Ensign Expendable

I'm going to need a team of Templars ready to mobilise, street level maps of all of Denerim, a pot of coffee, twelve Jammie Dodgers and a fez


Opinions on Gen Con News

First let me say that I didn't go to Gen Con, I've never been to Gen Con. Google tells me that it's 11,110.9 miles away from where I live so I'm unlikely to make it in the near future. However I'm interested in it for a couple of reasons. The first is that it's heartwarming to hear how people are enjoying themselves, so I was watching twitter over the weekend. The second is that it's a big time for announcements about products that we should expect to see in the next year. Also people were talking about Gen Con twenty years ago when I first started getting in to RPGs and they are still talking about it now. That's a good thing (despite the ups and downs that the con may have had over the years). It still holds a little nostalgic place in my heart like TSR and THAC0 but is still actively being supported.

So having not been there I'm not the person to ask about what the product announcements were, and how cool the people doing the announcements were. I also haven't seen any of the products I'm talking about. There are plenty of places to get that information. Here's a good one for the WotC seminar. I caught the live tweets of those guys to get the announcements live. They also won an Ennie for their blog.

What I'm going to say here is what my thoughts are on some of the announcements. I was all ready to write a post about how excited I was by the Wizards of the Coast offerings for the next year but I was left feeling pretty underwhelmed by what was announced. I understand that there were some promises along the lines of "We are listening and will do better." but that's a little like me saying that this blog post is a little light, and the next one will be too, but you wait until the posts in a few weeks time. They're going to be great. That's pretty meaningless until I actually get those awesome posts out of the door. Let's not be too negative about that though, it means that there is likely to be some time in the nearish future that I am going to be excited if they do turn the potential into reality.

Another reason for the let down is possibly that one way to interpret some of the signals that have been coming out of WotCland recently is that there is a new edition on the horizon and they were leading up to an announcement at Gen Con. By signals I mean the Legends and Lore columns about going back to basics and defining D&D and the staff changes. The latter though I would think is more of an indication that they are not in a position to announce anything. But a new Edition or a shake and rerelease of 4e didn't happen.

So what do we have? A new campaign setting. Okay, people like campaign settings. This one is a setting within a setting. More of a closer look at the region of Forgotten Realms than a whole world. Not a bad idea, Waterdeep has been done to death and I gather that there is a lot of in depth information for both players and dungeon masters in there. I've only heard good things from people that actually have the book, it seems quite good quality. Nothing earth shattering but nothing bad. Probably not high on my list but I might buy it.

A deluxe adventure, Madness of Gardmore Abbey, sounds interesting. Not so much the adventure itself but the format. They are including lots of maps, dungeon tiles, tokens for the monsters, a deck of many things and appear to have designed it to be an open ended super adventure style set. There is information on NPCs, hooks and locations as well as encounter details so you just might be encouraged to actually role play. This reminds me of some of the old TSR adventures (particularly the Dragonlance ones for some reason. That may be my memory romanticising them though) and could be a place where you could play a whole mini campaign that is more player lead if there is enough room to fill in the details and customise the setting. This may be just what a DM with very little time to prepare but with a dislike for throwing together a string of encounters and a love for a detailed environment could be waiting for. Of course you can go to third party publishers for that http://www.koboldquarterly.com/kqstore/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=5&products_id=87 but it's a good thing to see from WotC, especially as their efforts to make DMing easier with 4th edition have, it seems to me, led to the lowest common denominator becoming louder in the community and creativity getting largely ignored. Of course that has meant that the exceptions have become easier to find (some of them are in the blogroll on the right don't you know). 4th Edition has an unfounded reputation for being tactical combat game first and an RPG second. This seems to be partially as a result of the way the core books present the rules, and because combat takes such a huge chunk of your game time. I think that material like this could help in this respect.

Heroes of the Feywild. Okay, bear with me a moment. I'm going to have a rant and then explain why my rant is invalid. Disagreements can be submitted though the comments system.

The Feywild is probably one of my most favourite parts of the current incarnation of the D&D universe. The whole magical, primal place intrigues me with it's liveliness and danger and things being bigger than life and smaller than life. What a great place to adventure. It's full of mystery. Well it was full of mystery anyway. The manual of the planes did it perfectly when it described it but didn't go in to detail. The point of this place is that surprises are around each corner. Familiarity and alieness combine to achieve compelling adventures. However this, more than anything else (the Shadowfell comes close though) really loses something for me, as a setting for games, when you start to pin it down. So I'm really not looking forward to the Heroes of the Feywild. It's the whole taking the magic out of it for me. I don't want players to be saying to me "That's not how it works in the Feywild, it's like this" because that is taking the whole point of the entire plane and ruining it. A load of players boasting an arsenal of fey powers is far less fun, for me, than an NPC that comes along and does something, once, that makes everyone go "Wow, what was that".

On the other hand my point is pointless because WotC isn't actually the boss of me. They don't get to tell me what my world does, and I wouldn't have thought that they expect to. I use their general multiverse as a model for mine because I don't want to create my own. I like to tweak other bits of it so why not the Feywild. Other people however are going to love this book, like they did the Shadowfell one. They should buy it, Fey stuff is cool whether it's my Feywild or the Wizards designers one or anyone else's (I especially liked it when Rodrigo Lopez set his Feywild on fire in the Critical Hit podcast at Major Spoilers).

I have very few opinions on the rest of the RPG lineup for the next few months. We've been waiting for Mordenkainen’s Magical Emporium for a while. It could be good, but I'm more interested in creating less, but more unique, magical items for my games at the moment so it's not really holding my attention. Book of vile darkness, interesting but not that interesting. There is a promise that there will be advice on getting evil campaigns to actually work, but this kind of advice tends to be nothing you haven't seen before. New dungeon tiles, new player's option book for elementalists, Box O' Dragons (can't argue with that. Dragons are always good), new organised play style. All good additions, none of which interest me much.

More books, cool, books are always good. More board games, okay. I still haven't got around to getting the first D&D board game yet but I intend to. Drizzt doesn't hold my interest as a character (in fact I'm displeased with him and everything he stands for) but it might be the game to get when I do get around to buying one as I assume they've polished the format since releasing the first two. However I'm unlikely to buy a board game just because it has the D&D logo on it and uses D&D IP (and a 20 sided die). A board game pretty much has to stand on it's own for me, so I'm really not that interested in the 'Euro Style' Lords of Waterdeep game they announced and won't be unless I hear that it's actually a great, unmissable game.

We have the promise of non random minis. This is great. I don't think I'm alone in this. I only bought one of the boxes of random minis and I still haven't found a use for most of them (one of them I still haven't identified). So we have the promise of boxes of orcs or drow or whatever. This is probably the thing that caught my attention most from the WotC announcements because it was the least expected. I don't know if we will be seeing a lot of these sets or if they will get cancelled if they don't sell well immediately. I was under the impression that the minis were cancelled because of economic reasons, they needed to sell a lot more to make it worth it. It may have been that they weren't as far from making it profitable that I had assumed and they think a rethink of the sales strategy might help. I hope it does. There's also talk of a skirmish game to go with the minis that might be worth a look.

So that was the news from WotC. What news *did* excite me that was coming out of Gen Con.

Well, Star Wars has a new home. Fantasy Flight Games has bought the rights to make games, including RPGs, for playing a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Any movement at all on making Star Wars games is a good thing in my opinion but I didn't know much about FFG. I knew of them as those who made those Warhammer RPGs that I try to ignore and those car games that I've always been meaning to try. The reports from Gen Con seemed favourable about the X-Wing miniatures game, and I liked that there was no mention of the clone wars (I'm in my thirties. There are two versions of Star Wars for me. One I love and one I like. Doesn't make me a hater). I went out and bought the Lord of the Rings living card game that they make and was impressed. I hope they do a good job of the Star Wars stuff. I loved the old d6 WEG Star Wars RPG and thought the d20 one was okay. I'm looking forward to what FFG do. I do hope that what the license must have cost doesn't push their finances too much though, especially in the current economy.

Another exciting development is that Margaret Weis Productions has the license for the Marvel Universe RPG, and they are going to use the Cortex system to do it. My first thought was that finally I could do what Marvel couldn't and kill Peter Parker and replace him with someone better. But then I remembered that they have actually just done that. But I'm looking forward to this. I'm not usually that interested in superhero games but I like the cortex system. I like Marvel. I like that my favourite Canadian well of enthusiasm for games is on the team (The Chatty DM, Philippe MĂ©nard). I'm looking forward to this. Details are sketchy at the moment though.

That's what largely got on my radar from the news coming out of Gen Con and what I thought of it. I saw news about lots of other new products that may be really cool but didn't catch my attention. It might be nice to go there some year to see these things first hand.

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  1. IMO Fantasy Flight Games have made some truly excellent board games (Talisman, Arkham Horror, Twilight Imperium, and of course the mighty Descent) so I think the Star Wars licence is definitely in a safe pair of hands. Fear not, they won’t “do a Lucas” with the franchise.

  2. Yes, we have listened to our customers and promise to do better… with a new edition of D&D. Please, buy all our books again.

  3. SCALZI: And it really was. At that point, you’re just looking at it and you’re going, well, if you’re going to do that thing that you just did, then you know what? You do deserve to die. Good luck with that.

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