Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Now THAT'S a Vampire

In addition to enjoying rpgs, I'm also a big movie fan.  More than that, I like reading about them.  One of my favorite internet sites is Ain't It Cool News.

I was about to turn off the computer when I came across this little gem.  Ignore all of the commentary if you choose, but take a look at that picture.  SURELY, there is some roleplaying inspiration in that photo!

Map Roundup - 27 October 2010

It has been a LONG while since I've done one of these, and I know that I have missed a lot of wonderful map-related posts out their in the blogosphere.  I am going to try to rectify that.

First, let's start with a post from the Greyhawk Grognard about some City of Greyhawk maps.  I really like the look of these.  Simple, black and white line drawn--right up my alley.  And here, he talks about a game called Tactics II, which I admit to having never heard of.  BUT the post does include numerous photos of a map of that game. 

Zak S is working on a new project and has started doing maps for them.  Here are two posts with some nice maps included: One and Two.  Better yet, he then goes on, in this post, to describe why he thinks maps like these are useful.  He doesn't say anything that hasn't been said before elsewhere, but his points remain valid.

A decent map will show the relationships (whether spacial or temporal) between locations in an adventure.  A better map will describe the relationships between locations.  The best maps will show those relationships as a baseline and include other information to make using them even easier!

Grognardia has a post about maps, specifically maps that may or may not have been created by Dr. J. Eric Holmes.  My only wish is that the maps be larger for actual viewing.  Oh well...


And now for something completely NOT about maps.  This really great blog has just come across my radar screen, and I really dig it.  I think that I'll be spending some time there, perusing the images.  Really cool!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

High Level Adventures

As seems often to be the case these days (and for very good reasons) Grognardia posted a question about the existence of high level modules (within a review of a low-level module) which led to posts and discussions all over this corner of the blogosphere.

Two posts which really interested me came from The Nine and Thirty Kingdoms.  The first is his brief reply to the Grognardia post.  The second, which is more interesting to me, discusses the idea of creating "modular modules for deeper level dungeons"--basically a dungeon level or sublevel that you could stick in your own dungeon.  I only saw this post thing morning, but it struck me because that very idea occupied my final gaming thoughts of last evening.

I really think that there is a lot of merit to this idea, especially for people who play in megadungeons.  If it truly is a megadungeon, then it stands to reason that there are areas that only get stumbed across recently--even if the players have traversed a certain area many times before.

I see a lot of advantages to this for the high level module designer:

1. There needn't be a plot hook of any kind other than, "And at the end of the passageway, you see a low archway surrounding by glowing runes in the ancient Glybdenarion script."  Or something like that...

2. If that is too simplistic, there could be a plot hook that draws characters into a region of the dungeon where they have not ventured before or a region that they thought had already been cleared of "interesting" things.  (In my personal opinion, a well-run megadungeon would never get cleared, as new monsters would move in to replace those vanquished, but it does make sense to me that the characters might believe that the 'cool stuff' had all been looted.)

3. Such a high level adventure benefits from all of the widely-acknowledged design benefits of dungeons--they limit choice (to some extent) and provide a self-contained playing environment where (most) of the variables can easily be controlled.

I think that this third advantage is the idea's biggest.  As has been commented about many times, high level adventures are difficult to do well, because many campaigns reach a point where politics play a role or events leading to a possible 'endgame' are occuring.  Inserting a random quest into a smoothly running plot can be jarring or perhaps just not interesting to the characters or the DM.  But inserting a dungeon level into a dungeon that is actively being explored is seamless.

Last night, I found myself thinking about dungeon levels that would be unique or interesting to high level characters that could easily be inserted into an existing dungeon.  Lots of ideas...  Now if I could just carve out some time and write one or two of them.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sweet Art

Thank you to Thomas Denmark of OEF for highlighting this little treat.  I have never heard of Down in the Dungeon before, but the art is fantastic.  Everyone who plays the older editions needs to see this work.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I Can List Them with the Best of 'Em!

Is there any point to discussing this phenomena?  I think that there is, but just can't seem to get my thoughts in order enough to do so.

I think somewhere it started with computer games, then someone decided to try it with boardgames, someone else said rpgs, then someone said games--of any kind.  Well, I'm going to expand the reach of mine, to not only include specific titles but more general games.  If that doesn't explain it adequately, you'll see what I mean when you look below.

Yes, you know what I am talking about: 15 Games in 15 Minutes.  Everybody and their Grandmother has done this now.  Well, now everybody and their grandmother and ME!

I'm listing these in the order that they come to me.  Theoretically, that implies some level of importance in my life, or gaming existence.  Or perhaps all that it really implies is some strange train of associations.  Let's see where it takes us, shall we?

1. AD&D - It's basically required, isn't it?
2. Risk - Almost another requirement.
3. Monopoly
4. Atari 2600: Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark - I never got into Adventure, but this one had some puzzles, some task resolution, and a bit of a plot.  I gotta say that I was damn proud the first time that I uncovered that Ark.
5. Atari 2600: Yar's Revenge - A CLASSIC!
6. Atari 2600: Demon Attack - A better and more advanced version of Space Invaders.
7. Atari 5200: Space Dungeon - Come on--a megadungeon in space!  And I never got close to completing all 99 levels.
8. Atari 5200: Dreadnaught Factor - A single fighter against massive starships bristling with weaponry.  Nice!
9. X-Wing (For PC) - This game single-handedly destroyed any chance of success at my finals first semester of my freshman year in college.
10. Axis & Allies - Wasn't introduced to it until college, but came to love it.
11. Payday, the boardgame - The thing that I remember most is its funky art, but I played a lot of it.
12. Life, the boardgame - Blue peg in a green little car.
13. Spades - Cause of many academic problems later in college.
14. Blackjack - Sit me at a table with a pile of plastic in front of me and time ceases to have meaning.
15. Pictionary - Say what you will about this one, but I've had tons of great fun with this.

After having typed that, I'm not sure how one led to the next, necessarily.  But at the very least, this little exercise has prompted all sorts of great memories.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wierd Fantasy and Bards

So I received in the mail a few weeks ago my (two, ha ha ha) copies of James Raggi's Wierd Fantasy Roleplaying.  I'm not going to provide you with a review of it, because, frankly there are a ton of them out there already.  I'm fairly certain that googling it would yield you a bunch of results.  Suffice it to say that I agree with most of the 'good' reviews that you have probably read of it.  (I may get around to posting more thoughts on it at some point, but none of my thoughts strike me today as so original that I need to type them.)

But what I have realized is that I want to produce gaming material for this game.  Of course, compatibility would be there, but his game has enough of its own personality that trying to write material for it would be a fun and interesting challenge.  Some of the material has been bubbling in my consciousness for quite some time and hasn't been inspired directly by his work, but other material is a direct result of reading WF.

Case in point: I commented here that I would love to write a bard class for his game.  Reading the majority of the other comments to that post indicate that most people don't care for the bard.  I don't really care for the AD&D bard (the version with which I am most familiar) but surely a class that relies on charisma can be of value in the 'wierd' world.

But how do you make the new class distinctive enough and wierd enough to fit into that game?  If you own the game, you understand that James worked very hard to make each class unique/useful/interesting (from a game mechanic perspective) in its own way: Only fighters get better at fighting.  Halflings have great saving throws.  Magic-users cast spells.  Etc.  What aspect of the bard do you formalize in a game mechanic to make it worth existing as a class?

Someone in the comments to that post said that, in their game, they added a few skills to the specialist skills list that matched their conception of the 'bard', thereby making the bard merely a specialist who allocated his points toward those skills.  That is one way to do it.  I had actually been thinking of also making the bard similar to the specialist, but instead coming up with several different skills that only the bard has access to.  Problem with that is you might then introduce new rules to account for or make use of those skills.  Not necessarily a big deal, but I don't want to start writing new rules for WF.

Perhaps a combination of spell-like abilities governed by a skill system similiar to the specialists'?  Or is that more of what I just said I didn't want to do?

Back to the earlier question of what does the class do in the game: Perhaps he makes his allies better and his enemies weaker, during combat or elsewhere, through wit, song, special abilities.  Does there need to be a wierd twist?  Not sure.

(Apologies for the stream of consciousness writing--sometimes I have to follow it to where it takes me.)

Case in point #2:  I like so-called 'Vancian magic' as much as the next old time D&D player, but how can it be made (beyond interesting spell descriptions) wierder?  And if not wierd for the DM, at least for the players.  I have some ideas.

There are other cases.  Things that have been sitting on the shelf waiting for a reason to make an appearance.  Perhaps WF provides the catalyst to get them rolling.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Two Takes

So, as I commented earlier, I am going to try to get back to posting a little more often.

I wanted to start by linking to two blogs, both of whom appear on My Daily Read, who have interestingly divergent views on a third blog article from several weeks ago.  It is fairly common for people in our little niche to comment on similar things, but I don't think I've ever seen a case before where two blogs that I follow but who do NOT exist in our little niche comment on something.

So for me, that was pretty cool.

Okay, so you can read this to see what people are taking about.  Then you can go here to see what James Raggi has to say about it.  Okay, he didn't say much, but his point is pretty clear.  Then you can go here to see what Jeff Vogel (of Spiderweb Software) thought about it as well.

For me personally, I'm not sure which side I fall out on.  I think my views are closer to Vogel's.  Of course, in the case of both blogs, there is great wisdom to be found in the comments following.

After considering it for awhile, I have come to this conclusion:  Ultimately, the kids like things that are similiar to what they are familiar with--at least in terms of what they are or are not able to do in a certain situation, i.e. a kid will like computer games that generally give them the amount of personal choice and options (or more) that they are used to.  If personal choice and options are less than what they are used to, other factors in play have to be amazing enough to overcome this.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


This whole blogging thing...


Nice thought, eh?  SO much could be said to finish that sentence.  Excitement, misery, rejection, acceptance--all sorts of good things.

But for now, a mystery:  You see, it has been my common belief that a blog attracts followers over time by regularly posting interesting articles, opinions, views, etc.  'Interesting' is subjective, but it has to be interesting to someone.  My thinking went that, if you don't post, you don't attract followers.

But for some strange reason, the last several that have signed up have done so during what has been my slowest posting period since this blog was started.  I've posted very little recently, and yet a few people have still wandered in.  Don't get me wrong: I am thankful and flattered but also a bit flummoxed.

Of course, the whole 'followers' aspect of blogging is a strange beast in and of itself.  I mean, what does it really mean anyway?

And now to change topics entirely.  I apologize for not posting more often.  Life has been extremely hectic recently.  I find that when I enter the blogosphere, I spend the vast majority of my time reading what is going on out there.  There are so many good blogs these days.  And so many interesting topics to comment on.  So by the time I finish reading all of my favorites, my limited 'me' time is up, and I don't have time to post anything of mine.  I am going to try to rectify that--wish me luck.