Tuesday, June 19, 2018

20th Anniversary of West End’s Demise


Every year as July approaches I get a little glum about the summer of 1998 when West End Games filed for bankruptcy and pulled the rug out from under numerous employees, creative freelance writers and artists, and fans of the company’s groundbreaking Star Wars roleplaying game. “Consider yourselves unemployed,” was how the company’s owner initially broke the news to the puzzled editors, graphic designers, and sales personnel unexpectedly summoned to his office. These annual, bittersweet recollections send me into a spiral of memories from which I can usually extricate myself by focusing on the positive aspects of that time. During my five years at West End I worked on many projects that still make me smile with a proud sense of satisfaction: certainly The Official Star Wars Adventure Journal; Platt’s Starport Guide; the revised and expanded version of the game’s second edition; the Star Wars Introductory Adventure Game (and similar products for the Men in Black and Hercules & Xena game lines); numerous solitaire tutorial adventures (including the standalone book Imperial Double-Cross); and a revision of the roleplaying game’s Star Wars Style Guide that helped authors with all aspects of the submission and writing process (which notably resurfaced a few years ago on the interwebzes as the guide George Lucas supposedly ignored when making the prequels, certainly not its original intention). It was a dream job, despite constant anxiety, vicious office politics, and what I expect are the general idiocies that plague any modern American workplace. But the occasion also gives me an opportunity to reflect on the many good things West End brought into my life and other people’s lives.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

“Vanilla” Ready for Toppings


I’m in the final stages of bringing my latest project to publication, meaning the self-doubt is really kicking in. The Greydeep Marches is a short (34 pages), system-neutral, OSR-suitable setting sourcebook for fantasy roleplaying adventures. The setting flowed from some initial brainstorming that first appeared in one of my old Hobby Games Recce pieces – “The Importance of the Setting Bible” – with development enabling me to dabble in some new concepts and techniques from various influences. On the surface it looks like plain “vanilla” medieval fantasy: a kingdom, knights, villages, elves, dwarves, halflings, dark forests, ruins, etc. “Boring,” one might say. Yet, like a serving of vanilla ice cream, it offers gamemasters the chance to add toppings to suit their own tastes, a foundation on which they can build a particularly tasty treat.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Rogue-Like Games Demonstrate Grinder/Heroic Dichotomy


In my need for escapist entertainment lately I’ve fallen back on computer games, including several in the “rogue-like” genre. Yes, those solo, dungeon-delving games based on Rogue from 1980 with dungeon elements defined by ASCII characters. Seems like everyone’s making their own version (much like the Old School Renaissance); I happen to like Pixel Dungeon for its upgraded graphics and interesting magical item uses. Just a few clicks and I’m exploring a random dungeon with monsters, magic items, and plenty of opportunities to meet a horrid end. I don’t care, it’s fun, caters to my interest in fantasy gaming, and doesn’t require me to invest too much time, energy, or focus. I juxtapose this play style with the kind of tabletop roleplaying game session that satisfies my needs in my middle-aged years: heroic characters taking on epic challenges in my favorite genres, where they stand a decent chance of survival despite seemingly insurmountable odds. This illustrates to me the vast differences between “grinder” style games and heroic play, and reinforces why I prefer the latter in my full-fledged roleplaying game endeavors.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Returning to the Solo Adventure Format


I’m wrapping up one project – finalizing layout and waiting on artwork for a system-neutral, medieval fantasy setting – so I’m starting to look toward the next concept to bring to publication. I have a long, oft-revised list of gaming ideas for development. I prioritize these on a number of qualifications, including their level of development and completion, size of expected complications, ease of acquiring artwork and other graphic elements, and suitability for various gaming markets. But I’m easily diverted from what might seem the next logical project, preferring to channel my immediate enthusiasm for an unexpected, exciting idea rather than slog away at something that doesn’t quite engage me at the moment. Right now I really should be reviewing and polishing material for an Infinite Cathedral Patreon (something I’ve considered for quite some time). So I’m naturally disappearing down the rabbit hole of an entirely unrelated project to capitalize on my immediate interest: a science fiction D6 solo adventure. Where the heck did that come from?

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Hermitage at the Edge of Oblivion

I’m stepping away from Hobby Games Recce for a while to concentrate more on long-neglected game projects that require the time, focus, and energy regularly sapped by the blog. I’ve been blogging weekly from November 2010 until 2017, when I cut back to posting every other week or so. Unfortunately it has distracted me from other gaming endeavors, though I suppose it’s kept me more visible among and engaged with a small segment of the online gaming community. I’m grateful for readers who’ve stayed with the blog faithfully all this time and those who’ve discovered it later and followed anyway. In my absence I’m leaving the blog in public mode for now so people can read my past missives about various aspects of adventure gaming, a few of which might offer some small measure of entertainment or enlightenment. At some point I intend to post again – though not on a regular basis – as the muse and my own interests inspire me; I’ll cross-post to my Google+ followers and Griffon Publishing Studio’s Facebook page when I do.

But right now I need a break, so it’s off to the Hermitage on the Edge of Oblivion to meditate in cloistered seclusion and immerse myself in work on other gaming projects.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Resisting the “New Hotness”

Some gamers thrive on industry news and the acquisition of new releases that engage their interests. Others remain content to explore games of whatever type at their leisure, trying a new game now and then, returning to old favorites, even exploring older releases discovered in newly remastered PDFs or used bookstore shelves. The more we stay attuned to the gaming industry and community the more we’re exposed to the excitement of new releases, especially when reinforced by gaming friends, convention promotions, and activities at the Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS). The concept of getting the “new hotness” as soon as it releases is a cornerstone of marketing, one further reinforced by the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) cultivated in our faster-than-light Internet Age. Some find resisting the new hotness easier than others; I’ve occasionally succumbed to it but find it easier to hold out and be my own gamer as I’ve aged (matured?) and changed my gaming group.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

How Do We Support Creators?

Patreon’s quite sudden change in its fee structure – shifting fees more to patrons than creators, inciting outrage and exodus from both groups – inspired me to not only re-evaluate my own support on Patreon (and my own potential to use it as a creator) but also to look at how we as game consumers support those who design material to inspire us and enhance our games. Patreon isn’t the end-all-be-all means to support creators in the adventure gaming hobby. Sure, it’s a pioneering platform in the ever-changing Internet Age, but I’ve come to regard the interwebzes as a fickle mistress where little if anything remains the same (or reliable) for long. Creators and their patrons have many ways to connect online, both for interaction and appreciation.