What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
Yarr! The Pirate ArrPG

Monday, May 31, 2010

Mapping...

One of the last things I tend to work on when it comes to a project such as an adventure are the maps.  I love maps and I also love the 'old school' maps that TSR provided with so many of its adventures.  I know I'm not alone in this regard.  This is one of the reasons I try to give particular attention at how some of the maps are done.  When I did the C&C conversion of the Ruins of Ramat (available NOW in digest format HERE), I took a look at the maps that a talented person who works closely with Brave Halfling Publishing did up and decided to take a stab at it.  The result was stark black and white maps reminiscent of the old style present in many of TSR's iconic adventure modules and a style which was continued professionally in the various Dungeon Crawl Classics by Goodman Games.  The maps I did up seemed to do the trick and everyone seemed to be happy with them.  They were nothing fancy... but then again, those style of maps were not intended to be fancy.

Well, now I'm finishing up Keith Hackwood's "A Trick on the Tain" which was a module (I'm sorry to admit) I thought would be going to print today.  I guess it's still just a few days away as I'm still at the mercy of my overlords which have kept me busy at my regular 9-5 job.  Don't get me wrong, I like getting a regular paycheck but sometimes I could use a bit more time off for my other projects.  ;)  At any rate, the maps in this module call for some overland work.  Once again, having a fondness of an 'older yet functional style', I knew from the outset the sort of maps I would be using.  I didn't bother getting an artist to do the maps since I already had pretty much what I needed.  The author provided me the reference maps to use (nothing fancy but unsuitable for publication), I made sure I had all the various bits of software to achieve what I wanted, and some time.  Well, time admittedly is the one thing I seem to never have enough of... but the job is done.  Since I don't map on a regular basis (aside from quick sketches for my own games that I run), it took me longer than I thought it would.  That said, I'm happy with the work I've put together and I hope the fans will be equally happy.  The end result are a couple of 'old school' wilderness hex maps.  One is a closeup of the area the adventure takes place in and the other is a much larger area which could be used as a springboard for other adventures and material -- some of which I imagine will be coming out of Arcana Creations.

As for the module itself... just a couple of more days before it REALLY hits the printers.  ;)

M

Friday, May 28, 2010

General Thoughts on C&C

This is largely inspired by Josh Sherrer's interesting posts over at the Grimmhaus the past couple of days.  The posts I am referring to can be found HERE and HERE.  I have been a solid supporter of the game and also come from an AD&D background that was largely influenced by TSR's 2nd Edition.  I understand where Josh and other fans and critics of the game and company that produces it.  I have my own thoughts on the issue and the direction where I would like to the see the game and company go.

The Player's Handbook

Josh believes that the PHB could be expanded and I agree.  The fact that the 4th printing was expanded brings about a different issue which I will touch on again further on.  I believe that explanations of the equipment listed would have been a great idea and a better explanation on the functionality of illusions for the game.  I do not think that the inclusion of 'spell schools' or additional spells are necessary.  What might have been great and almost a novel concept for this type of game is a guide to spell creation and balance.  I'm not saying that schools are a bad idea... in fact, the spell creation system could even go as far as discuss schools and the relation of spells to those of an 'opposing school'.

Part of the philosophy of these sorts of games is the idea of making the game 'your own'.  I say the game would be better served at providing us with some tools in order to better do this.

As far as the SIEGE mechanic is concerned... I think it's great.  Does it handle absolutely everything?  No... nor is it expected to.  People seem to want to use it for every single instance that a roll could be done.  If you look at the earliest editions of D&D, how were skills handled?  What if you played OD&D and didn't use any of the supplements?  How would you have your 'Fighting Man' climb a wall? I could be wrong, but I don't remember the 3 LBB's covering something like that.  I'm sure people playing the game figured something out though.  ;)  Granted the Siege Engine is just not really well written and lacks a lot more guidance in the text.  What it boils down to is this: It provides a system to handle task resolution without the need of a detailed skill system.  It uses that same framework for saving throws.  Two birds with one stone.  However a lot of people I have seen play the game tend to rely more on that system than they should.  Other approaches to how it could be effectively used should be suggested.  If you really want to make the game your own but would rather have an itemized skill system, the Siege system for task resolution still becomes a valuable too that your NPC's or critters can use if you need to put something in the game on the fly.

Keep the Siege Engine... but it's strengths need to be explained clearly and suggests on how to get around some of the system's weak spots would be fantastic.  As for the Save system... I briefly mentioned it and I think it can work.  However, as opposed to just arbitrarily assigning 'old school' save categories to various attributes, a clearer explanation and logic needs to be applied.  I 'get' why everything is assigned to the various stats and I like the fact that it helps eliminate the 'dump stat'.  I think a low attribute could create an interesting circumstance where the player could assign that attribute to be a prime to help 'compensate'.  Basically -- the character has actually worked to overcome his weakness.  I think this is cool.  However a better understanding of how the various attributes related to various parts of the game, the saves, and task-resolution is in need of a more detailed section.  This would serve a new player very well.  As an aside, the Charisma being assigned the Death saves is a hard one to explain.  I tend to explain it away as the force of the personality and strength of character -- very much tied in to the concept of the 'Will to Live'.  My players seem to have accepted this.  ;)

As for the inclusion and exclusion of certain characters, I suppose one needs to remember that the classes are supposed to be archetypal.  While an 'Assassin' is basically someone who is paid to kill a a specific target, there is also an archetype.  The "Assassin's Creed" games are an interesting look at that archetype.  Things like the Knight, the Monk, the Barbarian, and the Illusionist are just as valid.  The question one needs to ask is whether the present classes supplied (there are 13 of them) accurately do or is it just that they followed the model as brought about with 1st edition.  Personally, I didn't mind the class of the illusionist but the recent spell additions diminish the class and how one goes about in trying to define and differentiate it from the Wizard class.

As far as the book model is concerned... I think the 2 book model was a good one (mention of the CKG never should have come about).  In truth, there is no real reason for a player to ever need anything that's in the M&T book and I think a lot of people like that idea.  While I loved the D&D Cyclopedia and would love a Cyclopedia version of the C&C ruleset, I would much rather they 'tighten' up the material in the PHB and M&T.  Once the material is 'satisfactory', I can see a special edition (collector's edition with faux leather) do well among some of the fans.

The Monster & Treasure Book

I think expanding the book slightly would have been nice.  I don't want a 'zillion' critters but not including some basics like a Giant Centipede or Beetle seems shortsighted.  A few more basic staples would have been great.  That said, a few more utilitarian sections on the use and design of magic items and the creation of new critters might have been really handy to have.  Choosing to omit such things like Demons to put in a more specialized work is perfectly acceptable as long as it gets down properly.

The Company

Well, I have to agree that the choices made in some cases are not my own.  As a publishing partner to Brave Halfling Publishing, I can understand some of the delays and choices.  There are also many others which are examples of lost opportunities in my opinion.

Aside from product issues (which I won't go into), the question of an SRD specifically for C&C is an interesting one.  I do not believe it is needed since it is largely dderived from the d20 SRD already.  If a publisher wants to develop material for the system, then they need to approach TLG and ask permission since, C&C and the Siege Engine are trademarked terms regardless if everything else is 'open' or not.

As for the support for the C&CS is concerned... well... they meant well but clearly dropped the ball.  TLG's vision was a society of gamers and fans that would play and showcase the game.  This was to start and things are still at a starting phase.  I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt that things are just very slow.  On the upside, they have put together a box set which can be gotten for free if you are holding an event or doing a demo.  That's got to count for something right?

Now I'm not trying to over-simplify the issues but at the end of the day, TLG is just a very small company.  Unless there is significant growth, it is likely to remain so.  Such is the way with RPG publishers.  If they can release material that people will like and buy, then more power to them.  If they continue to have some mishaps, the company will simply stop to prosper and possibly fold.

I would have done things differently and the game would be different as well.  But I think any passionate gamer would think the same right?

My thanks to Josh for a thought provoking set of posts.

M

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Zenith Comics Presents!

A friend of mine has been putting more and more effort into his project entitled 'Zenith Comics Presents!'  For those who are interested in a 'Supers-type' RPG, you may want to check some of the stuff out.

First (and foremost), there is the main SITE.  This is your portal to the Zenith Comics Presents universe.  From there, I recommend checking out the BLOG.  The blog follows the thoughts, work, and campaign as ran by Andrew Collas.  A wonderful treat is the podcast which has just started up and worth a lesson.  The first, and presently only episode, is really an interesting listen.  The guest on the inaugural episode was Jeff Dee who may be best known for his artwork with TSR and his various gaming design efforts including Villains & Vigilantes and TWERPS.  You can download this first episode of the podcast directly HERE.

If any of this happens to be your thing and you decide to check it out, I hope you enjoy!

M

Back in Black

In the past month and a half, I've taken a step back while things have just gotten busier in my life.  It just so happens that between my 9-5 gig, and regular commitments, as well as a bunch of unexpected ones, I wasn't left with time to take much of a breather these days.  I did take a bit of time to celebrate my own birthday a couple of weeks ago and May has kicked off rather nicely in the sense that things have started to calm down and I have been able to think about getting back to business...

While I haven't been able to get much work done on current projects with Arcana Creations, I have been keeping tabs at some of the things that have been going on in the gaming community.  I have also been taking a hard look at various trends and changes.  I have also witnessed a local game store shutting down and noticed attitudes changing as the gaming landscape continues to evolve.

Depending whom you ask, you will get a variety of thoughts and opinions on why that is.  Some will be quick to blame 4th Edition and others simply the slow Economy.  It could be the growth of POD publishing efforts or it could be a general dissatisfaction of the current situation and what's actually available.

I'm not really sure if any of it matters too much.

The key is being able to evolve and respond.  TLG has made a few shifts in terms of its own general business strategy -- the $5 module initiative is a primary example of this.  Other companies are trying to different things and Arcana Creations will also be making certain adjustments.  This may become more apparent as we get closer to 2011.

In the meantime, where is Arcana Creations at?  A few people had been been asking and next up is still the C&C module entitled 'A Trick on the Tain'  That project is very nearly ready for completion and *should* be going to print within the next couple of weeks.  Following on the heals of this release will be the new Siege-based game entitled 'Victorious'.  The release for this project will be two-fold.  First we will release a free Quickstart as a free PDF which will be followed later this summer with the core rulebook for the game.  I've had a chance to play around with it a bit and I'm eager to see it out in print.  Hopefully people will embrace this Victorian-era based Super Hero RPG and enjoy the system approach.  After the dust settles on that, we will follow with the release of the 'Foamy Tankard'; an accessory for C&C and other FRPG's.

Beyond that, I've decided to keep future projects under wraps for now.  Things are in the works though and I expect to make an announcement as the Fall starts closing in.

This weekend is Victoria Day weekend here in Canada which means I will be able to play catch up and get a bunch of work wrapped up all going well.  For those who follow the blog regularly or who have been asking for news, thank you so much for patiently waiting.

M