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Episode 5: Thoughts of Darkness
Life continues to mirror the game as Jaz goes after Hicks to apologize.
Official Description: Jaz pursues Hicks, trying to coax him back into the game. Hicks explains his difficulty in coming to terms with the past, and they stumble upon a plan to salvage the adventure.
Gen Con Housing opened at Noon and the Professor and made a coordinated effort to book rooms for our groups pilgrimage to Gen Con in August. To be honest I was more than a little concerned given the reputation of Gen Con's online systems coupled with my group's past experiences, but it all worked out great. We got our first choice, the Westin Indianapolis, right across the street from the convention center. This will (hopefully) make our experience even better than last year where we had to drive back and forth from our hotel near the airport and carry our stuff around all day.
If you haven't booked your hotel room yet through the room block do so ASAP, especially if you are looking for one of the closer hotels!
Those of you who have booked your rooms and got what you wanted join me in a collective, "WOOT!"
Now there are various ways to find new members, many of which I'm sure we weren't aware of., but of the ones we did know the three that seemed the most promising to us were message boards, Obsidian portal, and Pen & Paper Games.
Message boards for specific games have worked really well for people I know. I once knew a guy who would hit the D&D boards and within a week would have a whole new group. That man had a talent for finding people that it quickly became clear that I, and the other members of my group, lack. The problem is that my group no longer plays just D&D anymore. When 4e came out it became clear that the game was not for us and so we started looking elsewhere. In the time since 4e came out we have played Hackmaster 4th Edition, Hackmaster Basic, Hackmaster Advanced, Aces & Eights, Pathfinder, Call of Cthulhu, 1st Edition D&D, 2nd Edition D&D, and D&D 3.5. So though it was cool that the release of 4e caused us to branch out and leave our comfort zone a little bit, it no longer made it possible to hit the D&D boards looking for players. Similarly, Paizo has prolific message boards, but by and large those players are Pathfinder players who might not be interested in switching systems should the need arise. So in the end we didn't have much luck with message boards and decided to forgo others like ENWorld, RPGNet, and others.
Obsidian Portal is an awesome site and a great resource for many things including finding games. We used Obsidian Portal as kind of a passive way to look in the months leading up to our active search. We listed the campaign we were playing along with some information on our group and tossed our line out, hoping some Gamer without a group would bite. Alas, we had little to no luck. We considered contacting some of the other groups in the immediate area, but many of them were playing 4e, so it was unlikely they would have been a good fit. However, all was not lost. Obsidian Portal partnered with Pen & Paper Games, a site dedicated to helping Gamers find Gamers. We all figured this would be our best bet.
It was at Pen & Paper Games that we made our last ditch effort to find some new blood. We threw a wide net over the area, opting for a "spray and pray" philosophy. Rather than working our way down a long list of people one at a time, we just emailed everyone we thought might be a good fit. So just how many was that?
That's right, thirty two people got messages from us offering them a seat at our table. This was not just a quick "hey you don't know us but join our game" email. No, this was thorough. We talked about our group, how many members, what ages, our play styles, what games we play, what times, how long we had been together, what we were looking for, what we would be playing, and a host of other things. We added a "no pressure clause" by stating that it was just a trial to see if the person was a good fit for the group and the group a good fit for the person. When we finished writing the email (a group effort) I was sure that we had emailed too many people and would be bombarded with responses. This was a little worrying because the table we play at is only so big. Turns our I shouldn't have worried. Go ahead and guess how many responses we got.
If you guessed one and a half, you are correct.
What do I mean by that? Well we got one ligit response by a guy who was interested, and one quick email from a guy who said he might play if we change the day we play on. To say we were disheartened would be an understatement.
Now I should mention that all of the people who we emailed were not held in equal regard. We rated each person on a 1-10 basis and only emailed the top 32 people. So naturally where was our one response from?
If you guessed the very bottom of the list, you are correct.
Needless to say it was more than a little disheartening, but we emailed the guy (Doodle, by handle). Doodle seemed nice enough via email and was very prompt in his responses so we invited him to come down for the start of our Call of Cthulhu game and roll up a character with us. When he showed up we were all pleasantly surprised, he was friendly and very normal. Hey, don't look at me like that... it's the internet you never know what you're gonna get. Doodle had played CoC before so he was a help with some of the rules and his sense of humor really seemed to mesh with the rest of the group, something of underrated importance in my opinion.
As I write this we are two weeks into our CoC and things are going great. Everyone is very happy with Doodle and he seems reasonably happy with the group. Still when I think of the process we went through to find and recruit him I have to ask myself, why the hell is it so hard to find new players?
If you have a story of your own trials and tribulations of finding new group members please, let's hear it! If you have any advice on finding new members, please share that too!
Billboard promos have been going up all over the UK to promote the upcoming series A Game of Thrones. George recently posted a photo of Maisie Williams, the young lady to plays Arya Stark, posing in front of one near where she lives.
A very amusing picture. It's good to see that Ms. Williams is as excited about the release of the show as the rest of us!
Since earlier today I posted a pretty bad recent commercial for Dungeons and Dragons 4e I thought I should post this better commercial that I found for D&D Essentials. It doesn't have the Beholder, but it also doesn't have the bizarre marketing strategy.
Once again we see that Essentials is marketed for Old School Gamers rather than kids. Something that Ryan Dancy thought very strange. Still it is a quantum step forward from that other commercial. This one makes me think about D&D and not about what the creators were thinking.
(Yes, that was Cameron Frye from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.)
(We got to see that Beholder last year in our trip to Gen Con. He looks pretty awesome, and is really massive. I'm sad to say the poor fellow has lost some teeth though.)
The prolific author was recently interviewed about HBO's upcoming adaptation of the first book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Game of Thrones.
Roleplayers and Wargamers spend a lot of time wondering what it must have been like to be on a medieval battlefield. What would it be like to witness two massive armies clashing on the battlefield with nothing less than life or death stakes.
Thanks to Cylopeatron for posting a link to this amazing article from the Economist which offers a lot of insight into what these types of battles were like through the window of a single battle during the Wars of the Roses.
The battle in question, perhaps one of the bloodiest battles in English history, took place in a small village named Towton, located between York and Leeds. There two massive armies clashed on March 29th 1461. How many men are we talking about? Well it's a medieval battle so one might think the the conflict would have been small, especially by modern standards. One would be wrong. It is estimated that as many as 75,000 men took part in the fighting that day. An epic clash that rivals even the sprawling battles found in a fantasy series such as George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, itself heavily influenced by the Wars of the Roses.
The Article has a wealth of information that fans of history are sure to enjoy, Including the tale of one casualty of the battle, christened "Towton 25" by researchers, who met a grisly end. I highly recommend you go and read the article, it is definitely worth your time, and may make you think differently about how you handle large scale conflict in your games.
D&D RPG Product Release UpdatesDespite the best laid plans, sometimes we make changes to the D&D product release schedule. Usually this happens well before we’ve communicated our plans, but sometimes we must make changes to schedules that have already been announced. That happens to be the case we have here.
We have made the decision to depart from prepainted plastic miniatures sets. Lords of Madness stands as the final release under that model. We will continue to release special collector’s sets (such as the Beholder Collector’s Set we released last fall), as well as make use of plastic figures in other product offerings. Check out the Wrath of Ashardalon board game next month for the latest example of this. Moving forward, we will continue to explore more options for players to represent characters and monsters on the tabletop, including Monster Vault and other D&D products that feature monster and character tokens.
The Heroes of Shadow product, originally scheduled for March and presented in digest-sized, paperback format, is moving to April to accommodate a change to hardcover format. Additionally, three D&D RPG products have been removed from the 2011 release schedule—Class Compendium: Heroes of Sword and Spell, Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium, and Hero Builder’s Handbook. While this means fewer books, we plan to deliver just as much great content for players this year through other formats, including board games, accessories, and digital offerings. I’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest releases each month as we go along.
Finally, I wanted to let you know that we’re making a change to the way we handle D&D Insider content. Subscriber data informs us that the vast majority of you consume our articles individually, when they are posted, as opposed to downloading the monthly compilations. So, starting this month, we’re just providing the articles. There won’t be any more monthly downloadable compilations. This is not a reduction in content, just a clarification of presentation and putting the emphasis where the majority of you are using it. Corrections and updates to articles which used to appear only in the compilations will now be made to the individual articles a few weeks after the original posting.
Product changes at WotC: no more Minis
WotC to Discontinue Plastic Minis
R.I.P. D&D Minis 2003-2010
News: Tales of WotC Woe
The bottom line is that many us of don't have the artistic ability to paint our own miniatures, so despite great companies like the late Ral Partha, Reaper, and Dark Sword have made many amazing works of art over the years, the majority of us have never been able to fully enjoy a painted miniature.
That is until 2003 when WotC launched one of their greatest products ever, D&D Miniatures. They were plastic which some disliked, but I was actually a fan of. The plastic, besides being much cheaper, was more likely to bend than break and were easily bent back. If one did break, a cheap replacement could always be found. They were pre-painted and looked great, which meant you could enjoy them right out of the box. There were such a wide variety of them available that you could almost certainly find whatever you were looking for.
It sucks to have WotC launching stupid products like these fortune cards, but discontinuing a quality product like their miniatures. So it seems that mxyzplk's concerns have been validated...
WotC has gone full retard.
I caught wind of Ryan Dancy's recent article over at ENWorld from JoeTheLawyer.
It's a very interesting read to say the least.
Among the things he says Dancy states that, according to his industry sources, Pathfinder is outselling 4e.
Paizo couldn’t exist without the OGL and the D20 System Reference Document. And according to my industry sources, it’s outselling Dungeons & Dragons a feat (no pun intended) I would have considered almost impossible 10 years ago.
Pretty staggering no matter how you feel about 4e. To think that ANY fantasy roleplaying game would outsell Dungeons and Dragons is mind blowing.
He went on to say,
Three years ago I told people that it didn't matter if 4e was successful or not, because it was likely to be the last version of D&D that would be based on paper based tabletop gaming. I've seen nothing so far that changes my opinion about that.
To think that 4e would be the last version of D&D to be printed on paper is a little shocking. Yes, PDFs have seen a mediocrity rise over the last ten years, but to think that people won't buy books any more...
Guess I should get an ipad or one of those new ripoffs.
Obviously D&D is changing, but what will it change into, will it be reconizable, and will it be something the majority of us enjoy?
Those are the questions WotC and other industry leaders will have to answer in the coming years.
Episode four, Howls in the Night, is up on GOLD's website.
As Hicks had predicted, the decision to split the party results in disaster. When Jaz is unable to come up with a solution, Brian's anger boils over and he forces an out-of-game confrontation.
Night of the Zombie King continues to seriously impress, representing a Quantum leap forward in what we can expect from the producers of GOLD going forward.
Another great trailer! This one features a number of the central characters sitting on the Iron Throne (Which looks awesome, by the way!) speaking a portion of their dialog. Just when you thought you couldn't be any more excited...
Is it April yet?
GOLD, the Series that does Double Damage, has finally returned!
They are currently following up their very successful first season with the first of their "companion adventures." GOLD: Night of the Zombie King looks to take the series in a different direction, choosing to focus on the character of Jaz specifically. NotZK seems to be going for a different tone than the original, but that doesn't mean the the humor is gone.
Have a look at the trailer below and head over to GOLD's website to check out the new season!
My last quote inspired article, "Game Balance and the Conformist Utopia" seemed to be greatly enjoyed by our readers so I decided to follow it up with another one.
Gary Gygax, often dubbed the father of our hobby, is obviously beloved by nearly everyone. Why not? He inspired countless men and women, was friendly and welcoming to those he met, and above all passionate about what he did. Yet Gary, like all of us, was not perfect. For proof we need go no further than Gary himself.
Psionics remains something of a hot button issue today. Most people harbor a strong dislike for them, preferring to leave them out of their own games. Others harbor a strong and fervent love of them and tend to lash out at those who take pot shots at one of their favorite parts of D&D.
I gave psionics a go multiple times, but just found that they generally don't fit in games and settings that I play. They are too close to magic to have each be special and play a vital role in both the setting and the story. I have played with people who used psionics to replace magic altogether, and in my opinion this would probably work better than having both and creating a big jumbled mess, but would alter the feel to be something other than a typical fantasy setting. Given the psionic abilities in 3rd edition the game would probably feel more like a sci-fi game than a fantasy one, though it would probably be really cool if you were playing a post-apocalyptic fantasy game.
Reducing everything down to the point where everything is mechanically identical may be balanced, but it will be just as fun as a conformist utopia. -Korjik
Take D&D as an example. In first and second edition you have no real balance between the classes, at least not in the modern sense. The fighter is great at the beginning, but gives up the crown fairly early on to the magic using classes. This is further balanced out by the fact that the magic wielding classes all took far more experience to advance in level. Yet a 18th level fighter and a 18th level wizard were not balanced against one another.
Third edition came along and did away with differing experience table and so undertook the difficult task of balancing each class against each other each level. At this task, they failed terribly. That isn't to say they didn't go a great job, I'm not bashing 3rd edition here, but the classes were not all made equal. A 12th level Wizard is orders of magnitude better than a 12th level Ranger. Other classes were very well balanced, like the Wizard and the Sorcerer, but by and large there was a pecking order as to how powerful the classes were. The reason they couldn't all be perfectly balanced is that they all did different things, and did them in different ways. The classes all had their own feel and their own niche within the game.
Soon after 3.0 came 3.5. It attempted to fix the issues in the original 3rd edition design, including some of the balance issues between the classes. Rangers, for example got much better, but still the classes were not perfectly balanced against one another and the pecking order still was there, albeit in a slightly different order. The jam was still in the cog, which is to say that the classes were still so widely different, and had abilities that couldn't be quantified to match each of the other classes perfectly.
Enter 4th edition. Game developers had been questing for balance for a long time now and finally come up with a way to balance all the classes almost perfectly, give them all comparable abilities. Now I'm not saying that all the classes from 4e are the same, but they are much more similar to one another than in any other version of the game. Each has dailies, per encounter, and once a day abilities that can be easily balanced against one another. Now I'm not saying that 4e is perfectly balanced, but it is the closest thing to perfectly balanced that exists out there.
WotC finally hit the mother-load of balance, finally reached the promised land it had long search for. Hell I had been looking for it myself for a while, but now that I got to look on it, I didn't really like what I saw. Gone was the unique feel of each class, gone was what made each of them special. They just all felt the same, uniform, homogeneous.
That's when I realized that the White Whale I was chasing was something of a poisoned prize. To get balance you have to give something up, a certain amount of flavor and texture. You have to be willing to part with the differences that make things unique and interesting. Balance craves uniformity and consistency, and those things just aren't very interesting.
So I am done chasing game balance as the ultimate prize. Instead I'll keep it on the shelf with the other things. It has it's place, but it isn't higher than a host of other factors that make up a great game.
|These guys looked screwed. I'm hoping to avoid this.|
|Watch out for this guy... check!|
|If you can't beat em, join em?|
|Spellfire was introduced in 1994|
|A Card from the GameMastery Critical Hit Deck|
|A 3rd Edition Spell Reference Card|
|A Spellfire Card|
|One of the new Fortune Cards|
|One of the new Fortune Cards|
- What is just one player buys them and everyone wants to draw from his deck? How would he feel basically being the one to supply the entire group with cards? I'm sure some people would be fine with that, but I could see it being a problem for others. Especially when playing in games where the Players don't know each other.
- People are encouraged to build a deck that has been tailored to their specific character. If a wizard filled his deck with magic boosting cards to maximize his potential, what good would it be for the fighter to draw from his deck?
- Does the DM also draw from the deck? These are player cards and don't seem to be meant for the DM, but 4th edition is the ultimate edition of Game Balance. I'd say the game is almost perfectly balanced, but with these cards the balance get's thrown out of wack. Even if the DM does draw, the added flexibility of being able to play the cards on any of the monsters in the game makes the cards more powerful in his hands than in the hands of the players. I'm sure it won't be long before we see DM cards..
IGN recently got to sit down and watch 15 minutes of footage from HBO's upcoming series, A Game of Thrones. You can read all about what they saw and what they thought about it here.
Among the most interesting parts of the article was the writer's thoughts on Eddard Stark's character.
I really got a great "retired gunslinger" feel from Bean's performance as Ned - a man who's tried very hard to leave his past life of warring and violence behind him but gets sucked back in to a world that he's desperately tried to protect his family from.
I never really thought of Ned in those terms, and if that is the way Sean Bean is trying to play it I'll be very interested to see how that comes out on screen.
All of the footage seen seems to have impressed, and the writer has nothing but good things to say about the upcoming series.
As for the rest of us poor shmucks, we'll just have to wait for April 17th.
To bring you up to speed on what I am trying to accomplish here I will quickly summarize...
- The system should allow for exceptional individuals such as the PCs to make a tangible difference on the battlefield.
- It should be easy to learn but not be over simplified.
- It should realistically simulate medieval combat.
- It should allow for tactical decisions that have pros and cons.
- There should be some type of skill that characters can invest in to make them more effective commanders.
- There should be some way to seamlessly integrate magic into large scale battles.
- It should use a grid map of some kind. Square are fine, but my preference is hexes.
- It should integrate miniatures or some other kind of physical representation to be used on the grid.
- Rules for Logistics on recruiting, equipping, feeding, and moving armies should be included.
- The system should be scalable. That is to say that it could be used on a smaller scale with hundreds of soldiers involved or with massive armies of thousands.
Fortune Cards are available in 8-card booster packs with differing levels of rarity (common, uncommon, and rare), and serve as another avenue for excitement at the game table. Players can crack open boosters of cards just prior to participating in a game session, or come to their game with pre-built decks. With each booster, a player’s tactical options for their character during the game alter and expand in interesting new ways. Integrated into all Wizards Play Network programs and other D&D organized play games in 2011, Fortune Cards create an instant, inexpensive purchase for players on the day of a D&D event at your store. For players playing at home, Fortune Card decks can be customized to suit a player’s character in an ongoing campaign as well. Players can also collect and trade cards with their friends as they build their Fortune Card decks.
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