Category Archives: Role playing games

More on D&D Concept Art

I posted a while ago that I liked the concept art for the new D&D. Now the final product is finally delivered and we get the real thing. I can only say that it is probably what I like most of this new edition.

I’m a hard sci-fi fan, and I don’t think fantasy is equivalent to half-naked female elves, or swords longer than a glaive. There is a minimum of “reality” required to hook me into the story. I don’t need a full genetic study of elves, or a linguist to design every single language of every single species. I just don’t like illustrations to look too cartoonish.

Two good examples

Dwarves. Dwarf women were a joke among fantasy fans. I doubt anyone has ever played a female dwarf, and if someone has, the character probably had a beard.

Female dwarf warrior
Female dwarf warrior

This is a huge improvement over most of the fantasy illustrations I ever saw. I want to play one of those female dwarves, they are not just funny, they now look ready to be the center of epic adventures.

The same with general adventurers. Conan is Conan. Great character, great stories, totally recommended. But not every single warrior is a huge mass of muscles. And the slender types are not just elves.

Illustration of a warrior
Interior of the PHB

Scimitars wielded by cultures not used to face heavily armored opponents. Compound bows built in dry climates, because they fell apart in humid regions. Cultural diversity in clothing.

A trend I support

The truth is Paizo is the company who I believe initiated this trend. Their Pathfinder roleplaying game and adventures did include different cultures, colors and complexions. Diversity to make our imaginations fly.

The only challenge I think they both have not properly addressed are non-human cultures. All dwarves belong to the same culture, as elves do. Let’s see the final Player Handbook, which we can buy this August.

 

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Free is the new standard

There are several big names in the roleplaying games industry which have easily get players into buying their products. Many people know the game system, there are lots of published material, you can easily find games in conventions, etc.

Independent publishers have grown a lot in recent years thanks to the self-publishing trend and the tools developed for it. It is not that difficult to create a new game system, or a setting, and put it on sale at DriveThruRPG or RPGNow.

Quality however was a different matter. When it is very easy to publish your work, the quality filter is in the market. And that means the market is getting veeeery cautious before spending money in an unknow game system.

So independent publishers have opted for providing their game systems (or a basic subset of rules) for free. You can try it and pay if you want for the complete rules, hardcover editions, adventures, settings, etc.

But when Wizards of the Coast decides to provide D&D for free, the hobby is turned upside down. If the most popular lowers its entry barriers to a free PDF, the rest have to move quickly to lose all the new gamers…

Dungeon World

Dungeon World

You have to try this one. Developed by Sage Latorra and Adam Koebel, this game is fast and fun. You can check the official web, or download the free version from github or its web version.

The key concept is that you describe what you want to do, and the DM decides which “move” fits better your description. That is what should happen in all rpgs, but in this actually does.

You play to see what happens, making questions to the players to fill the background of the adventures, creating continuous challenges to make the story advance… everything with the classic fantasy props.

Adventures are structured in a wonderful way, with lots of blank spaces to fill but all the needed resources for the DM. You can buy the famous Dark Hear of the Dreamer or join the kickstarter of Servants of the Cinder Queen, both with very good prices and great reviews. The blog Points of Light also provides great advice.

New D&D Logo

D&D Basic

Spring 2014 brought some very surprising news to the hobby. All our ranting about the new prices for the Next edition ended when they made official the D&D Basic rules will be available for free.

Next month, July 2014, they will publish the pdf, with the races and classes, and in August they will expand it to contain a full set of basic rules.

The most popular roleplaying game, with a huge company backing not only this game but a full array of publications (computer games, board games, movies?). Now free. It is certainly a very powerful call to the industry.

RuneQuest

Runequest Essentials

The last system to join the free trend. Wizards decision of publishing D&D Basic for free has hit hard many other popular games. New gamers are going to look for the famous games, and obviously try the ones with lower entry barriers. So now Runequest needs a free version or they are loosing players fast, specially new players.

That’s why Design Mechanism has decided to release the RuneQuest Essentials edition in a “pay what you want” offer. As I already commented in another post, the entry price for RuneQuest is way too high, specially considering there are very similar alternatives like OpenQuest.

Now you can play the latest, and probably best of the official iterations of this game. Base in the d100 mechanics, it is a game without levels. If you have played Call of Cthulhu or the old Runequest editions you already know the basics. This edition has streamlined most of the system, although keeps some cumbersome mechanics (in my opinion): extended skill list and combat styles.

Legacy of the Crystal Shard review

After almost a year of silence I come back! I’m afraid I may have to refocus my blogging activity. My current life doesn’t really leave me so much time for playing, and there are things I really want to write about which have nothing to do with games… we will see.

Anyway, back to the playing table. I bought a couple of months ago the Legacy of the Crystal Shard campaign for Dungeons & Dragons. After two sessions of play I want to give you my opinion about both the product and product line. In future posts I will describe how the sessions go.

Product cover

I had read some very good reviews, and it was the last product in the Encounter series to be edited in a physical format. Wizards of the Coast decided to publish from then on in PDF format, and I wanted to own one of the books. They are usually well written and illustrated, and the price was reasonable at Book Depository (you can still find it at 20€ including shipping).

This product belongs to The Sundering series, which is an effort by Wizards of the Coast to re-launch their fantasy franchise in a multiplataform event: books, role playing games, computer games, board games, card games, etc.

PDF-only policy

If you try to sell a new adventure or campaign every other week, at a price around $40, don’t expect sales to be huge. Depending on your distribution channels, and the low-quality expectation for a weekly campaign, you will probably lose money.

I understand why they change to a PDF-only sales policy. The price is around 15€, which is high enough that I will only buy the ones I’m almost certain I’m playing. The physical edition however included a beautiful game screen, which is worth more than 5€ by itself, so the price for the PDF is a little too high.

Good: A great campaign

Good plot, charismatic villains, references to the classic Icewind Dale book series, both city intrigues and tundra encounters… The plot evolves as the heroes deal with evil cultists, scheming wizards and warring dwarves.

I’m really eager to see how the heroes perform, what dooms they can stop in time, and which fall upon the people of the Ten Towns.

The adventure is very good, and the campaign book provides enough information to enlarge it at your will.

I recommend downloading some promotional NPC portraits which are not included. They provide a great visual help for players to get immersed in the adventure. You can find the portraits in the Dungeonmaster blog.

Akar Kessell

Bad: Preparation required

The campaign material is vast. Initially I tried to know everything about the Icewind Dale, but I soon understood it was impossible. This makes me feel somehow uncomfortable while running the adventure.

The complexity of the adventure is also very high. There are three antagonists with links between them, multiple locations, a complex timetable of events…

I followed some advice I found online and wrote down a timeline to know what is happening every day, with different colors for each of the factions.