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Games Workshop open in Shanghai

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games workshop
Bit of a preface first. I'm aware that this is not the first shop opened here for these type of hobbies. I bought the miniatures I use in D&D games from the hobby shop in the Daning mall in Zhabei a while back and there's a place in Xin Tian Di too. And there's online shopping, but we'll get to that.

Anyway, Games Workshop have a newly opened Shanghai branch. It is entirely focused on its flagship table-top war games Warhammer and Warhammer 40 000 (the sci-fi version). They also have official Citadel tool kits, work stations and paints. The store (misleadingly called the Xu Jia Hui store on the cards) is at 153 Xu Jia Hui Road. That's a block along from the east end of Taikang Road, past Madang Road. 

The store is small but cool, the guys who work there, Leon and Caesar are friendly and knowledgeable and they have a game table set up for teaching you stuff and free games. They will also show you how to use the tool kits and paint the miniatures. That's why you should go to the physical store. They even stock White Dwarf Magazine and Warhammer spin off novels. The hard back bible of 40K, the 6th edition rule book is 450 rmb, but they also have the Dark Vengeance starter boxed set. That has the condensed rule book, the quick start guide, miniatures and all the dice and measures for 600 rmb (remember you play with others and split this). [Bane voice] Let the games begin!

(There's a Pudong store too: Exit 6 Science and Tech Museum, store KJ-025)

Rating D&D covers through history

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ph cover
I'm about to curse and rant about a D&D thing. For those not up with the latest developments, here's an overview post I wrote pertaining to the upcoming Wizards of the Coast 5th Edition:

And here's the article I'm reacting to, a Wizards long term employee talking about rating rule book covers:

Now on to the unfocused blather. If you're not really into this, stop here. 

So, there are the four Player's Handbook covers from AD&D 1 and 2, then Wizard's D&D 3 and 4. Firstly as to rating them and how to judge that, the answer is obvious. See also: most comments there. They get progressively worse. 

The pictured 1st Ed cover was a typically sketchy TSR early product but it embodies everything good about the game, especially at that time. A bit DIY and then showing a party checking a map, cleaning off a sword next to dead monsters and looting treasure from a cool location. Also you come to this game in many ways ... but being attracted by a shiny book cover as you shop for something else - having never before entertained the notion of playing - is not one of them. And for people into the game already, the cover becomes all but irrelevant.

If you look at the industry insider article on this that I linked - many things are revealed, especially through his criteria for judging the covers. I think it not only shows why the older ones were better - but gives us a clear view into how the 4th Ed was developed and then failed.

(5/5) D&D Theory - zen gameplay vs. menu play

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Picture: Tavern scene. From The Temple of Elemental Evil (TSR) I can't identify the artist and five were used on the book.

Part one, the overview, is here. But if you're not into D&D then what's the point. Credits repeated at the end.

I first felt the need to define the original game mechanic after playing V3.5 and then 4th edition rules, both WotC games. Player characters now had so many skills, stats and powers that whenever they wanted to do something in the game, they looked at their list to choose an action. I felt this was odd and I call it menu play.

I got around this by drawing my group's attention to the idea of the DM having DM's discretion and being able to make their own calls at times. But, those systems really push into menu play. When deciding to go back to TSR, I wanted to clearly define what menu play was not.

(4/5) D&D Theory - the toolbox

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the inner sphere
Picture: The inner sphere. From The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth (TSR) by Jeff Easley.

Part one, the overview, is here. But if you're not into D&D then what's the point. Credits repeated at the end.

This post is the most theoretical and throws up more questions than it answers. When comparing old school play with the linear story drive of the Dragon Lance series, we then ask what constitutes a good adventure? But we are talking about pre-written adventures. So first real question: if we like the old school play, do we need pre-written adventures at all?

Old school gamer and blogger James Maliszewki really likes TSR's The Lost City.

I played that early on too. What he likes about it is how the dungeon crawl, the suggested expansions and the minimal but idea laden background form a kind of toolbox.

(3/5) D&D Theory - the Hickman revolution

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Picture: In your face, Total Recall. From Palace of the Silver Princess (TSR) by Erol Otus

Part one, the overview, is here. But if you're not into D&D then what's the point. Credits repeated at the end.

The Hickman revolution was a sea change in D&D gameplay that husband and wife team Tracy and Laura Hickman brought about with their Dragonlance series. It also had a series of novelizations and products that saw the game step up commercially. Some see it as a reaction against the Gauntlet play in favor of story driven play. That's a tough one as the old style has story too. 

Maybe it's best to let them speak for themselves. When writing for an earlier series called Nightventure, they outlined four key points:

The following are word for word quotes:

1) A player objective more worthwhile than simply pillaging and killing.
2) An intriguing story that is intricately woven into the play itself.
3) Dungeons with some form of architectural sense.
4) An attainable and honorable end within one or two sessions playing time.

(2/5) D&D Theory - the eternal dungeon

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Picture: Storoper entry from Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords (TSR) by Bill Willingham

Part One, the overview, is here. But if you're not into D&D then what's the difference. Credits at the end.

The first model is what I think of as The Eternal Dungeon or Gauntlet Play (after the old arcade game.) I realise these titles have negative connotations.

These are the features of original D&D (OD&D) and the early TSR games like 1st edition AD&D and Basic/Red Box. They are also the features embraced by old school D&D gamers.

- sandbox principle
- level one of dungeon : level one encounters principle
- high player freedom / participation
- OD&D door principle
- heavy use of random generation / tables
- luck element of game embraced

The fact that this idea of gameplay is usually positioned against the story-based Hickman ideas doesn't mean that it has no story. Me and my brother sometimes laid out the map of Greyhawk, took the travel times and random tables then just played a journey with no DM or preamble at all. As we went, we just improvised bits of story and built on that.

(1/5) D&D Theory - overview

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Picture: Blackrazor from White Plume Mountain (TSR) by Bill Willingham

I recently blogged about the history of D&D here. I have played the game since I was around eleven including all its versions and incarnations.

I recently decided to go back to the TSR era for my next game and was thinking a lot about what I liked about the game, why the newer editions bothered me and how to approach writing for the new games. It turns out that a lot of other people are having the same thoughts and many of them are cerebral and good writers. 

So, I'm going to present four models of play or theories of the game that help to illustrate the issues I've been thinking on. They don't represent absolutes and there are many in-betweens.

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