The release of the trailer for World War Z inspired me to read the book of the same name before the film's version could burn its way into my brain. It was well worth it; the book's a fantastic read that provides a wide-ranging, highly personal view of the Zombie Apocolypse. It also inspired me to see what the current state of Zombie RPGs is for a possible Knights of the Dinner Table column.
Skills are a hot button subject for my gaming group. Most of the guys in my group loved D&D 3.x's approach to skills, which allowed a high degree of granularity and focus in such mundane concerns as crafting and professions. When the D&D 4th Edition dismissed Craft and Profession as un-fun skills, half our group saw red. They still fume about that given time. Others liked 4th Edition's condensed skill list, and focus on adventuring applications over crafting arrows or performing songs.
Naturally D&D Next is concerned about skills, and based on a recent blog post they are clearly looking to retain the customization options that 3.x offers, while making things more streamlined. First, they're talking about making a lot of your day to day "skill checks" using the ability scores. So instead of making a "Climb check", you'd presumably make a Strength check. Second, they also explicitly state they want to retain true skills so that they have a meaningful impact on the game and allow the sort of customization that we saw in 3E (and to a certain extent, 4E).
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.
Wizards of the Coast's new season of Dungeons & Dragons Encounters begins on May 11, 2011 with Dark Legacy of Evard, a series of linked 1-hour scenarios that involve one of D&D's classic wizards.
Duponde may look like nothing more than a sleepy little stopover along the broad banks of the Nentir River. But the village harbors a dark secret: The tomb of the notorious Evard the Black, master of shadow magic, lies in the town’s cemetery.
My Picture of the Day project is continuing -- progress has been somewhat haphazard, but I have been taking and posting pictures.
This one's from Game Day on March 4, 2011. It was a board game week, so we decided to give the Castle Ravenloft boardgame another try. A separate set of Blackrazors had tried it a few weeks earlier and had been underwhelmed. This week's didn't fair much better.
The game is essentially a stripped-down version of D&D 4E. That's not a bad thing (at least for the half of the group that likes 4E) and tt runs well enough. The problem we found was there wasn't enough immergent story in the game -- meaning unlike Arkham Horror's expansions, there wasn't much story meat holding the game's adventure skeleton together.
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.
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...
Harrowing Halls is a Dungeon Tiles set for Dungeons & Dragons that takes the long-running line to new heights. That's because they're not just dungeon tiles ... they're three dimensional dungeon tiles that can be used to build a staircase, raised platforms, tables, and pedastals, all of which player characters can jump on, leap off of and generally use to their advantage.
It makes a big difference on many fronts, starting with prep time. I got a review copy of Harrowing Halls a few months ago, but since I run a weekly Star Wars game I haven't had much call for a rustic hall/dungeon. That changed when I decided to run an epic showdown with a Jedi master in a temple on a stormwracked backwater world.
Dark Sun, the grim, post-apocalyptic fantasy setting for Dungeons & Dragons is re-launching this summer for D&D 4E. In honor of that, I'm writing my next "Summon WebScryer" column for Knights of the Dinner Table about Dark Sun ... but I need your help.
I need web sites dedicated to the setting. I've found a bunch, but I'd like more, particularly ones dealing with the intersections of D&D 4E, psionics and Dark Sun. Old school D&D sites are also welcome of course, but obviously 4E ones are a bit more timely.