20 April 2011

1.863kg of GM Joy

Today I finally received my copy of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook. And my, what a whopper it is. A lovely hardback, full colour volume of no less than 576 pages. This makes it roughly the same size as the AD&D 2nd Edition Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master Guide put together. (Which is of course logical, as it covers the material from both books.) This is easily the heftiest individual RPG book in my collection. Hm, just gotta make room for it on my RPG shelf now...

(I mentioned Pathfinder RPG a few posts back, but in case you missed it: it's a fantasy RPG mostly based on the open content of Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, with many tweaks. Some actually refer to it as version 3.75 of the d20 System.)

Yes, I do tend to prefer fairly light roleplaying game rule systems. But when I say 'light', I'm talking in terms of not being overly complicated, not necessarily in terms of mass. There is a certain pleasure in holding and browsing a well made rule book that non-gamers probably can't understand. It's not necessarily only about playing the games (and obviously you don't even need a rulebook in order to play a fun RPG). I have rulebooks I've never used, and frankly might very well never use. I don't regret buying a single one of them, though.

I don't really own a particularly huge library of RPG products, as I've never been one to gather lots of source books and other expansions. Like I said, I'm not keen on overly complicating things, and I prefer creating my own game worlds as well, so for most games the basic rules are all I need. And rule books cost money, too. But some of the books on my shelf are treasured possessions, invoking lots of nostalgia, like the aforementioned AD&D 2nd Edition, and West End Games' Star Wars RPG. Even if some games are replaced by newer equivalents (like Pathfinder might come to replace 2nd Edition), I'd never get rid of them.

Yes, I'm a hardened materialist, taking pleasure in owning beautiful things. So what?

19 April 2011

Yes, It's Yet Another D&D Concept

Last summer, when I was also suffering from a bite from the D&D bug as I am now, I tried to come up with a new setting that would contain all the classic D&D elements but be in some way more original and unique. One of the concepts I came up with was, surprisingly enough, set in our own world, under the Atlantic Ocean, in a domed city which was the last remnant of Atlantis.

BioShock may have been one inspiration for the concept. I've only actually played the demo of the game (as you might know, I'm not really that big an FPS fan, and although a game like BioShock might be interesting enough to play if I happened to run into it at a real bargain price, it's not really high amongst my priorities), but it did have a nice aesthetic to it. Combined with a bit of dark humour and maybe even a Pratchett-ish combination of fantasy and modern elements, it could have been a pretty weird and fun concept. However, I never got around to running D&D then, and even if I somehow found the time to run it now I'm not sure it would be my current setting of choice.

Even so, I decided to write up some of the main points of the concept, lest it be forgotten. Who knows, maybe someone somewhere could still find a use for the ideas. The setting is by no means complete, but the existing ideas can be found here, with the title Atlantis Avenue.

I have also restructured the RPG section just a little. With all the setting concepts I have been coming up with lately, I decided to devote a new page entirely to RPG settings. The horror setting/adventure Beyond the Bridge has also received a slightly lengthier introduction (and a new, suitably smudgy logo, to boot).

12 April 2011

Tehra: Rainy Day Warrior

I don't really get what the point of designing a video game you'll only play for one evening is. At least if you expect people to pay for it, that is. A good game ought to have some depth and longevity.

Last night I played through PlayStation Minis title Tehra: Dark Warrior, which took a grand total of maybe three hours. And that's about it for this game, I think, even though the publisher's website promises 'hours and hours of gameplay'. Yeah, right. OK, there are some additional 'challenges' that I didn't really look into (that sort of thing's just never interested me), but still... There were actually some fun moments, but the story was borderline banal, and the gameplay, though adequately functional, was pretty simple, nothing really there to bring me back. I've never been that big a hack and slash fan... It was a bit of fun for the proverbial rainy day (it wasn't raining, actually), but that's it.

Obviously the Minis titles, as both the name and their prices suggest, aren't meant to compete with full priced games. But that doesn't mean they couldn't have even a little more longevity. N.O.V.A., another Minis title I wrote about earlier this year, even though not that much longer and rather too linear, left a more positive feeling. Sure, there's no guarantee I'll ever play it again (odds are I won't, really), but it at least left a feeling it could be moderately fun even second time round.

Anyways, a brief review of Tehra has been added to the review section.

10 April 2011

Finding Paths to 3.5

OK, after a brief interlude in music, I guess it's OK to continue on my D&D trip.

After being somewhat critical of 3rd Edition D&D earlier, I naturally got curious and started reading more about it, in the freely available System Reference Document (also mentioned recently), and other web sources. And yeah, even though I'm still concerned it might be a little on the complex side for my typical game mastering style, I have to admit there are some neat ideas mixed in there. And despite the rules overhaul it's still recognisable as D&D.

I do have a history of being easily carried away with new things. Even things I thought I disliked, sometimes. Of course 3.5 rule books are no longer readily available. (And from the little I've learned of 4th Edition, I think I'd rather stick to my trusted 2nd Edition given a choice between the two.) So I guess that'll help me save my money...

Except... Somewhere along the way I stumbled upon a system called Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. This is a game directly based on the d20 3.5 SRD, slightly modified and expanded. Released after Wizards of the Coast discontinued the 3.5 line, it could almost be seen as a direct replacement for it. As with the original 3.5 D&D, much of the game is released under the Open Game License and is publicly available on the publisher's website. And unlike WotC's SRD, which was available as a bunch of RTF documents and only put into more usable formats by third parties, this is available as a decently formatted website. And unlike the somewhat restricted open content of the original, this also includes rules for character creation and advancement, making it essentially a complete, usable system.

The effect of this on a person like me being instant respect for Paizo Publishing, of a kind I never could have had for Wizards of the Coast, who, although they begun a good initiative with their open content, nevertheless crippled that content, and in the end basically pulled the plug on it.

And I'm actually tempted to buy it. (There's probably a lesson WotC could learn right there.) Although I'm not quite convinced that'd be a great idea, seeing as how unsure I am of ever actually running a game with it. (Not to mention the cost... Even though it actually comes a little cheaper than a corresponding set of D&D books would.) But did I ever listen to common sense in such things?

8 April 2011

The Unforgiving, or, There's More Than D&D in My Head

Lest you think my blog is totally about D&D, here's a random post on music for a change (although not entirely without reference to RPG's).

I've only been a fan of Within Temptation for a fairly short while. The little I'd heard of it earlier hadn't made any lasting impressions, but I finally decided I ought to give it a chance. (Working on my most recent musical RPG might have also contributed to this, as it had a sort of gothic metal theme to it, and I was listening to a lot of this sort of music for inspiration.) The first album I found, frankly, a little boring, but I loved Mother Earth instantly. After that... well, the albums seem to have been growing more and more commercial and 'poppy'. The Silent Force was fairly entertaining, albeit not particularly original, while The Heart of Everything continued with a very similar sound, but impressed even less.

So I wasn't really holding my breath for the new release. Quite the contrary, in fact. When I first heard the single 'Faster', I wasn't impressed. The symphonic elements appeared to be almost completely missing, the riffs had an almost 80's feel to them, and the whole thing seemed rather too pop rock to me.

But now The Unforgiving has been released, and I've actually listened through it several times, and I have to admit I kinda like it. And largely because of the reasons mentioned above. Yes, it's less symphonic, more pop, but somehow it just works. There's some rather catchy tunes in there, and (a little surprisingly) 'Faster' has become one of my favourites. (It's also a concept album, tied in with a comic book series and a few YouTube short films. I haven't really delved into this aspect much yet, it's not as strongly present in the music as is the case in, say, Rhapsody of Fire's work, which drew me into its fantasy world right from the beginning.)

7 April 2011

sed VS the Hypertextual DM

So, continuing with the theme of my last couple blog posts.

One positive thing about 3rd Edition D&D was the Open Game License, which made sites like this possible: an online, hypertext version of the d20 System Reference Document, which contains most of the core D&D 3.5 rules. (However, there are some major restrictions, namely the absence of rules for character creation and experience. To me it feels not unlike a crippled demo or shareware version of a computer program. It's a handy resource, but to really be useful you'll still have to buy the expensive rule book.)

When I first saw this site, my first thought was, naturally, wouldn't it be cool if there was something like this for AD&D 2nd Edition? A little Googling didn't uncover anything of interest, which isn't surprising, of course, since 2nd Ed wasn't released under an open licence like 3.5.

However, back in the 90's there was an AD&D Core Rules CD-ROM, which contained electronic versions of the rule books. I'm not too keen on even trying to make the software work on a modern GNU/Linux machine, but digging around the contents of the CD (2.0, expanded version), I actually discovered html versions of the books.

These of course look really ugly, black on white with bright red headlines etc. None of the modern elegance of the above 3.5 online version. And the html code itself is... Well, obviously software generated and not created with later editing in mind. A real nightmare, in fact. Even so, I decided to try to spruce it up a little. I finally managed to make a fairly big difference by replacing the explicit font tags in the code with span tags, so that I could easily modify appearance with an external style sheet. Seeing as there were literally hundreds of files, this took a little scripting, and was an excuse to learn a little about the sed tool for Unix.

So, even though there's still a lot of room for tweaking, I now have a hypertext version of AD&D 2nd Ed, which is fairly functional and more aesthetic than the original 90's product. The question, of course, is why exactly, and what will I do with it? I guess this was done mostly for kicks, as an exercise and (let's face it) blatant procrastination, since obviously this is copyrighted material and I can't distribute it anywhere. Of course it could theoretically be of use if I ever run another D&D game, but, as I've said before, the odds don't quite seem to be currently in my favour on that one...

6 April 2011

Goblins and the Good Old Days of D&D

Right on the heels of Looking For Group, which I wrote about a little while ago, I stumbled upon Goblins, for which I can actually thank an April Fool's joke at Dork Tower.

It's a comic about the adventures of a group of (huge surprise) goblins. It's quite funny (and at times gory), and it's very closely based on Dungeons & Dragons, more so than Looking For Group, constantly referencing rules and stuff. Knowing a little about D&D, or at the very least about RPG's in general, will be helpful when reading it, even if it's not absolutely compulsory.

There's a caveat, of course. As can be expected of a product of this millennium, it naturally makes use of 3.5 edition D&D.

I don't know what it is exactly that makes me love to hate post-2nd Ed. D&D products. Mostly I guess it's just how it all seems needlessly complicated, with all the skills and feats and prestige classes and whatnot. And there's the increasingly blatant commercial nature of some material, like the yearly release of additional core rulebooks for 4th Edition. I mean, what the hell? Since when are geeks made of money?

I don't own any 3rd or 4th Edition products and don't really know that much about them, so I guess I shouldn't really be too harsh on them. But I do own the 2nd Edition core books, and they hold a special place in my heart as one of the first RPG systems my group actively used. It'd take some really convincing arguments to replace those, which so far I have not seen.