Friday, June 30, 2006

A Dragonlady Speaks

Cindi Rice, one of the executive producers on the Dragonlance movie, recently spoke with Sci Fi Wire about the flick. Among the interesting things mentioned is this comment on the status of their progress:

Rice said that the Dragons movie is in the final stages of preproduction. "We've already recorded 90 percent of the voices, and we'll be finalizing the animatic [animated storyboard] next month," she said.

So clearly we're looking at recording the voices before working on the final animation. And it sounds like things are humming along nicely. We trolls will be keeping our eyes peeled for more cast revelations and, hopefully soon, examples of character designs. However, if they're only going to have the animatic finished in July, we probably will only just be seeing final designs around Christmas.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Animation vs. Live Action

There’s been some disappointed grumbling on the web about the Dragonlance movie being animated. I can certainly understand why, but I won’t be joining it. There is nothing that prevents an animated film from having as much, if not more, artistic, intellectual, and emotional impact as a live action film. People do tend to separate them in their minds here in the occident, but that’s not universally true. We’ve seen glimpses from Hollywood of animation’s potential in flicks like “The Incredibles” but nothing yet with the power of “Graveyard of the Fireflies” or “Princess Mononoke”. Those two animated films I’ll put up against just about anything live action, and certainly anything coming out of Hollywood in the past thirty years.

The big hurdle will be the assumption that animation is for children, and cannot be used to tell meaningful or deep stories. Getting people to go to the theater to see it will be the challenge, as “it’s a cartoon” wars with “it’s PG-13”. Of course, Peter Jackson had the same issues to overcome. The Lord of the Rings is generally seen as a children’s story here in the US, and fantasy movies are kid’s fare. Before the first movie came out, the children’s meals at Burger King got you a cute little mug with a picture of one of the characters on it that lit at the base, and, even more jarring, a cardboard crown with the ring’s inscription written across it. And yes, after the first movie came out, that sort of nonsense disappeared quickly. But it took the movie to change opinions.

Actually, the Dragonlance story is well crafted for this. It has its slapstick elements, with gully dwarves and kender, and its moments of great spectacle and wonder, in its haunted forests and massive battles. All of these play to traditional animation’s strengths. But the story does not play by traditional American animation’s rules, and anyone still clueless as the movie enters its dénouement will get the lesson hammered home good and hard at Sturm’s funeral.

So I see this as a great opportunity for animation to finally realize its potential in Hollywood. If this film is as great as it can be, it has the potential to change people’s opinions about animation and what its “proper” uses are. And if it does that, who knows? Maybe we’ll finally get to see a full-bore Elfquest movie, too.

Jim Baen has Passed Away

It's a sad day in the troll cave. Jim Baen was an incredibly forward-thinking guy, on the cutting edge of e-publishing, a radical in his way of doing business, and a man whose influence on modern SF simply can't be overstated.

If you haven't checked out the Free Baen eLibrary, you really should. Who else in the publishing business lets you get an entire book as a free sample? I mean, c'mon, reading good fiction is addictive. You'd think more publishers would have hit on the notion of "the first hit is free." Mr. Baen was unique in his understanding of readers and business.

Read his obituary by David Drake here.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Catspaw Update: Blood in the Rain

It looks like Catspaw is being updated with a new page every Wednesday. Today’s update includes a new introductory page. It’s clearly intended to bring readers “up to speed” on the background, but I’m not certain it was necessary. The writing in the comic itself seems more than sufficient, though it does leave you wanting more. That’s rarely a bad thing.

As it is, the new preface seems a bit rough to me. “But her motives are known and unknown, for hidden forces move about her” does not fall trippingly from my mind’s tongue. The physical layout of the text on the page also leads me to suspect it’s poetry, but at 5:00 AM, I’m unable to detect any sort of meter to it.

I know that if I didn’t have broadband, going through all previous existing pages to get to the new ones would be aggravating. With broadband, it’s a mild annoyance.

The new pages look good. Storn continues to deliver the goods, giving us a more realistic portrayal of weapons and bodies than you’ll see in most anime, gaming, and comic art these days. Some of the action has a mild wire-fu feel to it, but nothing that feels out of place beside the heroics of Conan or the acrobatics of the Grey Mouser.

I’m conflicted on the first panel of page 7. While the pose of our hero’s body does point the eye to the redcloak and our heroine, where the tension of the moment is focused, they are so clearly in the background that I want to focus on him. And our angle makes the hand holding the axe look awkward and denies it the gathering energy surely about to be unleashed in a deadly throw.

But I do love the use of side-by-side columns, one focused on him and the other on her. And the look on her face in the second panel is perfect. I don’t think I’ve ever found a bald woman quite so alluring before. And you know her foe is in for a world of hurt. Will the Philosopher’s Spike reveal its power on the next page? Anticipation mounts!


Poof! And like that, the unofficial Dragonlance Movie Site becomes the official Dragonlance Movie Site:

The film is based on the first book in the Chronicles series, "Dragons of Autumn Twilight". The director is comics and TV animation veteran, Will Meugniot, and the screenplay has been adapted by George Strayton with plenty of involvement from Margaret and Tracy.

There's a lot of information on the web site sure to spark all sorts of commentary, arguments, and the usual internet fandom fun, including the identities of the director, writer, and production companies. A potentially large firestorm may brew around the choice of Kunoichi for some of the conceptual artwork. While the Kunoichi site is dominated by manga-style art, that's no guarantee we'll be getting a "bishie Raistlin."

We trolls will, of course, keep our ears perked for any unofficial news, but rest assured that you can now point your browser to for the true and lively word.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Weis on Dragonlance Movie

Confirmations continue to roll in. Now that Lawless (and Hickman, truth be told) has spilled the beans, Margaret Weis joins the chorus:

Paramount Studios is making Dragons of Autumn Twilight as a full-length, adult, animated movie. I'll let the movie site provide you with details on the director, screen play writer, animation house, and all that.

The really exciting part of this news is that someone at Paramount has the cojones to try to turn this into a multi-movie deal. Instead of trying to cram the entire trilogy into a single movie, they will instead spread it out over three. And if Weis says it's adult, we don't need to worry about the all-singing, all-dancing Disney-fication of the story. I'm curious what "full length" means in this case. 90 minutes? 140 minutes? Oh-God-make-it-stop-my-eyes-are-bleeding-Lord-of-the-Rings 200+ minutes? Ok, that last is exceptionally unlikely.

I'm also dying to know what the look of the thing is. Dragonlance has been blessed in the past with some of the best artists to be stabled at TSR. Larry Elmore, of course, did the covers for the original books. The modules the books were based on featured cover art by Clyde Caldwell. (I forget who did the interior art for both. Someone want to remind me?) Those are tough acts to follow. It will be very interesting to see who Paramount gets to do character designs and animation for this project.

More news here as it becomes available...

GMing Tips from Treasure Tables

There are some blogs on the web that are hoary with the jargon of the gaming intelligentsia. These blogs can be fun to read, but often don’t contain much that is useful on Saturday afternoon when the group is gathered at the table to throw dice and kick in doors.

Treasure Tables is not that sort of site.

Case in point is the new, free PDF of GMing dos and don’ts:

This list is meant to be a quick read, and everything on

it is intended to be as universal as possible. You can apply

this GMing advice in almost any situation, regardless

of your personal GMing style, what RPG you’re

running or whether the game takes place at home, at a

convention or at an in-store demo.

There’s a lot of good stuff in it, even if you’re an old hand, and it’s not a long read. Pick it up.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Dragonlance Movie?

Yes, Virginia, apparently there really is going to be a Dragonlance movie. Tracy Hickman himself has confirmed this.

What do we know so far? Not much. It’s apparently being done by Paramount. Tracy has confirmed that it will be traditional animation with CGI elements. Lucy Lawless is voicing Goldmoon, the barbarian cleric. Beyond that, there’s been so little news leaked out about this that even the denizens of are unwilling to believe it’s actually happening.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Fear the Boot!

I’ve got a lot of backlog right now I’m sifting through and editing, so my apologies if my posts are not quite as timely as they should be. It seems like this stuff ebbs and flows, and either I can’t find anything to write about, or there’s too much to write about. Right now, I’m faced with an embarrassment of riches.

One of those riches is a podcast entitled “Fear the Boot”. Now, I haven’t really delved deeply into the world of gaming podcasts, so I’ve only sampled a handful. So far, “Fear the Boot” is my favorite. The guys involved have great radio voices, they’re not afraid to sound a bit silly, and they’re clearly having a good time. They remind me a lot of morning radio hosts, mingling a light sprinkling of their personal lives with discussion of issues that are interesting to them in an almost random order. They’re not driven by the headlines, but rather by their own internal barometers of what’s interesting to them right now.

What I find most fascinating is how disconnected these guys are with the online gaming world. They’re not plugged into RPGnet or EN World. They don’t all seem to know names like Monte Cook, Burning Wheel, or Todd Lockwood. They’re very “mainstream” gamers who know what they like, and don’t like, and represent a divergence of views. Granted, they are all seasoned gamers. While repeatedly invoking the usual assurances that there is no such thing as bad fun, they clearly prefer standard roleplaying tropes as defined by D&D, Shadowrun, GURPS and the like. They also have a strong preference for character-driven games, complex plots, and storytelling at the gaming table. Don’t expect to hear detailed analysis of GNS theory. Do expect to hear how you can create dynamic characters who evolve in ways beyond simply gaining levels and magical weapons. The episodes are variable in length, though they seem to be settling into about an hour in length. They usually review a gaming product and give a tip on some aspect of the hobby. They follow that up by posting downloadable gaming aids related to those tips on their web site. New podcasts are produced weekly and posted on Mondays. Check ‘em out.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Getting Permission

There’s a very interesting article in the current issue of The Escapist, an electronic magazine dedicated to computer gaming. It’s “Asexuality Actually” by John Walker, and it’s about the barriers that stand between girls and playing computer games. And no, he doesn’t discuss the sexist nature of the industry, the art, or any of the old excuses. Instead, he cites an actual scientific study (gosh, imagine that) on the topic:

Without the boys to push them out the way, and once the Schott and Thomas explained the [GameBoy Advance SPs] weren't some sort of makeup case (no, really), the girls mostly recognized Mario onscreen, but would predominantly declare, "Oh, I can't do these things."

Prompted to continue, Schott and Thomas found that after a few minutes, they couldn't get the girls to stop playing. This transition led the researchers to conclude that there was some sort of "permission" barrier between girls and gaming.

No, he’s not saying that sexist art or themes in games might not turn some girls off playing. (Though it doesn’t appear to have stopped them from reading romance novels in voracious numbers.) What he is saying is that it doesn’t matter how girl-friendly the games are, how hard they work to overturn stereotypes and gender biases, or how many women were involved in the development of the game. If girls won’t even take the time to look at the game in the first place because that’s something they think they can’t, or won’t, or shouldn’t do, they’ll never know what they’re missing.

Bringing this to the realm of pen-and-paper gaming, we’re clearly faced with the same issue. It doesn’t matter how girl-friendly a game like Blue Rose is, with its low level of book keeping, telepathic animals, exceptional mechanics, and romantic fantasy trappings. If girls have already decided that they can’t play RPGs, they won’t even give them a chance. I’m half convinced part of Vampire: the Masquerade’s success is due to the fact that “real” roleplayers, those AD&D and GURPS grognards, screamed about how horrible it was. “See,” White Wolf could say. “This isn’t like those ugly, old RPGs. This is something different.” And so it was, as thousands of Anne Rice fans invaded the hobby. Things have never been the same since.

So what does this mean? It means, dear reader, that the industry is incapable of bringing a significant number of women into this hobby of ours. Predisposed to ignoring RPGs, no amount of advertising or producing female-friendly games or hiring women designers and artists is going to breach the wall the separates women from the hobby. We’re right back where we began: the best way to bring people, of either gender, into RPGs is to invite them to play with us. Sitting down at the table and filling in a character sheet remains the best introduction. The reason more women don’t play RPGs and the hobby as an industry is in decline is because you are not inviting them to play.

So what are you doing sitting here surfing the internet for? Start a game already!

SJ Games Stakeholder Report

Steve Jackson has published his yearly stakeholder report for SJ Games. He briefly touches on the roleplaying and gaming industry as a whole. Obviously, the focus is on his company, but it’s about as close as you can probably get to a candid look inside the business that is games today.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Letting Your Players do the Heavy Lifting

Peter Sears at “The World Famous Crank Report” has posted on the topic of letting the players resolve the plots in your game:

Some days later i had a talk with Chris Stopper about this very game while we were working in the lab. He mentioned to me that it reminded him of something he and "Evil" Joe Lamothe had talked about regarding PC's.

He said. "Once players get to a certain level, you really don't have to leave them an out. All you have to do is make the scenario tight and close up the obvious holes in the plot. Most of the time, the players will come up with a better way to resolve it."

This is a cool idea and i like it a lot. It takes a certain amount of GM confidence to relax and allow things to unfold in their own way and at their own pace.

As the Blogfather says, read the whole thing.

I’ve been gaming this way for years, and it almost feels like cheating. My players, when they put their heads together, are more than twice as smart as I am. So I toss the biggest, meanest, ugliest knot I can at them and then let them worry about untangling it. And they always seem to find an elegant solution that does more for them than just win the day. It’s rare when they don’t also make a powerful ally or acquire access to some new resource in the process. It helps if you have proactive players who are interested in your setting and eager to jump into the action. If you have such players, treat them like adults. You don’t need to hold their hands or cushion them from falls. They’ll jump right into the thick of things, grinning through the mud and the blood and the pain, eager for more and kicking up more plots and consequences than you can shake a d20 at.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

True Sorcery and True Class at Green Ronin

There’s been quite a discussion over at EN World’s forums about Green Ronin’s new True Sorcery book. I’ll admit, I was one of those who didn’t read closely enough to realize that it is a book for d20 gaming, and not specifically for the True20 system. Not that much conversion appears to be necessary. However, it’s quite clear that the system described in True Sorcery doesn’t fit the same style as True20. For instance, one of the beauties of True20 is the low level of book keeping required. True Sorcery’s system, however, is pretty math intensive with a new set of magic points that need to be tracked. For that extra effort, you get a very flexible sorcery system that transforms spell slingers from mobile artillery into subtle strategists and puzzle-solvers.

There’s also been some discussion about errors in the original PDF release. The sharp eyes of EN World readers have really given the book a good going-through, Army of Davids style. While this is great for Green Ronin, I’m a little disappointed this conversation took place at EN World and not in the Green Ronin forums.

Green Ronin is very clever about their releases. By making the PDF available before the print run is finalized, they get the benefit of reader feedback to improve the product before it’s shipped to stores. Other companies apparently feel it’s better to push out the hard copy first, afraid that they’ll lose money to customers who will choose the cheaper PDF to the pricier dead tree copy. Green Ronin, on the other hand, apparently believes the benefits of an additional round of editing are worth whatever the loss in hard copy sales would be. Assuming there even is one. (More on that thought later.)

Proving that they are, in fact, a very classy company, Green Ronin has just released the updated PDF of True Sorcery on their web page, including many of the corrections mentioned on the EN World forums. If you’ve already purchased a copy of the PDF, the update is free for you. How’s that for customer service?

I'm Still Here

My apologies for not having updated in a while. Life has been busy, and I've fallen a bit behind in keeping up with the world of cool things going on.

Among those, Håkan Ackegård has updated his “Grigbertz” gallery with a new sketch. It’s a piece of playful bondage and nudity, but like most of the stuff there, it’s not work safe. Here’s the link. If that sort of thing offends you, I suggest you go to his fantasy art gallery to enjoy his improved red dingbat.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Social Contracts at Treasure Tables

Mr. Ralya has a guest-post by Chris Chinn of "Deep in the Game" on social contracts:
I knew Chris would be able to make this topic very accessible without talking down to anyone, and he delivered in spades. If you’ve seen the term “social contract” on various RPG sites (including TT) and not been sure quite what it’s all about, look no further.
Be sure to check out Mr. Chinn's blog as well, where he's posted the winners of his D&D "gamehacks" contest.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Catspaw Comic

There’s a new comic on the web. Writer John C. Hocking and RPGnet favorite Storn A. Cook are collaborating on a swords and sorcery piece entitled Catspaw. The two are clearly still finding their voice. The panels seem to leap from one to the next without a strong feeling of continuity, and Hocking’s writing feels a bit constrained by the medium of sequential art. But both are proven talents, and they’re off to a good start. Hocking’s already given us a brief taste of what the world is like. Cook’s attention to the little details and his willingness to create characters who don’t conform to current ideals of beauty draw you into the world. I get the same sort of “what’s behind that corner” feeling as I do from stuff by Wendy Pini and Alan Lee.

Look for weekly updates on this one. Both Mr. Hocking and Mr. Cook are professionals and appear to be treating this project with the same ethic that they would bring to a commissioned job.

The Wicker Man Trailer

So I’m watching the trailer for that remake of the old 70’s film The Wicker Man and I’m wondering what the heck is going on here. Nicholas Cage is a cop, but not a “king’s man” and instead of being self-righteous and bossy, he’s broken and despondent. A sister of Silent Hill’s disappearing waif is scattered throughout the trailer. There’s all sorts of bizarre mystical happenings like people crawling with bees and not one hint of naked cuties dancing through bucolic meadows. Beyond the search for a missing girl named Rowan in a bed-and-breakfast coastal community, I’m not sure I’m seeing how the new movie is supposed to be based on the earlier one.

Even more interesting (or, potentially, disturbing, depending on your allegiance to the original) is the intimation that the Summer islanders are not born-again pagans of the ancient, human sacrificing sort, but are instead devil worshippers. I enjoyed the way the original movie brought you into the head-space of ancient, pre-Christian Europeans with their rather liberal views on sex and death, and a strong connection with the activities of animals and the cycles of the natural world. The stark contrast between their laid back embrace of Dionysian nature and the policeman’s strict adherence to a rigid Christianity was central to the theme and style of the original. Somehow, I can’t imagine Cage’s character being anything like Howie from that film.

In the trailer, quick flashes to old woodcuts of cavorting demons and such imply something more akin to 17th century witchcraft is at work in this story. This is only heightened by seeing what I must assume is Lady Summerville in a large, canopied bed of ivory colored sheets, while her voiceover declares in triumphant tones, “The wicker man is coming!” Well! Certainly brings to mind stories of cackling witches having relations, as it were, with Old Scratch, doesn’t it? I wonder if we’ll get to see Mr. Cage go mano-a-mano with a flaming CGI demon that wasn't quite good enough to play the balrog. Yes, and by smiting said demon, Nick Cage will get to save the spooky, disappearing little girl as well, I’ll bet. Hugs and smiles all around!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Monday's Outsider

Arioch's been so regular about his updates lately I'm starting to feel a little guilty about about what I said earlier. Page 48 is up for your viewing pleasure.

Glossary of GMing Terms

Martin Ralya over at Treasure Tables is putting together a glossary of GMing terms. It’s bleeding into a nice glossary for RPGing, of course, but his focus is clearly on things GMs do and use. Be sure to take a peek and let him know what you think.

Friday, June 09, 2006

You are there! Monte on Ptolus’ Chapter VI

Monte’s still pushing what’s neat and cool about Ptolus on his webpage. Can’t blame him in the least. It looks like some neat stuff, and he’s got to be concerned about his ability to move books. Printing that monster can’t have been cheap.

And while I’m not sold on my need for the book (I’m not playing 3rd edition D&D these days, and I almost always run my own settings), I adore that Monte has taken a whole chapter to describe the sights, sounds, smells, textures, and tastes of the setting:

But in Part VI, it's all about feel and flavor. This section is filled with concrete details about daily life for a typical Ptolus resident as well as an adventurer. The first two chapters in this part are "On Being a Resident" and "On Being a Delver." In order to really get the point across, I wrote both of these chapters in second person. The resident chapter has sections like "Where You Live," "What You Eat," and "What You Wear."

Folks, I just eat this stuff up. I love creating adventures where showing up at Dame Movane’s home with star asters means that, not only does she tell you Lord Prill is illegitimate, but she also presents you with a bottle of Old Gravmey Tawny Port, 452 B.E., which just happens to be Duke Olba’s favorite after dinner indulgence. And 452 was an excellent year…

I hope other designers notice the little extras that Monte is putting into this book. The exceptional cross-referencing, the attention to detail, the numerous adventure hooks all indicate that Ptolus is an exceptional product. Of course, we won’t really know until the book gets out and players who didn’t design the setting actually try to run it. Amazing detail is a double-edged tool. Either DMs will be able to create incredibly evocative and textured games, or they’ll drown in the minutiae. We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed for Monte.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

More PDFs from Treasure Tables

Treasure Tables has published a new free PDF. Like the last one, it’s fairly short, and pleasantly to-the-point. (My patience with long, detailed, ten-page articles apparently only extends to Katherine Kerr’s old Dragon articles, and sometimes not even then. So, short is good!)

This one is on using wikis as a GMing tool. I’m not entirely certain I’m sold on the idea. John Arcadian’s overview, honestly, nearly scared me off. Once you start quoting code, my brain threatens to tune out. Unless I’m really interested, I’m not going to wade through even the shortest list of detailed directions. Which is why I would recommend you read the second article, by Amy Vander Vorste, first. While she’s discussing a particular wiki tool, and Mr. Arcadian is giving us a more general overview, I found myself saying, “Cool! That sounds like a very good use of wiki for me!” a lot more often when reading Ms. Vorste’s piece. If I decide to actually build a wiki, I’m certain I’ll be referring to Mr. Arcadian’s, however, for more detailed how-to info. But it will me Ms. Vorste who sold me on the idea.

Fashion Watch

I can now browse Polyshop’s Ackegård collection. They’ve made some interesting selections, including one that I’m not sure I’d call “family friendly”, and one I’m absolutely certain isn’t. Well, not in the US, anyway. It looks like they’re running between 100 and 200 Swedish krona each, which is something like 20 to 30 US dollars. If anyone wants to make me a happy troll, they can get me the Kyri shirt.

D&D Watch

I was tromping through the marsh that is the political end of the blogosphere, and I came across a reference to Dungeons & Dragons. Lee Harris has written an article entitled “Al Qaeuda’s Fantasy Ideology” for Policy Review Online. In it, Mr. Harris says:

For want of a better term, call the phenomenon in question a fantasy ideology — by which I mean, political and ideological symbols and tropes used not for political purposes, but entirely for the benefit of furthering a specific personal or collective fantasy. It is, to be frank, something like “Dungeons and Dragons” carried out not with the trappings of medieval romances — old castles and maidens in distress — but entirely in terms of ideological symbols and emblems. The difference between them is that one is an innocent pastime while the other has proven to be one of the most terrible scourges to afflict the human race.

Or, healthy fantasy involves sitting around with your buds, rolling dice, swilling Mountain Dew, and eating Cheetos. (Er, well, mentally healthy, anyway.) Unhealthy fantasy involves flying planes into buildings and invading the Sudetenland.

I know nothing of Mr. Harris’ gaming credentials. His reference to “maidens in distress” seems to imply a lack of personal experience with how the game is played. Unless he was thinking of the distress caused by a gang of “violent well equipped moral anarchists who couldn't give a fig about the political stability of the realm and can't be held responsible [for the] social carnage they create.” (Thank you, Phizel.)

I still find it comforting to see D&D casually mentioned these days as something that is mostly harmless, along the lines of Texas Hold ‘em and tango. Perhaps we have lost some cultural cachet with the passing of the edgy and dangerous mystique of the 80’s, but it is nice that I don’t have to worry about my hobby being denounced by ignorant wahoos in the press. I think we as gamers have an obligation to promote and proselytize for our hobby, so it doesn’t languish into utter obscurity. It seemed we did more of that when we were being attacked. Now that we’re being mostly ignored (a far more dangerous state of affairs, honestly) we seem content to just let things be, bemoaning the loss of talent sucked away by the money-making computer gaming industry, but doing little to counter the trend.

However, like Mr. Harris, while I can see the “disease” I’m at a loss to prescribe a proper inoculation. I think the growth of creative sectors in our economy is certainly an opportunity, but we’ll need some pioneers to step forward and find a way to take proper advantage of the situation. I continue to be optimistic on both fronts, knowing full well that I may be engaging in a bit of fantastical myopia myself. ;)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Health problems. Heh...

Arioch keeps the good stuff comin' with page 47 of Outsider.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Beware My L33T Interior Decorating Skillz!

What? What the heck is the Trollsmyth doing, linking to an article at Cato Unbound on the future of workforce demographics?!? Because this article, ladies and gents, is about us. It’s about the power of creativity in the future of the American and global economies. It’s about why I should have taken art in high school instead of a second year of chemistry.

Richard Florida, the Hirst Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University, has gazed into his crystal ball and seen a world of shrinking manufacturing jobs and waxing creative careers:

In the past two and a half decades, this shift has taken us from the older industrial model to a new economic paradigm, where knowledge, innovation, and creativity are key. At the cutting edge of this shift is the creative sector of the economy: science and technology, art and design, culture and entertainment, and the knowledge-based professions.

This goes beyond Reich’s The Work of Nations in that Florida’s article directly addresses trends in motion, and things happening not in some distant future, but at this very moment, a wave that will lift some and drag down others. Reich’s book was also written when the internet was still a toy for the college crowd and techie nerds, long before the rise of the blogs, MMOGs, Napster, and Amazon. Today every company needs a web page, and this need employs lots of programmers, yes, but also editors, artists, page-layout specialists, and musicians.

Obviously, this is a boon for us. We’ve already seen it in the rise of the smaller companies like Green Ronin and Indie Press Revolution through the sale of PDFs. But beyond the growing opportunities for creative expression and the money-making possibilities that follow in their wake, I really think we can see a future for our hobby in this trend. What other pastime, after all, encourages participants to be creative writers, cartographers, architects, resource managers, spreadsheet analysts, and problem solvers. Being an artist of just about any stripe doesn’t hurt either, and you need to produce often on the fly every week.

Seriously, folks, I don’t think we take enough advantage of the benefits of our hobby, and so nobody sees them. But as art, music, and literature fade from our schools in deference to the three R’s, our economy is going to rely more and more on hobbies to pick up the slack. And as it does so, I think we need to put a greater emphasis on the mental and creative benefits of our hobby. And I think we need to explore ways to drag it, kicking and screaming, into the economy, beyond just buying and selling books. How? I’m not certain yet, but there’s a lot of creative talent tied up in our games. I’m certain there are people playing now who can figure out creative ways to make a buck from having fun.

I hope, after all, that we haven't played D&D all those years without learning a little something about economics.

Take Pictures

Take Pictures

So, I’m over at Treasure Tables again, and they’re talking about building a GM binder to keep track of all of your materials. And of course I think about the one I built for my college campaign. That game spanned half a decade and I have one friend who very much wants to play in it still. I bought that binder at the beginning of the campaign, and stuffed it full of odds and ends over the years. I page through it every now and then. So many good memories, sitting behind that binder at the old yellow table, crafting a world out of wishes and nightmares. I used it as a DM screen, propped up on its edge. It had everything I needed: scribbled notes and typed up calendars, hand-drawn maps, detailed pantheons, and adventures without keys or descriptions, drawn up a room or two ahead of the adventurers. I always linger on those. What was this room? What happened there? Why does this corridor go off by itself? Why is this part unfinished?

It annoys me, a little, that I can’t remember. How many cool ideas, sparked by heady improvisation, are gone? What neat little puzzles or engaging characters or bits of verse has been lost? How many recyclable ideas did I let slip through my fingers?

How much worse, then, the loss of friends. Most of us live where our boss tells us to live. Some of us are lucky enough to live where our dreams take us. I think about that old gaming group. Darn near every Saturday for, what was it? Five years? Six? I can’t remember now, the last time we were all together. There never was a big ceremony for us. We didn’t all graduate at the same time, and not all of us were students. We just… drifted away. The last time most of us were together was for my wedding. That was almost six years ago now. That black notebook sits on my gaming shelf and I pull it out, every now and then, and remember. I enjoy the memories, but they grow more hazy with the years. Details are lost. What color are his eyes? How did she wear her hair back then? Did we really dress like that?!?

Take pictures, folks. I don’t regret not buying the college year book, because we wouldn’t have been in it. But it hurts, just a little, that we don’t have pictures, all of us gathered around the table littered with pizza crusts and dice and character sheets. Digital cameras make it easy now, don’t they? Just a few quick snaps. Nothing formal. That’s not what you want to remember. You’ll want those candid pics, there at the table, to help you remember in the years to come just what it is that makes today so special, and why we “waste” so much time, playing these silly, wonderful games.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

DMing Advice pdf at Treasure Tables

Treasure Tables, which is quickly becoming a daily habit for me, has just posted a pdf of DMing advice. It covers three areas: running games for large groups, what to do when the group splits up, and how to get feedback from your players. Good stuff, and more than worth the time for the download.

If you read and enjoy it, be sure to practice proper netiquette by thanking Martin and his crew by posting feedback.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Frog Princess: Free Adventure for Blue Rose

The folks at Green Ronin have just made available a new PDF for Blue Rose:

From Blue Rose fan and Narrator Luke Walker comes "The Frog Princess," a convention adventure based around a Russian fairy tale, although all is not necessarily as it seems in this story of hatred, betrayal, and deceit. Comes complete with a set of pre-generated heroes to play, suitable for a one-game session or as part of an ongoing series.

I haven’t gotten to play any Blue Rose myself yet, but it’s clear the rules lend themselves to a more fairy tale feel than straight d20. I’m very much looking forward to giving True20 a spin in the near future to see how it handles.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Succubus Porn!

Alright! That should get the Google hits up! ;)

Håkan Ackegård has updated his “Playelf” gallery with a winged beauty posing over a medieval cityscape. Yes, it’s extremely NOT workplace safe, so don’t even think of clicking this link until you get home!

I love Håkan’s stuff. There’s a softness to his figures that makes them both unreal and lifelike. His settings are imaginative, beautifully detailed, and realistically rendered. Unlike popular American fantasy artists like Nene Thomas and Ruth Thompson, who have a more El Greco look of elongated figures draped in impossible costumes, Håkan’s figures are voluptuous and earthy. His costumes are imaginative and sexy, but clearly physically possible. Where the characters of Nene and Ruth appear distant and untouchable, aloof in a haze of Apollonian detachment, Håkan’s are wonderfully embraceable and playfully Dionysian.

(This is not to denigrate Ruth’s and Nene’s work in the slightest. We have art from both of them hanging here in the Trollcave, and both ladies are wonderful people, gifted artists, and a real pleasure to talk to. Their styles simply stand in stark contrast to Håkan’s, so much so that even an uncultured troll like myself can clearly see it. And if you haven't seen Nene's new Emerald Hawthorn, you need to. It's a jaw-dropper.)

Håkan’s also posted what I assume is the cover to this year's Lincon program. Lovely work as always, though a bit more static than we’re used to from him. Even better than new art, however, is the news that he’s selling t-shirts through an outfit called Polyshop. Their webpage appears to be down right now, so I haven’t been able to see which of his pieces are being immortalized in garment form. If any of you buy one, please drop us a review and I’ll post it here.