Saturday, August 30, 2014

Draconic "Magazine" Comes Online

If there is one thing I can say for sure about +Venger Satanis ' Draconic "Magazine" is that it isn't a magazine. It's a hub, a blog, a website but it's not a magazine.

At first glance, it reminds me of Gnome Stew, which itself is more than a blog but less than a magazine. Well, that's if Gnome Stew had black and red demonic goat's heads (or are they demonic goat-dragon mongrelations?) on the front page trying to play off the OSR by branding each head with "O" "5" "R" respectively while using the classic Dragon Magazine font for it's title (much like Gygax magazine does, it an attempt to be what it is not).

Therein lies my first issue with the first "issue" of "Draconic Magazine" - what identity is it trying to portray? Is it an OSR blog? A 5e blog? A "D&D is satanism blog? Is it the reincarnation of the Old Dragon Magazine, assuming it went the way of the dracolich?

+Venger Satanis is a Satanist (or Cthulhuian now) priest. I get where the "demonic" trappings come from. To each their own, but for me, such overt trappings are a turn off. It's not prudishness. I'd have similar feelings if the trappings were crosses or stars of David. My preference is to keep "real" world (as in not created by modern fiction) out of my gaming.

As for the actual content? No better and no worse than the average gaming blog. Which in the end is what Draconic Magazine is - a blog with mostly posts by Venger with a few others in the mix. Again, similar to Gnome Stew but with a satanic tilt to the trappings and an attempt to cover a wide base of D&D editions.

Is it worth the read? It's a gaming blog. There should be something worth stealing.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Looks Like There Will NOT be PDF Versions of the Core D&D 5e Books - But There's an App for That ;)

It doesn't look like there will be PDF (or epub or mobi) versions of the 5e core books. Part of the argument is that we've already been given the 5e Basic Rules for free in PDF, so why butcher sales of physical books even more. The other argument against it is piracy. Last argument? They've given digital rights to the 5e rules to the company behind the DungeonScape application from Trapdoor Technologies.

Alright, first a little background. ENWorld has an interview posted on their site with Mike Mearls that addresses just this topic (conducted by Mike Evans).
Mike... because we know that gamers love books… and we’re gamers too, we love books! And then it’s not just a game manual, it’s an artifact Because if you like D&D enough that you want to spend money, we’re are going to give you reasons to spend your money. But if you weren’t going to spend money and just pirate it, that’s easy, there’s already a free PDF out there. 
I suppose I’m kind of editorialize this… there are plenty of people out there who can justify the economical necessity of piracy, and just as many who say here’s the solution to piracy and I’m going to sell it to you. I mean I look at it that when I was a kid and I pirated software, it’s because I only had 50 dollars a month I could spend on games, so all that would mean is I’d skip stuff, I’d never play Ultima V because I could never buy Ultima III. But instead, I played a pirated version of Ultima III, and then when Ultima V was announced my 50 bucks went right to Lord British. But really, if there was no piracy to play the earlier game, I wouldn’t have spent money on the later game when I had it. And I think it’s easy as a creator to say, oh this piracy it’s killing me! Instead, I see it, and I think you have to approach it because it’s a challenge, how can I make you say, you know what I want this [book]. I gotta have it. But there is still a market for the PDFs… 
Yea I was going to ask about that [PDF sales]…
Mike: You know we haven’t announced anything official yet, but I’d be surprised if we released the PDF to be exactly as the book. Because I think that we’ll sit down and look at a PDF format of the book and say well what’s the best format that could take? It really does make good sense to have it sort of stripped down and in a utilitarian layout.  
Because you know what? I’m actually just using this because I just want to get some rules at the table. Maybe I just want to be on a plane or just sitting around and want a quick reference that’s a quick read and just the information I want. So what does that do to the [PDF] design? We strip out a lot of the art and make it utilitarian. Or we break it up and actually the ebook version is actually three books, we’ve broken it up into three parts, and each topic is now a separate book. So maybe I’m playing a Wizard, and I’m just using the Basic D&D, but I want more spells… so I’m just wanting the spell chapters, so maybe I spend 5 bucks or 2 bucks just so I have that indexed or bookmarked and can quickly reference my spells. You know, what is the usefulness of that? Just as a bibliophile wants the whole book as a physical artifact, the digital only user, well, what is the best way for them to get access to the game. 
So there is nothing concrete yet, but those are just some of the possibilities being discussed? 
Mike: Yea exactly. Especially with the Dungeonscape Tool that Trapdoor [Technologies] is working on, and how they are going to approach things and what features they are going to have, could that kinda feed that need? Because we asked that it be iOS, Android, PC, so maybe you can just download the app and then buy the say Fighter packet and however we’re breaking it down, so are we really going to need to sell a separate PDF because actually the best way is to buy the tool, and the tool is also populating my database and I can make characters, then maybe I just don’t necessarily need the PDF. So a lot of it is just trying to figure out where things are with what they’re [Trapdoor Technologies] is doing, and we just don’t want to rush into something and then you’re like but I just bought the PDF and then the tools came out, and now I’m paying twice for the same content, that would make you upset. So it’s really just figuring out what is the best thing for the gaming audience at this point.
and here is part of today's blog update at the Trapdoor Technologies site:
Being the digital distribution licensed partner for Wizards of the Coast and the D&D TRPG, we had to consider a whole different set of challenges around who could access content, how they could get it, and what they were allowed to do with it.  Physical books simply don’t have the same problems as digital books (i.e. you can’t attach a physical book to an email and send it to a hundred people with a click of a button.)  However, we also had to recognize the foundation of tabletop roleplaying games: friends, sharing information, imagining epic drama, and of course, rolling a natural 20 (amirite?)... 
Right now, the answer is that we simply can’t give people the ability to share full books with one another, because it would open DungeonScape up to a level of potential exploitation that we aren’t prepared to handle.  In digitally distributed content, given the capability, there’s no limit to who people can share with, or how the system could be abused. The limitations of paper just aren’t there.  In DungeonScape, taking advantage of the full suite of player-based tools (i.e. character creation and character sheet) requires the digital version of the PHB (Player’s Handbook) to be unlocked for each account/player.  To help soften the cost impact, as we’ve mentioned in other places, content will be broken out to support smaller incremental purchases. 
However, once the PHB is unlocked, it is permanently yours under that DungeonScape account.  The supported tools will improve as we update them, and errata will be automatically included into the book when released.  Players will have access to all of that at no extra charge.  The PHB in DungeonScape is *the* core rulebook to the player experience, and will be for the next several years (until 6e), and it’s available for a one-time purchase (or set of purchases). Once it’s downloaded, it and the tools are yours forever. 
When it comes to DM’s materials (i.e. DMG, MM, campaigns, adventures, supplements, etc.), this is where the sharing function will shine.  Great DM’s often use supplemental materials to support the story they are weaving.  This includes things like maps, descriptive text, illustrations, quotes, and personal notes.  These will all be able to be shared within the app, and players won’t need to buy these things to get the benefits of them.  In addition, the app will allow for sharing information that paper can’t easily provide; things like secretly giving that thief character a magic ring they pickpocketed, or sending messages in complete secret.
To be honest, if it were to work at they are discussing it, I'd prefer this over PDFs. Heck, I'd want to see something similar that was cross platform and open sourced, so I could one day run S&W or the DCC RPG with an app like this.

The Wilderlands Land in my Mailbox!

I snagged some Wilderlands goodness on eBay earlier this week: High Fantasy, Fantastic Reaches and Fantastic Wilderlands of Beyonde along with many (but far from all) of the relevant maps. All the above for less than $60, which is damn good for Judges Guild era Wilderlands product.

Fun times!

Of course now I need to fill in the missing maps and Wilderlands of the Magic Realms.

Kickstarter Reminder - Designers & Dragons Has 11 Days Left - $1 Gets You the 70's in Electronic Format

Designers & Dragons has been my go to book for both bathroom and bedroom reading recently. I've been using the Kindle app on my Samsung phone to enjoy the history of our hobby whenever possible. It is fascinating and an amazingly pleasurable read.

If you consider yourself a part of the OSR, you really should spend a buck on the kickstarter to get instant access to the 70s, not just in PDF but .mobi (Kindle) and .epub format. For as little as $15 you can get all four books in electronic format. A better bargain on the history of our hobby would be hard to find.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Amazing Original Doug Kovacs Art Arrives in New York!

My wife +Rachel Griffin fell in love with the above piece when it wasn't even finished at NTRPG Con+Doug Kovacs was kind enough to allow me to put some money down to reserve it for after Gen Con deliver. Guess what was waiting when I arrived home today?

It's Rachel's Anniversary Gift, but I don't think she's complaining about getting it 2 months early ;)

Doug does some really amazing work with his art. You can find a small sample of what he has for sale at DougKovacs.com. If you enjoy truly good art from the fantasy field, Doug is the way to go and his prices are more than fair.

Doug, Rach and I can't thank you enough :)

How Detailed do You Like You Campaign Setting?

On the one side, you have settings like The Forgotten Realms, Harn and the like. On the other side, you have Blackmarsh and similar sandbox style settings.

Detailed to the level of knowing the privy cleaner in the tavern or a light touch, where it's up to the DM to determine whether or not there is a tavern in the village or not.

I'm on the Blackmarsh side of the discussion, with maybe a desire for just a wee bit more detail. I don't need more detail, but I'd probably like it.

Where do you stand?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Latest eBay Pick-ups - The Strategic Review #6 and The Dragon #22

I grabbed The Strategic Review # 6 and The Dragon #22 for about $26 shipped.

While SR #6 has a coffee stain on the back cover, Dragon #22 has very white and crisp pages. This is the issue with the DMG preview, and I suspect you could have survived without the DMG for a good long time with the preview alone.

Very cool pieces of history.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Time Limited PWYW 5e Adventure - The Mines of Valdhum

Yes, if you need to add the above disclaimer at the end of the OGL page of your 5e compatible product release, maybe you shouldn't release it.

In any case, you can get more details of the time limited PWYW pricing of the 5e version of the Mines of Valdhum over at OSRToday.

A "WTF Were They Thinking?" Kickstarter - The Secret Machines of the Star Spawn

Timing is everything. The Secret Machines of the Star Spawn has already funded and will probably hit it's share of stretch goals, but in the wake of the protests in Ferguson, do we really need a bikini wearing, afro headed babe named Chocolate Thunder in an OSR adventure?

I'm not one to be hung up on being politically correct, and I understand that the adventure is meant to be over the top, but this makes even me a bit uncomfortable.

As a side note, I am amazed that the creator, Mark Taormino, has backed over 737 Kickstarters. That is literally an insane number.

Strangely enough, this has raised over $750 in less than a day. The Gor RPG Indiegogo hasn't quite hit $500 in 4 days. I guess it's easier to accept racial jokes and stereotypes in an adventure from a relatively unknown creator than it is rape fantasy from one that is fairly well known.

What Comes First: The Game or The Group?

What Comes First: The Game or The Group?

This isn't a chicken or the egg question, just so you know ;)

I suspect the answer literally depends on the group. As has been stated before, our group is nearing 3 years in the making. Bonds of friendship have been made and game sessions often devolve / evolve into "chat sessions". We often talk as much about what is going on in the world of gaming as we do actually playing the game.

I suspect with groups that aren't as bonded between the players, such distractions would be considered a time waster or worse. For us, it just reinforces the fact that we are friends that play games together, and the friendships involved often push game play aside, and we are okay with that.

This is via G+ Hangouts / Roll20, but for us it may as well be face to face.

So, where do your sessions fall on the grand scheme of things?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Quick Impressions - Hoard of the Dragon Queen (D&D 5e)

When I first unboxed this last week, my mind quickly read it as Whore of the Dragon Queen, which might be a more evoking title, but isn't accurate, at least so far as a quick look shows. No, in reality it is Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

First things first - it seems extremely readable. None of this Numenera bullshit of excessive art behind the text (yes, I know others think the presentation of Numenrea is the best thing since sliced bread. I and my aging eyes strongly disagree. And get off my fucking lawn while you are at it!)

The art is nice and appropriate and the boxed text is highlighted without being annoying so. Really well done. Some maps are washed out and hard to read, which is a damn shame.

My only serious complaint initially? You can't run it with just the 5e Player's Handbook. You NEED the Tyranny of Dragons online appendix to play through this and it's successor. I'm guessing you won't need the appendix if you have the Monster Manual and Dungeon Master's Guide, which aren't released yet.

Am I glad you don't even need the Player's Guide, just the free Basic 5e rules and the online appendix? Sure, it's a nice touch. But in truth, you shouldn't have to download anything if you have what is being billed as The Core Book of the core 5e books - the Player's Handbook. It doesn't say there is a needed download or online access needed to play through the adventure on the back cover, and that's simply wrong.

Sure, we are in a very integrated internet world, but there are folks that will not realize this restriction until after the purchase and they will be left holding an incomplete product.

I have high hopes for this with the team behind it. I'll try to find time to read this through in the near future.

Guest Poster - Tales from the Tavern's Cellar: The Ambush at Sheridan Springs (Crusty Grog)

Since people had bitched that all I was doing was being a sour puss about things, I decided to share one of the rare gems I heard while listening through the floor boards. Speaking of the floorboards, be careful not to leave your bag on the ground at your feet, it’s easy pickings for this little Halfling I see creeping around.

Today kiddies, gather around and take a look at this article written by Jon Peterson called, “The Ambush at Sheridan Springs” – How Gary Gygax Lost Control of Dungeons & Dragons.

It’s a very interesting article of how Gary had the company pulled out from under him, with supporting documentation and various memos. I thought it might be a boring read from Jon Peterson, the author, but it was very enthralling.

At one point they quoted gross sales around $300,000 in 1976, doubled the next year due to Holmes edition of D&D. In today’s terms, that would be around $1,256,641.41 to the penny according to the CPI Inflation calculator or a 7 Million dollar loss in D&D 4E terms. (What did you think I wouldn't take the time to bash something?!)

The overall history of this and that is kind of interesting, but it gets really good towards the end when you find out how exactly Williams scored a “20” on her backstabbing ability to pull the wool over Gary’s poor eyes, take over the company. What a bitch.

Take a read, you will enjoy.

Want to leave feedback or have The Crusty Grog talk about something? Go ahead, email him. I dare you. thecrustygrog@gmail.com

Sunday, August 24, 2014

What is Your Favorite Judges Guild Release?

Snagged for $25 on eBay tonight

I always wanted a copy of the original Wilderlands of High Fantasy. I'll need to grab some maps to fill this out, but I'm okay with that.

I also grabbed Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches and Fantastic Wilderlands Beyonde.

So, for now I'm going to say the Wilderlands are my favorite Judges Guild releases (i do have some of this in PDF, but print beats all when it comes to the earlier stuff.)

So, what's your favorite Judges Guild release(s)?

(don't forget, Goodman Games will be rereleasing some of the Judges Guild product line)

Kickstarter - Sabratact (the martial art sport / game depicted in Dragon 100)

"Sabratact is a martial team contact sport with targets mounted on body armor, flexible delrin weapons + fencing mask or better helmets."

You know what, I have no recollection of this being written about in an article in any issue of Dragon, let alone issue 100.

But hey, Forrest aims high. The project has the low goal of $750,000. So fair it's raised $111.

'Cause ya know, it isn't easy to put together a "television pilot will include 64 five-athlete squads competing to form 16 twenty-fighter platoons under the leadership of the winning teams through single elimination contests with the losing fighters coming aboard, leading to 4 companies of eighty players each. I think I can do this in a two or three hour format. We will then go to a 1-hour weekly show and try to get picked up for 13 weeks at a time.

I need at least 320 martial artists and other such athletes (including guest fighters from among our Backers) to shoot this pilot. Working in the Philippines gives us access to a martial arts culture of stick-fighting (Escrima) that is actually a good fit for Sabratact. We can cast and shoot perfectly well with local talent cast right on location. It also turns out that the television and film industry in the Philippines is concentrated in Cavite (our Province) and we've worked previously with those people. This can definitely be done with high production values, suitable for US broadcasters and within a finite budget. ESPN? Maybe."

And than again, maybe not.

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