Friday, February 29, 2008

This Ain't Your Daddy's D&D

I've opined before that 4th edition is going to be very different in its game play than previous editions of the game. The information coming out of the D&D Experience convention seems to support that:

The design decision seems to have been to move away from resource management -- of any sort -- as a minigame in D&D. This really does make it "not D&D" in a lot of ways, but looking at the crunch we're finally getting, it seems like they've added in complexity in other areas to make up for it. It's a very different gaming experience, but it looks like (contrary to my earlier fears) it will still be tactically challenging.

And this from Lizard, who has been fairly negative on all the stuff he's heard so far. Time will tell, but I've gone from disinterested to intrigued, though I'm still doubtful I'll play this game.

All Sorts of D&D 4e News

Now that the D&D Experience convention is happening, there's all sorts of new information about 4th edition coming out all over the place. Via The Velvet Dicebag, we have these notes from an attendee to the seminar given on the changes coming with 4th edition. Of Dice and Dragons has a link over to a pdf on the WotC pages entitled "What You Need to Know about D&D".

I'll post my thoughts on this later. So far, I'm not seeing anything too surprising, and I like some of what I'm hearing about D&D Insider. But nothing's blown my socks off yet.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Suddenly, Ninjas Attack!

Ok, not really, but as June and D&D 4.0 approaches, things are beginning to move in the world of RPGs. First, Fantasy Flight Games appears to be jumping on the 4.0 bandwagon, and they’re looking for writers to help them out. (This via the Velvet Dicebag.)

But suddenly, from almost literally out of freakin’ nowhere, jumps Monte Cook, one of the guys who wrote 3.0, with a new book for D&D! Yeah, I know, he promised he’d left for the greener pastures of novel writing, but apparently the man just can’t help himself. The Book of Experimental Might is a collection of his houserules for running d20 games. It is, in essence, Monte Cook’s D&D 3.75. It’s interesting to note how some of the thing things mentioned, such as never letting magic-using PCs be left without any spells remaining to cast, are mirrored in the official 4.0 rules.

The incestuous world of d20 just keeps getting more interesting all the time.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Planet Stories

The Evil DM is putting out the call to all fans of pulp adventure to check out Paizo's Planet Stories line of new books. These are reprints of classic sword-and-sorcery or sword-and-planet or just fun adventure stories. Among them, you'll find the heirs of Conan, like Elak of Atlantis, and the forebear of Han Solo, Northwest Smith. (And doesn't that name also remind you of another character Harrison Ford played, Indiana Jones?)

Sorry about not mentioning this earlier. I keep forgetting that most folks don't hang out with people who live, eat, and breath books like this. Bad Trollsmyth! No cookie!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Up a Tree Without a Machine Gun. Ho-ho-ho!

Mr. Colville has posted the next installment of his series on the Pillars of Game Story.

A common mistake among GMs, at least a mistake I made commonly as a GM, is to set the PCs free upon the world and let them come up with their own motivations. I thought this empowered them. I thought this was forward-thinking, liberal…democratic.

It’s crap. We need boundaries in order to understand our options. Players want the illusion of freedom, but before they can appreciate it, they need to be forced into action. It’s all very well and good to ask the players what they want to do, but the players need a framework to understand their options. When you chase them up a tree, when you force them to react to you, you can thereafter give them a variety of options and they now have a framework for understanding the meaning of their options.

I've argued repeatedly for "situation" over "story". However, when I do, I also mean that conflict should be flying all over the place when the PCs arrive, and some of it should land on the PCs if at all possible. That's part of the situation. Yes, there might be an equilibrium of forces for the PCs to upset. But that doesn't mean life is boring and static before they ride into town. Just like the village in Yojimbo, "balance" doesn't necessarily mean "tranquil", no matter what those stoner druids try to tell you.

Remembering White Dwarf

Over on his blog The Silver Key, Brian Murphy is reminiscing about the White Dwarf magazine of yesteryear:

Pre-issue 100, White Dwarf was a fantastic magazine. Whereas Dragon very quickly evolved into a house organ for TSR and later Wizards of the Coast, and eventually covered strictly D&D, White Dwarf was a rarity in that it covered all role-playing games. Within its pages you could find articles on Dungeons and Dragons sandwiched in between Runequest columns, Call of Cthulhu adventures, Champions role-playing advice, and Traveler comics.

I also have fond memories of Dragon before it became the marketing mouthpiece of TSR. Those magazines seem to be something lost to the past, though Kobold Quarterly seems to be trying to resurrect at least some of their appeal. Still, that was a different time, when Katherine Kerr could write an article on the care and upkeep of medieval European castles and nobody would question its inclusion in a magazine about pen-and-paper RPGs.

Yeah, I'm an old fart. Now get the hell off my lawn! ;D

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Pillars of SquareMans

There's a new blog on the block and it looks like a winner. SquareMans is a blog about politics and gaming, a combination I mostly avoid on this blog, but hey, both are fun, so why not?

Matthew Colville pays the bills with his game master skills. He's a writer and designer in the computer gaming hobby. On his new blog, he's begun discussing what he calls the Five Pillars of Game Story. He's posted on two so far.

The first, entitled The Plan (scroll down if you don't see anything, the formatting on his page seems to be a bit wonky just yet), refers to what he calls the False Backbone. This is the plan of the villain, or more basically, what will happen if the heroes don't get involved. Game happens when the players start mucking with the False Backbone. They try to foil the villain's plans or save the villagers from the erupting volcano or whatever. The important realization here is that play happens when the players begin to derail things. Stuff not happening according to plan is not what makes play stop, it's when play really gets going. I think Mr. Colville and I might disagree a bit on this. You can, after all, have the "True Backbone" be firmly plotted branches off the False Backbone. I find that sort of thing icky, but it's considered necessary in todays computer gaming market.

He then goes on to discuss the Central Conflict in Ptolus is Fucking Big. The Central Conflict isn't necessarily the ones the players are focusing on, though it has an impact on what they are doing. In "Gone With the Wind", the Central Conflict might be the Civil War, but Scarlett is much more focused on Rhett. Likewise, in "Return of the Jedi", the Central Conflict is the war between the Empire and the Rebellion. But Luke, while engaged in that struggle himself, is focused on the personal struggle to redeem his father.

Read them both. They're interesting and thought-provoking, and both look like fun things to play with in your game.