February 26, 2010

Eric Mona on The Future of RPGs

Couldn't pass up the chance to share this excellent video with everyone. Set aside some time - it's worth it.

He gets through his background about 20 minutes in (20m:30s or so)

February 22, 2010

Open Game Table Volume 2 - Peer Review Closed. Reviewers Revealed!

The peer review phase for the nominations made to Open Game Table Volume 2 has ended. As you can see from the numbers above - we recieved TONS of reviews from the peer reviewers. The average nomination recieved close to three score cards each, which is what I was shooting for. What remains are the 90 or so nominations (out of over 370) that didn't quite get the coverage they deserve.  So the OGT Editorial Board (listed below) is going to review these straglers over the next couple of days so that every single nominations gets at least two reviews. Once that is done, then the some serious heavy lifting is going to happen as the Editorial Board digs through all the data, cuts the nominations that scored low, and homes in on our A-list of top picks to be included in the anthology.

Please join me in thanking the Open Game Table Peer Reviewers. They have been immensely helpful in making OGT a possibility and a true community project!

Open Game Table Volume 2: Peer Review Panel
Aaron Broder
Brian Fitzpatrick
Cassey Toi
Enrique Bertran
Ben McFarland
James Iben
Jeffrey Horn
Mark Johnston
Michael Brennan
Michael Brewer
Page Bonifaci
Robert Sandlan
Steve Collington
Tommi Brander
Tony Law
Will Hopkins

Open Game Table Volume 2: Editorial Board
Jonathan Jacobs
Ben McFarland
Berin Kinsman
Kameron Franklin
Tony Law

Many of the above people you know as bloggers, authors, game designers and developers. It has been a privilege to work with all of them! I'm really looking forward to this next phase of OGT development: putting together the manuscript and finding artists who want to contribute. Our unofficial goal is to have everything done by GenCon 2010 so that Studio 2 Publishing can release the next volume of Open Game Table at the convention. So far - we are on track to meet that goal!

Now, for the more statistically inclined readers - follow the link below for some summary statistics of the reviews. Enjoy!

February 21, 2010

Pick Up a Six Pack of Dragon (But Dragon Dew is Still Better)

This ad brought to you by the wayback machine (circa a 1990's Dragon Magazine).

Some marketing campaigns just work I guess. Check out this one from this year (I know - old news to some... but still!)

Personally... I would have preferred the cans. Jones Soda for D&D is just odd...

You would think they would partner with Mountain Dew or Krispy Kreme though. I mean... JONES SODA??? What... are all D&D players a bunch of Wholefoods shopping health nuts? I think not. Odd choice of marketing partners IMHO. I mean.. instead they should have picked Mountain Dew. Check out the cool DRAGON DEW bottle below... 

mmmmm... Mountain Dew. 

At least Blizzard and Bungie figured out that GAMERS PREFER MOUNTAIN DEW.

What I wouldn't give for a Savage Worlds can of Red Bull... 

Or a Deadlands bottle of Jack Daniels... now that would be aweshum!

February 19, 2010

Felix Sundown Finds Twitter @FelixSundown

It's an experiment - but we've decided over at Nevermet Press that Felix Sundown is, basically, going to be the official mascot of Loaerth & Feywyrd. We kicked off the first article about L&F by interviewing Felix. Now we hope to continue exploring L&F development organicaly by having people interact with Felix, asking him questions, and following him on Twitter.

Wondering what I look like? Head over to Nevermet Press and find out! There's even a video!

Its a great way to help shape the L&F campaign setting - just ask Felix questions, or make suggestions. He's all ears.


February 17, 2010

Diablo III Female Barbarian Revealed

Yeah. That's just scary awesome. Finally a female character type in a cRPG that is not some dainty, lithe runway model look-alike. Thank you Blizzard. A chick tank is what the doctor ordered.

There's also a bunch of videos of the barbarian kicking zombie ass over at the Diablo III development site.

Unfortunately, the game does not have a release date yet - but I've been keeping tabs on its development. It's been fun to see the sneak peaks from Blizzard during the development process. Can't wait for the Open BETA...

I don't really have much more to add other than

It's going to kick ass.

February 15, 2010

How to Get Started Playing Fantasy RPGs With Savage Worlds

There's been a lot of continued rumblings about Savage Worlds in the RPG blogosphere over the last year or so - especially for some reason around the time that 4E D&D was first released. Although Savage Worlds has been out for a couple years now it seems like it has picked up a lot of steam - I mean, just check out the list of 3rd party publishers who are supporting it as a game system. Top this off with all the great products that Pinnacle has produced using Savage Worlds, and you have a huge list of nearly 250 games, supplements, and adventures to play using SW.

But players can't experience everything - so you are forced to choose. My first games with Savage Worlds were using Deadlands Reloaded, which I've been playing in for almost a year. It's been great fun - and a very different feel than D&D. Combat is faster, and the story seems to progress faster as a result. The players all seem to be (at least in my group) more engaged or connected to their characters as well. But Deadlands is a completely different genre than D&D - cowboys and zombies, Indian shamans and steam punk mad scientists. So - the obvious question I had was "How much of the fun is due to the genre, and how much is due to the game?"

I've decided I want to make a closer comparison to D&D by playing a 'fantasy' style game using the SW rule set. I then discovered I was once again faced with a huge number of options, the first of which was should I play a packaged campaign setting (e.g. Hellfrost, 50 Fathoms, EverNight, etc) or play even closer to stock D&D where the setting is a generic one such as Nentir Vale. I decided on the latter choice, which is what led up this post and this important question:

What Savage Worlds resources would I need to get started playing a stock fantasy campaign?

Well, here's the list of things organized by FREE and followed by things that will cost you something.

  1. Download the Savage Worlds Test Drive Rules (link to version 6 PDF) from Pinnacle. The Savage Worlds rules are generic, and the Test Drive Rules provide a free way to get started with the game regardless of what genre you are playing. It gives you most of the core mechanics of the game, along with plenty of options to start a campaign without the infamous "buy in".
  2. Pick up the (incredibly awesome) Tomb of Terrors Bundle (also free and available here). It that bundle you'll get
    • The (excellent!) Wizards & Warriors PDF - a set of options to play fantasy using Savage Worlds. A couple of new races and edges are included.
    • Tomb of Terrors adventure - a spin off of similarly named classic D&D adventure. Visit Grognardia for more about that.
    • Fantasy Character Sheets
    • Treasure Cards (magic items) for players to use in the adventure
    • Figure Flats (paper minis) to use with the adventure
    • Miniature Tiles for combat
  3. Grab the Fantasy Shark Bites Fanzine. Shark Bites is a free, community developed fanzine aimed at supporting all the variations of Savage Worlds. Two important PDFs were released that support fantasy genre games:
    • Shark Bites Volume 4 - Fantasy Issue. In this bundle you'll get  two PDFs - one for players and one for GMs. The GM's PDF (pictured at right) is 36 pages and includes four short adventures, a collection of magic items,  a bunch of awesome NPCs to pit against your players. The Players version of the PDF includes rules for Wuxia Kung-Fu Fighting Styles,  new powers, spells and rituals for sorcerers, a gallery of new magic items and trinkets, a generic system for fantasy religions and gods, and several new (but strange) races.
    • Shark Bites Volume 4 - Fantasy Extras. This bonus bundle includes a 21 page adventure and a collection of stock NPCs (called Extras in SW parlance). 
  4. Bookmark the Savagepedia - and poke around for new races, powers, monsters, and everything else!
Now, if you are willing to spend a little cash on the real game - then you'll need the following:
  1. The Savage Worlds Explorer Edition ($9.99 from Amazon). For people coming from D&D - this is like "the core rules". It includes all the base material needed to play SW for any genre, and for less than 10 bucks - it's hard to say no. You can also pick up the PDF version of this from RPGNow.com for the same price, so you're better off just buying it in print.
  2. Savage World Fantasy Companion ($19.99 from Amazon). Now, here's thing - I don't own this book myself (or the PDF version). Instead, I picked up the SW Fantasy Toolkits (see below) which have a fair amount of overlap with the slick printed Fantasy Companion Book.
  3. Savage World Fantasy Toolkits (available as PDFs only). There are three toolkits: Character Generator (read:Players Handbook), Bestiary (read:monster manual), and World Builder's Guide (read:DM's Guide). You'll spend about 10 or 15 bucks on each of these - so if you are a player, just pick up the Fantasy Companion in print instead.
So, next to nothing $30 you can be well set up to create whatever fantasy campaigns you want using Savage Worlds. You'll also have a fair number of adventures to kick off your campaign. 

But wait - are you unwilling to try it because you just love your existing fantasy campaign setting so much? Well - fortunately for you there's a huge list of conversions that people have been working on. Just hope over here and check it out!

If you decide to play a fantasy style game using Savage Worlds - like I have - then leave a comment and let me know! How does it compare to D&D for you?

Once I get my SW fantasy campaign up and running in full (perhaps set in Loaerth) you can be sure I'll be blogging about it here on TCM. So, stay tuned!

The Forge - Four Name Generators That Rock

I recently stumbled on The Forge, a fantasy name generator that uses "A massive database ... of over 2400 fantasy words and names, totaling up to 20 million unique combinations." The flash based app has four styles of naming mechanisms: all purpose; beasts; spells; and place names. Awesome!

I've been a big fan of the 90's style Behind the Name and The Seventh Sanctum websites for years - but neither of these can touch how cool The Forge is. Not to mention how useful! It rocks! It's definitely going to be my premier go-to site now for name generation needs. Hopefully it will stay online for a long time to come.

Plus, the website of the developer behind The Forge is engrossing. I think I spent close to 20 or 30 minutes just exploring his site.


February 14, 2010

Get 33% Off Open Design's KOBOLD Guide to Game Design, Vol. 1 (PDF)

Quick FYI for readers of The Core Mechanic -

Using the special link below you can get a 33% discount on Open Design's Kobold Guide to Game Design, Vol 1. in PDF format. The offer expires February 23rd - so grab it while it lasts!


It's an excellent book. You can see what I thought about in a previous post, "3 Books To Improve Your RPG Game Before The New Year".

A print version of the book is also available from Amazon.com.

February 12, 2010

World Building with Loaerth & Feywyrd (2)

Once again something small has grown to consume a big part of my free thinking time. World Building, as a topic in general and more specifically how it applies to Loaerth & Feywyrd. I mentioned in my last post that I plan to develop L&F just enough to serve as a creative foundation for a new campaign without going overboard. I'm currently thinking about RACES for L&F, what are they, what "stock fantasy" races (if any) should be included, where do they live in Feywyrd now and where were they originally from in Loaerth? That sort of thing. But detailing everything is a waste of energy, but the temptation to do so is (for me) hard to resist. I do, however, recognize this is probably me channelling my professional career as a scientist ("everything must make sense", "all the interdependencies must be explored", "there must be a reason for everything", etc). It's like the magic rabbit hole from Alice in Wonderland... once you go down there you'll never be coming back.

So, in the short term my medicine to avoid going down the rabbit hole is to do a ton of reading on world building. The problem is there is a metric ton of stuff on world building out there in the Internet wildelands, but not all of it is worth your time.

I've collected a list of relevant books, articles and other online resources I've read, tuned specifically to world building and race creation / demographics for now. Hopefully you'll enjoy the articles as much as I have.
  • "World Building", by Julie Ann Dawson from Bards & Sages, is a PDF/eBook that was developed from a syllabus of a world building seminar she ran at SUNY. It's only 16-pages in length, but for less than $1 I couldn't resist. It ended up being worth 10 times that in terms of what I got out of it. She basically covers world building in five parts: develop a clearly defined logic; Open, Closed, or Limited Access worlds; developing the logic; build the civilizations; and creating the crunch. As a long-time D&D player, my tendency was to do the last part first (the crunch), but she makes a strong argument against that approach and I'm better off for having read it.
  • "Four Maxims for World Building" by B9anders over at Strolen's Citadel. While I disagree with the authors assertion that you should avoid detailing things the players will never know about [1], the rest of his post made sense to me for L&F world building.
  • In "Four Easy Steps To Omnipotence", Drew Karpyshyn (Senior Writer for Mass Effect) lays out another four 'maxims' of world building. Common theme here? Yes: start small, stick to your common theme, be internally consistent, and use real world (or familiar) hooks to pull the player in.
  • "World Building 101: Races" by Brandon Landgraff over at d20Source.com takes existing "stock fantasy" races and recasts them onto your unique setting. Although this is not necessarily what I was looking for, the article nonetheless proved useful because Brandon reminded me of the (often overlooked) issue of Culture vs. Race in fantasy settings: they are not the same thing [2]. This article is part of a stellar series of World Building 101 articles by Brandon, worth checking out and bookmarking no doubt.
Again, there are TONS of resources out there on the net about world building - but hopefully these above links will get you started with some different perspectives.

If you have any other links that might be worth checking out - please leave a comment and let us know!

[1] I subscribe to the Tolkien, Donaldson, Hebert iceberg approach: 90% of what is known to the author is never seen by the reader. This is also why I'm so terribly affraid the whole L&F project could run aground if I get too caught up in the details.
[2] It is actually one of the things that bugs the hell out of me with the stock version of D&D: all dwarves live underground and drink stout for breakfast; all elf's love trees and are frilly wine drinking dandys, etc. You get the idea. It's one of the reasons why HardBoiled Cultures for 4E D&D is such a great resource.

February 9, 2010

World Building with Loaerth & Feywyrd (1)

As some of you may or (more likely) may not know is that I've started putting together a lightly developed campaign world called Loaerth over at Nevermet Press. The goal of the project is to build a campaign setting that is essentially an empty slate, while still giving the GMs (and the folks over at Nevermet Press) with just enough hooks to play off from for interesting new content and great adventures. Some campaign settings are so over developed that running an adventure in them often runs into Me vs. The Canon [1]. So, with Loaerth I want to develop it just enough so that I can get to the really fun part - a full blown adventure set in this new world. The way I see it, this is probably the best way to introduce this world to players without setting out to define everything under the setting suns.

So, here's the thing. I'm new at world building. I've done it a few times, but not in quite this way or on this scale. So, I'll be writing about my reading and research on world building here at TCM. I figure, this blog and the great community of readers that frequent this site are a great sounding board; you all no doubt have far more experience with this than I - so, I would be wise to get your input whenever possible.

My first steps in designing Loaerth & Feywyrd were to come up with a good hook. Sort of, what makes L&F different from the next setting. Take one part steam punk, one part fantasy, add a dash of manifest destiny, hit the delete key on "elf", and then click the undo button, and finally sprinkle some bonafide demihuman race wars on top - and viola: you have Loaerth and Feywyrd. You can find out more about what I'm talking about over on Nevermet Press. The way I'm decided to engage people in developing L&F's "mythology" is through a series of fictional interviews with Felix Sundown, an escaped feytroll who was the thrall to the Regent of Loaerth for centuries. So far, no one has taken a bite - but I'm hoping that will change.

The other first step is to design a map to place the relevant locations in; a world map that I can drill down on to a tiny scale to add detail where needed. I'm using Campaign Cartographer plus Fractal Terrains to design the world - it's relatively infinite zooming features makes it a very nice tool indeed. You can see the basic landscape layer of the world above. Thankfully, I'll likely have the help of Nevermet Press's resident cartographer Paul King to help add details where they are needed, but the goal is not to define or develop everything under the sun - only the content which we develop on NMP. The rest will be left either completely open or only very lightly commented on. The first area's I'll be adding some detail to will be Loaerth City and The Island, which I'll place on the above map in the future.

[1] This happened to me tons of times with Forgotten Realms. My players and I all loved the setting, but I also loved tinkering around with it so much that at times it became a nuisance . There's were often very long lists of house rules and changes to the Realms' history and politics.

Label Interactive to Release GameTable for iPad

It seems like the obvious is already happening. See point #3 in my previous post about the iPad.

Thanks to a tip from IGN, I found a link to Label Interactive, a company developing interactive games for mobile devices: like the iPad.

As you can see from the picture above - just imagine replacing those checker pieces with miniatures. The iPad GameTable App will be a great platform for RPGs if they develop the app with that in mind.

Just thinking about the possibilities makes me want to pre-order one...

If they do make this app useable for RPGs, would it temp you to buy an iPad?

February 5, 2010

Open Game Table Vol. 2 Peer Reviews Update

Its been a few weeks, but I just wanted to let the readers of The Core Mechanic and fans of Open Game Table to know that the review process is entering it's fourth and final week. The super secret panel of peer reviewers have, thus far, submitted nearly 600 reviews (!!!), and I hoping to reach 900 by next Friday in a final push to the finish line.

Once the peer review process is over, it's possible I'll host a last minute second round of reviews to cover any nominations that were not read by at least two reviewers. So, stayed tuned!

I also want to reiterate my previous Open Call for Artists. If you are an illustrator or graphic artist and you have an interest in contributing to Open Game Table, then please contact me as soon as possible so that I can add you to the list of contributors. Once the final reviews are done, the Open Game Table editorial board and I will be making the final selections to be included in the anthology. After that, participating artists will be asked to illustrate B&W line art specificly inspired by the blog posts themselves. This allows the Anthology to showcase both the best talent in the RPG blogging community, as well as highlight the skills of up and coming artists looking for a means to gain exposure.

February 4, 2010

Nevermet Press Not Dead Yet

In case you missed it, check this out:


Yes, its true... the struggling small press endeavor that Michael Brewer and I ventured into together last July is still kicking. In fact, we managed even get a bunch of very talented and enthusiastic writers and artists to stay with us as we figure out this whole crowd sourced micro press gaming mashup thing called Nevermet Press. With this latest post - it is my sincere hope that we will be able to get up again and stand on two feet. Which of course, will be followed by us shaking our fists at the Dice God screaming "We made our save vs. die, BIATCH!"

So, head over to NMP and add the RSS feed to your feed reader, or follow NMP on twitter. We'll be aiming to have our development journal blog updated at least three times a week - and we'll be looking for your (i.e. gamers at large) input.

In the meantime, you can support our efforts at Nevermet Press by picking up a copy of our first eBook, Portrait of a Villain: The Desire, for less than five bucks! It's a 57 page Heroic Tier supplement for 4th Edition D&D - and it's worth every penny. Check out the reviews on RPGNow.com too!

Game on!

Jididanondaidtopa - My Son's First RPG Character

Last month, I reviewed a game called Faery Tales, an RPG aimed at introducing the hobby to kids. My son, age 5, and I have been slowing reading through the introductory book together. He's genuinely interested in playing, dispite the absence of light sabers, lego batmen, or sponge bobs - which is encouraging. We haven't really started playing an earnest campaign yet - but we have been talking about his "character" and what he does and what his abilities are.

And this is the part that cracks me up.

His faery character is a sprite - the only stock sword and board style faery you can play in the game. I asked him to write down his character's name and to draw a picture of him. The result was a total genre mashup of faery + things that explode + ninjas + cookie cutters (?!). I'm at a loss of words, so I'll just leave you with the snap shot of his illustration...

I added the inset descriptions with the arrows, according to my sons description. "Exploding Sword that Throws Bombs" is priceless. And yes, the character's name is Jididanondaidtopa. I have no idea what the heck that is supposed to mean. And no, "there's no nickname daddy - you have to say the whole name every time..." 

I don't know if i should be proud, scared, or both...

February 1, 2010

The Cons of the New "D&D Encounters" from Wizards of the Coast

a.k.a. "Re: Blogosphere Shitstorm Brewing".

Last week I posted some off the cuff thoughts about the D&D Encounters organized play program that WotC is planning on launching next month. Much to my pleasant surprise - some other bloggers reacted to my post (Oddysey, Trollsmyth, and Keosdad).

What really surprised me though was that I received a direct email from someone (not listed above) with the subject line: "Re: Blogosphere Shitstorm Brewing". It was a short email - intended, I think, on "clearing up" my misunderstanding of youth - or something like that. For some reason, this email particularly bothered me - not because it carried the tone of "hey dude - let me tell you how it is because I know how it is and you obviously don't" - but because the person who sent it was so easily PO'd by point #5 from my initial post.

As if... somehow... I have forgotten what it was like to be a teenager full of nerd rage

I replied, of course, trying to find out what exactly I wrote that was so "stereotyping" or offense, etc... but I didn't know what more else there is to say. But then it hit me! What I need to do is write about the CONS of the D&D Experience organized play program. Perhaps then, everything can be cleared up...

The Cons of D&D Encounters
  1. Table Top Role Playing Games Will Become More Popular. Why is this a con? Well, there's only so many table top gamers out their in the world - and with a program like D&D Encounters, D&D will be played everywhere from hobby shops to book stores, baseball parks to birthday parties, clown conventions to shopping mall food courts. WotC is creating an EVENT. An experience (whatever it is). How could the indy RPG market compete with that?! They can't! They just don't have the market force. All they can do is keep cranking out more adventures, more supplements, and more hippy story telling games to play with their kids. That's it. It's the classic RPG cycle where, once a player owns the rules, they don't need anything else to play. It seems, however, that the 800 lb gorilla might break the cycle and actually manage to put dice back in the hands of millions of confused gamers after all. But that's a bad thing... No, really, ... it is... I mean, those gamers should be playing WoW or EVE anyway. They are simply not qualified to play RPGs. They probably don't even know what "neo-classical games" are. (Oh wait... niether do I...) Maybe instead we should just make a couple of RPGs out of the video games and see what happens. Oh... that already happened.
  2. Grognards will be PO'd. Why would grognards even care? Because the new D&D Encounters is going to perhaps compete with Warhammer. Reduce their beloved dying game to a miniatures game once and for all. "How could they DO this?!? Kick the D&D Brand when it down why don't you WotC!!" And kick they have. to the curb in fact.
  3. Trendy OSR Gamers will be PO'd. It's true. All those trendy counter culture gamers who love the old days of save vs. death and 10 foot poles will now loose all those potential converts. I mean, how can the drooling masses of gamer consumers resist the glossy red boxes of the new D&D RED BOX (for 4th Edition)? The awesome DIY S&W White Box has no chance!
  4. Hippy Gamers will Rejoice. Yeah.. that's a big con. We can't have the Nobilis freaks out there rejoicing that D&D is finally dead. I mean... how can these two games both be called role playing games? What will we tell the children!?
  5. Teenagers Don't Need Sex Education Classes. We are kidding ourselves if we think that teens give two rats asses about role playing games or D&D Encounters. They will, in all likelihood, think it's some kind of wierd game to teach sex education in gaming stores. Think about it: role playing + encounters. Plus, William Shatner will probably kick their asses for caring about D&D anyway. And then they will change their minds. And cry. A lot.
  6. The Bitching and Complaining Will Be Endless. Yep, that's what will happen. As soon as D&D Encounters get rolled out... I can see the headlines now: "Player's and DM's Colluding on Renown Points", "FLGS Fined For Corrupting Youth", "Pokemon Players Brawl With D&D Players At Local Hobby Shop", or "Borders Signs Exclusive Organized Play Deal with Hasbro. Grognards Stage Sit In to Protest."
Exciting times we live in... exciting times...

** I should footnote this post and point out that it is purely hyperbole and for the sake of humor. Except the part about neo-classical games; I still don't know what hell that is supposed to be other than some sort of bourgeois intellectualism about RPGs **