Freitag, 16. November 2012

3d Printing Dungeon Tiles

A little while back I spent some time modeling a small set of dungeon tiles with Blender. I first posted some snapshots of these tiles over at the Cartographers' Guild. And later I ended up creating a few dungeon maps with these tiles which can be found at DriveThruRPG and its sister sites.

Dungeon Tiles Snapshot

And while I thought that these tiles looked pretty decent I still wanted something more. This longing was probably rooted in the fact that no matter how nice those tiles looked on screen they couldn't quite measure up to something like the fantastic tiles of Dwarven Forge. It does make a difference after all if you can touch them.

Sadly I'm not much of a sculptor if the sculpting is not done with a 3d modeling software. I blame my clumsy fingers. And for the longest time I did not consider the possibility of having tiles created using a 3d printing service. From the early days of 3d printing it has been rooted into my brain that this process is crazily expensive. Still I decided to look into it again. And while 3d prints are still expensive they are much more affordable now.

And while I have little hope that the prices of 3d printed tiles could match those of cast sets I decided to look into the possibility anyway. The first step will be redesigning those tiles. Design for print is after all something different then design for rendering. A first attempt at such a redesign is the blank 2 x 2 plain floor tile.

Example Tile Redesign

Now I have to look into how expensive such prints would be. I guess I'll try Shapeways first. If one of you can point out a decent competitor I'd be grateful, but from what a quick search on the internet revealed they seem best suited at first glance. Next I'll have to try and assemble at least a little dungeon from printed tiles. And, of course I still need to find out if there is any interrest in such products at all. Having a few tiles for myself is fine, but if other people were interrested in them it would be even better. Thus let me ask you right away, would you be willing to invest into custom printed dungeon tiles? Would the possibility to assemble your own sets tile by tile outweigh the higher cost compared to large sets of cast tiles?

I'm looking forward to some feedback. And just maybe this could become a slightly bigger project for next year.

Dienstag, 13. November 2012

Traveller Capital Ship Design

For quite a while now I wanted to design a cruise ship that would be compatible with Mongoose Traveller. I started small designing some small support craft for the ship, but now I have finally arrived at the daunting task of designing yet another capital ship. And although I'm not quite certain about the final size of the ship (I am currently pondering sizes from just a few thousand dT all the way up to a Megaton ship) it will be most certainly a capital ship. And while the rules for crunching out the ship's statistics are simple enough, especially if it is not supposed to become a high end military ship, trying to design a ship plan on that scale is intimidating me. 

After all it is a cruise ship. A ship supposed to offer its well paying passengers all kinds of distractions and entertainment. Hangardecks, engineering, controll and command, crew decks and cabins for the passengers, all are simple enough. Restaurants, malls, parks, casinos, theatres, maybe even an artificial beach or giant aquarium are a different matter entirely. In my mind the ship is bocoming more of a location than a simple spaceship. It will certainly be an interresting experience to try and fit all that into a single spaceship. As finishing the design might take a while you can have a look at an early design snapshot:

Capital cruise ship, early snapshot

Mittwoch, 17. Oktober 2012

Spaceship Design still going strong

Just the other day I tweeted about the next Traveller compatible spaceship in the design queue giving me a bit of trouble. The craft in question is supposed to be some kind of maintainance tug. And it is supposed to match the look of the last few ships I released. It is not proving to be an easy task to match up design and purpose. Here is a little snapshot of the current look:

Maintainance tug snapshot

Even if I am not quite happy with its overall look, I have to admit that I am rather fond of its grappling arms. Of course the design is still very much a work in progress and may yet drastically change.

This small, or not so small craft together with the shuttles and the fighter craft released recently are supposed to go on the equipment list of a larger ship, a capital cruise ship, the design of which has been spooking around the back of my mind for a while now. I might just complete my series of pirate ships first though. That one is still lacking a pirate terror ship, most likely with an ortillery spinal mount, and a nice, probably derelict, treasure ship.

Mittwoch, 10. Oktober 2012

Book? Or eBook?

It has been a while. This time around I want to talk about a question that has been bothering me as of late. Should I get a real book or an eBook version of the various RPG products I would like to get? As it turned out at times this can be quite a tricky question. At least for me. What lead to my dilemma?

Most of the products in question are adventure modules. Quite sizeable adventure modules at that. On one hand the electronic version is, as is quite common, is at least a bit cheaper than the printed version. Usually these products are delivered as PDFs. With them I have an easy time printing hand outs, no matter if they are maps, letters or character portraits.

On the other hand I'm the kind of person who does not like having a full sized laptop or even a big tablet computer at the gaming table. For the record I don't mind if my players bring them for their character sheets and other odds and ends, but for me anything that would be really useful at the gaming table is too expensive. Batteries running out halfway through a long gaming session or the device in question crashing are other reasons I'm not using them.

I have considered using less powerful devices like a Kindle. Reading on my Kindle is, in my opinion, easier on my eyes, it is not prone to crashing and it would have to be a very long RP session indeed for its batteries to run out. But I have a different kind of problem with those. The root of this problem lies in the formatting of RPG products. You might have noticed that two or more columns are very common. A page formatted like that, displayed on a small handheld device is downright impossible to read.

What options do I have left? I could print the adventure module! Sadly with adventures weighing in at up to two hundred pages, with a lot of nice illustrations that is not really an option. Printing a book like that at home is prohibitively expensive. If I were willing to spend that amount of money I am better off just getting the nice hard cover version with built in bookmark. By now you probably can guess that I got the print versions of the books in question. Even if I have to put in some extra work creating all the necessary handouts, this was the better choice. 

For shorter adventure modules or short scenarios I probably would go with the eBook version though. I'm fine with PDF versions of rules books and campaign books as well, as I more often than not read them only on my big screen when preparing for a game session. But, enough of my opinion on the matter, how would you decide? For what reasons?

Mittwoch, 19. September 2012

Review "An fremden Gestaden"

It has been a few days, and I originally inteded to write a review for another product of the "Das Schwarze Auge" line. Then I received my copy of "An fremden Gestaden" in the mail and I decided to go with this book instead.

"An fremden Gestaden" is something new in more way than one. For one the hardcover book of approximately 160 pages tries to adopt a new format, a format you might be familiar with from other games. This book is both adventure and regional description, something I have not seen in books of the DSA line before. And on the other hand the book introduces a new continent to the game: The mysterious southern continent of Uthuaria.

First off, let's have a look at the adventure part of the book. I don't want to go into too much detail about its content, so let me summarize that the heroes are supposed to partake or even lead a perilous expedition to a mysterious, far off land. Myth has it that there are cities of gold, strange creatures and possibly even the secret of eternal youth to be found.

The first part of the adventure focuses on organizing such an expedition for one of several possible employers. The players might be able to pick up a number of side quests at this stage as well. Some of them might even be conflicting. Organize ships, crews, gain the aid of special NPCs etc. The book provides tables and NPC descriptions for choices like that. And although some choices are suggested, both players and game master have a lot of leeway here.

The second big part is the actual journey. A long travel across a mostly unknown ocean. The chapter again offers tables for random events off all kinds and descriptions of locations that could be found during this journey. Again much is up to players and the game master. No fixed course is suggested and most encounters along the way are not fully detailed, as too much depends on the player's characters actions. Still the game master is provided with enough information to arrange a veritable odyssey for his players.

The third part, is about establishing a kind of beachhead on the new strange continent and exploring the surrounding land. All the while the players will have to face a slowly emerging mysterious threat. Sadly not much information is provided about establishing the colony. If a group of players wants to emphasize that, the game master will have to improvise. On the other hand this part provides a few interlinked modular plots taking place roughly at the same time. Once again much depends on how the players decide to approach things.

The last part of the book is dedicated to a short description of the new land, especially the cultures inhabiting it and rules needed to integrate them into play as characters. All the while the book still leaves many questions unanswered, which in my addition adds to the mysterious flair of this new and mysterious land.

As a conclusion I would like to say that this adventure is best for players that want to interact with the game world and game masters that are comfortable improvising based on their players input and the rudimentary background information provided. If you prefer adventures with a railroad straight plot and all details ironed out in advance this book might not be for you. Another little shortcoming are the spelling errors I stumbled across rather regularly. Especially as most of them seem to be silly word or letter substitution errors caused by spellchecking software. A big plus for the book is its interior art, the individual pieces are superb and their style matches throughout the book. 

Generally speaking I am very pleased by the book and I do not regret buying the slightly more expensive hardcover version instead of the PDF version. Once again I'd like to ask you to let me know if you found this review helpfull or if you think I could have done better in one way or another.

Dienstag, 14. August 2012

Upcoming: More Mecha, Spaceships & Bundles!

August is turning out to be Mecha and spaceship month. Currently there is one more pack of Mecha stock images in the works. Once it is finished I'll probably create a Bundle containing all three Mecha Stockart packs released over at DriveThruRPG at a slight discount as well. Expect it sometime next weekend. In the meantime you can have a look at the cover:

Cover for the Mecha 3 Stockart collection

The next Traveller compatible spaceship will be an asteroid monitor. A system defense and traffic control asset. Not terribly mobile, but equipped with enough fire power and state of the art sensors to scare of most pirates. 3d design for this one is done, but I'm not quite happy with the deck plans yet. Stats are not entirely fixed yet either. Still confident that I'll be able to release it next week before going back to designing some pirate vessels.

Cover for Traveller compatible Asteroid Monitor

Battlemaps will see a temporary move away from the recent dungeon theme as well. The next release in the line will be based on a naval theme for a change before I finish the last two dungeon rooms currently planned. Considering creating a MEGA Bundle for this product line containing the 100 first maps, possibly at half price. Another idea would be a number of themed bundles. Maybe a modern bundle, a naval bundle, a siege bundle, etc. You get the idea. Currently in favor of the second idea.

Samstag, 4. August 2012

More Mecha & Spaceships

Mecha and spacships. Aside from regular battlemaps these will feature prominently during August. The battlemaps for August will mostly be dungeon themed, as were the last few releases in that line, like the free anniversary Cretan Laybrinth. Some will be about rather stereotypical square or rectangular rooms. Others will feature more exciting special rooms of various kinds. Together they should enable any game master to build exciting dungeons.

A short while ago I announced my interest in releasing a 4E Mecha product. As you might have been able to guess I decided against a 4E release in the end. Instead I decided to release a pack of stockart renders of Mecha. Plans for August 2012 include a follow up on this release with more stock renders of slightly more modern Mecha. Have a sneak peek at the cover:

Cover for Stockart : Mecha 2

Curiously enough my first Traveller compatible starship booklets did take off quite well. As a result I'll follow them up with a few more. Currently under production is a naval fuel tender. Designing this ship I came to understand why there are comparatively few capital ships for Mongoose Traveller. Designing deck plans for them, even simpliefied ones like mine, is quite a challenge. I might just go back to smaller ships for most future releases in this line. Unless there is popular demand for more capital ships. Another cover to give you a glimpse at things to come:

Cover : Starships Book I00 Fuel Tender

Freitag, 20. Juli 2012

Rule Systems & Licenses

I have made some posts about RPG rule systems in the past. I ranted in most of those, at least to a degree. I probably annoyed one or another who bothered to read these blog posts. I must admit I don't like my own rants either. Enough so that I decided to go about it a bit more constructive. 

Over the years I bought numerous RPG rule books, in part to see if I could find the one rule system that would fit me perfectly. As some of you could guess I was of course doomed right from the start, although I came so very close with the recent release of the Contact! roleplay game and the rules it uses. That rule system was as close to perfect in my eyes as anything written by someone else could be. And that is the point exactly. If I wanted a rule system that would fit me perfectly I would need to either write it myself or find an author that could read my mind. Most of you will agree that the former is ever so slightly easier than the latter.

Thus I decided to try and write a system of RPG rules myself. "Duh!" you will say. There have been only thousands of others who have tried. But like with many other gamers and game masters I have had ideas about it floating around the back of my mind for years. With me those ideas where never very clear until I got into contact with my first percentile rule system written by someone else. I think it was a second edition book of the Warhammer Fantasy RPG.

Ever since then those ideas have become a more clear. I think it helped that I had to take a few hours worth of courses on statistics in college. Reading through many more rule systems and other designers blogs since then probably didn't hurt either. By now those ideas have resolved themselves into a few pages worth of scribbled notes in a spiral notebook. What do I want to do with those notes now? Well, I feel inspired to try and put those notes into order and turn them into a readable PDF document which I could release for some peer review (in a very loose sense of the word).

"Peer review?" you might ask. "Are you not afraid that someone else will steal the ideas?" The answer would be no. I'm not afraid, as I plan to release it as an open game system, probably under a creative commons license. Why release my ideas under a license that allows others to copy them for free? Well, if you managed to read through some of my other blog posts you might know that I'm of the opinion that a RPG company (or an individual) should not try to make their money through the sale of a rule system. Instead they should sell content for that rule system. An opinion by which I stand.

And it is hard enough to not write up a rule system that reads like a rip off of any one of the many other rule systems out there anyway. Walking on the right side of the thin line between simple inspiration and stealing someone else's ideas will probably be one of the biggest challenges. There are after all only so many ways to make use of some basic principles of probability theory. I already noticed when brainstorming for a working name. With all the other rule systems and creative people out there picking a name and a logo that, as far as I know, is unique was a tough first challenge. Here is quick preview of the cover I use for my work in progress document (as a kind of appetizer):

Work in progress cover mockup

More information on this project later. Probably once I'm ready to ask for a first round of feedback. In the meantime I'd like to mention something else I stumbled upon. A blog post my Monte Cook to be precise. It is titled "A+". Read it, in my opinion its worth the few minutes of your time it will take. Anyway, I'd like to adopt this as my second project for the time being. Have a positive attitude! It will be challenging enough for me for sure, but I'll try anyway. Wish me luck.

Mittwoch, 11. Juli 2012

Anniversaries & Space Ships

It seems that ever so slowly I'm approaching the 100th map aniversary. In addition it is almost a year since I uploaded the first of those maps to DriveThruRPG on August 1st in 2011. Current plans include the release of an aniversary mapas the 100th map the last week of July. Just not sure yet what the theme of that map will be.

Until then the month's schedule will include the release of at least one more Traveller compatible space ship. For a change not a pirate ship, but possibly a rewarding mark for a pirate. Here is a quick preview of the Work in Progress Cover:

Yacht Cover Preview

"Fire!", the adventure module I'm currently working on is not making as much progress as I would have liked. Writing elaborate character and location descriptions is taking longer than I like. It doesn't help that I tend to make adjustments to the maps and the plot time and again. Trying to keep that plot non linear is no picnic either. Still it is growing page by page. Expect an update on its maps soon at the very least.

Dienstag, 10. Juli 2012

Retro or not so retro Gaming

Over the years I have amassed quite a collection of Pen&Paper roleplay products. Some of them are solid hardcover books, but  just as many are soft covers and boxed products. Not to mention all the PDFs I purchased since I discovered DriveThruRPG. I'm not quite sure I should call any of them Retro, as the oldest among them are my crates full of 3rd edition books and boxes from "Das Schwarze Auge". And none of those are older than about eighteen years. Still I get a nostalgic feeling when I pick them up these days.

And that is something I have done quite often as of late. I find myself browsing through the books of one RP series or rule system or another. And with many of them I get the, probably somewhat unreasonable, urge to buy another book or two that I am still missing. Something especially true for the felt bazillion d20 setting products I own. So far I have mostly resisted that urge, but at the very least I tend to look those books up on Amazon, Ebay, the publishers webpage and if there is a chance that there might be a PDF version of it, at DrivethruRPG or its sister sites.

As is to be expected with series that have fallen out of fashion or are downright out of print the products that can actually be found tend to be quite pricy. Sometimes to the point where it becomes ridiculous. Really ridiculous. Most books are to me not worth the price of a 1000+ pages monster like Monte cook's Ptolus. This is probably the main reason I managed to resist the urge to buy any. The other reason is that there is not even a snowball's chance in hell that I will get to play or master a game for even half the systems I already own. The last reason those old and not so old games only manage to elict a nostalgic sigh at best is that I have found the two or possibly three RP systems that come as close to my idea of perfect as is possible. At least that is what I would like to think. 

The first of those would be the 4th Edition DSA system. A very solid point buy system with a setting so rich on information that I doubt I could find an equal. No, not even the good old Forgotten Realms come close. The second would be the Warhammer 40k Systems. Any percentile system is in my mathematically inclined mind superior by default. It helps of course that the Warhammer 40k games have, again, a strong license at it's back. And the third and most recent addition to this list would be the Contact! RPG. Again a percentile system, even better implemented than the Warhammer one if you ask me. An additional plus would be its learning by doing approach, doing away with traditional XP. Its background or game world is not as throughoutly flashed out as for the first two, but it still manages to invoke a powerful sense of deja vu for anyone who liked any of the UFO / X-COM games.

After a few paragraphs of my rambling (sorry I did that again), maybe I should sum up what I look for in a Pen&Paper RPG :

  • A mathematically sound system. Preferably one using a percentile system to express challenges and the like. Preferably without any artifical built in level caps.
  • Said mathematically sound system should have no problems providing GMs with the mathematics necessary to build content of their own.
  • One or more licenses to allow your gamers and game masters to share content they created, for free or for money.
  • A system that does not reduce role play to a combat simulation. This one really important. Combat is fine. Battlemaps are too. But it should never ever be all your RPG is about. Else you are better of calling it a wargame.
  • A rich world into which the game is set. A single Campaign book just won't do. Book upon book describing parts of the world, to the point where a dedicated GM will never have to use a generic NPC or building, unless he really wants to.
  • Adventure modules by the dozen! The writers at Paizo are doing something right there with their adventure paths if you ask me.
  • A noticeable lack of splat books introducing new classes, items, rules, ... those have become a serious turn off for me (looking at you D&D).
  • A long product life. A new edition every few years? Not with me. Not anymore. Your system should be solid enough that it can make do with regular errata at the most (!) for decades. Make money by selling applications of your rule system instead of selling ever new rule systems!
A bit more elaborate than my last blog on the topic. And don't mistake me, I still like browsing through my collection of RPGs. They still make me feel nostalgic. But when I pick up the books I can't help but think that most of them, even my favorites, are somewhat lacking in one regard or another. 

Now let me ask you, what do you want from a Pen&Paper role play game? What are you looking for? Take a minute and share your thoughts.

Donnerstag, 21. Juni 2012

"CONTACT - Das Taktische UFO-Rollenspiel" Review

About a week ago I stumbled across something that piqued my interest like nothing else has for a few years now. Browsing for d20 modern campaigns I by chance found the pretty much fresh of the press CONTACT role playing game. It was advertised, as the german title suggests, as a tactical UFO role playing game. And as a long time fan of games like UFO: enemy Unknown and X-COM: Terror from the Deep I was almost immediatly hooked.

Contact Cover

The only thing that kept me from buying the game immediately was the rather steep price. A price tag of about €50 is quite something, even among other rather expensive German role playing games. Still, I decided to indulge myself and to go ahead and commit the sin of wanton spending. Now, not quite a week later, I'm the proud owner of the book shown in the picture above. And it is just about everything I expected and then some more.

I haven't read it throughout yet. That will still take me a day or two. But even after just giving all its major sections a brief glance I couldn't suppress the urge to recommend the game to others, and maybe write a little review.

The Rules: like advertised the game uses a percentile system. Thus I take the liberty to call it a d100 system. Character Creation is done with a point buy mechanic. Characters could be roughly described as the combination of abilities, traits (advantages, disadvantages and neutral traits) and skills. I must admit, that I am rather fond of percentile RPG systems in general, but here my first impression went even way beyond that. This system is in my opinion as close to perfect as it can be.  

Addendum - Character advancement: I still have to mention this, which is mostly done by a leraning by doing approach that gets progressivly harder the better you are at something. Just rememebr dear game masters, if your players decide to level by frog jumping everywhere (or something similar) whack them with a big stick.

Combat: You could argue that combat is obviously part of the rules in general, but I felt it necessary to mention it on its own. Combat in CONTACT is Action Point based. Every character has a number of action points available on each "turn" of combat and all actions cost a certain amount of APs. APs determine how much you can do, and when you can do it. I probably should not go into much more detail here. Anyway, the system as described in the book should guarantee both smooth and action loaded combat sequences. And anyone familiar with the old UFO games should feel some nostalgia.

The Setting: As could be expected the game is firmly set into a slightly dark future version of our earth. The setting as described reminded me of my old Shadowrun experiences as well as, again, the old UFO games.

The Book: Weighing in at 320 pages the hard cover is in my opinion best described as a high quality product. From front to back it is illustrated in full color and all the illustrations match in style and are appropriate for the setting. In addition the book comes with an attached bookmark.

Everything considered, I must say I am very impressed with this product. And I think it is well worth its price. An additional plus is, that the official page has bonus material for download, including character calculators. The one big wish of mine left unfulfilled up to now would be a release in other languages, especially in English. 

As always, feel free to leave a comment or correct me if I got anything wrong.

Sonntag, 17. Juni 2012

Adventure Mapping

I talked about my project "Fire!" a few times already. It is still going slow. Especially writing up extensive NPC descriptions (descriptions, not combat stat blocks!) is taking quite some time. But I think every character worth mentioning deserves a good description and some decent back ground story.

But that is not what I want to detail today. I migth do it another time though. Today I want totalk about maps. For this project I originally decided to go with hand drawn maps. I had them pretty much sketched and then decided to redo them. Noticing some problems with stairs and chimneys prompted me to do that. I will most likely include them as simple blind floor plans, for handouts.

I have been hanging out at the Cartographers' Guild lately though. And some of the genius work posted there by others has sparked a bit of ambition within me. Among other things it made me rediscover the isometric perspective for myself. Thus the idea was born to add the maps in another format for the game master, although there is nothing to stop a game mast from sharing these maps with his players. Not quite as a classical isometric map, but I like how it has started to turn out.

"Fire!" map prototype

Obviously the maps are not finished yet. I still need to redo two more floorplans. And the ones I used as textures for this snapshot still need to be inked and/or digitally cleaned up. For the final version each floor will probably get its own page sized high resolution render.

Samstag, 9. Juni 2012

Stock Art

Recently I mentioned a 4E Mech release and posted a first teaser image. As anyone visiting my Deviant Art page could tell I have been working on modeling some more Mecha since then. Although given my fantasy centric mindset when designing them I'm inclined to call them Golems rather than Mecha. And with all the rendered pictures already at my hands I decided to make them available as a stockart collection.

A spur of the moment decision and as a result the collection deviates slightly from my other stock render collections. This one has more images than the last releases in this line, but they are JPG images ratehr than PNG images with transparent background as they were originally rendered for my own use only. Still I hope you can make use of them.

As always, feel free to leave a comment. Especially if you need the collections content in a different format or with a resolution higher than 300 dpi. Want to see more and/or different Mecha designs? Let me know as well.

Samstag, 2. Juni 2012

One Page Dungeon, 4E "Fire!" and Hyperlinking

First of the results for the One Page Dungeon Contest are out. I would link directly, but it seems their page is currently down. For the time being have a look at the list of winners at Alex Schröder's blog. Sadly I didn't win anything, although honestly I didn't really expect to. Anyway I had a ton of fun creating my little entry and I shall try again for the next contest. Until then, heartfelt congratulations to all the winners.

In other news, I managed to finish my next map (due on Monday the 4th of June) a few days early. This gives me time to do some serious writing for my next 4E short adventure "Fire!". I already posted the current cover in my last blog post and by now I have sketches for half the maps finished as well. For a change they will be hand drawn maps and among them will be not a single battle map.

Writing this adventure is an entirely new challenge for me. Besides constructing a plot without railroading players and game masters the biggest challenge is completely hyperlinking the module. Something that almost instantly wins my favor when I read some one else's adventures or rule books. Mention a rule? Hyperlink it. Mention a side bar? Hyperlink it. Mention a location? Hyperlink! Mention a NPC? Hyperlink it! This sounds easy enough, but by now I know why not more writers do it. It is quite a chore, even if you do it from the start. Still, if you have the chance to do it you really should. I am certain just about any game master will thank you for it. Or at least that is my opinion. How do you feel about that?

Montag, 28. Mai 2012

"Fire!" and "4E Mechs"

Just in my last post I mentioned 4E GSL projects i'm currently working on. I thought I'd keep you updated on those. While I made no progress on the tower defense module I got a tentative cover for "Fire!", a modular non combat side track done. Have a look at a low resolution preview.

Tentative cover for "Fire!" a short 4E module

I mentioned at one point or another, probably on twitter, that I was sadened that WotC never published a 4E version (or any other update) of their D20 Modern line. While I don't think I'll take on a challenge of that scope I'm tempted to produce a little supplement with 4E Mechs, possibly both as gear and as opponents. Have a look at a little Mech I recently modeled. The model is up for sale at Turbosquid.

A possible 4E GSL Mech?

Dienstag, 22. Mai 2012

Maps and other Works in Progress

August 2011 I started publishing battlemaps. By now I am working on map number eighty three, to be released later this week. If I keep going like that i'll soon hit the 100 mark. Quite a surprise for me as I started with a list of about 20 ideas I could turn into maps. As the months passed this list didn't shrink in the slightest although I crossed out one idea after another. Today this list contains no less than fourty six potential map themes. Given my current pace that translates to about another six months of map making, in the unlikely case I have no more spontanous ideas which will add to that list.

So for my maps have been a wild mix of fantasy and modern maps. And it looks like it will stay that way. Although I currently prefere the modern maps for some reason. Maybe because there are a lot more maps suitable for fantasy setting out there than maps that can be used for a modern, Sci-Fi or steampunk game. How do you feel about that?

The title already hints at it, I want to talk not only about maps but about other things currently in production as well. These things are modules for 4E D&D and some more Traveller compatible game supplements. For the later I want to finally finish my update for the Pirate Interceptor, a little starship splatbook that has had more downloads than I initially expected even for a free product. And closely tied to this would be a few more pirate themed starship & locations I want to release. The biggest probelm with that? I seem to be terrible at penning or rendering deck plans. Still you will yet see the converted pirate mining barge, a pirate terror ship, the derelict treasure ship and a small pirate base.

In regard to 4E I'm currently working on another unconventional adventure. Or rather a short modular sidetrack with the working title "Fire!" that will be skill use and roleplay heavy.  Don't expect too much combat from this. It is not directly inspired by this Blog post from, but it sums up how I want to go about writing this module quite nicely. If this works out you can expect more unconventional challenges like this in the fututre, because Roleplay should be about more than combat.

Another idee that has been spooking around my head for a while is a 4E defense style game. I did some preliminary renders for it. Although this idea with the tentative title "Defense of Caer Usk" still needs a lot more thought and work you can have a look at them:

Tentative Observation Tower & Mortar Tower

I imagine the mechanics of 4E should fit this style of game pretty well. Pick your class, be a builder of one kind or another. Move about the map and place your defenses. Defeat wave after wave of assailants. Quickly level up by picking your builder powers. Etc. etc.  Your thoughts?

Donnerstag, 10. Mai 2012

"Drachentöter" Adventure Review

Just the other day my group managed to finish the first adventure in our new "The dark eye" / "Das Schwarze Auge" campaign and as their game master I feel tempted to try and write a review for it. First off let me mention that the adventure in question, just like most publications of the DSA RPG is only available in German. Still I will write my review in English, in regard to the diverse origin of this blog's visitors.


"Drachentöter" which can be translated as "Dragonslayer" is a short adventure, of about 19 pages, and part of the anthology "Stadtstreicher". It is written for the DSA4 rule system, but could be, in my opinion, an enrichment for any game.

 Cover of the adventure anthology Stadtstreicher by Ulisses Spiele

In this adventure the heroes aide a couple of tavern owners who just opened their tavern with a wide variety of problems ranging from competition and racketeering to haunts among other things. This already suggests that this is an urban adventure, but it is not tied to any specific town. With a little work by the game master it can be placed in almost any town of the setting. As a matter of fact I placed it in the town of Andergast, capitol of the kingdom going by the same name and probably best described as both slightly backwoods and backwater.

The adventure manages to combine a number of small plots in interesting ways and still leaves room for the game master to add a plot hook or two of his own. The individual plots can be pursued on their own, one after another or at the same time. I'd like to think my group enjoyed working on more than one plot, sometimes unwittingly until they figured it out, without a pressing need to go and save the world.

The book provides information for events that already have transpired and events that might yet transpire as the heroes uncover the individual plots. This includes information on how to handle it if a group of particular clever or crafty characters or players manage to derail your carefully laid plans. This information includes among other things flavorful descriptions and black & white illustrations of the various locations the heroes can visit and the numerous NPCs they can interact with and their relationships.

The adventure offers exploration, investigation and social interaction as well as combat encounters in a very balanced mix. During its course every character should have a chance to shine. And although I called it a short adventure, it took my group and me the better part of six sessions of variable length to bring it to its conclusion. Don't let the low page count fool you.

The only slight problem I had running this adventure was with the combat statistics provided for the very few combat encounters. Some of the numbers didn't quite add up for me. And anyone wanting to run this module for their group should be advised to read it throughout as the numerous plots and their twists are potentially as much of a challenge for an ill prepared GM as for the players.

Let me know if you liked this review or found it helpful. Don't be shy and tell me if you think I could do better in one way or another.

Dienstag, 8. Mai 2012

Elder Scrolls! Online?

I guess most people are by now aware, that an Elder Scrolls MMO is in development. Ans some of you might have been slightly shocked, even if you were expecting it. Just like me. And the more I read and hear about it the more disappointed I become.

Class (and most likely experience) based leveling system? That is just not Elder Scrolls. Absolutely not. Expect to see roles like Tank, Healer, Damage Dealer? Are you really sure you are making an Elder Scrolls game?

PVP? Sure! Factions? All elder scroll games had them by the (subjectively felt) dozen! I would have thought so anyway. But three super factions? Probably with a capitol each? NO! Absolutely not. Battlefields (maybe even instanced)? What the hell?

I still have a little hope for crafting. As Paul Sage mentioned in the recent interview, they are looking into it.

No modding plans? Well,  you either make the game look a lot better than what we have been shown until now (and a lot better than any competitor) or that won't fly. For a reminder TESO team. Your benchmark here is Skyrim!

And possibly the only thin annoying me more than the class based leveling. I heard mention that TESO will have a MMO typical quickbar. This almost sounds like TESO will be yet another button mashing online game?

Well, I'm ranting again. So what would I like to see in an Elder Scrolls MMO? Here are a few thoughts off the top of my head:

1) Skill based leveling. Like in Skyrim or Oblivion. Meaning: an elder scrolls system.
2) No Instances and no WoW like phasing. There should be one game world.
3) If your character dies, it stays dead. Endless resurrections just don't fit into the elder scrolls. If you want to take on a daedric prince you better be sure you brought enough people you can count on.
4) Weapon and spell management just like in Skyrim would be fine. No quickbar.
5) No click to hit stuff. Aiming attacks and evading them, again just like in Skyrim. Including friendly fire!
6) Elder scroll typical crafting. Including soul stones, enchanting, alchemy and smithing. Possibly include other crafting as demonstrated by various mods.
7) Free PVP. With the arenas known from Morrowind and Oblivion at most. No instanced battlefields.
8) Houses! Including breaking and entering. The thieves guild wants to have fun as well after all.
9) Bounties. Do whatever you want, but face the consequences when you get caught.
10) Player driven economy. Without an auction house. You sell stuff to vendors. And they only sell the stuff they get from you.

To sum it all up, I want to have Elder Scrolls typical gameplay in a persistent online world not your typical MMO set in the elder scrolls game world. Feel free to add more thing to the list you want or do not want. And of course, feel free to disagree with me.

Mittwoch, 2. Mai 2012

Choice Traps?

Today DnD Next published a new Blog article. It is titled "Avoiding Choice Traps". Just the other day I mouthed off "Leave me my choices" and you can imagine I might have been slightly irritated reading the title of that DnD Next Blog. Reading through the post in its entirety including the attached vote options this irritation receded slightly, but not completely.

How can it be that the bonus a RP Feat grants you is not worth as much as a bonus granted by a combat Feat? Are +X to a skill inherently worse than +X to attack, damage or defense? No, of course not! The problem, in my opinion, lies somewhere else entirely. If a roleplay bonus is not worth the same as a combat bonus it is because the modules / adventures / etc. focus on combat entirely too much.

In a writers guide for another company I just recently read something along the following lines: Your adventure has to feature indoor and outdoor exploration, social interaction and combat in roughly an equal measure, to allow all possible character builds to shine. This is of course only a rough translation, but I think it makes a point. The point being that WotC's adventures have been, for a very long time, quite bad at providing spot light moments outside of combat. Or maybe I have been playing the wrong adventures, but I have little hope that is the case.

Of course, if 75% (or more, that is really only a random number of the top of my head) of any given module will focus on combat, any RP feature, power, or whatever else will not be worth as much as a combat centered alternative. So of course I want separate feats addressing RP, exploration and combat. Roughly in equal measure if you can. What you need to change is the adventure design philosophy to make them all worth your time. If you manage to succeed there, there will be no choice trap.

Dienstag, 1. Mai 2012

Dumbing down our games?

Do we really need to dumb down RPGs, be they Pen & Paper games or games for PC and consoles? This is a question that I have been asking myself more and more as of late. Well of course, some games come to my mind that could do with a little simplification.

Rolemaster is the first that comes to mind, closely followed by Anima. Both systems are complex enough to keep me from wanting to play them. DSA, "Das Schwarze Auge" or "The Dark Eye" my current favorite game could be considered guilty of the crime of overboarding complexity as well. Especially the many optional combat rules make me shudder time and again.

So it is okay to simplify a game to a degree. No? The question is how much simplification is too much. When do we start to dumb the game down instead of simplifying it? Over the last few years we have seen a few games released that got a new streamlined edition. 

With some of these games the designers committed something I am tempted to call a cardinal sin though. They automated part of character advancement (Worst recent example in my opinion: Diablo3). This leads in my opinion to: No character development whatsoever. There you have what should in my opinion be the real question. Does a mechanic provide the players with an opportunity to develop their character? Or is the game master able to enrich his campaign with it? If the answer is "No", something is very wrong indeed. Wouldn't you agree?

Quite obviously I like a game system that comes with a bit of complexity. Preferable complexity in character creation and advancement. A complex setting or game world won't hurt me either. Numerous choices in actual game play? Hundred and one ways to solve any challenge or problem? Totally okay with me. To sum up a long blog entry (bordering on a rant once again): Leave me my choices! 

Let me know what you think. How complex should your game be? Where? Where not?

Donnerstag, 26. April 2012

Tabletop RPGs exciting me right now

Among the Tweets from half a dozen talkative people on my RPG list I almost missed that Monte Cook left Wizards of the Coast, quitting work on D&D. But more importantly, for me, I almost missed his "What's the tabletop roleplaying game that's got you excited right now?" Tweet. This is an important question for me, because it is something I actually wanted to talk about for a while.

To give a short answer, it is not D&D anymore, be it 3e or 4E. A few months ago, after many frustrating dungeon crawls in which I participated as a player, my group came to the conclusion that D&D had lost its appeal. Mostly because it lost touch with the R in RPG. Although there were other reasons as well, automatic advancement of skills, attack and defenses being one of the more prominent ones.

To make a long story with a few heated discussions short, we decided a switch to another RPG system was in order. Determining which system this would be was yet another story, with yet more heated discussions. Initially I would have preferred to game master Dark Heresy or Artesia Adventures in the Known World as I like the formers d100 System and the laters setting, but player interests lay elsewhere.

In the end we decided to return to our RPG roots. Now you might ask, how someones roots in the world of roleplaying games could not be D&D, especially considering the age bracket into which I fall. The reason for this is simple, I stem from a german speaking country. At the time I got started with roleplaying the local market was heavily dominated by Das Schwarze Auge and its game world Aventurien (The link leads to the german website of the publisher, as there never was an english translation - The dark eye - that really satisfied me). 

DSA in its latest version 4.1, my group decided, would be our new old game. And five game sessions later we are just about to finish our first short adventure and I do not regret this choice in the slightest (It probably helped that my players volunteered to buy the new rule books which are a tad on the expensive side, leaving me only with the expenses for the adventures.). 

There is the answer. Finally. The tabletop roleplaying game that's got me excited right now is:
 Das Schwarze Auge.

What has me so excited about DSA? Why do I not feel the same kind of excitement for D&D anymore?

  1. D&D had Dungeon Delves, lots of them. Especially 4E. Sadly I never got to play a 4E D&D game that was not a dungeon delve (If there actually are 4E modules from WotC or third party publishers that are not primarily dungeon delves I'd be grateful if you point them out to me).  DSA on the other hand has Adventures! Lots of them. Only in a rare few of them do you have to enter something resembling a dungeon even for a short period of time.
  2. Even after being away from DSA for quite a few years (enough to play three 3e campaigns and start one 4E game) I still remember more background info about its game world than I ever knew about any D&D setting. And with every day back to Aventurien I remember more of the Fluff.  And ever more gets published as the game world is a living one.
  3. The rules. No levels, point buy with classes that have almost more influence on the roleplay than on the game mechanics. Almost infinite possibilities to individualize your character, beyond what gear will I wear at which level. And especially I like the skill mechanics of DSA and the way that both magic and combat are esentially specialized applications of these mechanics instead of completely separate rule sets. (No in depth discussion of the rules as that would be beyond the scope of any single blog post.)
I guess trying to condense even half of this into a Tweet would have been quite a bit of work. Some of the above statements might be seen as critique on the 4E D&D rules set, which does not mean that I don't like 4E. As a matter of fact I still do, I just have trouble using it for roleplay. Well, that is enough rambling on my part. Feel free to respond, critically or otherwise.

Freitag, 20. April 2012

One Page Dungeon & ENnies 2012

Earlier this month, while following tweets and reading newsletters, two interresting things came to my attention. As the title suggests these were the One Page Dungeon Contest and the 2012 ENnies. In a spout of momentary enthusiasm I decided to submit entries for both. Writing a one page dungeon and doing some editing for one of your products at DriveThruRPG, couldn't be too hard after all. By now I know better. Still things are looking good.

Just a few moments ago I uploaded the revised version of "Forge of the Primordials" to DriveThruRPG and sent notifications to previous customers. Most of the work went into replacing the maps provided with versions of a higher resolution and with better contrast, to make sure they look decent when printed. Of course a multitude of typos and other small errors were corrected as well.

This experimental 4E D&D Raid Dungeon Delve will be my entry for the 2012 ENnie Awards. As mentioned in my author's notes I'm still very much open for feedback that could be incorporated into this product or into future Raid Dungeon Delves.

Next on the list would be my submission for the One Page Dungeon contest. This one is not quite as far along, but still making decent progress. By now the maps are mostly finished (they still need to be scanned and cleaned up a bit) and I have written a few short paragraphs of background info. the biggest challange remaining will be to fit this all and at least a short textual description of the map onto a single page and make it look good.

Early, unfinished version of the map for the One Page Dungeon

I guess this is enough rambling on my part for the moment. How is this for a "real" blog post? Any suggestions? More contests you could bring to my attention? Go ahead and let me know.

Dienstag, 10. April 2012

Inauguration Post

Well, I finally came around to set up a little blog, expanding my webpresence yet another little bit.

What will this blog be about? If you weren't able to guess by the title, it will be for the better part about tabletop roleplaying games. Although I might make one or another short excursion into 3d design. To be fair I have to admit, that I do most of my 3d modeling for my RPG releases though.

I started designing content and supplements for RPGs August 2011 and you should be able to find all the fruits of my labor over at DriveThruRPG (see the link in the sidebar to go to my publisher page). For the better part these are system independent products like maps and a few collections of stock renders. But if you look closely enough you will be able to find products published under the 4E GSL and the Traveller Logo License as well.

Only recently I decided to expand my portfolio a bit and make some of the 3d models I created available through TurboSquid (once again, see the appropriate link to the right). The portfolio is still small, but I hope to expand it as I go.

That's it for a short introduction. For more short term news follow me on Twitter. Next Blog post might be about my submission for this year's ENnie Award and just maybe the ENnies in general.