Tag Archives: D&D Next

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.

Games incoming…

I wouldn’t like to turn this gaming blog into a news blog, and copying articles written by other people is not my style. So posts like this will be rare.

Today I just try to point you to a few things I’ve read about this week, some exciting news and some interesting information or thoughts. If you like them, tell their respective authors 😉  and let me know we share an interest 🙂 .

D&D Next – Big headed halflings

It is easy to see drawing concept art as a purely artistic profession. When Wizards released their initial illustrations of halflings for D&D Next, they raised a lot of crticism.

Father and son with mushrooms
Concept art for D&D Next halflings

These illustrations didn’t match the “hobbit” look fans were expecting, and many believed the heads were too big.

For me they were a great improvement over “small humans”. A different anatomy and no more hairy huge feet. I couldn’t tell what made these halflings an improvement over previous editions fo me, but then I read a column by Jon Schindehette, the creative director of D&D.

Please read his view on designing halflings. It is not only a technical explanation of anatomy and concept design, it also explains the reasons why the halflings look the way they look now. And believe me you cannot disagree with him.

Conflict of Heroes – AI to play against

The Conflict of Heroes series are tactical squad level wargames, winners of many important awards. Wargames played on a board with an hex grid are usually rules-heavy neverending bardgames. It seems only grognards have the patience and skill to play them.

However, the Conflict of Heroes series display the perfect balance between rules with historical accuracy and playability. Games are usually below the 2 hours playing time, and counters are big and colorful. Rules are easy to grasp and you don’t need a huge tome at your side all the time.

Storm of Steel! game contents
Storm of Steel! contents (photo courtesy of Nambawan in the BGG)

I buyed the Storms of Steel! game, and is one of my favourites. The only problem is finding opponents 🙂 . And it seems I’m not the only one with this problem, so I got very excited when they announced they were developing a set of rules to play solo. Something like an artificial intelligence (AI) which decides what to do in each case.

You can obviously play with both sides, but hiding information to yourself is a bit too much. Back in 2009 people were already asking for rules to play solo, and the designer answered that they were working with a famous designer in a set of rules for playing solo. That was 4 years ago!

Now it seems they are almost finished. In the official web page there is no news, but you can read on facebook and the BGG that the game is planned for this year! Great news I wanted to share!