Tag Archives: RPG

Wake the dragon. Indie + Retro.

Even before the rise of Kickstarter, electronic publishing, print-on-demand, or desktop publishing, RPGs were a thing that lots of people tried to do. Even back in the hoary days of paste-up in the ’70s and ’80s you had TSR, FGU, ICE, and several other companies that weren’t three-letter acronyms.

Not everybody who dreams of professional football or going to space gets to do it. But everybody who dreams of RPGs has a shot at being a roleplaying game designer/publisher. That has led us to 5th edition in a painful way. Continue reading


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Wake the dragon. The OGL.

D&D has had five fallow years. A new version is upon us. As with a lot of game stuff, I know more than I’m telling, but not as much as I’d like to know. I’m going to spend a few posts taking about some things I think about the state of RPGs and I’ll hazard some guesses about what’s next that, statistically, will be embarrassingly wrong. Continue reading


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State of Curiosity 2014


Having a kid has not slowed down my gaming at all. In fact, it’s picked up a little bit. Most of this is due to my highly supportive wife and friends. Thanks wife and friends!

It has slowed blogging about games, however. That, and work.

In January I began working as a project manager with Iello, makers of King of Tokyo and Steam Park, among others. The experience has been excellent. Iello is a great company with a supportive atmosphere and a solid stable of games. I think you’ll see increasingly fun stuff coming out of the company this year.

Second Saturday game night rolls on and continues to pick up speed.  I’ll post about that soon, I hope.

One thing that has dropped off since Player 3’s arrival is progress on my own game designs. At the end of last year, I pitched some children’s co-op games to an under-respected game publisher. They passed on my favorite idea, one I like so much that I plan to pitch it other places. It’s a children’s RPG for kids ages 6-8. I’m a little in love with it, so that’s bad for objectivity, but I have non-rose-colored vision.

I was also working on another game with the inestimable Curt Crane who started a fantasy dungeon-crawl dice game and asked me to work with him. Naturally I said yes. I hope to get back to that in Q1.

I’m headed up to Toy Fair next week. That should be interesting. I haven’t been there in almost 10 years, and then as press, not as an exhibitor.

All in all, 2014 remains an excellent time to be curious. I hope to share some of it with you this year.

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February 15, 2014 · 1:09 pm

The best part of the character sheet

ImageThe original D&D character sheet is a marvel of simplicity compared to the ledgers you use to circumscribe your  modern-day D&D dude. And the very best part of the whole sheet was the generous space left for you to draw your “Character Sketch or Symbol”.

The reason it was the very best part is because it opened up the field for you. Every other part of the page was a box designed to be filled with some number or set of letters–a tool that allowed you to interact with the rules set, funneling you down into specific lines of thinking.

Then along comes a box that says, “Open it up and draw something, kid.”

It was actually too much for me! I was intimidated. What could possibly go there? I couldn’t draw very well, and my characters never had “symbols.” But they could have. No reason they shouldn’t have.


The new thing from Wizards is… well, it’s got a big circle in the middle of it. That’s visually interesting. But it also has a little box above the circle labeled “portrait.” It’s a step in the right direction.

My ideal character sheet is a big drawing of your character smack in the middle of the letter-size paper. Then all the numbers and words are around the edges in the margins. Your intelligence-related stuff is near your head, your Strength-related stuff is near your arms, Constitution-related stuff near the torso, etc. But mainly, when you look at it, you see a bad-ass picture of your dude looking awesome and then there’s some other stuff too as necessary.

I still can’t draw worth a damn, but I’m much less inhibited to try and be bad at it these days. If I ever get another turn on the player side of the screen, I’ll give it a shot.

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Iron Kingdoms RPG: Marginally Different

ImageThis has been out a while, but I don’t get a sampler platter of RPGs like I did back in the ’80s when my friends would get games and run them for us all.

But maybe those days are back? Because a friend of mine has gone to the trouble of pirating the Iron Kingdoms rule book to run a game. As we all know, I am basically anti-pirate for common-man reasons. But I have a troubled relationship with enjoying the fruits of others’ piracy, in that apparently I will do it.

New fantasy RPGs are seldom as awesome as I want them to be, because we have D&D. Therefore, each new fantasy RPG must answer the awful questions of every dichotomy: How is this different from the precursor?

And the answer in fantasy RPGs: Not very. A student of the form can point to the differences, but to non-students, the differences range from negligible to non-existent.

(Bizarrely, 4th edition D&D was its own distinguished counterpoint in this regard, being markedly different than previous versions of itself, though not demonstrably better.)

Iron Kingdoms is sort of interesting in that it has advanced knock-off provenance. Born of the 3rd edition piggyback rush that also richly benefited Green Ronin and Goodman Games, it is literally a D&D clone, down to the DNA.

But its clothes were different enough to garner a following. Using their Witchfire trilogy gains, Privateer Press launched Warmachine, a miniatures skirmish game that faced the same dichotomy issue with the superbly established Warhammer from Games Workshop. How is it different? Not very.

Meanwhile, Warhammer has its own RPG history, and Privateer’s contender is a reasonable mishmash of D&D and WFRP and related games and terms and ideas and ephemera. It acquits itself about as well as one of these games can vs the dichotomy question. It’s only slightly different. Elves and dwarves and swords and spells? Got it.

That’s not even a knock on the game. If it doesn’t have elves and dwarves and swords and spells it might not be a fantasy game. If you can’t compare it to D&D, then it might not be an RPG. It’s just that your new thing never gets to be fresh.

But I’m polyamorous when it comes to games, and I am a student of the form. I got me a gun-wizard dwarf and we’re playing around with it. I expect to have fun, even if it’s not very different fun.

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