How many RPGs do you know which consist of a single book? There are definitely some, plenty of indie games especially are singular works. When it comes to the games most people play, though, you can expect that the core rules are joined by supplements, additional books which expand the game through either deepening existing elements or adding new ones. Beyond that, you may have secondary accessories, things like dice, card decks, and maps which add to the physical experience of the game. Taken together these elements create a product line. When you add additional material made by players and designers other than the original authors, then now you have an ecosystem.Continue reading The Trouble With Ecosystems
There are only so many ways you can spell – or pronounce – the name Bob before your players are going to realize that you’re just making up Dungeons and Dragons characters on the fly. There’s nothing wrong with making up NPCs as you go, of course, but it’s a lot of work! You have to name them, make them interesting, and then you actually have to remember to write down what you made up or next session you’ll have players asking why Ba’ab is named Dave now. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that work done for you, in such quantity that you don’t have to make anything from scratch for a good while? How about, say, 500 characters? Think that’ll be enough? That’s what you’ll find in the The Game Master’s Book of Non-Player Characters from Topix Media Lab!
Adventuring through an old-school-style sandbox setting, or mapping your way through a sprawling hexcrawl? The biggest challenge of playing a game where the characters can go any direction they want is making sure there’s something worth finding in every direction they can possibly go – even more so if the world is functionally boundless. From vast ancient cities consumed by the forest to a monastery of living mummies, from a desert falling into a black hole serving as the hourglass for the world’s life to a barge-bound casino-temple to the god of luck and gambling, there are plenty of options to be found in the Lands of Legends from Axian Spice!
Recounting the deeds of an evil wizard over metal riffage and proggy synths. A fuzz-laden journey into the sanctuary of snake worshippers, A trippy story of haunted nobles hiding a dark secret. A cautionary tale that pits a demi-lich against grave robbers. Goth rock through the halls of Castle Ravenloft. An Americana-tinged ode to a remote beacon of civilization. A campaign with an all-bard party going on various famous adventures? Well, possibly, it’s not a bad idea, but not quite. If you like Dungeons and Dragons and/or rocking out, you’ll want to give a listen to Hex Volume 1 from Loot the Body!
It’s never been a better time to be a dungeon crawler. Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition and Pathfinder, two versions of the same underlying D&D ruleset, are bestsellers 1 and 2 in the RPG world, and have been for some time. Pathfinder is built for detail and breadth of options, while D&D’s Fifth Edition is built for accessibility and continuity with earlier versions and settings. They offer two versions of a fairly modern D&D experience, where GMs run story arc-based campaigns built around fighting monsters and exploring dungeons. Characters are treated like protagonists, and death is relatively rare. At the same time, we’ve seen a resurgence in “old-school” playstyles, usually represented within the D&D ecosystem by the OSR. Old-school games tend to have fewer rules, presenting challenges and decisions to the players rather than the characters. They tend to have weaker characters who aren’t treated like protagonists, and they need not be organized around a story.
There is a middle ground, though, and a new entrant in the middle ground has stormed into the DriveThruRPG sales charts. Worlds Without Number presents a dangerous old-school world, but uses rules innovations from later versions of D&D (and other role-playing games) to make the game more accessible and make the characters feel a bit more heroic. On top of all that, it provides tons of tools to help GMs run interesting game worlds with or without a driving story. Although many people will simply call Worlds Without Number an OSR game (and there are fair reasons for that), I think that it deserves to be examined against the current state of the art. That’s why this System Split pits Worlds Without Number against Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition.Continue reading System Split: Worlds Without Number and D&D Fifth Edition
It’s wildly common on Reddit: A thread complaining about the popularity of D&D, or a thread complaining about 5e being hacked into things it doesn’t work well for (I am guilty of that second one). Half the commenters will agree that yes, there are so many other games out there, and people should broaden their horizons! The other half will say that if people are having fun with D&D, why must you rain on their parade! And the fights continue, eventually, like they do in all discourse, repeating themselves. But you out there, venty thread creators and venty thread agree-ers, I see you. I know the real reason you’re creating these threads. You, personally, don’t want to play D&D, and either you can’t find a group to play something else with, or, more likely, your home table has you outvoted. Or, if you’re in a slightly better position, maybe you see these threads online and simply can’t imagine going back to playing only D&D (and you like fighting on the internet).
No matter the reason, I know the pain of playing a game you’re not really interested in because you still want to hang out with your friends and roll dice. There are ways to diversify your gaming experiences and be a happier gamer in general. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t involve complaining on the internet. It also doesn’t involve slagging on D&D.Continue reading So You Don’t Want To Play D&D
Raat shi anaa. The story begins. Rising from the Last War brought Keith Baker’s dungeon punk setting of Eberron back to 5th Edition in hardcover form, but it was the earlier Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron that first brought a world of pulp, noir, and wide magic to the latest version of Dungeons and Dragons – and it also opened up the door for anyone to create Eberron content on the DM’s Guild. When I talked with Baker at PAX Unplugged 2019, the curious implications of that came up. Since it made it to the final three of the Setting Search in 2002 Wizards of the Coast has owned Eberron; while Baker was often brought back to work on supplements and novels, the final creative control didn’t belong to him. He could talk about ‘his’ Eberron, and thankfully did so quite often and at length, building a great rapport with the community, but plenty of material he came up with would never see the pages of a hardcover book. The Wayfinder’s Guide changed that, and now we have Exploring Eberron, Rising’s “perfect companion” straight from the man himself. So let’s go through chapter by chapter and section by section to see how an already big world had even more in its uncharted depths!
Now, it should be no surprise to anyone here that I enjoy podcasts. I cut my teeth on My Brother My Brother And Me for my early beginning. Have listened to the occasional intersection of that interest and my love for pro wrestling in podcasts such as Wrestlesplania. And may even be starting my own. But that’s an article for another time. What this article is about is the amazing phenomenon that has exploded in the RPG community. The thing that nearly all of us have at least one of us listening to. A fun endeavor that both enriches us and inspires others to listen.
What I’m talking about is actual play podcasts. You may have already read some of my earlier podcast reviews or other articles about podcasting and RPGs. But this is going to be a bit of a roundup of them. A brief list of a select few all put together to maybe put the thought “Hey, this would be a fun listen” into your head.
The strong increase in popularity of Dungeons and Dragons brought about both by the increased accessibility of D&D’s Fifth Edition as well as the growth of the nascent streaming and actual play communities has meant that there are a whole lot of people getting introduced to D&D. Now that this growth has been going on for a few years, there is burgeoning realization that role-playing games as a medium are capable of a lot more than dungeon crawls and Tolkien derivatives. This is great news for everyone, right? We all know there’s a whole world of RPGs out there, from the big glossy traditional games to indie zines and everything in between. Well, something’s getting lost in translation for some, and in the #dnd world on Twitter you’ve likely seen questions like this:
“How can I make John Wick in D&D?”
“What can you do to run Star Trek in D&D?”
“It would be really cool if I could run Harry Potter in D&D!”
Fortunately, these all have easy answers: Don’t, please don’t, and I don’t think it would.
I was fortunate enough to catch up with Keith Baker at PAX Unplugged 2019, and was doubly so that he was able and willing to take the time to sit down with me for an interview! What follows is our conversation as Baker talks about the Eberron setting, Rising from the Last War, exploring things further, the DM’s Guild, telling stories in The Adventure Zone with Twogether Studios, his favorite among a wide variety of hats, and what he finds most compelling about the roleplaying game experience.