My review of Gamma World is up at GameCryer.com. As an introductory game I think it's superior to the D&D Red Box. While the Red Box gives you a map, some tokens, dice and a barebones version of the rules, once you get past the initial adventure you need to jump to the Essentials books.
One of the big differences between running a fantasy campaign and a science fiction campaign is that when playing SF, I find myself constantly looking for starship deckplans.
With a fantasy campaign, many of the maps revolved around buildings, dungeons or overland adventures, and those sorts of maps were easy to knock out over lunch. Failing that, I had plenty of maps from 20+ years of Dungeons & Dragons that I could fall back on.
With my Star Wars campaign though, the adventures are split between world-based exploration and starship- or space station-based combat. Starship based adventures represent perhaps 1/8 to 1/4 of the encounters I run, but when I do run them I often find myself scrambling for deckplans.
The big reason there is that it takes more effort to come up with a rational-seeming starship. A dungeon can be as simple as a series of rooms, but with a starship players always want to know where to find the bridge, engineering, jeffries tubes, etc.
The Dragon Age RPG intrigues me. With a lightweight rules system, mana pool-based magic, and a killer background setting, it seems like the sort of game that could help pull me back into fantasy role-playing. After spending a night learning more about the game for a Knights of the Dinner Table column, I decided to order the game. It arrived Saturday afternoon, and I wasted no time in getting to the unboxing.
When the Dragon Age RPG hit last year, I wasn't sure what to make of it. While I was intrigued by the boxed set, and liked the computer game's setting, I wondered if there was enough space in the market for another fantasy RPG.
It looks like the answer is yes. While D&D 3.x, D&D 4.0 and Pathfinder remain very popular, it seems like Dragon Age is benefiting from its its introductory nature (the boxed set covers levels 1-5), Edition Wars fatigue, and its Old School vibe. I've read about more than a few people who've turned to Dragon Age after getting burned out on D&D.
I can't help but look at my own group and wonder if Dragon Age might not be the game that gets us back to the fantasy genre. The Edition Wars forced us to abandoned D&D for Star Wars after 12 years of adventuring in Greyhawk; Dragon Age just might be the Switzerland we need to get back to swinging swords and slinging spells.
The The Day After Ragnarok, Ken Hite's Robert E. Howard meets James Bond campaign setting, is back in print. According to the Atomic Overmind announcement the setting, published for Savage Worlds and HERO System, should be available via retailers in 3 weeks.
It's been a while since I did a Star Wars roundup, but thankfully the rest of fandom has continued churning out content in recent months. I think this is essential for Star Wars role-playing to carry on; many times when an RPG goes out of print, players move on to other, better supported games. Star Wars is somewhat different in this regard, as fan support for d6 Star Wars shows.
Another MEPACon has come and gone, taking with it two weeks of frantic game preparation and 12 hours of actual play. The convention was held in Clarks Summit, near Scranton Pa. on November 12-14 and looked to have the typical attendance of 100 gamers playing a mix of board games, organized play, and one-shot RPGs. I ran three events, all of which had 5 to 7 players.
The sun-blasted, magic-scarred campaign setting of Dark Sun is unlike any other published for Dungeons & Dragons. It inverts or eliminates many of the core concepts of D&D: arcane power is rare, psionic abilities are rampant; Halflings are cannibals, dwarves are slaves, and elves are opportunistic, lying traders.
The world itself – known as Athas -- is danger incarnate, with civilization reduced to a handful of city states separated by vast, dangerous stretches of desert populated by mutated monsters. The shear alienness Dark Sun demanded a monster manual, and Wizards of the Coast delivered.
The Dark Sun Creature Catalog is 143 pages of monsters, threats, and non-player characters that game masters can use to fill the setting's ruined expanses and rare oases, as well as new rules for converting existing monsters to the setting. The book largely succeeds in its mission, providing game masters with the unexpected horrors that are its trademark and failing only to provide the run-of-the-mill city encounters that would make urban adventuring easier to run.
The Dark Sun has risen again on the parched, magic devastated world of Athas, bringing with it the new rules and mindset of Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition. First introduced in the early 1990s during D&D 2nd Edition, Dark Sun was meant to be a brutal, unforgiving dark fantasy setting unlike anything the game had seen.
Noble hobbits, wise wizards, and forthright knights gave way to a world devastated by an arcane apocalypse. Where once there had been a bright, green planet, there was now just sand and death. Civilization lived on in a handful of city-states dominated by all-powerful sorcerer-kings. Players took on the role of slaves, gladiators and other peons thrown to the bottom of society’s latter; the setting wasn’t about saving the world – it was about surviving it. It was also the first setting where psionics dominated the landscape, while magic was rare (and profane, as it caused the apocalypse that turned verdant Athas into a wasteland).
To demonstrate just how lethal the setting was the original rules encouraged players to roll up multiple characters since it was assumed that one or more would die during the first few adventures. Clearly we weren’t in Waterdeep any more...