rpg Archive

  • Cross Posted from here:I ran a game of Dragon Age tabletop on New Years Day, and it went quite well. The positives I expected were there (as were the negatives) but I still ended up pleasantly surprised.Random chargen started out interestingly as one of my players nailed an 18 on the first roll, in plain sight of everyone. At ten end, the final distribution was a little unkind, with respective total bonuses of 12, 10 and 7.  I let #2 and #1 at 1 and 2 points to their total respectively - this was entirely outside the scope of the rules, but I'm ok with that.[1] They ended up going mage, fighter and rogue.We had 2 city elves and an apostate elf, so we decided they were cousins, the apostate having gone off to find the dalish and learn their magic for a while. Since I couldn't immediately find the recommended name list, they ended up going with italiante names(Bruno, Vinnie & Luccia). While this started a little tongue in cheek, it actually gelled nicely, since there is an Italian equivalent (Antiva) with elves, and one of the established bts of setting is that marriages are often arranged between alienage (elf ghettos) in different cities to keep the community connected.  So their uncle Guido (Luccia's father) had come to Denerim (the big city of the setting) for an arranged marriage after things went bad enough in Antiva that it killed both his brothers, so he brought the kids along with him, so they grew up in the Denerim alienage.Now, I don't mention this to get my shakespeare on, rather, I hold it up as an example of the strength of the setting. As I noted, it's very generic on the surface, but there's some decent depth behind it. I felt this was a good illustration of that in practice. It was easy to find a fairly generic idea to start with, and the setting gave me just enough material to flesh it out.The plot of play was simple enough. A shipment of lyrium powder (magic stuff) is going form a mage to a templar, but for the duration of transit will be protected by neither. The players know where the delivery is happening, and can arrange to jump it.  I actually stole a page from the CRPG and used one of the locations in Denerim where you get ambushed, using an old portcullis, except with the PCs as the attackers.The fight that followed was straightforward enough. 3 PCs from ambush with 4 guards (2 trapped behind the portcullis initially) the cart's driver and their advance scout (who the Player's dubbed

    Actually played Dragon Age

    Cross Posted from here:

    I ran a game of Dragon Age tabletop on New Years Day, and it went quite well. The positives I expected were there (as were the negatives) but I still ended up pleasantly surprised.

    Random chargen started out interestingly as one of my players nailed an 18 on the first roll, in plain sight of everyone. At ten end, the final distribution was a little unkind, with respective total bonuses of 12, 10 and 7. I let #2 and #1 at 1 and 2 points to their total respectively - this was entirely outside the scope of the rules, but I'm ok with that.[1] They ended up going mage, fighter and rogue.


    We had 2 city elves and an apostate elf, so we decided they were cousins, the apostate having gone off to find the dalish and learn their magic for a while. Since I couldn't immediately find the recommended name list, they ended up going with italiante names(Bruno, Vinnie & Luccia). While this started a little tongue in cheek, it actually gelled nicely, since there is an Italian equivalent (Antiva) with elves, and one of the established bts of setting is that marriages are often arranged between alienage (elf ghettos) in different cities to keep the community connected. So their uncle Guido (Luccia's father) had come to Denerim (the big city of the setting) for an arranged marriage after things went bad enough in Antiva that it killed both his brothers, so he brought the kids along with him, so they grew up in the Denerim alienage.

    Now, I don't mention this to get my shakespeare on, rather, I hold it up as an example of the strength of the setting. As I noted, it's very generic on the surface, but there's some decent depth behind it. I felt this was a good illustration of that in practice. It was easy to find a fairly generic idea to start with, and the setting gave me just enough material to flesh it out.

    The plot of play was simple enough. A shipment of lyrium powder (magic stuff) is going form a mage to a templar, but for the duration of transit will be protected by neither. The players know where the delivery is happening, and can arrange to jump it. I actually stole a page from the CRPG and used one of the locations in Denerim where you get ambushed, using an old portcullis, except with the PCs as the attackers.

    The fight that followed was straightforward enough. 3 PCs from ambush with 4 guards (2 trapped behind the portcullis initially) the cart's driver and their advance scout (who the Player's dubbed "The Cool Customer" because he kept making perception rolls to stay on top of the situation). To remove any suspense, the players won, but it was a surprisingly near thing. That out of the way, lots of observations on the fight:

    • We used minis, but no grid, just using the minis to show relative position. This worked out pretty well, since it kept certain features (like the portcullis control) in mind. For a fair part of the fight, the rogue was fighting off his opponent with one hand and trying to jam things in the controls with the other.
    • In combat, you get one major action (standard action, basically), and one minor action (which includes movement). The major/minor action split worked mostly smoothly. There were a few oddities, like whether or not you could draw a weapon while moving or if you are considered to have readied an arrow when you switch weapons to a bow, or if you also need to reload. It's one of the areas where you can feel the trade off between simplicity and complexity, but it works out.
    • In many ways, combat reminded me of D&D before attacks of opportunity. There's nothing keeping people from disengaging so things are much more free wheeling. Paradoxically, this can also mean things are more static: If you find an optimal position, you tend to stay there and just do the same thing every turn.[2]
    • Thankfully, the solution to this ended up being the stunt system. it works like this: if you roll doubles on your 3d6, check the value on your dragon die (your off-colored d6). You now have that many "stunt points" to add some english onto your attack. There's a little list of them on the reference sheet, and it's stuff like knocking someone back 2 yards costs 1 point, doing an extra d6 damage is 2 points, making another attack is 4 and so on (There's a similar list for spells). Not only does this make for one of the most fun critical hit systems I've ever seen, it can make the fight change up. As an example, our fighter started in an elevated position, sniping with his bow, and it looked like he'd be there for the whole fight. Then the driver got him with a shot that disarmed him, dropping his bow down into the fight, forcing him to follow. Felt nicely dynamic.[3]
    • Our fighter had a better dexterity than strength, so he and the rogue were both armed with dexterity-based weapons. This ended up being educational because the benefits of dexterity in the game are HUGE, but they're not quite as huge as they looked. The small damage output of dex-based weapons doesn't look like too big a gap on paper, but in practice they're total pea shooters. The way armor works is that even negligible armor tends to undercut most of your first die of damage. When the Driver pulled out a two-handed sword and rolled 3d6 for damage, the swearing around the table was impressive.
    • The mage was terrifying. Like, terrifying enough that at the end of the fight, everyone suddenly felt like the Templars and the Circle made complete and total sense as setting elements. I think it was the spell Walking Bomb that really just scared the crap out of everyone. Now, the mage was the one who'd rolled the 18, that combined with background bonuses to give him a +5 magic modifier, which is pretty crazily high, so maybe he was scarier than normal, but I'm not so sure of that. On the other hand, he was a total glass cannon - he got knocked down to 2 or 3 health twice, and he was totally out of mana by the end of the fight. Things had gone a little less well, he'd have gotten laid out pretty hard.
    • I was flying by the seat of my pants a bit in balancing the encounter, reminding me of my Warhammer 3 experience. But unlike WH3, It took only one or two rounds before I had a firm enough grasp of combat that I now feel comfortable making up adversaries. Enough so that I think the adversary rules are actually too complicated, or at least the statblocks are. They look like character sheets, so I can see the logic of a unified vision, but odds are good I'll just be putting this particular element up on blocks to tune up.

    After the fight, we had some good non-fighty stuff. We leveled up, jsut to see how it worked (very quickly and easily, it turns out). The guys found more than they expected in the wagon, tried to fence it[4], and found themselves fleeing from The Pearl (a high class brothel) from a posse of angry looking templar. The flight involved ropes, falling, cross dressing and no small amount of alcohol, so I was good with that. We wrapped up with them paying most of their money on hand for passage on a smuggler's ship, and pulling away from the docks.

    All in all, we had a lot of fun, and final thoughts include:

    • The character sheet needs more space for details. I had to print extra copies of the classes so the rogue and mage had their class abilities on hand, and I ended up just handing the mage the printout of the magic chapter because it was easier than trying to write them down. There were other things (like, it would be nice if there was a quick way to note known weapon groups, and I'd love it if the stunts were on the character sheet) and I'm hopeful that the 2 page character sheet from Green Ronin will address these. Otherwise, I'll just make my own.
    • Very, very few choices in chargen. This is pleasantly speedy, but makes it a little bit rough to serve a concept. If you're comfortable using chargen as inspiration, it's fine, but if you have an idea you want to support, it's a crapshoot.
    • I love stunts. They're just fun. My sole regret is that they don't kick in out of combat (or even in combat if you're doing something besides an attack). My players definitely were feeling like that was a gap. The counterargument is that this would make them too common, and that might be true.
    • I'm not sure if you're allowed to upgrade gear during chargen (rather than buying it outright). I allowed it (so the fighter turned in his class-granted armor for a discount on better armor) but I've got no idea if that's legit.
    • If we keep playing this (and it's a tempting choice fro more-or-less pickup play) then I'm worried that we'd clear level 5 before the second box set comes out. Not that that's a terrible problem to have, but it'll be aggravating if it happens. I'm also curious about advancement past level 5 - specifically you get a bonus point to your primary stat every other level (you can spread it around, but nothing makes you do so) and if there's nothing encouraging/forcing distribution, then the stat spread is going to start looking really weird by level 10 or so.


    Anyway, while there were definitely some weird bits, they ended up causing far fewer problems than I expected, and the whole thing was just quick and easy to play. That's a measure I'm pretty good with.

    1 - In fact, I'm explicitly ok with it. I'm running this with Red Box in my heart, so by god I will embrace opportunities to house rule. This game was written for someone with less experience than me, and it will work for them just fine, but the point of having more experience is the ability to tune it. On some level, this is a lot like buying one of the less-expensive cars explicitly to soup it up.

    2 - 4e solves this problem with flanking and the grid, and that ability to keep fights from getting static is the reason I am willing to deal with that many maps and minis. Because of that, it was exceptionally interesting to me to see other solutions to the problem.

    3 - I had been concerned that the stunts would feel a bit too much like a speedbump as you stop to look things up, but that didn't bear out. There are a few options, but not so many that you don't have to deal with decision paralysis. This means that while the mechanical range is only so diverse, that's only part of the equation. Stunt events are also cues to put some thought into the description of play, and that's really very handy.

    4 - The mage also did a line of Lyrium, which suited the sensibilities of things quite well.


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  • I wrote a bunch about the Dragon Age RPG over at my other blog, but I wanted to sync it here in advance of an actual play post that I'm working on. I'm sort of testing the waters on syncing more regularly, but it'll be kind of crude for the time being. The Dragon Age RPG is one I've been excited about for a while, not because it's based on a video game I'm nuts for, but because of its avowed goal of being a game to bring people into the hobby. Games make that claim all the time, but there were three things going on with DARPG that raised my interest:  It's a boxed set (hopefully a real one, not a faux one like the 4e starter set), it's got a hook into a good franchise that is neither too weird nor too overwhelming but can still bring in eyeballs, and it's by Green Ronin, a company that I would describe as pretty darn sharp.As if to demonstrate that sharpness, Green Ronin put DARPG up for preorder recently, and offered up a free PDF along with the preorder.  It boggles my mind that this is not standard practice, but it's not, so GR gets props for a smart move. They get an initial wave of buzz and interest based off people reading and talking about the PDF, and they hopefully can build on that when the actual game releases.It's also a move that benefits me a lot because, hey, I get to read it. I'm always happy to cheer on my own enlightened self interest.Here's the short form: The Dragon Age RPG looks to have the shortest distance from opening the box to playing at the table of any game I've seen in over a decade, possibly since red box D&D.[1]  It is not a revolutionary game by any stretch of the imagination, and for most gamers with a few games under it's belt, it's going to seem absolutely tired.  Old ideas like random chargen and hit points are all over the place.  With the exception of the Dragon Die and the stunt system, experienced gamers aren't goignt fo find much  new here.But that makes it exactly what it should be.  As a game for existing gamers, Dragon Age is ok, but not as impressive as other Green Ronin offerings. As a game for a new gamer, it's exactly right.First, by sticking to very strongly established mechanics (many of which will be at least conversationally familiar to people who've played video games) with a minimum of complexity, they've made a game that is easy to learn to play. The simplicity, brevity (main rulebook is 64 pages) and the clarity[2] combine to make a game that can be learned from the text, without depending on arcane oral tradition. I think back to my youth and this seems a very big deal.Second, the setting is equally familiar. Not just because some players will know it from the video game, but because the video game's setting is designed to be quickly recognizable.  Elves live in the woods and have bows. Dwarves live underground and have axes. Humans run the show. Magic is mysterious and risk-filled. Sure, each of these points has more depth as you drill into them, but the basic are immediately recognizable to anyone with a little pop culture knowledge.Last, the game minimizes the barriers to play by avoiding the temptation of weird dice.  By making it playable with nothing but the dice you can salvage from a Risk box, you get a couple of advantages. There's no awkwardness as you finish reading the rules but find yourself needing to wait until you've taken a trip to that creepy store [3] to get supplies. There's more of a sense of the familiar.  And perhaps best of all, you can scale up with your group size - adding a few more d6s is a lot easier than, say, having to share one set of polyhedrals.Put it all in a box set and you've got a product that I'm really excited about. I could see giving this game as a gift to a non-player, and that's almost unprecedented.Now, it's not all sunshine and puppies. As noted the game is pretty simple (though I admit it's at a level of simplicity I dig, since I think my wife would not be bothered by it) and a few corners got cut to support the size and the release schedule. You can't play a Grey Warden, which is kind of a kick in the head, since that's so central to the computer game.  The logic's clear: this set covers levels 1-5, next one will be 6-10 (then 11-15 and 16-20 or so I understand) and subsequent sets will be adding rules for things like specialty careers including things like Grey Warden. I suspect we'll also get magic items and runes in later sets too.There are a few layout decisions that raise my eyebrow - magic precedes combat, which is weird in terms of the order rules are explained for example - but they're all quickly set aside by the presence of indexes, glossary and comprehensive reference pages. It should not be so exciting to me to see a game do what should be the basics, but it is.The sample adventure is in the GM's book rather than in its own booklet. This makes sense in terms of cost, and it's not a bad thing, but I admit I flash back to my well worn copy of Keep on the Borderlands, and I regret that as long as they were trying to recapture the magic of redbox, they didn't revive that tradition.And that's really what's going on here. Unlike the old school, this is not an attempt to recreate old D&D, rather, it's an attempt to answer the same questions, only with decades of experience with how it went the first time. This makes the choices of what rules are included (and which ones aren't included) really fascinating to me. The Green Ronin guys know their stuff, and you can assume every choice in the design is a deliberate one.Choices like a very traditional hit point and damage system are not made because they couldn't think of another way, but rather because that choice maximized the accessibility of the game.  On reading, it really feels like they pulled it off, and I'm genuinely excited to give it a play sometime and find out.  One way or another I wish them luck: success with a game designed to bring new players into the hobby benefits us all.1 - The only other real contender in the intervening time is Feng Shui. There are simpler games, sure, but they lack the structure to answer the question of

    The Dragon Age RPG

    I wrote a bunch about the Dragon Age RPG over at my other blog, but I wanted to sync it here in advance of an actual play post that I'm working on. I'm sort of testing the waters on syncing more regularly, but it'll be kind of crude for the time being.


    The Dragon Age RPG is one I've been excited about for a while, not because it's based on a video game I'm nuts for, but because of its avowed goal of being a game to bring people into the hobby. Games make that claim all the time, but there were three things going on with DARPG that raised my interest: It's a boxed set (hopefully a real one, not a faux one like the 4e starter set), it's got a hook into a good franchise that is neither too weird nor too overwhelming but can still bring in eyeballs, and it's by Green Ronin, a company that I would describe as pretty darn sharp.

    As if to demonstrate that sharpness, Green Ronin put DARPG up for preorder recently, and offered up a free PDF along with the preorder. It boggles my mind that this is not standard practice, but it's not, so GR gets props for a smart move. They get an initial wave of buzz and interest based off people reading and talking about the PDF, and they hopefully can build on that when the actual game releases.

    It's also a move that benefits me a lot because, hey, I get to read it. I'm always happy to cheer on my own enlightened self interest.

    Here's the short form: The Dragon Age RPG looks to have the shortest distance from opening the box to playing at the table of any game I've seen in over a decade, possibly since red box D&D.[1] It is not a revolutionary game by any stretch of the imagination, and for most gamers with a few games under it's belt, it's going to seem absolutely tired. Old ideas like random chargen and hit points are all over the place. With the exception of the Dragon Die and the stunt system, experienced gamers aren't goignt fo find much new here.

    But that makes it exactly what it should be. As a game for existing gamers, Dragon Age is ok, but not as impressive as other Green Ronin offerings. As a game for a new gamer, it's exactly right.

    First, by sticking to very strongly established mechanics (many of which will be at least conversationally familiar to people who've played video games) with a minimum of complexity, they've made a game that is easy to learn to play. The simplicity, brevity (main rulebook is 64 pages) and the clarity[2] combine to make a game that can be learned from the text, without depending on arcane oral tradition. I think back to my youth and this seems a very big deal.

    Second, the setting is equally familiar. Not just because some players will know it from the video game, but because the video game's setting is designed to be quickly recognizable. Elves live in the woods and have bows. Dwarves live underground and have axes. Humans run the show. Magic is mysterious and risk-filled. Sure, each of these points has more depth as you drill into them, but the basic are immediately recognizable to anyone with a little pop culture knowledge.

    Last, the game minimizes the barriers to play by avoiding the temptation of weird dice. By making it playable with nothing but the dice you can salvage from a Risk box, you get a couple of advantages. There's no awkwardness as you finish reading the rules but find yourself needing to wait until you've taken a trip to that creepy store [3] to get supplies. There's more of a sense of the familiar. And perhaps best of all, you can scale up with your group size - adding a few more d6s is a lot easier than, say, having to share one set of polyhedrals.

    Put it all in a box set and you've got a product that I'm really excited about. I could see giving this game as a gift to a non-player, and that's almost unprecedented.

    Now, it's not all sunshine and puppies. As noted the game is pretty simple (though I admit it's at a level of simplicity I dig, since I think my wife would not be bothered by it) and a few corners got cut to support the size and the release schedule. You can't play a Grey Warden, which is kind of a kick in the head, since that's so central to the computer game. The logic's clear: this set covers levels 1-5, next one will be 6-10 (then 11-15 and 16-20 or so I understand) and subsequent sets will be adding rules for things like specialty careers including things like Grey Warden. I suspect we'll also get magic items and runes in later sets too.

    There are a few layout decisions that raise my eyebrow - magic precedes combat, which is weird in terms of the order rules are explained for example - but they're all quickly set aside by the presence of indexes, glossary and comprehensive reference pages. It should not be so exciting to me to see a game do what should be the basics, but it is.

    The sample adventure is in the GM's book rather than in its own booklet. This makes sense in terms of cost, and it's not a bad thing, but I admit I flash back to my well worn copy of Keep on the Borderlands, and I regret that as long as they were trying to recapture the magic of redbox, they didn't revive that tradition.

    And that's really what's going on here. Unlike the old school, this is not an attempt to recreate old D&D, rather, it's an attempt to answer the same questions, only with decades of experience with how it went the first time. This makes the choices of what rules are included (and which ones aren't included) really fascinating to me. The Green Ronin guys know their stuff, and you can assume every choice in the design is a deliberate one.

    Choices like a very traditional hit point and damage system are not made because they couldn't think of another way, but rather because that choice maximized the accessibility of the game. On reading, it really feels like they pulled it off, and I'm genuinely excited to give it a play sometime and find out. One way or another I wish them luck: success with a game designed to bring new players into the hobby benefits us all.



    1 - The only other real contender in the intervening time is Feng Shui. There are simpler games, sure, but they lack the structure to answer the question of "OK, what do I do now?".

    2 - Randomization has one huge benefit for new players - it removes optimization choices. There's more to it than that, but by putting the harder decision of chargen in the hands of the dice, game-stopping questions are removed from play.

    3- Yes, that's an unfair characterization, but not everyone is lucky enough to be near one of the many friendly, clean, well lit gamestores with helpful staff. And even for those who are, the store is an unknown, and unknowns are scary and off-putting, especially for teenagers.






    Back in the day, Betty Crocker rolled onto the market with mixes for making cakes and such. More women were working and there was less time available. The idea was to make it easier to make real home baked food with less time and effort. It was a good idea, and Betty Crocker did a number of really clever things with chemistry - all you needed to do was combine the mix and water then bake.

    It failed miserably.

    So Betty Crocker sat down and did some serious market research, and they discovered something. Women weren't using the mixes because it was too easy - it felt like cheating. So Betty Crocker went back to the lab and changed the formula to remove the egg component so the cook needed to add an egg of her own. That was enough to make it feel "home made" and it was a tremendous success.

    I mention this because this speaks to a lesson that's useful for a lot of products: if you "leave out the egg", which is to say create an opportunity for the user to invest a little bit of effort to make a product their own, they'll be more invested in it, and more enthusiastic.

    In turn, I bring this up because it seems to me that one of the most contentious elements of the Dragon Age RPG is something of an egg left out.

    The issue at hand is random character creation. The DARPG creates stats in a decidedly old-school fashion - you roll 3d6 for each of 8 stats, and the sole concession to customization is that you get to swap two stats. The immediate reaction to this is usually a pretty straightforward "What the hell? Is it 1985?" and that shouldn't be too much of a surprise. Random stat generation is an idea that's been pretty much set aside in favor of more player choice for a very long time.

    The reasons for this are obvious - if stats are important and impactful, you can create a situation where a player with bad luck ends up with a character that's not much fun to play when compared to his friend who rolled much better. AD&D was a really bad experience for a lot of us who got exposed to the difference between a fighter with a 12 strength and one with an 18/00, and it really soured people on the whole idea. After all, a lot of game design is fixing the problems you had with the last game you played.

    There are some real problems with randomly generating stats or other character elements, but it has some real advantages that have been set aside along with the limitations. A random spread of stats has some of the advantages of an oracle - it can suggest ideas and patterns that would not otherwise be obvious. This idea of "what do you do with what you have?" is a tonal one in addition to a mechanical one - less badass but perhaps more heroic depending on perspective. That idea is a potent enough one that a lot of work has been put in over the years to try to capture this part of randomization without risking the flaws.

    Random creation is also very quick - spending points requires a number of decisions that depend upon further knowledge of the system to do right. That can be something of a drag, and can end up putting the cart before the horse. It's often the first decision of the game, so you don't want to make it a painful one. The randomization also tends to produce more organic spreads - point buys tend to result in all-or-nothing spikes.

    Now, this is not an assertion that randomization is the only way to go. There are a lot of other ways to approach it[1]. But I did want to lay out that it's not as crazy an idea as it might first appear. Most specifically, these benefits sync up with the goals of a game for newbies, notably simplified choices and speed of play.

    That's all well and good, but here's the thing that struck me during yesterday's discussion. There are a lot of ways to address the issues of randomness - 4d6 and drop one, roll 12 and keep the best 8, roll then sort; the list is endless and has been kicked around for decades. It would take maybe a sentence or two to mention these options, so the choice not to do so is an interesting one.[2]

    And this is where I come back to eggs. To leave out the egg from an RPG, it needs to be something that is obvious and trivial to address. Certainly, every RPG has a certain amount of egglessness - house rules are our bread and butter - but it is a little bit trickier to put in something that is (for lack of a better term) blatantly trivial. If you can do so, especially for someone with very little experience with games, then it can be a real win because it makes the first step much less scary, Once they've made the obvious house rule, they've crossed an invisible threshold into a sense of ownership of the game.[3]

    The rules for generating stats feel like an egg left out. There are so many possible ways to address it if you feel it's a problem that it seems like a gimmee. It's easy to see and easy to make he change without disrupting the rest of the game in any way.

    The thing I'm left wondering is whether or not it was intentional. If it was accidental, then it's a lucky thing, but if it was intentional, then it's freaking brilliant. And if it was intentional, then man, I am going to find a way to buy Chris Pramas a drink, because that is some badass ninja stuff.[4]

    I am, by the way, entirely aware that I'm taking a very positive (and somewhat quirky) perspective on the Dragon Age RPG, and some of it absolutely hinges on a certain amount of hope regarding what's still coming. My predictions and expectations could be totally wrong, and even if they're right, the whole game could crash and burn for unrelated reasons. I'm pretty comfortable with the idea that others aren't going to share that perspective, so objections and counterpoints are welcome, but I'm likely to stick with my optimism for the time being.



    1 - One alternate example is equitable randomness, where the randomness determines which good thing you get, rather than whether or not you get a good thing. REIGN chargen is based entirely on this model, and the DARPG uses it for the bonuses you get from your backgrounds.

    2 - Now, here I make a brief aside. This is an obvious omission, and it's one of many obvious omissions in the game. You can tell they're obvious omissions because the reader's first instinct is to think "Why didn't they include THIS?". With that in mind, take a look at the credits page for the game - this is a pretty good list of folks with some serious stuff under their belt, and it's safe to say that they thought of most of these things, but they made the conscious (and ballsy) decision not to do so. Paring things down to 64 pages required resisting the completist urge of game design, and that's not an easy thing. It would have been easy to do this all in a standard 256 page full color hardcover, and that probably would have been a very good game with moderate commercial success, but it would have been just like any other game out there. The risks involved in the design are the risks necessary for this game to maybe make the jump to broader adoption.

    3 - This flies in the face of the school of thought that says rules should be complete and that if they require house ruling, then they're bad rules. That's all well and good for pure design, but house ruling is engaging, and the power of that should not be underestimated.

    4 - And, hey, on the off chance that I do get an answer from Chris, I have one more question: is it a real box? Please please please tell me it's a real box.

    EDIT - One last bit of credit where it's due. The Betty Crocker story is from a fantastic book called "Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950's America" by Laura Shapiro. It's one of those books like Pollan's
    Botany of Desire which is about one thing, but is really about a number of other very interesting things. Well worth a read.

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  • I am somewhat gobsmacked that RPG.net did something very productive, and also exactly what it did.So, if you start reading this thread, it is a complete and total clusterfuck for about 200 posts. Basically, someone saw the cover of a game by Outlaw Pre...

    Gobsmacked

    I am somewhat gobsmacked that RPG.net did something very productive, and also exactly what it did.So, if you start reading this thread, it is a complete and total clusterfuck for about 200 posts. Basically, someone saw the cover of a game by Outlaw Pre...

    Continue Reading...

  • I was thinking about a bunch of different approaches to play and came back to a diceless model that is equal parts Amber, Bugtown, Mortal Coil and Best Friends.  It takes the idea of relative superiority from Amber and Bugtown with some of the player-competitive elements from Best Friends and Amber, and marries it with some setting generating elements from Mortal Coil.This is the shape it took. Going to go sleep on it now. Explanations to follow if it still makes sense in the morning.(And feel free to blame these guys and their damnable thought-producing questions.)

    What’s on my mind


    I was thinking about a bunch of different approaches to play and came back to a diceless model that is equal parts Amber, Bugtown, Mortal Coil and Best Friends. It takes the idea of relative superiority from Amber and Bugtown with some of the player-competitive elements from Best Friends and Amber, and marries it with some setting generating elements from Mortal Coil.

    This is the shape it took. Going to go sleep on it now. Explanations to follow if it still makes sense in the morning.

    (And feel free to blame these guys and their damnable thought-producing questions.)

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  • So, the preview for the Skill Challenge chapter of the DMG II is up here and careful readers may note a reason I'm particularly curious to see it.The skill challenge they present is, by the by, also a decent illustration of how to do a seamless skill c...

    Skill Challenge Preview

    So, the preview for the Skill Challenge chapter of the DMG II is up here and careful readers may note a reason I'm particularly curious to see it.The skill challenge they present is, by the by, also a decent illustration of how to do a seamless skill c...

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  • Through a conspiracy of circumstances, I’ve sat down for lunch with no connectivity and without the notes for my current writing thing.  As a note to self, it’s important to remember to sync dropbox before I leave the house.   Anyway, that leaves m...

    From the Brain Bag

    Through a conspiracy of circumstances, I’ve sat down for lunch with no connectivity and without the notes for my current writing thing. As a note to self, it’s important to remember to sync dropbox before I leave the house. Anyway, that leaves m...

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  • D&D, my place, noon on saturday, running til 5 at the latest.  7th level characters, usual treasure rules (1 7th, 1 8th, 1 6th or 3 7th level items, plus cash equivalent to a level 7 item).Classes are limited to those in need of showcasing: choose from...

    OK, it’s on

    D&D, my place, noon on saturday, running til 5 at the latest. 7th level characters, usual treasure rules (1 7th, 1 8th, 1 6th or 3 7th level items, plus cash equivalent to a level 7 item).Classes are limited to those in need of showcasing: choose from...

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  • If I were to run D&D tomorrow (Saturday the 22nd) from, say, 12-6, who would be interested? Trying to see if we have enough noses for a game.

    Question for locals

    If I were to run D&D tomorrow (Saturday the 22nd) from, say, 12-6, who would be interested? Trying to see if we have enough noses for a game.

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  • I'm a big fan of the Birthright setting that TSR put out back in the day. It hit a lot of notes I really liked - the world felt populated, politics had a powerful role, monsters felt mythic - it just rocked.  But one subtle note always impressed me.  I...

    The Subtle Hand of Awesome

    I'm a big fan of the Birthright setting that TSR put out back in the day. It hit a lot of notes I really liked - the world felt populated, politics had a powerful role, monsters felt mythic - it just rocked. But one subtle note always impressed me. I...

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  • So, yesterday was wall-to-wall gaming (Fred chistened it

    A good way to not be at Gencon

    So, yesterday was wall-to-wall gaming (Fred chistened it "Donocon"), and thanks to chadu, drivingblind, omphaloskepsis, ect, jwiv, traceracer, morganc14, evilhat and bastille for comung by and making it rock. Extra thanks to J, EV and Lil for coming b...

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  • So, the ennie votes are in, and you can read them here.As could be predicted from such a tremendous slate of games, I'm retty happy with all the winners.  I can't ay the game I would have chosen won in every category, but there's not a single category ...

    The End of Award Season

    So, the ennie votes are in, and you can read them here.As could be predicted from such a tremendous slate of games, I'm retty happy with all the winners. I can't ay the game I would have chosen won in every category, but there's not a single category ...

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  • Chris Hanrahan, being an intensely cool guy, sent me a pair of dice from the Endgame 8 mini-con out in Endgame, Oakland . They’re gorgeous six siders with a  mother-of-pearl finish and the endgame logo where the 6 should be.  I found them in my pocke...

    Two Dice in my Pocket

    Chris Hanrahan, being an intensely cool guy, sent me a pair of dice from the Endgame 8 mini-con out in Endgame, Oakland . They’re gorgeous six siders with a mother-of-pearl finish and the endgame logo where the 6 should be. I found them in my pocke...

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  • Awards are in the air.  Voting is open for the Ennies, and the Diana Jones awards shortlist has been announced. In large part this has been greeted with enthusiasm, because both slates are filled to bursting with fantastic products. This has been a rea...

    Award Fever

    Awards are in the air. Voting is open for the Ennies, and the Diana Jones awards shortlist has been announced. In large part this has been greeted with enthusiasm, because both slates are filled to bursting with fantastic products. This has been a rea...

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  • The Empress of Chains is dead, and the Palace of Doors is covered in black of mourning, and will remain so until one of her heirs or other claimants to the Barbed Throne manages to raise above the pack and seize it, and in the meantime the Wheel is in ...

    Philosophers with Kung Fu – A Mash Up on my Mind

    The Empress of Chains is dead, and the Palace of Doors is covered in black of mourning, and will remain so until one of her heirs or other claimants to the Barbed Throne manages to raise above the pack and seize it, and in the meantime the Wheel is in ...

    Continue Reading...

  • Question #1: Does the assumption of encounter equivalency hold up?The level 1 abilities sort of held it up (close enough for government work) but what about the most powerful ones?  Let's look at level 27Psion:2d8 + Stat and target is stunned until the...

    Digging into the Psion III

    Question #1: Does the assumption of encounter equivalency hold up?The level 1 abilities sort of held it up (close enough for government work) but what about the most powerful ones? Let's look at level 27Psion:2d8 + Stat and target is stunned until the...

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