Deconstructing Mouse Guard
Mouse Guard is a brilliant comic by David Petersen about mice who live in a pseudo-medieval world of the territories beset by the dangers of the natural world. The Guard protect the mouse territories by sword or by wits. I first came across the comic at a small local comic convention, Vancouver ComicCon. Luke Crane adapted his acclaimed Burning Wheel roleplaying game to the world of Mouse Guard. The game has won numerous awards including Roleplaying Game of the Year at Origins in 2009 beating out Dungeons and Dragons 4e.
Being a long time fan of the Mouse Guard comic, I ordered a copy of the RPG from Indie Press Revolution last year. It is a beautiful book that lives up to the talented graphic design of the comic. For a while I thumbed through it but didn’t know if my gaming group would take to mice with swords RPG. I’ve since sat down to digest what is honestly my first indie story game and find myself loving it.
One of the primary reasons that I wanted to get the game was my son. He is 5 and I’ve been keeping an eye out for a way to share my passion for roleplaying games with him. Mouse Guard is a game with lighter subject matter than others like D&D. One which I hope will help fuel his growth as a person in the lessons it can teach.
The ChattyDM has advocated many of the concepts in his D&D 4e games over the past several months. Rather than trying to just read it and sell my group on it, I thought it might be a good idea to examine some of the core concepts of the game on my blog and try to deconstruct it in my own mind.
For quite some time now I’ve found the format in which adventure design is presented to be outdated. Sure the Delve format had a large impact in the last few years since its debut in some of Wizards of the Coast’s later 3.5 D&D adventures. Even that, however, stuck to the format of a book be it in hard copy or pdf format. Dungeon-a-day.com is actually the most recent example of a very forward thinking designer pushing the bounds of what is possible. Dungeon-a-day.com offers a hyperlinked website with new encounters updated every weekday. The site features fresh new content from the mind of Monte Cook and its presented in a much more modern format.
But where too next? Where can today’s modern web tools such as XHTML and HTML5.0 push design forward?
I recently read two very informative articles by two of RPG Blogging’s rising stars, Phillipe Menard (aka @ChattyDM) and Dave Chalker (aka @DavetheGame) that explored some of the possible scenarios that set my mind aflame. Here were two popular vocal proponents advocating the same revolution in adventure design that I had been craving.
Wolfgang Baur is running another round of Open Design so this is the perfect time to get in on it. This time is a little different as there are three proposals for people to vote on and any one or even all three can progress should they achieve enough funding. I’ll outline below all 3 proposals, but only one is being written in 4e ~ Courts of the Shadow Fey! The Scathsidhe return from both the Ennie nominated Castle Shadowcrag and Wrath of the River King.
Just sliding in under the gun, here is my entry in the Steampunk RPG Blog Carnival, being put on by Mad Brew. When putting together my last game prior to the launch of 4e, my players decided to go with an Iron Kingdoms game. It was an intriguing setting that I’d never played so I was game. Unfortunately we only play once a month at most so it wasn’t too long before 4e came out and I was hooked. Deciding not to abandon the campaign we’d already started and given that the characters were all still 1st level we converted. It wasn’t too difficult to find resources on Privateer Press’ boards for fan conversions.
So for the carnival I thought I’d post up some links and feedback on the resources I found and how they played in the game before it ended in a TPK (my only one ever). Though it is a story for another day, I will say that it was not because of the 4e Iron Kingdoms fan resources used.
Trollkin ~ link
Trollkin were one of the easier conversions but I think Steamworks over at Privateer Press’ boards did a great job of bringing in the eating habits of these big thugs and their survivability. Their powers seem a little too close to dwarves in the end, but definitely playable. Our player didn’t take it but a feat that grants 5 temp hit points for every healing surge spent seems like a bit much. I think I’d tone that down a bit, but overall well done.
Gun Mage ~ link
Gun mages are definitely one of the coolest elements of the setting and one of my players definitely wanted to keep that style of character in the conversion. Again Steamworks came through with what I found was the most balanced conversion of the class. There are a number (you can find them in the general list of links below) but his was well put together. The damage is a little on the high side but overall it was balanced in play as an Arcane Striker. The class has only been built for heroic play but in the end that was perfect for our use.
Firearms ~ link
I’m not sure if Scott’s work was out while we were playing, but having seen a number of firearms rules I think those he posted at A Butterfly Dreaming are the best available. They are balanced, creative, and definitely useful. I will likely include them in my Zobeck clockwork game in the near future.
Steampunk has definitely invaded my gaming group as they are all enjoying games in that vein. Despite the lack of official or 3rd party published resources, there is a large fan following. I’m sure that many more blog posts will join those resources in this month’s carnival roundup.
Free RPG Day
Free RPG Day was held on June 20 this year. This was the first year that I was able to enjoy the day as it has not been supported outside the States before. Here in Vancouver there were several stores who had received packages from the fine people running Free RPG Day. I went out to my FLGS, Imperial Hobbies, in Richmond in the late afternoon.
Even with the late time I managed to pick up quite a few products all of them phenomenal. From Keith Barker’s Eberron Adventure to a Rogue Trader introduction, all great promotional material.
Welcome RPGBN Readers & Bloggers
After starting this blog about 3 months ago with the dream of joining the network, it has finally become a reality. I had wanted to ensure that I could keep up a steady pace of interesting content for readers as suggested in the network’s requirements. Having kept at it for the past 3 months I like to think I’m there. I’ve tried a number of different formats to see what I can keep up with so you may still see a variety in voice.
Inspired by the work of The Core Mechanic, Mad Brew Labs, At-Will who have started a project they call Portrait of a Villain, as well as by Sly Flourish‘s Twitter DM Tips, I’ve decided to create a twitter project of my own. For the moment I call it Twitter Villains, though I might migrate it into a broader project in the future. I have lots of ideas on creating more than just villains in 140 characters or less. This is also an attempt to tighten my writing skills and garner interest in my blog.
With Twitter Villains, I’ve posted my first one on twitter already under my account ~ twitter.com/erekose13. I’ll post a log ever once in a while though you can always follow the twitter column under the tag #villain. The format for each post will remain the same: #villain Name; description; motivations & goals. Stats are purposely not included anywhere as they would defeat the purpose of a twitter column. Though popular posts might garner a full treatment here on the blog.
Without further ado, here is the first twitter villain:
#villain Elegast; quickling w/billowing smokelike hair who hunts fey on the mortal world due to a misguided love of the fomorian Lord Gryme
Samuel Van Der Wall over at Roleplaying Pro is hosting this month’s Blog Carnival on the Future of Roleplaying. Inspired by a video produced by Microsoft Labs on the future of technology, I thought I’d put together a list of ten things I’d love to see at the table top. Additional sources of inspiration follow the list below.
First, I definitely believe that the table top RPG game is going to stick around, there is so much more than just getting together and killing monsters and taking their stuff. Even if that’s what your group is into, sitting around and enjoying some social time together is a far more enjoyable experience than doing the same thing online.
On to the list!
1. Smart Phone Character Sheets
Sure you can carry around your iPlay4e character sheet to reference, but what if you could lay your phone on the table and it would automatically load your character sheet onto the table surface. You could then access, update or share pieces of your sheet as the game progressed. All in-game calculations could be handled based on the loaded sheet, including character visualization.
2. Tabletop Integrated Rule Books
I’m a PDF convert ever since Monte Cook released the Book of Eldritch Might and I miss WotC’s PDF books that were previously available. I’ve not used pdfs at the game table yet, though I will be soon. I’ve just always found laptops a little cumbersome at the table. Now if the computer were the table… Rule books could be searched, retrieved, and displayed for anyone at the table.
3. Auto Calculating Dice Rolls
While dice rolling software is available for your Smart Phone or iPhone, I’m still a fan of the tactile sensation of polyhedrons shuffling in hand to give that up. What is sometimes awkward is remembering all the modifiers that are applied to your roll. Imagine if you rolled your dice onto the digital tabletop and when it stopped, the display automatically output all the calculations next to the number. You could then send the roll over to the DM to determine if the roll was successful.
4. 3D Interactive Battle Map
There is a scene in the video above where a project manager is skimming through a 3D graphical representation of their project, isolating and zooming in sections to make changes. Apply all those concepts to a visual 3D game table and you’re on to something. Now let all players at the table see the game table through various lenses (fog of war style) and interact with it and you’ve got one heck of a miniature game.
5. Ease of Condition Tracking
Whether you play D&D or not, most of today’s games rely on conditions from health to blindness to dying. Many innovative solutions have been created to help track all these conditions flying around, especially with 4E’s reliance on them. Why would you want to take care of all that when the interactive gaming table can do that for you.
6. Ease of Resource Tracking
Along the same lines, most games use resources that players need to keep track of, be they encounter powers, action points, or spells. The interactive table already has your full character sheet and is tracking any conditions affecting you, resource management is an easy one to throw in there.
7. Visual Aid Distribution
When it comes to visual aids, from images, to maps, to props, I’ve always had found it difficult to include them at the table. Online games its easy and really helps, but at the table pulling out the Monster Manual or dropping the full geographic map on the table is at times cumbersome. With surface based sharing you can display images to all (or just one?) at the table and those that wanted to could even grab a shot of it and store it for their own reference later on.
8. Personalized Note Taking Interface
Pen and paper gaming already has one of the most personalized note tacking devices built in, that’s right ~ the pen and paper. Many gamers have experimented with laptops, netbooks, or smart phones to take notes as well but that can take up a lot of space. Having the ability to record notes on a multi-touch tabletop interface would allow players and DMs a like to jot down anything they needed to and save it for a later date.
9. Full Game Recording
With all of these innovations above relying on the tabletop computer to display, manage, and manipulate it would be an easy matter to include recording. DMs would be able to replay scenes to allow for easier preparation for the next session and players could access quick summaries from the records.
10. Enhanced DM Tool-kits
All of the above suggestions have been targeted at making the game better from a table top perspective, but I’d be remiss at leaving DM prep work out of the mix. So many advances are taking place already to allow DMs to modify creatures on the fly or have advance preparations available should players alter the course of play. What if all those tools were available in game immediately at your finger tips. Encounter too easy? introduce new elements immediately. Need information on an NPC from 6 sessions ago? pull them up with a couple of clicks. Events being handled earlier than planned? update other events automatically with the changes to the play environment.
I’ve only scratched the surface with these ideas, but I was so taken with how companies are looking at future technology that I couldn’t help myself. Heck any one of these ideas could be expanded on drastically. I’ve already mentioned the Microsoft Future of Technology video, but some of the other inspirational pieces include the BBC’s Inside Microsoft’s Home of the Future video and CNN’s Just Imagine: 2020 series.
It’s been a harried couple of weeks that have left me without time to blog about what I haven’t had time to read. This week is going to be different, I’ve got the time and I’m going to get back into the swing of things. I’ll not try to play catch up but will continue forward with a look at the week prior. This being Sunday, I’ve got something new for you.
Play by Post (PbP) is a unique gaming experience, one full of fun, excitement, and sometimes frustration. I’ve been playing PbP for about 7 years now, largely over at ENWorld’s fantastic PbP community. I’ll go through a few of the attractions of the format and how it is different from many other forms of gaming, and I’ll touch on a few tricks of the trade so to speak.
PbP is played on message boards and as such is similar to Play by Email in that a DM will post to the game and all of the players have time to put together their responses. PbP allows both players and DMs time to craft a response and deliver top notch roleplaying and well thought out tactics.
It can, however, be very slow moving. In steady games, leveling takes about 6 months to a year if at all. Many DMs and players do not have the stamina to stick it through and fade away. But there are many communities that provide support for DMs to continue delivering quality games.
At ENWorld, community members have formed persistent Living Worlds that have some similarities with the organized play several companies put on. Similar in that all of the games take place in a shared world with consistent characters who can adventure together through a series of games with a variety of DMs. Not so similar in that it is more loosely organized and DMs are free to run what ever adventures they want.
Living ENWorld (a 3.5 shared world), Living 4th Edition (a 4e shared world), Living Eberron (a 3.5 Eberron setting), and Living Superheroes (a M&M world) all embrace different shared worlds where a number of games are being run concurrently. In addition there are the general PbP forums where people gather in all sorts of games together.
One of the most important things to remember if you are going to get in to PbP is to post. Keep posting and the games will stay alive. So many people fade away because they lack the commitment. Have that and you are all set.
I’ll come back to more tips such as in character vs. out of character discussion, mapping techniques, and more next time.
Apr 20 – 29
With this update falling on a Wednesday we have a few more exciting pieces of news from Wizards of the Coast to include in this post. Not only have Dungeon and Dragon magazine delivered some great pieces with the Prince of Frost and the Remains of the Empire adventure, but the D&D Character Builder and Compendium have been updated. Probably the biggest piece of news this week, however, is that WotC is giving away D&D for Free! Read below for more.