Game Design

Fuzzy Thinking: Timing and the RPG Stack

RPGNet - 26 November 2018 - 12:00am
Fuzzy botch!
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Video Game Deep Cuts: Hex Me With This Underworld Battlefield

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 25 November 2018 - 8:11pm

This week's highlights include impressions of more late-breaking notable games of this holiday season, from Let's Go Pikachu through Battlefield V to Underworld Ascendant and beyond. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

AOE and Range Templates

New RPG Product Reviews - 25 November 2018 - 7:49pm
Publisher: Patrick Mitchell Johnston
Rating: 4
A nice-looking set of effect templates for tabletop RPGs. The templates print up nicely and are colorful, and a few paper size options are available. My only gripe is that some of the templates, like the 30' radius and 60' cone, are only available to print in the wide sized file, when both could have fit onto pages in the letter sized file. Overall a very good product for the price.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

5e Spell Scroll Cards

New RPG Product Reviews - 25 November 2018 - 11:26am
Publisher: Patrick Mitchell Johnston
Rating: 4
A solid set of spell scroll cards for D and D 5e with no frills and several printing options. They print up clear and easy to read. Each card is presented on a separate page, allowing you to print only the ones you need (using the multiple page feature on your printer). General rules for scrolls are presented on one side of each card, with the rules for the spell on the other. Overall a very solid and useful product.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Video Game Deep Cuts: Hex Me With This Underworld Battlefield - by Simon Carless Blogs - 25 November 2018 - 8:06am
This week's highlights include impressions of more late-breaking notable games of this holiday season, from Let's Go Pikachu through Battlefield V to Underworld Ascendant and beyond - as well as undiscovered notables like The Hex & more.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

5e Magical Item Cards

New RPG Product Reviews - 25 November 2018 - 7:09am
Publisher: Patrick Mitchell Johnston
Rating: 4
A solid set of magic item cards for D and D 5e with no frills and several printing options. They print up clear and easy to read. Each card is presented on a separate page, allowing you to print only the ones you need (use the multiple page feature on your printer). Overall a very solid and useful product.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Large Monster Block Card Form

New RPG Product Reviews - 25 November 2018 - 6:54am
Publisher: Patrick Mitchell Johnston
Rating: 4
A solid set of monster cards for D and D 5e with no frills and several printing options. They print up clear and easy to read. Each card is presented on a separate page, allowing you to print only the ones you need. Overall a very solid and useful product.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Small Monster Block Cards

New RPG Product Reviews - 25 November 2018 - 6:50am
Publisher: Patrick Mitchell Johnston
Rating: 4
A solid set of monster cards for D and D 5e with no frills and several printing options. They print up clear and easy to read. Each card is presented on a separate page, allowing you to print only the ones you need. Overall a very solid and useful product.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Storytelling and Games

Gnome Stew - 23 November 2018 - 1:00am

My #tableselfie for the class. I forgot to take it until the end, so we missed a couple students.

Last week, I had the privilege of speaking to an honors seminar class at Finger Lakes Community College. The class was called Storytelling and Games, and I was asked if I was interested in coming in and talk to the class about narrative in roleplaying games. Was I interested? Ooh boy, was I ever!

Of course, the closer we got to the date, the more nervous I got. It was a two-hour class that met once a week with about twelve students. I wouldn’t be overwhelmed by a large audience, but I still wanted to make sure I gave them a good presentation. My friend, the instructor who invited me, had let me know they were a bunch of awesome nerds, and whatever I brought in should be fine. While all of them were definitely folk of a nerdy flavor, only a few of them had actually played table top RPGs before.

So, what did I do? Well, first, I talked about the history of RPGs and how narrative was kind of an accidental byproduct of early games. I’m sure some grognard somewhere is screaming sacrilege, but RPGs were born out of miniature wargames. The theming of early games was on point right from the beginning, but rules that lead to the story the game’s theme promised weren’t really there yet. Obviously, something about the characters and the stories that did come out of games was captivating, otherwise those original players would have wandered back to minis and war games.

As games evolved, the narrative they were advertising became more and more important. In the early 90’s, Vampire: the Masquerade debuted and they called the game runner a storyteller, right out of the gate. The rules still had some issues lining up the story of a monster’s struggle with its own humanity with the rules as presented, but the mechanics were getting closer. Then there was the D20 Boom of the early 00’s. In the shadow of D&D 3.0 and all the other publishers making D20 compatible products, an indie aesthetic arose in designers looking for something different. Slowly, the idea of aligning the mechanics the story the game is promising became more prominent and part of many designers’ goals.

This wasn’t a history class, though, so kept the lecture to a minimum. I wanted to frame the games I was presenting to them to show the evolution of the hobby and how modern games build the narrative into the core fabric of the game. What I really wanted to do was SHOW them how roleplaying games work.

The Games!

I split the class in two and gave one half Monster of the Week playbooks and the other half Masks playbooks. Both games have very strong, easy to understand themes and the playbooks do a good job of guiding character creation quickly. Because both games have a large number of playbooks, I could have stuck with one or another based on the number of students, but I felt it was more realistic to divide them into groups that were better representative of what an actual gaming table might have. We wouldn’t be able to get in a full game, but I still wanted to give them a taste of it all.

The Monster of the Week crew chose a Monstrous, a Crooked, a Spell-Slinger, and a Chosen. After they worked through their playbooks, we ended up with a Chosen that didn’t really understand that he was destined for something important, but kept being nudged by outside forces into saving the day. The Crooked was a pick-pocket who acted like he was made of Teflon because nothing bad could stick to him. The Spell-Slinger started off as a direct homage to Harry Dresden, but ended up with a little Karrin Murphy flavor in there as well. The Monstrous was a vampire that had decided humanity was getting too good at creating evil on its own, so out of self-preservation, she was working for the good guys to keep the world from going to complete crap.

The Masks players!

The Masks group chose a Transformed, a Delinquent, a Doomed, an Outsider, and a Bull. The Transformed was a metal dude trying to figure out how to still be a normal kid in his new body. The Delinquent developed his powers naturally and just used them to get even more rebellious with his illegal urban exploration. The Bull was an ex-football player that got experimented on, but ended up rescuing all the other kids getting experimented on with them. The Outsider came from the planet Glarfunk, was bright blue with bizarre hair, and never ever passed for normal. The Doomed, on the other hand, was normal enough that her primary enemy was a high school bully that was trying to kill her off.

Once we got the basics of the characters out of the way, we did connections. I did this to show how you can build the narrative of the game at the beginning by interweaving all of the characters together. With the Masks group, most of them revolved their connections around the Bull. During a regular game, I would have pushed them to spread their connections around, but they were all having so much fun making the Bull their social lynchpin, I didn’t want to stop them. For the monster hunters of Monster of the Week, the connections weren’t as cohesive and took a little more prodding. In the end, they eventually came up with enough connections to logically explain why they were all in Houston working together to stop a cult trying to summon a major demon.

With the connections out of the way, I ran a quick scene for each group. With each, I tried to demonstrate how the story builds from the scene I set as the GM, but evolved from the actions they took. RPGs should be a collaborative affair, after all.

With the Masks kids, like you sometimes see with new players, I had to nudge them into acting on what they were seeing. They were all super into the world building during character creation, but weren’t sure how to dive into the game once we got rolling. The scene I sent for them was a mall that was being attacked by someone or something. One fun thing that happened early was me being able to demonstrate how their ideas can help influence the game. I described the wreckage of a Build-A-Bear store and one of the players asked if they were going to be fighting a giant stuffed bear? Yes, yes you are. Eventually they started to get more proactive and after a couple of times around the table, I ended on a cliffhanger, letting them discover that their real enemy was a little girl on the merry-go-round, animating giant dolls and statues as her ‘friends’.

The Monster hunters!

For Monster of the Week, I gave them a set up where the cult they were fighting against had kidnapped a bunch of innocent civilians and was about to sacrifice them on the floor of the Houston Texan’s stadium. Right out of the gate, I had to have a talk about tone. Again, as you sometimes see with newer players, they were a little more bloodthirsty than the tone of the game calls for. The Crooked’s solution for dealing with the cultists was to blow up the stadium and the kidnapped people would be ‘acceptable casualties’. I pointed out that they are supposed to be the heroes and blowing up innocent civilians goes against that. If it had been a full game, I would have spent more time guiding them into the proper tone of the game, but that was a luxury we didn’t have. In the end, as is often the case in Monster of the Week, the dice made things go sideways anyway. When I ended it, the explosion didn’t go off like they had hoped and the vampire was being held by the cult leader as an acceptable sacrificial alternative.

I had a really fun time with the class and I hope to get the chance to do it again in the future. The students all said they had fun, and I’ve been told that a couple of them expressed that they really enjoyed their first taste of RPGs. Huge thanks to April Broughton for inviting me to the class and good luck to all the students!

Categories: Game Theory & Design

NPD: Skipping single player didn't hurt sales for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 21 November 2018 - 10:50am

An NPD Group analyst says that sales of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 weren't hurt 'in the slightest' by the game's multiplayer-only model. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Gaming with Non-Gamer Family

Gnome Stew - 21 November 2018 - 5:00am

It’s that time of year where family members from near and far gather together for the wide and various holidays of the winter season. This is a great chance to game with some folks that you normally don’t get a chance to roll some dice with. Some of your family may not be aware of your gaming, while others will. Their attitudes may range from eagerness to participate to approval to neutral to scorn. You obviously know your family better than I ever will, so please take this advice and apply it where you can. Where things don’t quite align with you and your family, feel free to ignore me.


Most gamers have a decent level of “weird” in their psyche. After all, we enjoy getting together to play make-believe in a structured manner with our friends. Even though it’s weird to do this as adults, I think it’s pretty darn cool. You should think it’s cool, so let your “weird light” shine bright and clear! (Yes, even in front of your family).

…But Not Too Weird

However, don’t get too weird. You don’t want to ook out your family members who may be unaware of this part of your life. To be more specific, I would advise avoiding games that get deep into psychological horror (or horror in general), politics, religious statements/evaluations, or that tend to lead to inter-party conflict. While I love a good game of Paranoia as much as the next person, the inter-party, clone-on-clone violence can completely ruin the next family meal as people may still hold a grudge because Little Billy killed Uncle Frank’s very last clone. Know what I mean?

Fun and Simple!

Try to find a game that’s fun and simple. The simpler the game, the more fun it will be because there will be fewer rules to explain and go through. Avoid the crunchy games like recent iterations of D&D and Pathfinder. GURPS, Hero System, and most other point-build systems are straight out (even though I love those types of systems).

A stripped down Savage Worlds (no edges or hindrances) could work. I’ve done this before at a horror-based literary convention with a LARGE group (14 players, only 2 of whom had played RPGs before) and it worked very well. Fate Accelerated (with maybe 1 or 2 simple aspects per player) can also be run smoothly.

Basically, if you can legibly fit the “character sheet” on an index card (yes, you can use both sides), then you’re in good shape. I would also highly advise pre-generated characters because you’ll basically be playing a con-style game during a holiday gathering. We have plenty of articles on prepping for and running a convention game, so I suggest you search for those and check them out.

Safety Tools

I’m not going to delve into the different types of safety tools because Phil did a great job of it here, but I will press you to include them at the table. If you (or another player) upsets the random stranger at a con game, there are typically few long-term negative impacts on your life. However, if you get under Uncle Frank’s skin in a serious manner and he has no way to politely let you know to back off a certain topic, then it could cause friction in your family for the long-term. Then again, maybe your family structure is more stable and able to handle this than what I’m used to, and I could just be a “Nervous Nellie” in this area. Better safe than sorry, I think.

In Game Meta Currency

Lots of games have Bennies or Fate Points or some other mechanic. While I normally state that these tokens should not be edible, I’m going to say that tossing out mini-candies as bennies is a good thing in these scenarios. Just let your family members know that if they eat the candy, then the empty wrapper is not valid as a Bennie… Or maybe it is? Depends on how you want to play the game. I think tossing candy out is a great ice breaker. I’d also be more generous with them than the rules (or other standards) dictate. This will encourage higher levels of participation as people will amp things up in the role playing side of things in order to score some more chocolate from your stash. Just make sure that stash is stocked!

End Words

Finally, I hope this is a great holiday season for you. I don’t care who you’re celebrating with, how you’re celebrating it (if at all), or what games you get to play. I just want everyone out there in the Gnome Lands to be safe, sound, and happy around the gaming table.

If you do end up celebrating the season with family at the gaming table, I’d love for you to come back here and let me know how things went.

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Teenage Boys Show Little Interest In Anthropomorphic Turtles ... Observations of an Industry Fossil - by William Volk Blogs - 20 November 2018 - 10:58pm
Do users know what they want in a game in terms of original ideas? Maybe not.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Breaking the Loop: A Look at the Cinematic Music of Breath of the Wild - by Jason Yu Blogs - 20 November 2018 - 10:53pm
A look at the music of Breath of the Wild and how it breaks convention from "traditional" Zelda music, highlighting the creative use of non-looped music.
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Opinion: World of Warcraft: Classic will disappoint you

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 20 November 2018 - 1:03pm

"I fear that World of Warcraft: Classic is unsustainable, and will prove to be incapable of sustaining a meaningful community of anyone other than those committed to burning through the endgame." ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Don't Miss: Designing the Elusive Target system for 2016's Hitman

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 20 November 2018 - 12:11pm

"They would be tough because players would have one chance to get them right, and the whole dynamic around how you play the game should change." ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

GoFundMe, Doom auction seek to raise funds for devs affected by California fires

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 20 November 2018 - 11:49am

Both a GoFundMe campaign and an online auction of rare Doom memorabilia have been set up to help Christy Marx and Randy Littlejohn, two writers that lost their home in the yet-ongoing Camp Fire. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

A peek at the experiments Spelunky players use to manipulate the game's code

Social/Online Games - Gamasutra - 20 November 2018 - 11:02am

Players of Mossmouth's Spelunky HD are working to understand the game's inner workings, a process that has become integral to snagging a spot on the game's leaderboards. ...

Categories: Game Theory & Design

Having a Vision with thatgamecompany Eric Koch - by Larry&Brandon GDU Blogs - 20 November 2018 - 8:59am
When the folks over at thatgamecompany start moving on a new project hoping to follow up the success of their previous games Journey and Flower, there was only one person they trusted to help head up development, Eric Koch. Eric’s career started out in
Categories: Game Theory & Design

Fortnite Creator Facing Potential Lawsuit Over 'Stolen' Dance Moves - A Legal Analysis - by Pete Lewin Blogs - 20 November 2018 - 8:58am
Epic Games faces potential lawsuit over 'stealing' popular dance moves. But is there any legal merit here? Are dance moves actually protected by copyright?
Categories: Game Theory & Design

20 Things #31: Blue Dragon's Lair (System Neutral Edition)

New RPG Product Reviews - 20 November 2018 - 2:17am
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
Rating: 5
An review

This installment of the #20 Things-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

On the first page, we get 8 names for male and female blue dragons, as well as a table of 12 blue dragon lair features – from fine shifting sands covering deep drift to rippled dunes blocking passage, the entries here present some rather cool details that can add genuine depth to the exploration: Sinkholes, veritable scorpion swarms and yes, even a pool that is fed by underground springs make for plausible and cool features to add to the lairs of the masters of deserts.

Beyond these features, which can have a more pronounced impact on lair exploration, we also get 12 entries of dressing that are more cosmetic: Vanquished gnoll raiders, mangled shields that tell, by their presence of the failures of those that came before, faded words pronouncing doom – if you need to add a bit of character to a complex, there you go. Speaking of which: There also is a table that lets you cosmetically customize your dragons: Vivid scars of malformed scales, horns missing their top, wings pierced by holes and curved fangs – these tell the tales of previous altercations and could well result in monikers for the respective draconic foe.

A further 8-entry table on the next page expands on that, providing suggestions for what the dragon may be doing: You could witness a dragon rolling on its back, scratching an itch, finishing a snack of camel plus rider, or, if you’re lucky, it may be out there, hunting…for now. A table of 12 entries may be found on the same page, providing a plethora of sights and sounds that may be encountered. The least perceptive PC may be stricken by a kind of paranoia, and the floor may be crossed by cracks, from which steam emerges. Thunderous roars echo, and the heavy stench of ozone seems to emanate from the floor.

Of course, you do brave a dragon’s lair due to their fabled treasures, right? Well, no less than 20 different trinkets and 8 additional worn trinkets may be found, including ourouboros-like rings, a silk rope interwoven with silver as a kind of necklace – great means of showing, not telling, how vain dragons can be. Oh, and smart PCs may well find a map to Gloamhold here – nice little easter-egg/cross-reference there.

The final page, then, would be devoted to hoard dressing – from the splintered remains of whole wagons to ornately-carved statues of half-nude warriors buried half in sand to packages filled with sawdust containing chandeliers, this section provides quite a lot of evocative entries.


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to an elegant, minimalist 2-column b/w-standard, and the pdf sports a couple of really nice b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, and the pdf comes in two different versions, one of which is optimized for screen-use, and one is optimized for printing it out.

Creighton Broadhurst’s dressing for blue dragon lairs is a great little file: The entries do feel like they have a strong blue dragon theme going and don’t fall into the trap of being generic dragon dressing. The lair features in particular made me smile more than once, and as a whole, this supplement provides a great, well-written array of entries that can enhance the experience here. A minor complaint could be fielded in that the electricity/lightning-angle of blue dragons could have featured a bit more prominently. Lightning bolts can create glass (look that up if you haven’t seen the like!), so that could have also featured and added some surreal, majestic shapes and forms…but that may be me. As a whole, this is certainly worth the low asking price. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.
Categories: Game Theory & Design


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