Archive for March, 2012

Story Cubes – Game Night Carnival!

March 27, 2012 2 comments

Rory’s Story Cubes is a very VERY free form game. This is a great one for all ages, and has several added bonus uses. There are nine cubes (six-sided dice) with random, but interesting images on them. These include a pyramid, the moon, a keyhole, fire, an arrow, a footprint, etc. The basic concept is to roll the dice, and make up a story with the images presented.

You can play this any number of ways. My wife and I tried rolling them all at the same time and taking turns selecting a result to describe the next piece of the story. Another way to play is taking turns rolling one die at a time, and making up there story as you go along. Since there are an odd number of dice, whoever started with less got to choose the title of the story. Our stories tended to be a bit ridiculous, but that’s mostly because we really enjoy cracking each other up, usually sporting terrible British accents. Don’t judge.

We had a great time with this game, and heartily recommend it if you feel like doing something with no rules to speak of. This is also the reason it is a great game to play with young children who tend to make up the rules as they go along anyway, regardless of the game. It’s a great creative activity to flex your improv muscles in your brain. Which brings us to bonus uses: The obvious one being that these can cure writer’s block. Aspiring novelist? Stuck on a scene? Roll! Oh, what’s that? Your hero boarded a plane that was hit by a shooting star which catapulted him to the moon where he discovered the moon-pyramids that was inhabited solely by space-turtles? Fantastic!

If you’re a brave and talented Dungeon Master, the other excellent bonus use for these dice is to use them to improv during an RPG session. As detailed by the illustrious Dread Gazebo, Story Cubes can be an excellent addition to your dice bag, either in the dungeon design process, or during play if your player’s veer off-course (surely, they would never do that!) you can throw them a curve ball. This is a new twist on the old adage of DMs rolling dice behind the screen, making stuff up; sometimes the roll matters but sometimes the DM is just buying time, thinking of what to do next. Now you’ve got something to help you wing it!

Story cubes is also an app on iOS. While $2 is certainly more cost effective and portable, I feel the $9.99 MSRP is worth it to have the dice in hand. I’m unaware of an android app for this, but if one of our readers knows of one, feel free to set the record straight in the comments!

This post is part of the monthly Game Night Blog Carnival started by Roving Band of Misfits. Why not check out their review this month of Carcassone Castle!

RPG Kickstarter News

March 26, 2012 2 comments

Morrus over at ENworld did the RPG community a great service by starting this tumblr that provides a list of RPG-related kickstarters going on at the moment. The project organizer must apply to be added, so there shouldn’t be any kind of unrelated weird projects that slip through. That being said, there are a lot of other really cool kickstarters going on that have nothing to do with RPGs, but it’s a great filter to find projects that are gaming related.

In other news Brian Fargo, creator of the Wasteland 2 project, has started a very cool movement called Kicking It Forward. It is essentially similar to the Pay it Forward movement of about a decade ago, but instead of acts of kindness, project creators agree that if their project is funded, they will donate 5% of the projects proceeds to funding other kickstarters. This is pretty much saying, “Hey, we made this awesome thing happen, let’s see if we can make YOUR awesome thing happen.” I think it’s a very cool concept, and will help insure the continuation of the thriving community that backs these great projects.

Thats all for now. Remember, March is the RPG Blog Carnival about crowdfunding and crowdsourcing RPGs, so if you’ve got a blog, and a take on how these new developments are affecting the hobby/industry, get to writing! The month is almost up!

Wasteland 2 – How Kickstarter is changing the way everyone does everything

March 22, 2012 3 comments

Some of you as old as I am might remember this….



That’s right… Wasteland.  The game that came out in 1988 featuring a turn based post-apocalyptic tabletop RPG, where you ran a team of up to 6 characters with unique skills trying to survive and thrive in the harsh environs of an irradiated future. The characters faced moral decisions, sometimes disturbing reminders of the horrors of nuclear war, and giant rabid mutated bunnies…  

To many folks, this game was their first exposure featuring such a setting (though other games, such as TSR’s Gamma World, had been on the market for years at this point). Video games reached different audiences, and as we looked down the barrel of our ICBM’s at Russia in the 80’s, this game was… relevant.  

Still, for a video game, there wasn’t much going on until Wasteland came on the scene.  It’s fans are legion, and despite decades passing, a recent Kickstarter has shown that mutant dreams really can come true.

Brian Fargo, founder of the video game company Interplay, has used Kickstarter to bring to life a long running dream of resurrecting this franchise for PC and MAC users (with rumors of a possible tablet format before they’re all done).  After numerous rejections in the now very corporate world of video games, Kickstarter is allowing good ideas like this to get off the ground and circumvent corporate greed that has killed so many good and beautiful things. (Insert lost cause here).

It makes me wonder what the possibilities might be as this idea begins to evolve.  Certainly, there is the opportunity to fund great ideas by small entrepreneurs, building an empire of the New Creatives that can produce their untainted dream product.  While there may be some instances where editing and oversight are good things, we can see lots of examples where the “suits” have trashed a really great idea based based on policies, surveys, polls, marketing reports, etc.  

But maybe there’s also the distinct possibility of a market flood when all this potential for funding gets out (which, you know, is happening right now).  You have to presume that people will spend their hard earned dollars on the best ideas, and apply liberal common sense.  Maybe I’m just too cynical, however, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see slicker promotional videos in the future promoting less phenomenal products.  The potential for a  smoke and mirrors vaporware product seems high, considering that many might aspire to do more than anyone realistically could, money or no money.  

We’re seeing a moment in economic history where technology has risen the consumer/producer relationship to its most perfect state in human history.  Will it unleash a monster? Will corporate greed somehow insinuate itself into this process?  Will the system get glutted with Edsels?  Or will things continue to grow and improve in ways that we never thought they could? 

I’m holding my breath for a Cadash 2, Kickstarter… Let’s see that.

Distilling the Dungeon

March 21, 2012 4 comments

Our submission is complete! Tomb of the Sea Dwarves is available on our downloads page, and will eventually be available at the contest site. We’re listed as Kevin Heuer and Michael Jones, as I wrote it, and Mike did all the layout and cartography.

The original adventure was about 12 pages long. I would publish that, but it’s full of really excellent artwork of which we have no legal right to distribute. The original adventure had a few more encounters, and was written for our particular group who had, in the course of their adventures, managed to buy a tavern. But despite all the specific tailoring to our group, I had to cut a lot of background information, context, and details about the environment.

In the end, I don’t really mind. It leaves a lot of interpretation for the GM, and a lot of flexibility to drop this adventure in just about any city environment. It seems like the trend of recent adventures is to provide a lot of specific details, both “crunch” and “fluff.” If you look at old adventures, a lot of them provided very few details about any particular room or encounter, instead providing a lot of rooms and encounters. One could argue it’s the classic argument of quantity vs. quality, but I feel it allows a clever GM a lot more wiggle room. I guess it really comes down to GMing style. Some feel like everything needs to be spelled out in the text, others can roll with the punches.

All and all it’s been an interesting exercise, and I really enjoy the concept of a one page dungeon. I can’t wait to see all the other submissions this year!

Categories: Adventure, RPGs Tags: , ,

Check out our Free Downloads!

March 20, 2012 Comments off

Because who doesn’t love free stuff? I’ve compiled a list of all the free downloads we’ve offered since starting this crazy blog about 6 months ago. You’ll find some 4e holiday adventures, a massive combat resolution system, and a pretty awesome fumble chart for when you roll a one in a 4e skill challenge.

Soon you’ll be able to download our One Page Dungeon for the One Page Dungeon Contest.

The Free Downloads page will live at the top of our blog, just next to the ‘Contact Us’ tab. Enjoy!

Categories: 4e, Adventure, DnD, Tips

One Page Dungeon Contest – Tomb of the Sea Dwarves

March 19, 2012 4 comments

It’s that time again folks! The One Page Dungeon Contest is taking submissions for 2012. I’ve really enjoyed checking out the submissions in previous years, and I think it’s a great source of free inspiration for DMs everywhere. I’m proud to announce, this year Skyland Games will be participating with our submission Tomb of the Sea Dwarves!

We’re working on distilling this adventure I created for our old dwarven party down to one page. Taking a 12-page adventure and cutting it down to one is an interesting process. It makes you consider what is truly important to describe in an adventure and what is just added fluff. We’ll post the final version here once it’s all polished up and ready for submission.

If you’ve got a great idea for a one-page dungeon, get your submission in by April 30th. If you need some maps or ideas for a game night coming up, check out the previous submissions and the rest of the Dungeon Maps site!

Delving Dungeons Doesn’t Disappoint

March 14, 2012 Comments off

It’s the oldest and most iconic form of fantasy RPG adventure. A bunch of adventurers of varied skills and backgrounds stumble across a hidden cave, or an entrance to an ancient tomb. Traps and foul creatures stand vigil over gleaming piles of treasure, long forgotten.

I’m prepping for tonight’s Pathfinder Society game. Tonight, I’m GMing one of the PFS intro scenarios, which are free, and pretty awesome. The second one in the series “To Delve the Dungeon Deep,” is about as classic as a dungeon crawl can be. I won’t spoil it for those who have yet to play it (including the guys tonight!), but this little delve has got it all; traps, mysterious lairs and runes, creatures, and plenty of options for PCs to make choices. Which way? Attack or parlay? Poke it with a stick or run screaming?

Recently, I adapted The Lost City for 4e. A classic D&D module, it proved to be one of the most fun 4e experiences I’ve ever had. My sincere hope is that DnDnext or 5e gets back to the classic feel of exploration and mystery. 4e as written seemed to get bogged down on the numbers side of things, (making sure encounters were balanced, treasure parcels were level appropriate, etc.) and lost some of the magic that came from not knowing what was behind the next door (let alone if the door was trapped!).

If you don’t have access to any old D&D adventures (I’m talking late 70s, early 80s) I recommend downloading Part 2 of the PFS intro scenarios. Heck, you might as well download them all. Even if you don’t play Pathfinder, the style of this delve can inspire a GM for any system. Things to consider: What is the history of the location of the delve? Who used to live there? Who calls it home now? What did the previous inhabitants leave behind? What have the new denizens added? Try and tie them all together with a cohesive theme, a goal for the adventurers (perhaps the classic MacGuffin?), and you will have at least one awesome night of gaming ahead of you! If it has been a long time since you’ve explored a forgotten place with a group of adventurers, grab a torch and a ten foot pole and conquer the unknown!

Wolfgang Baur Interview – Open Design’s Kickstarter Experience

March 12, 2012 2 comments

courtesy of Kobold Quarterly

SG: First off, thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions about your experience both Crowdsourcing and Crowdfunding RPGs! It’s a great contribution to this months RPG blog carnival!

For our readers who may not be aware, Open Design has been a collaborative RPG design company since 2006 and has published a lot of material in those years. A FAQ for those unfamiliar with the process can be found here.
There were a few things that remained unclear to me as I read the FAQs. Namely, how are Open Design projects chosen?
WB: It has changed over time. For the first few projects, I proposed 5 or 6 options and the backers picked one of those. That lasted about a year. Then I asked some freelancers to pitch things, and they came forward with great ideas that turned into some award-winning D&D and Pathfinder adventures and sourcebooks. In the last 3 years or so, I’ve asked backers to write up some pitches that they’d like to see, and wow, did they ever!
Now the current backers themselves pitch project ideas for the next project. I’m looking at about 19 different project ideas for the next Open Design project. Those pitches are all discussed and voted on by the most active Open Design supporters, and the cream almost always rises to the top.

SG: Once the project is chosen, how is the lead designer chosen?

WB: The person who proposed the idea is the lead designer for the project–if they can write a compelling pitch, chances are good they can write a compelling adventure or gamebook.
So for instance, Christina Stiles proposed the Journeys to the West project, based on ideas that had been floated in the Midgard campaign setting project.

Journeys to the West drew the biggest number of votes, and so Christina has led that project as the lead designer. The book will be released this summer. It’s a series of adventures in the style of the Voyages of Sindbad or perhaps Francis-Drake-meets-Temeraire. It’s spectacular island-hopping fun, with demon monkeys, undead islands, a leviathan, and more.

SG: While customers having input to the product as it is being produced can be exciting and engaging for the patrons, what are the challenges in designing “by committee”? Have you ever been surprised by the results?

WB: Oh, there’s no committee! Every backer can contribute to the brainstorms, and some backers do write NPCs, spells, or whole adventures. But the lead designer is always, always the benevolent dictator, or else the project gets mired down in exactly the way group projects often do.

That said, I have often, often been surprised by the results. Three examples: 1) early on, the backers voted to move ahead with an Arabian Nights project that I thought would never fly, and that I proposed on a lark, 2) Brandon Hodge showed up and single-handedly turned my rather traditional Mines of Moria adventure into something rather more ominous and devilish and secretive, and 3) when people said let’s turn Zobeck into a whole campaign setting.

SG: The Open Design system of patronage allows people not only access to the end-product, but a vote and possibly an opportunity to pitch ideas to guide the project’s direction. Did kickstarter’s pledge levels complement your system of patronage you’ve used in the past? Is one better than the other?

WB: Kickstarter made it easier, but it is remarkably similar to what Open Design started doing back in 2006. The pledge levels are identical to the system we’ve used for 6 years. The expanded offerings if the project hits a funding goal are new, and wonderful. Overall, it felt very comfortable, and clearly it worked.  

SG: Journeys to the West was Open Design’s first kickstarter. It smashed it’s initial goal, and made every stretch goal. Was the response you got for this project typical for OD publications, or did it exceed expectations? Do you think kickstarter played a role in the result?

WB: Oh, it exceeded expectations by a huge amount! Most of our prior projects were held together with a lot of spit, bubblegum, and love, but they were underfunded. A few depended on some level of volunteer effort. I think Kickstarter did help, though obviously they take a big cut for that help.

SG: Will future Open Design projects utilize kickstarter? Why/why not?

WB: That remains to be seen.

Thanks for your insights into not only the crowdfunding model, but crowdsourcing material as well! We’ll all be on the lookout for the next Open Design project!

Classic Monsters Revisited – Pathfinder Chronicles Review

March 8, 2012 Comments off

Pathfinder seems to have it’s own distinct style when it comes to monsters. The recent Pathfinder Battles miniature line recently brought these iconic creatures to the game mat, but Paizo has been writing about toothy watermelon-headed goblins for years. Classic Monsters Revisited in the Pathfinder Chronicles series came out in 2008, but is still an excellent resource for looking at very common foes in a whole new light.

Reading down the table of contents of this book is like a greatest hits album of monsters that, if you’ve ever spent any time playing DnD or Pathfinder, you’ve encountered these guys more times than you can remember: Goblins, Hobgoblins, Bugbears, Gnolls, Kobolds, Lizardfolk, Ogres, Orcs, Trolls, and Minotaurs. Unlike a typical monster manual, that list is a complete list of all the monsters in this 63 page book. This book isn’t geared towards someone looking for a complete creature catalog, or a casual GM who just sketches out a map on some graph paper, fills it with some baddies, rolls on a random treasure table and calls it good. Not that there is anything wrong with that. This book is made for GMs who want to know how hobgoblins organize themselves in their society, or that a bugbear lives to cause terror, as the scent of fear has narcotic effects on them. This is for GMs who want to throw a twist or two at their players.

All the common creatures in this book have general background information, but it goes so much deeper than a blurb in a monster manual ever could. For each creature there are several paragraphs not only providing a physical description of the average specimen, but their habitat and societal structure, as well as their typical role in a campaign, what treasure they would likely have, dangerous variants, and where they would be found in Golarion. Of course, if you don’t play in Golarion it will still give you an idea of the climate and general environment in which you could place them in whatever world you adventure in.

This is a fantastic resource for low-level campaigns, especially for veteran GMs and players. The variants of common monsters can bring a certain amount of mystery to even the most grizzled, campaign-proven adventurers; and the section on campaign role and ecology of the monsters is a sure-fire cure for GM writer’s block. This is a great book, and the first of a series of “revisited” titles by Paizo. This one is a keeper.

Kickstarter Game Roundup – March

March 6, 2012 1 comment

Skyland Games has long been a supporter of game kickstarters. Hosting the RPG blog carnival this month, we figured we might present some excellent examples of current game projects. The three we’re presenting for this month represent the kind of variety and different approaches from various kickstarters you can find any given month on the site. These all seem to have some good momentum and are worthy of a moment of your time.

First up, Velociraptor! Cannibalism! This is a light-hearted, hilarious card game in which each player starts out with a velociraptor that gains characteristics of other animals as play progresses. Your ‘raptor may have the head of a wolf, and the legs of an elephant for instance. Your choices give you certain advantages, but the greater the advantage, the more cute, helpless animals you have to eat to survive. The cannibalism comes in to play when another player has an animal part that you want. You then attack that player, and if successful, take that animal part and attach it to your ‘raptor. It look like it would make for a really funny game night!

Switching gears, I present Mobile Frame Zero: Rapid Attack. This looks like a war gaming system based around mecha made of Lego! Cool! It doesn’t necessarily have to be Lego, but the mechs they made on the kickstarter page look really cool. If I was the project manager on this, not only would I sell the kits as a backer reward (they’re already sold out) I would sell the plans for backers who want to see how these cool mechs are made. Game play is based around several colors of six-sided dice. When you make your mech you allocate different amounts of dice into different stats. Movement looks like its based on inches on the table using a tape measure. While you’ve got your bricks out making mechs, why not make some terrain! This looks like a really fun alternative to other miniatures games that can get really expensive. Not that legos are cheap, but at least you can build a lot of different mechs with them. Awesome concept!

And finally, a strategy card game that pokes a little fun at the RPG community, Edition Wars. Do you have strong opinions about which edition of the most popular fantasy RPG is the best? Battle for supreme edition supremacy in Edition Wars! Each player is a Gamemaster competing for players to assemble a complete party of six gamers. The weapons at your disposal include Snark, Blog (HEY!), and Merch. With a brand new edition of Dungeons and Dragons on the horizon, this game couldn’t have come at a better time. We all hope that the gaming community learned from past experiences, but judging from the shenanigans that ensued at the very announcement of a new edition, it’s clear that some of us haven’t. Prove you’re right once and for all, on the interwebs and now around the game table with Edition Wars!

Hope you guys enjoyed these projects. They’re all still excepting backers as of this posting and look to be a lot of fun. Contribute to someone’s independent game, and help make a cool idea into a cool game, and maybe the next great gaming company!