Wednesday, August 13, 2014

General Gamery: RPGaDay 13

Continuing my adventures in RPGaDay:

13th- Most Memorable Character Death
The most memorable death is a relatively recent death and wasn't one of mine.

A couple years ago, in Star Wars Saga RPG, I was gamemastering the Dawn of Defiance campaign for my friends. The group of  proto-rebels were deep in Imperial territory on Coruscant. And they were in the skyscraper fortress tower of the Inquisitors. As the tower began to fall, the resident scoundrel, Jaster, decided the best thing to do was to make sure his friends and the scientists they were sent to rescue were safe. Unfortunately for Jaster, despite securing everyone in pods that would inevitably keep them alive for the fall of a couple hundred stories, he had only his jetpack to keep him alive, and it was out of fuel. Jaster fell to the ground and several thousands of tons of building fell on him.

Heroic deaths are always the best in an RPG, and the group felt like it was missing something without Jaster, despite the fact that his player built a new character to keep playing. I've seen many other character deaths in my years of gaming, but Jaster riding a building down to his own end remains my favorite.

~Joe

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

General Gamery: RPGaDay 12

Continuing my adventures in RPGaDay:

12th- Old RPG you still Play / Read
Okay, once again, I have two. Recently I've been re-reading the old FASERIP Marvel Superheroes RPG and FASA's Star Trek Roleplaying Game- for similar reasons.

After working on Marvel Heroic, I've hatched an idea: I want my friends to choose their favorite Marvel characters. From there I will walk them through the introduction game for each version of Marvel roleplaying- from FASERIP, through SAGA, the horrible one with the stones (yeah- you know what I'm saying), and finally Marvel Heroic. Through each, they will play the same character and see how each system works. Ahhh, I can see it now... Dreadnoughts everywhere.. good times.

Similarly, I've been itching for a good classic Star Trek game. The old FASA game is needlessly complicated in the character creation portion, but I still think it's the best RPG made for the series. Plus, I loved the starship combat system that spun out of FASA's work.

~Joe

Monday, August 11, 2014

General Gamery: RPGaDay 11

Continuing my adventures in RPGaDay:

11th- Weirdest RPG Owned
This was an easy one. The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen. This game is hilarious. In a lot of ways, this storytelling game is fairly rules-light, but the whole book is narrated by the good Baron, himself. The players have to try to one-up each other with tall tales of heroism and derring-do. But the questions and obstacles the other players posit will force each player to step up their game, as it were.

Hilarity ensues.

I found this game by accident at a Gencon a few years back (mostly due to my love of Terry Gilliam), and it has been one of my favorite games to peruse, even if I don't get to play it.

~the Doc

Sunday, August 10, 2014

General Gamery: RPGaDay 1-10

I'm a little late to RPGaDay, but I'm going to play catch up today and lead into Gencon. Will I remember to post during Gencon? Probably not, but I might continue my Roll for Initiative posts from the front line.

But, as usual, I digress.

RPGaDay it the brainchild of David Chapman on his blog, and is meant to mimic Borough Press' #BookADay.

So enjoy.

1st- First RPG Played
My first RPG was Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. It was 1983, I was 8, and my neighbor, Sean, wanted to run a game for me and his two brothers. I believe my first character for his game was a half-elf paladin. But we followed that game only a week later with the old FASERIP Marvel Superheroes RPG (where I was Nightcrawler). The two Games started so close together, that they run into each other a bit in my memory.

2nd- First RPG Gamemastered
The First RPG I Gamemastered was probably Marvel Superheroes (FASERIP, oh yeah), though it might have been FASA's Star Trek or Dungeons and Dragons. I didn't start gamemastering for three years, as I rather enjoyed having Sean for a GM while I lived in New York. Instead, it was slowly introducing my friend Chris into his next lifelong obsession that made me the defacto gamemaster for a while, at least here in Ohio. Eventually, Chris took over those duties with a decades long game of West End's Star Wars RPG that morphed into D20 and Saga as the new systems reared their heads.

3rd- First RPG Purchased
Ah, the smell of dollars lost. My first RPG purchase was... well...incorrect. We were playing Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (Orange-spined hardback books of beauty, dice, and charts). But me? Well, my first buy was the Dungeons and Dragons basic rules set 1. I was eight! What did I know? Sure, it was the easier game, but it was not the one we were playing.

Little did I know.

Of course, it was only a few weeks later that my mother bought me the Players Handbook, Monster Manual, and Fiend Folio. By then, I was fully hooked.

4th- Most recent RPG purchase
The most recent RPG Product to grace my collection is the new Dungeons and Dragons Starter set. It is really nice and evokes the game that got me started in so many ways. And while I don't think it will replace Paizo's brilliant Pathfinder for my go-to fantasy RPG, it's a good product and great game regardless.

5th- Most Old School RPG owned
Ha! My collection is just that. I have books from my old AD&D days alongside the entire line form TSR's Marvel Superheroes and FASA's Star Trek RPG. By sheer age alone, I'd say the FASA Star Trek books are the oldest since they were released in 1982, but they entered my collection after the Marvel Superheroes RPG Box Set from 1984/5, which is in fact the first gaming product I bought of those still in my collection.

6th- Favorite RPG Never get to play
Without a doubt, Pendragon. I've read through the main rulebook 5 or 6 times and I love every word in it. It is the type of game I wish I wrote, but want much more to get to play. It's a tough game though, because if done correctly, lots of characters will die and the game will span generations. Which just adds to its awesomeness. It's just too big and involved for most players, or gamemasters for that matter.

7th- Most "Intellectual" RPG Owned
hmmmm.. This is a tricky one. By "intellectual" I'm going to go with a game that makes me think outside the box, or better yet, a game that makes you ask some tough questions. For this I have two answers. The first is a game by Luke Crane and Jared Sorenson called Freemarket. Besides some truly inspired gameplay, Freemarket makes you ask the question, what do you do if no one ever gets sick, gets old, or dies? And the other is my friend and Saturday Morning Games cohort, Jonathan's, game, Geasa. Like Fiasco, Geasa is GMless- some would say rudderless- game, but it is a great storytelling exercise with enough rules to make it interesting, but not so much as to pigeonhole you into a story structure.


8th- Favorite Character
For my friend Lucas' Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 challenge (which I aptly named Vecna's Knot for him) I played a goblin cook (rogue as far as class went) named Fester, hired by the party to keep them well fed on their travels. He was cantankerous, annoying, refused to do "roguey" things if they were looking, and was an expert with his kitchen knives. It was several days before the party realized he was using the same knives to kill as he did to cook- and even longer to realize he didn't clean them in between. But hey, kobold makes great "flavoring."

9th- Favorite Die / Dice Set
I would normally say it's some pretty FATE dice set or the special dice made for Pathfinder. But this year, I missed out on Origins Game Fair because my daughter, Jocelyn, was being born. My best friend picked up the Origins Commemorative Dice Set from Crystal Caste the morning she was born. Those hideous pink dice are my favorites. I will never use them, they went in Jocelyn's dice bag, but they are definitely my favorite.

10th- Favorite tie-in Novel / Game Fiction
Dragonlance. I'd go into more detail, but I did that already.

That's all for now, more as the week (and hopefully me RPGaDay continues).

~The Doc

Thursday, July 3, 2014

General Gamery: 30 years of Dragonlance

Today is Dungeons and Dragons day, with the release of the 5th edition of D&D, or D&D Next as it is called. This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the long-running, ever-changing game system. But as much as I love the imagination engine that is the ampersand of doom- and more importantly to me, the vast, innumerable game systems that have been created as a result or in spite of it- there is one aspect of D&D that far outshines its Ruby anniversary for me. This year also marks the 30th anniversary of my favorite shared campaign world- Dragonlance.



A Bit of History

In the early 1980's, TSR had a dilemma. There were more than enough dungeons in its flagship game, but there wasn't exactly an abundance of dragons. But filling this need had eluded the small company to this point. Enter Tracy Hickman.

Based on some modules he had written for the company, Tracy was hired on as one of TSR's writers/line developers. While Tracy and his wife, Laura, made the move to Wisconsin, the seeds of Dragonlance were planted in their discussions. Upon his arrival, Tracy pitched their idea as a twelve module series- each one focusing on a different dragon. TSR entertained the idea, putting him in charge of what was then called Project Overlord, alongside TSR staffers like Roger Moore, Larry Elmore, and Douglas Niles.

The Project Overlord team eventually came to the conclusion that a series of novels would help to flesh out the world they were inadvertently developing, and while the higher-ups at TSR weren't exactly excited with the idea of novels, they nonetheless gave the green light, hired an author, and assigned Endless Quest editor Margaret Weis to edit the project. This was an expansive project for the company- not only modules and novels, but lead miniatures, board games, and eventually other support projects like art books, calendars, and even a DC Comics line would find their way into what was beginning to be called Dragonlance.

While the team worked on the finishing touches for the first module, DL1: Dragons of Despair, Weis and Hickman were finding that the original author didn't exactly see eye to eye with their shared vision. Reports are fuzzy as to the specifics, but it became apparent that the editing team were better off simply writing the first novel themselves. Despite the legends to the contrary, the Dragonlance team did not write that first novel based on their actual play sessions for Dragons of Despair. Instead, over a weekend, Weis and Hickman pounded out the prologue for the novel based on the Dragons of Despair module they had already completed. TSR liked it enough that they fired the author and set Weis and Hickman to the task of writing the book on their own.

After two years of writing, editing, and re-writes, TSR published the first Dragonlance novel, Dragons of Autumn Twilight. TSR didn't quite expect the demand, so they had to order a second printing just to make up for their initially small printing of the novel. But in a masterstroke, The first Dragonlance novel was published, followed soon after with two more novels to round out the Chronicles trilogy.

As the decades passed, TSR found success in novels as well as games, and Dragonlance became the first of its shared universes. Not only were modules written by many different teams of writers, but the novels themselves would have names like Douglas Niles, Jean Rabe, and Cam Banks grace their covers. While not all books were gems, even the bad Dragonlance books far outshone the miasma of drek that graced most sci-fi/fantasy shelves at the time. Over the years and dozens of books, the novels endured and like Robotech, became a multi-generational extravaganza.

TSR even launched a somewhat experimental card-based version of D&D called the SAGA system with the Fifth Age of Dragonlance as its basis. While the old guard of Dungeons and Dragons players seemed to balk at the SAGA rules, for me personally, this system opened my eyes to opportunities and ideas that D&D never attempted to create for me. And while I preferred Dragonlance's fourth age (the age that the Chronicles novels inhabited), I enjoyed the way the Fifth Age setting fit the rule system.

Eventually, Dragonlance gaming was updated to 3rd edition D&D by Sovereign Press (the company that would one day become Margaret Weis Productions). Under Sovereign Press' watchful eye, all ages of the Dragonlance world were updated to the D20 format and some of the best adventures for the game system found print.

All was not golden for Dragonlance, however. Despite great voice actors like Michael Rosenbaum and Kiefer Sutherland, a terrible animated movie was made of Dragons of Autumn Twilight. No, seriously, it was horrible.

Moving on.

Dragonlance was exceptional not only for the memorable characters, fully realized world, and world-spanning plotlines, but for the marriage of game to fiction in much the same manner that Forgotten Realms, Birthright, Ravenloft, Dark Sun, and Eberron would eventually follow.


A World Apart

The bulk of the Dragonlance novels are set on the continent of Ansalon on the world known as Krynn. Chronicles starts three centuries after an event called the Cataclysm had not only terrorized and reshaped the peoples and lands of Ansalon, but had taken Krynn's gods with it. Instead of fat, lazy, Tolkienesque halflings, Krynn had the fearless, childlike kender to romp alongside its disparate tribes of elves, mountain and hill dwarves, minotaur, ogres, goblins, dragons, a new race of dragon people called draconians, and all sorts of other peoples and monsters. Wizards were organized into small sects in the often hidden Towers of High Sorcery. An ancient knighthood struggled to hold onto its ancestral home in the land of Solamnia on the northern portion of the continent while fould armies of the Dragon Highlords massed to the west.

All the while, a small party of adventurers returned to their quaint home in the trees of a town called Solace after years seperately seeking any sign of the return of the old gods. Their escapades would lead to the greatest conflict Krynn had seen since the Cataclysm- the War of the Lance.

There's so much to love from this period in Krynn's history- and while the novels eventually spanned much of Krynn's history both before and after the War of the Lance- most readers relate to this time in particular. Like me, most readers started with the Chronicles series. The overarching plot alone would have pulled me in, but it was the well developed three dimensional characters that got me to stay. Krynn was filled with believable personalities. Perhaps it was the flaws- a reluctant leader cursed with self doubt, an overly ambitious wizard teetering over the edge of evil, an ancient dwarf preparing for his last great adventure, a party of adventurers wholly unprepared for the adventure that awaits them. Yeah. I'm sure that was it.

There's a lot of characters to love in Dragonlance. But I'm not going to talk about my favorite...because.. well.. he dies and it's kind of a big spoiler. This should surprise no one. My favorite character usually dies- Boromir, Ned Stark, seriously.. if they ever make a Dragonlance movie, I'll have to lobby for Sean Bean...but I digress. Let me talk instead of my favorite hero and villain that are not my fallen friend.

For a hero, I'll go with Gilthanas.

I can hear the groans already, but hear me out. Gilthanas is the spoiled elven prince, second son of Solostoran, Speaker of the Sun and ruler of the not quite high elves called the Qualinesti (think of Rivendell elves). When he is introduced, he is an arrogant ass, full of piss and vinegar and especially disapproval for his little sister's love for the half-elven leader of our heroes, Tanis. And eventually he falls in love with a young wild elf, Silvara. This changes his outlook greatly. Over the series, Gilthanas undergoes  massive growth as a  character and becomes quite the hero himself in his search for his lost love. There's a lot more to it, but I'm trying to be all un-spoilery. Character growth like that is rare in most fiction, let alone to the degree that Gilthanas changes.

Okay let's talk villains.

Lord Soth.

Bet you thought I was going to talk about Raistlin, didn't you? Look the wizard is a fine good, bad, good, bad guy. But I love fallen figures. And Soth fell harder than nearly anyone. Lord Soth was once a Solamnic Knight of the Rose, dedicated to chivalry, honor, and all those knightly virtues. Well, sort of. Soth wasn't exactly the nicest fellow and had.. well let's just call it a lapse of good judgement. This caused him no end of turmoil and despite his desire to atone, he would instead rise as one of the undead- a death knight, dark, bitter, and full of hatred for the living. Lord Soth eventually fell so hard that he ended up in Raven loft. Yeah. That guy.

There's only so much I can put into my little blog to gush about this world. There are elements of Krynn that stick with me, not only in games, but in writing, character development, heck I even have a Dragonlance tattoo.

To this day, Krynn has my favorite knighthood. More than Round Table knights, Bretonnian Knights, even Jedi Knights, I love the Solamnic Knights above all- from their structure (Knights of the Crown, Knights of the Sword, and the highest order, Knights of the Rose) to their design (Gothic fantasy meets fantastical Norse nobility with audacious Germanic mustaches) from their oath (in Solamnic, "My Honor is My Life") to their often tragic history.

Seriously, go out right now. Find Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Weis and Hickman. You'll thank me later.

Est Sularus Oth Mithas.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

General Gamery: Ravage Magazine 2- Review Boogaloo

Ok, I've been a bit lax in updating you guys as to new works.

Ravage issue 12 has come to the stands with the second review I've written for the fantastic periodical. The subject? JUDGE DREDD.

Oh yeah! Mongoose Publishing teamed up with Warlord Games to give us a new crack at an old favorite. And to make matters worse (no that's not right.. better.. to make matters better), the guys at Ravage chose me to write the review on it- a big multi-page spread.

No, I'm not going to tell you what I think of the game here... that's what the magazine is for... you can get a print copy here or download it on Ravage Magazine's ios app.

Beyond that, Dime Stories should be coming to print soon and we'll be finishing up a new city-building supplement for that game this summer.

Since there is a ton of awesome art for it, Superhuman will see new life as a FATE based rpg this year. If nothing else than to get the world out there before we dive neck deep into the skirmish miniatures game.

Also, I am nearly done with my Cortex hack: Dreamscape. Expect to see more about that in the coming weeks.

Till then my fearless readers,
~Joe

Sunday, December 15, 2013

General Gamery: Ravage Magazine and New Release Day

Just a quick blurb since I have new work releasing today:

For those that aren't already aware, Cool Mini of Not's in-house magazine, Ravage deals with gaming as a whole. Reviews in it's beautifully laid out pages run the gamut from small, hard to find or lesser known games like Infinity and Knight Models' Arkham City to blockbusters like Zombicide (a favorite of the geek clan that gathers at my gaming table) and Malifaux. It has information about games from big companies like Games Workshop and Privateer Press and smaller companies like Flying Frog Games. However, Ravage's biggest draw for me is the cornucopia of extra content for games I love like Zombicide and MERCS to games I have always wanted to play like Sedition Wars.

In advance of the print release, Ravage Magazine always has an early digital release for iOS. Today, issue 11 released with a review of Urban Lasercraft terrain by yours truly. The first of many, I hope.

I won't go into the details of the review- there's a whole magazine for that (see above). I will say, I appreciate when I form a good, professional working relationship with a company. My first interaction with Bryan from Ravage Magazine/Cool Mini or Not was at Gencon 2006 while I was working with Slugfest Games and Bryan was still with Mongoose. I managed to talk up Superhuman to him (it was early in that game's development and I still thought I was going to go it alone), and Bryan got pretty excited about it, going so far as helping me to start talking to Mongoose about publishing through their Flaming Cobra label. We would talk every Gencon, and eventually Bryan found himself working for Cool Mini or Not. In his capacity at CMON, Bryan assisted with Kickstarter Projects (they really are pros at that) and worked the convention booths demoing games and promoting sales in a similar capacity to what I was doing with Slugfest. What I didn't realize was that he also ran the awesome Ravage Magazine- a magazine I'd already picked up for the extra MERCS, Zombicide, and X-wing scenarios.

On a whim, I sent him an email after reading an advert in issue 8 that said "Have something for Ravage?" Luckily, Bryan remembered me (though I might have sent some writing samples and my CV- I don't quite recall now) and gave me a chance. The review on page 58 of issue 11 is the result.

Like I said, you can find Ravage Magazine issue 11 in the iOS Newstand App and in print (Or click the image on the left). Now back to the writing mines for me. I have another review for Ravage due on January 4th and work to do to on Dime Stories books 2 and 3 before moving on to other new projects.

Till next time,
See you space cowboy...

~The Doc