Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Evolving Periodical Content

In a world where everyone is a publisher, no one is an editor.
And that is the danger that we face today.”
Scott Pelley

The announcement of Google+’s eventual demise prompted many users to migrate to other social media platforms, a movement I explored in my last Hobby Games Recce post. Some have re-dedicated themselves to blogs – some faithfully maintained, others neglected over time – instead of or in addition to their engagement in social media. Part of my satisfaction with Google+ came from others sharing links to blogs to further inspire my own interest in adventure gaming. I likened my Google+ feed to old-style gaming magazines, like Dragon or Challenge, beloved print publications whose passing I frequently lament. Although I’m still building and exploring contacts through my MeWe presence, I find the platform lacking in providing easily noticed updates to my old favorites and interesting possibilities for new ones to follow (understandable in this period of nascent gamer communities there). So I’m focusing on re-evaluating my current browser bookmark folder for game blogs, combing my old Google+ feeds for interesting blogs to add, and reorganizing it for more efficient access.

In some ways it feels like my old game magazine editor job. I spent five years editing West End Games’ Star Wars Adventure Journal, cultivating authors and curating the quarterly magazine’s content for gamers and fans alike. Now I’m evaluating gaming blogs (both authors and content) for inclusion in a modern equivalent of my personal gaming magazine. What criteria seem most important to me (and possibly other gamers) when selecting blogs to include in this list? I look back on my cherished print editions of Dragon and Challenge magazines, to those articles that inspired my youthful gaming in the “Golden Age of Roleplaying” (the early 1980s) and the years before life in the workforce curtailed many of my escapist leisure pursuits:

New Game Content: Scenarios, gamemaster characters, settings, races and classes, adventure hooks, and a host of new monsters, magic items, spells, and other bits to add to games I enjoyed. No doubt most gamers seek this kind of material when reading blogs. Dragon often included entire scenarios – the first few years of my subscription they frequently ran entries from their module design contest – and Challenge was filled with short scenarios supporting GDW’s and other companies’ games.

Gaming Insights: Player and gamemaster advice, retrospectives on past games or trends, design notes on my favorite games, interviews with gaming luminaries, debates on gaming issues. I’ll always remember the debate on whether or not clerics should use edged weapons in my first issue of Dragon Magazine.

News & Reviews: Magazine ads and review columns used to help readers find out about new game materials and determine whether they were right for our own gaming tables. While both magazines ran columns touting their publishers’ upcoming releases, they also reviewed game products from across the industry.

I keep these three broad categories in mind while I re-organize and re-evaluate the adventure gaming websites on my browser’s bookmarks...and consider new ones to add. I’ve already done this for websites relating to my wargaming hobby pursuits (arguably a far more limited field than roleplaying games). As I clean up and prioritize my adventure gaming sites, several creators and blogs stand out, delivering relatively regular, quality content relevant to my gaming interests. These provide content similar to articles I most enjoyed in classic print magazines of yore. In the magazine paradigm they represent favorite authors, columns, and article types; as an “editor” or “curator” of my interwebzes experience, I find them useful enough to share with others in their own efforts to more easily find inspiring game content online:

Dyson’s Dodecahedron: Maps remain a mainstay for fantasy roleplaying games, so free maps in a classic, cross-hatched style provide great inspiration, especially for those without the time and talent to craft their own. Dyson Logos has become a central figure in the graphic design of the Old School Renaissance movement (OSR), ironically through his popularity on Google+. Each week he posts one or two maps, including inspirational notes about the locations, though gamers can simply use the maps for their own purposes. While they’re free to use for personal use, many he releases with a free commercial-use license thanks to generous supporters of his Patreon page.

Rolltop Indigo: Fans of S. John Ross and his cavalcade of innovative game resources (Risus: The Anything RPG, Uresia: Grave of Heaven, Encounter Critical, to name only a few) can find his voice in this blog, along with links to past treasure troves of material. You don’t have to love Risus to enjoy his musings on the gaming world. He shares his game design insights through “RPG Lexicon” articles. He demonstrates graphic design tricks for game maps. And he reminds readers of his past, ever-useful contributions to the gaming world with resources like The Big List of RPG Plots. His is one of the few adventure gaming creator blogs I follow religiously.

Trilemma Adventures: Michael Prescott offers regular doses of free, system-neutral adventures with absolutely amazing cutaway-view maps (powered by his Patreon page). He also offers other game-related material on a blog, including tutorials and insights into his artwork.

Playing at the World: I’ve discussed Jon Peterson’s groundbreaking gaming history Playing at the World before. Articles at his blog continue adding to the knowledge of early roleplaying origins and development to provide interesting insights on the adventure gaming hobby. He generally adds a new article each month, sometimes more often as new artifacts from gaming history resurface.

Trollish Delver: The blog offers a nice variety of insights on gaming issues as well as interesting content. I’ve enjoyed Scott Malthouse’s contributions on Google+ as well as his OSR creations (Osprey Games is developing a second edition of his Romance of the Perilous Land game).

Gothridge Manor: Although Tim Shorts runs a blog of the samename, his stores his real treasure trove at the Gothridge Manor Patreon page. Here he offers up frequent servings of micro-adventures, locations, and NPCs suitable for OSR and other fantasy roleplaying games. If you’re a Luddite follower of the Albertian Order of St. Leibowitz like me, you can support him at the $5 level and receive printed copies of his work in your post box. They’re the perfect size to insert into any campaign and provide an evening’s adventure.

The Dungeon Dozen: Jason Sholtis regularly delivers doses of d12 random tables offering options from the mundane to the gonzo and world-spanning. Just reading a few of his most recent topics and entries offers ideas for encounters, random or chosen. In the past I’ve found similar blogs offering regular doses of random tables on many aspect of adventure gaming; I expect I’ll have to bookmark a few of these to regularly read to feed my occasional hunger for random inspiration.

Tenkar’s Tavern: Perhaps the core OSR community on the interwebzes, Tenkar’s Tavern serves up daily insights, news, and sometimes controversy related to the OSR and the greater gaming scene. Like a typical fantasy tavern you’ll find everything here: news of upcoming releases, an occasional review, podcasts, regular chats, Kickstarter news and critiques, and a host of giveaways, including the illustrious “12 Days of OSR Christmas.”

Zenopus Archives: Another website focusing on gaming’s past, this one particularly on the J. Eric Holmes edition of Basic Dungeons & Dragons (the first to condense the three little books into some coherent system, before the Advanced D&D hardcovers and my preferred Moldvay edition Basic D&D). It explores and celebrates the early days of the adventure gaming hobby, its personalities, inspirations, rules, publications, and news of its resurgence or reprinting.

I’ve encountered all these blogs in my sojourns across the infinite interwebzes. They’re tailored to my particular interests and tastes. Every gamer has their own preferred list of such websites; their utility to even a few individuals validates their contributions. Like any good editor or curator I’m always open to examining and following new blogs that provide inspiration and entertainment. Hopefully my re-adjusted social media exposure will continue to register these new blogs on my radar.