Thursday, July 28, 2011

Brand Changes: DCnU compared to SWG and the Allegorical Relationship This Has to D&D

There's a great series of articles here that I stumbled across discussing the DCnU, which is apparently the new way to describe the DC Comics Universe Reboot going on later this year. I've been interested in this reboot for a few reasons. I also feel there is a comparative situation going on here with regards to Wizards of the Coast and the 2008 reboot of the Dungeons & Dragons brand with 4th edition, and again in 2010 with D&D Essentials.

I'm going to start off with a TL;DR summary, and then I will provide my usual warning about rambling madness below:

TL;DR: I think there's a comparison to be drawn here between the way Wizards of the Coast handled the release of 4th edition D&D (and Essentials) and its attempt to sell the core fans on the idea that they wanted 4E (whether they knew it or not) and later that they (all the new and lapsed players) wanted Essentials (whether they knew it or not), but without any clear effort to actually engage the core in playtesting. Contrast with the increasingly successful and dominant Pathfinder by Paizo, which went through an extensive and very open beta test, solicited lots of feedback, and tried to produce a new iteration of 3.5 that only really changed key elements while trying to offer up a set of more all-encompasing flexible tools to the otherwise largely unmodified 3.5 game system. Contrast the marketing and approach of both 4E and PF to this situation with the DCnU and (in the article) the NGU....I think there's more than a few passing similarities, and possibly a lesson to be learned here.

And now for the Long-Winded Rant:

My wife and I started buyng more comics within the last year and a half, and I started to slowly pick up key DC titles that catered to my tastes (Secret Six, Doom Patrol, some Batman titles). When we discovered Jody was pregnant earlier this year, it was time to manage the budget to start saving money for baby goods and medical expenses. Naturally, a reduction of comic purchases was one of the first items of business, simply because comics as a medium are extremely ephemeral and provide a low volume of entertainment-to-cost ratio. When you're basically buying something that takes 15 minutes to read and costs $3-4 a pop, and rapidly devalues (most of the time, anyway) with almost no trade-in or resale value, then comics are always easy to put on the chopping block when it comes to saving money. By coincidence, DC made this announcement right around the time I was at the crux of "what do I keep and what do I buy?" They basically made the decision for me: axe all the books that belong to yet another soon-to-be-dead continuity.

So the DCnU, as discussed in the linked article above, appears to be an effort at monetizing DC's lineup to get more people back into the fold. It's interesting to read, as the analogy is drawn to the way Sony alienated its core fans for the Star Wars Galaxies games with their "New Game Experience" shakeup that happened about a year after WoW took the MMO world by storm. He also aludes to a similar issue with the old New Coke fiasco a couple decades ago. What I found interesting here was that it seems like some comparisons can be drawn with Wizards of the Coast as well, and the way that Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition was brought forth specifically to appeal to a wider potentially unrealized new fanbase, but clearly at the expense of its core.

Now, as many of you know, I actually like 4th Edition D&D. I am not a fanboy, as such, because I know D&D has it's issues, and 4th edition fixed many problems I had with 3rd edition at the expense of adding in a new set of problems; 4E made the DM's job easier and returned to an era where the DM's toolset was designed specifically for his needs, rather than a unifying mechanical approach that meant that while the players only had to worry about one character, the DM had to design virtually everything else with the same level of effort (or do it half-assed, which while possible always led to a substandard experience). 4E made the D20 mechanics more streamlined and (for me) fun. It got rid of many quirks from 3.5 that some found tedious, and it dramatically improved stacking rule issues. 4E made minis combat more practical, albeit at the expense of making it integral to the process. It cleaned up high level combat, making the experience a more unified and consistent process across all levels of play. It did this last bit at the expense of making low level play more complex than it used to be, and also making the legacy of short low level combats a thing of the past (but of course ridiculously long high level combats got shortened....a bit, anyway).

That said, 4th edition managed to introduce streamlined play elements that went against a grain of tradition among core players; change that was too much for many people. I personally still can't believe that I enjoy the game despite the fact that it offers no tools for narrative non-minis-based combat whatsoever, and while I like the streamlined rank mechanic for skills, the fact that there are only seventeen skills in the game and no built-in option for depth or customization in any meaningful way is just crazy, I feel. Sure, 3.5 had a major problem in that it assumed all characters would be optimized, but it still let you create a fairly nonstandard specialized character if you wanted to (for whom death or marginal effectiveness was usually imminent). Sure, 3.5 had a heavy focus on classic dungeon delves, but it still let you focus on combat-light political intrigue and social interaction if you so desired. 4th Edition can do this as well, but it provides fewer tools to do the job. Some people shrug and say it does nothing more or less than 1st edition AD&D did (which arguably provided even fewer non-combat options for just about everyone except spell casters) but that's a bit disingenuous, in my opinion; AD&D offered up only a handful of non-combat abilities for most characters, sure...but it really didn't offer up that many more specialized combat rules and features, either; there was a clear balance between the social and combat elements, basically. In 4E, there's a massive overweighted combat component, which dramatically favors combat encounters. This really does mean that combat in 4E is bar none the best of any edition (and yes, YMMV but that's my experience) and handles it more elegantly than 3rd edition by far...but it does so at the expense of not providing an equally compelling non-combat experience in any mechanical sense. And let me state right out the bat that I think the skill challenge mechanics are a horrendous way to do it, and they are a much bigger contributor to the problem 4E seems to have with teaching newer gamers the art of role playing than any of the combat powers could be.

Um, so anyway! To get back to the DCnU article and all that, it seems to me that D&D 4E may have been yet another victim of the same shift in marketing and focus for a product, one in which change was made to monetize the brand for a newer audience, but at the expense of the existing, content core....and in the end discovered that perhaps that was not the right way to go.

I think the situation with Pathfinder sheds even more light on this phenomenon: although no figures have yet been posted, its alleged that Pathfinder beat Dungeons & Dragons in second quarter sales on ICv2. This is no small feat, let me tell you; I'm not exactly the biggest fan of Pathfinder, as it changed too little for 3.5, but it demonstrates that the interest in a continuation of that edition of the D20 system had more than enough traction to keep going. I have a regular group that loves Pathfinder and heartily adopted it. It's still a messy game to run, but pathfinder did try to tweak the 3.5 rules to fix some of the issues people like me had, while not simultaneously isolating the fanbase. One big reason? They did an open beta, and made a big deal out of it. Despite some vocal minority assertions that apparently wen unheard in the beta (I can't point any fingers, but usually take it for granted that when someone is loudly asserting they knew what was best for the game and despise Paizo for not making it so, I must question the perceived self-relevance of that individual in terms of their assertion that their contributions were as significant to all as they claim), the fact was Paizo was very open in its efforts to make an iteration of 3.5 that was both a step forward and still something that the core fans of 3.5 D&D would be willing to go along with. It seems to have worked. One can only wonder what would have happened for D&D 4th Edition if they had attempted an open beta or solicited more feedback from the fans at large.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Zozobra - The Original Burning Man

I've been to see Zozobra, the burning of Old Man Gloom at least every other year since I moved to New Mexico, and definitely plan to attend this year. It's a great event, one with a long history for my family (recall first being taken to Zozobra as a young child by my mother, and the memory has always been with me). It's a fascinating show, an example of ritual and myth in the modern era, simultaneously anchoring itself between the modern mind while appealing to the archaic Jungian mythic resonance within all of us.

Anyway! I will be there this year....Jody may come along, too, depending on how comfortable she feels, because by that stage her parasitic hominid infestation should be close to bursting...

Alaina Gonzales

I kid! I kid. A little. Marcus is squiggling around a lot now, and it occasionally feels like he's doing a drum solo inside Jody's womb, but she is delighted. Me, I'm of course very excited, but I will concede that I am engaging in the only role I could play in this matter....she's a braver soul than I!

I am learning some important and unnerving things about myself though, including why I like Lovecraft and exactly what Body Horror means. Luckily there's a light at the end of this tunnel, a fully formed little dude who is neither Innsmouthian nor Shoggoth-like (though he may be superficially batrachian in appearance, at least initially....!)

(I would like to apologize in advance to Marcus for the fact that he's going to have two particularly eclectic and eccentric parents. We'll do our best not to scar him for life. Much.)

On other news: I have already received several purchases of the Ryan Family leukemia relief pack, and would like to thank those who have helped. Rpgnow does not give me individual sales data outside of the raw numbers, so I do not know who you are, but I thank you sincerely. Every little bit helps!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dungeon Delve #1: The Lair of Gug and the Lost Shrine of Degalthor

I haven't put any useful or fun game stuff in the blog lately, so here I offer a recent dungeon delve I designed using "Engineering Dungeons" for Castles & Crusades. ED is a great toolkit book, and useful for any dungeon-delve style game, not just C&C; I recently ordered the sequel, "Engineering Castles" from the Trolls and eagerly await my copy.

The adventure below is written for C&C, and uses a map provided online by Tim Hartlins under a creative commons license here (check it out if you haven't already, he does great maps!) It would be very easy to adapt this dungeon to Swords & Wizardry or any other OSR game. Characters of levels 2-4 will find the greatest challenge within, although if they aren't sufficiently equipped to deal with the hydra or the roper they may find those two monsters deadly (in my one-shot run of this the hydra was easily defeated but the roper got the jump on the party and it almost turned into a TPK!)

The Lair of Gug and the Lost Shrine of Degalthor
Location: Western Golmadras (set in the Warlords era of Lingusia, ca. 3500 a.w.; but easily inserted anywhere else desired)
Purpose of the Dungeon: serves as a shelter to local denizens
Builders: this is a natural cavern
Location: deep in a range of low hills in the swampy jungle-lands of the Flooded western Goblin Marshes
Depth: 1 level
Entrance: The entrance is both unknown and hidden; locals know of the cave, but not of its entrance or how to find it.
History/Age: the cavern has been used or known of for at least three thousand years. The first occupants of the cavern were troglodytes, but long ago they were driven from the cave when a cult of Degalthor, the deviant goblin god inserted themselves within. The cult was active for centuries until a contingent of elvish knight-adventurers in the old days of lost Sylvias arrived and destroyed the cult. Since then the cavern has lain fallow, used by rogue gangs of humanoids as a base and errant monsters as a den.

Start: About thirty miles south in the port town of Kharamish Sheriff Jaravas is aware that the bandit gang of the ogre Gug has been operating in the north hills of the swamplands, but he is at a loss as to their location. He has a reward out for Gug's head (250 gold pieces). Sheriff Jaravas does know that a local hermit named Khromas, who lives in the swamps, may actually know of Gug's lair, as he recently caught the hermit trying to fence goods in the town market; he suspects that the hermit has a deal going with the ogre.
   Finding Khromas's hut is easy enough, but the hermit initially won't talk. Khromas is 83 years old, but long ago was a disgraced knight of the Golmadran army, and this is where he has ended up. Appealing to his lost honor (Wis check CL +2 to notice this weakness in his personality) may open him up to revealing the trail to the lost cavern. Failing that, ransacking his hut will reveal an old map that marks the entrance location.

1. Entrance
   This sloping chamber induces a sense of vertigo as the natural formations of the cave are skewed unnaturally. Three skeletons lie near an ancient, heavy chest that appears to have been dragged here by the trio, who then mysteriously died. The best is heavy, and a thick iron key sits rusted in the lock (Strength check to force it to turn and open; CC+2 to break the chest open). The chest contains 1300 GP, 11 random gems, 10 extraordinary items, and a ring of telekinesis.
  Amazingly, no one has tried to loot this chest; a Tracking check (CL +3) reveals that there are a variety of humanoid and animal prints that go well around the chest. Unknown to the adventurers, unless they diplomatically talk to some of the denizens of this cavern, the local inhabitants are all quite supersititious and convinced that the chest is laden with deadly traps. This is in fact true, but it was a one-time trap tripped three decades ago, and it has lain dormant ever since.

2. Split in Passage
   Trundling through the dark cavern is a nesting hydra (10 HD)! It will be attracted by the noise of the adventurers entering the cavern, although if they were sufficiently stealthy (CC +10) then they may surprise the beast:
10 headed Hydra (HP 40; 10 HD; +10 attacks and Saves; AC 20; Individual Head HP: 6,1,6,2,3,6,4,2,4,6; Attacks: Bite 1D10; XP Value 3250)

SciFi and Fantasy Art Hydra by Santiago Iborra

3. Hydra Lair
   Seven orcs are here, trying to loot the Hydra lair while they know it is preoccupied with the adventurers! The hydra’s nest is made up of garbage and debris, like it was nesting, and the treasure is scattered haphazardly among the bones of victims.
Orcs 1 HD;  HP 6, 7, 4, 3, 8, 2, 2    (67 XP total) armed with axes (1d8) and short bows (1D6)
Treasure: 220 gold pieces, Delay Poison Potion, several rusty swords, arrows and rotted bows.

4. Old Shrine
   The entrance to this chamber is protected by a naturally concealed pit trap. This is not accessible (can’t be defused) and is not visible (Traps check to spot at CL +3), as the orcs in this area have covered it with a canvas tarp, and then sprinkled dirt on the tarp to conceal the pit; it is lethal and 40 feet deep (10D6 falling damage) CC +3 vs. Dexterity to grab the edge and avoid falling in! 
   Within the chamber is a squat, vile idol to an unknown demon god of old, probably Degalthor, a foul object of goblin worship. The idol resembles a cross between a mutated goblin and a deformed imp with frog-like qualities. It has long since been stripped of valuables, and there are numerous empty sockets on the statue where precious stones have been pried loose. Evidence of orcs having camped here is found on the ground.
Area A: The altar.
Area B: Thick visible spider webs, immobilizing, CL +2 to avoid or break free from. These can be ignited. If the webs are cleared, a cocooned victim can be found in the back, mummified and dead. This man was wrapped with armor and weapons; he wore a chain shirt and had an expert-quality broadsword. A pouch is rotted away but 8 copper pieces can be found on the ground, and remnants of what was possibly an old treasure map.

5. Narrow Passage
   This narrow passage connects two different areas of the cavern; there is a slight chance that one of the orcs in area 11 may be wandering down the passage either on guard duty or to relieve himself.

6. Abandoned cavern
   The entrance is blocked by an old heavy oaken door with a thick lock that has been oiled by local denizens (CL +2 to pick). The natural cavern beyond is filled with old litter and debris from previous orc or goblin encampments, but is abandoned.

7. 8. And 9. Empty
   These chambers are not normally in use, but there is always a 25% chance of a wandering monster or denizen squatters being present.

10. Lair of the Roper
   This wide, dark chamber initially looks safe, although crowded with stalagmites and stalactites producing various beautiful natural formations. One of these stalactites is not quite what it seems, however! The roper hangs from the ceiling, stealthed (CL +7 to spot Wis check), and readies for an attack.
Roper 7HD (47 HP) AC 24 SR 4     (1409 XP)
Treasure: strewn about in the back, where the remains of digested victims can be found. 1400 gold pieces, 10 pearls (15 gp each) in its gullet, and various mostly rusted and useless items.
   The orcs have been well aware of the threat of the roper, and have used periodically to get rid of the rare prisoner or rival monster that they must deal with.

user posted image

11. Orcish Encampment
   Here are more orcs, using this safe area of the cavern as a refuge. They are dominated by one ogre of local repute named Gug. (217 XP)
Gug the Ogre: HD 4; HP 25 (2H Sword 2D6+3); Eight Orcs: HD 1; HP 8,7 3, 3, 7, 6, 1, 2 (battle axes 1D8)
Treasure: The orcs have a grand total of 40 gold pieces, 4 bloodstones worth 50 gp each and a fine belt with a wooden buckle worth 50 GP. One orc has a scroll with one 1st level spell on it (invisibility to undead). The Ogre has 180 gold pieces, an expert 2H sword, an expert battle axe on his belt, and a wooden urn full of one dozen expert arrows.
   Gug is a known criminal and bandit in the region, and his gang is known as Gug’s Raiders. There is a 250 gold piece bounty on his head in the nearby town of Kharamish.

Ogre Study

12. Cavern of Echoes
   Nothing resides in the western stretch of cavern save bats and eerie echoes of those passing through.

13. Abandoned Wing
   This chamber is empty. Strange smells and debris suggest it long ago served as a den of an unknown monster that likely moved or was slain when the orcs arrived.

14. Collapsing Cavern
   This unstable cavern is crisscrossed by a collapsed floor chasm, and the ceiling is unstable (Int, stone cunning or Traps check CL -2 to notice the danger). Noise sets it off, but darting out before an avalanche of stone crushes anyone is easy (CL-2 vs. Dex to get away; 4D6 damage to those caught under the crushing stones).

15. Treasure Chamber
   This chamber was established as the reserve for Gug’s loot. He is aware of the prior chamber’s structural instability, and so moves very carefully through the chamber. Here he has placed the following loot gathered from raids on caravans in the region:
8 bolts of fine Takkain silk
10 crates of Etrurian fine port wine (12 bottles to a crate)
356 gold pieces in loose change
4 expert quality long swords and 1 expert quality suit of platemail…slightly dented, with a skeleton inside from the prior owner
A Wand of Magic Missles (none of the orcs or Gug could figure out how to activate it)
A single crate of healing potions (Gug knows what these are; there are 7 left)

One in Ten Counts? Social consensus through the influence of committed minorities

Some really interesting reading here over on the Science Blog, and the original paper here (the summary of the original paper is more concise and coherent than the blog I reference; not sure why but I found the blog itself to be a bit confusing).

Here's an excerpt of the article abstract:
We show how the prevailing majority opinion in a population can be rapidly reversed by a small fraction p of randomly distributed committed agents who consistently proselytize the opposing opinion and are immune to influence. Specifically, we show that when the committed fraction grows beyond a critical value pc≈10%, there is a dramatic decrease in the time Tc taken for the entire population to adopt the committed opinion. In particular, for complete graphs we show that when p<pc, Tc~exp[α(p)N], whereas for p>pc, Tc~lnN. We conclude with simulation results for Erdős-Rényi random graphs and scale-free networks which show qualitatively similar behavior.

(Update: found the paper here, and not behind a paywall)

The effective finding is that it only takes 10% of a given population dedicated unwaveringly to a specific belief set to tip the majority over in their favor. It indicates that smaller percentages have no meaningful influence, although I haven't yet ascertained if their model can account for the "tipping point" when the golden 1 in 10 value is effectively hit (nor what size population we must be dealing with, since it seems to me that the smallest relative group size--10 people--would seem to suggest that all you need is one unwaveringly determined member of that group to get the other ten to go along). Is this an indication of behavioral mechanisms engrained in our psychology as a component of evolutionary adaptation, I wonder? Are we hardwired to look to a leader in small populations averaging ten individuals, perhaps a characteristic of our ancient heritage, a throwback to a time when the average social unit of our hominid ancestors was a group of approximately ten individuals?

Anyway, interesting reading....

Monday, July 25, 2011

News on the Ryan Family

This weekend I found out more about my sister’s husband and his battle with leukemia from a news story in Michigan, and I also found this picture below. The picture is of Taara, Frank and their four year old son Miles. (Yes, that does make me an uncle).

The news article on their situation is here: Mining Gazette

And Taara keeps a family blog here: tmfscraps 
I’ve set up a special sale on my ebooks to donate any and all proceeds to help them out. It's likely not going to be much, but I think any little bit will help.

Click to Close

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mordenkainen Back on Schedule

The Rule of Three here talks about it. I think it's interesting that this is going to be limited to hobby and game stores for release....does this mean that WotC is aknowledging that there is money to be made in a limited print run aimed at the fans who (like me) are obsessed with dead tree editions? It also supports brick and mortal retailers, which I really do feel are the pulse of this hobby. I'm happy they're trying this out, and hope it proves successful enough that they do more of this in the future....A Heroes of Sword & Spell release, for example...or maybe limited release new editions of older editions (pipe dream or cleverly hinted at in Mike Mearls' columns? Only time will tell...!)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Runequest Reborn Again....!

So The Design Mechanism has been formed and granted license to produce a new edition of Runequest (6th edition) which will bear a close resemblance to the former RQII (now being rebranded as Legend). This is at least partially because the people behind the Design Mechanism may be the key authors behind RQII. Fascinating and strange twist of fate!

I have no idea what to make of this. If you read their FAQ the new 6th edition Runequest is clearly aimed at me: gamers who like the RQ/BRP mechanics and want a robust fantasy system that's fully customizable to go with it. It is not being aimed at Gloranthaphiles, which I have a feeling will be catered to by Moon Design's own releases, since Moon Design does Glorantha (3rd age) really well, anyway.

My only question is: does this mean I'll have Legend on my shelf in November, Runequest 6 on my shelf sometime early next year....and will I be lucky enough to have a child prodigy who can figure out how to play Runequest, or will I have to wait seven or eight years before I can introduce him to RPGs? Egads, that seems like a looooong time...

 Found on this site here

The Fanboy Explained - An explanation for the fragmentary nature of gamers!

A really cool article on this blog at The Tech Report talks about the science of fanboyism, with an overview of the underlying and very deep psychology at work. It's an interesting read, and I think sheds some light on the state of the role playing game hobby today (well, D&Ders in specific), which has fragmented into so many separate brands and subgroups that a realistic "reknitting" of the hobby may be this niche of a niche's only hope for recovery back into the realm of coherence...then again, maybe not.

The thing I find interesting is that as a hobby RPGs have always had fractionalized brand/gamer loyalty, and its always been really diverse....but it wasn't until the Top Dog D&D began to fracture over the last few years into the various OSRs, 4E, Pathfinder, C&C, Fantasy Craft and so forth that the hobby started to develop a feeling of impermanence or fragility. Based on this article, I can see why this might be so. Anyway, interesting read.

And now for the Smartly Dressed Warrior Woman of the Week!

Not sure of the origin of this illustration, but I quite like it. These three warriors are wearing stylish non-western armor which is fully functional and also suited to mounted combat. They look like they could get into a scrap and come out with all limbs intact. Picture found here.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Halo RPG: Just add Statistics!

I've been thinking about ways to do a Halo-themed campaign lately, and the choices of system I have include Traveller, GURPS Space, BRP and Stars Without Number. All of these would work, with varying degrees of additional effort on my part. I think GURPS Space would provide the most detail, which might be desirable from a mechanical/technical viewpoint....but even though Halo is a mixed pedirgee of FPS games and military SF fiction, its not really all about the normal agonizing level of detail you might expect from hardcore military SF. BRP could do it, but would require a greater degree of customization. Traveller would work well, but then I'd need to outline career paths for Spartan II and III candidates since its inevitable that some or all of the players may want to play one of these guys (no matter how likely they are to die when Reach gets glassed by the Covenant). That leaves Stars Without Number, which I think amply demonstrates the right level of detail and rules simplicity, as well as already having some great support for military-themed campaigns.

Which gets me to the above displayed book! The Halo Essential Visual Guide from DK Publishing is pretty much all I could have ever asked for in a campaign sourcebook, minus actual game stats and rules. I just got my copy at Borders today, so this may mean that I'll have my "Halo: SWN" adaptation up real soon.

Fear of the Dark

One of my favorite skeptical weird news sites is Forgetomori, and if you enjoy reading coherent overviews of weird news (UFOs and more) from a skeptical viewpoint, this site is worth a look. While browsing through recently I stumbled across this article on our Fear of the Dark, which is worth a read. The picture alone is worth the click:

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Some Smart Thinking

Easily one of my favorite Covers for 4E

I found one more recent article at ICv2, from John Riley talking about the comic industry's changes with DC as they move to a day-and-date focus on digital as well as print, and comparing the print side of the experience to the resurgence of interest in vinyl records. It's interesting reading, because I dare say that the tiny paper and pencil RPG industry could stand to learn from this. RPGs have something special to offer that other related media (computer games, board games and comics) do not, and if the surviving publishers learn to take advantage of that ephemeral thing that the tabletop RPG offers, it really should be able to find and retain its own niche. I guess the key is to learn what those specific strengths are, and to shy away from trying to compete with other media's offerings entirely. Interesting ideas. The question I guess is, what are the strengths that tabletop RPGs should be emphasizing right now, and are the handful of existing publishers really focused on them? Is the indie scene focused in the right direction? Is our hobby just too stagnant with old men griping about the Good Old Days to come around and stabilize in the face of so many other sources of entertainment, or can it make itself identifiable in a way that is both distinct and not time locked in the 1980s?

This last one might be a loaded question...lots of good about the old days, of course, but I think there's a severe split among old and young hobbyists today, and its hurting RPGs in a way that I don't think other media such as computer games or comics have quite had to deal with. The guy who thought the Silver Age of comics was the be-all-and-end-all usually still collects comics, for example; the gamer who loved Doom may bitch about the brown and grimy cover-based shooters of today but he still plays current games. The RPGer who eschews modern RPGs and holds up his 1980 rulebooks as an example of ideal gaming and accessibility is not, unfortunately, buying newer games today. Yes, they have their reason; I can empathize, as while I tend to love newer games and also those older games I know I am fairly unusual in this regard (at least from an internet sampling), but if there's one thing that drives me nuts its the FATE-based games, the Burning Wheel mechanics and other pretentious Forge-ish games that simply don't feel like role playing games as I know and understand them, so I try to use that point of reference to empathize with my cohorts who despise 4E, loathe 3E, and find 1st or 2nd edition D&D to be their pinnacle of fantasy gaming desire.

Ah, anyway. It seems like publishers out there--especially the publishers with the money--need to start looking at ways to nurture the hobby such that it both grows and retains gamers at the same time. We need something marketed as a singular experience in its own right, something that says, "sure, WoW is there, sure the 360 is there, but here, RPGs offer this distinctly different experience, come try it."

RPG publishers should look to Starbucks, is all I'm saying. Or the record Vinyl movement. This is where the hobby needs to go: selling an experience. Whatever that experience is.

And my favorite cover from Waaay Back When

So Out of Touch: Origins Awards, DC Comics and Movie Flops

ICV2 is a great place to catch up on how out of touch I am with the reality of geekdom. Although its old news now, I just got a look at the Origins Award winners. Dresden Files is a FATE-based RPG, and while I understand it is a very nice looking game, I'm still out in the cold on understanding or appreciating the FATE mechanics. Castle Ravenloft is something I actually have on my shelf, but I doubt I'll play it anytime soon; maybe in a few years when my kid has A. been born, B. old enough to read, and C. old enough to appreciate the subtleties of game mechanics maybe 5-7 years from now? Of course, by that time I'll likely want to be able to hand him a copy of Labyrinth Lord or something suitably age-appropriate that provides a real framework for creative role playing, but a big box set full of parts is always a good start; the classic Dungeon is what got my sister and me started, after all!

Then there's DC Comics. What the heck? Read the news summary. Basically, DC is rebooting its universe; I've already come to terms with that; I made efforts to get back into DC last year, and gave up this year with that news, as all it did is remind me once again that DC Comics likes to take everything I've just read and caught up on and make it once more irrelevant. Comics are one area where I really do pine for the nostalgic good old days, when I actually knew what the story arcs were about, could identify the characters and could follow what was going on. The nice thing about comics is that thanks to trade paperback collections most all of the "good old days" are out there, waiting for rediscovery, and since my time these days is precious I find I can get more enjoyment out of the old stuff now than I did even back then. Reading Morrison's Doom Patrol when it was new was a it now is a veritable revelation at just how innovative and evolved his story telling was. So I guess I'll resume not following DC and stick with my oldies (and all the awesome Dark Horse collections of Conan) for now.

Ah, but anyway, DC apparently feels that restricting its story arcs to 6 and 12 issue runs for ease of TPB packaging later on was part of their problem. They also feel comics were getting too wordy. Say wha....? I just can't relate. Try reading comics from the 70's and early 80's especially, compare the level of description and word count to today's comics. The problem (as I see it) is that today's writers and artists manage to make an entire issue focus on about 10 minutes of actual story. Hell, some comic writers out there (Liefield cough cough) are famous for making sixteen or twenty page battle scenes filled with splash pages. The problem with today's comics is not enough story, not enough exposition...not what DC is contending, that they have "too much." Too much filler, I'll buy that....too much exposition? Naw. I might be biased because I'm reading so much of the old Savage Sword of Conan these days, but damned if those old writers didn't know how to pack in a decent tale.

Finally, spotted this article on the top flops of the year so far in theaters. I can only say its sad to see Priest and Sucker Punch on there; those two movies were much better than credit is given for. Priest was a fairly standard action film, but it managed to really capture my interest after the first 10 akward minutes (and my wife loved it). Sucker Punch was a genuinely disturbing, visually amazing movie that didn't shy away from making its audience uncomfortable, and that's probably why it failed; I regret only that every time a genuinely interesting movie like this flops, it insures that we'll only see more pablum for the masses in the future. As for the rest of the flops on the real surprises!