• Miscellaneous

    In writing these articles I have come to understand how many people are voiceless in the collective imaginary land that is role playing games. I hope that these articles make our hobby and industry a place where more people are welcomed and encouraged to become involved. Which brings me to North America, the part the second.

    The concept of player agency is a central pillar of all role-playing games. It is a balancing factor against the omnipotent, omniscient Game Master. For the purposes of this article, we will be focusing on the smaller-scale application of player agency and the role of game mechanics that negate or modify such agency.

    Today I bring up a topic usually glossed over in worldbuilding for gaming: Literacy. It’s a skill that we take for granted, given that you are reading this column on a website. Literacy wasn’t always historically widespread, however, and a crafty GM can contrive clever situations hinging upon it.

    I recently talked with a gamer who's often full of unusual, and sometimes impractical, ideas. He asked me about the difficulties of running a medieval-style low-magic D&D campaign. Lord of the Rings had to come up in the conversation, because it's the most well-known low magic fantasy setting in existence. If you take a functional rather than emotional view of the characters, in First Edition D&D terms Aragorn amounts to a seventh level ranger and Gandalf the Grey to an eighth level cleric with a Ring of Fire, and other characters are similarly low level. (I'll discuss in detail this another time.) Magic and "super-power" is immensely rare in this setting.

    H.P. Lovecraft, the giant of horror fiction who created the Cthulhu mythos, scared his readers in all kinds of ways, filling his works with nightmarish elder gods and a sense of humanity's insignificance in the cosmos. But many of his works relied on the same handful of universally frightening themes, and studying those themes can pay off for RPG adventure designers and game masters alike. In particular, Lovecraft's treatment of corruption as an unstoppable force that rots away the body, mind and the entire world presents adventure designers with a versatile means of getting under a player's skin.

    Today I discuss establishing a setting's law enforcement and judicial system. Historical sources indicate examples of organized court systems - Aeschylus' Oristeia depicts the foundation of Athenian law and trials, with a jury of 12 citizens, and wise magistrates are a common feature of Chinese parables. A court will require some infrastructure,which will inform how one develops the rest of the justice system in the setting proper.

    My wife and I recently began watching the HBO series Game of Thrones (based on George R. R. Martin's books) from the start. I had read the books, neither of us had seen any of the series.

    American Fantasy and Science Fiction writer Victor Milan passed away after a battle with cancer. Probably known best for his Cybernetic Samurai science fiction series, Milan also wrote novels set in the Battletech, Mechwarrior and Forgotten Realms settings. He also wrote a number of Deathlands and Outlanders novels under the company pen name of James Axler for the adventure fiction imprint published by Harlequin Press' Gold Eagle Books.

    I've been a fan of Mike "Sly Flourish" Shea for years, and particularly enjoyed The Lazy Dungeon Master, his book of GM advice and tips from a few years ago. He's now Kickstarting a sequel, The Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master, and has sent me along a quick preview of the first few pages.

    Today we continue with our apocalyptic theme. I've covered war and pestilence, and this column will be about Death, the great leveller. Everybody dies, except for adventurers, who die but get to come back via the auspices of a friendly or bribable cleric.

    Let's talk about a valuable lesson game masters can take from The Force Awakens and 2009's Star Trek, both directed by J.J. Abrams. Maybe you've heard of them.

    PopTen posted a list of the Top 10 Geek Gods, and with entries like Gary Gygax, Ian Livingstone, and R.A. Salvatore, the tabletop gaming industry is well represented, joining literary luminaries like Tolkien, LeGuin, and Howard, or cinematic creators like George Lucas. It's a fun list, but who would you have included in a tabletop gaming list?

    Chimera in Beeston has not only become a focal point of the RPG and CCG communities in Nottingham, it has been nominated local business of the year several years running and has won that title against 'mainstream' businesses.

    This is going to be one of those "let's talk about the game I'm going to run" pieces where I look at a game and work through my processes of getting from here to a ready to run game. Our group is a fan of the Palladium system, having run through a rollicking game of the Rifts role-playing game previously. This time we are going to be playing their Ninjas & Superspies game.

    Video game designers use two terms worth understanding for all game designers and adventure designers, "atoms" and "loops". Some time ago I talked about Loops, this time it's about Atoms.

    Greetings. Today I'm going to discuss another of the Four Horsemen, War, and how you can work it into world building. PC vs NPC conflict is hard-baked into almost every RPG system, and especially apparent in systems like D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder. Most of these systems focus specifically on individuals in combat, however, and not on the macro effects of a war.

    Gamers have gotten pretty comfortable over the years with the triumvirate of books that form the core of Dungeons & Dragons. In fact, I suspect many gamers allow their familiarity with the three-book format to keep them from closely reading the entirety of those texts. Those gamers, myself included, know generally what content is included in each book, so they simply hunt down the chapters they need as they become relevant.

    Last week I started talking about the new and upcoming games that I was looking forward to in this New Year. I'm not as much of a fan of open-ended campaigning as some, so that gives me the chance to sample more games. This comes in handy when your day job is writing about role-playing games. This week I am going to follow up that article to talk about some horror games and supplements that I am looking forward to getting to try out in the upcoming year.

    Most people know the expression "can't see the forest for the trees," that is, you get lost in details and fail to see the big picture. In game (and level/adventure) design it's usually the big picture that counts, for players. Yet many designers, even experienced designers, sometimes get bogged down in details at the expense of the quality of the game as a whole.

    This week we went exploring at the SPOD - exploring the world of maps for RPGs. Maps have been a treasured part of the hobby since the very beginning, when Dave Arneson took some basic graph paper, crafted a dungeon, and had his friends explore it in search of the daughter of the Elven King. That, my friends, was the true birth of the classic RPG experience as we now know it. To that end, here's a bunch of map-oriented products for the physical and virtual tables.
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