posted Saturday, April 3rd 2010 by
Links and Resources
Meeh meeh caheeh Robot Chicken.
posted Saturday, April 3rd 2010 by
Links and Resources
Meeh meeh caheeh Robot Chicken.
For the rest of January, Monte Cook is donating 100% of the proceeds from sales of Book of Experimental Might I and II to the Haiti relief fund. These books are packed with interesting house rules for D&D third edition, from one of the original authors. If you’ve got these on your wish list, or you’re interested in third edition D&D rules, now’s the time to buy.
If charity doesn’t appeal to you, Book of Experimental Might I made #1 on RPG Countdown’s Best of 2008, ahead of the 4th Edition Player’s Handbook at #2, followed by Book of Experimental Might II at #3. What’s more, both are available in PDF from RPG Now at $9 each, reduced from $20 and $16 respectively.
In addition, RPG Now is offering a coupon for $20 which entitles the bearer to 100% off a massive selection of PDF titles, worth over $1,000. The proceeds of the coupon go to Doctors with Borders. The pack includes Kobold Quarterly #11 and 173 other PDFs. RPG Now is requesting that users wait a few days before downloading the products after their purchase, as the server is struggling to cope with all the donations.
If you’re one of many people who still enjoys Dungeons & Dragons third edition, you maybe running short of game material now that many publishers have switched to producing fourth edition books. Thankfully, there are there online sources for third edition game material.
The first is The Grand OGL Wiki, a site collecting third edition open game content from contributing publishers. The wiki currently contains material from Paizo’s Rise of the Runelords adventure path and Mongoose’s massive Quintessential series, amongst others. All material is available for free, so if you missed out on these the first time around you can enjoy a supply of fresh 3E content.
The second is Dungeon a Day, a new project by Dungeons & Dragons third edition co-creator Monte Cook. Dungeon a Day is a service offering daily game content that builds to a complete D&D campaign. There’s a subscription fee, but if you’re looking for official-quality material it’s hard to go wrong with the guy who made the game.
Finally, it’s nothing new but the The Hypertext D20 SRD includes an invaluable set official open content. In addition to the core rules, d20srd.org has added the Epic level rules, Psionics rules from the Expanded Psionics Handbook, the Divine rank rules from Deities & Demigods, and the variant rules from Unearthed Arcana including bloodlines, racial paragon classes, flaws, traits, armour as damage reduction, comabt facing, action points and spell points. The site also includes tools for rolling dice, calculating encounters and searching for monsters and spells.
Each week I link a selection of articles from the Dungeons & Dragons “blogosphere”.
The week in links.
The past week in RPG links.
Special note: On Monday I’m posting details of a contest where you can win free dice. I’ll leave it up over Christmas, and choose the winner when I return at the end of the holidays.
Meanwhile, here’s the week in links:
The week in links.
Alright, you got me. I meant to post this yesterday, but I recently read that my family name could mean “a lazy man”, and decided to give it a go. Unfortunately, living up to my family name turned out to be quite unproductive, so here we are with the week’s round-up.
The big news this week is that Wizards of the Coast has laid off several staff, including such big names as Dave Noonan, Jonathan Tweet, and Randy Buehler. Reasons for the layoffs include frustration over Gleemax and D&D Insider failing to meet targets, clearing out monetary liabilities before the end of Hasbro’s financial year, and dilbertesque budget cuts. Several bloggers including industry insiders have voiced their disapproval:
In other news:
Here’s what’s hot this week in the the D&D “blogosphere”.
A hot topic this week is non-traditional roleplaying – letting your players take narrative control, or abandoning combat rules entirely.
Three DMs this week are trialling an online D&D Java app called Gametable:
Morality is also a topic this week:
And as ever, discussion of age-old Dungeon Master problems:
Textfiles.com now has exactly 300 role-playing games articles, dating from the 1980s and 1990s. Textfiles.com, which recently celebrated its tenth birthday, is a repository of various material from bulletin-board systems or BBSs, the modem-based dial-in systems that existed before the World Wide Web.
Most or all of these articles predate Dungeons & Dragons third edition. Still, a lot of it is useful for inspiration, or just interesting for historical purposes. Leave a comment and let me know if you find anything particularly good.
Here’s a list of the last ten articles for you.
The true measure of a blog is the quality of its content, but the computers at Google have their own popularity measurement called PageRank. It’s not the only factor that determines how high your blog or website appears on web searches, but when yours increases it’s something to celebrate.
I’ve checked up the PageRank of some of the more popular D&D sites and blogs out there. This blog‘s PageRank is a respectable 4/10, where ten is the highest. You can check PageRank using the Google Toolbar.
All of the above sites come highly recommended. If you run a roleplaying games site or blog, how does yours fare?
Heads up: There’s a new gaming podcast out, titled Atomic Array. This week, hosts Ed Healy and Rone Barton discuss historical fantasy and historical fantasy, including a roleplaying game set during Colonial era America.
Atomic Array – it’s like a blog that you listen to!™
In D&D this week:
Has Open Gaming Been a Sucess?, by Mike Mearls
One of the developers of D&D 4th edition comments on whether or not the OGL was a succeess. Mearls also talks this week about MMO’s effect on RPG sales and becoming a Wall Stret Journal bestselling author.
Killjoy Cooking With the Dungeons & Dragons Crowd, by Lore SjÃ¶berg
Wired spoofs D&D with the question: What geeks talked about cookbooks the way they talk about RPG books?
Skill Challenges, by Keith Baker
The creator of Eberron discusses 4E’s skill challenges and ways to improve them. He also discusses the skills system in 4E, Races in 4E Eberron and Lycanthropes and the Purge.
4E and New Players, by Chris Pramas (publisher Green Ronin)
Pramas gives his views on fourth edition as a way of introducing new players.
I’ve located a few resources this week that Dungeon Masters may find useful.
Zen and the Art of Dungeon Mastering: At thirty-thousand words this collection of articles is a lengthy but valuable read. It dates back to old AD&D, but the advice contained is just as relevant in any edition.
The puzzle structure of Ocarina of Time: Gareth Rees analyzes a highly successful adventure videogame that holds similarities to Dungeons & Dragons. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time stars a heroic swordsman who enters dungeons and fights monsters to find loot and magic equipment, so you may be able to apply this to your own dungeoncrafting.
Story structure: it’s not just for movies anymore: Screenwriter Todd Alcott examines videogame Half-Life, a classic first-person shooter famed for introducing story to a genre previously characterized as “a dungeon crawl with guns”.
Today I discovered that fellow D&D blog Dungeon Mastering has published its list of Top 50 RPG Websites. It’s a fantastic list of Dungeons & Dragons resources and interesting blogs like this one. Among the top ten are Johnn Four’s Roleplaying Tips, fan-favourite news site EN World and Monte Cook‘s site. Definitely a list worth reading.
I’m quite honoured to find that I’ve been rated #15 on the list, above the D20 SRD, RPG.net and popular webcomic Order of the Stick. There are a lot of excellent sites on this list, several of which are new to me. So far they’re looking pretty good, so I encourage you to check out this list.
Surprisingly, there are more RPG blogs out there than I’d initially. One such website goes by the title of Socratic Design, a blog from the author of an RPG called Ember Twilight. I haven’t had time to read the entire backlog, but so far it looks to be of interest to any budding RPG designer, with articles including What’s it like to publish an RPG? and How can Magic be used in an RPG?
If you’re interested in the field of RPG writing, it’s definitely worth having a look at Socratic Design.
It seems that D&D writer JD Wiker is updating his blog on a regular basis now, and it’s full of dungeon mastery goodness. (See what I mean about a surge in D&D blogging?) Among his entries are interesting variant stats for the Shadow, discussion of “cinematic” roleplaying, and musings on the focus of your game.
You may have noticed that I don’t update every single day. Thankfully, I’ve been kindly informed of a new D&D blog by the name of Stupid Ranger. Four gamers post with advice on everything from playing courteously to claims that chicks dig a solid backstory. Finally, something to keep you sated in between my updates!
Bundle on over to Stupid Ranger.
Over at Martin Ralya’s blog Treasure Tables, news is that he’s planning to overhaul GMing Wiki. Remarkably, I’ve managed to completely miss it before, so if you haven’t seen it already, check out Ralya’s GMing Wiki.
Here’s what’s cool in RPGs this week:
In lieu of a real update, please enjoy this selection of recent RPG themed updates from the blog of Monte Cook, who it goes without saying is a significantly more published fellow than myself.
And two more from Monte’s design diary:
Fresh from ruling against baleful polymorph as a form of assault, the Straight Dope message boards take a leaf from D&D webcomic Order of the Stick and ask: In the case of a paladin sensing alignment, does detect evil constitute an illegal search?
More polymorph offences – but not in the form of rules changes. This time, the Straight Dope messageboards debate: In the event that wizards existed in the real world, does baleful polymorph legally constitute assault?
If you’ve never heard of FATAL, that’s probably for the best.
Save yourself the bother of buying this monstrous PDF and check out this review of FATAL. (Contains strong language.)
Depending on your point of view, Jack Chick is either an admirable Christian or a hateful propaganda writer. Back in the Christian anti-D&D fad of the eighties he published a comic called Dark Dungeons. It’s laughably inaccurate, and when I tried to edit the text to make a parody I found myself unable to make it any more ridiculous than it already was. If you haven’t seen this already for some reason, check it out.
The ever-busy Mike Mearls updates his blog for the first time in forever with four interesting crossbow feats. Why not drop by and leave a comment?
Something Awful makes a surprise Dungeons & Dragons foray with their new article, Steveâ€™s Guide to Making a Really Sweet D&D Character. It’s not quite as laughter-inducing as some of the other stuff on SA, but the ridiculous character description at the end makes up for it.
If you’re a fan of Dungeons & Dragons—and if you aren’t, why are you reading this blog—feel free to come chat with us about D&D and assorted topics at ENWorld’s official chat. Get yourself an IRC client such as mIRC or X-Chat, if you don’t have one already, and join in.
The channel is #dnd3e at irc.psionics.net – that’s the Psionics-Anlarye IRC network. If you’re a D&D fan, please add it to your auto-join list and stick around.
Recently on the Wizards of the Coast site, an article by Kolja Raven Liquette touches on the topic of “dead levels” – character levels at which no specific class ability is gained. The barbarian for example has something at every level, even if it’s as limited as +1 to saves versus traps, whereas the fighter generally only gains one ability at every other level. Gamers are divided as to whether these empty levels are by wholly worthless, or if the increase to hit points, base attack, saves and base attack are still worth it.
Kolja’s article provides filler abilities for the dead levels. Coincidentally I had discussed this before (although not on this site), offering to round the fighter out with a minor but useful ability at the odd levels when he doesn’t gain a feat. Unfortunately, I fear that the Wizards article may have provided too little in the way of benefits to allay the qualms of the powerplayers who had the biggest problem with dead levels in the first place. The other side of Kolja’s dilemma is that if the benefits are too good, DMs everywhere will be swamped with requests to hand out free class abilities. Rewriting something so central as the core classes is really not something we can expect from Wizards of the Coast any time soon.
To be honest—and it’s perhaps unfair to Mr. Liquette since writing game-official rules for Wizards has certain constraints that a blogger isn’t limited by—were I writing this article, I would have somewhat different goals. Kolja’s article provides minor abilities which are mostly flavourful in nature, other than the rogue minor ability which corrects a perceived power deficiency in the class. Rather, I would have taken the route of providing abilities which were distinctly useful, but limited in scope. Consider the barbarian’s bonus to save versus traps; it’s as high as +6 at level 18, but as a balancing factor this bonus applies only to dodging traps. It’s wholly useless in a combat situation, does nothing for dangerous terrain and doesn’t protect against magical or poisoned traps, yet it’s still quite worthy because now and again it does work, much to the player’s pleasure.
On a quick skim, here’s what I might have given to each class to allay the “dead level” mob. Barbarian needs no bonus, in my opinion it’s the best designed class in the entire game. The bard gains some bonus or ability that he can know relevant information about enemies in-combat, sort of blue-mage style. The cleric gains defensive variants depending on deity, alignment, domains or church affiliation. The druid I think is fine since it gains ninth level spells on its dead 17th, but I might bring back 2ed hibernation or plane shifting. The fighter abilities in the article I like, but I might have given him weapon proficiencies or let his Weapon Focus style feats apply to another weapon for free (although in practice fighters really only use one weapon, so an improvement to what 2ed called Bend Bars/Lift Gates does make sense).
The monk’s got nothing empty (although it’s weaker as a combat class because of it), and I’d have to think a while for what I’d give the paladin. The ranger I’m not usually a fan of but on a quick look I think Kolja has it right. The rogue I might have uninventively filled in with the two empty levels with “Special Ability”; at any rate I don’t think it’s realistic for a rogue to work just a well without any tools, and I find myself wondering if it’s okay to give the rogue Hide in Plain Sight at 14th or 20th. On a hunch I’d throw in “take 10 on Use Magic Device” at 14th and Hide in Plain at 20th, but that’s tentative. Finally, the sorcerer and wizard; to be honest, both get along pretty well empty-levelling since they have the best spells and always gain new ones upon levelling up. The sorcerer, of course, is a shade weak overall and I find myself considering route of minor magical abilities (distinct from learned spells since the sorcerer is “naturally” magical in certain, perhaps unique ways), while for the wizard I’d turn to none other than the Arcana Evolved style magister’s staff as an alternative to a familiar.
Wizards need their staffs.
It’s been a while since I last update, so here’s a link to keep you satiated: Shooting Dice, an RPG blog.
As a bonus link, here’s John H Kim’s List of RPG Blogs and Links.
I linked an Eberron IRC Channel back in March. Since then I’ve happened upon another channel, this time for the Greyhawk campaign setting. Greyhawk is a classic setting that provides the basis for the third edition of D&D, most visibly in the Player’s Handbook selection of deities and in spells named after NPCs like Mordenkainen, Otiluke and Tenser.
The channel is #greytalk at irc.psionics.net – thatâ€™s the Psionics-Anlarye IRC network. If youâ€™re a fan of Greyhawk, please add it to your auto-join list and stick around.
Are you writing your own adventures, or at least planning before a game? Even if you don’t think you’re up to the standards of Dungeon magazine – and considering twelve-issue Adventure Paths™ series they’re now only publishing twenty-four adventures per year, so those it’s pretty competetive – you would still do well to look at Dungeon magazine’s submissions guidelines. This is free adventure writing advice from the people who have been publishing such things for twenty years now, so it’s worth checking out!
I’m particularly amused by the list of stereotypical adventure ideas to avoid, since I’m guilty of at least half of these myself:
Avoid stereotypical material. We usually reject adventures in which the heroes must:
- Rescue someoneâ€™s kidnapped daughter.
- Solve a murder perpetrated by a doppelganger.
- Retrieve an ancient artifact.
- Battle a deranged wizard or sorcerer.
- Repel a simple humanoid infestation.
- Defeat an undead army.
- Prevent the â€œassimilationâ€? of their town.
This list is not all-inclusive. There are many more overused plot devices that might seem new and fresh to you, but that we see many times each month. (This includes beginning your adventure in a tavern or inn. Donâ€™t do it.)
Dungeon magazine’s submissions guidelines. Clicky clicky.
Metamagic Components, an article originally published in Unearthed Arcana, includes a fantastically exhaustive list of each basic spell in the game along with an expensive, optional material component that can be applied to it in order to apply a certain metamagic for free. For example, you can spend two +3 arrows to cast magic missile as empowered. You don’t even need the metmagic feat to use these material components, but take care to watch your wallet – the costs can add up! Check it out at the link above.
Just a quick post to let you in on this D&D blog I’ve found: Martin Ralya’s Treasure Tables. He likewise blogs about DMing, and I think he updates slightly more frequently than I do. Give it a look.
Acclaimed d20 author Mike Mearls gives us The Year Ahead in RPG Releases. Took me a second to get that he was kidding, but it’s a clever joke on the RPG market.
I’m much busy with the exam period right now. In the meantime, I’d like to point you toward a thread you might find interesting, titled DMing 101.
Today I came across a page entitled A Glossary of Terms Used in Critiquing Science Fiction, which I’d assume also apply to fantasy writing. It’s particularly interesting if you’re aspiring to be the next Tolkien or Salvatore, since if critics mention something often enough that they have a “term” for it, it’s something you want to be aware of (either to avoid, or to make use of). If you’re a DM who likes to tell a story with his ongoing game, you might also like to read this list and see what you can glean from it.
Linking again to the website of Forgotten Realms author Sean K Reynolds, and today’s is his page on the Breakdown of RPG Players based on a survey done by Wizards of the Coast in 1999. The research must have Wizards cost a lot, and it’s not often that you get to see such valuable market research for free. DMs and writers should be especially interested in this link.
Here’s a quick advertisement for an IRC channel (chatroom) dedicated to discussing the Eberron campaign setting. We’ve only a few regulars yet, so we’re hoping the place will get more lively once we get more dedicated fans, and we’d like you to join.
The channel is #eberron at irc.psionics.net – that’s the Psionics-Anlarye IRC network. If you’re an Eberron fan, please add it to your auto-join list and stick around.
Two links for you today – old, but still very relevant if you’re interested in the RPG industry.
Firstly, Ryan Dancey’s Adventure Game Industry Market Research Summary gives an interesting summary of a Wizards of the Coast customer survey performed in 1999.
Secondly, Sean K Reynolds’ Breakdown of RPG Players is an insightful analysis of this summary, complete with a colourful graph. You might know Sean K Reynolds best for his work on the third edition Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting.
The Hypertext D20 System Reference Documents is an excellent resource if you’re not already familiar with it. It presents the System Reference Documents in a convenient, easy-to-read, hyperlinked format. This includes all of the D&D core rules minus any Wizards of the Coast closed content – the character creation rules, for example, and a few of the monsters. While the SRDs are not a complete replacement for the core rulebooks (it lacks the advice given in the Dungeon Master’s Guide), it is excellent for quickly looking up rules, monsters, spells, magic items and the like.
As a bonus, the site comes with various extras, including the more or less complete Epic rules (Epic Level Handbook), Psionics rules (Expanded Psionics Handbook), Divine rules (Deities & Demigods) and Variant rules (Unearthed Arcana) and extras such as character record sheets. The variant rules alone are an excellent read for any DM. This page is highly recommended, and absolutely invaluable if you run D&D online or use a computer when running D&D.