Showing posts with label Margaret Weis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Margaret Weis. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Party is the Thing-D&D Heroic Roleplaying using Marvel

This post is about a rules hack for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game from Margaret Weis Productions. It's specific to the 4E dnd Hack by Dave Chalker from Critical Hits. I originally started writing it as a comment on Rob Donoghue's Some Space to Think Blog but it kept growing until it felt like a full blog post. If that interests you read on.

Rob has been talking about MHRPG on his blog for a few months now. Ever since he mentioned Affiliation dice and the DnD hack for MHRPG I've been thinking about how to hack the Affiliation dice in regard to the 4e DnD hack. Dave left them in but it feels like he never figured out how to implement it properly with 'splitting the party' GM tactics. My thought is to emphasize the fact that the PCs are a party and that they don't split up. So instead you can emphasize their strengths and weakness within the group.

A good replacement bucket for Affiliation might be 'Party Role', in the form of Leader, Striker, Controller, Defender. They are an important identifier for D&D PCs that fall outside of the other distinguishing features of your charater. So the party roles can be separated out from powers, classes and race. Leaders who are fighters, clerics who are striker/defenders, and controller rogues all have a place in my ideal DnD. This hack formalizes your strengths and weakness for filling these traditional party roles with a die to build your dice pool around. I haven't tried this out yet but here is an example of what I'm thinking.

You could be a tactically minded Wizard with the following Roles:

Leader d10
Controller d8
Striker d6
Defender d6
(or d4 depending on whether you want to add a weakness).

So when ever you take action to control the battlefield or target lots of enemies with your spells you would roll your Controller d8. When you take action to encourage, heal or put allies into positions to excel you roll Leader d10. If you take your turn to make yourself a target of the enemies to save your allies roll Defender d4. Looking to deal a lot of damage to the 'Big Bad Evil Guy' with your nova power, Striker d6.

Try it out; let me know what you think.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Twin Suns Entertainment and the Fourth Generation of RPGs

In 1993, Mike Pondsmith of R. Talsorian Games provided an answer regarding what he thought the "Future of Gaming" would be.  Pondsmith is a designer who has often been ahead of his time conceptually, and this was no exception.

His answer to the question was interesting.  It wasn't a "new game that would change the future of RPGs!" or "The greatest roleplaying game ever!"  Those are marketing-speak used to promote existing games -- some of them quite good -- but they aren't the future of gaming.

According to Pondsmith, "a revolution in roleplaying games is coming.  It's sneaking up on us on little flat feet, but it's coming."  What was this revolution going to be?  It was going to be what Pondsmith termed the 4th Generation game. 

First Generation Games were the original games that descended from wargames.

Second Generation Games were more systems based and about sophisticated mechanics. 

The Third Generation was about genre.

Each of these generations provided the community with excellent games.

But the Fourth Generation wasn't about design, mechanics, or genre, it was about POPULAR CULTURE.

Fourth Generation games would "generate crossmarketing" be "recognized as legitimate media" and would become a part of the general cultural background.  They would be games designed to do this, either through the use of public education or expanding media. 

Pondsmith provided more criteria, and I will blog about 4th Generation Games here on my Cinerati blog soon, but it is an inspiring read.  And I think that Pondsmith was spot on in his analysis, just DECADES ahead of his time.

We can already see designers and companies attempting to move into the Fourth Generation. 

These games are all evidence that the revolution is happening.
Role Playing Games are finding their way back into popular culture, and without the need of scandal to fuel the surge.

My partners and I created Twin Suns Entertainment to be a part of this Revolution.  It is our goal to work with the other companies to expand gaming communities and to promote the hobby by making the best games we can make.

Join us as we attempt to join the companies named above -- and others -- in creating the Fourth Generation of role playing games.

Friday, August 05, 2011

IT'S MARVEL!!! --- Margaret Weis Productions Announces New RPG License

For the past few weeks, Margaret Weis Productions has been hinting that they were making a HUGE announcement regarding a new RPG license they had acquired and how excited they were about producing this particular product.  Questions were being asked..."Is it Glee?"  "Is it CSI?" "Is it Star Trek?" "Is it GoBots?"

Most of the questions focused on games that players assumed would fit within the Cortex+ mechanic, with the understanding that Cortex+ focuses on relationships and not "crunchy combat."

Today, Margaret Weis Productions made the announcement at 1pm Eastern.  Their new license is...


While many gamers might believe that the "relationship driven" mechanics of Cortex+ might seem an odd fit for a Superhero rpg, this is a true match made in heaven.  The grand innovation that Marvel Comics added to the comic  book superhero genre was the blending of heartbreak dating comics with superhero action.  Think about Spider-Man during the Ditko/Lee era.  How many superheroes were worried about getting a date before this book came out?  How about the Fantastic Four and their family dynamics?

MWPs Smallville game was a sea change in game design mentality, and one that will have significant affect on the industry.  Instead of having a character's success in an action being determined by how "uber" he or she is, that character's success is determined by how the character's relationships with others are affected by the action.  Instead of a Paladin's skill fighting devils being represented by a high combat score, it can be represented by a high dedication to protecting innocents and his or her relationship to individuals or communities.  The mechanic ensures that players interactions with nemesis characters matter, and the mechanics aid players and GMs in the creation of exciting and engaging narratives.

A Marvel game based in interactions and relationships harkens to what is great in comic book storytelling -- remember the Claremont/Byrne era of the X-men?  It has some epic battles, but it also has engaging tales of relationships.  When Sabretooth attacked the mansion trying to kill Psylocke (in a beautifully illustrated issue) it was Wolverine's concern for her safety -- and hatred of Sabretooth -- that fueled the issue.  A similar discussion could be had of the Juggernaut vs. Colossus fight issue.  The relationships are what make it work.

MWP plans to release 16 products within 15 months for the game structuring the expansions around major comic events.  The first product will be a Basic game, which has everything you need to play, and the first event will be Marvel's "Civil War" -- a perfect playground for relationships.  Each "event" line will have two editions an essential edition which merely has the campaign advice and an edition that includes a copy of the basic rules.  The events will be supported by three support products, and then it's on to the next event.  All of the products will be designed to be shelved with the trade paperbacks covering the same event.

This is big people!

2011 Gen Con -- An Experience to Remember

Each summer tens of thousands of gamers take over a Midwestern American city to experience the “Best Four Days of Gaming,” the Gen Con gaming convention.  Comic book and pop culture fans have San Diego’s Comic Con, Hobby gamers have Gen Con.  In 2001, the convention became so large that outgrew Milwaukee’s large MECCA convention center.   For the past nine years, Gen Con has been held in Indianapolis’ large Indiana Convention Center and they have been filling it to the brim.  Since last year the Indiana Convention Center has doubled in size.  But like the freeways of Southern California, the increase in accessible flow space has quickly been filled with excited gamers.  

Gen Con LLC won’t release official attendance figures until Sunday night, but those who had pre-purchased attendance badges with the expectation of quickly picking them up were in for a surprise.  Both the night before the formal festivities began, and the first morning of the convention, the line to pick up badges extended for blocks.  Wise where those who had their badges Fedexed to them before the show.
The event is filled with PR panels where publishers announce new product, industry pros discuss breaking into the industry, game auctions, two awards celebrations, and game design workshops.   Oh...and there is a ton of game playing going on as well.

In short, it's like Comic Con before Hollywood descended onto the occasion.  It's an event for Hobby Gamers and by Hobby Gamers.  Peter Adkinson, the Owner of Gen Con LLC, is a long time veteran of the gaming industry who says that "in recent years I've hungrily devoured many of the games that might be labeled 'indie RPGs' because I love how their designers are turning upside down so many traditional notions about how RPGs 'have to be.'"  This veteran's quote hits on something amazing.  In a downturned economy, the gaming industry is booming.  While sales figures for many games may be below record levels, there has never been a greater variety of excellent gaming product available for play.  What's more, the Indie Games are growing in their audience and pushing new demographic ground as well as new mechanical ground.

Speaking of Indie Games -- Wednesday Night, the Diana Jones Awards awards celebration was held.  The Diana Jones Awards are an annual award that is won by something that represents "excellence in gaming."  It's a broad award criteria that has allowed for a broad array of prior winners.  People have won the award for their contribution to the community, conventions have won for their charity work, websites have won, and yes games have won.  This year, the excellent Indie Game "Fiasco
by Jason Morningstar took home the prize.

Fiasco is inspired by cinematic tales of small time capers gone disastrously wrong – inspired by films like Blood Simple, Fargo, The Way of the Gun, Burn After Reading, and A Simple Plan. You’ll play ordinary people with powerful ambition and poor impulse control. There will be big dreams and flawed execution. It won’t go well for them, to put it mildly, and in the end it will probably all go south in a glorious heap of jealousy, murder, and recrimination. Lives and reputations will be lost, painful wisdom will be gained, and if you are really lucky, your guy just might end up back where he started.

Fiasco is a GM-less game for 3-5 players, designed to be played in a few hours with six-sided dice and no preparation. During a game you will engineer and play out stupid, disastrous situations, usually at the intersection of greed, fear, and lust. It’s like making your own Coen brothers movie, in about the same amount of time it’d take to watch one.

There is much more to report, but I am getting ready to head out to a panel hosted by Margaret Weis Productions where they will be announcing their new game license. They say it is a HUGE license.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Margaret Weis Productions Releasing Smallville RPG at Gen Con

Margaret Weis Productions is quickly becoming the West End Games of the 21st Century -- and that is a good thing.

In the 1980s, West End Games went from a publisher of war games and board games. Among their early titles were Campaigns of Napoleon, Operation Badr, and Killer Angels on the "war gaming" side, and Junta and Bug Eyed Monsters on the "board gaming" side. In the mid-80s, West End Games acquired the license to make official Star Trek based board, war, and role playing games. They weren't the first company to get the Star Trek license, but they were the first company to create consistently high quality products based on an existing license. Star Trek itself had been licensed as an RPG product prior to the West End license, but that product lacked the combination of high production value and quality mechanics that West End brought to the table.

Following on the Star Trek license the company acquired a license for a Ghostbusters role playing game, and the rpg they published for that game secured their reputation. So secure was their reputation that they eventually landed the grand daddy of all rpg licenses -- Star Wars and the game they produced was a masterpiece. To this day it stands as the gold standard for adaptation of a licensed property into a role playing game. The Star Wars mechanics were an adaptation of the Ghostbusters d6 system, one of the cornerstone rules sets for players who prefer "cinematic" role playing games over "mechanics."

The list of licensed properties that West End created games for grew and grew, and they maintained their consistent quality, but changes in the gaming market like the explosion of Magic: the Gathering, the d20 explosion, and the loss of the Star Wars license conspired to bring the company down. It took a while for the company to completely peter out, and you can still find a small pulse out there somewhere, but peter out it did.

When West End's reign as the king of licensed rpgs ended, there was no clear leader in the field. Several companies had licensed properties. Wizards of the Coast had Star Wars. Decipher had Star Trek and Lord of the Rings (the movies only). All of which are/were good products based on "mainstream" intellectual properties, but none of which fired the imagination in the way that West End Games' Star Wars line did.

The death of West End left a hole in the marketplace for a company to emerge as a leader in creating adaptations of "mainstream" intellectual properties.

Green Ronin is earning a reputation as a skilled creator of licensed games, but prior to their recent acquisition of the DC Comics license their properties had been more niche than mainstream. As much as I love George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire, it's a fantasy series and not a television series/movie.

It appeared that Eden Studios, with their Buffy, Angel, and Army of Darkness games might have become the next true successor to West End, but these hopes fizzled with their City of Heroes license.

Margaret Weis Productions, on the other hand, seems to be acquiring license after license and publishing quality product after quality product. The first licensed game they produced was Serenity based on Joss Whedon's film of the same name -- and which takes place in the Firefly universe. The game was well put together and well received. This was followed by a Battlestar Galactica game and an excellent game based on the Supernatural television series. All three of these games use some variation of Margaret Weis Productions' in house "Cortex" gaming system. The "Cortex" system is a cinematic system, in the tradition of West End's old d6 system, and bears some similarities to the excellent Savage Worlds game system. Not enough similarities that one would accuse MWP of lifting another system, but both systems are easy to learn and use "steps" of dice to signify attributes/skills. The similarities, and the quality of products, likely contributed to their ability to acquire the license for a Leverage based game. The fact that John Rogers, the creator of Leverage, is a big gaming geek couldn't have hurt either.

What is remarkable about this list of licenses is that they come from a variety of networks and companies. Serenity is Joss Whedon/Fox, mostly Joss Whedon due to the status of that IP. Battlestar Galactica is NBC Universal. Supernatural is a CW property (CBS and Warner Bros.), and Leverage is a TNT show (Turner). All of the properties have "geek street cred," but all of them also have audiences outside the gaming community.

This summer, MWP will be adding Smallville to the list of games it produces. According to MWP, the game will use a variation of their in house Cortex system -- but with some key changes:

We've had a few questions regarding if we'll be using the Cortex system for Smallville. The answer is we'll be using an updated version now called
Cortex Plus. It focuses on Values (what's important to you) and Relationships (who is important to you). Powers, training, etc. are Assets you can add
into your rolls when appropriate.

Smallville will use d4, d6, d8, d10 and d12. Many of the game elements are the same but fixed difficulties are gone, replaced by opposed rolls. We feel it's a super fit (sorry for the pun) for this line of product!

The focus on "Values" and "Relationships" demonstrates a desire by Line Developer Cam Banks -- and the writers working on Smallville -- to highlight the interpersonal relationships of the characters over combat situations. Stressing interpersonal relationships in superhero rpgs is an important, but often overlooked element of the emulation of the subject matter. One of the innovations of the "Marvel Method" was the incorporation of personal relationships with "real life" stakes attached. Marvel's genius was in combining Teen Romance comic narratives with superhero action. Some roleplaying games -- like Capes, TSRs Marvel Superheroes (FASERIP), Mayfair's DC Heroes -- have internal risk/reward systems that facilitate non-combat role play. Other games -- like Champions and Mutants and Masterminds -- encourage and allow for personal interactions, but lack a robust mechanic specifically designed to encourage such interactions.

About a year ago, Cam Banks blogged some initial thoughts regarding the development of an independent RPG called Superteam. The game would have been a superhero role playing game that was structured around team dynamics and team-member interdependence, inspired by comics like Teen Titans and the X-Men. Sadly, Bank's posts on the topic faded and I had lost hopes of seeing some of his ideas regarding the proper design of a superhero RPG.

Thankfully, he is working on the Smallville project and we'll get to see some of his ideas there. I would still like to see where he was going with Superteam, but I eagerly await Smallville.

MWP is offering free pdfs of their Supernatural rpg to anyone who pre-orders Smallville.

I'm wondering if one can pre-order and request to pick up the game at Gen Con rather than to have the game shipped.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis on Geekerati Tonight

On January 6th of this year, Tor-Forge published the first novel in an exciting new series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. The book, Bones of the Dragon, is the first in a saga inspired in part by Viking Sagas. It is a tale where the acts of men will determine the fate of gods. Weis and Hickman will be visiting the Geekerati BlogTalkRadio show tonight at 7pm Pacific to discuss this new series, the Dragonlance Saga, writing for gaming, writing for hire vs. writing for ownership, and the challenges of co-authoring works.

In 1984, Tracy Hickman was a game designer at TSR and Margaret Weis was a book editor at the same company. Both had been assigned to work on different aspects of a new product line for TSR entitled Dragonlance. Tracy was hard at work trying to, as he put it, "corale resources in the company to produce a little dream called Dragonlance." Margaret was to edit a book related to the product. It would be the first gaming related novel and TSR wanted success. So they set a couple criteria regarding the selection of who would author the book. According to Hickman, "it had to be a recognizable name author with an established audience and, second, he had to work for very little money on a project he could not own."

Though an initial author was selected to write the Dragonlance book, it was Hickman and Weis who eventually took the reins and ran with the project. What a project it became! Not only did the Dragonlance Saga create the genre of gaming related fiction, but it has spawned a library of over 190 novels, a couple of lines of comic books, and an animated film. All of this on top of the vast treasure trove of gaming material created in the Dragonlance Universe. 2009 marks the 25th anniversary of the setting and Cinerati can't help but believe that Wizards of the Coast, TSR's successor company, have some gaming surprise planned for later this year.

Hickman and Weis have written about a score of novels in the Dragonlance setting, but they have also written another score of novels completely unrelated to the Dragonlance Saga. From the Arabian Nights inspired Rose of the Prophet series to the post-apocalyptic Death Gate Cycle fantasy series. In support of their Darksword quadrology, they wrote a paperback sized role playing game entitled Darksword Adventures. The book was released in 1988 and it signaled the end, by publishers, of attempts to create mass market paperback market for role playing games. Prior to Darksword Adventures, Corgi had published the excellent Dragon Warriors paperback role playing game (a wonderful new version of the game is being published by Magnum Opus Press) and a paperback edition of Tunnels and Trolls as well as several of that game's solo adventures, and Puffin had published the Advanced Fighting Fantasy Role Playing Game as a follow up to its own Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Dragonlance License "Extended" and Dragonlance Animated Movie News

Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro have extended the current Dragonlance license with Margaret Weis Productions. The non-renewed license will expire at the end of January 2008, rather than at the end of this year. This extension will enable Margaret Weis Productions to complete any releases they have listed in their catalogue, but it does mark the end of a great partnership.

As one of the authors of the original Dragonlance trilogy, and several sequels, Margaret Weis was (and is) an ideal partner for Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro. But with next year being the 25th anniversary of the release of the Dragonlance, it makes sense for Wizards/Hasbro to attempt to draw profit directly from sales rather than through a license. I only hope that during the large 25th anniversary event Wizards has planned that they will include Margaret Weis in the products.

In other Dragonlance news, I wanted to let any Cinerati readers who weren't paying attention in on the status of the upcoming Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight. The film is slated to be released this September, but I can't tell whether it will be a theatrical or D2DVD release. The high quality cast, and the fact that Paramount is listed as the "theatrical" distributor, hint that the film will be theatrical, but the "novice" director and screenwriter (as well as the connection with Epic Level Entertainment)hint at a D2DVD release. Add to these factors the insanely rapid time between conception and planned release, two years for an animated film, and D2DVD is the most likely.

I am looking forward to the release of the film, even though I am not the world's largest Dragonlance fan. I found the original novels to have huge narrative holes, partly due to the fact that much of what happens in the Dragonlance game modules (those things the players play) were left out of the written narrative. This was even true when the events in the modules were narratively significant. Though, recently Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman have been writing those events in a new series of novels for Wizards of the Coast.