Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Do I Need that New Edition?

Seems like everyone’s releasing a new edition of our favorite games these days through regular hobby distribution channels, online, or Kickstarter campaigns. Some are genuinely updated and overhauled, others are classic games in spiffy looking refurbished packages with enhanced contents. Each time I see one of these I mentally undergo a quick evaluation – did I enjoy an earlier edition, do I like the setting and mechanics, will I play it, can I afford it? – and almost as quickly dismiss it. (Exceptions exist: see below.) I expect most gamers employ a similar cognitive subroutine whenever the prospect of any game purchase arises; but new editions often add an extra factor, that we already have a version of the game, one we most likely enjoy. Can it rekindle the love we once felt for this game? Can this new edition encourage and enhance additional gameplay? Is it simply a money pit to cash in on our nostalgia?

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Summertime Excursions & Battle Cry

A cannon overlooking Lenn Park
on the site of a Civil War engagement.

We recently took my son, the now nine year-old Little Guy, to his first Civil War battlefield. I’m always worried about doing these things too soon, but he demonstrated an interest in the history: getting enthralled by the National Park Service movie on the battle, examining and reading about the artifacts, walking along the trails to the barely visible remains of entrenchments, and tolerating his father and uncle droning on about aspects of the exhibits and terrain. His growing understanding of history merging with my enthusiasm for games gives me an idea for summertime activities that might benefit him next year when he studies Virginia history: combining day trips to area battlefields with reading books from Daddy’s library and playing games portraying the events we study. Our trial visit to the Chancellorsville battlefield and a few rounds of Richard Borg’s Battle Cry helped convince me this just might work.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Prepping A Solitaire Foray into Tékumel

Reading Man of Gold and diving back into Tékumel source material inspired me to explore Professor Barker’s rich, very alien setting through solitaire play (my distant past attempts at running it with friends having met with little success or satisfaction). I took some time to assemble my resources and work out some story basics...and then I put it to the test on an adventure seed I wrote as a challenge I issued in on of my recent blog posts, “Demonstrating Potential: Adventure Seeds & Outlines.”

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

A Gaming Eulogy for Google Plus

Google Plus is gone. Like a friend who parts ways following a different path of life than our own, it has wandered off into the ephemeral oblivion that consumes much of the content on the ever-changing interwebzes. I feel grateful to have involved myself with it since 2011, when a gaming friend sent me an invitation to the beta version. The experience expanded my horizons on various fronts, mostly game related. Google Plus exposed me to new people, material, and ideas that sometimes challenged my comfort zone but always expanded my experiences as a gamer.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Demonstrating Potential: Adventure Seeds & Outlines

I’m re-reading M.A.R. Barker’s novel Man of Gold and it’s drawing me back into the rich, complex, distinctly non-western roleplaying game world of Tekumel. I’ve discussed this setting before (“Tekumel: The Lands of Joyful Addiction”) and how, despite the vast depth of the game world, I can never quite dive into it at the gaming table, at least for very long. After some reflection I’ve identified several reasons for this, not necessarily limited to Tekumel but particularly to games with esoteric settings. They all feed my growing list of elements I feel necessary in a good roleplaying game core rules set beyond basic, intuitive, yet easily adaptable mechanics (no doubt fodder for future Hobby Games Recce posts). But I want to concentrate on one aspect often missing from the various incarnations of Tekumel-based roleplaying games that could help make them and other games more easily accessible: adventure seeds and outlines.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

A Plethora of Projects

I’m slowly nearing completion on my latest project (though still a few months out from publication) and I’m already looking ahead to my next game-related endeavor. My writing schedule, such as it is, must accommodate my other roles in life. I manage to regularly work on projects despite the constant guilt that such activity neglects my household duties, innumerable homeowner projects, and the responsibilities of a father to an inquisitively sharp third grader. The start of a new year has me recovering from a month of preparatory activities for the yuletide holidays and an occasional pilgrimage to visit distant family. My productivity wasn’t helped by recovering from sickness both after the holidays and late January’s inadvertently “plague-themed” birthday party for an acquaintance, in which most guests fell ill in the following week. Yet the days are getting longer, my schedule’s returning to some semblance of order (as much as the Lords of Chaos will allow), and my gaze turns once again to game-writing projects at hand an in the near future.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

GM Aids: NPC Cards

They don't look like much, but
they kept me organized.

In my last missive I mentioned some of the boxed sets we assembled at West End Games included cards; it reminded me how I’ve used index cards for non-player characters stats and other useful information in both my home games and products I helped design for West End. Having relevant game material handy remains essential for gamemasters, whether running a pre-published scenario or managing the characters’ free-form sandbox hex- or dungeon-crawl. I don’t always care to page through rulebooks in the middle of a game – though a scenario isn’t quite as onerous to peruse – so having cards around allows me to arrange the core information for an encounter just as I like on the tabletop to maximize ease of reference.