Archive for July, 2003

GenCon wrap-up: Aarrrrrr!!

Thursday, July 31st, 2003

Living Imagination has refined their booth display to near perfection, creating a dockside bar in the middle of the exhibit hall. Those who stopped by for a chat couldn’t find a drink, but heard the details of the company’s two newest d20 products. Pirates, a book that sports a classic Clyde Caldwell cover, provides LI’s take on the privateer life. Several prestige classes, feats, magic items, spells, ship plans, and a fully described “pirate haven” round out the package, for $19.95. LI’s second GenCon release, Agents of Faith, introduces a system of divine feats and over 200 feats to test it out with. New cleric domains, spell, rituals, magic items, and prestige classes are in this book as well, also for $19.95. Those at the show also learned of LI’s November release, Charge! Subtitled “The Handbook of Military Adventuring,” the supplement will present a mass combat system, military organizations and how characters interact with them, and, of course, prestige classes, feats, spells, and so on, again for $19.95.

Line noise: Peter Adkison on GenCon slaps and bennies

Thursday, July 31st, 2003

Peter Adkison released an “open letter to the Internet” today on the problems and successes with the first Indianapolis GenCon. The unedited text of his letter is included below; I think you know where to click.
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GenCon wrap-up: Warriors… come out to play-ay…

Thursday, July 31st, 2003

Just in time for GenCon, Skirmisher Publishing rolled out the sequel to their acclaimed d20 supplement on an NPC class, Experts. The new book, Warriors, is 126 pages of the same approach, only focused on the more combat inclined NPC class. Jumping over to the company’s website, I found even more details:

  • The book has sixteen military prestige classes, including the Aerial Cavalryman, Charioteer, Combat Engineer, Executioner, Marine, Mechanist Infantry, Mountaineer, and Sheriff.
  • More than 30 military subtypes, including archers, artillerists, beast handlers, cavalrymen, infantrymen, medics, pathfinders, peasant levies, provosts, and templars.
  • Nine non-military subtypes, including bandits, barkeeps, thugs, and traders.
  • New weapons, armor, and equipment, [...] siege engines, balloons and blimps, and guidelines for incorporating high-technology weapons into a fantasy campaign.
  • Sixteen new spells, more than 80 new magic items and five new weapon special abilities.

Warriors also provides guidelines for heraldry, large war beasts, combat with chariots, over twenty NPCs, a few monsters, two dozen skills, close to twenty feats… seems like Skirmisher’s all over this NPC class.

More Skirmisher products are waiting in the wings, too. Nuisances will be the company’s flagship product next year, and two adventure-oriented products will round out the catalog: Tests of Skill and a yet-to-be-named book of paladin’s quest ideas. If the quality of d20 rules continues, all three are likely to be strong additions to any D&D campaign.

GenCon wrap-up: Space – the revisited frontier

Thursday, July 31st, 2003

Darkfuries Publishing had its impressive Masterwork Maps d20 title, Inns & Taverns, in all its print-format glory. The pages were packed with extremely detailed maps for food and lodging establishments of all sizes — damn useful stuff in and of itself. Combine that with authentic, old world recipes in the original olde English, and Inns & Taverns is an outstanding resource for fantasy GMs. Darkfuries was also attempting to bring in sales from the Spelljammer fans with Aether & Flux: Sailing the Traverse, which brings space galleons to D&D once again. Cut out miniature tokens are provided for use with the space combat system, directly extrapolated from d20′s aerial combat rules. A PDF will be along in a month or so that converts all the old Spelljammer ships to d20 stats, making Sailing the Traverse a winner for space fantasy fans.

GenCon wrap-up: FFG keeps busy

Wednesday, July 30th, 2003

Fantasy Flight Games was having brisk sales on the new A Game of Thrones boardgame. The same box size as the Lord of the Rings game, the $40 product pits 3-5 players against each other in a… um… game of… thrones… uh, yeah. Not only could gamers take control of one of the houses in the boardgame, the new Ice & Fire set for the A Game of Thrones CCG offered a starter for each house and 240 cards, 200 of them new. Of the starters, House Lannister sold out by early Saturday.

For the d20 inclined, Legends & Lairs: Cityworks is the latest installment for the hardcover D&D resource line. Written by Mike Mearls, Cityworks goes into great detail on setting up those urban centers of commerse your thief wants to visit so bad. Also a new d20 release, Redline is the first of FFG’s new mini-games line, in the general style of Polyhedron. To bring Mad Max to the d20 Modern game… well, ya gotta admit, that’s a no brainer.

Finally, an oversized promotional box for Warcraft: The Boardgame was on display behind the counter in the middle of FFG’s booth. Due this fall, all I know about it is that FFG’s Greg Benage said “It plays like a tabletop version of the computer game.” I hope it’ll have something more than that going for it. Seems like everyone has a new adaptation of a PC game these days.

GenCon wrap-up: unearth those arcana

Wednesday, July 30th, 2003

We’ve kinda known this all weekend but haven’t quite gotten around to reporting it till now: Monte’s Bizarro World Players Handbook, better known to the world as Arcana Unearthed, has been rocking it all over the competition at the show. This whole world-of-the-Diamond-Throne thing looks to have dominant traits; will Eberron measure up?

I’m just waiting for the Hungry Hungry Hippos wargame

Tuesday, July 29th, 2003

Oh, and I found a little more on BattleBall. Apparently it’s also a Toys-R-Us kinda game, actually branded Milton Bradley but demoed at the Wizards booth anyway. It’s been described as “like Blood Bowl meets Epic Duels,” which pretty much means it’ll kick your ass, and then take your ass’ stuff. (That thread also has some interesting details on the D&D board game that was released in the UK.)

They finally did it! Damn you all to Cybertron!

Tuesday, July 29th, 2003

This game is fully compatible with, and properly power-scaled to, Star Wars: Epic Duels. (That’s legalese for LET’S GET IT THE HELL ON)

GenCon wrap-up: Fairies, monsters, and minis

Tuesday, July 29th, 2003

Next to the drifts of Hackmaster products, which I confess to having no interest in, were a couple of new Kenzer & Company goodies. Though a repackaged Fairy Meat boxed set was a good bargain for the money ($40 for the original game, the two expansions, and all five metal miniatures), it was still a repackage. Stand and Deliver, on the other hand, was brand new for D&D v3.5. Designed for characters of 4th-6th level, the adventure populates its ruins with beasts from the Monsters of Tellene book. But neither of these releases stood out as much as Final Days, a miniatures game of apocalyptic horror. Using playing cards for combat resolution, 25 metal figures go at it in a stylish, bleak future. The boxed game sells for $50, and a great many of them seemed to be going home with eager customers.

GenCon wrap-up: It’s your Stargate

Tuesday, July 29th, 2003

The Stargate SG-1 RPG was prominently displayed at AEG‘s GenCon booth, a hefty 488-page tome that could probably stop a bullet. Powered by the Spycraft system, as opposed to the basic d20 System, Stargate SG-1 was an impressive package. The book seemed nicely laid-out, and packed with info from the show. One complaint: the book seemed a bit light on pictures from the TV show, and on art in general. Made more room for rules text, though.

No longer live from Gen Con: the real photo gallery is pending, ho ho

Tuesday, July 29th, 2003

But in the meantime, this cat has a decent one. The first couple are broken for me, but just keep scrolling. Suddenly I’d really like to know what BattleBall is.

Not very live from Gen Con: corral those electrons

Tuesday, July 29th, 2003

Those interested to hear another outside perspective on the big news of Gen Con, and a good summation of the show’s big PC gaming announcements, can check out this convenient index of GameSpy’s coverage. This quick rundown of the WotC-licensed PC games coming out over the next while is particularly interesting.

I hated to do that… but it’s the law of the West

Tuesday, July 29th, 2003

Word on the Cheapasses mailing list is that the preview version of One False Step For Mankind sold in limited quantity at GenCon is not only a surprisingly strong game for the neglected-of-late Cheapass box line, but it’s not that cheap for the money! The board and cards are in full color, but the price is the same as that of Great Brain Robbery, Captain Park, and other recent boxed titles. This epic battle between Old West towns determined to colonize space features an auction mechanic and, according to one longtime Demo Monkey, some aspects of tactical wargaming(!!!). Look for the final version to ship to stores in a month or so.

On having one’s priorities straight

Tuesday, July 29th, 2003

You know, I guess I can forgive the White Wolf folks for having let the creativity of the World of Darkness product line flag a bit over the last few years… because as Jane reports over at GGA out of fear of offending the tender souls among you in the Cave’s audience, they clearly know how to live.

Rio Grande Games for Everybody

Tuesday, July 29th, 2003

A new Rio Grande Games newsletter has just been made available, and it looks like a good variety of new products are on the way along with many, many reprints of out of stock titles. If you have small children and want to expose them to German boardgaming as soon as possible, you may appreciate Gulo Gulo, a game involving the theft of eggs from vultures, or Capt’n Clever, a simple game of treasure-hunting pirates. For older gamers, there’s also Lord of the Rings: The Duel, which simulates the famous battle between Gandalf and the Balrog, and the re-release of Ricochet Robots with new boards. For more details, check out this PDF file.

It’s totally different – the character’s hair is black and white, see? Totally different.

Monday, July 28th, 2003

“Duel Masters, one of the hottest card games in Japan, is heading for the U.S. [...] The problem for WotC and Dreamwave will be to create a separate identity for Duel Masters so that the property doesn’t end up playing ‘Digimon’ to Yu-Gi-Oh’s ‘Pokemon.’ ” Yeah, that’s a challenge all right. The other-CCGs department at WotC certainly looks to be flailing right now.

Live at GenCon: Eberron errors

Sunday, July 27th, 2003

While finishing a final tour of the exhibit hall today, I ran into Keith Baker, winner of WotC’s D&D setting search contest with his land of Eberron. Apparently, there’s considerable online buzz already about what little information WotC has released, particularly the lightning train image, and the “strong presence of lost-world creatures such as dinosaurs.” According to Baker, the press release could’ve used some rewording, as dinosaurs exist on Eberron but hardly in an all-pervasive manner. Also, there’s the issue of the “diverse cultures” which site the examples of Dwarves, Drow, and Orcs. Umm… I think we’ve heard of those before. Not the best examples of what WotC wanted to convey.

As for how it was to work on the project, Baker was upbeat. “It’s been a lot of fun, very exciting. There have been compromises, of course. Out of all the [entries] I submitted, I never would’ve guessed that WotC would choose that one. However, it’s been toned down in some ways since reaching the 125-page draft.” Baker grimaced. “I just wish it wasn’t a whole year away.”

Live from GenCon: Party Hard

Sunday, July 27th, 2003

Afterhours Saturday night is the time for the kinds of raging parties you only read about. Several LARPs had their culmination last night, in all their costumed, face-painted glory. NASCRAG crowned their mad-cap role-playing tournament winners and celebrated with an awards ceremony. Perhaps the snazziest affair was the White Wolf party, following on the heels of their “The World is Ending” pronouncement that morning.

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine. Actually I don’t feel that fine. Time for a full disclosure here: I stayed up all night and drank myself silly, sang karaoke, watched shirtless teenagers frolic in the fountain in front of the Hyatt, and wound up dried and wrung out in the hotel restaurant trying to force down a huge plate of not-quite-ripe fruit. And so it’s possible that my memory may be less than eidetic.
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Live from GenCon: World of Darkness ending. Make travel arrangements now.

Sunday, July 27th, 2003

So yeah, the World of Darkness is coming to an end, as Mike mentioned. I find myself looking at White Wolf with a bit of admiration after hearing their plans, and how long they’ve been secretly building toward Gehenna, the Apocalypse, the Ascension, or whatever you want to call it. Between now and next March, an array of products will wrap up events in the official timeline, including a hardcover each for Vampire, Werewolf and Mage. The wrap-up storyline will include various options Mike Tinney, President of White Wolf, let slip a number of other details during the Q&A session after the tongue-in-cheek intro film.

  • “As for Adventure, you will see that again.”
  • “There will be a Dark Ages core feature for Changeling, as well as a Time of Judgement wrap-up book.”
  • “Exalted will not be affected, and will continue getting support.”
  • Mind’s Eye Theatre will have a Time of Judgement book; the Vampire: The Eternal Struggle game will get a Time of Judgement set , but will still continue with more product releases.

Apparently, the White Wolf guys started celebrating their announcement early, since some of the staff later admitted to being drunk from the night before when the press conference was held.

Live from GenCon: Gothica stakes its claim

Sunday, July 27th, 2003

Human Head had their new d20 supplement, The Redhurst Academy of Magic, prominently on display. The “widescreen” format of the book looks good, though it’s hard not to notice that the cover text is designed to be equally readable when seen vertically or horizontally (wouldn’t want to get the retailers all riled up like that oddly-shaped Nobilis now, would we?). But the booth’s demo tables are occupied by the company’s upcoming board game release, Gothica: Dracula’s Revenge, set to reach stores in October. Like a cross between The Hills Rise Wild and Space Hulk, Dracula’s Revenge pits the infamous Count and three of his cohorts against Van Helsing and nine of his fellow vampire slayers. Gameplay is fast and simple, allowing strategy to reign rather than rules confusion. Once the interchangable board pieces are ready (the demo had a static board), we’ll be seeing missions, new victory conditions, and possibly even campaign rules, I’d imagine. Human Head plans a line of Gothica releases themed around mummies, werewolves, Frankenstein’s monster, and so on. All this from a game Matt Forbeck thought up 12 years ago for Grenadier which never saw print.

Mediocre news comes in threes: White Wolf kills World of Darkness, sort of

Saturday, July 26th, 2003

Even bigger than the rumored announcement of a product with no colon in its title (Anthony at the store came up with that joke, although he seems to have forgotten about Exalted), White Wolf announces the Time of Judgement. When I saw they were casting this as a “Year of _____” storyline event, I suspected the worst – it happens in comics too often. “Hey, let’s kill off Superman, get a bunch of media attention, then bring him right back.” The press release says, however, that they will be neither continuing nor reprinting the World of Darkness lines after next March, with the exception of the Dark Ages books. Uh-huh. Quoth WW President Mike Tinney: “What will ultimately follow is going to be wholly different. A new and compelling setting.” Uh-huh again. How much ya wanna bet that there will be a bunch of clans in it who all have different powers, secretly run the world, and hate each other? And that there will be colons?

Live from GenCon: WotC setting winner announced

Saturday, July 26th, 2003

Apparently only a couple of us news types managed to hear about the WotC plan to announce the setting search contest winning entry, Eberron, and only a few press were present for the announcement. I never heard about it, so I’ll quote the press release that was in the press room today:

In August 2004, D&D players can enjoy an entirely new world of medieval fantasy to game in: Eberron‘s rich, racially diverse culture, forged in war, has a magically industrial edge that expands the traditional D&D universe, offering players new, exciting possibilities. Created by Keith Baker, Eberron is being developed for roleplaying games, novels, miniatures, and electronic games.

Some of the new setting’s features will include new character races like shifters and changelings; new feats like Bond Armor, Dragon Totem, and Right of Counsel; the Inquisitive, “an urban detective prestige class; and the use of the Action Point System originally used in d20 Modern. All sounds pretty cool. I’m just surprised that WotC didn’t make more noise about it; several other news guys I talked to said it slipped right by them.

Live from GenCon: 2003 ENnie Award winners

Friday, July 25th, 2003

I’ve just returned from the 2003 GenCon EN World D20 System Awards (the ENnies, for short). The awards were far better attended this year than last, and the continued partnership with GenCon has proven to have its advantages, with a projector display of nominees. Of course, that display also caused some minor confusion a time or two by showing the wrong product, but such is the price paid for advanced technology. Now, I wasn’t able to be at the ceremony from the very start, so I missed a couple of the winners. However, after checking with the EN World guys, I’ve verified the ones I missed. Here’s the complete list of winners and runners-up:
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Live at GenCon: Pale Writer soon publishing

Friday, July 25th, 2003

So there’s this little d20 company toward the back of the hall, in the shadow of the largest booth (which isn’t WotC this year; it’s Upper Deck), called Pale Writer Publishing. The website doesn’t have any info yet, but PWP’s small booth has been a whirlwind of activity and interesting tidbits since the show began. Besides the movie theater marquee and freshly-popped popcorn, besides the trivia contests every couple of hours to win DVDs and such, there’s the extremely cool artwork the booth was displaying. Set up to look like the backlit movie posters you’d see at the local cineplex, there were five gorgeous scenes, each featuring a classic D&D monster: a beholder, a mind flayer, a bullette, a displacer beast, and a rust monster. The rust monster piece, which was unmistakably the work of Phil Foglio, simply sings of a time when adventures were each lovingly crafted, with plots that made sense (something PWP emphasized as an important goal). Watch for adventures to be announced from PWP later this year or early next, along with other surprises.

Live at GenCon: Llama makes Penguins

Friday, July 25th, 2003

I would be remiss if I failed to mention Eight Foot Llama‘s game coming this October, particularly because of its subject matter. The Penguin Ultimatum will follow the tradition of slightly wacky, but very solid, games the company has produced, like Who Stole Ed’s Pants?, which was runner-up on the Games 100 list for Best Family Cardgame of 2002. Hey, how can you go wrong with penguin jesters forced to amuse the Emperor and the rest of the colony? Works for me, and I know my wife will be all over it.