1001 Bobs

The Second Week of April in the Year 2009

by on Apr.13, 2009, under Weekly Review

Apr 6-12

As mentioned last week, I’ve decided to switch it up this week and give the blog posts of the week top billing. I think I’ll cycle content like this regularly to mix it up.  The two biggest news pieces in the RPG world this week hit blogs pretty heavily. First and foremost, Dave Arneson, co-creator of D&D  passed away on April 7th.  A sad day for the roleplaying community as we all collectively said good bye to the man who gave us character based roleplaying, hit points, AC, and many other staples, not to mention helped create what has become a gigantic world-wide entertainment industry.  AP ran a story on his passing which the NYT amongst others picked up, the well-spoken Kennith Hite delivered an eloquent obituary, OotS produced a comic in memory, and Kobold Quarterly ran an interview that they had just completed. RIP Dave and thank you for the gift of Fun!

The other large piece of news that has hit this week, called PDFGate online, is Wizards of the Coast’s decision to remove all PDF products from all channels on the Internet, specifically RPGNow/DrivethruRPG/OBS and Paizo without warning to customers.   This comes at the same time as WotC sues 8 people for illegal distribution of their PDFs all through Scrybd.com.  It strikes me as a poor business decision on WotC’s part as PDFs are an integral part of the marketplace now as many other publishers have capitalized on their move by offering deals on PDFs. ENWorld has had the greatest coverage of this event, including an interview with Greg Leeds, President of WotC as well as public copies of the court fillings.  With these two unfortunate events, I agree with others that regret that they are no longer able to purchase any of Dave Arneson’s books.

Broken Time Finn c Apis Teicher, 2009

Broken Time Finn © Apis Teicher, 2009

Blogroll

Gnome Stew – Starting a new campaign – The background independent pilot session ~ link

Martin Ralya presents an interesting article that I’m definitely going to be using for my next campaign. I’ve read a lot of posts over the last few months about character backgrounds and weaving a plot around the characters themselves rather than the major plots the DM wants to run. A staple of sandbox games, this style intrigues me but I’ve had trouble drawing that kind of information from my players. In this article, Martin offers a solution ~ run the first session without an care for background, allow players to get a handle on their new character’s personality and play style. That way you can follow up after the session to dig deeper into the decisions that the character portrayed in that pilot episode and get a more detailed history to draw from once the characters are a little more cemented in the minds of the players.

Gnome Stew – Five thinks to make your NPCs stand out ~ link

Personally I find my NPCs a little flat so any article on breathing life into them is appreciated.  John Arcadian’s Johnny’s Five article this week shows 5 ways to make NPCs stick in your player’s mind. The five things John suggests include Details, Voice, References, Uniqueness, and Physical Representations.  A solid article that I’ll have to try in my next game.

Dungeon’s Master – Reputation ~ part 1 part 2 part 3

Began on The Core Mechanic by Ameron from Dungeon’s Master, this three part series finished this week, but I wanted to get it all in.  Its a great set of articles starts out with a discussion on different types of reputation such as positive and negative reputation and its potential effects on game play.  The second part presents three different flavors to colour your hero’s reputation such as local heroes, unsung heroes, and anonymous heroes. The third part  plays on negative flavors of reputation such as false heroes, anything but heroes, and larger than life heroes. How will your players try to build their own reputation and how will you put it to use in your game?

The Core Mechanic – Anatomy of a Villain ~ link

Both At-Will and The Core Mechanic offer us articles on Villains this week and both of them are out of the park. Jonathan Jacobs offers yet more advice on something I want to improve on, my villains. I’ve had a couple that my players really remember and hate like the changeling Brother Garrow from the Eberron trilogy of adventures for 3.5.  This article advises GMs on a few tricks that they can use to create memorable villains such as types of villains, motivations, minions, and re-occurances.  What’s more Jonathan lets slip his inspiration for his villains, TV Tropes Wiki, which looks like a useful site.

At-Will – The Vicious Virtues of Villainy ~ link

Beyond the methods of how to make a villain great, Gamefiend goes into the importance of villain in games and why it is important to create one that is memorable and hated by your players.  He then delves into how to achieve that hatred by using a villains motivation, goals, and plots (and minions).  Together these two articles are great.

Chatty DM – Chatty’s Review: Monte Cook’s Dungeon A Day ~ link

As you’ve seen from my past weekly review entries, I’m a fan of Monte Cook’s Dungeonaday.com project. This week a number of bloggers reviewed the project including the Chatty DM, Philippe Menard.  His review is very positive, so if you’re not taking my word for it, give his a read too.  Philippe covers some of the innovations that Monte is employing to make the dungeon as dynamic and usable.  With hyperlinks, forums, maps, dwarven forge terrain, a glossary, and a great click-able map technology really drives the site almost as much as the phenomenal content.

Megadungeon.com – Welcome to Megadungeon ~ link

James Maliszewski of Grognardia fame has begun a project similar to Monte Cook’s Dungeonaday.com and while the comparison will be drawn across the net James’ project had begun to percolate prior to Monte’s started.  Many bloggers were speaking of megadungeons over the past few months and James decided to do something about it. Megadungeon.com is an old school dungeon built with OD&D rules. I’ve discovered many blogs out there that encourage a return to RPG roots and a different way of playing where the rules were suggestions and challenges were leveraged against players more so than their characters at times.  This mega dungeon will return us to those games of old using modern Internet technologies to deliver the content.

Newbie DM – Vin Diesel’s Melkor the Drow ~ link

Newbie DM pointed this one out on his blog this week and it is too hilarious not to pass along. Vin Diesel, on Jimmy Kimmel’s late night talk show talks about his re-appearance in Fast and the Furious 3. At about the 2:27 mark he starts talking about his half-drow character, Melkor.

Dragon Magazine

Note that these articles require a subscription to DDI to access.

The White Lotus Academy an Arcane School ~ link

Peter Schaefer presents a nice article about an arcane school that offers something for all the different classes that draw from the arcane power source in 4e. Bards, Sorcerors, Swordmages, Warlocks, and Wizards all have a place at the White Lotus Academy. It was this kind of content that I liked reading in the old Complete books for 3.5 and that I would’ve expected in the Power series in 4e.  I’ve not seen Arcane Power yet, but I’m not sure it will have any content like this given the precedent set by Martial Power. So I’m glad that Dragon is picking up where those books left off and presenting more campaign material for the arcane rather than just character options.

Get Familiar ~ link

Logan Bonner offers us a completely revamped system of familiars for 4e. Familiars were definitely missed in the original PH for 4e as they had been a staple in 3.5.  This article is intended to expand on the familiars offered in Arcane Power, but as mentioned above, I’ve not seen that yet. Overall they look very interesting. Each familiar has a simple set of stats including just speed and senses as well as static advantages and active ones for the caster. I’m going to have to create a version of the ash mephit as a familiar soon.  Its too bad that we don’t get to see how one gains a familiar or what game stats (hp, defenses, etc) that they have. I guess Arcane Power will have those.

Dungeon Magazine

Note that these articles require a subscription to DDI to access.

The Scales of War – Part 10 – Alliance at Nefelus [Paragon - L14] ~ link

The 10th adventure in the Scales of War adventure path is presented by Chris Tulach.  Where as the last one I was intrigued by the adventure path, I’m not sure how well this one fits.  It sounds like a really fun adventure where the players are asked to help one of their long time allies to free her tropic homeland from a siege of ice.  The characters travel to the island realm, beat up several frost giants and make it to the island. There they are given three apparatuses of Kwalish, yes the big crab vehicle thing from way back, that they need to use to enter Icehome to fight a two-headed white dragon, Chillreaver. Chillreaver is allied with the githyanki and is use the Seed of Winter to change the weather around the tropic island.

Wizards.com Features

As mentioned in my introduction, I’ve cycled the Blogroll picks to the top of the list. That leaves other sections for brief linkage.  The three excerpts below are interesting, though my pick is the Adamantine Dragon, the first metallic we see for 4e.  The Scales of War advice column reviews the third installment of SoW with advice on troublesome spots and suggestions on which minis you’ll need and which dungeon tiles will support each encounter.  Its a good thought, but why start with the third adventure?  Why not #1 or the current one #10?  The other difficulty is of course that some of the dungeon tiles are out of print and the minis are rare and expensive now, especially the Harbinger series originally released 6 years ago.

Dungeonaday.com

Rooms 32-36

Once beyond the thematically linked encounters of the earlier rooms on level 1 and the stairs down there is an older section of the Dragons Delve that has a number of unique and interesting traps and treasure.  With a creepy web filled room and a bubbling black ooze that makes more of a puzzle than a combat encounter, Monte has offered us a number of rooms with a very old school feel. Almost to level 2!

Our Sponsors ~ link

Monte introduces the sponsors for the site. Dwarven Forge and Reaper Minis were originally on board for the site and their influence can be seen through out, though personally I’d like to see more minis featured.  This week Monte adds the Hypertext d20 SRD which has been along for the ride the whole time but is getting more notice on the site now.  He also welcomes Paizo publishing whom he has worked with recently on the Pathfinder RPG. Speaking of PFRPG, Jason Bulmahn will be joining Dungeonaday.com soon as a guest blogger.

Empty Rooms ~ link

In this blog entry, Monte talks about the importance of including empty rooms in a dungeon.  Verisimilitude and suspension of disbelief are the key reasons Monte highlights.  He also addresses the concern that in maintaining that philosophy he’d have to present encounters with ’45. This room is empty.’  In the Delve he has created area encounters which may include several rooms some of which have monsters, treasure, or traps, but others contain nothing.  He also includes empty rooms that have a revisit entry, allowing players who pass through those rooms to encounter creatures on their way back through later.

The Temple of Vune ~ link

Vune is a goddess of charity, light, and purity whose clergy maintain the largest temple in Brindenford, the town near the Dragon’s Delve.  The clergy of Vune offer healing and assistance to those willing to donate to the less fortunate with time or money. To the followers of Vune, fighting evil is not a reason for charity, thus making adventurers less important in the eyes of the clergy.

Open Design

4E discussion kicks off this week! With the 3.5 version wrapping up we start into a discussion of tier and level. I personally would like to see this go early paragon, but others want to keep it in the heroic tier especially as a sequel to the Wrath of the River King.  While I can see that point of view many of the tasks the adventurers undertake seem more paragon oriented to me.

Kobold Quarterly

I’ve linked to it above already, but you have to read the interview with Dave Arneson.  It was included in the recently released Kobold Quarterly #9 (review forthcoming) and Wolfgang has been gratious enough to post it to the site. He mentions the poor timing of the article in the Passing of Time piece below, but it really is a wonderful tribute to the man.

Podcasts

It would appear that the theme of this week touches on two pieces, Dungeonaday.com and the passing of Dave Arneson.  The Tome Show’s celebrating D&D is a great tribute whether Jeff meant it or not. From all the articles that I’ve read over the past week, Dave loved the game and wanted everyone to have fun. What better a way to celebrate that than by celebrating D&D itself.

And that wraps it up for this week. I’ll be posting another creature in my ongoing Quasi Elemental Plane of Ash series this week. Eventually I’ll be posting some adventure locations, a description of the plane, and more.  I will also be doing a review of KQ 9 this week time permitting. I’ve almost finished reading it already.

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