A Dance With Dragons Leaked

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Author George R. R. Martin is furious with Amazon Germany who recently released 180 copies of Martin's much anticipated new book, A Dance With Dragon.  Readers have been waiting for ADWD for years now, but for some lucky German fans the wait is over. 

As a result of this news fans are advised to beware spoilers online.  Some have been confirmed to be false by the author himself, but others are accurate. 

The correct release date when the rest of us rabid fans can get our hands on the book is July 12th. 

All Time Greatest MMO Dick Moves

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Not everyone who plays in a Massive Multiplayer Online game like World of Warcraft or EVE is a dick, but a lot of them are.  The feeling of being surrounded by assholes while playing an MMO is compounded by hearing tales of epic douchebagery.  Recently Cracked.com set out to compile a list of the 7 Biggest Dick Moves in the History of Online Gaming.  

Not only is it an interesting read, but managing to narrow down the list to only seven is a feat I would have previously thought impossible. 

Free City Map!

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Once again for your gaming pleasure we present you with this map which is completely free for your personal use, which is part of an ongoing series of Free Maps.  Labels have been left off so that you can fill everything in with your own awesome names.  

After last week's town map I decided to move onto a larger scale city map.  I still shied away from using Campaign Cartographer's City Designer, this time because I thought it would be useful to get some more experience doing everything by hand.  Man... doing something like this really makes you appreciate that program!  It may have taken a long time, but I am happy with the end result.  Hopefully you are as well.


A Toast to Those Who Hack!

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We have a lot of love for Hackmaster here at the Labyrinth.  Hackmaster Basic, a simplified version of the new system is a great game and can be had for under $20.  Despite being both a great game and an affordable one Hackmaster hasn't spread like it should.  When I talk with Gamers I am discouraged to find that many don't even know what the game is.  That's why I love to see people spreading the word about the game and especially running a game for others to show them what Hackmaster is all about. 

So Cheers to Troll and Flame who's proprietor recently ran what looks to be an awesome game of Hackmaster for a large group of people.  A number of pictures are provided and show the DM using Heroscape terrain to great effect.  Despite his concerns it looks like the game was a lot of fun.  I know I wish I could have played! 

Free Hamlet Map

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I was looking through some old files trying to clean up my hard drive and I found a little map that I intended to use as a battle map in a previous campaign.  I never used it, but I figured maybe someone else might get some use out of it. 

Just like all the free maps we do here this map is free for your personal use... Enjoy!

D&D Debate

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Ah how far we have come.  This video is a debate on the news from 1985 about how responsible D&D is for things like murders and suicides involving players of the game.  I always find these old videos interesting.  People have a tendency to fear what they don't understand, but fearing D&D is just so bizarre.  I think we can all be grateful that this kind of bullcrap is over.

Is Gen Con Becoming a Board Game Convention?

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 One really has to wonder if the focus of Gen Con is moving from Roleplaying games to Board Games.  Take a look at the Dealer's Hall map.  Wizards has one a single sizable booth, Paizo also has a single (but smaller) booth.  Yet Mayfair games has an entire section of the dealer room floor and Fantasy Flight has an entire neighborhood. 

Then there is the disparity in events.  This year there are almost nine hundred more board game events than RPG events.  Maybe this has been coming for a while.  Take a look at the number for the last few years..

(Year: RPG - Board Game)

2006: 1453 - 1043
2007: 1738 - 1275
2008: 1781 - 1234
2009: 1614 - 1326
2010: 1809 - 1931
2011: 1940 - 2833

Now I'm not saying that board games are bad.  Hell, I like them as much as the next guy, but I've always seen Gen Con as an RPG first convention and it seems like that might be changing. 

Free Town Map

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This week's free map is a town map as promised.  This is another map I would have liked more time for as I don't often do town maps.  Unfortunately, I started a new job this week so this was all the time I had.  When it comes to town maps I really like to use Campaign Cartographer's City Designer in conjunction with Photoshop to create a fast and effective map, but CC kept crashing and I wasn't in the mood to reinstall it so this map is done all in Photoshop. 

As usual the map is left without labels so you can name the city, streets, buildings, and whatever else anything you want.  Also as usual this map is free for your personal use, so use it in your games and enjoy!

Want to See What a Quality Product Looks Like?

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Just in case you wanted to see what a quality print product looks like here are some pictures of the Advanced Hackmaster monster book, The Hacklopedia of Beasts.

Those who are familiar with the Aces & Eights core rulebook will be familiar with the type of quality pictured above, a level which I have never seen replicated in an RPG book.  

Well at least until now. 

Some are saying that this book outstrips even the Aces & Eights book for production value, but I'll need to have the book in my hands to attest to that.  Regardless, this shows that Kenzer & Co are committed to providing the gamer audience the very highest quality product.  Doing so has come with its share of adversity, from delays in publication to complaints about the high cost of the product, but in the end those who love RPGs, love Kenzerco's work, and are willing to pay a premium for a premium product are going to be more than satisfied. 

Hackmaster has come a long way from being a joke system in a comic strip, to a parody of D&D, to a system that stands on its own two feet and puts forth a host of innovations.  Despite the greatness of the new edition there are still those who think of Hackmaster as only a joke name and for that reason the good folks over at Kenzerco made this little poster...

The Hacklopedia is slated for release July 6th, carries a price tag of of $59.99 and can be ordered through Kenzerco's website

Gamer Food

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What we eat and how we eat it says a lot about our culture.  In fantasy games and fantasy literature the same fact holds true.  Food can act as a window into well developed settings that can convey a great deal of information to a player or reader.

George R. R. Martin's masterpiece series, A Song of Ice and Fire conveys a great deal to the reader about the world, culture, and characters based on what they eat.  Martin's descriptions of meals from meager breakfasts to grand feasts are nothing short of tantalizing.  Honestly, I often get hungry just ready about them!

On this I am obviously not alone.  We reported a while back about a site called The Inn at the Crossroads that endeavored to translate the descriptions into real mouth watering dishes.  For each dish they give the passage that inspired it from the book, a picture of the finished product, their thoughts on the dish, and the recipe.  If you thought the descriptions were great then you have to take a look at what they have done and continue to do with them!

Here are just a few pictures from their site of their more recent dishes...

Consider how cool and intricate these dishes are.  Consider how they look, smell, how they were cooked, and how they are served.  Now think about your setting.  What do the people of your world eat?  Why?  How do they cook their food?  How is it presented and served?  What rituals or ceremonies accompany meals or feasts?  Providing these kinds of details to your players can really make your world a more rich and vibrant place. 

One other idea to get your players excited and immersed in the setting to actually make a dish or dishes from your setting and serve them to your players as a snack or meal.  It is a great deal of work but I have read of others adopting this idea to great effect.  You players are sure to appreciate the effort, and the grub!

Last week I wrote about some recent adversity that had befallen my gaming group.  Out Call of Cthulhu campaign had suddenly come to a half (at least temporarily) and there was an urgent need to fill the gap.  I had two days to come up with a campaign that needed to last at least two months.  I worked through my options logically, and when I left off last time I thought I had a good idea of what genre and rules system to use.

I was wrong.  

I really tried to come up with something great to put into the fantasy genre that could be played with Hackmaster Basic or Pathfinder, but nothing would come to me.  Every time I thought I had a good idea I always ended up back at one of the other fantasy campaigns I'm currently developing which had already been deemed unsuitable for one reason or another.  I've come to a realization recently that I'm just  not very good at running any campaign but the one I am most passionate about at that time.  I just can't seem to focus and my attention just begins to wander back to the campaign I really wanted to be working on.  

Fortunately it was about this time that I got kicked out of the house.  My wife is the Maid of Honor in an upcoming wedding and bridesmaids were coming over to do bridesmaidish stuff so I had to make myself scarce.  Feeling that what I needed was inspiration I made a beeline for the nearest bookstore.  Now admittedly the store's RPG section (like most these days) was small and modest to (put it kindly) but there were still a couple of books I thought might spark my imagination.  The first book I picked up was one I had wanted to check out for a while now, Mutants & Masterminds.   It may as well have been the only book I picked up because it is the only one I ever looked at.  

It was perfect.  The game looked great, my group had wanted to play a Superhero game at Gen Con but wasn't going to get to, and perhaps most importantly all of the other ideas I had for a fantasy RPG wouldn't distract me because of the leap in genre.  I've never run nor played in a Superhero RPG, but I had a number of ideas.  I have read comic books after all.  Before I had even bought the book and returned home to my Bridesmaid free home, I had selected a simple and straightforward campaign idea that I thought would serve as a great introduction to the rules and Superhero RPGs in general.

Now it was time to buckle down and get to work.  I had already spent  some of what precious little time I had just picking a rules system and coming up with an idea for a campaign.  At this point it was time to do what needed to be done to get the game ready to play.  To do that I employed five strategies to make sure I got to where I needed to be.

#1 - Cutting Corners
Normally I don't advice cutting corners.  It's a shoddy thing to do that can some times ruin a game or a setting, but early on I decided it was a necessary evil.   I cut corners in a number of ways, but the two major ones were with the Pre-Generated characters I made for everyone, and the map I used for the games' setting, Empire City.

Mutants & Masterminds offers a number of templates for characters that serve as a great starting off point and I took advantage of those by giving each of the four PCs one of those templates.  Lowering their power level meant more work than I initially had thought, but in the end cutting this corner took much less time than building the character from scratch.

As for the map of the game, as much as I wanted to build a city map from scatch I just didn't have time.  So I cut a massive corner by taking an old map of Chicago and modifying it.  The map that I came out with looked pretty good, though when it shifted to gray scale to be printed it lost some of its detail.  Color wasn't really an option as the printer allows for massive printing (the map is 3ft by 4ft) but only in black and white.

#2 - Relying on Technology
Unlike Cutting corners I fully advise taking advantage of technology to save time in any game.  The first way that I did this was to purchase Hero Lab.  Now it might not look like much, but believe me this is a pretty cool program.  The one problem I have with it is how expensive it is.  If one were to get all the games offered, and there are several, with the base program then I wouldn't have a problem with it, but that isn't the case.  When you buy the program ($30) you get a single rules system.  Oh well, I needed it.

With the help of Hero Lab I was able to make the four pre-gens I needed, and could be sure that each was balanced and within the confines of the rules.  M&M can be very tricky in this last regard so that alone with a huge help.  Hero Lab also creates it's own character sheets for each player which is also cool.

Those sheets have a spot for a portrait for each character which was something I really wanted to do.  I once again took advantage to make this happen.  I used HeroMachine 3 to quickly and effectively create character portraits for each of our heroes.  Each had its own unique look which spoke to their powers and personality, and helped to introduce each player to the character that they would be playing. 

#3 - Not Getting Fancy
There were a number of cool ideas that I had or cool things that I wanted to do that just weren't possible in the limited time I had.  For example, normally I favor complex with layers of intrigue, but given the short length of the game, the limited time I had for preparation, and the fact that everyone was was learning a new rules system, I thought it was best not to get too fancy.  I created a fairly basic and straightforward Superhero plot in which the heroes battle a number of Super Villains on their way to the climactic conclusion.  Getting fancy can be a sure road to defeat when you are in a time crunch.  Get the job done simply and effectively and your players will be grateful for the game that you put together; spend all your time on a cool but possibly unnecessary idea and you'll be explaining to a group of angry and disappointed players why you had to cancel the session. 

#4 - Surprise!
I love surprises.  I think they are a fun way to get everyone off balance and excited about what is coming.  To that end I never told the group that we would be playing Mutants & Masterminds.  When they arrived everyone expected the same old thing, and no one was too exited about the game.  When I handed out the folders with their characters and set up my M&M GM screen momentary confusion gave way to excitement.  As I mentioned earlier, we had really wanted to play a Superhero RPG at Gen Con this year, but were unable to get into one.  It was a nice surprise that got everyone into a good mood and ready to have a good time.

#5 - Relax and Have Fun
In the end number five is the simplest and most important one.  You won't have finished everything you wanted to finish.  There will be things that you wish you could have done a better job on.  In the end you have what you have and you have to make the most of it.  When I sat down at the table I wasn't wondering if what I had would be enough, but thinking about how much fun the night was going to be.  As it turned out I was right.  The first night went really well with the PCs defeating the Villain and rescuing the hostages. 

Free Map Monday - Another Free Continent Map

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Another great blank map that is free for your personal use.  This is another free continent map and this one is devoid of city/town markers, mountains, forests, or anything else which leaves you free to add anything you want to the map with ease. There is even a scroll in the bottom left hand corner for you to place the tittle of your map on. 


Destination Unknown Cartography Skills

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One of the sites I make a stop at every day is Destination Unknown.  It is a really mellow and positive site that reflects its owner.  The guy who runs it, Christian, loves gaming, gardening cooking, and surfing, but somehow has gotten it into his head that he isn't much of an artist or a map maker.  

I say nay to that!

Yesterday he posted a revised map that he had made for his campaign setting and it looked pretty damn good to my eye, but he didn't seem to be happy with it.  I took the liberty of sprucing it up a bit (hopefully this doesn't piss him off!) but made no significant changes to his map.  I am posting it here since I can't seem to find an email address anywhere on his site.  

See Christian, you are in fact quite the artist!

Game of Thrones Starts Racking Up Rewards Nominations

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HBO's Game of Thrones is already started to collect awards nominations.  According to the author, George R. R. Martin, the show has already been nominated for both a Critic's Choice Award and a Portal Award.  Several of the actors from the series have also been nominated, including Sean Bean. 

Here is a complete list of the Critic's Choice Nominees.  To see a complete list of the 2011 Portal Awards click here.

Just Watch This

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Dorkess Rising Music Video "Playing D&D"

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A music video of SJ Tucker's "Playing D&D" complete with clips from the film Dorkness Rising and some non-movie music video footage with some veterans of Dead Gentlemen

Campaign Design in Two Days

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Sometimes the best laid plans fall to ruin.  Sometimes the best campaigns fall short.  Sometimes you end up behind the screen under less than ideal circumstances.  But if RPGs teaches us anything it is that the old saying is true, "You roll the dice and take what you get." All you can do under tough circumstances is your best.  Sometimes it isn't as good as you want it to be, but you live with it.

The Professor's Call of Cthulhu game has fallen by the wayside, at least temporarily, and I'm taking up the reigns in the meantime.  This won't be a long campaign, just long enough to take us to Gen Con, so eight weeks exactly.  I have no plan, no plot, not even a rules system I plan on using.  I've been thinking about it since last night when I found out that this might be a possibility, but so far... nothing.  I keep pretty organized notes on games that I'm working on.  I have no fewer than eight in my "Under Construction" folder, but none seem like a good fit.  The problem is that two months is longer than most of my mini-campaign ideas, and shorter than any of my full campaign ideas.  

So it looks like I'm going to be starting from scratch.  No sudden inspiration has hit me as of yet.  Hell I don't even know what system I'm going to use.  Hackmaster and Pathfinder seem like front runners.  Fantasy gaming is our thing and we've been away from it for a while, after-all.  Hackmaster is my preference, the initiative system alone is hard to step away from, but there are at least two members of the group who prefer Pathfinder so it is an option as well.

Since I have a decent idea of genre and system I guess I'll go work on ironing out a plot.  Wish me luck.  

Monday Maps - Free World Map

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It's Monday so you know what that means, another map free for your personal use. Create a campaign, play Dawn of World, or add some your own map making goodness on top of this map.

I was running behind this week and didn't get to do as much work on this map as I would have liked, but that's the way it goes some times. Unfortunately Sundays is the day of the week where I have the least free time to work on the maps. Mental note not to leave the next one until the last minute! 

Please feel free to leave a suggestion for upcoming maps in the comments section, or send me an email.  I haven't started working on next week's map yet so if you would like to see a certain kind of map; island, continent, world, regional, etc, now is the time to speak up!

Heroes of Neverwinter: New D&D Game Coming to Facebook

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Atari is working on a new game called Heroes of Neverwinter, but unlike most games that they produce this one won't be for console, it'll be for Facebook.  They are working on the game with Liquid Entertainment and Wizards of the Coast and aim for a summer release, though they haven't confirmed an actual date yet.

As far as actual game play here is a description:

Heroes of Neverwinter is a turn-based multiplayer role-playing game where players customize a character and then recruit other characters to form an adventuring party. This party ventures into dungeons to kill monsters and collect items from chests, which can then be used to upgrade the character’s combat statistics or to buy new items and equipment for their character. Like EA2D’s Dragon Age Legends, Heroes of Neverwinter also encourages players to recruit friends’ characters to their party, which creates unique social interactions as players “shop” among their friends for those with the ideal character class and level to make up the best possible party.

The full article can be read here

I can tell you that I won't play this game.  I'm not big with Facebook and have never played a single Facebook game, but I'm sure there are D&D players who have and will appreciate this game.  It's good at least to see D&D stay relevant with the changes in technology in video games.  For those of you who love Facebook and D&D, keep an eye out this summer because this is a match made in heaven for you. 

If I Could Only Have One More Set of Dice For the Rest of My Life...

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Just like most Gamers, I love dice.  I'm a man who feels that one can never have too many dice.  I own hundreds of dice and bring many of them each week to my group's game.

However, if I could only have ONE set of dice for the rest of my life I think it would be these beauties.  They come in different materials, but the ones I want to get are the ones pictured on the right, made of stainless steel.  

What is not to love about these dice?  They are excuiste, intricate, unique, and made of a strong and durable material.  

Well I guess there is one thing not to love about these dice...

They are F#%@ing expensive!  

Seriously, the Steel version costs $89.60.  The cheepest you can get is the white plastic set which can be had for the bargain price of $27.95.  


But like the tittle says... If I could only have one set of dice for the rest of my life, I think it would be these babies.  One day they shall be mine!

Until then I'll just wish and drool. 

Spinning Globe Map Followup

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I got an email about yesterday's Spinning Hex Globe map.  As the answers might be useful and/or of interest to others as well I thought I would answer them here. 

The Jump 
The first question is about the "jump" in the spinning globe.  If you look at the globe posted yesterday there is a bit of a little glitch on every rotation.  That is because the two ends of the map to not match up perfectly.  It is possible with a little trial and error to loop your map correctly so that you don't experience the jump.  You need to create a map so that both ends match up, much like creating a seamless texture. 

Slow Rotation
The second question was whether the speed at which the globe is spinning is alterable.  The one I posted was fairly slow, and the reader was looking for a lot more speed.  This is easily doable through the animation menu.  All one need do is turn the animation time down.  The lower the animation time (the amount of time between the two points) the faster the globe will spin. 

More Map
The final question of interest was whether one can add more to the map.   The answer again is, yes.  You can create additional art around your globe and create a number of really cool effects. The only thing that will limit you is time and imagination. 

To demonstrate the answer to all three of the above questions I have created a little example using the same globe I used yesterday.  I messed around with the edges to make it seamless and eliminate the jump, I turned down the animation time to make the globe spin much faster, and I created a little space scene.

This is just a quick example, but if there is interest I can make a more complex one. I'm always happy to share my fledgling knowledge so if anyone has any additional questions please do not hesitate to leave it in the comments section, or email me.

Spinning Hex Globe

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I wanted to quickly answer a question by one of our readers from yesterday.  Shinobicow wanted to know whether it was possible to make the Hex Globe map depicted on the right into a spinning globe. 

The short answer is yes, it most certainly can be done.  How to do it would require a much longer answer and I am generally terrible at tutorials.   It involves converting your hex map into a smart object and using the animation menu which can be found under the windows menu. 


I had to make a few small modifications to the above map to demonstrate, but here is an example of a spinning globe map made in photoshop.  

I don't make too many animated maps, but if you have taken time to map our an entire world in painstaking detail then why not create a cool spinning globe with it? 

As I said I'm not very good with tutorials, but here is a rundown of the steps you need to take

  • Have your basic map set.
  • Create a new document.
  • In the new document add a new layer and make it a smart object.
  • Double click on the smart object icon in layers pane to begin workin in the object.
  • Drag your original map into the smart object layer.
  • Use the animation menu to move the picture from left to right (or right to left if you prefer)
  • Save the smart object.
  • Turn your map into a globe using the spherize filter (Filter>Distort>Spherize).
  • Use the eliptical marquee tool to select only the globe.
  • Add a layer mask to cover up the non-globe parts
  • Save the project as a Gif using the "Save for Web & Devices Option"
  • Select Forever looping.
  • Save and enjoy.