After braving the rings of fire, the digital quicksand, and the firewall of eternity, I managed to download a copy of the D&D Next playtest. Unpacking the zip file and looking over the files, I had to smile. There was the cleric of Pelor. And a cleric of Moradin. A high elf wizard. A dungeon called "Caves of Chaos".
A strong wave of nostalgia hit me, bringing with it memories of cracking open an ancient Red Boxed set and finding a module called "B2 Keep of the Borderlands" inside. A thousand memories of my Greyhawk campaign came rushing forward, carrying names like Kalib, Scrappy, Merwyn, Tanevier, Obsidian Bay and the Cult of Death Undying.
And all that was without opening the PDFs.
The Inner Sea World Guide is Paizo's third iteration of its Golarion campaign guide. The first was released when D&D 3.5 was still Wizard of the Coast's flagship fantasy game; the second came with the release of Paizo's own 3.5-derived Pathfinder RPG. The latest iteration reflects the growing maturity of the Pathfinder product line. Within its pages players will find that redundant material – such as class write-ups now included in the Pathfinder core rulebook – removed in favor of extended write-ups on the world itself.
And what a world it is. While evoking spirit of World of Greyhawk, Golarion excels at tweaking standard fantasy formula. Within its pages – including 64 pages of new content – you'll find Cheliax, a kingdom that embraced devil worship in order to save its empire, as well as Galt, a country that threw off its imperial Cheliax masters and descended into a never-ending bloodthirsty revolution. There are the mountaintop citadels constructed after the dwarves completed their quest for the sky, and a frozen kingdom ruled by the daughters of Baba Yaga. It's a setting that feels familiar and new at the same time, and like Pathfinder itself, it's a worthy successor to the worlds of Dungeons & Dragons.
Mike Mearls talks about the concept of a one-hour D&D game in his latest Legends & Lore post. The goal here isn't to boil all D&D games down to 1-hour, but rather to benchmark what you can actually do in an hour. No doubt inspired by his lunchtime D&D sessions, Mearls envisions a game in which you can get in a role-playing encounter, a few quick encounters with traps and/or enemies, and a boss fight.
The Blackrazor Guild held its semi-annual homegrown convention in late February 2012. About 18 people attended NukemCon 2012, some long-time members of the gaming group, others friends who join us from time to time.
NukemCons have become a standard part of our gaming group; we first started holding them because we missed our annual pilgrimages to GenCon. We missed being able to hangout, talk, and have a few beers while throwing dice. NukemCon solved that problem.
Wizards of the Coast has announced D&D Next, the successor to D&D 4th Edition aimed squarely at unifying the game's fractured fan base. My gaming group is practically a case study for 5th Edition -- we played 2nd Edition, 3rd Edition (both flavors), and 4th Edition, but finally gave up on the game when the group couldn't agree on which version to play. 60% of the group wanted to play D&D 3x or the Pathfinder Beta, 40% wanted to play D&D 4th Edition. We split the difference and played Star Wars: Saga Edition, which addressed many of our issues with both systems, and gave us a much needed break from the fantasy genre.
We've since returned to fantasy ... but not D&D. Instead we're playing the Pathfinder RPG and Paizo's Second Darkness adventure path. I can't speculate on what it would take to bring the Blackrazor Guild back to D&D -- we simply haven't talked about it enough -- but I know that I am looking for.
I did something I've never done before in September: I kicked off someone else's campaign. Ok, technically it's still my campaign, but material belongs to Pazio. The campaign is the Second Darkness adventure path, and if all goes according to plan, it will see our seven freshly-minted heroes face the ancient hidden evil of the drow in an attempt to save the world from a second apocalypse.
I've been running my own campaigns -- for D&D, Star Wars, and Savage Worlds -- for 15 years. Over that time I've made liberal use of material from a variety of source books, including more than a few one-shot adventures, but by and large I was the one writing each week's episode. It was fun ... but it was also tremendously time consuming.
When the time game to launch a new campaign, Paizo's Pathfinder Role-Playing Game was an obvious choice. It preserved the strain of Dungeons & Dragons that my gaming group preferred, and enhanced it just enough to get rid of the things that had been driving us crazy in the 3.x branch. But the challenge with Pathfinder is that it's a crunchy, rules heavy game. When we ran Star Wars, I could easily knock out non-player characters in a night, but going with Pathfinder meant a return to magic and all its inherent complexity.
After 47 chapters, 10 episodes, and 2.5 years, our Star Wars: Shadows of the Force campaign has come to an end. What started with a fight against pirates on the jungle world of Zebulon Prime ended with against grey market salvagers in the depths of a planetary nebula. In between we saw the rise of Binary Transports, the promotion of three Jedi Knights, the training of two padawans, the discovery of an alien holocron , and numerous battles against the Force knowledge cult known as the Sith Ascendancy.
But the campaign was about far more than numbers. Along the way we changed how we play RPGs, incorporating narrative mechanics like skill challenges that created truly exceptional, truly memorable encounters, including hot-wiring a speeder while fending off high plains lizards and bouncing a starship through a proto-star nebula. We also told some really cool stories, including the adoption of a young Force sensitive Twi’lik and his training as a padawan, the epic battle with the fleet of the pirate lord Ral Duris, and lightsaber duels amid alien ruins in the sunward desert of Ryloth.
I'm in the progress of updating Nuketown's Mac Role-Playing Game Tools page, which has developed an embarassing case of bitrot.
Unfortunately some of the more stalwart tools, like Crystal Ball, as well as one-offs like the Town Creator and D&D Manager, are no longer available, and their sites have gone to the Great Bit Bucket in the Sky. Still others, like Dunjinni, no longer work with under Mac OS Lion and don't seem likely to be updated any time soon.