Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sundry Game Ideas from across the Internet

I come across a lot of content in my wanderings across the internet in search of interesting game material; usually only the most relevant to me or the hobby (as I see it) receives mention here at Hobby Games Recce, sometimes in a full feature or as part of my discussion/exploration of a particular facet of the adventure gaming hobby. Which means I often overlook little gems I don’t really have time to explore or write about in depth, but wouldn’t mind bringing to the attention of readers who might not have discovered them on their own.

Here are a few notable little discoveries that can enrich one’s game experiences, most with applications for roleplaying games, but one from the wargaming front (with applications in roleplaying games, too):

Wargames on the Fridge

John Fiore over at the Solo Nexus blog recently posted “Rally Round the Fridge,” a piece about wargaming in his New York City apartment where space remains at a premium. His solution? Mount pieces on office supply store magnetic sheets and use the vertical refrigerator surface as his wargaming table! In his example Fiore uses top-down paper soldier pieces from Junior General (which I’ve featured before here at Hobby Games Recce), but one could mount three-dimensional pieces on magnets, assuming they aren’t too heavy for the magnets to stick on a vertical refrigerator serface: other stand-up figures from Junior General, pre-painted plastic minis (both for roleplaying game heroes and monsters as well as wargaming minis, like Gordon & Hague’s pre-painted 10mm Civil War minis), even Axis & Allies minis (I think anything for Flames of War would be too heavy to stick, though that would look cool). The idea would even work for roleplaying game skirmishes showing the location of heroes and monsters in a dungeon chamber. Fiore’s Solo Nexus blog remains a good resource not only for those interested in solitaire games of all sorts (from wargames and roleplaying games to board and card games) but anyone looking for innovative approaches to group gaming.

“Escalating” Solitaire Adventure

A while ago Crystal Star Games released the Chronicles of Arax, a basic fantasy roleplaying game system geared toward solitaire play, available free on DriveThruRPG and its affiliates. The game introduces a new format for solitaire adventures; rather than relying on a series of “programmed” entries with choices (“If you defeat the goblins, go to 27; if you run away, go to 12.”), it presents a series of numbered entries from 1 to 20 without any “if/then” choices in the text. Each turn the player rolls 1D10 and goes to that numbered entry, confronting a challenge, evading a trap, or fighting the inhabitants. On subsequent rolls the player adds +1 to the die roll for each previous turn, increasingly escalating the numbered encounter; if the die roll indicates a encounter already visited, the player moves upward to the next new encounter. Obviously the earlier entries represent easier challenges and locations one would encounter first in a dungeon, with the later entries covering more difficult obstacles and ultimately the adventure climax. This design offers inspiration for a non-programmed solo adventure format with an intuitive escalation mechanic; it seems to work well for dungeon-delving scenarios, though it might prove an interesting challenge for more story-driven adventures.

Sharp-Looking Risus Supplements

S. John Ross’ Risus: The Anything RPG remains one of the more innovative, free roleplaying game offerings on the internet, with a huge online fan following that regularly contributes free source material for the game. One of those contributors, Brent Wolke, recently released We the People -- a Revolutionary War with magic setting -- to his library of sharp-looking, free Risus supplements available through his engine of thwaak blog. These additional offerings include Axe, Hammer & Rune (dwarf-oriented fantasy), Call of the Wild (animal-mutant post-apocalyptic), and Future Imperfect (near future sci-fi). They’re all short and sweet -- in the spirit of the original Risus rules -- but manage to impart a solid sense of the setting, all within a very engaging graphic design. Wolke’s engine of thwaak blog is definitely worth watching for his latest innovative and graphically sharp developments on the Risus front.

Zak’s Drop-Die Instadungeon

Need a quick dungeon for tonight’s old-school hack-and-slash game? Check out Zak’s drop-die “instadungeon” on his Playing D&D with Porn Stars blog. The two-part process consists of grabbing some polyhedral dice and rolling them on one square-segmented chart with location notes, drawing “rooms” around the dice and connecting them; then rolling each die on a particular chart to determine what adversaries or other challenges inhabit each room. The “instadungeon” concept is a neat idea one might customize (both locations and die-roll results) for one’s particular game, setting, character levels, and general difficulty level. Check out Zak’s blog entry for the more-or-less complete process, as well as someone’s more legible online interpretation (an easier-to-read chart, with the ability to randomize and customize its contents, then print). Warning: If you couldn’t tell from the title, Zak’s blog sometimes contains Not-Safe-For-Work material; and while his style and subject matter range quite artistically all over the place and are sometimes difficult to follow, there’s some real gaming genius at work here.


Over at game designer-illustrator Doug Anderson’s Blue Boxer Rebellion blog I’ve been following his posts about developing a new iteration of his DungeonTeller roleplaying game for kids. The current, free version relies on success-based dice pool rolls, offering the usual menu of roles and races with some original touches, like different “powers” players can choose for their characters. The presentation’s very basic, as it’s obviously a first draft to get the system on paper to share with others and use as a personal reference in games; but the approach and mechanics show a great deal of promise, especially when one sees Anderson’s artwork and graphic design ideas, such as his “Into the Unknown” piece, his nicely organized and illustrated weapon chart, and the concise yet innovative “Rumor Mill Premise-Maker for Dungeon Adventures.” I’ll admit I’m getting more interested in roleplaying games oriented toward children, both as a parent (of a toddler who has a few years before I subject him to my gaming interest) and a game designer dabbling in a project of his own. Anderson’s blog is worth following for developments on the next version of DungeonTeller, his crisp, old-school-style artwork, and his insights on old-school D&D.