Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Remember how many times I've mentioned the LIDT?

A fair number, actually.

It's not been an easy sell to North American fans, because we want to get something for membership. Last years' membership cost 10€, and what did I get out of it?

Access to some restricted parts of the forums. Preview information about Dungeon Twister: Prison.

For me, that was enough. There were a few other benefits, as well. But - again - not something that has been an easy sell to the North American audience.

For 2010, there is a new benefit available. For an additional 5€ (plus shipping), members can obtain an exclusive miniature of the Disciple. That's not right: Members get two figures: One in Yellow, the other in Blue. This mini is not available anywhere else, and may never be available elsewhere. The cost of shipping, BTW, is something we're working on minimizing. "We" meaning "all of us involved with the LIDT." The North American team - Geoff Heintzelman, Samuel Miuccio, and myself - will likely each receive a number of figures that we can ship out to North American members, thereby reducing shipping cost dramatically.

In a marginally related note: People are constantly asking me when Dungeon Twister will be available on the XBox. The answer is, "When Microsoft lets it through." The finished program has reportedly been handed off to their approvals team. I'm not involved in this one at all, however, so this is second-hand information.

Oh - there are rumors in the LIDT forums about the future of DT.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Etsy is an arts-and-crafts fair for the internet. Like most arts-and-crafts fairs, there is a lot of really good stuff, if you poke around. There also a fair number of things to steer clear of. A lot of them.

A quick search on etsy for game yields a number of results, most of them projects made from game pieces, not actual games.

Because of this, a post on Wired about a game called Iconica caught my eye a few months ago. On my next payday, I purchased everything that was available for the game. The game is gorgeous. Eric Torres is a graphic designer by trade, and it shows. The art on the cards is clear, simple, and evocative. Enough that I've considered buying an extra set to use as decoration around the apartment.

Each character also has a short paragraph of text explaining their role within the setting of Rynaga. This information could be easily extracted for use in an RPG. If you purchase the Prelude book, you can get even more information about the setting - it reminds me a bit of the old Chronicles of Talislanta book, which was a setting in search of a game.

I brought the game home, and read the rules. It seemed a bit simple. I then went and played the game solo a few times, to see how it worked. It was ... okay. Nothing spectacular.

The next step, of course, was playing it with an actual opponent, so I packed it up and hauled it to my usual Wednesday Game Night to give it a shot.

Maybe it was a shortage of characters, but it just didn't feel like there was much interaction or decision making.

The game is quite simple in play. Each player drafts a team of three characters, and then you take turns rolling dice to kill your opponent's characters. Each character has six actions (one of which is available each turn, depending on what is rolled on the dice).

The most important part of the game is over before actual play starts. Seriously. Character selection is the make-or-break of the game. You need to balance offense with defense.

One your turn, you resolve effects which have lingered since last turn, and then roll the dice. Once the dice are rolled, you choose one character to activate using the number you rolled. Then you choose which opposing character to target with that action. Unfortunately, those are the only decisions you make on your turn, and neither one is particularly difficult.

The first decision: Which character will act? Usually, it's abundantly clear which of your three options is best. If your choices are, "Deal 30 points of damage (Melee)," "Deal 30 points of damage (Ranged)," or "Deal 10 points of damage," then obviously, you're going to choose one of the first two.

In general, it's like D&D: You want to figure out which opposing character is the most dangerous and target that character repeatedly until it's down before moving on to a second character.

It means that gameplay isn't all that strong, as there are not actually any true decisions to be made most of the time.  I think it has potential - but strengthening game play will require more than just adding new characters (in my opinion).  Maybe adding equipment cards or giving players a hand of cards to alter the game environment in some way.  I don't know. But the game needs more than just new characters (Sorry, Eric).

Don't get me wrong - new characters are great, and I love the peeks they provide into the background setting. I'll be buying new ones as fast as Eric Torres puts them on the website (and, of course, I have the money to spend). But the game won't be hitting the table all that often.

Also: My blog is now available for Kindle.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pardon My Dust

It's been ... really busy, lately. I have finished a couple of rush revision projects and my (non-gaming) day job has been in process of blowing up in my face for several weeks, now. Enough that I've burned through my advance post cushion, and am writing this a day or two in advance of its going live. Thankfully, it looks like things are about to stabilize. Well, as much as things stabilize at my office.

Of course, they are stabilizing just in time for me to start gearing up for GenCon. Go figure. (As an aside: We have our flight reservations already. This just serves to make it more real.)

Those of you who actually visit my blog via visiting the site as opposed to via RSS feed will notice some changes since last week. I've changed my layout, and I'm not done, yet - I'm working on the background image (I want to use a photo of my own, for starters).

I've also purchased a domain -, so the blog will now redirect there. Over time, I may put more there than just a blog. Time will tell.

Further, I'm considering making my blog available to Kindle users, which means I need to up my game a bit.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to talk about:
Iconica - The only game I've ever purchased from Etsy.
The Kobold Guide to Game Design, Volume III (which I like a great deal)
Dungeon Twister (Shock. Surprise. Amazement. I know.) - There are things brewing in the LIDT that may make membership more attractive.
I also hope to have our first Character Generation post up by GenCon. But that may be stretching a bit.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Making Characters

I spent a part of my afternoon today tracking down character sheets for some of my games for a project I'm starting to work on, and it reminded me of how much I love character generation.

One of my greatest joys was always taking a pencil, some scratch paper, a character sheet, and the necessary books and creating something out of nothing.

Did I say something? I'm sorry. I meant someone.

It was always fascinating to me how many different ways there were to create characters, too. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition was strict die-rolling. FASA's Star Trek was a free-choice lifepath. Cyberpunk had a lifepath, too, but you had to roll on it - and it was more of an add-on to provide post-generation flavor to your character.

Over time, I grew to appreciate systems that gave me more control over my character. At the same time, it's easy to see why those systems were the most frustrating to GMs (I was young enough that the concept of a GM limiting our character generation in some way was an alien concept).

The first time I saw GURPS, my head about exploded. It was the first point-buy system I'd seen where everything came out of the same pool of points. And there were so many options! I spent close to 60 points on skills for my first character. I could have achieved the same results by spending more points on my attributes and fewer of those points on my attributes - and long-term, it would have been a more powerful character.

In fact, looking back, I see a lot of "mistakes" on my older characters. Optimizations that experienced players would have taken that a beginner to the game could easily miss. Character options that are more important than they appear to be - or that are worth more points than you spend on them.

And I'm curious in some cases: How will a total beginner to a given system handle character generation? Can I catch some of these "mistakes" on my own? How about my readers?

Thankfully, I live with someone who is a fairly inexperienced roleplayer. My beautiful wife, Stephanie. While she is a boardgamer, her roleplaying experience is limited (another reason I keep doing the one-shots). When I asked her if she'd be willing to participate, she was excited. And I'm excited to have her involved.

Don't look for this to be a regular series - we have a lot of games we're going to work through, but we need to schedule character generation into our (severely limited) free time, and then I need to write about the results (and scan the sheet, and so on and so forth).

I hope you enjoy reading about our experiences.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


As you may not know, I'm very fond of the RPG Hellas: Worlds of Sun and Stone1. Part of it is that I'm such a huge fan of Greek Mythology. Part of it is that Space Opera itch that it scratches.

The first supplement is entitled Hellas: Princes of the Universe, and they are Kickstarting it.

The use of Kickstarter reminds me of Arc Dream using the (now defunct) to get Delta Green: Targets of Opportunity in print. The difference is that Princes of the Universe (if I'm reading the Kickstarter page correctly) will see print regardless of the Kickstarter outcome - the Kickstarter is to get it in full color instead of black & white. I promised my $60 as soon as I saw it (especially because it includes another copy of the core book at that point).

It also reminds me of the 2008 Diana Jones Award-winning Open Design project. (My wife was a patron of one of the Open Design projects, and she loved the end result.) You see, donors to Targets of Opportunity didn't get any input into the final project. Donors to Open Design are able to provide input at every step along the way, starting by providing input into which of several possible projects to pursue. The first ten people who donated $100 or more to Princes of the Universe got to create a character for inclusion in the book.

And these are not the only patronage projects active right now - this one uses the same system as the Amber RPG. And ... um ... it sounds like Amber with the serial numbers partially obscured. Rite Publishing does have the best description I've found of how Patronage works that I've been able to find (and they give credit to Wolfgang Baur and Open Design)

It's yet another fascinating trend in the industry. Something to keep an eye on.

1 Okay, the game is cool, but I don't think it's $85 cool. There are other places to buy print copies, or you can get a .PDF copy here.