Into the Frey.. 4th Edition style

May 27, 2009

So after much consideration I have decided to inflict the players in my Wednesday night game with 4th Edition D&D. The reasons for this are quite many and varied so I thought I might go over a few of them here just to enlighted those who give a damn.

I’m an RPG geek… new systems entice me like nothing else. If a new version of a game that I own comes out, even if I have never played the game, I want a copy. And so it was with 4th Edition D&D. The day it came out I was in a Waterstones store getting all 3 base books (with a pretty good discount it turns out) and taking them to read during my lunch hour. The outcome of this was pretty much negative. I managed to get 3/4 of the Players Handbook read before I gave up, the DMG and Monster Manual left untouched. The reason for this was that I felt that 4E had taken the roleplay out of RPG, I mean skill challenges? come on!! And so those 3 books sat on my shelf for the past year with no chance of me going back.

What changed? Essentially me mellowing and peer pressure. Firstly I figured, even a poor game needs to be tried at least once. I even own copies of some games that I am sure I will never play, but everything deserves to be given its fair shot. Secondly the amount of blogs out there that say that they play 4th Ed and enjoy it is amazing. Im not sure if these are people who have different wants and needs for an RPG, but if anyone enjoys a game then their must be some merit to it. On top of all that, running a one off of 4th Ed will give me a chance to see what its like without any kind of commitment to the group. If we like it, great! If not, well we need never mention it again.

So tonight I will be running the adventure from the back of the DMG, fighting the good fight for the Kobolds while my evil players invade their cosy home. To make it easier i’ve even got maps and tokens (thanks to the DM’s starter kit by Newbie DM  – Now tactical maps are not something that I usually use, so this will be a real eye opener for me. If it comes off well then I might try Savage Worlds next week with a tactical map.

Fingers crossed that all goes well tonight and i’ll let you know how it went.


Suggestions for campaign breaks?

May 21, 2009

Im currently running a Dark Heresy game for a group on Wednesday nights and so far the game has followed about 8 scenarios, both published and homebrew. Its getting time for me to take a break, just to get the creative juices flowing again and I really want a change of pace for the guys, something that we can mess around with for a few weeks, have fun, have a laugh and then head back to DH.

So far i’ve yet to come up with a solution as to what to do. I want to stay away from anything Sci-fi and I would prefer not to do a fantasy Dark Heresy, so that cuts out a lot of games already. Traveller is out, Warhammer Fantasy is out, Star Wars, Shadowrun, Rifts, Babylon 5 and Aliens.. all out. So far i’ve thought about

  • Maid – not sure if we could play this for 3-4 weeks without the guys losing interest.
  • Mouse Guard – again not sure how the guys would react to this for more than a one off.
  • D&D – rock it old school style… its possible.
  • Twlight 2000 – old school modern but it would kind of lead to a campaign style.
  • WOD – Werewolf: The Apocalypse or something? got lots of old stuff from teh campaigns I used to run.

Still not sure what to do. Maybe I could tempt them with Dragonlance 5th Age, Cold City or Savage Worlds….. better make the call soon, game will start in a week and I need to get started on it…. gulp!

Playtesting – Alpha Stage

May 18, 2009

I’ve been writing up a new board game concept that I had recently, so progress on the RPG books has been slow overall. This weekend I finally got to show off the new boardgame to a few friends in a semi-playable state, or as I call it Alpha Playtest version.

Coming from an IT background the ideas around Alpha and Beta testing are quite natural to me, but for those of you who have no idea what these are or what the differences are, here’s a little primer on the stages of testing.

Alpha Playtest is something that occurs when the initial ideas are defined, the concepts are refined and pretty much all of the pieces are in their final stages. I like to think that Alpha is when things are around 70% complete. There are lots of things right and still quite a few rough edges, but the game should be playable at the very least and should show where the goals and initial concepts are employed. However Alpha is something that is still rough, it may require the designer to explain things to the players or to make decisions regarding situations that arise.

Beta Playtest is when things have progressed much further. Beta testing should be able to be run independant of the designer(s). This way several Beta tests can be run in paralell and feedback can be reported back to the designers, rather than them be there for the testing. Beta should only occur when 95% of the game is complete, i.e. the way things work is locked down and only a few bugs remain.

With this in mind, the testing of my boardgame this weekend was an Alpha test. The first time out of the box, so to speak. How did it do? Well I took lots of notes on how the game needs one of the major systems refining and making less complex. Most of the Alpha was spent discussing this system and using a calculator to work out how things should be… not a good start really. I was nicely surprised in that the rules covered most of the situations that arose. I only had to clarify 2 points I think while showing off the game to the group. Other than that I bounced a few ideas off of the players in a post game chat and it seems like they enjoy the core concepts and the ideas but it just needs to be refined and simplified. Not bad for a Alpha game I think.

Alpha Omega

May 15, 2009

I just got hold of a copy of Alpha Omega (finally!) and so far im loving the book, it just looks great and the setting I have read so far is pretty good stuff. Kind of Shadowrun/Cyberpunk mixed with SLA Industries and In Nomine. The point of this post is that while checking up on the setting on the website, it seems as though the development team have a bit of a contest over there for people to submit scenarios and short stories.

Now this is not some small time thing. they are offering cold, hard cash and a chance to get your work published by them at a later date. Just from reading the first 3 chapters I already have about 15 ideas for scenarios, so I definitely going to give this a shot. Check out the site at and the forum entry on the competition at

Supporting the Industry

May 13, 2009

If like me you love having the latest RPG book, all glossy and pristine, when it first comes out, Pre-Orders of a new book that interests you may be something that your interested in. Pre-ordering a product means that you get first shot at the game, it means you help the people writting it and you get to show them a commitment to how much the book means to you as a gamer. The problem is when that all falls flat on its face due to the publishers not being on the ball and generally not making their end of the deal.

In the last year I signed up for 3 pre-orders of games. So far over 6 months later (9 months in one case) I have only recieved 1 of these pre-ordered games. One of them is still in printing hell, one is in my sticky mitts and I love it and the final one is already on the shelves in local stores but no copies for those that pre-ordered. Why is this? Why setup a pre-order system, get people to back you and your ideas and then let them down like that?

These experiances have pretty much put me off pre-orders, along with buying an RPG on the day it comes out due to some companies re-printing the first release with added errata within months of release.

If your a game company, consider your loyal customers please. Make an effort to keep those that help you in the early days of design and purchase happy. If not, then you might just find that some of your fan base moves away to something else.

Art for arts sake?

May 1, 2009

What is it with artwork in RPG’s? Surely the whole point of an RPG is that it is designed to allow peoples imagination to fill a whole world with flights of fancy. How you image the world is how it should be seen and not some other person interpretation of it.

Artwork in any RPG book is the most expensive part of the endevour both in cold, hard cash and page real estate. Cost for artwork for a game can range from $25 for a small line drawing to over $1000 for a cover piece. The cover piece I can understand as I dicussed before, this is one of the things that helps to sell the book off the shelf. But with the price of books being a big issue for some, surely the cost savings of using less or no art is rather tempting.

Think about the latest Jackie Collins or Dan Brown… no artwork there apart from the cover, and last I knew good old Dan was busy basking in the glow of his mega fortunes. Compare this to RPG’s and every book released awash with art and is tight on profit margins. So what is the answer? Cheaper art? Less art? No art?…. might be worth an experimental PDF or two here just to test the waters.

The Traveller Fauna Concordance

April 25, 2009

So what do you think…???

Traveller Fauna Concordance

Traveller Fauna Concordance