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 :)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snow, Beer, and RPGs - My Kinda Weekend

We got about 11" of the white stuff here in t6he6 NYC area overnite Saturday into Sunday. This led to a few things:

1 - The girlfriend and her dog got to stay the nite as we were a bit snowed in. My kitty Ashley did her avoidance deal, which is basically to sleep under the futon that my g/f and her dog were napping on and watching TV from, thereby driving the damn dog crazy as SHE knew the kitty was near.

2 - Being in yesterday afternoon meant I got to do something I had put off for a bit - home brewing. Nothing fancy-schmancy, just 2 2-gallon mini kegs of Mr Beer brewing. One is an Irish Red, the other is an Oktoberfest. When I bottle in two weeks I may go for something a bit different for the next batches for the mini-kegs.

3 - RPGs. Andugus from White Haired Man Games mentioned the idea of giving my some review copies of their latest products. When that happens I'll be putting the reviews on here. I've liked what I've seen of their stuff so far and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on more.

4 - Fantasy Grounds 2 now has an ULTIMATE version of their VTT software. For $150 you get a full version of the license and unlimted floating license connections. Good deal if you are doing demo or pick up games, or need to convince your circle of the viability of successful roleplaying on a virtual table top platform. In truth this can only help other platforms, assuming that the market doesn't balk at the price tag.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Warhammer FRG - 3rd Edition - AKA The Heavy Box Game

Yesterday I came home to find my newly delivered Warhammer FRP 3rd edition waiting for me on my doorstep. The box is damn heavy and stuffed with a huge amount of gaming material. Way too much stuff. Gaming sensory overload level of stuff.

Interestingly enough there was an extra set of 10-sided Warhammer dice (the dice are uniquely stamped with images). According to the enclosed note the original 10-sided dice weren't up to snuff (basically you now have some extra dice).

I'm trying to make my way thru the 4 enclosed books without going too fast. I want to get a chance to understand the system, which looks nothing like the previous two editions. The presentation does look very much like the 2nd edition when it comes to the page layout, which is nice.

Did I mention I still need to make my way thru the Warhammer 40k Rogue Trader RPG book too? Whee!

More when I've devoured some of the material.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Grinding Gear - Not Your Mamma's Tomb of Horrors - Micro Review

The Grinding Gear from Lamentations of the Flame Princess (aka James Edward Raggi IV) is, in simplest terms, the Classic Tomb of Horrors adventure turned down from !! to about 8 on the lethality scale. Yes, your players have a chance, even tho small, to not only survive, but acquire some loot too. It's just not very likely ;)

This well written (and extremely well laid out if you want to read it on the Kindle DX) adventure is available from RPGNow in PDF format. Dead tree product is available from the author / publisher and I believe some distributors.

I'm not going to give an indepth review; Grognardia 's review did a good enough job to sell me.

I'm not big into "hose the party adventurers", and this, by nature, has the that capabilty, but it is well written and nicely presented.

4 of 5 for the adventure itself. 5 of 5 on the DX-ability scale

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dragon Age RPG - I Have the PDF!

I just preordered Vol 1 of the Dragon Age RPG. The preorder includes a download of the PDFs that comprise the rules. I've already started working my way thru the Player's booklet. Things look good and inspiring so fa.

I also got my Rogue Trader Core Rulebook delivered today. Much reading awaits this weekend.

I've uploaded Dragon Age to my Kindle DX, so we will see how that goes.

More to follow :)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Iridia - A Great (FREE) RPG Resource

If you don't know about Iridia, you really should. It's an RPG-zine... not quite a magazine, but usually more then a newsletter. It's a product of love and devotion by Christian Walker.

To be fair, I've been reading Christian's stuff for a while now. He put out Scrollworks back in the early part of this decade which was purely a printed / snail mailed e-zine.

These days he puts out Iridia on a fairly regular basis... regular when it's not replaced by the Newsletter of the Lincoln Middle School Dungeons & Dragons Club. Fun stuff :)

In any case, you can get nearly all of his stuff for free (donations appreciated) from the above linked website. I'm looking at my printed / snail mailed copy of issue 87 as we speak, which is a 20 page, digest sized, city supplement for Labyrinth Lord from this past February. You can find it for free on the site.

Enjoy the goodies and tell Christian I sent ya! ;)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Samsung SPF-87H 8-Inch Digital Picture Frame

Okay, why the heck am I mentioning a digital picture frame on a blog about RPG games and related gadgets? Quite simply because this is no ordinary digital picture frame. Not because it comes with 1 GB of memory build in, so you can upload your pics without the need of an SD card or such (although it takes those too). Nope, it is here for one reason and one reason only: it doubles as a second monitor.

Yep, it serves dual duty, and for a gamer that uses VTTs this 8" screen is a godsend, Have Fantasy Grounds II, iTabletop or whatever your favorite VTT occupying your valuable;e desktop space? You can drag your web browser or PDF reader to the 8" picture frame for rule look ups or distracted web browsing when the game is going slow.

Tigerdirect had this at 89.99 but I found it last week on Amazon for 69.99, which is a steal if you ask me. Hmmm... i need to hook my slingbox back up and see how it handles video ;)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Rant Time - Outsourcing Sucks Day Old Meat Patties

My rant has very little to do with RPGs, roleplaying, VTTs, e-book readers, computer games, video games and all that other shite. Nope, my rant has everything to do with the most evil of business practices: outsourcing.

I really don't care much how outsourcing affects our economy, moves jobs overseas, and all that other hooey that has to do with economics. No, my rant is much more personal.

I am fed up to HERE ^ with customer service that is outsourced to other countries. Why, as an American (or any other -ican you can think of) should I have to deal with "Faux-Americans" when I call a major bank's customer service?

My first call got me "Cheryl", who, with the ever so strong hint of an Indian accent, repeatedly asked me "What is your password? I can give hint. 'B", as in basey-ball". AArghhhh! She transferred me to "Lenard", who also asked me my password with the same inflection. I explained that 20 years ago when I opened this account there were no damn passwords. He told me all was fine in the world, and my transaction would be processed.

Two days later I'm still waiting on authorization. I call and get "Roland", who... guess what... asks me again for my ever luvin' fig eatin' password. He passes me on to "Kate", who seems annoyed with my call, but doesn't ask for my password. Kate apologizes via "The Script", tells me all is right with the world and sends me on my way. A quick call to say "give it a go" and I sit back finally relax. It is done. But no, apparently it isn't, because I'm told again, for the second time AFTER dealing with customer service, that all is STILL NOT right in the world.

So, I call back again. I can see their computer screens are telling them I'm a repeat caller, and now I'm pissin' vinegar, so "Noel" (sounding more like a "Patel", but no matter) realizes "The Script" will not solve this problem and I'm not going away. She makes the decision to contact someone "Who can help you better".

Two minutes later I'm talking with "Linda", who, with her cute Texas drawl, proceeds to update my account, verify my information and notices that 19 years ago someone keyed my mother's maiden name in with the first letter off by a neighboring key. She takes my work number and calls me back in 10 minutes after doing the voodoo that she do so well... and finally, after 3 calls and 6 contacts my ever-lovin' purchase is approved.

Remember the Alamo... it might be the last bastion of effective customer service we have left, assuming you can escape the script that the outsourced customer service is limited to work with.

Signs & Portents - Issue 75

Signs and Portents Issue 75 hit RPGNow today. Highlights are discussion of the forthcoming Runequest 2 and some more Babylon 5 stuff. Did I mention its free, and that this barely scratches the surface of what's inside?

Grab it. I'll wait...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dragon Age: Origins - Seeing Double

Alright, I bought Dragon Age for the XBox 360 initially. I figured I needed to get more use out of my 360, and it would be awesome playing a game like this on a 42" screen. And it is, or was. One a scale of 1 to 5, I give the game nearly a 4.5 after playing thru about 15% of the game. That being said, it is almost impossible to run tactical combat with the 360 interface in this game. Just doesnt lend itself to it.

So naturally I broke down and bought it for the PC. Hey, at lest it was at a 30% discount from the EA store as a download. I've barely started the PC version, but already I prefer the interface. Then again, I am primarily a PC gamer. Assuming the rest of the gameplay is like the 360, I expect a very solid 5 out of 5 on the pc version.

Course, I have Borderlands standing by to be played on the 360 next, but that is a RPG / Shooter hybrid... it may just work ;)


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