Blogs I Love: Mike's D&D Blog

I'll admit, I might be a bit biased on this one. The blog author in this case is one of the players in my somewhat weekly game. However, I think he has some really nice ideas and content and I encourage all of you to check out his blog, Mike's D&D Blog. As for a little background, Mike has been playing D&D since 1988. He started DMing with 2e and is a great source of advice and information on a large number of gaming systems as well as other sorts of games.

Recent Posts

He definitely keeps me on my toes. And for all of you DMs out there who are wondering what your players might be thinking, he's a great resource. If you want to follow him on twitter, he can be found @TheMikeKatz.

First Glance: Shrouded Agendas for D&D 4E: The Purifiers

Recently, I purchased the Gamers Helping Haiti bundle from DriveThruRPG.com. Over the next few months, my plan is to look a the titles that compose this bundle and write up the bits I find interesting. Since I play and DM 4e currently, I decided to take a look at the title, Shrouded Agendas for D&D 4E: The Purifiers. Published by One Bad Egg, this title is part of their Worldseeds line, setting ideas that the company doesn't intend to fully flesh out on their own.


Description from RPGNow.com

The Shroud has changed the world in many ways, some profound, but others more subtle. This is the story of how the Shroud changed a man’s beliefs without changing his body. A man named Wilhelm ark-Trasser found himself on a quest that led him into the dark heart of the Shroudlands. There he faced the toughest challenge of all: remaining true to his principles in the face of adversity. The Shroud changed him, and he changed the world. Will the Shroud change you?

In general, I really like the idea behind the Worldseeds. I know that One Bad Egg was sold to Highmoon Media in October, but I hope that more people and companies do similar products. My players don't like playing modules, but don't seem to mind cleverly, or not so cleverly, disguised mini-modules or other pre-written content. Beyond the general idea, there are a number of individual features I particularly like about this title. First, they have details for a yearly tournament called The Contest of the Ark, in the format of a skill challenge. For DMs who have been looking for ways to add interesting non-combat, role-playing opportunities, this is a great tool. Likewise, the article adds a new disease, Shroudrot. While DMs might not want to use this particular disease manifestation, the disease description and mechanics are well thought out and detailed, and would provide a great springboard for development of new diseases. I also really enjoyed the NPCs and adventure hooks provided. The NPCs had a fair amount of backstory and information on their motivations and the adventure hooks work well here or as story ideas on their own. Overall, I found it pretty well written and I'll probably using bits and pieces very soon.
If you like the Worldseed for the Shroud, you might also be interested in the other titles in the series.

History Podcasts: Lars Brownworth, the Byzantine Rulers, and Norman Centuries

I'm sure some of you have already heard of Lars Brownworth and his podcast series, but since I'm relatively new, I thought I would share. Lars produced his first podcast series, 12 Byzantine Rulers, while teaching high school history and political science at the Stony Brook School. That series evolved into a book deal with Crown Publishing and the release of his book, Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire that Rescued Western Civilization. My husband just finished the series this weekend, and I have to admit I am quite impressed with the parts I heard.

Over course of seventeen episodes, Lars spotlights 12 Byzantine rulers in chronological order, while filling in some of the important details between. He details the history of the empire from its first great emperor, Diocletian, to its last, Constantine XI. However, this is no dry recitation of facts and dates, but rather an exploration of the hows and whys of armies, families, political intrigue and diplomacy. Over the course of this podcast series, a lot of our lost history comes to life. Some of the best parts include his description of what it must have been like to the Crusaders from Europe when they first saw the walls and city life of Constantinople. The largest cities they had seen paled in comparison to the city before them and the technologies in the city must have seen quite impressive. Even today, we forget that running water, central heating and air conditioning are not modern inventions only.

In terms of gaming, many of the stories from the empire are great fodder for the enterprising GM. The shared history and experience of this area with the West, including paganism and Christianity, means that while exotic, there is a shared cultural literacy. In addition, a fair amount of the technology from the earlier Roman and Greek civilizations lived on in this place and the ingenuity of the populace created even further wonder. Quite a few opponents feared the legendary Greek Fire, and with good reason, as it could continue to burn, even on water. The Hagia Sopia, the largest cathedral for 1,000 years, and it influenced architecture for even longer. These are just two examples among many that can be used to give a different sort of flair to any game than the traditional Western European Dark and Middle Ages.

However, if the latter is more your style, Lars is producing a series on Norman history, focusing not only on the French and English groups but the Italian ones as well. The few I've heard are just as good as the ones on the Byzantine empire and can be found on the Norman Centuries Podcast website

Gamers Helping Haiti: DriveThruRPG

I know I'm a bit late to the party, but better late than never. DriveThruRPG is running a special promotion. For $20, you get a coupon providing you with over $1000 in RPG titles. A complete list of of titles can be found here. The money goes to Doctors without Borders. If $20 is too much, you can also donate $5 or $10. You won't get the bundle but they will match the donations. More information on those types of donations can be found here. So far, they've raised more than $50,000 in donations. With 12 pages of products, there should be something for everyone. @DaveTheGame mentioned a few standouts in his article on Critical-Hits.com.

Full Press Release

Gamers Help Haiti! DriveThruRPG Offers a Mega-Bundle to Spur Donations

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

DriveThruRPG announced a major incentive to the roleplaying gamer community today to incite donations to aid in rescue and recovery in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Called the "Gamers Helping Haiti Bundle," the product includes over a hundred products totaling over $1000.00 in retail value. For a simple donation of $20 - all of which goes to Doctors Without Borders to support their post-earthquake Haiti relief efforts - RPG fans can have this once-in-a-lifetime collection of gaming products.

DriveThruRPG already had opportunities to donate up and running within a day of the disaster. When publishers began asking how they could support the cause, the bundle was created to be an all-inclusive shared effort. Those who donated at the lesser levels won't be left out, however; gamers who have already donated $5 or $10 will be receiving a special coupon code that lets them pay the difference from their initial donation to get the bundle.

"We are humbled by the generosity of both our customers and our publishers," said Sean Patrick Fannon, Marketing and Communications Manager for DriveThruRPG, "all of whom have stepped up at this time of terrible tragedy to offer aid to a desperate people. We are also very proud to facilitate these collective efforts, providing the necessary tools and technology to bring it all together."

More than tools and tech, though, DriveThruRPG is really putting their money where their mouth is, so to speak. "We have always believed in the power of giving and sharing to make the world a better place," said Steve Wieck, President and co-owner of the site. "To that end, we are matching funds with everyone who's making a straight donation at the $5 and $10 level."

There is no set date for terminating the donation efforts, though the bundle will only be available until the end of January.

Anyone wishing more information about this effort, or about DriveThruRPG overall, should contact Sean Patrick Fannon at sean@onebookshelf.com.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas

This time of year has a number of holidays and other reasons to celebrate. In particular, I look forward to the Winter Solstice and the coming longer days. Since I'm Christian, Christmas is a pretty big holiday for me. Especially because of the season, I would like to extend to everyone the warm wishes of peace and harmony and just general good cheer. In light of that, I would like to share with you this really cute video. Some high school students did a really creative rendition of Halleluia.

Watch on YouTube

Blogs I Love: At-Will

The At-Will blog provides inspiration, techniques and more for D&D 4th Edition. The blog is maintained by a team of 6 contributors. I particularly enjoy the focus on 4E content since that is my preferred game. The posts are well researched and are often aimed at the Dungeon Master, giving the DM items they can incorporate into their campaign. Recent post categories include: skill challenges, music, advice, game mastering, wave and rules.

Contributors

Gamefiend, a.k.a. Quinn Murphy
He is the owner and Editor-in-Chief of the site. Considered a jack of all trades he is an aspiring game designer/freelancer. He can be reached on twitter @gamefiend.
Gentian
Gentian is Gamefiend's wife.
Ethan
Ethan has been DMing since 1996, originally using secondhand AD&D materials. He has run a number of D20 campaigns.
JackofHearts
He was first introduced to D&D during summer camp when he was 8.
Milambus, a.k.a. Jake Fitch
Jake is a lifelong player of video games, card games and board games. Like me, he didn't start playing tabletop RPGs until the release of 4th edition. He can be reached on twitter @Milambus.
Rudolf Kraus
Rudolf began playing D&D when he was 9.

Recent Posts

Initial Thoughts on HP Mini 311

My husband recently bought me an HP Mini 311 as a Christmas gift. I'd been wanting a netbook for quite awhile, especially since my laptop hard drive is pretty full and I didn't have a dedicated Windows machine. Besides a 15" MacBook Pro is a bit large for our gaming table and having a digital copy of my gaming notes will improve my DMing experience. After a fair bit of research and a few anxious moments, I decided on a HP Mini 311. The reasons I purchased it are pretty simple:

  • Larger display for a netbook at 11.6" on the diagonal.
  • NVIDIA ION Graphic Card
  • Decent size hard drive and ram (I got the 1025NR with 250GB hard drive and 2GB RAM
  • Pretty nice screen resolution at 1366x768
  • Windows 7
  • Decent battery life (I got at least 4 hours of constant use and pretty bright screen while at Starbucks the other day)
  • Decent size keyboard (92% of full)

I've been using the machine since Tuesday, and I have to admit I'm quite happy with it. One of the minor annoyances was quite easy to deal with. The touch pad can be quite sensitive, especially when tapping is turned on, so I turned off the touch pad tap capabilities. The other annoyances just have to do with getting used to Windows after a long voluntary absence. As for playing D&D with the machine, I believe this is going to make running games much easier. I already have the WoTC Character Builder and Adventure Tools installed as well as a number of other tools such as Softrope. Obsidian Portal, Dungeon Mastering Tools and D&D Minion are all bookmarked and ready to go. I can use them and Google wave and docs on any machine to prep my game and access it all easily on the mini during the game. And I'm pretty confident that the machine will handle most of what I throw at it given I play WoW on it as well.

Overall I think netbooks in general and this one in particular are going to become more and more prevalent at the gaming table. I'm excited to see where this all goes.

Blogs I love: Buccaneer's Guild

Iain Norman, @teknohippy, writes a great blog called Buccaneer's Guild. He writes a bunch about using Photoshop to improve your game through maps and handouts. In particular, he loves drawing maps, both with pen and paper and digital tools. I hope to sit down with some of his tutorials soon and learn how he crafts his great images.

Recent Posts

Softrope - Soundtrack for Your Games

In addition to the great blog he writes, Iain also works on Softrope, an RPG sound mixer for DMs. I've used an earlier version and I'm hoping that my netbook will be able to run it as well.

Softrope brings customisable organic soundscapes like rainstorms, battles and creepy dungeons as well as spot effects such as growls, screams and explosions to your tabletop RPG. Music tracks can also be added to any scene.

Softrope allows you to build a collection of sound-based scenes. You build each scene with simple single sound-effects, layered up to create a more complex soundscape.

Arete: Experience the Greek epic

Arete (pronounced are-E-tay) is a new role playing game from Expy Games based on greek mythology. The designer is Nick DiPetrillo, @DMingNicholas. Nick also wrote Zombie Murder Mystery, Sailing Stormy Waters, and many articles on the Dungeon Mastering blog.

Designed to be Greek

However, that description alone doesn't really do it justice. This product doesn't use the bolt-on approach similar games have used, instead it was designed from the ground up to be a focused on Greek mythology. The game design focused on four principles for creating a Greek feel:

  1. Greek heroes are defined by the size of their actions, not the morality.
  2. Combat in Greek epics is fast, visceral and bloody.
  3. Gods play a constant role in the lives of heroic figures, for better or worse.
  4. Greeks have a unique culture, including elements like blood guilt, guest friendship and proper ritual.

Players are Story-Tellers Too

In addition to designing the game specifically for greek mythology, Nick sought to create a game focused on more cooperative story telling. In fact, players attempt to win narration rights during conflicts. This means that players are given a lot of story telling opportunities. For instance, the player not only indicates that he wants to fib but also gets to create what that lie might be. This can help DMs who are short on time as well as help make the game as exciting for the DM as it is for the players since the DM will never know how the story is going to go. This cooperative element of the game is driven by four more design principles.

  1. The story should be driven by the players and goals of their characters.
  2. The players and game master establish the premise of the game together. From that point on it is the role of the game master to be reactionary to the players and introduce complication to their goals.
  3. Players should compete for glory but not seek to undermine or defeat each other. The characters are all working towards the game goal, they just want to be the most impressive in attaining it.
  4. Even failure should be fun, sending the story in an unexpected direction.

What You Get

When you purchase Arete, you will be able to download a zip file. Once unzipped, you will have 3 pdfs: a character sheet and two versions of the game information, one with artwork and a printer friendly version. The game information itself consists of the following bits:

Table of Contents
Introduction
- The Making of a Greek Hero?
Conflict Resolution
- The Essence of Arete
- Types of Conflict
- Narration Rights
Character Generation
- Overview
- Abilities
- Traits
- Magic Items
- Goals and Boons
Combat, Injury and Death
- Combat
- Wounds, Recovery and Death
The Culture of Arete
- Ariestea
- Blood Guilt
- Divine Favor
- Gender
Running Arete
- Role of the GM
- Campaign Building
- Setting Obstacles and Scores
Allies and Enemies
- Bestiary
- The Gods
References

In addition to the 40+ pages of Arete content, people who purchase the book will get lifetime updates, customer support via forums, email or toll-free phone number, and, if you don't like it, there is a 90 day money-back guarantee.

The Company

I haven't had the chance to play this game, but I have purchased other items from Dungeon Mastering and I've contacted Yax (@dmyax) before. I've found Yax to be a great guy and very easy to deal with. Recently I purchased the Dungeon Mastering Tools and realized after that there was a deal that I had missed. I contacted him and I was reimbursed the money I would have saved.

Quick Note and Excerpt

Being female, I often worry about how genders are treated in role-playing games, particularly historically-based ones. Nick dedicates a section of the rules to discussing his use of masculine pronouns in discussing Greek heroes and also gives suggestions one female heroes players might want to use. Finally, he states that if any of the social restrictions in the game would hinder enjoyment, the players should feel free to get rid of those portions of the game. This is often a thorny subject so I'm glad he decided to take it head on.

An excerpt of the first chapter can be found on the Arete game info page.

Spell Book iPhone App by Robertson Games

Basic Information

Stuart Robertson, @robertsongames, released a new iPhone app, Spell Book. More information can be found on his website, Robertson Games

Spell Book is a handy quick reference for all the spells you'll need for your game, organized by name, class and level. You can also save your favorite spells to your personalized spell book to find more easily during your game.

Game Systems

  • Swords & Wizardry
  • Labyrinth Lord
  • Original D&D

Screenshots

Title ScreenTitle ScreenMy SpellsMy SpellsIndividual SpellIndividual SpellSpells By Class and LevelSpells By Class and LevelSpell CategoriesSpell Categories

Initial Impressions

First, I need to admit that I don't play any of the games this app is aimed at. However, I'm an avid iPhone user and feel that I still have some insight to give. The current application offers cleric (levels 1-7) and wizard (levels 1-9) spells. It's pretty easy to find the spells you want, either by class and level or alphabetically. Once you find the spells you want, you can "save" them which adds them to the My Spells listing. A few features that I think would be pretty nice to have are:

  • The ability to have multiple spell profiles (set up by character).
  • The ability to save custom spells.

Overall, I think it's a nice reference for players.

Send feedback using the contact form or through twitter, @sarahdarkmagic.

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