Friday, October 30, 2009

X-Men Evolution

Hulu currently has all 4 seasons of this cartoon available for streaming on their site.

If you have the slightest interest in comics, the x-men specifically, animation or just good storytelling, I encourage you to watch this, especially for free.

You can also get the first three seasons from Netflix, but the wrap-up 9 episodes of the 4th season are (I think) only available from Hulu for now.

Anyway, it recasts most of the X-men as high school students, with Prof X, Beast, Storm and Wolverine as older professors.

The students on the show attend a nearby high school undercover, where the brotherhood of evil mutants (Blob, Avalanche, Rogue, Toad and Quicksilver) are their fellow students/rivals.

It does a great job of melding superheroics and teen/high school angst, along the lines of Smallville.

It's probably my favorite form of the x-men outside the comics. Yes, I like it better than the movies (though I do happen to like the movies too).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dragon Age Origins TV Spot

More DAO goodness out today.

This game is going to be awesome.

(Golden) Ageism

Over at Grognardia, James gives what I would call short shrift to the Temple of Elemental Evil.

Given that I've said, on numerous occasions, that it's the best adventure module of all time, I guess that wouldn't be hard.

Still, James' post reads like a manifesto of the "one true way" philosophy of the old school.

I touched on this in my recent post A Portrait of the Game Designer as a Young Man.

One big part of the one true way is that, at some time in the past, there was a golden age where TSR made products for the love, and they were all big happy sandboxes.

Then, at some point, around the mid-80's, it all broke bad and the game became about the money. This is when Gygax began releasing his "repudiated" works: Unearthed Arcana, Temple of Elemental Evil, Isle of the Ape and Oriental Adventures.

Now, since another part of the "one true way" school is an exegesis of the "pure" Gygax, later works like Temple of Elemental Evil, which was partially co-written by someone else, are especially suspect.

Though as I pointed out in my earlier post, this doesn't seem to prevent repudiation of Unearthed Arcana.

But in the case of ToEE, we see all the things these folks don't like: Gygax not solely involved; suspected reason for the module's release being that evil "money" thing; and *shudder* perhaps worst of all: the module has a story.

I know this sounds like I'm beating up on James a little. Please don't read it that way. I love his blog and check it every day and find it consistently entertaining.

In fact, I thanked him in World of Arkara's first book because reading his blog makes me want to read, play and ultimately write more old-school type stuff.

However, I do think old-schoolers try to separate the old school into WAY too many "small toy boxes".

I prefer only two toy boxes: good stuff, and bad stuff.

I don't care if it's 3e, d20 Modern, Spycraft or AD&D 1e. My only goals are to keep the good toy box as full as possible, and the bad toy box empty (hopefully to good homes of people who will play those games I don't personally like).

I don't care if Gygax wrote it by himself, or if 30 people wrote it.

And I don't care if it has a story or not, as long as the PCs have sufficient freedom.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mind. Boggled.

So in perusing some Fallout3 modsites (readers of my Facebook page will know I recently re-inserted the needle of FO3) I came across this site:

This is a site that sells Diablo 2 Magic Items for cash.

Diablo II came out in 2000. In terms of PC games, that might as well be the 70's.

Although, in checking wikipedia to verify D2's release date, I was similarly boggled to see that the last official patch for the game was released by Blizzard in 2008 (!) so apparently there are a lot of people who have no intention of moving on from this game until Diablo 3 is released?

As the title says: Mind. Boggled.

A portrait of the game designer as a young man

Although I occasionally identify myself as a grognard, it's always a bit tongue in cheek.

Although I am without a doubt a Gygaxian, the weird, invisible boxes many grognards want to stuff old games into is at times frustrating, amusing and downright puzzling to me.

You can especially see this in the progression of Gygax from hip, indie designer, slowly morphing into corporate powerhouse and then magically, back to hip indie designer.

ODD is definitely the hip, indie golden age for Gygax. Somehow, he maintains this luster for most of his AD&D period, despite overseeing some definite cold, calculating business decisions.

But when Unearthed Arcana is released, coincidentally the last AD&D book on which Gygax was a major designer, many nerds draw a line in the sand and refuse to accept it.

I think, maybe, because you can SMELL the "business" on that book. Unearthed Arcana was unabashedly released for one reason: TSR needed money.

Oriental Adventures was rushed out for the same reason.

And it worked. TSR survived, at least long enough to show Gygax the door and usher in 2nd edition as another source of capital.

So for gamers who regard themselves as Gygaxian to reject Unearthed Arcana is one of those places where the old school movement gets weird for me. They try to get as far back to the beginning as possible, find an exegesis of the "pure Gygax", then use that as a justification for their rejection of a book he most certainly was the prime architect of, while simultaneously holding him up as the standard by which all other game designers should be judged.

I think, trying to separate Gygax the hip indie designer from the cold businessman is a big mistake. Unearthed Arcana was most definitely NOT the first book he greenlit for monetary reasons.

That would be AD&D itself, as well as the Red Box games (aka Basic D&D). AD&D was largely in place within the framework of ODD, through the various supplements that had been released.

The re-release, in hardback form, of various supplements and Dragon articles, putting the official stamp on them, is exactly what Unearthed Arcana was.

In short, the "late Gygax" and the "early Gygax" are most decidedly the same guy.

He was the greatest game designer who ever lived.

But he wasn't Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King or the Easter Bunny. He was just a guy who happened to have a great gift for writing awesome games.

Trying to turn him into anything else requires serious mental gymnastics.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Some super pretty Dragon Age concept art

That's right, more Dragon Age!

I got a big selection of pics today from my man Romeo, and I am in a sharing mood.

And now, a word from Dragon Age

Man, I hope someone did a hard save recently.

Echelon X at the Grand OGL Wiki

Today the Grand OGL Wiki continues its awesome support of Supers20 with a new villain for your campaigns: Echelon X, along with a new occupation: super-terrorist.

Thanks guys!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

12 to Midnight releases: Horror20

This book is awesome. You should pick it up.

Seeing other people do stuff for Modern20 is something that makes me damn proud, especially when its something this good.

Hey look at that!

I just did an entire post about game design on my game design blog!

I remember when this place had a focused vision and mission.

I think that lasted about 5 minutes.

Loot and exploration

I am writing the first official adventure for my World of Arkara OSRIC campaign setting.

Stop me if you heard this: it's a sewer adventure underneath the city.

Not content to MERELY rip off 25% of all TTRPG adventures, I've added a little old school loot collecting. 17 people have gone missing.

The PCs have been asked to take care of whatever is going on in the sewers, but they've also been asked to return the corpses for burial. The more corpses returned, the greater the reward.

In fact, at least 75% of the monetary return comes from corpse retrieval.

I am wondering if I should TELL my players any of this though.

I have a lot of theories about RPGs which are often disbelieved/disagreed with by folks, and one of them is that the most important elements of RPG design are: character development (and by this I mean mechanical development- stats changing over time), exploration, and loot, ESPECIALLY loot collection.

So as I design this adventure, I am wondering whether I should tell my players "there are 17 corpses, get them all and you get a bigger reward" or if I should just let a thorough search of the dungeon be its own reward.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dragon Age: Sacred Ashes

This is easily the best trailer yet. I like the idea of a fantasy party filled with absolute bad asses.

Things you should be reading: Grand OGL Wiki

So I mentioned Horror20, but there's another cool thing going on for Modern20 fans I don't think I've talked about enough: the Grand OGL wiki.

While a lot of what goes into the wiki is just OGC, and there's a TON of open content there to peruse, they also do a free e-zine every month or so that is packed with gaming goodness and usually includes some modern20 support.

They also release little digital previews, and the last two have been for Modern20.

So go check it out and you can see a modern20 vampire couple, some supers done up for Supers20 and 4C, and if you pick up the last issue of the dm sketchpad, you can read a forward by me, in which I talk about the uncharted future ahead for us in a multi-OGL game world.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Results of the BioWare excursion thus far.

So having heard I was playing KOTOR and KOTOR II, my brother got me Mass Effect and Jade Empire for my birthday, which officially makes him the best brother EVER.

Results so far:

Mass Effect is freaking rad. Astonishingly so in fact. I expected to really be meh on this game, because every preview focused on how great the branching dialog trees were.

Why did no one mention the hiding behind cover, then ducking out to shoot evil aliens in the face?!

Jade Empire is the game I expected to develop a deep, monogamous, hetero man-crush on and its left me a bit meh. It has some weird glitches to the combat and it is a game that is primarily ABOUT that combat.

This makes for some seriously frustrating moments.

I am sure I will finish it though, just because I like the world and the story they're telling. But not till after Mass Effect.

Friday, October 02, 2009

And speaking of Dragon Age

New trailer revealing the city of Denerim today. Awesome.

“Denerim, the capital of Ferelden, began originally as an outpost of the ancient Tevinter Imperium. Its mages rose up a dark tower from the side of a mountain, a symbol of the Imperium’s power. As the Imperium faded, the tower passed to the hands of the teyrns that ruled the region for a millennium.

Today that tower still stands as Fort Drakon, immediately recognizable to any ship that approaches the rocky coast. The city that has sprung up around it has almost been carved out of the side of the mountain it rests on, and during the Dragon Age, its population has grown beyond the city’s ability to cope. The cramped districts, joined to each other by a network of bridges, are built one almost on top of the other. The narrow streets of the Lower Docks have an almost labyrinthine quality, and the walled-off Elven Alienage is so overpopulated that several purges have been required to keep order.

To the rest of the world, Denerim is most famous as the birthplace of Andraste. In typical Fereldan fashion, however, the monument erected to the prophet in the Palace District is unassuming—a great rock adorned with a simple message of peace. Worshippers come from far and wide to touch the Birth Rock and issue a quiet and respectful prayer. This is how things are done in Denerim, and the locals would have it no other way.”

-- From In Pursuit of Knowledge: The Travels of a Chantry Scholar, by Brother Genitivi


So it's my 41st birthday and I treated myself. Having recently played KOTOR and KOTOR II, I decided to build on that success and bought myself Jade Empire and Mass Effect through Steam today.

I'm downloading Jade Empire first because, HELLO, martial arts!

Short reviews of KOTOR and KOTOR II:

KOTOR is brilliant, pretty much perfect in every way.

KOTOR II is awesome but you can tell someone was standing over them with a whip the entire time yelling at them to "get the game out NOW!" which makes for some rough spots. Still very worth playing.

And as the culmination of my Bioware kick, I am really really salivating over the upcoming release of Dragon Age.

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