Tuesday, September 22, 2020

WEG Memoirs: Mister Donut

Several times during my five years working at West End Games I received an early morning phone call of the utmost importance. Since I had to supplement my meager salary with tons of freelance work (like most of the editorial and graphic design staffers) I was usually up early, anyway, to work in an hour’s writing before getting an early start at the office. So the phone call wasn’t waking me up or anything, but it required me to leave even earlier. Usually the caller was production manager Rich Hawran, though sometimes owner Scott Palter himself. They needed me to perform an extremely urgent task before coming in to work: buy doughnuts.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Same Great Experience, Smaller Package

The board game world offers some amazing experiences, but the prospect of learning a booklet of new rules and spending several hours immersing themselves in an hours-long game can discourage some newcomers from pursuing the hobby...and even longtime gamers don’t always have the patience or time to invest in comprehending and playing a new game. As an advocate of introducing gaming to newcomers and kids, I’m always looking for games that don’t seem too overwhelming or complex, yet still offer a satisfying play experience. So I was happy to discover a few titles one might consider lighter, younger siblings of well-established games – Ticket to Ride: New York and Pandemic: Hot Zone – North Americawhich provide similar themes and gameplay as the originals without taking several hours to learn and play.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Every Star A Destination

I’m constantly flattered when fans fondly recall West End Games’ Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game. They spot references to West End creations in current Star Wars media. They remind us how much they enjoyed projects on which we worked. And occasionally we get to return to that period a long time ago (more than 20 years) far, far away (in remote Honesdale, PA) when we worked full-time and freelance to produce two or three Star Wars game products a month for a burgeoning crowd of gaming and film fans. I was lucky then for these opportunities and I’m lucky again to relive a little of that excitement creating game material to reach a similar audience. The recently released Star System: Every Star A Destination scenario collection includes an adventure I wrote, “The Jungle Prophet.” West End Star Wars line editor veteran Eric S. Trautmann approached me about contributing to the book – a D6 System homage to the popular Instant Adventures supplement suitable for sci-fi roleplaying games – to commemorate the game’s 30th anniversary and the re-issue of a slick reprint slipcase edition.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

WEG Memoirs: Foreign Language Editions

Es war einmal vor langer Zeit

in einer weit, weit

entfernten Galaxis....

Back in the mid 1990s, when West End Games had the license to produce Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game, the company also had the rights to sub-license its game materials to foreign publishers. The arrangements included the usual approvals process – especially for any changes in layout, format, and artwork deviating significantly from West End’s versions – after which West End received several copies of the published product, some of which we forwarded to Lucasfilm for its archives. I’m sure a copy went into whatever file or library West End kept at the time. As one of the few if only people on staff who had any knowledge of the German language, I usually received a spare copy of German releases from the publisher Welt der Spiel; eventually I acquired some products in other languages, too. All these years later I still have most of these foreign-language editions. They’re more nostalgic novelties now, but they remind me of the amazing reach the game once enjoyed

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Adaptable One-Hour Wargames

I’m always looking around for new games and rules, particularly ones that can put to use game materials I already have – in this case, miniatures – and ones I can adapt to introduce the adventure gaming hobby to newcomers and kids. My brother gave me a copy of Neil Thomas’ One-HourWargames for my birthday; I finally managed to read it and give it a try at the wargaming table. Thomas offers a very basic game system to which he explains and adapts numerous historical periods. He also presents 30 period-neutral scenarios useful for any wargamer seeking easy set-up with meaningful objectives. As simplistic as the system seemed, it proved just the right pace for a one-hour game with my young gamer son, adapted to one of his preferred non-historical genres, Star Wars.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Twilight 2000...or 1945

As I write this a spiffy new version of Game Designer’s Workshop’s Twilight 2000 dominates the latest roleplaying game buzz at Kickstarter. Who would have thought a game founded on situations from the late 20th century cold war would find a new audience in the 2020s? Free League Publishing, which did an amazing job on games like Tales from the Loop and the latest Aliens roleplaying game, has a slate of quality components in the game, many unlocked as stretch goals; so I’m on the fence whether to back a game I might not play but one that looks interesting to explore with lots of fun components. (The Kickstarter campaign ends Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020.) I’ve discussed my occasional interest on post-apocalyptic games before. I’ve often wanted to dabble in Twilight 2000 after seeing the ad campaign and subsequent articles/scenarios in GDW’s late, lamented Challenge Magazine. I’m not really excited about the game’s modern setting, but the survivalist theme with a hex-crawl campaign style appeals to me. Then I start thinking...what if I found a way to use the new Twilight 2000’s resources – character backgrounds, encounters, maps, adventure ideas, locations – but ported to a game system I like with a premise centered on an alternate-history end to World War II (a period that engages me more deeply)? Something like Twilight 1945.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

A Gaming Artifact from Trilemma

Artwork and production values in roleplaying game books vary greatly. They’re often constrained by the publisher’s limited budget, sometimes consuming even more financial resources than the actual content itself. Even then high production value and amazing artwork can’t make up for poor design and writing. Certainly Internet Age phenomena like Kickstarter and Patreon have enabled more creative people to release their gaming materials without the infrastructure of traditional print publishers...though quality on numerous fronts isn’t always consistent. But every once in a while a real gem emerges, something that satisfies on so many levels – substantive, graphic, qualitative – a treasure that stands out among the shelves of roleplaying game books. Michael Prescott’s Trilemma Adventures Companion Volume I is one of these amazing gaming artifacts.