Surprise, it’s not the normal Level One Wonk this time, though I am gladly ripping off his format. At the start of the month, nominations for the ENnie awards were released. The nominations present a wonderful resource for GMs and gamers, and similarly for game reviewers. It had turned out that a number of nominations were games that we had written about in the past, but there were plenty more for us to study as well. In particular, there was one category that interested me: Best Free Game. Occasionally, players and GMs run on tight finances but still require their gaming fix. SRDs are plenty helpful, but sometimes you want to try something a bit different. A number of these games are more demos or skins for games that stop early than full, completely ready out of the box systems, but it is enough to get started, and to see if you enjoy the product enough to buy the full version . . . or creative players and GMs might be able to push it beyond expectations. These are only cursory reviews, and if something interests you, I fully recommend checking them out. They are, after all, free.
The day foretold in the Draconic Prophecy has come, and Eberron has returned to Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition! The planned settings announcement went live on July 23rd, and to accompany it came the PDF of the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron (don’t worry, we’ll pay due attention to the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica when it comes out later this year). We grabbed a copy pretty much right away, and after a few days to read through it and digest the contents I’m ready to talk about what’s in it, what’s not, what it all means, and where Eberron and D&D go from here!
With the mast successfully returned to the pirates, the adventurers began preparing for their trip inland to the Imperial Shelter. When the ship was crewed and outfitted, Salty, the piratical second-in-command had a surprise for the outgoing party. A shabby looking kobold was almost thrown at the adventurers. He was small, even for kobolds, and his ragged clothing was covered in singe marks. Apparently the pirates had picked him up at some point, and wanted him gone.
“I am Weekbadd! Help me prepare for when the First Lizard ends the world in holy fire!”
This was going to be interesting.
Now, we rejoin the adventures of the Albatross crew!
As the original models start to show their age and make way for newer models, the mecha arms race continues. Whether they’re looking for an edge or racing to break the status quo, sooner or later mecha designers find themselves tapping into new technology, experimental weapons, and unique equipment. They’ll need above-average pilots to master them, but soon enough the Super Prototypes will arise to conquer the battlefield. We’re going to need some sharp test pilots for this Genesys Mecha System Hack!
Time Travel is a daunting mechanic for any GM to attempt to incorporate in their game. While using time travel as a platform for historical settings and conflicts can be fun, eventually your players are going to ask “wait, what happens if we show Beethoven a recording of his Fifth Symphony before he writes it?” or, even more problematic, “can I go kill my grandfather?” These are questions which, for the sake of the integrity of the concept, can’t be left completely unanswered (though you can probably tell the player trying to kill his own grandfather to drop it before something bad happens). The good thing is that time travel as a game concept leans heavily on improv, and does so in a way that can be very helpful with developing your improv muscles in a fun, non-game breaking way. That’s because with time travel, you can come up with whatever consequences you want…the players already have the mechanism to fix it.
A long time ago in a Tabletop RPG company far, far away . . . West End Games released its Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game. The game would go on to produce two full editions (plus one revision of 2e) and more than one hundred sourcebooks and adventure supplements, but as with most things time eventually moved on. West End Games closed up shop, the Star Wars RPG license transferred to other companies and other systems, and the fans of the original SWTRPG were left to carry the flame as best they could. Now, however, Fantasy Flight Games has brought it back into the light with Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game 30th Anniversary Edition!
The smoke from the hookah lounge downtown swims through the place, heavy and sweet. At a back lounge sits a bald man with a gold hoop earing who knows just what you need to do to get what you want…if are able to ignore the literal fire flickering in his eyes. In the Industrial District’s meatpacking plant, a grizzled old timer working the graveyard shift wonders how life passed him by, noting with some curiosity how his skin didn’t break on that saw, when he slipped and ponders why all the leftover animal parts always seem to vanish when he takes a nap on the job…and why he just gets hungrier whenever that happens. In the financial district there is a business guru who, despite his age, always seems to be in exceptional vigor and with an improbable knack for turning seemingly useless investments into gold…and nobody seems to know how long he’s been here? It’s like he’s practically immortal. But lots of strange things happen in The City. Once its inhabitants were wide eyed and agape, but now they’ve seen it all…or so they like to think.
When someone says the word ‘adventurer’, the picture of a steady home life is not often one of the images called to mind. The dusty road, the shadows between the megascrapers, the space between the stars, these are most often the places that adventurers spend their time and make their fortune – or lose everything. While being an adventurer, or really any type of player character. almost universally involves going where others won’t either physically or mentally, I think there’s something to be said for breaking the mold and giving them a tavern, a ship, a base, a business, a home. While it might not be the one they were all born to, a party of adventurers with a place of their own can certainly turn it into a place that makes them feel like they belong.
It’s the genre that started it all, and it has set the baseline for what people think of when they hear the term “role-playing game”. It’s a literary genre of astonishing breadth, that still seems to get people thinking about elves and wizards. So why is fantasy role-playing such a different animal than fantasy in general? And what sort of games are hiding in the wings around the 500 pound Gygaxian elephant in the room? Today, the Level One Wonk is going to look around what fantasy role-playing is, how it’s related to fantasy literature, and what that all means when it comes time to sit down and roll dice.