What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
Castles & Crusades Players Handbook - 7th Print Edition

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Links to Josh's "4 Step Resolution System"

Yesterday, I wrote about the "4 Step Resolution System" which Josh Sherrer had put together. Tonight, I am pleased to share the links to the material.

One link is straight to PDF (click to view or right click to 'save as') and the other is a ZIP which contains an ODT (Open Office) version of the text. The material is Open Game Content and this version are considered Beta/Playtest documents.

To the PDF file

To the zipped ODT file

Enjoy!

M

Ballista Update

About 6 weeks ago, I gave more insight on the Ballista Rules Companion I was putting together (Feb. 17th to be precise). I've hit a couple of snags along the way as far as design and writing is concerned but this is something to be expected. Actually, I'm relatively on track with the progress and where I might be behind in one section (I broke down the design and writing into three phases), I'm finding that I was able to make a bit of headway in other sections. The only thing I am behind on is the initial playtest introduction which focussed on character generation. By now, I had anticipated that I would have started some of the online testing and would be getting ready to start testing other aspects of the system by early April (which is pretty much next week).

However, barring any serious problems encountered in playtesting when it does start, I don't foresee a huge impact on when I figured I'd be finishing this up by. Besides, this is entirely my own work and it's not like people have pre-paid any money for this thing. Where did I get this initial time frame? Besides judging the work that still needed to be done, I really wanted to release the Ballista Rules Companion within a few weeks of the AD&D reprints. Apparently, WOTC has bumped the release of these to July. Guess this means my little book will likely make it out before the AD&D reprints if my luck holds out. :)

The website and/or this blog will get a redesign in the days ahead and I should have fixed dates for the playtests for the first stage and details on how to get in on it. With Easter around the corner, these will start sometime *AFTER* Easter weekend.

M

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Different Task Resolution System

For people who play or have tried Castles & Crusades, they will know of the mechanic TLG has termed the 'Siege Engine'. This pretty much unifies within a d20 type game saving throws and skill checks together and functions primarily with the designation of a couple of key attributes as 'Primary'. When rolling a check, you effectively get a +6 bonus if the skill or save is associated with an attribute which happens to be prime. On top of this, you account for a level bonus and any attribute bonus when applicable. The system doesn't do 'opposed rolls' and the modifiers to the difficulty are usually determined by the HD or level of the opponent Pretty simple and a lot of people like it (I do) but some have their issues with the system.

The reason I bring this up is because I recently had the privilege at looking at an alternative that tries to address a couple of problems which people have had in the past with the Siege mechanic. Josh Sherrer, who also uses the handle of 'Julian Grimm', has put together a document for an alternative which has a lot of merit. Early on, I had expressed an interest in this work and he has been kind enough to provide me with earlier drafts which I was happy to give some feedback on. Now, he's about ready to release a 'playtest' version of this and once available, I'll be sure to provide a link here. Of course, you can also check out his gaming blog, HERE. Now, I was interested as both a fan of C&C as well as someone who is also looking at alternative skill/resolution systems for my own games. Josh's system is nice and simple and easily adaptable for C&C or other game one may prefer.

As far as the system goes, it also does not rely on opposed rolls but instead of having a myriad of different 'potential' target numbers, you basically have only four (he refers to it as the '4 Step' system). These are basically difficulty levels and go from Easy to Very Difficult. As a GM, he selects the appropriate level (tweaks it if necessary) and that's pretty much it. This is best for 'situational' challenges but if you need to factor in level or HD of the opponent, guidelines are given for that as well. If you are a wizard trying to do an 'un-wizardly' thing (in other words, the wizard thinks he's the world's greatest thief), then the difficulty gets bumped an extra level. If it's a really easy task... JUST PUT THOSE DICE DOWN (no roll necessary).

It's that simple and elegant as a result.

As far as saving throws go, you can do much the same and he suggests a couple of options ... a three save model similar to what D&D 3.x introduced (Fortitude, Reflex, Will) or a two save model (Mental and Physical).

The drafts I looked at also presents a couple of other optional components which just helps round this out as an alternative system but all in all, it's worth checking out if you happen to find the Siege system (or whatever system your preferred game uses) not exactly to your liking. Check back for an update once links are available.

M

Monday, March 26, 2012

John Carter

As I mentioned in my previous post, I managed to see the John Carter movie this past weekend. In short, the movie was good and I enjoyed it very much. Sadly, it isn't getting the sort of attention that it rightly deserves. This is an adaptation of the first Barsoom book entitled, "The Princess of Mars" written by Edgar Rice Burroughs and the Hollywood treatment here is actually not at all bad. Yes, there are changes between the book and the movie and the movie doesn't go cover everything the book does nor is the movie without its additions. However, it does work.

I love a good story and I think anyone who loves role-playing games do as well and movies are an excellent medium to tell a story. I don't pretend to be a movie critic but I know what I like. Unfortunately, the past few years, I have found liking some of the film offerings I had been looking forward to less and less. My biggest disappointment in the past year was the newest 'Conin' movie (I paid good movie to see a movie involving 'Conan' but apparently it involved the exploits of a barbarian which a lot of people were calling Conin). It had good visuals but, the story (or the bits and pieces stuck together that claimed to be a story) was a jumbled mess. I've begun to suspect that ADD is becoming a serious issue in the movie industry or maybe they just really think the audience is too stupid to follow the basic premise of a story and plot development.

Sorry... my ranting is starting to get the better of me but I hope some of you will get my point. All you have to do is compare the Sherlock Holmes movie that came out 2-3 years ago to the recent sequel from the past year. Compare the two and you will see a general trend with some of these movies.

John Carter is currently being hailed as a box office flop and I find this is really unfortunate. Why though? People haven't exactly been waiting in line to see the movie. Sadly, a large percentage of the audience today don't know who the hell 'John Carter' actually is. Others may have a bit of a clue on who Edgar Rice Burroughs is but, once again, probably not if we ask the average Joe on the street. On the other hand, they will know who Tarzan is so I guess there's that at least. The marketing for the movie has been terrible from what I have seen -- which really hasn't been much. Posters about some guy named 'John Carter' won't elicit much of a reaction because, the average person don't know who he is. The trailers sure didn't help ... while the biggest problem with the typical movie trailer is that it shows too much, I wonder if this trailer can be accused of the opposite? It shows little to nothing and doesn't give the average viewer proper context. Why is 'John Carter' cool and why is he leaping around like a super hero that looks like a barbarian? It should be noted that the wife who did not know who John Carter was thought it was some sort of Conan ripoff from watching these same trailers. Of course, there was the whole naming thing. Some studio execs clearly thought that naming it 'The Princess of Mars' might not be a good idea nor would it be wise to even have 'Mars' in the movie title. Great move...

As for actual film critics... none have really praised the movie but the biggest slam is that this sort of thing has been seen before. Comparisons might be made with a whole slew of movies, including those particularly famous ones that George Lucas is best known for not to mention some of Spielberg's work. Who do you think they read when they were younger.

No... the movie is decent and the book is a great read. While it might get yanked very soon to make way for a more 'profitable' movie, if you are curious and would like to see it, it's pretty cool on the big screen. If you have seen it and like it, spread the word because right now, most people tend to think of it as a disaster without knowing anything about it and that's a shame. Better yet... if others give it a chance, maybe they'll turn to the actual books and read it. While I won't go and say it's a great movie, it's one that I had fun with and would be willing to see again -- even pay theatre prices to see again. Of course, not too hard these days since my next big 'must see' movie is the Avengers anyways.

I had no problems with the humor added in and not in the book... I thought everyone did a good job playing their respective roles and I thought it was fun. It was also a movie (and reading the book helped too) which has renewed an idea to run a Sci-Fi campaign. As for as inspiration goes, what more could you want? :)

M

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Weekend R&R: Space 1889

Frank Chadwick's "Space 1889" come out on the market shortly after I starting my journey with Dungeons & Dragons and other practically all other pen and paper based role-playing games. I don't think there was any game available back then which I wasn't fascinated for one reason or another but there was something really cool and different about this one. Sadly, it quickly was eclipsed by other games which resulted in GDW publishing and supporting the game for just three years (1988-1991). GDW of course, is better known for Twilight 2000 and, of course, Traveller. Nonetheless, there was something very cool and evocative when I gazed upon the cover and, subsequently, the pages of the book. It would be many years before I finally got my hands on a copy and it's been a few since which has permitted me to go through he book several times. It remains a game that I haven't had a chance to play and never got around to running myself.

This weekend, I've pulled it out again have starting checking out parts of the book largely due to John Carter. I finally got a chance to see the movie (and I'll write about it in the next day or two) and I finished reading the "Princess of Mars" early last week. While the setting for Space 1889 is pretty cool in it's own right, adapting the system for a Barsoom campaign in the same time period that the series would take place (give or take based on preferences) becomes an easy task.

The Space 1889 system is, thankfully rules-light enough to prevent one from possibly being deterred from doing so and character creation is one that I rather like. Of course, it would be pretty simple to port the skill and attribute system to something like the d6 system (Star Wars) since it's really the skills and careers system which really shine IMO. Detailed just enough but streamlined nicely and rules light ready. Of course, I don't find the Space 1889 system perfect by any means, but it gets the job done. While the book gives basics of ship to ship combat, I'm not sure I like how it handles aspects of this combat scale (when both characters and larger ship to ship combat take place). That's just a minor quibble though. As for the rules themselves, the book is really meant to be read and not just consulted. Once you have done so, the game becomes fairly simple to understand and play with the majority of tables you might need located in a just a few pages at the back of the book.

Now, my copy of the book has seen better days but it's a sturdy book with a selection of color pages within a book which mostly uses black and white line art. It's 218 pages in all and despite its initial lackluster reception when first released, it's still available now. Frank Chadwick retained the copyright to Space 1889 and reprints and newer material has been published by Heliograph. You can find more information HERE. You can also go to Noble Knight Games where a used copy of the GDW hardback would set you back around $35 (give or take based on condition) or you can get the newer Heliograph reprints for around $25 (MSRP of $29.95). PDF is *way* cheaper where a bundle of everything GDW published will run you about $40 (13 books of varying page count) or for $50, everything (17 books of varying page count). At the very least, for $7.95, you can get just get the core book as a PDF. Not too shabby at all -- even if you're just curious.

Space 1889 mentions and is clearly influenced by the writings of Jules Verne, HG Wells, and Arthur Conan Doyle. When I finally do run my own game, I will count Edgar Rice Burroughs as an additional influence.

On the other hand, if you are interested in running a Barsoom campaign with good ol' OD&D (or preferred retro-clone), you can also always check out the unofficial 'Warrior of Mars Supplement' hosted by Jason Vey at one of his sites (http://www.grey-elf.com/) or you can get it directly HERE.

M

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Music & Gaming

When I'm having some friends over to do some casual board gaming or when I have my players sitting around the table ready to continue the campaign I always have some music going in the background. On a day to day basis, I submerse myself with it -- I'm fortunate that the work I do permits me to do so. I guess it's only natural that this will carry on through my own games.

Of course, the musical selection is a lot more random when it comes to just regular gaming but I do tend to be a bit more deliberate with my selections when running my rpg games. Don't get me wrong, I typically don't script moments and have a pre-made playlist which I go through at various queues or anything. But I have thought about it. I mean, who doesn't enjoy a great soundtrack in a movie where the music just 'fits' so very well? To do it in one's game is a bit of a pain though.

No, my musical selections for my games might be anything from other movie soundtracks (the 300, the Lord of the Rings trilogy were a couple of favorites) as well as music by groups like Rhapsody or Led Zeppelin (a cliche but hell, it's Zeppelin). Sometimes it might be something more aggressive or more melodic depending on the overall theme of the session. I've used game soundtracks as well (Assassin's Creed, Guild Wars, and Halo) depending on theme once again. It might be classical music one session and death metal the next. If the music doesn't quite fit the theme of the game I'm running, I'll just turn the music down lower just to have it in the background but never loud enough to detract from the game I'm trying to run.

Right now, I've stumbled upon the group 'Gregorian' and I'm surprised I hadn't heard of them before. Concept is simple: Gregorian Chant meets contemporary music. I'm sure I can use a bunch of this stuff in the background for some of my games.

I know some people prefer silence in their games (save from the participants) and they may go to unusual lengths to achieve such an ideal. My take is that we there to have some fun and as long as gaming happens, the occasional distraction will be tolerated. The thing is, my players have found that music in the game helps bring a bit more focus in the game -- and oddly enough, occasional levity in them too.

M

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Votes are IN

A week ago, I held a little poll regarding preferences in terms of future C&C related releases coming out of Arcana Creations. Aside from the voting, some of the thoughtful commentaries that have been left on my blog and a couple of forums regarding this issue have also been taken into account.

To those who participated and left me a few words and concerns regarding this issue, I thank you.

Oddly enough, I believe I have collected more comments than votes here but the results are fairly one-sided. The question asked was:

When buying an adventure module, which print format do you prefer and if the format differs from your preference, would this deter you from purchasing it?
70% of voters preferred the regular sized format with some of those voters not willing to compromise on this preference (20% of the total vote). The remaining 30% preferred the charm of a digest but would be willing to buy regardless of the physical format.

The comments were a bit more telling though with people liking the regular sized format because they were most practical at the gaming table for reference and readability. There was love for digests in the comments I received but part of this was the convenient size for the purposes to using an ereader or 7 inch tablet to view the material. I do like the look of a digest product (and it does make it easier to ship) but I almost get the impression that any love of digest over regular, physical copies seem largely due to aesthetics.

In the end, I can't argue with the numbers.

The next release and future releases will be regular size for all our C&C products when they go to print. Accompanying this will be a PDF (as usual) which will follow the same page format (Letter Size). However, since a few people mention it and because I do love ereaders, I intend to release an version with it specially formatted for them. I don't quite know how exactly the details on how this may pan out -- it might be very light on the art and just supply the necessary (text plus maps) in order to be usable in the most basic ereader. The point is, it will be something we will do and give along with the regular PDF version of the release. (Oh, and if buying direct, you get the electronic versions for free when ordering the physical print copy).

Once I have a better idea how the ereader version is working out, I will let you all know.

Thanks again!

M

Monday, March 19, 2012

Weekend R&R: AD&D Module I11 - Needle

When reading the various blogs I follow, there was an interesting post HERE on technology (found on the Tartarus Press blog). This post like many others that have been written elsewhere talks about the interesting and occasional blend of 'futuristic technology' in the fantasy game. A couple things come to mind when I see this:

1) Sci-Fi and Fantasy can be a lot closer related if one just knows where to look or what to read.
2) I11 - Needle

Frank Mentzer wrote what I consider to be an unusual gem of an adventure when 'Needle' was assembled and published in 1987. I was fascinated by the module and it was one of the first in the Intermediate Series (I-Series) I bought and I ran it as soon as I could which did take a couple of years so that the party were of sufficient level. It wasn't till many years later that I learned that this was originally set up as a three-part tournament module for GenCon back in '84. What I also find interesting was the subsequent shift in newer materials published after 1987. You see -- technology plays a small and mysterious role in this module as other modules TSR published for AD&D and D&D before it but a lot of that seemed to disappear entirely with 2nd Edition. That's not to say there was a heck of a lot but it helped D&D stand out from 'regular' fantasy in some ways. Tolkien never introduced a laser pistol in his books but that didn't stop it from happening in published campaign modules for D&D.

I have always found that there was a certain charm to Needle though and, in essence, it isn't a complicated adventure but, by the virtue of its original design, nicely divided into three sections which can be played continuously or even broken up over a series of other adventures and events if the DM so chose.

In part 1, the party is sent on behalf of the king to explore the ruins and 'magical' obelisk of a far-away land. This part includes traps, puzzles, a maze, and an encounter with technology -- all which culminates in being able to lower a force field protecting the obelisk.

In part 2, the party is ordered to assist in the retrieval of the obelisk and, as they are forced to deal with the harsh conditions within the jungle, they also have to contend with the natives which are becoming a problem.

In part 3, the obelisk which is now in the king's possession begins exhibiting strange properties and a doorway or sorts opens up at its base. Guess who the king decides to send through. ;)

Now, some people genuinely don't like this module since it's a bit too quirky. Add to that the fact that the doorway is a portal to the moon where you mean a lot of super friendly, intelligent, giant, talking, spiders who are willing to engage in trade negotiations provided the party can prove themselves. Something about defeating a special dragon in order to free some friends. That bit *might* be a bit much or a bit too weird but I find it genuinely worked!

My players had fun with it and despite the module having boxed text for reading to the players, I didn't allow myself to be constrained by it and had fun role-playing the spiders (known as the 'Chak')

Now, I've always like Frank Mentzer's stuff and I really enjoyed his influence which is so prevalent throughout the BECMI box sets and his material really represents a specific era for TSR and D&D -- at least for me. Up to a few years ago, WOTC was even offering the electronic copy of the module for free. Sadly this is no longer the case. One can maybe hope that with the limited reprinted of the 1st Edition books coming out VERY soon that they will (at least for a limited time) re-release all that material including I11 once more.

As for finding a used copy, well the good news is that it isn't the most sought after module. The bad news is that prices tend to start closer to $15 these days for a used copy which some may find a bit pricey for a 48 page module which originally retailed for $8.

But I like it and I think I'll be running it again at some point in the near future!

M

Sunday, March 18, 2012

CONTEST: Adventure Anthology

Regarding the Submissions:

  1. Submissions are to be no more than 8 pages in length (single spaced at no smaller than 10 pt font) and fantasy-themed for use with Castles & Crusades

  2. Each submission may not have more that 1 of either a new creature, new magic item, new spell, or the like. In all other cases, please restrict material used to what is found in the C&C Player's Handbook and the C&C Monsters & Treasure books

  3. Game Mechanics: Please be concise but specific.

Example 1: SKELETONS x5 (AL N / HD 1 / AC 13 / 1x1d6)

Example 2: SPIDER, LARGE x1 (AL N / HD 5 / AC 16 / 1x1d8+Poison)

Example 3: TRAP – PIT (CL 1)

Example 4: LOCKED DOOR (CL 2)

  1. Maps submitted with the scenario do not count against the page count.

  2. Scenarios need to be designed for either parties of characters of levels 1-3 or for levels 4-6

  3. Deadline for submissions is Saturday, June 9th 2012 at midnight (EST)


Prizes:

Of all the submissions received, six (6) finalists will be selected by a panel of judges comprising of myself and two other people (yet to be named). The finalists will have their submissions polished up and included in an Adventure Anthology to be published later this year.

All participants will receive a PDF copy of this Anthology. All finalists will receive a Perfect Bound copy of the Anthology along with the PDF. The winner receives the option of either a $50 gift certificate from either Noble Knight Games -or- RPG Now! along with physical and electronic copies of the Anthology.


Regarding Rights & Permissions:

  1. The Author acknowledges that the submission is original and has not been published in any form. To the best of the Author's knowledge, it does not infringe any copyright or other actionable right, nor does it contain any defamatory material.

  2. The Author recognizes that the Arcana Creations has the right to edit, adapt, and revise the material for purposes of publication.

  3. Copyright: While the published product (art, layout, trade dress, etc) is the property of Arcana Creations, the Submission by the Author will always remain copyrighted in their name.

  4. Publishing Rights: The Author grants Arcana Creations and its partners an exclusive, worldwide license to publish the material in any written or electronic format for two years from the date of the contest deadline. Attribution to the Author as well as the copyright notice of their material will be maintained throughout the work.

Entries need to be emailed to: arcana777@gmail.com with the subject as ADVENTURE ANTHOLOGY SUBMISSION. Please be sure to include your full name and title with the submission. ODT and PDF formats are accepted but if you have a submission in a different format, please ask before sending it.

By sending in a submission for the contest, you acknowledge that you are bound to the conditions outlined in the rules of the contest. Best of luck!

M

Lagging Behind this Weekend!

I'd like to say it was a bit too much R&R or blame it on St-Patrick's day but sometimes, you just run out of time. :)

My weekend R&R is still in 'drafts' for this week but it will be up for tomorrow evening.

In the meantime, the post which follows will be for the contest I alluded to on Friday.

M

Friday, March 16, 2012

Suddenly Quiet?

I've been considerably busy the past couple of days. As most of you know (or assume), I have a regular 9-5 type job but thus far in 2012, I've managed to keep up on the blog and I'm having a blast doing so. I've got projects lining up nicely as I 'plan' what will be my workload for Arcana Creations for the next couple of months. This week, a few things related to C&C and current projects have taken a bit more than the usual attention. In short:

- It looks like the Domesday is going to be revived.
- Arcana Creations will be holding an adventure writing contest.
- Arcana Creations has an artist lined for the next C&C release.

I've also had a very fruitful discussion with Brave Halfling Publishing with what they are doing and producing in the months ahead. Admittedly, if I hadn't been to the Van Halen concert last night, I may have gotten even MORE done this week. ;)

I will revisit all these things in the days ahead on the blog here and provide a few more details where I can but needless to say that I'm very exited. In the meantime, I've been keeping up with a few new blogs and one that I've really enjoyed that I've just started reading is 'The Howling Tower'. In particular, a couple of posts he made this week (HERE and HERE). These posts are very interesting from the standpoint of the 'evolution' of the D&D game and the cyclical problems with the pen and paper RPG publishing industry. These are problems for large scale publishing efforts so all of us trying to chisel a niche in our spare time have nothing to worry about. It's interesting none-the-less, especially when one happens to be reading "Designers & Dragons" (Great book BTW).

I've also noticed that the One-Page Dungeon Contest is running again this year (HERE). Now I saw this after I started talking about the contest idea I had but, I don't think there will be any impact. One thing is that the deadline for this is the end of April and mind will be considerably longer (closer to Free RPG Day I think). That said, I may throw something together just for fun.

More later...

M

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

FOR SALE - HUGE Star Wars D6 Lot

Ok... over the past couple of months, I had a couple potential buyers for this but neither worked out. I've decided to see if anyone is interested on the forums.

This is the classic Star Wars RPG developed by West End Games and I would *love* the opportunity to see to fan or someone who is curious about what made this game so great. These are the books in the lot and they represent 32 titles in all - 10 hardcover and 22 softcover:

- Best of the Star Wars Adventure Journal: Issues 1-4
- Classic Adventures – Vol.1
- Dark Empire Sourcebook (HC)
- Dark Force Rising Sourcebook
- Death Star Technical Companion
- Fantastic Technology: Personal Gear
- Fantastic Technology: Droids
- Galaxy Guide 01: A New Hope
- Galaxy Guide 02: Yavin and Bespin
- Galaxy Guide 03: The Empire Strikes Back
- Galaxy Guide 04: Alien Races
- Galaxy Guide 05: Return of the Jedi
- Galaxy Guide 06: Tramp Freighters
- Galaxy Guide 07: Mos Eisley
- Galaxy Guide 08: Scouts
- Galaxy Guide 09: Fragments From the Rim
- Galaxy Guide 10: Bounty Hunters
- Galaxy Guide 11: Criminal Organizations
- Galaxy Guide 12: Aliens – Enemies and Allies
- Gamemaster Handbook
- Han Solo and the Corporate Sector Sourcebook (HC)
- Heir to the Empire Sourcebook
- Imperial Sourcebook (HC)
- Jedi Academy Sourcebook (HC)
- Last Command Sourcebook (HC)
- Rebel Alliance Sourcebook (HC)
- Shadows of the Empire Sourcebook (HC)
- Star Wars Gamemaster Screen
- Star Wars Miniatures Battles – Man-to-Man Combat
- Star Wars Roleplaying Game - 2nd Edition (HC)
- Star Wars Sourcebook (HC)
- Truce at Bakura Sourcebook (HC)

Please note that most of these are in great shape and none are in bad shape. Now originally, I was selling the lost for $175 (locally) and then I brought the price down to $160 (also local). Anyone here that is willing to take this lot off my hands can do so for $150 USD. SHIPPING IS INCLUDED!

Yes, you read that right. I'm in Canada and will ship to anywhere in the continental US and obviously elsewhere in Canada. Shipping would not be cheap and would easily cost me $50+ and it might have to be shipped in two boxes instead of one! For the sake of trivia... these stacked represent a FOOT of gaming material! ;)

Other thing to be aware of is that the rule book is the original 2nd Edition blue cover... not the 2nd Edition Revised book.

Now, I'm not in dire financial circumstances -- I'm just been had these set aside to sell for a long time. I still love d6 Star Wars but I still have and decided to keep only a handful given how often I actually play in the setting. I just no longer need to hold on to the other 32. :)

Anyone interested can email me at arcana777 AT gmail DOT com.

Which reminds me, I really need to put an email link somewhere on my blog!

Thanks and don't forget the poll I'm running! (see right column)

M

EDIT - SALE IS NOW PENDING AS IT LOOKS LIKE I HAVE A BUYER.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Random Updates

Well, it seems like I'm doing something right. Readership on my blog seems to be up and I've even received some offers from a couple of people looking to freelance! Add to that that things are actually getting done and I still find the time to squeeze in some blogging and I'm pretty happy all around...

What's next for Arcana Creations?

Well, obviously work continues on Ballista but while I'm placing a higher priority on that, it is probable the the next C&C module will be coming out around the same time frame (give or take). Let's face it, an adventure is much easier to put out than a rule book and the only thing that might be a bit time consuming is the layout. Thankfully, I don't do the art -- just slot it in (assuming there are no problems with it). I haven't actually commissioned the art yet for it but will be looking at doing so in the next week or two. Mapping is a whole different beast as I'm the one that does these too. This is something I enjoy though it probably takes me a bit longer than a seasoned artist. But the results speak for themselves if you've seen the maps included in the "Trick on the Tain". The title for this C&C release is "Hide in Plain Sight" and I'm conservatively slotting this for a second quarter release. I do have a big question when it comes this this C&C release and future C&C scenarios that Arcana Creations releases.

Digest or Regular size?

There are clear advantages with both though one of the biggest reasons why Arcana Creations shifted to full size releases earlier on was to get stuff into brick-and-motar stores (which did happen in small quantities upon initial release). For the purposes of general use, I'm not sure what people prefer overall. Personally, I use PDF on a my tablet or to print out sections of the adventure I'm running and my physical copy of the module is left on the shelf.

So, my question is two-fold readers:

Which format do you prefer and if the format the material is printed in differs from your preference, would this deter you from purchasing it? Feel free to comment or simply find and vote in the poll on right column.

M

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Weekend R&R: City of Brass

The earliest time I saw mention of the City of Brass in AD&D was the article penned by Ed Greenwood entitled "From the City of Brass to Dead Orc Pass". This article was found in the pages of Dragon Magazine in May of 1980 but was reprinted (where I first read it) in the Best of Dragon Magazine - Vol.2. Since that point, I had seen mention of it over the years in a couple of products inspired from "One Thousand & One Nights". As cool as it was, it was not something I ever delved into and when Necromancer Games brought out this wonderful looking box set, I initially passed on it due to pricing. It was not until 4th Edition D&D was announced that my FLGS decided to try and clear some of the d20 material which included a host of products from Necromancer Games.

Now Necromancer Games was a game company I grew to like very quickly but, was one I came upon after I put 3rd Edition behind me and started playing C&C. I started acquiring some awesome looking adventure modules as well as some books such as "The Tome of Horrors". The company's motto was '3rd edition rules, 1st edition feel' and they succeeded very well with what they put out over the years. Sadly, due to restrictions of the Games System License for 4th Edition D&D, the "City of Brass" represents one of the last products that Necromancer Games produced.

The set was initially priced at $70 and, even at the discounted price (it was half off), I chose to pass on the set. Instead, I picked up a copy of the "Wilderlands of High Fantasy" boxed set and the "City State of the Invincible Overlord" hardback. Together, those two set me back a mere total of $50. If you are at all familiar with NG's treatment of the Wilderlands here, you know and understand the deal I managed to get! I went home with my purchases but, I really started to second-guess my decision to pass on the "City of Brass". After considering it, I went back to the store that very same day and dropped another $35 for it. Sure, it proved to be an expensive day but, we are still talking about a $90 savings in total!!

I got back home, and then came the unboxing. The City of Brass was a *heavy* box set but as far as quality is concerned, even at full price, it would have been worth every penny. Between the 4 books in the box set (1 of which is a map booklet), you have about 500 pages of material. The box set used is of the sturdiest and highest quality that I have seen in any other RPG box set (save NG's Wilderlands Set which is the same type). Simply beautiful...

But what is the City of Brass? To quote the description at RPGNow:
City of Brass. The name conjures visions of magnificence and splendor, of mystery and timelessness. A place of wonder, a fable, an enigma, a magical fortress adrift in a sea of flame under a sky of fire, a fantasy and so much more. A bazaar at the crossroads of the universe, the City of Brass has long been rumored amongst mortal folk to be a repository of relics both fantastic and foul. Here is a place where your greatest dreams and worst nightmares may be granted you with a Wish if the price is right.
As far as content goes, the box set is just full of flavor and a represents a setting which can be used and explored for years in your campaign. While I wasn't sure of the use and appeal initially, there is enough material and ideas to spark the imagination and create a desire to play with it. The first book details the city and region (in the inner planes as far as D&D cosmology is concerned) with the second book continuing to detail areas and providing adventure material. The third book is really where the majority of the crunch is found which, as mentioned before, is 3rd Edition. The third book isn't a complete waste though as there are 100 adventure seeds given towards the end of the book. Still -- this would have been easily half the size if the crunch were done for something a bit more rules light. Of course, this also means the the first two books, representing 240 pages is largely stat-less and usable with pretty much anything. The last book, or rather booklet, gives maps for the setting. While only around 24 pages, it does the job but the set has no other maps of any sort (no fold outs).

I really don't think there could exist a better treatment for the mythical City of Brass and the only improvements that could be made would be to further customize it to better fit other systems -- something which will never happen of course. It's certainly a great product but to use it for a game other than 3rd Edition makes it harder to justify full retail price. Looking at Noble Knight games, they have a couple used copies selling for $70 and a new (still in shrink) copy selling for $10 more. You can buy the PDF copy for $40 and they offer POD softcover options (a single softcover as opposed to a box set of 4 books) for $70 making the pricing out of whack for something like this. If you see it marked down, it is worth considering (especially if you are as lucky as I was) as it is a very nice set.

Now, while I have gone read various bits of the set on and off the past few years, I sadly have yet to take my players to this setting but I had planned to after a time spend in Freeport (one of my campaigns anyway). I look forward to the trip.

M

Fandom and Fan-atics

It's been a couple of days since my last blog entry and there has been a whole bunch of things happening. Some good and constructive and others less so. Sadly, because we are all fans of our respective games for a whole variety of reasons, we can all get very passionate about these things. From time to time, lines might be crossed. I have read other gamers stay away from a particular game because fans of said game were to fanatical. Regardless of the game, we have all seen it.

This causes two things: Assumptions on a game based on nothing but hearsay and being lumped in a group as a whole because of what behavior is being exhibited by other fans of the game you happen to be involved in. None of this does anyone any good.

All one has to do is consider is the label: TETSNBN (The Edition That Shall Not Be Named) and the disdain that *some* people refer to it. Not everyone does it and that's still nothing to a term like '3tard'. Take a step back and look at that and some might think that to be a bit infantile.

We all have our opinions and the internet is a large vehicle that enables us all to blatantly voice them. I'm not a fan of 4th Edition though 'hate' wouldn't be the word I would choose. Despite multitudes of 3rd Edition / d20 material I own, I typically use those books to mine them for material for the games I do prefer to play. I thought Spelljammer was AWESOME but can't accept any Star Wars RPG other than the original WEG version.

Bottom line: I'm not going to tell you what you should play or shouldn't. I'm not going to judge you if you actually like 4th Edition but I admit that I could be bewildered by such a proclamation. In the end, we all play the games we do because we enjoy them. Invariably, you'll find people that share your opinion or, will not. Simple. But if we are all gamers, we should all try to have a minimum amount of respect when decide to share our opinions. Doing so would be like 'good sportsmanship'.

Now I'm not going to go in the specifics of any one incident and a public apology has been made to the most recent one I witnessed earlier today. Hopefully everyone involved will take something from this and we can move on to better things.

Thus ends the 'negative vibes'. Now for the good --

Some people have been receptive to what we've been writing about. There are a few that understand we want better fan-created efforts and involvement. I've proposed an idea and if it takes off, I'll post it here (it's a contest). In any event, people have gotten to talking so we'll see where it goes.

M

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Support and C&C Fandom

Josh over at Tartarus Press posed an interesting question.. you can his post HERE. In essence, he asks what happened and is there any way to turn it around.

Big questions and he covers some of the issues quite nicely. Also thanks for the compliment with regards to the material we produced for C&C -- I do pride myself with the fine work I put in to those adventures and I always tried to improve upon the last product I did. But to the question at hand.

I don't think it was one particular incident that led to dwindling fan supported material. I think it was a combination of factors. The biggest problem with the C&C Society was that very few shouldered the burden of keeping it going. Fewer were willing to tackle the responsibilities of providing direction but this was largely a problem of having spare time. At the time, when some members stepped down from leading rolls, I even offered to take on some of the responsibilities. Unfortunately, I was never given the opportunity. The material for the last issue of the Domesday zine was passed on to someone else and TLG was to push on with some of its own initiatives for the Society. One of the things TLG believed in (for the Society) was to use it as a vehicle to spread 'C&C' by members doing demos and in-store sessions of the game. They supplied members willing to do this with materials (known as the Harbinger box set) to facilitate this. It was (and still is) a great idea. Sadly, the society putting together material for the sake of putting out material ceased to be and those member who were most prolific have gone on to do other things.

When all of this came down, TLG and their product line was in a bit of flux and actually has been for the past couple of years. In 2009, they released the fourth printing of the PHB which was a bit expanded and featured a couple of key revisions. 2009 was a decent year with a few big releases -- very important with the loss of the Trigee license at the end of 2008. However, 2010 saw fewer key releases with the most significant book being the "Monsters & Treasure of Aihrde". While there were other cool releases in 2010 such as "Fields of Battle" or "Harvesters", 2011 had even less although the one product of note last year was the long-awaited "Castle Keeper's Guide". Sure, there were a bunch of other adventure modules over the past couple of years as well but nothing to really support the core game. I'm not necessarily thinking this is entirely bad though ... all you have to do is to take a look at the multitudes of books for Pathfinder or 3rd Edition D&D. People just won't keep re-purchasing the core books once they have them so these models require constant supporting material for the game. Adventure modules also only sell so well since that is the one thing that enterprising GM's don't mind developing themselves. In any case, less big titles coming out for C&C means a reduced interest in some cases simply because it isn't in the forefront anymore.

Arcana Creations and Brave Halfling Publishing also noticed a steady drop in sales for our C&C related material. The biggest seller was the first C&C release but each subsequent C&C related release has fewer sales interestingly enough. And this was before Arcana Creations fell off the radar in 2010 and 2011. I had always planned to do more and I still am actually but I also have to weigh general interest as far as numbers are concerned -- especially if I have to concern myself with an art and production budget.

Now all of this isn't just doom and gloom. I really think TLG is trying to turn this around. The stuff is selling and not just through direct sales -- it's just not Pathfinder or D&D. Last year's release of the CKG did give it a good bump and TLG has three big projects lined up to be released in the first two quarters of this year (one of which I recently reviewed). Arcana Creations will be putting out at least two modules this year for the game and pretty much all the material which will be included in the "Ballista Rules Companion" can be used with C&C.

TLG just needs to keep focused in order to remain relevant and hopefully it will be enough to bring committed fans back to the fold and they can do their own thing and just play the game. And, while I remain hopeful, Arcana Creations will diversify in case C&C continues to falter amongst the fans as they more on to explore other gaming options.

M

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Save ... or Else!

Time and time again, the question and relevance of the idea of rolling and making a save with the consequence being death will pop up. Those who follow multiple blogs will have already noticed the topic come up elsewhere in the past day or so. There simply is no right answer and we should accept it as such. The heart of the issue is not whether a character can die so indiscriminately in a campaign based on single, it's been about the style of game being run and the motivations (or rather purpose) behind that game.

Consider this: What matter most for the campaign? The story itself or the (player) characters that make up the story?

If the goal is to tell about the varied stories of a city, dungeon, war, or whatever, and this happens to be the focal point regardless of who interacts with them, then the characters don't really matter. That doesn't mean we won't get attached to them but the focus will be just to see how 'the big picture' and the GM's vision unfolds. In this case, the GM clearly has a tale he wishes to tell but the importance on the participants are less pronounced. Players roll with the punches and learn to travel in greater numbers. More importantly, if it is an engaging campaign story, then the players will want to see how everything ultimately unfolds.

However in other campaigns, the characters are also the vehicle for the story being told. An untimely death of a key persona could grind the campaign to a halt. Sure... there is always danger and an element of chance in well run and evenly matched combat and sometimes the dice aren't doing the players any favors. But in those circumstances, does the campaign really need a death as 'random' as a save-or-die roll? This is not to say that the characters can never die in these campaigns but there is a sense that death should be more poignant and meaningful if it should visit the party.

I've had the pleasure of playing in campaigns where the story and some of the of characters were intertwined profoundly. Long term campaigns. A focal character met his death and it did come to a simple die roll in the end. While it was well done and an awesome story moment, it also affected the campaign thereafter. And you know something? An incident like this SHOULD. Unfortunately, it had the effect of completely stalling the campaign and story being told for months and pretty much killed the campaign. The problem was that the story and this particular character had become *too* intertwined but, at the same time, there was the knowledge that a single die roll was to blame.

I am certainly not against in running a campaign where this sort of save-or-die can happen but I don't allow it the luxury of being overly common nor allow it to sabotage the story or the enjoyment of group at my gaming table. Characters have died in my campaign and there ARE consequences for stupidity but being curious is not a mistake. While the Tomb of Horrors is a favorite of mine, this is not the usual thing players expect from my campaigns.

So... whether there is no right or wrong answer regarding the issue of Save or Die saving throws, I think any GM should consider the nature of the campaign being told -- is it 'story-centric' or 'character-centric'. Chances are, it will likely affect how *you* roll in your games.

M

Monday, March 5, 2012

Review: Classic Monsters - Part 2

One of the biggest criticisms that a segment of the C&C fans have laid at TLG's feet deals with missed opportunities. From the very beginning, they have had to contend with fans who wanted C&C to be a just a clone of their favorite game and then there were those who wanted something more. In either case, the general consensus has always been that C&C was simple and adaptable enough to use older, 'classic' gaming material as well as newer, 'modern' (read d20) material. The other consensus (for some) was that TLG wasn't doing enough to support the core of the game.

Well, I feel that "Classic Monsters: The Manual" is a step in the right direction. Not only should it please fans who loved the original Monster Manual I and II books but the Fiend Folio as well. The author, Kim Hartsfield, takes a look and updates these classic creatures for use in C&C. Over 200 entries can be found in this book spreading across 144 pages. Actually, the critters themselves occupy just over a hundred of these pages. The Introduction and a general 'How to Use' section takes up 4 pages, and the index takes up a full 31 pages.

You may ask, "Why are there 31 pages for the index?"

Simple. The 'index' is a complete summary listing of all creatures along with their stats from the 'Classic Monsters' book as well as the original 'Monsters & Treasures' and the 'Monsters & Treasures of Aihrde'. This easily makes the index one of the best aspects of this new book.

As for the rest of the book, the essay on 'Monster Creation' in the 'Introduction' is a nice enough read and the creatures which adorn the majority of the pages are standard fare and is what one would expect for a book on monsters. In fact, the book will hold little surprises for those who have gamed well before Castles & Crusades was first published. I expect there will be some that will compare previous iterations of certain creatures by consulting the d20 'Tome of Horrors' by Necromancer Games or consulting the original Monster Manuals and Fiend Folio in order to see how these new versions actually stack up. Even I will be tempted to take a look at some of the entries as I have had to create C&C versions of these for works published by Arcana Creations. The Giant Crab, Selkie, Giant Centipede, and Huecuva are four examples of the top of my head (and this from just two modules!). I suppose this is one of the issues here when you think about it. Was this book actually necessary?

The book is certainly convenient and, it could make my job as a third-party publisher of C&C material easier (provided they correct some of the OGL related issues uncovered in the pre-release PDF version). However, a lot of people who use C&C undoubtedly also have access to a variety of other published work which can be just as easily converted and used for their games. I have run a few 1st edition modules and used the stat blocks pretty much as-is. I've done the same with d20 D&D modules. I have many books I can draw from which would only require the minimum of tweaks to use it for my personal C&C campaigns. On the other hand, it's nice to have a book which is readily available and in print for my gaming needs. No fuss at all. Of course, there are those that don't have or no longer have all these other books. People will want to use this book for different things.

As for the presentation of the book itself, it keeps the look of the recent books such as the latest printing of the 'Monsters & Treasures' book. The art style is typical of what you will find in the newer printings of the C&C books with some pieces being more 'sketch-like' than others. Art is a very subjective thing but it's consistent enough throughout and there isn't any one piece I dislike. There is one aspect of the layout done which I am not happy with though. The book is presented in two columns which is fine but there are instances where the stat block (as opposed to the description) is 'cut' and split at the bottom of one column to resume at the top of the next. Worse yet, at least a couple of instances has this across two pages! Now, the issue is not a terrible one but they seem to have managed to avoid this sort of issue in the past so I was genuinely surprised to see it. Who knows though, maybe this too will get fixed before it sees print.

Don't get me wrong -- I do like the book and I can't wait to see the 'real' finished product. If you are a C&C fan and run a game, should you buy the book? I guess in the end, you have to ask yourself what kind of C&C fan are you. When you first heard about a new monster book for C&C, did you wish to have more classic monsters that you know and love or would you want to have a book of brand new, never-before-seen monsters to throw at your players? Do you want to keep you C&C game to be more like the older games that inspired it, or would you rather go 'your way'?

For what it is, I'm generally satisfied with it and retailing at $24.95 for a hardcover edition, you are still getting value for you dollar compared to the typical cost of a gaming book today. For what it is, there is little else that this book 'needs'. One thing I would have liked to see included was the handful of critters found in 'Of Gods & Monsters' included in the appendix but that's just me. And, as usual, this is a product from TLG and thus never quite perfect. The quirkiest thing I found with the book was the decision to include the Cloaker. I find this odd since the original M&T for C&C also has an entry for the Cloaker. We probably don't need two but I chuckle when I think that they are also both listed in the Index.

When I do finally get my physical copy, I'll post a little something about it and see if there are any substantial difference with the PDF I have now and the version that ends up going to printers. I'll see if I can include a couple of pics as well. I just wouldn't expect them anytime this month!

M

C&C Classic Monsters Problems

Well, first off, it looks as if there will be a delay in the physical product getting into the hands of those eager to get it. With the PDF being released to those who pre-ordered it, it quickly became apparent that there was a series of problems with the text and specifically how things tied in with the OGL. As it stands, many of the monsters should have different names than what they currently have (you can see a the list in Part 1 of the review). This is simply to address the issue that the majority of these creatures are not in the original SRD provided by WOTC. Others were sourced from 'The Tome of Horrors' from Necromancer Games. As it stands, the OGL nor the text can be considered in its final form. Fortunately, this was caught by a fellow Crusader and TLG (Steve) has been aware of the issue and writes:

Many of these monsters had name changes that didn't get put in the book...on a quick glance it looks like some of the original text got put in the book. What a jumbled mess.

Looks like Todd has some cross referencing to do and we have to find the original text!

Thank you most kindly for catching this before it goes to full print (I have the proofs in front of me right now). I had set this book aside and out of my mind...won't be doing that again.

Well, it looks like (at the very least) the list of names will be changing though, in essence, those are the critters you'll be seeing in the new book. As far as the name changes go, it won't be the first time that TLG does this. In the original 'Monsters & Treasures' book, they had a creature that was largely inspired by the Carrion Crawler, a monster with is deemed as Product Identity by WOTC. They have a similar creature which is named a 'Flesh Crawler'.

Now, with this in mind, I will go ahead and review the product anyway... Read the next entry for Part 2 of the review!

M

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Review: Classic Monsters - Part 1

Before I posting my review on this new C&C Book, I thought I'd start off by providing a list of the critters one will find in this book before looking at any specifics. The actual review will feature in Part 2. Any typos of the creature names are likely my own since I merely typed out the entry names. Enjoy!


- A -
Achaierai - Adherer - Aerial servant - Afanc - Agathion - Aleax - Algoid - Alkonost - Al-Mi'Raj - Animal Skeleton - Ant Lion - Apparition - Ascomoid - Assassin Bug - Atomie - Aurumvorax - Avia - Azer

- B -
Babbler - Badger (Ratel) - Baku - Banderlog - Barbegazi - Basilisk, Greater - Bat, Fire - Behomoth - Behir - Berbalang - Blindheim - Blood hawk - Bloodworm - Boalisk - Boggart - Boggle - Bonesnapper - Boobrie - Booka - Bowler - Buckawn

- C -
Cadaver Caterpillar - Carbuncle - Caryatid Colums - Caterwaul - Catoblepas - Cave Fisher - Centipede, Giant - Cloaker - Clubnek - Coffer Corpse - Cooshee - Crab, Giant - Crabman - Crimson Death - Crypt Thing - Crysmal - Cyclopskin

- D -
Dakon - Dark Creeper - Dark Stalker - Death Dog - Death Knight - Demilich - Denzelian - Derro - Devil Dog - Dire Corby - Disenchanter - Doombat - Dragonfish - Dragonnel - Draugr - Drelb - Duergar - Dune Stalker - Dustdigger

- E -
Ear Seeker - Ebalis - Elementals - Lesser Elemental (Ash / Dust / Ice / Lightning / Magma / Mud / Radiance / Salt / Smoke / Steam / Vacuum) - Grouzal (Prince of Evil Earth Creatures) - Jumkin (Prince of Evil Air Creatures) - Palhyd (Prince of Evil Water Creatures) - Roog-Ar (Prince of Evil Fire Creatures) - Enveloper - Ethos Muse - Executioner's Hood - Eye Killer - Eye of Fear & Flame

- F -
Firbolg - Firedrake - Firesnake - Flail Snail - Flind - Flumph - Fomorians - Forlarren - Frost Men

- G -
Galeb Duhr - Gibberling - Gig - Gorbel - Gogimera - Gorilla Bear - Grell - Grim - Grue

- H -
Hanman's Tree - Haunt - Hippocampus - Hoar Fox - Hook Horror - Hound of Ill Omen - Huecuva - Human Giant

- I -
Imorph - Insectus - Iron Cobra

- J -
Jaculi - Jermlaine

- K -
Kamadan - Kech - Korred

- L -
Lamia Noble - Land Lamprey - Lava Children - Luck Eater - Lurker - Lycanthrope (Werefox / Werehound / Wereshark / Weresnake / Werespider)

- M -
Magman - Magnesium Spirit - Mantari - Margoyle - Masher - Meazel - Mephits (Fire / Lava / Smoke / Steam) - Merrow - Mihstu - Mongrelmen - Muckdweller - Mudman - Myconid

- N -
Necrophidius - Needlemen - Nefarian - Nereid - Nilbog - Nonafel - Norker

- O -
Obliviax - Ogrillon - Ophidian - Osquip

- P -
Pech - Penanggalan - Pernicon - Phantom Stalker - Phoenix - Piercer - Poltergeist - Pyrotrice

- Q -
Quaggoth - Quickling - Qullan

- R -
Retriever - Revenant - Rock Reptile - Russet Mold

- S -
Sandling - Sandman - Scarecrow - Screeming Devilkin - Selkie - Shade - Shadow Mastiff - Sheet Phantom - Shelkerow - Shocker - Skeletal Warrior - Skulk - Sons of Rhealth - Spriggan - Squealer - Stone Guardian - Stun Jelly - Svirfneblin

- T -
Taer - Tarrasque - Tasloi - Thessalhydra - Thoqqua - Throat Leech - Tirapheg - Tween

- V -
Vargouille - Vegepygmy - Volt

- W -
Wemic - Wind Walker - Witherstench

- X, Y, Z -
Xvart - Yellow Musk Creeper - Yellow Musk Zombie - Yeti - Zombie, Monster


M

Friday, March 2, 2012

Quick Note About This Weekend's R&R

This upcoming weekend's R&R might be delayed a tad as I'll be out of town most of the weekend. Add to that the fact that I also got my hands on the PDF copy of the new 'Classic Monsters' book for C&C means I will provide a review on this new book as opposed to provided my reflections on a past one.

Have a good one folks!

M

Hey Wait A Minute!

Taking a closer look at those boxes I mentioned in a previous post and reading a bit about them elsewhere has led me to realize a mistake I made.

I honestly thought these were digest sized but they aren't. They are 9" wide x 12" long x 2 and 3/4" deep!

While it's really cool to know that these are full sized gaming boxes which means you can store your full-sized saddle-stitched modules or even some favored hardbacks, I think we now need a digest-sized option!! How else am I going to store those digest booklets!!

;)

Cool either way but I needs my digest boxes. Hopefully they will do well enough to justify a digest box run.

M

Boxes & Snow

The past week has felt like a slow one as I considered the various blogs I follow. Not much news in terms of new releases I personally would be interested with either. But I did see one yesterday of note:

Brave Halfling Publishing has released and started shipping the 'Old-School Gaming Boxes' featuring art by Erol Otus and, as a surprise reveal, a box featuring art by Pete Mullen! The boxes look great but there was one that I noticed which admittedly disturbed me in the pictures and the video so I address this question to John:

"John... WHERE THE HELL IS ALL THE SNOW!?"

;)

Montreal, Canada gets its fair share of snow (as does the rest of Canada) but it isn't the frozen wonderland that some people who live outside of Canada sometimes assume it to be. I've been lucky this Winter but it looks like this week we got a reminder that we *are* still in Winter -- not early Spring like previous conditions would have led us to believe. Plenty of snow covering the ground ... no grass of any sort. Now, back to the boxes...

The look great and, some of you may wonder what the appeal is about these boxes (aside from the cool art). Some of you may even consider the prices for the boxes a bit on the hefty side (I don't -- box sets are usually more expensive BECAUSE of the boxes). Why would people want these?

Well, it's no secret that segments of the OSR community have love the original D&D box sets... They were digest sized and we have seen many products and releases continuing in the digest format. It's just simpler to put together isn't it? Of course there is a convenience about the size itself. Over the years, I have collected a bunch of digest sized 'indie' releases. In order to protect them and not lose them, I tend to put them in digest box sets I already own. Unfortunately, I don't own many and the ones I do already have a bunch of stuff in them! A couple of this boxes would help me out immensely -- just the multiple digests that James Mishler put out before AGP closed its doors would easily fill one of these boxes.

If you are like me and need a slightly more elegant storage solution, be sure to check them out HERE.

M

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Continuous Campaigning

A bunch of us, if we are fortunate enough, have embarked on a campaign that has gone on for a long time. In some cases, this is a simple case of a group of players and their characters embarking on multiple adventures and quests throughout the years in a setting. Like a good series, there could be many stories told with various characters and circumstances providing the highlights when we look back upon them. However, like the mega dungeon, their can be adventures which will span a great deal of time. We have seen various mega dungeons published and we have seen entire campaign series published as well. The Dragonlance Saga (chronicling the Heroes of the Lance though a series of adventures modules DL1 though DL14) is one such example.

Now, much like Mega Dungeons, I tend to avoid doing campaigns with a long and involved story arc. I prefer smaller morsels of adventure but the call for something epic is a hard one to resist. The problem with these LONG campaigns where everything is tied to some sort of conclusion has been maintaining interest and focus for the players. Unfortunately, I have never been blessed with players that all want the same sort of thing in their game. I quickly learned a few years ago that the instant that a dungeon spans into multiple sessions, that a couple players tend to lose their motivation for the adventure quickly. These players prefer a lot more interaction with characters I populate the campaign with as well as politics and a game of intrigue. Of course, other players prefer to kill, kill, kill. They love the possibility of strategy and tactics and are genuinely interested in circumventing puzzles and traps. I have had to learn to balance the interest of my players as well as deliver smaller doses of 'story advancement' if I do decide to do something on a larger scale.

By giving pieces of 'critical' game of information slowly in a series of seemingly unrelated and unconnected adventures, I can bring all of these pieces together when I decide to focus on the larger story arc when the time is right. This way, I can do a small dungeon centric adventure one session and follow through with a wilderness adventure or city/political intrigue based one the next. The pieces I deliberately provide are seemingly not relevant or they are purposely highlighted and left vague. I know... it's kind of like hitting someone on the head with a sledge but, if playing for months (and years), it can actually work quite well. Ultimately, it is still up to the players if they choose to pursue a particular course of action or not. If they do, I also know that they are genuinely interested. If not, I can always file it away for later use.

With this method, I have been able to do a whole campaign based on Hommlet and the Temple of Elemental Evil but the campaign looked nothing recognizable with the material beyond the excursion to the moat house. The adventure was adapted to suit the needs and wants of the players. In fact, I merged portions of another campaign with it to give it a completely different spin. This was done in the course of a couple of years but now is on hold due to obligations and real life commitments of some of the players.

A year ago, I had also begun the Umbrage saga by Troll Lord Games but I took the axe to chunks of each module. The start of the campaign was also a complete success but that too has been on hold for a few months. I hope to start it up again soon or, adjust the campaign accordingly to move on without one of the players who is frequently called out of the country.

With Ballista in development and playtesting being needed, I'm thinking of starting up something anew just for the sake of gaming but I still don't know how to go about it. I am probably going to try something simple and do something to stitch these stories together but I really am in need of running a campaign again -- if only to provide a break from the work on Ballista.

Getting a game together is never too difficult but sustaining for something a bit longer term does take some effort.

M