Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Roll your own dungeons

I saw this new Dungeon Morph Dice kickstart project and wanted to call it to your attention.  in essence each die face is a different dungeon geomorph, and they intend on producing a set of 5 different dice!

The goal is $6500 to produce the sets and there are a range of different pledge levels to see them get produced.

One thing I'd like to see is a firm pledge for everything: dice sets, battle maps the whole works.  As is if you add $80 to the top level you get the works, but that seems a bit of a gray area.  Just add a firm pledge level for "the werks!" Note, i did make my pledge today!  I hope they also use geomorphs from Stonewerk's Blog as he has produced some great geomorphs I have used in my Pockets full of Peril adventures.

I have a couple large sized D12 that have different dungeon halls and rooms on them so you can roll your own dungeon, and they have made some cool on the fly dungeon maps.  Maybe I'll roll up a couple and post them at some point.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New dungeons crawls await

UPDATE:  My copy just shipped (3/23) from The Warstore.  I have bought lots of stuff from Neal, his selection, service, and shipping are tops! Get yours there today!

I am a huge fan of dungeon crawl boardgames.  Note that does not mean I think they are all good, just that when good they can be a fun way to spend a couple hours.  Often times getting someone to sit down and try one of these types of games has led them down the forbidden and dark path to full blow role-playing! (Insert our own sufficiently diabolical laugh here-go on, I'll wait...)

There are two new dungeon crawl games coming soon that you might be interested in.  One is sufficiently dark and brooding and the other is refreshingly cool and unique.  Note neither is really out yet, but you can get minis and in both cases the full blown games should be coming soon.

First from Mantic Games- The Dwarf King's Hold: Dead Rising.
It looks very Space Hulk like in that it is simple to learn, easy to play, and will probably (unlike GW) include future supplements like Orcs as villains.  I could go on about it, but the video below does a swell job of outlining the rules and demoing game play.  The only problem I'd point out in the video is that in demoing, the Scottish host gets a bit too caught up in playing and trying to win rather than just illustrating the game play. Well I can't blame a fellow for wanting to win.

Next is a decidedly anime styled crawl called Super Dungeon Explore from Soda Pop miniatures.  While the full boxed game is not out yet, the miniatures supporting the game are.  Some will hate the designs, but I think they rock, it's nice to see sculpts outside the usual range of fantasy archetypes.  The demo game is a free down load and although I have not had a chance to play it yet, I have purchased all the minis in hopes of doing so.  With my luck the boxed game will be out before that happens, but in the mean time, here is a look at the minis.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

GAMA 2011 Report: When the king abdicates the throne...who will rule?

Well at GAMA this year, the RPG throne was noticeably vacant. Last year I wrote a bit about my take on the GAMA trade show. This year, it was both better and worse. Note, working for a game company I had access to the show floor yesterday while MFG's were setting up so I got to see it all and talk to folks before the show officially opens today.

Of note it seemed like the number of retailer attendees was up. That's good although whether it was due to increased freebies at the show, the timing of the show this year, or a strengthening of the hobby market overall is not clear. Attendance was strong in the “new retailer” presentation by distributors so that is a good sign. In speaking with some retailers, they have seen sales remain strong in the first quarter this year up from same time last year. What categories are strong? Boardgames lead the way in the strength of sales, card games second, then minis, then RPG's a distant 4th. Now that is not a blanket statement for the industry, only the feedback I got from ten different retailers in different parts of the U.S. Mostly west coast and mid-west stores. Distributors I spoke with concurred with retailers on a category by category basis. RPG's were as an average less than 20% of overall sales. Of that 20%, roughly 90% would be split Paizo/WOTC, with everyone else dividing up the last 10%. Again that's not biblical, just a breakdown of hearsay conversations from multiple industry distributors and from retailers.

Okay so RPG's are the weak horse in the hobby industry currently, but what did I see from the RPG companies at the show? Not much at all.

It was a bit of surprise here as really only Green Ronin and Indie Press Revolution showed anything. No Paizo, no Fantasy Flight, No Steve Jackson Games, No Goodman Games, and WotC was only an INFORMATION BOOTH! So in terms of the RPG market, for all intents and purposes NO ONE was showing! All the gorillas who OWN the market did not show a damn thing. Is it arrogance? Laziness? Cost cutting? You make the call on your own as I think its a stew of all of the above. Furthermore in discussions with a Paizo person, they believe WotC has ceded the RPG market to Paizo at this point. It's a statement I can't argue against.

You see WotC is cutting back on all D&D RPG because it does not earn enough revenue for Hasbro to invest resources in. Regardless of what you or I consider to be “enough revenue” current D&D is NOT meeting Hasbro's goals. The scuttlebutt with distributors was a potential D&D 5.0 announcement this summer. D&D 5.0 may print only core books (and or boxed sets) and then everything else goes PDF. Apparently Hasbro is happy with the online revenues generated by D&D, but print is dead and not worth the expense to Hasbro. So the edition wars may have one edition less to deal with, but a new one could be on the horizon. Now 5.0 is one possibility, alternatively-they could sell it off to someone else and divest themselves of the brand. I think that is less likely unless someone overpaid Hasbro for it.

You see the D&D lines of board games are successful, and that could be the way Hasbro chooses to represent and sell the D&D brand going forward. This would not mean a death of the Original RPG, only a reduction in stature to possibly a tertiary brand treatment. Anyway you look at it though, the king is at least grievously wounded and no one is looking for a cleric to save him.

So enter Paizo, with it's version of the grand old game. I never liked 3.0 nor 3.5 when I worked for WotC, so my own interest in the continuation of Encyclopedia Gamika books and manuals is nil. Regardless a HUGE amount of RPG players love it and actively play it. Game shops sell the heck out of it, and I can't see an end in sight as D&D continues to weaken, Paizo continues to pick up steam. Plus there is an interesting, though overdue, Pathfinder product coming. I am not sure the target audience for this product will be interested, but the market will decide.
If RPG's are less than a 2% showing at GAMA then what's the rest of the show? Well trading card, and constructable card games are huge. Board games remain big, and miniature games continue to hold their own. Here is an odd thought. As the RPG market declines to a no show status at a major retailer trade show, will dice manufacturers sink as well?

RPG's require a large commitment in terms of time and energy from individuals to play. A card game can be over in as little as 10 minutes. A simple board game, maybe 45 minutes. Sure on average a card game or a board game (depending upon the game) can be much longer, but even at an hour or two hours, it is much less time investment than an RPG and you can play it and put it away with no further commitment. .

My point being the barrier to entry on an RPG is substantial compared to a card game or average board game and the notion of campaigning is fairly central to playing an RPG. Character leveling and improvement over time of playing means campaigning IS a central tenet to RPG's. They system itself assumes you will be playing for a long time to come. If I win or lose a game of Monopoly, Settlers of Catan, or Memoir 44, there is no expectation that it will have any impact on my playing the game again, whenever I chose to do so. With RPG's that is not the case. In an age of on demand, twitch gaming, is there any room for RPG's in the long term?


Just because it will never be the golden age, nor the silver age, nor the cubic zirconium age, does not mean it isn’t still a viable and potentially strong game format. It's about adjusting your expectation and accepting and building upon they way things are rather than how they have been in the past.

SO here is a perfect opportunity for one or more small press RPG companies to steal the show-there really is no competition on the show floor, you have hundreds of retailers, every major distributor at the show, and you are...maybe reading this blog and hopefully kicking yourself in the ass. Next year you may not be so lucky to have the floor to yourself, but maybe you will?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Ian Livingston on Tricks & Traps

Inspired by a post by Jim at Carjacked Serpahim I began thinking about tricks and traps.  Note Jim's article is not specifically about tricks and traps, but the lesson gleaned from his post is a great one!  Anyway I half remembered an article in an old Fighting Fantasy magazine.  It is a simple but good one and was originally presented in Warlock Magazine #4 (oh for the heady days when the term Warlock had nothing to do with Charlie Sheen or his brain.) WINNING!

Even hardy adventurers often have a difficult time overcoming all the monsters they encounter on their quests. But I am sure that many have suffered wounds caused not by monsters, but by the devious traps that are set inside the Gamebooks. How many have bad memories of the portcullis levers in The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, or the deadly devices riddled throughout Deathtrap Dungeon? Traps are the perfect obstacles to thwart even the toughest adventurers, since overcoming them often requires brain instead of brawn. Traps can be simple – for instance, if you walk through a left-hand door, something unpleasant is going to happen to you, but if you walk through the right-hand door, you will benefit somehow. Or traps can be complex, requiring more thought than simply choosing one of two options. Visual clues in an illustration of a trap can be spotted. Simple mathematical puzzles can be applied to tricks to make them more challenging, as in the Statue Room in Deathtrap Dungeon. There is obviously plenty of scope for tricks and traps. Traps can be applied to doors, floors, tunnels, rooms, stairs and passageways, and feature arrows, daggers, spears, teleporters, chutes, rolling boulders or iron balls, gas, acid, fire, poison – the possibilities are endless. As an example, a common trap is a stone which falls down from the ceiling when triggered by the opening of a door. Another example is the floor of a room which pivots at its centre and deposits the unfortunate adventurer down into lower rooms/pits/ cellars. Wounds may be received as a result of the fall and, even worse, escape may not be possible if the adventurer does not already possess a pole or some rope.

Tricks can be presented in the form of riddles, rhymes, illusions, animated objects, dialogue, unseen messengers, puzzles and anagrams in or on scrolls, walls, etchings, paintings, carvings, doors, pillars, idols, fountains, ashes, ceilings, floors, chests, chalk, etc. A passageway appears to come to an end at a doorway. The adventurer may be given the options of trying to open the door or walking back down the passageway. The door is in fact an illusion which has been placed over a pit. If the adventurer tries to open the door, he or she will fall down the pit and lose STAMINA points. However, the adventurer might have found a ring of illusion-detection
earlier in the adventure, and will be given a chance to see the illusion should he or she opt to open the door. Another example might be that the adventurer walks into a room where there is a lantern. The door slams shut behind the adventurer and a genie emerges from the
lantern. The genie asks the adventurer a riddle which, if answered correctly, will benefit the adventurer, but will cause injury, if answered incorrectly.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Name Game (and art update)

The whole idea behind using "Roguish" as a game title stems from my love of roguelike pc games.  The endless dungeons, random things you find, and always different dungeon maps fit well with my experience playing pen & paper games.  One of the most popular roguelikes is Diablo. In essence Diablo is nothing more than a super chrome job and "real time" combat version of classic roguelikes.  So while Roguish as a fantasy RPG name brings up that classic exploration and combat connotation to me, to others it could mean:

a) nothing
b) non-rpg based reference
c) something thief based only 

None of those is an accurate mental pigeon hole for my game.

As I work for a game company, I am familiar with branding and how important it is to successfully marketing and creating interest for your product.  While Roguish may catch the concept to me, as a name it's not really working.  The more I write and work on the game the more I feel it's a miss on a number of different levels.  To that end I have come up with a few possible names to replace Roguish.  Your vote is important so let me know what you think of:

Peril & Plunder
Sword & Shield
Tombs & Terrors
Roguish (hey I could be wrong)

Also I thought it worth noting (and posting with some pride) my wife will be supplying some of the art for my (TBD) Fantasy Role Playing Game, below is something I might use either as introductory pages or possibly as inserted chapter break pages for added "feel" in the game.