a raise).
Deflection: When in danger, The Desire shifts from sight and seems more difficult to target by ranged weapons. This ability relies on The Desire's Spellcasting skill, and is the same as the Deflection power (DLR, p. 91).

Want to see some reviews of The Desire eBook from Nevermet Press? Please visit these excellent sites to see what they had to say:

Looking for more conversions of The Desire to other game systems? Don't Play 4E D&D? No problem! Check these Nevermet Press Distributed Workshops for variations on The Desire using other rule systems...

“This game references the Savage Worlds game system, available from Pinnacle Entertainment Group at Savage Worlds and all associated logos and trademarks are copyrights of Pinnacle Entertainment Group. Used with permission. Pinnacle makes no representation or warranty as to the quality, viability, or suitability for purpose of this product.”

December 11, 2009

The Complete, Unabridged Manual Of How To Play Roleplaying Games

Has it all been said before?

The RPG internet community has roots that extend back more than two decades. Yes, it's true - people were discussing roleplaying games on the internet before it was even the internet. Shocking. I know. Go here to boggle your brain. OK... back? Now that you have read advice on gaming that is some 25+ years old... you might now be wondering the same thing: Is it possible that everything there is to say about gaming has been said? Is tabletop gaming a finite creative space? If you take the collective meta-mind of the tubes (read:teh intehnetz or teh blogezfear) - is there anything really new for the community to discover? Has the community as a whole really made any DING! groundbreaking revelations in the last few years?

I might argue NO. I might even say that everything the RPG blogging community rants about has been ranted about by thousands of people for close to 30 years. I should really post some screenshots from some early Dragon magazine "Letters to the Editor" columns... but I think you get my point.

I'm not talking about new creatures, adventures, villains, worlds, creative settings, dice, types of miniatures, or even rule systems. That's all in the field of content - which is arguably inexhuastible. That would be like asking if every story that could be written has been written. Of course... that may very be true too. But that's another issue.

I'm talking about advice. Comments, shared with others, about HOW to play. HOW to be a better game referee, GM, DM, storyteller, marshall, or whatever you call it. What works - what doesn't. How to build tight social groups that faciliate immersive play. etc. What's new? If you were to read everything that has been written before, in chronological order: at what point in time would you say "OK... nothing new here". Would it be the early 80's? Gaming has changed alot since then. Perhaps the mid-1990's? Maybe never?

Is it possible that I'm completely out-of-the-park off base here?

I'm still going to say no - so if I'm not off base, and I am on to something... then has anyone tried to make a definative guide to roleplaying games? I'm not talking about D&D For Dummies. I'm talking about something akin to Black's Law , but for tabletop roleplaying games. A reference that everyone hails as being the de facto jumping off point for further discussion. A manual on RPGs in general, in all its crazy variations on a theme that is not tied to any one game.

A manual on HOW TO GAME.

If such a book exists, please let me know. Perhaps Gygax's Master of the Game counts - but I have yet to read it yet. Have you? Is it any good?

December 9, 2009

Nevermet Press Releases Its First eBook

I would be mistaken if I didn't at least announce it once here at The Core Mechanic. So.. here it is.

Nevermet Press, the micropress game company I co-own with Michael Brewer, has release its first eBook today: Portraits of a Villain: The Desire. I'm happy to report that there are a bunch of (impartial) reviews coming down the pipe from various sources over the next week or two - so I'll skip the pitch and just provide you with the link.

You can pick it up from or from Nevermet Press's very own storefront.
I'd be happy to answer any questions about the eBook, how it was made, or anything about NMP in general in the comments.

Also, as many of you may already know, Nevermet Press is a community driven game design studio. We are always looking for new content developers to work with. Artists, writers, and game desiginers, all share in the creation process and potential earnings of any content developed at NMP. Just shoot me an email and let me know if you are interested.

In the meantime -- while I may be occasionally posting about Open Game Table and Nevermet Press here on TCM -- my goal is to get back into blogging about games. I have a few drafts under development now... so look for those later this week.

Cheers -- JJ

December 7, 2009

Open Game Table, Vol. 2 CALL FOR NOMINATIONS

After a lengthy period of consideration, and perhaps in response to the nudging from many of the people on this list, I've decided to go forward with Open Game Table Vol. 2 for target release of Summer 2010. The good news is that Vol.2 will be released simultaneously as an eBook and with retail print distribution via Studio 2 Publishing. So, I'm looking forward to a much smoother release this time around.

Now the fun part begins.

As was done for Volume 1 - the creation of the manuscript is proceeded by two important steps:
  1. The assembly of an independent peer review panel (bloggers, game designers, developers, artists, fans all welcome)
  2. The receiving of blog post nominations.

The submission deadline for open nominations of blog posts closes January 15th, 2010. I've streamlined the submission process so that all you need to is submit a valid URL. Up to 5 per submission form can be accommodated; but there's no limit to how many you can send in. The nomination form, and more information, can be found here.

The application period for being a peer reviewers closes December 31st, 2009. These individuals will be responsible for reading the entries (not all of them mind you, I will spread the word count around) and interacting with me during the final decision making process. If chosen, your names will be withheld until publication of the book. If you are interested, please click here for more information and to submit your information.

ATTENTION BLOGGERS: If you have an RPG blog -- I want to strongly encourage you to announce the nomination process to your readers. Include the links above and what ever other info you want. The broader the net we cast for nominations, the better - so I need to rely on your help to spread the word. Getting Vol.2 off the ground is going to depend on the participation of the entire RPG blogging community.


ATTENTION TCM READERS: I will not be submitting anything from TCM myself. However; if I have written something in the past that you thought was "Wow! Cool!" or otherwise worthy of being included in the anthology - please feel free to nominate it! The peer reviewers all swear with a blood oath to be impartial to reviewing my content. No really.. they do.


One more note: Although Open Game Table does not have it's own dedicated blog or website, you can follow OGT's development progress by subscribing to it's twitter feed. Just search for @opengametable. There's also a Facebook fan page, so you can share the love on FB too by becoming an OGT Fan!

December 3, 2009

Jumping Back Into Blogging About Games

Well, I guess it had to happen sometime, right? After 5 months away I've decided to dust of TCM a bit and get back into blogging. Either I don't know how to keep my mouth shut or I'm just a gluten for punishment.

Probably both.

Hopefully I'll be able to keep up with the Joneses and actually post some material worth reading over the course of the next few months. If yesterday's post was any indication, it's nice to know that there are still some folks who stayed subscribed to TCM even though I "closed shop" last July. Well.. it's real nice to be back.

But somethings have changed, or will change - and you'll likely find that out soon enough. The biggest change to TCM is going to be the topics covered: previously I was sorta "old school meets 4E". I've seen the light, so to speak, and the content here will be much broader. Think "Games". Not just RPGs, but games in general. Some may have even noticed the by-line of the site has changed...

probably not though. =D

After all, all games have a core mechanic, right?

Well, hopefully I'll be able to continue on and write about games in general - because I don't just play RPGs after all. I'm a gamer.

So until next time - GAME ON!

December 2, 2009

The RPG Service Industry

This may be a stretch -- a great big stretch -- but it's a "what if" that I'd like to explore: What if the a game company offered custom content for your campaign? What if this content includes all the usual features of standard RPG game supplements? What if it was awesome. Better than anything you could get from WotC, Paizo, or dare I say White Wolf... just for you. What it be worth to you?

RPG companies follow a model where a group of people sit around who are "experts" and think of really cool ideas and then put then into action. They create what they want, or what they believe will sell well (read: what their customers want) - generally - and they may get feedback from the community, tweak things a bit, and eventually publish their product(s). The end result is that you, as a gamer, are faced with either taking what they produce and ADAPTING IT to fit your own home brew or variant campaign; or buy nothing at all.

More often than not the adapting part happens just about every time. Even with new campaigns. This has happened to me countless times: I buy some cool book; try to plug it into my game and then.. ding; I end up tweaking things to make it work. Endlessly. Not that I hate this part that much... sometimes this can be the most fun of a campaign build, but...

Do I have the same amount of time for campaign development as I did when I was 20? or even 30?

No way.

What if the tables were turned and you, the gamer, could go to an RPG company and ask them to produce something for you? Custom content is created all the time in other industries for very small venues. Heck, even in my industry (biotech), companies thrive on being one stop shops for nothing but custom solutions for their customers.

Imagine for a moment the following scenarios:

Scenario 1 - The Store Bought Campaign Became Your Home Brew Campaign
Mike & Jan co-DM a campaign that has been running for several years. It started out as a Forgotten Realms campaign, but over time it morphed into their own thing. Sure, the world map is the same and there are lots of things that stayed true to the FRCS canon, but there's also tons of new, custom content that makes it their own. Now, Mike and Jan are busy people. In college they had tons of time, but now with Real Life knocking on the door - time is short, but they still want to game. They have tried shoehorning store bought adventures - but they really don't fit well. Plus, who has time to slog through the hundreds of published adventures out there?

Scenario 2 - The Genre MashUp
Bill has a campaign he's recently started with some friends that mashes up Cthulu with SciFi and Western genres. Nothing, barely, is available to purchase anywhere that fits this bill. Time is short, and adapting store bought material to this unique setting takes time. What can he do?

Scenario 3 - Your World vs. Your Player's World
You've built a great new campaign setting from scratch. You've mapped it out, designed a few cities, jotted notes about a few important groups or factions, set up various story lines, plot hooks or HEX nooks (more about those another day). You're ready to play, and play you do.. and then your players head in the opposite direction you were hoping.

OMG... your rigid campaign has suddenly turned all sandboxy on you!

Fast on your feet, you adapt your world to meet the needs of the game. Your players don't know the difference, but between game sessions you're spending hours pushing out the envelope and rolling out the campaign carpet so that no matter where they go.. there you are. Isn't this exhausting though? What if you could phone or send an email to a team of game developers and say "Hey... I need your help! I've got this game going great, but I need an adventure for next week's session and I don't have the time to put it together!"? Would you?

I know this all sounds ridiculous... but with today's super-social-networked-crazy-crowd-sourcing-meta-mind it should be possible. Right? Why hasn't any company TRIED this?
We outsource your needs to build the campaign you want for the game system you want.

How valuable would a custom RPG gaming product be for your game? How much time do you spend prepping for gaming each week? What if you could reduce that time to ... oh... and hour? Less?

I'm not asking 'how much would you pay' -- that's a different question. This is not about price.. because this is a ridiculous idea anyway.. it's about VALUE. What would a service like this be worth to you?

OK. You have a number in your head. Let me know in the comments.

Of course... you could also always take this approach, which I'm sure is what we are all basically doing now anyway.

Oh.. and.. it's good to be back. and.. this post is dedicated to Paul King @ Creative Kingworks. He has a mind reading machine... so he's easy to talk to. Oh, and this idea was inspired by this post which linked to this post.

October 31, 2009

[4E] Magic Halloween Candy

This post originally appeared Oct 31, 2008.

Halloween is finally here, and so I give you 19 new types of consumables for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons - Halloweeny Candy! You can mix these candies with any of your usual, non-magical candies and make bags of candy for each of your players as gifts. Each bag of candy might contain 2d4 pieces of candy per tier (2d4 for Heroic, 4d4 for Paragon, etc). Your players can trade them back and forth, and surprise their opponents with all sorts of new tricks and treats! Better yet, a mob of trick-or-treating kobolds or goblins might show up with bags and bags of candy, passing themselves off as kids in costumes! Oh what silly fun...

Magic Candy

Creepy Peepers - These small, fleshy eyes are cream-filled (don't ask) and smell a bit like salted fish. Consuming a Creepy Peeper gives a +5 bonus to Perception Checks until the end of the encounter.

Boogymen Lollis - These lollipops are made from poached goblin dwarves which have been dipped in a sugar glaze. They come in many colors, but blue is a favorite. Licking these lollipops as a minor action gives +5 bonus to Stealth skill checks until the beginning of your next turn.

Bloodwyrms - These stringy, gum-like "wyrms" come in a variety of colors including red (fire bloodwyrm), blue (ice bloodwyrm), and black (deathwyrms). Each color grants whomever consumes the worm Resist 5 to one type of attack, depending on the wyrm's color. Only one type of bloodwyrm can be in effect at any time.

Precious Eel Zappers - These tiny, sqaure eel eggs are a type of hard candy that are usually found in cartridge like dispensers filled with 3d6 of them. Each P.E.Z. gives a +2 electrical bonus to their next attack. Using the P.E.Z. dispenser is a minor action.

Finger Pops - These are prized by rogues everywhere. Finger Pops are made from crushed spiders and monkey livers rolled in granola and dipped in a dark Theutotian chocolate. Consuming a Finger Pop two minor actions, but once done they grant a +5 bonus to Thievery skill checks until the end of the encounter.

Zombrains - These small silvery packages are covered with strange runes that shimmer in the light. Inside is a spongy like yellow ball that is slightly damp to the touch, and smells of fetid ochre. Consuming this repugnant mess reveals a surprising delicious bouquet of flavors that rush into the eater's mind: lemon, lime, cinnamon, raspberry, vanilla. Quite refreshing - Zombrains also grant a +5 bonus to Arcana skill checks until the end of the encounter.

Rat-on-a-Stick - A Halloweeny Classic! These savory, hairless beasts come in three flavors (BBQ, Honey Dijon, and Salt'N Vinegar). Consuming one is a standard action, but once finished the PC immediately gains a number of temporary hit points equal to their healing surge value. 

Chocolate Espresso Bean Rat-on-a-Stick - A visionary, new type of candy for this year's Halloweeny celebration! The chocolate version of the Rat-on-a-Stick classic grants a +2 bonus to the PCs next move and they gains 6 temporary hit points in the process.

Teefcrunchers - Made from the shells of Artribidge Crabs, this hard candy is meant to be savored and not crunched (or you'll shatter your teeth). For every round a PC savors a Teefcruncher in their mouth (as a minor action), they gain Regeneration 2. One Teefcruncher lasts until the end of the encounter or for 5 minutes.

Beetlesnaps - Tiny brown and black beetles are meant to be thrown down on the ground (DO NOT EAT!). Thrown correctly (Dex vs. Reflex), these beetlesnaps burst with load pop and target creature is forced to attack the thrower of the beetlesnaps until the end of their next turn. They are just soooooo annoying!

Nailbiters - Tiny sticks of hard-bread baked into the shape of nails are dipped in chocolate or a heavy sugar glaze (sometimes both). Eating one of these as a minor action gives a +2 bonus to your next melee attack roll. Eating more than your constitution modifier's worth of these in a single day has some terrible, foul-smelling side effects...

Death Mints - Well.. Halloweeny is "Trick or Treat!" right? Well, Death Mints are more the trick part of things. These tiny mints often look like Precious Eel Zappers or Teefcrunchers, but of course are not. Once eaten, they cuase ongoing Necrotic 2 damage (save ends) and the victim starts uncontrollably moaning like a ghost.

Pumpkin Bombs - A classic from days long past, Pumpkin Bombs are back! These fist-sized pumpkins have been stuffed with the best in Gnomish (or Kobold) engineering: explosives! They can be accurately thrown at any square within 6 squares, have a Burst 3 effect that includes a fiery explosion for 3d6 points of damage.

Chocolate Treant Bark - The brittle slivers of chocolate are made with chips from real Treant bark.  Once eaten as a minor action, they grant a +2 bonus to armor class until the end of your next turn.

Glow Pops - These tiny lollipops glow once unwrapped for 5 minutes or until the end of encounter. The light they shed reaches out to 3 squares, but if eaten the light can be focused from the PCs mouth like a bulls-eye lantern with a range of 6 squares.

Wax Lips - The faux lips come in two colors: red and black. The red lips, if eaten, grant a +5 bonus to Diplomacy until the end of the encounter or for 5 minutes. The black variety grants a +5 bonus to Insight until the end of the encounter or for 5 minutes.

Grey Ooze Pouch - Yuck! Handle with care! This leathery pouch contains a small grey ooze! Once released, it will dissolve locks and other metal objects it is applied to within 5 minutes, leaving nothing behind. What you do with the ooze once it is done is up to you!

Weasel Pops - Similar to Rat-on-a-Stick, these feral pops grant a +5 bonus to Acrobatics skill checks until the end of the encounter or for 5 minutes. Eating one is a standard action.

Black Pudding Pouch - Trick! This looks just like a grey ooze, but once opened the Ochre Jelly within slithers out and immediately attacks anyone adjacent to it.

Well, that's it! Let me know if you use any of these items in your game! I had probably too much fun putting this list together.

October 26, 2009

I am a gamer...

Well, I guess this is it. One year of blogging for The Core Mechanic and this, my friends, is the last post.

What can I say?

It's been an incredible year of gaming and blogging goodness for me. I am a gamer, and I always will be. I've made some incredible friends in the blogosphere; and had some interesting "real-life adventures" as a result. I guess I have all of you to thank for all the fun I've had. A year ago I would have never thought I would have written 311 blog posts about RPGs, published an anthology of RPG blogs, and started a company with partners I've never even met. To say it's been a crazy year would be a huge understatement.

I've made so many new connections I can't even count them. I've learned a mountain's worth about an industry I would have never guessed I would have had so much interest in. There's so much more I could say -- but for once, I'll be short on words. To the RPG blogging community, and to the readers of this blog, YOU HAVE MY THANKS!!!

I'll leave you with the results of the I am a Gamer RPG Audio Montage Project I announced last week. The following responses were collected by email, twitter and comments to this blog. The I AM A GAMER mp3 audio file can be downloaded here, or you can listen to it directly in your browser using the Google gadget widget below. The voices are myself, my wife, Berin Kinsman, and three other anonymous people. At exactly 4 minutes, I hope you enjoy it.

Farewell! And don't forget to stop by Nevermet Press on July 6th! It's first day NMP will be posting new content compatible with ANY roleplaying game. Our RSS feed is available today, so please head over there and add us to your feed reader!

Oh, and don't forget to leave a comment and let us know what you thought of the I am a Gamer RPG Audio Montage. If you missed out -- leave your own "I am a gamer..." comment below!

June 21, 2009

I am a gamer ...

As many of you know, I'll stop posting on The Core Mechanic on July 1st, since I'm going to be focusing all my efforts entirely on Nevermet Press. So, I've been giving a lot of thought to what my last post will be - and what I've come up with is a sort of an audio montage modeled somewhat like the NPR "This I believe" project. I think, if we can pull it off, it would make for a great last post.

So, I have less than two weeks to collect as many responses as I can. I'm looking for any one of the following, all of which should begin with the phrase "I am a gamer...":
  1. An .mp4 or similar audio file, edited however you want but under 15 - 20 seconds in length.
  2. Send me a link, or leave a link below in the comments, to your own blog or to the location of your audio file on the net somewhere.
  3. Write it out in the comments below and I'll have it read aloud by one of my Fey Minions. Please keep it less than 5 or 6 sentences.
  4. Tweet me  @thecoremechanic with something short and readable using the hash tag #IAMAG
If you are a blogger, please spread the word about this. Links from your own blog, pointing your readers here would be great! The more voices and viewpoints we get, the better. It would be awesome to get dozens or hundreds of readers viewpoints and voices together and share the reasons behind our passion for gaming. I'm also working on getting a few "figures in the industry" to participate as well.

Once the project is done, I'll make the file available for download as part of my last blog post.

June 18, 2009

Old School New / School Survey Results!

We got 78 responses to our Old School analysis survey which is just awesome! I can't thank you guys enough for your input which is really really interesting. We definitely have some trends that can be examined though I think in hind sight I should have made the first question: What sort of games do you prefer?
Which would have been infinitely valuable to me as a game designer because if all I have to do is include some randomly generated background tables to make 62% of gamers get that nice old school twinge of nostalgia, then I'd do so in a flash because really, that sort of thing doesn't compromise setting or system integrity and GM's never really have to use them.

So without further adieu, the Results!

Old School 24 31%
New School 7 9%
Not Old School or New School 36 46%
Antiquated and Obsolete 6 8%
Fundamental in All Games Old and New 5 6%
Other 0 0%

This first result was really interesting, the fact that 6 people said character levels are antiquated and 5 people said they're fundamental is fascinating to me. I personally think they're antiquated but I understand they have their up-sides. I'm not sure what to make of people saying character levels are new school, though the fact that almost 10% of the voters do is telling... maybe they are people who are used to point-based systems and see level advancement as a carry over from computer games. The Old School and "Neither" results are about what I expected, but they really do showcase the differences in opinion on what Old School is very well.

Randomly Generated Character Backgrounds
Old School 48 62%
New School 2 3%
Not Old School or New School 20 26%
Antiquated and Obsolete 6 8%
Fundamental in All Games Old and New 1 1%
Other 1 1%

These are pretty much clear cut. The vast majority of you guys believe that randomly generated character backgrounds are Old School, which I agree with. Not a lot of people consider them obsolete but I'd be guessing that those people that do are fairly strong narrativist gamers. I think this is an important result for any game designer looking to create an old school product because there isn't a lot of agreement at all on what defines old school but this is one of the few items there's a majority agreement on.

Open-Ended Variety of Skills/Abilities
Old School 13 17%
New School 23 29%
Not Old School or New School 32 41%
Antiquated and Obsolete 6 8%
Fundamental in All Games Old and New 3 4%
Other 1 1%

These results surprised me because this is a trait all the games I consider Old School have. To me the idea of finite and set abilities is a new thing but I'm in the minority. This is a tough question and one I don't know if I asked correctly, it certainly could warrant another post to explain further and get more feedback.

Hit Location Mechanics
Old School 23 29%
New School 8 10%
Not Old School or New School 42 54%
Antiquated and Obsolete 5 6%
Fundamental in All Games Old and New 0 0%
Other 0 0%

Another interesting result. As a medic I'm a big fan of hit location because I honestly believe it models damage better, but it is an extra level of clunk so not very good in a game that's meant to be played fast and loose. I think this question could benefit especially from a question of people's preferences as well.

Random Encounter Tables
Old School 62 79%
New School 1 1%
Not Old School or New School 8 10%
Antiquated and Obsolete 5 6%
Fundamental in All Games Old and New 2 3%
Other 0 0%

These show another obviously Old School consensus which I agree with. Personally I feel that Random Encounter Tables have some value in exhibiting the common wildlife in a region but they rarely represent the actual behavior of such animals. Thus I find the balance between a realistic system of encounters and one that's actually playable lies in the "just leave it out and make it GM's discretion" territory. For those of you who disagree please leave your flames in the handy comment box at the bottom.

Crit Tables
Old School 33 42%
New School 4 5%
Not Old School or New School 36 46%
Antiquated and Obsolete 4 5%
Fundamental in All Games Old and New 1 1%
Other 0 0%

These results are fairly odd, if I could hazard a guess I'd say the even divide between the Old School and "Neither" results are from people that have only played versions of D&D and no other games and thus marked Crit Tables as "Neither" being some oddity other games had, and the other crowd that remembers all those old games with the crit tables and figures they're old school and voted accordingly. I could be wrong, but that's my only explanation for such weird results.

Detailed Example Adventure Module
Old School 8 10%
New School 12 15%
Not Old School or New School 33 42%
Antiquated and Obsolete 1 1%
Fundamental in All Games Old and New 24 31%
Other 0 0%

I've noticed in more than one pet peeve questionnaire that "lack of an adventure module" is usually mentioned several times so game designers need to take heed there. As a side note I think that game supplements that are just one adventure storylines have a distinctly old school feel to me.

Boxed Sets
Old School 47 60%
New School 0 0%
Not Old School or New School 20 26%
Antiquated and Obsolete 9 12%
Fundamental in All Games Old and New 1 1%
Other 1 1%

If I could find a cheap manufacturer of for a line of boxed sets you can bet your mother's apple pie that I'd go that direction.

Multiple Core Books
Old School 10 13%
New School 20 26%
Not Old School or New School 36 46%
Antiquated and Obsolete 4 5%
Fundamental in All Games Old and New 7 9%
Other 1 1%

The validity of multiple core books ultimately depends on the setting and game design principles in my opinion.

Highly Detailed Maps
Old School 19 24%
New School 9 12%
Not Old School or New School 37 47%
Antiquated and Obsolete 1 1%
Fundamental in All Games Old and New 11 14%
Other 1 1%

I think that some maps have a more old school look than others. I love maps. Game books don't have enough of them.

Social Interaction Mechanics
Old School 5 6%
New School 49 63%
Not Old School or New School 19 24%
Antiquated and Obsolete 4 5%
Fundamental in All Games Old and New 1 1%
Other 0 0%

This is perhaps the most obvious but also the biggest surprise for me. The idea that social mechanics are decidedly new school is pretty much the universal consensus it seems... but the fact that only 1 person called them fundamental surprises me greatly. I consider social systems extremly important for a balance role-playing experience. But I'm a simulationist. Makes me wonder if I could do a gamer political satire article about how Old schoolers are the gamer equivelant of Libertarians, Narrativists are Liberals, and Simulationists are Republicans... I must dwell on this further... I think there is much humor to be made there.

Emo Elves
Old School 4 5%
New School 39 50%
Not Old School or New School 22 28%
Antiquated and Obsolete 8 10%
Fundamental in All Games Old and New 4 5%
Other 1 1%

The species Ellifus Saddius - or "Emo Elf" as it is colloquially known - is an offshoot of the Ellifus Gaius which originated in the Tolkeen novel The Hobbit, both of which are far removed from their distant cousin species the Ellifus Chrismatica.

The first sighted Ellifus Saddius was in a dark hole depicted in a R.A. Salvatore. Dark places are the Emo Elf's natural habitat, though they do venture into the light occasionally to gain further Emo'ness because sunlight makes them sad. They gain an especially sublime sadness from sunrises and sunsets.

The primary food of the Emo Elf is goblin guts seasoned with the Emo Elf's own tears, though the Ellifus Saddius is also known to derive sustenance from Orc's frost giants, and demons, never humans or other Ellifus genii.

Emo Elves can interbreed with normal humans, the offspring of such unions is always an Anime or Manga protagonist. It is believed that these offspring are sterile, but this cannot be proven because none have ever been witnessed actually breeding.