Palladium, digitally

In a pleasant surprise, Palladium has decided to monetize its back catalog by starting digital sales of its RPG line at DriveThruRPG. You can click here to see the available Palladium line. Nicely enough, the PDFs are discounted, meaning you can, for example, pick up the original Rifts core rulebook for $12.49.
The ability to monetize your past products by offering them in digital form is a good thing; the discounts and the convenience of not adding more physical products to my shelves mean that I’m inclined to blow a couple bucks from time to time on an older book that I may have been interested in years ago, and can now mine for ideas or just read with a sense of appreciation for the history of RPGs.

D&D Fourth Edition — A good third impression

When D&D 4E was announced and initially released, I check in with some of the discussions about it on the RPGnet d20/D&D forum, hoping to get a feel for the game based on people who’d actually had a chance to read it and play it. Curiously, it was the complaints about the new game that really inspired my interest, as the things that die-hard fans of earlier editions were citing as flaws or problems were things that sounded great to me.
A little later, I found out about the Penny Arcade / PVP podcast series, in which the creators of both comics sat down with Wizards employees to play their way through some adventures using the new rules. This is a great set of podcasts to listen to, as the play group includes an experienced player, someone who played in high school, and brand-new player. You can check out the first podcast in the series here. The guys in the podcast had a lot of fun, and are often hilarious to listen to. Even though the style of game they played is likely not the kind I’d play, it still highlighted the new rules quite well, and garnered even more interest from me.
Yesterday, I was given the 4E combined set, featuring the Player’s Guide, the Dungeon Master’s Guide, and the Monster Manual. I spent some time reading through them yesterday, and was really impressed. Although there are things I love about how the new rules work, that’s not what was most striking.
The 4E books are very, very clearly written and wonderfully organized. The “this is a roleplaying game” introduction is quite good (although I haven’t needed one of these in years), and the little box explaining the history of D&D is excellent. From there, the rules are clearly laid out, with basics first and elaboration later. In the appropriately titled “The Core Mechanic” section, the basics of the d20 system are laid out. Later on, we have clean and smooth explanations on making characters, using powers, and so forth. Throughout the books, the authors do an excellent job of presenting the simple, clean concepts first, then adding the elaborations later.
But I was even more impressed by all the non-rules assistance for play. There’s a substantial section discussing characters and characterization, with helpful suggestions on setting up ideas about what your character wants in life, how he or she would react in different situations, and so forth. In prior editions, lip service has been paid to making a character a character, but in this edition, it gets an entire package of helpful advice. This is very important, since the ability to play an actual character with actual characterization is perhaps one of the unique, market-defining traits of a pen-and-paper roleplaying game. I think the authors of 4E got this in a way that people haven’t in prior editions. After all, if you aren’t playing an individual character, you might as well be playing a computer RPG. This pattern of strong assistance for the non-rules aspect of gaming continues into the Dungeon Master’s Guide, where there’s a wealth of advice on running adventures, pacing story, setting up campaigns, making spot decisions, and the especially practical advice of “how long should I put aside to prepare?”
I am quite impressed. This set of books really is a great introductory package to get even brand-new players started on the game, and on roleplaying in general. I’d recommend it to someone who wants to give tabletop roleplaying try.

“Your father’s Peacemaker. Not as clumsy or random as a flintlock…”

Over in this RPGnet thread, Thornhammer rethemes an old favorite as a part of the Old West. His words:
New Hope County, southern Arizona. Looking at an invasion by some unpleasant Federal Government types, led by US Marshal Garth Vader. He wears black.
They’re looking for the runaway daughter of a US Senator who is thought to have escaped Out West with the plans for a new federal gold reserve. Why did she steal the plans? Who knows? She’s been captured and is being held in Estrella Muerte, an old fortress along the Mexican border.
An old prospector and a young hotshot cowboy roll into Los Eisley on a lazy summer day, looking for transport out to Estrella Muerte…

He had hammers, too. Why hammers?

Over in this thread on RPGnet, Sabermane suggests Hyborian adventures in the Mushroom Kingdom, spawning an excellent, excellent thread:
It crept back into my head again. Super Mario Brothers done at 11 through the “epic” lens. A world where humans are a short race. A world where you’re sucked into a place that’s Wonderland through the eyes of Conan. A place where a warhammer is the common melee weapon. A place where a gorilla, a plumber, and a mushroom-man sorceror is a common party, fighting off ten foot tall lizard men in large bulky armor, or sky gods, or terrible things living in secret caverns deep in the earth. a game where a standard weapon is something that covers you in flame and allows you to shoot napalm from your hands (screw that “spitball”), and that if you’re lucky, you can kill ANYTHING for ten seconds.
Some fantastic story seeds in the extended and many more in the thread (and pictures!).

Continue reading

For the Greater Good

With the arrival of the first Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying game, Dark Heresy, is abuzz with ideas for gaming in the setting (and in case you missed it, future 40K RPG products will come from Fantasy Flight Games rather than Black Library). Although Dark Heresy is about playing the retinue of an Inquisitor, one player’s question about the Tau convinced me that, were I to run Warhammer 40K roleplay, I might well run a Tau campaign.
Warhammer 40,000 is one of those settings that you basically don’t want to live in. Our human heroes are ruled over by a particularly frightening, fascistic take on a dark-ages Catholic church if the Church worshipped a decrepit, people-devouring, largely inanimate God-king who mainly serves as a locator beacon for interstellar travel. The other civilizations aren’t much better.
That said, the Tau are kind of on the upswing, moodwise. Sure, they have a rigid, caste-based system and an overriding devotion to a central cause (it’s 40K — who doesn’t?), but they’re portrayed as a young, optimistic race out to conquer the universe and not quite yet aware that the universe is full of horrid things in balance with each other.
I think it would be great fun to have the players represent a Tau exploration team, boldly going (for the Greater Good) where no Tau has gone before, and encountering dying races, the devouring Tyranid hordes, death planets, rampaging Orks, and the unending legions of the weird, backwards-yet-universe-dominating humans. The different castes and their roles provide a range of niches for the players. In a way, you could run it as a hybrid of Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek, with the hopefulness level set somewhere in between the two. Send your Water Caste crew down to explore the surface with a Fire Team in support, then figure out what to do when the weird, undead robot things occupy your landing craft! Explore a derelict alien spacecraft and attempt to operate its unique interstellar transportation gateways! Solve problems in five minutes following a forty minute setup!
And so forth. I think it would be a lot of fun, especially if everyone got into the “working for the team” mentality of the Tau.
Likely systems: True20 or an adapted Shadowrun

Jeff R honors the master

Jeff Rients and pals are playing a classic Gygax module in honor of the man. As usual, Jeff’s game sounds just plain old fun:
Doug came up with a character with high Int and Dex. We tried to trick him into playing an illusionist, but he opted for a straight up magic-user. When he diced for the initial spells in his book he came up with light for his “offensive” spell. He didn’t cast it or any spells all night, as I recall. He threw some daggers and even hit a couple of times. But in the grand tradition of crappy 1st level m-u’s he spent most of the night leeching xp’s off the rest of the party.
Stuart ended up with a human cleric, which he opted to play as a harsh Lawful Neutral servant of a harsh, Old Testament-style Lawful Neutral god. I’m thinking Marduk is a pretty good fit, but we didn’t spend any time worrying about the specific deity. Stuart brought three live goats along, in case he needed to sacrifice something while in the dungeon. (Fortunately “virgin” is not listed among the standard equipment in the PHB.) Anytime the goats misbehaved he lectured them sternly.

Breath in again, 40K RP didn’t go away

People were wigging out over on RPGnet at the announcement that Games Workshop was going to reorient the output of its imprint, Black Library, canceling the nascent Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying line and canceling Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. This was particularly irritating to people who’d been hoping for a Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying game for two decades only to see the game canceled after a lone book saw print.
Well, as it happens, GW wasn’t killing the line. Instead, they’ve just signed an agreement with Fantasy Flight Games, publishers of Arkham Horror, World of Warcraft: the Boardgame, Tide of Iron, and a personal favorite of mine, War of the Ring, to be the exclusive publisher of board games, card games, and roleplaying games based on Games Workshop’s properties.
“We are just so thrilled to partner with Games Workshop in such an encompassing deal,” said Christian T. Petersen, CEO and founder of FFG. “Not only will we be able to continue the publication of some phenomenal roleplaying, card, and board games currently on the market, but we look forward to creating new games for the popular GW universes!”
This is exciting news, as FFG has a good track record for publishing fun, high quality games. I especially like that they’re not just going to be a reprint house, but will be able to generate new games based on the licensed material.
You can read the original press release, in PDF form, here.

Why do you hate elves?

“shanoxilt” asks us this question on the RPGnet forums. Specifically, the question was:
Every time someone starts a topic that mentions fantasy cliches, many people respond that they hate elves.
Can somebody explain why they are so hated?
Personally, I think that there are so many varieties of elves that it is difficult to not find at least one type to enjoy.
Thank you for your replies. Have a pleasant day.

Some of the many fun and typically accurate replies:

The defining characteristic of elves is that they’re better than you. – Ratoslav

A race of mary-sue’s, whats not to hate.
Iron Kingdoms gave them katanas and trench coats, talk about overkill.
– GoodnightChesty

They’re the Vulcans of the Fantasy world.
Superior in every fascet, they’re stronger, faster, taller, more beautiful, smarter, and can live for many human generations. Their only downfall is that they lack the “unstable emotions” that come with being “human”.
Because of this, I’ve found, far to many of the closet basement nerds seem to be drawn to the idea of the fantasy “Master Race” and have either deemed to want to become one, idolize them, or honestly believes they are one.
– Archangel777

aaannnd that they didn’t have to do any real work to get that way. Look at Tolkien’s elves.
They have the finest food and wine. You ever see elves cooking? Nope. They have the best weapons and armor. You ever see sweaty, grimy elves toiling over a hot forge? Nope. They have the most beautiful homes. You ever see an elven carpenter or stonemason? Nope. They have the noblest, most beautiful steeds. You ever see an elf shoveling shit?
They’re prettier than you, wiser than you, stronger and faster and more skilled than you, they’ll live forever, and everything they have they conjure up with their pretty pretty princess magical pixie fairy fuckwit powers.
– Halloween Jack


Erick Wujcik

The unfortunate news came yesterday that Erick Wujcik was just recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that has already spread to his liver.
You may, like me, know Wujcik from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness. This was the first roleplaying game that I bought on my own, and as a little kid, I was enthralled. He’s probably much better known for his innovative design work for Amber Diceless Role-Playing, which was quite different than anything that preceded it in the hobby. An entirely different and much larger gaming community knows him from his work on the computer gaming side, where he led work on Splinter Cell: Double Agent, Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, and many other games.
Wujcik’s friend and sometimes publisher Kevin Siembieda has set up a tribute site here, so people can let Erick know they appreciate his work before he’s gone.
You can see his roleplaying game credits here.