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Friday, January 1, 2010

My New Year's Resolution - Getting back in the DM Seat

I've talked about this since I bought my first VTT with floating licenses (Klooge) but this time I'm about to get off the pot.

My plan is to run a session using a weird FG2 / iTabletop combination for my friends that I've alluded to for way too long.

Not sure what game system I / They want to use, nor the genre (although if I was a betting man I'd suspect fantasy of some sorts). I'll probably leave that up to them via an email vote / thread.

I'll need to run the sessions episodically, as I suspect organizing a game once a month is going to be hard, let alone aiming for more often then that. Self contained adventures with loose threads holding them together may suit our gaming fine.

I'll post more about this as I start shaking the tree and see how it all falls out.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Latest Rant - The Crusader Issue 22

I'm sorry. I really enjoy the vast majority of the products the Trolls put out, and Castles & Crusades is my current game of choice, but their House Rag known as the Crusader really annoyed me this month.

Let me preface this by stating the following: "House Rags" are used by publishers to drive sales of their games. Mongoose does this with Signs & Portents, a free PDF magazine published monthly with articles useful in their many games. Dragon and Dungeon are kinda weird, as the sale of D&D is there to drive the sub numbers, at least that's how I see it. In any case, both these publishers put out professional "House Rags"

The Crusader is a print product. It competes with Kobold Quarterly, Fight On!, and Knockspell on that field (I'm leaving out Dragon Roots as who knows when the next issue is, and Level Up as that is pure 4e)

The Crusader is the only one that is trying to go monthly. It costs $4 for 36 pages. It is ad light, so removing ads and the OGL leaves us with 32 pages. Not too bad. One or two quality articles would make that a decent price to quality ratio. Key word: would

I have been reading the Crusader since the first issue. It was poorly edited and reading cover to cover took me 20 minutes, but I enjoyed those minutes. It reminded me of the Dragon Magazines of my youth in some ways. Heck, I actually found articles I thought I could use.

Jump ahead to the latest issue, number 22. In it, Managing Editor James Ward (yes, the same as in the old TSR days) bemoans the lack of subscribers. He actually suggests that every reader of Crusader buy a sub for a friend. Then we are told we should "start talking the magazine up" on the Trolls forums. We are expected to shill on the company's own forums to our fellow gamers? Oh, and then a second plea to buy a sub for a friend.

I'm sorry, but quality sells. There just isnt enough quality in these almost monthly, rushed issues for me to justify renewing, let alone buy for a friend. I feel there is more filler then crunch or fluff combined.

Lets see. Which articles are useless filler, used to fill the 36 pages in question.

1 - Upon the Blacktooth Ridge: 3 pages about how the "A" series came to be

2 - The Book of Familiars Finds a path: 2 pages on how the old D20 book is moving to C&C - its a fricken ad

3 - Troll Lord Freebies: 2 page spread with 2 totally worthless maps. Seriously, they are worthless. Part of some future product with labels such as "see future maps for details"

4 - The Aihrdian Newsletter: 6 pages on some fake parchment background, thereby making it annoying and painful to read. Its game world fiction, I think. Double spaced with large margins. More filler.

5 - Tales of the Brass Rings: 2 more pages of fiction. I regarded fiction as filler in the Dragon mags of the 80s and 90s, and that was of a higher writing quality.

Wow, 15 pages of filler, add 1 page for the table of contents and one page for the plea for subs, giving us 17 pages of blah. 4 pages for the ads and ogl. 21 filler pages out of 36.

Interestingly enough, there is a two page article on the C&C Society. Most interesting part? The end of the Doomsday Book, a fan created free magazine for C&C. Much more cruch heavy and useful then Crusader has ever been.

So there's my rambling rant. If you want subscribers you need to earn them. Give them a product that they can use in their actual games. Make it interesting. Make it presentable. Work out the proofreading issues... its been a weight around the neck of the Troll for years... showcasing it monthly doesn't help.

As a side note, Towers of Adventure by James Ward for use in C&C: worst waste of my money on a gaming product in years. Am I saying Mr. Ward is a bad designer and editor? No. But he needs to find out what his readers want if he is going to grow those subscriber numbers. This reader certainly hasn't been getting what he wants.

The covers are cool tho ;)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Eclipse Phase - A Taste of the Dark for Free

Eclipse Phase is an RPG published by Catalyst Game Labs under the Creative Commons License. It is available for free in a QuickStart (40 pages) edition or for $15 bucks at RPGNow (400 pages) for the full package.

So, why am I posting about it? Could it be the five 5* reviews it received at RPGNow since its August release? Perhaps. I've seen fudged reviews on RPGNow, but this doesn't seem to be one of them.

Borrowing the blurb from RPGNow:

Eclipse Phase is a post-apocalyptic game of conspiracy and horror. Humanity is enhanced and improved, but also battered and bitterly divided. Technology allows the re-shaping of bodies and minds, but also creates opportunities for oppression and puts the capability for mass destruction in the hands of everyone. And other threats lurk in the devastated habitats of the Fall, dangers both familiar and alien. In this harsh setting, the players participate in a cross-faction conspiracy called Firewall that seeks to protect transhumanity from threats both internal and external. Along the way, they may find themselves hunting for prized technology in a gutted habitat falling from orbit, risking the hellish landscapes of a ruined earth, or following the trail of a terrorist through militarized stations and isolationist habitats. Players may even find themselves stepping through a Pandora Gate, a wormhole to distant stars and the alien secrets beyond.

All that and your can try the system, get your teeth into the background, and have a starter adventure for free.

Course, I already bought the damn PDF. It looked so damn purty ;)

(late edit: there appears to be a Lite version of the rules for free... no frills, white box, plain label, artless... yada yada


Beware, I think my next posting (or the one after) will be a rant. Shame too, because I like the Trolls and C&C.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

More Beer! More Games... Tastes Great, Less Filling

Actually, I don't know if the beer tastes great yet but one can hope. Mr. Beer suggests one week to brew, one week to carbonate, and possibly one week to condition. All of the forums I've read push 2-2-2 as the cycle, so next weekend for the bottling / carbonation stage. At the moment the Irish Read has some nice activity with a healthy foam on top of the brew, the Oktoberfest less of a head.

RPG Blog II has a link to a way to get Iron Crown Enterprises Rolemaster Express in PDF for free. They did this offer last year and I snagged a copy (also bought like 6 dead tree copies at 5 bucks a piece last year when they had a promotion). It's a great write up of the Rolemaster Rules without the overwhelming pages and tables from the full set. Almost reminds me of the MERP rules of old.

The Gathering of Fools took place yesterday, and our host succumbed to the dangers of 12 year old Scotch by 4pm... we didn't realize until nearly 5, and didn't wrap things up until nearly 7. Another fun time was had by all. Er, almost all.

Palladium Books has extended their Grab Bag offer until January 15th. Basically, for 37 bucks (plus handling, shipping and possibly tax) you get 80 or 90 bucks worth of gaming goodies. I received 6 signed prints (one signed and numbered), one unsigned print, 14 blister packs of Rifts minies, The latest Rifter (signed by Kevin and the rest), a Palladium Fantasy sourcebook (also signed) and last but certainly not least, a signed copy of the Palladium Fantasy Rulebook with a scetch signed and dated by Kevin. That was a double order (2 x 37). I need to pick up some frames to display the art :)