Archive for August, 2001

Give Your Characters A Dancing Lesson

Friday, August 31st, 2001

Atlas Games announced the next product in their Penumbra line of D20 adventures, The Last Dance by Chris Aylott. In this scenario, adventurers get pulled into a ghostly dance from the past, and must change history or become permanent members of the performance. Boasting an artifact that amplifies magic, a creature that feeds on it, and sorcerous music as well, characters are sure to get their hit point’s worth. Arriving in November, the 40 page adventure will be for levels 4-6, and retail for $9.95.

The Game In The Brown Paper Wrapper
What kind of RPG is so over the edge, pushing the boundaries so far, that it wasn’t announced ahead of time and won’t be in stores? It’s described as a “16-page book … in a brown wrapper that’s covered with warnings.” Vigilante, aimed at liberal-minded adult gamers, isn’t even trying to get onto store shelves. Instead, Steve Jackson Games is selling it exclusively through their online store, though you may be able to get one at DragonCon or WorldCon this weekend. If you dare! (**cue spooky music**)

Hasbro Rearranging Things Again

Thursday, August 30th, 2001

Hasbro, not content to stop fiddling with things, is making some minor changes in Wizards of the Coast’s upper management. Here’s a quote from the press release:

Dave Wilson, currently the President of Hasbro Games, now takes on added responsibility overseeing the Games segment made up of Hasbro Games and Wizards of the Coast. Vince Caluori, Wizards of the Coast’s President and Chief Operating Officer, will report directly to Mr. Wilson… Wizards of the Coast and Tiger Electronics will continue to operate out of their Seattle and Chicago offices, respectively.

So Hasbro has officially established a chain of command that starts with them. Will this have any significant effect? We shall see. In the meantime, WotC’s Ryan Dancey has offered his thoughts on the D20 OGL discussion group:

…Hasbro for its part has treated Wizards with great respect. It has asked Wizards’ opinion on a variety of topics, and has listened more often than you might expect. It has also required Wizards to conform to a level of fiscal discipline that Wizards sought but never achieved as a private company, and that has been hard on everyone involved. Hasbro has given Wizards more than adequate room to demonstrate that it can and should remain an independent, autonomous entity. Wizards’ success or failure in achieving that goal is almost completely due to its own efforts and decisions, rather than some top-down meddling by suits from Rhode Island.

In fact, if there was ever a person who was a better fit for the gaming industry as CEO of the “biggest company” than Peter Adkison, that person might just be Alan Hassenfeld [CEO of Hasbro], who is very much a big geek just like the rest of us who delights in play, imagination and creativity.

Wizards of the coast has more employees than it did before Pokemon. It has more revenue than it did before Pokemon. It has more resources than it did before Pokemon. Being bought by Hasbro has had less effect on Wizards than the first seven digit purchase order from Wal*Mart did. Pokemon’s decline is having more of an effect on Wizards than any request or demand on the part of Hasbro corporate ever has. And Wizards trajectory forward is being determined primarily by decisions made by Wizards, by Wizards managers, than by Hasbro.

Cautious concern seems to be the prevalent feeling in the gaming community right now, with everyone waiting for the other shoe to drop. Stay tuned.

Precedence Builds Sack Armies Into Website
Precedence has revamped their website, adding a brand new Sack Armies section. Aside from complete rules, a kids version, battlemats, and other goodies, there’s a searchable gallery of tokens and rulings database, an extremely handy tool that’s already surprised me with a ruling I wasn’t aware of.

More Conventions Looming

Wednesday, August 29th, 2001

It’s been pointed out to me that I failed to mention a game convention so close to my home, it could’ve pounced and used my intestines as a bow tie. ConQuest is taking place in Palo Alto, CA this weekend, and numerous companies are scheduled to be in attendance, including Steve Jackson Games, Wingnut Games, and the Wizard’s Attic guys. I just might make it out there, depending on how the cursed house painting goes.

Conventions Looming on Horizon

Wednesday, August 29th, 2001

Just when you thought the cons were done and you could settle into your normal routine, a new swarm of ‘em arrives to lure you out into the light once again.

  • DragonCon strikes this weekend, August 31 – September 3 in beautiful downtown Atlanta. Wish I were going again this year, but alas, I cannot.
  • Troll Lord Games is holding Troll Kon LVII at the Family Games Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, on October 5 – 7. Though a smaller event, Troll Kon boasts a $1,000 Magic tournament, RPGA games of D&D 3, and “a First Edition AD&D game run by Ernie Gygax.”
  • FlatCon, happening September 22 – 23 in Bloomington, IL, already has some impressive guests: Gary Gygax, Lee Bansen (of Pinnacle), Rob Stone (of Citizen Games), and… uh… Chainmail Girl. So that’s what her name is.
  • If you can’t (or won’t) leave the house, try CyberCon 2, the second occurance of the entirely online game convention, taking place October 19 – 21. CyberCon is now a quarterly event, so more than ever, you can get your gaming on without getting your clothes on.

Movie Diversion
We interrupt your regularly scheduled gaming to bring you this tidbit: if any of you were considering renting that recent Heath Ledger movie A Knight’s Tale, read this review first. It may be more entertaining than the movie itself. The review title alone is worth the look.

Early Preview of Victorian Age Vampire

Wednesday, August 29th, 2001

White Wolf has set the release date for Victorian Age Vampire as October 2002. Can’t wait for a look? Tough, the book doesn’t exist yet. However, Justin Achilli’s outline for authors is up for everyone to look at, and should stir up some excitement. Looks like it will be another winner.

Green Ronin Website Improvements
Green Ronin announced some impending improvements to the company’s website: “Currently in development are an online store, an improved gallery, and a review tracking system so you can read what everybody has to say about our products before you buy them.” In the meantime, Green Ronin is keeping busy by going to GenCon UK and continuing to roll out the D20 hits.

Map Tile Download
SkeletonKey Games, who specialize in magnetic map tiles, has a new map download you can grab. You can expect a new map each week, so keep checking back. These tile sets are great — write on ‘em with dry erase markers, adding pools of blood and dismembered limbs everywhere, then wipe ‘em off. Gotta love it.

The Trouble With Harry

Monday, August 27th, 2001

Two weeks ago I was all set to write this snarky post about how Richard Garfield had, in record time, become the Paul McCartney of gaming – alternating between Wings-esque abominations of pablum like What Were You Thinking? and Beatles Anthologies of retreaded former glories, like the Harry Potter CCG. Well, it turns out that Garfield’s name doesn’t appear anywhere in the credits of Harry Potter, despite the interview he did about it in an interior design magazine, of all places, and the fact that it is basically Magic Lite.
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Fools’ Paradise Coming Next Month

Thursday, August 23rd, 2001

Principia Malefex, the RPG of gothic horror in modern Britain, has announced their next product to scare the wits out of your players:

The Fools’ Paradise scenario supplement for Principia Malefex has gone to print and will be released at the start of September 2001, marking the first
release for the game since the line was relaunched in December 2000. Based loosely around the surburbs, it focuses on what goes on behind closed doors, and the culture of silence and non-interference that lets it continue.

The supplement includes six scenarios and new fiction, with a full-color cover by Jon Spelling.

Munchkin Playtest Report

Thursday, August 23rd, 2001

Munchkin is long. Or very, very random. Maybe the latter always leads to the former, I don’t know. We played with four players, and although you should always factor in some inflation for a first game, it took in excess of two hours for someone to get their “character” from level 1 to level 10. Munchkin’s design is similar to that of Chez Geek in that there isn’t any designed-in gravity – the combined forces of randomness and players conspiring against the current leader can theoretically keep things going forever, especially if you have lots of players.

I was just down at Endgame chatting with folks, and John Wick‘s old article about reviews (now lost to the mists of paid-subscription-land) came up in conversation. Heads at Endgame agreed with Wick that opinion should be kept out of game reviews entirely, or at least cordonned off into a single paragraph at the end. I don’t think I agree, but I will say that I came away from Munchkin wanting to write a bad review, despite the fact that I never got bored during those two hours, and actually laughed a lot. So now I just have no damned clue what my opinion is worth anyway.

But if it helps you make an informed purchasing decision any, I’ll say this: two avowed fans of Chez Geek dropped out of our Munchkin game early, because the level of randomness made them feel powerless. This despite the fact that one of them had the “Chicken On Your Head” curse in his hand. Funny cards only go so far, I guess. So, this (Munchkin) is a more extreme version of that (CG). If you loved the concept when you heard it, and screw-your-neighbor games like Chez Geek don’t piss you off, I’d recommend you go ahead and pick up Munchkin – on the person-hours-of-fun-per-dollar principle, it beats most of the movies you’ve seen lately. Just don’t tell me you didn’t know what you were getting into.

Rio Grande Announces Fall Releases

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2001

In a recent newsletter, Rio Grande Games laid out their plans for Fall releases. In addition to several titles which have been discussed before (Dvonn, Lord of the Rings: The Search, Shark and Where’s Bob’s Hat), the schedule includes a number of interesting new games that will see simultaneous U.S. and German releases. These include two $10 card games (Gnumies, David Parlett’s game of partying aliens, and Gargon, in which players steal amulets from flying fantasy beasts), an environmentally-aware business game (Waste), a racing game which puts snowboarders under attack from Abominable Snowmen (The Yeti Cup) and Spies, Incorporated, a somewhat familiar yet interesting-sounding game of strategy and deduction designed by Wolfgang Kramer. Most of these titles should be out by October or November.

Collectible Miniatures, True Believers!

Tuesday, August 21st, 2001

Wiz Kids’ kung fu is superior. Having just recently gained the license to make a CMG similar to Mage Knight that’s based on DC Comics properties, they have now gained the license to do the same for Marvel Comics. The rules to the Marvel CMG will be written by the lead designer of D&D 3′s Dungeon Master’s Guide,Monte Cook. While the two games will be separate, and won’t be compatible with Mage Knight or the upcoming Battletech CMG, the super-powered characters willbe able to take on each other. My god… it’s like the Secret Warscombined with Crisis on Infinite Earths,only more expensive and painted in China.

While you wait for the Battletech CMG, DC CMG, and Marvel CMG, you can check out the beta rules for large scale Mage Knight battles (at the bottom of their downloads page). That’s what I’m talkin’ about. Massive warfronts of figures. Two hundred… and forty dollars… worth of Mage Knight. Awww yeaaah.

Adkison Buys Back Primal Order
Ryan Dancey posted this interesting tidbit to the OGL-D20 email list:

Peter [Adkison] recently signed a deal to take back the Primal Order from WotC. If he gets time in the next few years, I suspect he’ll probably re-write parts of it and release it again.

In case you missed it, Primal Orderwas conceived as a “cap system” that would fit on top of (nearly) any RPG, fleshing out the rules for deities. With Primal Order,gods don’t just think they’re badasses, they are. No, really.

Games Unplugged Unchanged
The Games Unplugged website is still in a holding pattern, not showing anything more than the latest magazine cover. Oh, and a message saying “Come back in 5 days” that’s been posted for going on 7 days now.

Houston, We Have Denial

Monday, August 20th, 2001

ICv2 brings the world an official statement from mega-distributor Diamond that they aren’t interested in buying TSR. Of course, rumors have been flying at least since Origins about TSR getting sold, and any number of potential buyers have been discussed, so maybe Diamond just lost a bidding war. (Doing my part to keep the mill running… don’t mind me…)

They’re Baaaaaack
Marvel is getting back into CCGs. I also saw a headline somewhere that said they were profitable again. I guess this will take care of that.

Is That A Heat Dial Or Are You Just Glad To See Me?
I’m pretty sure this hasn’t been all over the news already, anyway… WizKids just put up a page with a picture of the new Mage Knight-style BattleTech minis, and a whole lot of text, most of which seems to describe how much stuff is going to stay the same in the New Mech Order. [okay, so allan technically posted the link already - dammit] They’ve also posted an online-exclusive BattleTech short story.

Eric Noah’s D&D 3 Site Shutting Down

Friday, August 17th, 2001

This just in: the biggest, and arguably best, site for D&D 3 and D20, Eric Noah’s Unofficial D&D 3 News, is shutting down in the next few days. The invaluable resource and news site has lead the charge in all things related to D&D 3, and is thought by some industry insiders to wield more power than Wizards of the Coast’s website. Here’s a bit of the sad announcement posted on the site:

I will be closing down the site within the next few days. Several factors led me to this decision, and it’s one that I make with some regret. I have enjoyed the past two years immensely, and I thank you for your patronage and support.

I’m sure some of you have questions … I will say that it’s NOT a) some tragedy or other big life change in my life, nor b) some WotC/D20/OGL conspiracy.

As to the future of the site, that’s still up in the air. I believe parts of the site will move to another site at some point. Other than that, there are details to work out and when I know more I’ll be sure to share.

OgreCave will be sure to keep you posted on how this resolves, and where the site’s resources end up when the dust clears. We wish Eric Noah all the best, and salute him for an outstanding tour of duty.

Ronin Runs Rampant

Friday, August 17th, 2001

Green Ronin has posted some art from their upcoming Spaceship Zero RPG,and has let the world at large know about their revised plans for the Freeport: The City of Adventuresourcebook. “It’s now going to be a 160 page hardback sourcebook … it features a beautiful poster-sized map of the city.” The book is being written by the combined efforts of Matt Forbeck, Hal Mangold, and Chris Pramas, and is on schedule for a November release.

Notes on Necromancy

Friday, August 17th, 2001

Over at Mongoose Publishing, they’ve posted a preview of the upcoming Necromancy book in the form of designer’s notes. Matthew Sprange reveals a bit about the process of making mages of death fun to play again without unbalancing them.

White Wolf on the Prowl
White Wolf made so many announcements about upcoming product plans, it’s hard to keep track of it all.

  • Adventure,“the Storytelling game of Pulp Action,” will hit stores on Monday.
  • Early next year, Dark Ages: Vampirewill launch a series of Dark Ages products, including clan novels.
  • The Exaltedline will continue with more Castebooks, and a hardcover book in April, Exalted: The Dragon-Blooded.
  • Vampire: The Masqueradewon’t be left out of the fun, getting Guide to the Anarchsnext February, and Vampire By Gaslight,the Victorian version you’ve all been waiting for, later in 2002.

Fading Suns Goes D20

Thursday, August 16th, 2001

In a press release, Holistic Design let the world know that their stylish Fading Suns RPG setting will make the leap to the D20 System this November. Not only that, but “Fading Suns: D20 will include Open Gaming rules for high-tech devices and artifacts, ranging from blasters and energy shields to cybernetics.” Fading Suns already has elements of science fiction, fantasy and horror. As Bill Bridges, Fading Sun’s line developer, put it, “What better way to grow the Open Gaming community than a game that includes both swords and blasters, theurgy and cybertech, starships and divine artifacts?” The six-year-old, highly detailed setting will reach D20 in the form of a softcover sourcebook, and retail for $25.

White Wolf’s Ravenloft Cover Posted
The cover art and catalog listing for White Wolf’s new Ravenloft D20 book is posted, and it looks great. Streamlined, creepy look. Go take a look if you’re interested.