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?