Showing posts with label Wizards of the Coast. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wizards of the Coast. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Planescape: Torment Returns on April 11th

When Bioware released Planescape: Torment in December of 1999, they did so just as 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons was gasping its last breath. Planescape was an odd choice to base a large scale computer rpg upon. The setting was unique, creative, exciting, and critically acclaimed, but it wasn't a particularly high volume selling setting for TSR. Add to this that Wizards of the Coast had just purchased TSR in 1997 and the Planescape setting, like many other D&D/AD&D settings, had been partially released to the wilds to be curated by fans. The game and the IP were languishing in limbo, even as the D&D brand would be resurrected shortly by the release of 3rd edition.

It may have been an odd choice, but it ended up creating a brilliant result. Planescape: Torment leveraged Bioware's Infinity Engine to create an rpg experience unlike any that had been produced to date. Most of that experience was rooted in the surreal qualities of the Planescape setting which may not have been a bestseller, but it was a magnificent creation. David "Zeb" Cook and his team of creative talent that included James Ward, Dana Knutson, and Tony DiTerlizzi combined their talents to produce an innovative and interesting sandbox. A sandbox that Chris Avellone and team explored with inspired creativity. Planescape: Torment is the Infinity Engine game I've played through most frequently, and given the strength of those titles that is saying something.

On April 11th, 2017 game developer Beamdog will be releasing a visually updated version of the game for both the PC and Tablet. Do yourself a favor and pick it up when it comes out.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Dungeons and Dragons: 5th Edition and "Zones of Control"

Back in 2012, I wrote a blog post discussing how every edition of Dungeons & Dragons had miniature use as a part of its default mechanics assumptions.

Let me repeat that in clearer language. Every edition of Dungeons & Dragons is a miniatures based tactical role playing game.

As I wrote in the earlier post, this doesn't mean that those playing without miniatures were "playing the game wrong." I've played in at least one adventure in every edition of D&D and there are plenty of rules my gaming groups have either ignored or added to make our own experience more fun. Here are just a few ways my groups have modified game play:

1) None of the 1st Edition AD&D campaigns I've played in has ever used the Weapon Speed Factors or the Modifications for Armor Class.
2) I've played in 1st Edition games that used "Spell Points" for spell casters.
3) As a Game Master, I've disallowed non-Lawful Good Paladins in 3.x and 4e.
4) I had a DM who used Arduin's Damage System in his AD&D Campaign.
5) I've never used the initiative system from Eldritch Wizardry.
6) I give every race a second wind as a minor action (Dwarves get it as a free action) to speed up play.
7) One campaign I played in had us set our miniatures on the play mat in "Marching Order." No matter the shape of the room our characters were attacked based on that formation in Bard's Tale-esque fashion. We could have been in the center of a room 100' x 100' and all of the melee attacks would have been targeted at either the front row or the back row without anyone attacking our Magic Users in the middle.

Every one of the games I played with these groups was fun and thus none of these groups was playing "wrong." None of these groups played games to the rules as written either. No one - with the exception of organized play - should play to the rules as written. Role playing games are written to be adapted to play for your local gaming group. There are two key elements that allow for this without "breaking" the game. First, there are no winners and losers in D&D. The only way to win is to have fun and changing the rules for your local group is one way to create fun. Some changes are fun for a short time before they create more boredom than fun - in general - so there is room for advice regarding power scaling and Monte Haul campaigns, but the aim is to maximize fun. Second, most role playing games - excepting a couple of innovative Indie games - have a Game Master who moderates the game and who has absolute authority in rules interpretation in the local gaming group. So long as the Game Master is fair and focuses on keeping the game entertaining for the players in his or her group, then what rules are included or left out don't matter much.

Man...that's a lot of prefatory information. You can read the older post to see how each edition of D&D has implemented the use of what are called "Zones of Control" or "ZoCs" in great detail in the older post. The short version is this:

Original Edition (Chainmail): Once engaged in melee a unit was stuck until death or a failed morale check.

Original Edition (Alternate Combat): Not locked in combat, but adds "flanking" rules in Greyhawk Supplement. Swords & Spells supplement adds attacks of opportunity.

D&D Basic (Holmes): Attack of Opportunity against those leaving combat.

D&D Basic (Moldvay): Adds "Defensive Withdrawal" similar to "5 foot move" or "shift" in later editions.

1st Edition AD&D: Attack of Opportunity for withdrawal and Rear Attack Rules (Page 69 & 70 of DMG)

2nd Edition AD&D: Similar to 1st (Pages 81 to 84 of Revised DMG)

3rd Edition D&D: See image below.

3.5 Edition D&D: See image below.

Pathfinder: See image below.

4th Edition D&D: See image below.

Each of these editions demonstrates the influence of tactical wargames on the combat systems of each edition. It should also be noted that each edition of the game adds new layers of complexity regarding what affects whether you are in a Zone of Control and whether you are flanking an opponent. Pathfinder, 3rd Edition, 3.x, and 4th edition all have creatures with reach that expands their Zones of Control and each of those games has specific rules regarding how conditions influence your ability to flank other combatants. If you read the earlier article and examine the pages of the 1st Edition DMG you will see that there are rules similar to those implemented by later editions, but you will also wish that the earlier edition had created cool graphic representations like those of later editions.

5th edition (in the Basic Rules) takes a big step away from the trend and is even more abstract than the earliest editions of the game with regard to flanking. I would argue that 5th edition is the first edition with takes "no position" with regard to miniatures and carefully crafts descriptions so that combat can be run either way without house rules or dropping rules -- though it does still refer to "squares" from time to time. The new edition still includes Opportunity Attacks - a firm Zone of Control concept - as described on page 74. But instead of listing a specific amount of distance moved as in Moldvay, 1st AD&D, and later editions it merely lists the need to use the "Disengage" action. The Disengage action can be used with a tactical map, but doesn't require one as it is more narrative in its description than the older "Defensive Withdrawal."  The Rogue class on page 27 hints at the flanking rules for 5th edition which does not seem to entail a good deal of examining to see if combatants align properly on opposite sides of an opponent in a way that require illustration. Under Sneak Attack, the Basic rules state that you can deal extra damage if you have advantage OR "if another enemy of the target is within 5 feet of it, that enemy isn't incapacitated, and you don't have disadvantage on the die roll." That's a pretty big shift toward simplicity and away from map use. While it could be argued that the 5 foot rule implies the use of maps, one could easily assume that a creature engaged in melee has an enemy within  feet. If this replaces needing opposite sides for advantage, this is a boon for mapless gaming. It is easily adaptable regardless. So what does this make 5th edition's Zone of Control rules based on the Basic Set?

5th Edition D&D: Attacks of Opportunity (strong ZoC) and potentially with Flanking if another enemy of the target is within 5 feet of it. 

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Would You Like to Play a Game? -- Hasbro's Original D&D Collector Box is a Part of a Corporate Vision

The new Original Edition D&D Premium Reprint from Wizards of the Coast is truly a wonder to behold, and it gives the buyer a good glimpse at Hasbro's D&D corporate strategy moving forward.  I'll discuss this a bit more in a minute, but first let's just have a look at the box.

The original three D&D booklets were sold as a part of a collector's edition which featured either a woodgrain box (super rare) or a white box (the version I have at home), and this new edition comes in an engraved wooden box that I found to be pretty spectacular.

One of the nice little features that stood out as a real highlight for me was the reflective image on the inside of the box top. Wizards/Hasbro could have let the wood alone speak for the product, and that would have been great, but this Wizardly image really sets a nice tone.

Here you get a glimpse of what the box looks like when the booklets are stored within. Notice the red ribbon? That ribbon will allow you to remove the 7 paper saddle stitched books without damaging the edges, this is a nice bit of design that like LORDS OF WATERDEEP demonstrates a significant amount of thought has been put into both presentation and utility.

The box itself contains the original 3 booklets as well as all four of the eventual supplements that were published for the original D&D game. This new edition provides new cover art for all of the booklets. The Eldritch Wizardry cover that freaked my neighbor out so much when I was a kid is no longer present, instead there is a picture of a Wizard summoning tentacles. This would probably still upset said neighbor, but it is a less controversial image. And the old cover is one that would stir up some serious discussions on my Facebook feed where the battle lines of some Lamentations of the Flame Princess fans would do virtual battle with some of the Athena Anthology supporters would debate its appropriateness. I won't enter that fray as I am a fan of LotFP and of many of the Progressive game design that has been created over the past few years. Regardless of anyone's thoughts on the Eldritch Wizardry cover, the Greyhawk cover is a beauty.

Covers aside, there is plenty to discuss regarding the interiors of the booklets which are unchanged from the original -- or largely unchanged. Part of me thinks this is endearing as it lets gamers see the art that inspired a 40 year old hobby. The other part of me thinks that if they were going to redo any of the art, they might as well have replaced the interior art. There are talented artists who could have done chiaroscuro work that was an homage to the old art, but didn't look like doodles that ...well...I drew. Then again, that might just be the point. Anyone is a good enough artist to draw visual monsters for their home campaign. All you need is suspension of disbelief.

There is no inclusion of the Chainmail rules set here, so you will have to play D&D using the "optional" combat system presented in the first booklet. Thankfully, that system was the basis for the modern d20 engine and can be easily learned by the modern gamer. Or, rather it can be created rather easily by the modern gamer as this game is nigh unplayable by itself without some interpretation and house rules. This is why there were articles written and an explosion of alternate RPGs. The modern gamer has 40 years of interpretation, precedent, and house rules to work with so we can actually use these rules, but I do warn you that they are a bit different from what you might be used to.

Which brings me to the point I hinted at during the opening paragraph. This product points to Hasbro's new corporate strategy -- or rather a better tactical application of their long time strategy -- they want to have "a D&D experience for every gamer at your table." They make this abundantly clear with an advertising flier containing that very quote. In the past, the tactic used by Hasbro to advance the strategy of "a D&D for everyone" was an attempt to create a "perfect D&D" that was balanced, appealed to old gamers, and was hip for new gamers. This was what 4th edition was trying to be, a D&D for everyone. That tactic failed. It insulted some gamers and further fractured the customer base.

The new tactic is very different and is what Hasbro should have been doing all along. That tactic is to provide products with D&D Intellectual Property and Brand that match the needs of various gamers.

Want old school games?

Cool. Hasbro will release old rule books in collectors editions and pdfs. You can play D&D as it was originally played.

Want to play 2nd through 4th edition? 

Those are being supported too in different ways.

Interested in D&D Next our new rules set that is a combination of old and new school design and fairly easily converted between editions?

That will be coming out this year.

Are you a Eurogamer?




Casual RPG/Board Gamer?

Our Ravenloft, Ashardalon, and Drizzt game is just right for you.

New to gaming?

Try DUNGEON out.

The same is true for video games etc. and I think that this is a wonderful approach by Hasbro. The games they have been designing to support their IP have been excellent. RAVENLOFT and LORDS OF WATERDEEP have been played several times by my group over the past two years and the digital app version of WATERDEEP is looking pretty compelling to me.

So how about it? Would you like to play a game?

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

[Gaming History] Starleader: Assault! and Publisher vs. Creator Squabbles

Gamers who have only experienced the "edition wars" of the modern era might believe that the story of how Paizo Publishing became successful as a role playing game company is a unique occurrence.  After all, it isn't every day that a major role playing game publisher decides to make some internal changes and those changes provide a perfect opportunity for a new game publisher to secure a market segment releasing a revised version of the older company's game.

In the case of Wizards of the Coast, their creation of the Open Gaming License, combined with their decision to abandon Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 in order to produce a 4th edition of the game, provided a perfect opportunity for Paizo Publishing to release the Pathfinder Role Playing Game.  Those who played 3.5 know that Pathfinder is an update of the earlier Wizards of the Coast game, that features various improvements based on playtesting, an update that was much demanded by fans who felt abandoned by Wizards of the Coast for a variety of reasons.  Not only was Paizo filled with talented game designers who understood the 3.5 edition of D&D, many of those same designers worked for Wizards at one time or another.  In fact, many of Wizards most talented former game designers worked on the Pathfinder game.  To state what happened in a very reductive manner (that isn't exactly true but is useful for illustrative purposes), Paizo effectively secured a market segment by releasing a product that a competitor had abandoned or improperly developed.

Paizo's rise as a major publisher in the industry is very interesting.  I'm a big fan of their products, I was a first wave "Superscriber" of their merchandise, and I am a fan of Wizards of the Coast's 4th edition game.  As a fan, I didn't pick sides in the fight.  Many did.  I am also a long time gamer who has been playing role playing games for over 20 years, and who has an obsessive desire to study the hobby and learn its history.

This is how I know that Paizo's story isn't as unique as one might think.  In fact, Paizo's rise to fame parallels nicely with the rise of a little game company called Steve Jackson Games.  Steve Jackson Games emerged out of the very successful gaming company Metagaming Concepts when game designer Steve Jackson left Metagaming to form his own company.  Steve Jackson had designed many of Metagaming's most popular games including Ogre, GEV, Melee, and Wizard.  The last two were part of a line of games that came to be called The Fantasy Trip.  Metagaming was a company that exploded to success through the publication of "microgames."  They built upon the success smartly using the microgame format to release modules of what was to become a full fledged role playing game -- The Fantasy Trip.  When Steve Jackson left the Metagaming in 1980, the company unraveled fairly quickly and closed their doors in April of 1982.  There is a lot to the story, and Shannon Appelcline does a good job of covering it in the book Designers and Dragons.  Needless to say, looking at Metagaming's history one can see that the brain drain of losing Jackson was a death knell for the company.  Lucky for Wizards, they seem to be able to recruit and rehire talented desingers.

Unlike Paizo's ability to modify D&D, Jackson wasn't able to take The Fantasy Trip with him when he created his own company.  He was able to take Ogre, GEV, and One-Page Bulge (three classic microgames) with him.  Instead, Steve Jackson eventually designed his own role playing game called GURPS.  Though one can clearly see that GURPS is a descendant of the old The Fantasy Trip rules.

Though Metagaming went out of business, they did release a number of excellent products for The Fantasy Trip.  It remains to this day a highly playable and entertaining role playing game.  If one owns the Melee, Wizard, Advanced Melee, Advanced Wizard, and In The Labyrinth rules, one has enough material to run fantasy role playing game campaigns forever.  All of these game products list Steve Jackson as their designer, and though Metagaming claimed ownership of the game it is interesting to note that the text is "copyright Steve Jackson" for Advanced Melee, Advanced Wizard, and In the Labyrinth.  It is also interesting to note that my 1981edition of Melee published after Steve Jackson's departure lists Guy W. McLimore Jr. and Howard Thompson as the designers with Metagaming holding the copyright.  One can see the acrimony between Steve Jackson and Metagaming publisher Howard Thompson in those copyright listings alone, but letters like this one to Andy Windes help reinforce the opinion.

In the post Jackson era, Metagaming released a new series of The Fantasy Trip related games including Lords of the Underearth, Dragons of the Underearth, and a science fiction adaptation of the rules called Starleader: Assault!  There was even a super hero version of the TFT rules slated for publication.

When Starleader: Assault! was published, it was clearly designed to be the first in a series of science fiction themed microgames that would evolve into a full role playing system based on a TFT foundation.  Like Melee before it, Starleader: Assault! provides players with an introductory combat system.  The statistics used in the game are clearly rooted in the earlier game's mechanics, but there are some distinct differences.  Differences that are strong enough that the William Barton's review of the game in The Space Gamer #61 states, "It is a combat module...what Melee was to TFT.  And that is where the resemblance almost ends."

Character creation in Starleader: Assault! is similar to TFT.  Players are given a certain number of points to divide between three statistics (IQ, Prowess, and Emotion) and each statistic must have a minimum score of 8.  Interestingly enough, two of the three statistics play little role in the game play of this "combat module."  Where IQ determines the number of skill points a player receives in TFT, it merely determines the tech level of weapons that can be used by a character in Starleader: Assault!  Emotion is of even less use in the game and is only used for an optional rule regarding panic checks.  One imagines that Emotion might be used as the basis for a psionics system, but no such system was ever designed.

Where TFT was built starting with the assumption of hand to hand combat being the most common form of engagement, Starleader: Assault! combat begins with targeting assisted missile weapons as the basis for combat.  In fact, Prowess -- which one might think determines a person's skill in combat -- isn't used to determine whether someone is hit with a missile weapon at all in the game.  Even though Prowess is described as "the physical capacity of a character, including agility, strength, dexterity and endurance," to hit roles with missile weapons are determined by rolling 4d6 and seeing if that roll is under a target number equal to or less than the weapon's "Density" + Target Size - Size of Obstacles between shooter and opponent.  Interestingly, this makes shooting anyone at all a very difficult task.

For example:  a TL 6 "Ghazi" has a Density of 8 and your average person has a size of 2.  This means that firing at an average sized opponent who is standing in the open requires a roll of 10 or less on 4d6 -- a less than 50% chance.  While it is true that this might be a fairly accurate portrayal of real life odds of shooting someone in a hectic situation, it makes for some frustrating combat rounds.  Weapon fire can be fairly lethal in Starleader: Assault!  The average hit -- assuming same TL for attacker and defender -- does 7 points of damage.  That pretty much means that even the stoutest fellow is down after a second shot.  Once again a decently realistic result, but not necessarily a good narrative one.

Melee combat in Starleader: Assault!?  Um...'ll need to own Melee and it uses a slightly different system.  It is definitely a game that says, "once you've got blasters, you don't need any stinkin' swords."

Funny thing is...I played a couple of battles portraying various assaults on the ship Trek Heaven.  Yes, you read that right, the Trek Heaven.  Get it.  Ugh.  Anyway, I played through a couple of battles and as a microgame of a shootout on a space ship, the game is pretty fun.  I don't know how it would do as the foundation for a full blown role playing game.  Even if one were to incorporate rules from TFT -- for which there are "conversion" rules -- it doesn't quite seem to work that way.  I don't know though, I might just try it out.  The skill system from TFT seems like it would overlap easily.  It's only the combat system that would require a little work.

Friday, January 27, 2012

D&D Next: What Replaying Warhammer Quest Taught Me Regarding Nostalgia, Fun, and Expectations

For the past twelve years, I have been playing roleplaying and board games with roughly the same group of people.  We have a couple of core members and have had a couple people wander in and out of our group, but by and large it is the same group of players.  The group has a high level of commitment from the players, so much so that one of the group regularly plays via Skype even though he has moved 6 hours away.

While the majority of our game play consists of two D&D campaigns -- one 3.5 and the other 4e -- I like to bring in some board game play, playtesting, or one-shot adventures from time to time.  Sometimes this corresponds with one of the unwritten rules of our group.  For example, when someone new joins the group at some point we will arrange for that player to experience some Moldvay/Cook Basic D&D goodness.  It is one of the two gaming rituals our group has. 

The first -- much to Steven Schend's dismay -- is that all new members of our group must watch the video that accompanied the TSR Dragon*Strike game.  Players who can endure that video and laugh will likely fit in well with our gaming group.  If you haven't experienced the 33 minutes that is the Dragon*Strike video, it's kind of like The Gamers only it wasn't trying to be a comedic look at the hobby.  As I mentioned earlier, the other is that that player will eventually play in a Moldvay/Cook era adventure.

The first time I ran a Basic D&D adventure for the group, I used the Keep on the Borderlands module.  The players prepared themselves for adventure and started off toward the Caves of Chaos.  On the way, they encountered a mysterious hermit.  Within 5 minutes -- real time -- the entire party had been killed by the hermit and his pet mountain lion. 

Last year, I ran another session.  This time I used one of the "Black Box" era modules, The Eye of Traldar.  I selected the adventure because the black box era modules were more narrative and story oriented than some of the early D&D adventures, and because I thought it would be less lethal than Keep.  The player's rolled up their characters, a fighter, a cleric, an elf, and a magic user, and we discussed their character backgrounds.  As this was a black box adventure and it took place in Karameikos, I pulled out my Karameikos Gazetteer and we added backgrounds for all the characters and created a back story describing why this band of merry adventurers were adventuring together.  This done, we began the first encounter of the adventure and rolled initiative.  Within seconds the magic user was dead, and the other characters started to worry.  The magic user's player experienced immediate and serious disappointment.  He had taken the time -- about half an hour -- to come up with a background, only to see that character killed off in a random fashion.

Needless to say, this was not a very satisfactory experience.  It's one of the reasons that, as much as I love the Mystara setting, I don't run a Moldvay/Cook campaign.  Character death can come seemingly at random, and that can be a serious downer for some players.

A similar thing happened three weeks ago when I pulled Warhammer Quest off the shelf and set it up for the group.  We were down two players, so the four of us made for a perfect WQ party.  We set up the game, made our characters, and started our cooperative dungeon crawl.  At first, we were having a good time.  We were all laughing at some of the absurd encounters and marveling at how hard the game was.  We were also experiencing some pretty bad rolls.  Then we hit one hallway and the world fell apart.  Our wizard rolled a one in the power phase, creating an additional foe, on repeated occasions.  We were swarmed by hostiles, and our Elf was brutally murdered.  It was a disappointing end to what had been two-hours of enjoyment until that point. 

Like The Eye of Traldar and Keep on the Borderlands, Warhammer Quest is an adventure game with a default setting of Hard.  In fact, it seems that this is the default setting for many of the games of the early rpg era.  No one would say that Call of Cthulhu is a storytelling game of heroic achievement and guaranteed success.  Paul, over at blog of holding, has a recent post describing the design philosophy and play philosophy of some designers during that era.  To quote him:

 In OD&D, there's no guarantee that things are fair. One of Gary's and Rob Kuntz's favorite stories, says Mornard, was Clark Ashton Smith's The Seven Geases, in which (spoilers ahead) the hero survives a horrible death at the hands of seven different monsters only to die meaninglessly slipping from a ledge. That was one of the seminal texts of D&D, said Mornard, and one of the stories it was designed to model. "The story that D&D tells," said Mike, "is the story of the world. Heroes aren't invincible."
The thing is, that I don't really like that kind of game.  I don't like whimsical and meaningless deaths for player characters.  This is especially true for games where character creation is a long process where significant narrative choices have been made.  The player quickly becomes attached to the character, and to have that character "meaninglessly slipping from a ledge" is unsatisfactory to most players.

Geoff Engelstein describes why this is true in a recent article on The Dice Tower podcast entitled Colonoscopies and Game Design.  In the podcast, Geoff discusses the psychology of pain and how people who experience pain -- say the pain of a colonoscopy -- will evaluate how much pain they felt by taking an average of the most pain they felt and how they feel at the end of an event.  If the moment of most intense pain comes at the end of a event, or play of a game, then the experience will be negative.  If the end of an experience is pleasant -- even though the moment of highest pain was the same or worse -- the over all experience will be viewed as a positive one.  It's funny how the psychology of the mind works isn't it.

What this means for those old games where death comes easy and the default setting is Hard, is that whimsical death's can still occur but that they should occur as part of a process and not as an ending.  It also means that if whimsical death is a possibility, one should not be encouraged to come up with detailed backgrounds for characters as those are a part of the playing process too.  If 30 minutes of game play are taken up with coming up with a background, and those 30 minutes are followed by 30 seconds in which your character is brutally cut down, then that isn't a very satisfactory experience.

Whatever direction D&D Next goes, I think that it needs to keep in mind this part of human psychology.  If death is to be whimsical, then find a way to make death a middle part of the process.  Encourage multiple characters like Paranoia or make character creation so quick that new characters can be inserted instantly.  You won't get very "narrative" games with rich character development, but you might get some fun ones where players vent out their own secret desires.

Personally, I hope that D&D Next falls somewhere between 3.x and 4e with regard to ease of death.  One might add more specific "knock out" rules, or rules for defeat without death, but I would be disappointed to see a return to a game set on Hard.  Those already exist, as do games on Easy.  I want to see a game set on Normal where death is a possibility, but where it isn't the only or primary signal of a failed endeavor.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Some Gamers Don't Trust Cryptic with D&D, but I Trust Shane Hensley to Deliver

The official Neverwinter MMORPG trailer is out and it looks good.

Check out the Blue Dragon at the end of the looks like D&D. I am officially excited.

I have faith in the gameplay, now if they can only release anywhere close to GenCon.

Monday, May 30, 2011

G4 Unboxes "Conquest of Nerath"

I am really looking forward to the release of Wizards of the Coast's next board game Conquest of Nerath later this month. I am not only a fan of big box Axis and Allies style board games, but I want to see the "points of light" setting for the D&D 4th Edition game become more developed -- and it looks like this board game will continue Wizards' recent exercise of adding depth to that world.

One of the biggest mistakes that Wizards made with the release of 4e was the lack of focus on a setting with sufficient depth to form a meaningful connection with players. The reported reason for the vagueness of the setting was that it would allow DMs to create more of their own worlds and use the open "points of light" setting as a sandbox. In reality this concept may have appealed to a few gamers, but I believe it cost Wizards greatly. Recently, they have begun to increase the richness of the setting.

First, in the excellent Tiefling and Dragonborn sourcebooks -- products that weren't particularly successful in the market in part due to the fact that DMs had no way of knowing how much rich fluff these products were offering. This is especially true given the relative lightness of fluff in early core products.

Second, in the growing series of books based in the "points of light" setting. The books suffer from a lack of being able to draw on a rich setting, but each book adds more depth to the setting. As I mentioned earlier, reading the books is like watching world building in progress.

Third, products like the upcoming Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale are filled with rich narrative details -- the kinds of details that should have been in the game from the beginning.

One of the key reasons players enjoy sandboxing around Paizo's Golarion is because the setting has a rich, deep, and strong IP in which to play around. Wizards is finally making the "points of light" setting a richer place.

The G4 box opening makes the game look good, and I'm even more excited about the product itself. I saw a d12 being used and anything that uses d12s automatically gets a boost in my book, which is one reason why I own all the Rogue Games stuff.

You can ignore the last minute of the video where the staff of G4 pretend to play the game.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

E is for Encounters

When the 4th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons was released, Wizards of the Coast attempted a dual strategy of organized play. The first was to continue their Living Forgotten Realms campaign, while getting rid of Living Greyhawk and the Mark of Heroes Eberron games. The second was to run a series of "Game Day" adventures that coincided with individual products that were soon to be released. Most of these adventures were meant to be played in a single sitting of 4 hours. Many people enjoy the Living Forgotten Realms format, but the "Game Day" format was one of the things that contributed to my initial misunderstanding of the 4th Edition system.

The "Game Day" adventures weren't very complex. Designing an adventure that is supposed to tell a story in four encounters -- approximately four hours of play -- isn't easy and these adventures largely suffered from this major flaw. These adventures also suffered from the fact that they were geared entirely to promoting a singular product that was being released within a week or so of the adventure. This meant that the adventures were only being written when products were scheduled for release -- and we are talking major "Players Handbook" type products not regular products. Thus these "Game Days" weren't frequent occurrences, or at least not frequent enough to build a real following.

Last year, Wizards combined the regular game play experience of the Living Forgotten Realms games with the market driven adventure design of the "Game Day" adventures to create their Encounters Program. One thing that differentiated the Encounters program from other organized play events was that the individual sessions were designed to be played in 2 hours, and that each sitting was only one Encounter in a larger tale. The first two Encounters "Seasons" -- what Wizards calls the individual Adventures which last for 8 to 20 weeks of play -- were a bit of a mixed bag.

The first season took place in the popular Undermountain environment, and the second took place in the fan favorite Dark Sun world, but both of these adventures missed the mark in execution -- either for story or game balance reasons. By the third season -- Keep on the Borderlands -- the Wizards staff was really beginning to hit stride. The adventure was an ambitious 20 chapter storyline that was the first adventure in the series to incorporate a robust narrative. It still contained a predictable storyline, but it was an adventure that prompted role playing more so than prior adventures and the scenes were well designed with some interesting challenges like Dragons on rooftops and using Trebuchet against mobs of attackers. The current season, March of the Phantom Brigade, is even more role play oriented than Keep and the adventure hooks for the story are fairly unique.

In the most recent season, the players take the role of Pioneers seeking to create a new settlement in Nentir Vale. That's right...Pioneers...Settlers. No mere mercenary band these characters. No avenging champions seeking wrongs to right. Those may be the motivations of individuals, sure, but the tone of the adventure is open to social interaction as the players might choose sides in the leadership. Do they favor the priest founding the new "city on the hill," the ever vigilant Ranger who is there to provide protection and create the law enforcement/militia for the new society, or do they side with the historian/archeologist who wishes to study the location to learn of its past. They can befriend them all, but there are role playing hooks a plenty.

Each adventure in the series has been better than the last, and each has shown a growth in the way that adventures are written for the 4th edition rules. Gone are the feelings of pure combat emulation, and in are feelings of storytelling and narrative.

My hope is that Wizards will mimic the old days of TSR. In the 70s, TSR used to have adventures that they only ran at conventions. These adventures included Rahasia, the "Slave Lords" series, "Against the Giants," and "Tomb of Horrors" -- all classics in the field. These adventures gained interest through word of mouth. They were playtested by gamers at cons, then they were released for sale. Not everyone has a game store in their local community, so it would be wonderful if Wizards released these adventures -- edited based on playtesting -- some six to eight months after the seasons were over.

Regardless, my local store has seen growing interest in 4th Edition since I have begun running games for them every week. Our group has a wide range of ages -- it's the first time I've gamed with high school students in quite some time.

Find a store near you running the Encounters program and give 4e a try...even if you have been resisting up until now.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Wizards of the Coast Adds Vehicle Rules to Gamma World

Are you wondering what to do with all those pick up trucks that your players acquired during Gamma World character generation? Do you want to add a little dash of Car Wars into your Gamma Terra campaign? Are you and your players fans of Death Race: 2000, The Road Warrior, and Knight Riders? Are you a big fan of Wizards of the Coast's latest Gamma World offering?

If so, then the new rules posted on the D&D website this week are for you. Keeping in line with Gamma World's "Quick and Dirty 4e" adaptation, the vehicle rules provide a fun and workable system for running vehicles and vehicle combats/races without adding undue complexity. Rules for the damage caused by crashes and the effects of critical hits on vehicles are presented in an easy to use format. Stat blocks for a decent number of vehicles are provided, as are some "customization options" like "oil jets." These rules also bring the idea of "stunts" to the table. Stunts are out of the ordinary actions that characters can attempt to perform with their vehicle, like jumping the vehicle off an incline.

I know that my gaming group, SUPER TEAM GO!, will make good use of the offerings and will likely begin coming up with some of their own thoughts on customization options.

It's good to see Wizards supporting the game even after all of the products have been released. Let's home they continue.

Oh..and it's FREE.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Origins RPG Submissions?

Have Wizards of the Coast, Fantasy Flight Games, and Paizo submitted RPG entries for the Origins Awards? If not, why not?

Are they boycotting the Oscars of the gaming community in favor of the Ennies in order to promote their products at GenCon rather than at Origins?

What is the status of their submissions?

I ask, but don't know.

What I do know is that it would be a travesty if none of these companies submitted their excellent products from last year for consideration.

D&D Essentials was remarkable, Deathwatch is great, and Paizo's Advanced Player's Guide is inspiring.

What's going on here?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Obligatory Open Letter to Wizards of the Coast (Hasbro) Regarding Dungeonand Dragon Magazines

Dear Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro,

Like most of your fans, I read your recent Ampersand column where your revealed some of what we have in store for us this year with regard to your Dungeons and Dragons line of products. There were some things that I liked -- Heroes of Shadow is going to be a hard back -- and there were some things that were disappointing -- the end of miniatures sales -- but I was grateful that you gave us some hints as to what are going on.

I understand that you are a corporation and as such have to worry about things like Net Present Value and Return on Investment. I know that you want the best for the product line for all stakeholders -- investors, employees, and consumers -- and that this can lead to some decisions that consumers may find confusing. I also understand that you are dealing with the changing modes of product delivery that are emerging in the new century. I know that you value me as a fan, but that as a publicly traded company you cannot always tell me everything that is going on.

When you let the Paizo license to publish Dragon and Dungeon magazines expire, it disappointed a lot of people. I wasn't as shocked. After all, Paizo had been positioning themselves as a competitor in this particular market segment and it isn't really good business practice to give an emerging competitor more money. I was also impressed with your initial digital offerings. Over the past couple of years there have been inconsistent months, but that is true of any magazine. I would like to see more published submissions and less staff writing, but I wonder if the internet (and companies like Open Design) haven't diluted the pool of possible quality submissions. There are some excellent gaming companies, and gaming support companies releasing products and that has to affect the number of submissions you are receiving.

I also have to say that with the focus on adapting your online content delivery model, which included your recent cancellation of the online version of Dungeon and Dragon magazine, I wonder if you aren't overlooking an opportunity.

I think it is important that you generate revenue and provide content for gamers, and I am perfectly content to have that content delivered through your website absent the magazines themselves as digital Wizards products. Over the past two years, Dungeon and Dragon behaved less like magazines and more like web content updates as it was. You have the numbers on single article vs. issue downloads and I am sure made a rational decision based on that data. Digital products work differently than print ones. With a print product, you get everything at once. With a digital one, you update it continuously. I can see favoring digital over print, or "print behavior" digital. So I fully understand why Wizards will no longer be collecting Dungeon and Dragon articles into "digital issues."

That doesn't mean I don't have a recommendation. I do.

While it would be foolishness of the highest order to license the two magazines back to Paizo, a major competitor, have you considered licensing Dungeon and Dragon magazines to another provider? I think that Goodman Games or Open Design could do a bang up job producing the magazines as print magazines. Licensing them out again wouldn't affect your bottom line, we'll still subscribe to DDI with its product offerings. I'm liking how the new Web Based Character Builder is developing -- it isn't "there" yet, but I love where it is heading and can see how well it is integrating into your other tools. The official updates adventures and rules on your website will be read regularly by me and other subscribers to your online service whether or not the content areas are called Dungeon and Dragon.

So let someone else use those names to publish magazines that support your material. Let fans submit to a company that is more agile and "closer" to the customer. As hard as you try, as a major corporation we'll always feel distant from you. We'll love your products and your employees, but most of management will be alien to us. Let the magazines find a new home that is friendly to you, and that can do some grassroots promotion for you in ways that a large corporation cannot.

Just an idea.

I'm looking forward to seeing your upcoming products this year and from what I've read of the "Mistwatch" article I'm happy that you've moved the Nentir Vale Gazetteer into the digital world.

Christian Lindke

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

It's That Time Again -- Christian's Favorite RPGs from 2010

2010 was an excellent year for the role playing game player. Every niche of the market -- from indie to mainstream -- had significant offerings that are must have editions to the gamer's library. Some of the offerings premiered at Gen Con, the industry's equivalent of the CES, but others had their own release timelines and marketing schemes. These schemes alternated between viral pre-order campaigns to structured "in store" celebrations, but all of them were fun to watch. I have to say that while the past few years have had some great game offerings, 2010 was the first time in a couple years that so many games screamed out to me to actually play them and not just to read them and add them to my collection.

So...what products made my Top 10 Role Playing Game products for 2010?

10) The Burning Wheel: Adventure Burner

The Burning Wheel role playing game is a fine example of how the indie role playing game market is capable of making not only good products, but ones that shape the field as well. The game was first published in 2002 and some of its innovations found their way into the 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons. The game is an rpg by game theorists and designers for game theorists and designers. That doesn't mean that the game isn't fun to play, it is, but it does mean that the way the game is presented changes the way you view other games and inspires tinkering. Once one has read The Burning Wheel books, one cannot read the Skill Challenges in 4e without seeing the game's influence on the hobby. The game encourages player to game master interaction in a way that some might find intimidating when used in play, but the rewards for doing so are grand.

The only complaint fans of the game can legitimately voice is that the release schedule for support products is pretty slim, and adventure support had been non-existent. This year Jared Sorensen* Luke Crane, Thor Lavsrud, and crew released The Adventure Burner supplement for the game which contained three adventures to aid game masters in designing their own scenarios. Like all Burning Wheel offerings, this book has applications well beyond use within the Burning Wheel system. It is a must have product for game masters of any system, as much of its advice is universal in application.

9) All for One: Regime Diabolique

Paul "Wiggy" Wade Williams is one of the most prolific authors in the history of role playing games. More than that, he is one of the most consistently entertaining authors writing games today. One of the reasons for Williams' high output is his ability to take ideas from history/fiction/television and to transform them into his own interpretation. His Hellfrost campaign setting combines the dark fiction of George R.R. Martin, the Icelandic Sagas, Roman History, and Arthurian legend and is one of the best RPG settings available today.

After I learned that Williams would be writing a game using the Ubiquity game system, most of his past work had been for the Savage Worlds game rules, I was intrigued. The Ubiquity rules system was created by Exile Games Studio for their excellent Hollow Earth Expedition game. When I saw that this game would be a swashbuckling adventure set in 30 Year's War France and would include Musketeers, Werewolves, Witchcraft, and Demons, I was sold. I purchased the volume at last year's Gen Con and was delighted by the product. If you loved "Brotherhood of the Wolf" or any of the Three Musketeers stories, but thought they would be slightly improved with the inclusion of the supernatural, then this game is for you.

8) Pathfinder: Advanced Player's Guide

For fans of the 3rd Edition of D&D, Paizo's Pathfinder role playing game was a god send. Typically, when a company updates a rules set players are left with the decision to either grudgingly shift over to the new rules or to continue to play using the old rules knowing that they won't be receiving any product support in the future. This is even more the case when the rules update is so dramatic as the shift between the third and fourth editions of D&D. Thanks to the Open Gaming License and the talented game designers at Paizo Publications, this wasn't the case for 3rd Edition players. Paizo thoroughly, and publicly, playtested their adaptation of the 3rd edition rules and published them as the Pathfinder role playing game. The game is beautiful to look at and corrects some of the flaws of 3rd Edition, while only introducing a couple of its own. It certainly isn't a game that I would use to introduce people to role playing games, but it is one of the premiere games in hobby -- and for good reason.

Last year Paizo released their Advanced Player's Guide which added new core classes and numerous options to the already robust game system. This is a must have for Pathfinder fans, and for 3e fans of all stripes. Paizo's work on this product is excellent.

7) Fabled Lands Gamebooks

Dave Morris, Jamie Thompson, and Russ Nicholson are names that harken back to the Golden Age of White Dwarf Magazine, back before it became a house organ promoting only Warhammer miniatures. Toward the end of the gamebook explosion of the 1980s Morris and crew released a series of gamebooks under the Fabled Lands title. Six books were published, but only three were made available in the States. The books featured complex puzzles, a simple but robust game mechanic, and interactions between the volumes. Choices in one book could lead directly into another volume. Sadly, the market for gamebooks had dwindled by the time these books were released and they never caught on.

Recently, there has been a resurgence of the gamebook market both in print and as applications on the iPhone/Pad. The Fighting Fantasy gamebooks are available as apps and excellent new offerings like those of Tin Man Games have emerged to create interest in the genre. The time was ripe for the Fabled Lands books to reemerge and last Christmas they were republished by a company owned by the books' creators. Give these a chance.

6) The Dresden Files Role Playing Game

Based on Jim Butcher's New York Times Bestselling urban fantasy series Evil Hat Productions' Dresden Files rpg is proof positive that small independent companies can make games that look, feel, and play like those made by the big corporations. Dresden Files uses an adapted version of the FATE rules system to create an easy to play game that incorporates player involvement beyond mere character creation. The entire group gets together to create the setting, the stakes, and the opposition that will occur in the campaign. The systems are innovative and the planning sessions are as fun as typical rpg game play sessions.

5) Deathwatch

For years fans of the Warhammer 40K Universe have awaited a role playing game where we could explore our own stories in the Dark Millenium. Dark Heresy satisfied that need for many, but for those of us who find 40k to be synonymous with "Space Marines" Dark Heresy didn't quite scratch that itch. Fantasy Flight Games' release of Deathwatch satisfies that desire quite nicely. Now players who recreate tactical skirmishes on their kitchen table tops where Ultramarines face off against the terrors of the Warp can experience the struggles of the individual Space Marine as he serves the Emperor and protects the remnants of human empire.

What more can you ask for really? A good rules system with a beautiful rulebook filled with detailed narrative information? Oh...this has that too.

Now all I need is an Eldar 40K rpg and my world will be complete.

4) Gamma World

For decades TSRs Gamma World has been a kind of awkward stepchild of D&D. The game has always had interesting ideas, and has had a couple of quality releases, but it never seemed to receive the corporate marketing support that it deserved. When Wizards of the Coast released the latest version of Gamma World, written using the 4th Edition D&D rules, they could have treated it as it had been treated in the past. They could have published a single volume with little fan fare, or released a game that lacked mechanical similarities to the company's flagship rpg. Instead Wizards created a product that they fully promoted that had monsters that were compatible with the 4th Edition rules set.

They also released a game that is one of the most entertaining gaming experiences around. If you've ever wanted to play around in a post-apocalyptic wasteland as a Pyrokinetic Yeti, as a Telekinetic Plant, or as one of a number of other combinations, then this is the game for you.

3) Castle Ravenloft

With Castle Raventloft, Wizards of the Coast managed to create an entertaining cooperative dungeon crawl board game that was also a perfect introduction to the role playing game hobby. As with super hero games, I am a dungeon crawl board game completist. When I purchased Castle Ravenloft, I expected it to be a good game, instead it was a great game. This is easily one of the best dungeon crawl games ever published. It is no surprise that the initial print run of the game sold out rapidly and forced Wizards of the Coast to delay the production of a similar follow up board game just to ensure there were sufficient copies of this game to go around.

2) Smallville Role Playing Game

I bought this game for two reasons. First, I am a super hero game completist. I own every published super hero role playing game to date, and this was a must have for that reason alone. Second, Cam Banks was one of the lead designers on the game. Banks has done some excellent work in the past on Dragonlance game products, as well as on the Supernatural RPG, and I was interested to see how he would treat super hero soap opera action.

The resulting game is one of the most exciting and innovative role playing games ever produced. From character creation to how the games mechanical resolution system emphasizes character's relationships to each other, this game breaks new ground in the role playing game field. The fact that it does all of this while creating a game that is easy to learn and understand due to its relatively simple mechanics is a wonder. If your mind was ever baffled by the concept of how a game could mechanically represent Superman while still providing mechanics that allow Lois Lane to meaningfully participate in play, then Bank's accomplishment with this game becomes even more clear. This is the first super hero rpg where playing a normal person is just as exciting and rewarding as playing the hero. Like Dresden Files this game incorporates player input in campaign and relationship creation.

1) D&D Essentials

I had been on the fence about playing 4th Edition D&D. I owned the books, but I was more than content to play in my 3.5 Eberron Game and my Pathfinder game -- then came Essentials. I was intrigued by the nostalgia appealing new Dungeons and Dragons: Starter Set that was reminiscent of the Metzger edition of the old D&D Basic Set. I read the box and was impressed by the manner in which it presented the D&D rules, but I was disappointed by some of the small errors and typos. This all changed when I read the Heroes of the Fallen Lands and Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms books. These books presented the new 4th edition rules not merely in a clear and easy to learn format, as was intended, but in an entertaining way as well. The narrative text made these fun to read, and it's not an easy task to make role playing game rules fun to read -- especially D&D rules. The entire product line is worth owning and broke the final layer of resistance I had to playing the 4th edition game. I am now a 4e fan and regularly run an Encounters session at my local game store. For the first time in years, I cannot wait to see what product Wizards releases next.

If you've ever wondered why D&D appeals to so many people, you cannot do much better than to start with the Essentials books.

*[edited 1/7/11 9:31 am]Thanks to Anonymous for pointing out the error in attribution. I could blame my error on the fact that I have been enjoying reading/running Parsley games lately, but that would be lame. Luke Crane is the mad genius behind Burning Wheel (or is he?). As penance, I will be buying another set of the three core books.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wizards of the Coast Makes Virtual Table Announcement

Just prior to the release of the 4th edition of D&D, Wizards of the Coast promoted a number of computer based tools that would go live shortly after the release of the game in support of play.  It was one of the most exciting things about the build up and announcement, and the failure of Wizards to "deliver the goods" was one of the things that most fed into the Edition Wars that flamed through internet forums after 4e's release.

I have been a big fan of 4e since the get go, and run the Encounters program for a local game store, but even I have succumbed to the disappointment bug from time to time.  I wanted all those cool toys that Wizards "promised" me.

Today they sparked hope that they would be delivering the goods on one of the most anticipated of the gaming tools they promoted, the Virtual Table.  This computer application will help to speed up play at real tables and expands play opportunities for those who live far from other gamers.

From the initial screenshot, this is looking good.

If I could just get in on the beta...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Join Me for a Conversation with a Part-Time Sorceress

Shelly Mazzanoble, author of the book Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress and Associate Brand Marketing Manager for the Dungeons and Dragons role playing game at Wizards of the Coast, will be joining Shawna Benson and me tonight on Geekerati Radio.

We'll talk with Shelly about the D&D Essentials line, what Wizards is doing to reach out to new gamers, and The Real Housewives of New Jersey.

Stop by at 8pm Pacific tonight, or download us later on iTunes. If you listen live, you can call in at (646) 478-5041 or send me a tweet at @ChristianLindke with your questions.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Kübler-Ross Stages of Grief, D&D Encounters, and Me

Those of you who read this blog, may have noticed that I devoted two posts last week to my feelings about the D&D Encounters program. While I don't think my posts were as filled with internet anonymity syndrome and ranting ire as other blogs, I did notice upon reflection that my reaction seemed to match the first two stages of the Kübler-Ross stages of grief.

I normally think of myself as too reflective to be caught up in this model of behavior over something so small -- in the grand scheme -- as whether or not I can buy a copy of the D&D Encounters version of KEEP ON THE BORDERLANDS. Apparently I was wrong.

The two posts are filled with Denial and Anger. "They can't do that," "This aggravates me," and other similar statements are scattered throughout the two posts. I'm really quite taken aback by how much these two posts exhibit the emotions expressed in the first two stages of grief, but did I continue through the stages?

In a word...Yes. Yes, I did. I have finally come to acceptance, but not mere "that's okay" acceptance. They got me but good...

Let me explain.

On Saturday, I began bargaining. Not the kind of bargaining that I did in the second post, which was of the "If I express disappointment in the proper tone, maybe they'll release KEEP ON THE BORDERLANDS for sale at a later date." No, this was genuine "should I go to a D&D Encounters event and should I see how my schedule this fall lines up with the whole Wednesday schedule" bargaining. I was even wondering if my local store would allow D&D Encounters on Thursdays or Fridays, as one of the commenters here mentioned. I was full on negotiating.

I don't think I ever really experienced depression, at least not in any strong way -- this isn't that important after all. But I did feel a little "remorse" that I am currently not getting to game as much as I want, and that is similar.

So, I decided to do something about it. I went to a D&D Encounters event at my local store. A very nice employee, who is far more familiar with 3.5 and Pathfinder rules than with 4e rules, ran a session for me and four other gamers. The other four players -- a college aged "min/maxer" who typically plays 3.5, a 30 something man who was there to have a good time, and two tween-age girls -- had all participated in the other adventures of the season, but all were relatively new to the rules set. All of them got the concept of roleplaying and having a good time, but none had an encyclopedic knowledge of 4e's rules.

In other words, the group was exactly the audience the program aims to recruit -- one hardcore lapsed gamer, a casual gamer, and two new gamers.

For this group of players, with their level of rules knowledge and expertise, the encounter was quite challenging. Given the GM's lack of familiarity with the rules set, he could only help them in their decision making so much -- and he did his best. I quickly found myself giving small pieces of advice to the newer gamers, but not making their decisions for them (only helping when they asked what something meant and opening discussing my intentions when I acted). We finished the encounter, by the skin of our teeth, and I had a great time.

It was everything my gaming jones needed. It was one of those wonderful, clumsy, new, exploratory gaming sessions you can only have when you have new players experimenting with what they can do. It was great fun with a great group of people.

When I came home from the event, I realized something had happened. I had come to accept D&D Encounters as a vital thing. So much so that I'll be going next week and for many weeks to come -- overall attendance depends on my MBA schedule, but for this quarter Wednesdays are free.

I have not only accepted D&D Encounters, I have fully embraced them. I can't wait to play KEEP ON THE BORDERLANDS with this group. I am eager to see what it is like to witness an adventure that introduced me to the hobby through they eyes of people who have no idea what the CAVES OF CHAOS are.

I'm picking up a Red Box in anticipation.

Damn you Wizards!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wizards of the Coast to Supportive Old School Home Gamers -- "Go to Hell!"

Those who read this blog know that I am usually a staunch defender of Wizards of the Coast. While others were complaining about Wizard's release of a 4th edition of D&D, I defended the idea. Since that time, I have become very excited about 4th edition and am in the process of putting together a campaign for my regular gaming group to play when we finish our current Eberron campaign.

I am eagerly awaiting the new Red Box, the Essentials product line (which is reaching out to "recession" gamers and new games), and even the controversial Gamma World. Many are concerned about the "collectible" nature of some the power cards in GW, but after seeing the Gamma World presentation at Gen Con I am excited at the prospect.

What I am not excited about is Wizards' next "Encounters" campaign -- KEEP ON THE BORDERLANDS.

Let me rephrase that.

I am ecstatic about Wizards releasing a 4th edition version of KEEP ON THE BORDERLANDS, but they have just told me to f@&# off by making it their next "Encounters" adventure.

I think that the Encounters "D&D Play" events are good for gaming in general, and good for local retailers. Having weekly single encounter adventures that are run at local game stores is wonderful and promotes the hobby. Never making those products available to the gaming community at large is an insult.

I'm sorry, but I don't have 2-4 hours on a Wednesday night to go to my local game store to play D&D -- let alone the afternoon. I am an MBA student, work full-time, and have two-and-a-half year old twin daughters. I game at home. My obligations at home, those lovely little girls who I adore more than anything, prevent me from gaming "away" from home.

I have been playing D&D for over 20 years and some of my fondest memories of D&D where when I was in high school. I didn't have a large gaming group yet and would spend my time running "solos" -- I would take multiple characters I rolled up through published adventures. The adventure I most frequently solo'd? KEEP ON THE BORDERLANDS.

It is likely my favorite adventure of all time. I would love to buy a copy. But I can't, nor can I go to the store and play the "Encounters." What I will be able to do is read other gamers share their experience playing the adventure with deep envy.

By making this highly desirable product available to some gamers -- those who have spare time during the week -- and not to others, Wizards is flipping a big bird in my direction and I don't appreciate it.

If they ever make any of their Encounters adventures for sale to the general public, I will be overjoyed. I'm willing to give a 6-month exclusivity period to stores even, but until then I know that I and gamers like me are not high on Wizards list. It's too bad, since I have purchased one of every book they have published over the past decade -- sometimes more than one.

Yes...that includes all of the fiction as well.

Hook a supporter up please!