Sunday, March 29, 2009

Review: Rise of the Runelords – Final Thoughts

I have spent the past two months or so reviewing Paizo’s first Pathfinder Adventure Path individually, and I thought I would provide some overall commentary on the entirety of it.

It is well known at this point that when WotC pulled back the Dungeon and Dragon magazines, Paizo had to come up with a replacement. While I am not sure what the revenue numbers were, I suspect that it was substantial, and I will go on to theorize that Paizo really needed something to replace the magazines in order to continue to grow as a business. This lead to the decision to launch the Pathfinder AP, and with it came a number of other related products.

While Rise of the Runelords was not the first AP ever created, it represents the first dedicated effort to launch a sustained effort to promote the AP model with a series of specifically designed books. One can go back to the days 1E, and look at the GDQ series, which I believe is the first attempt at creating a campaign arc. When they were first published, the link between them was rather loose, and then with the publish of Queen of the Spiders in 1986, the link was strengthen with additional material, and there was an effort made to make it a follow on to the A series, which was a much smaller campaign arc that was based on a series of tournament modules.

The 1980’s also saw the rise of Dragonlance, which I believe created the story driven plot lines, and was clearly very successful, with numerous modules being created. Fast forward to 3rd edition, in which Paizo coined the term Adventure Path with their publish of Shackled City, followed by Age of Worms and Savage Tide in their Dungeon magazine, which were also very popular with the fans.

Looking back over this history, we see that while D&D started with the sandbox campaign, the Adventure Path has gained considerable popularity among the fans, and made its case as a viable adventure design. I would even go as far as to say that even in the old days, there was talk about combining modules or adventures in order to create a super campaign in which to take characters from 1st level to a much higher level, providing they survive the journey, and the players continue to stay disciplined in playing with a particular set of characters. It is a natural desire of players to see their characters rise in power, and I would argue that this is one of the reasons to play the game as a player.

Now we come to Rise of the Runelords, which represents the latest attempt to create a campaign arc in which characters can go from 1st level to 15th level. Based on today’s sales figures, which are quite a bit smaller than the Golden Age of D&D in the early eighties, it has proven to be very popular. There was a poll on Enworld a year or so ago, asking which 3rd edition product was the most popular. While the poll cannot be taken as an extremely accurate assessment of the entire fan base, it is worth mentioning that Rise of the Runelords did very well, getting into the final rounds. I think this does re-enforce the notion that there is considerable fan support for quality adventure paths. With all this said, I think that this does lend legitimacy to the adventure path as a valid design method.

Looking over Rise of the Runelords, I have given the individual books fairly good reviews, and there is a lot to like about the series.

- Well laid out, all color books
- A number of well written supporting articles
- Gazetteers of the key towns involved in the adventure path
- Lots of variety of play, ranging from a small seaside village to a lost city up in the mountains
- A number of dungeons for exploring
- A haunted house
- A fully mapped out fort
- A very logical goblin-ghoul-ogre-giant monster progression
- Solid adventure hooks linking the books together
- Very active message board with over 16,000 posts on this Adventure Path

On the downside, Adventure Paths do lock the characters into following a specific plot, and has a tendency to pull the characters along, rather than having the characters create their own destinies. This specific Adventure Path is very guilty of that, as it has a very strong overall pace, which does not leave a lot of room for side adventures. This is not to say that there could not be any, but a heavy handed GM can make this seem like the characters are on an E-ticket ride at Disney.

Taken as written, and considering the adventure path genera, this is one of the stronger entries in this class. For the players and GM’s that like this type of adventuring, this particular series is very good. The strength of design and the diversity of the modules are such that it should keep players interested for the entirety of play.

For those GM’s and players that do not like the Adventure Path concept due to its forced execution, can still take away bits and pieces, as I think this series is very modular, and sections can be broken off and fit into existing campaigns. In particular, the dungeons are small, which means that they can be ported off and used in a number of different ways. The towns that are described can also be used elsewhere. The haunted house in PF#2 would make a great one shot Halloween special.

Overall, I do recommend this Adventure Path, as I think there are enough good ideas contained within, to make up for any short comings that exist.

Rating: 4 Dragons (on a scale of 5)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dark Continents

Being here in Australia, I have given a bit of thought to the concept of Dark Continents and its impact on Sword and Sorcery genera.
Clearly the orgins of the term come from the 19th century, when map makers were unsure of what was in the interior of the continent, so would just leave it blank or "dark."

Nowdays, most folks would still naturally think of Africa as the Dark Continent, for obvious reasons. It is easy to get caught up in the mythology that surrounds Africa with its steamy jungles, Serengeti Plains, and the Sahara Desert that empties into Egypt with its pyramids. There is something quite primal about this backdrop that makes for great story telling. Howard made liberal use of this in his Solomon Kane stories, and Conan borrowed bit and pieces here and there to fill out the Hyborian Age in order to set the right atmosphere.

While the wild animals of Africa make for great stories, of which The Man-Eaters of Tsavo is one of my favorite tales, with its rogue man eating lions. It is perhaps the only place on earth that large animals still range free. The dinosaurs have been extinct for a good 65 million years, but elephants and the other great herd animals still tromp around, giving us but a glimpse of what it would have been like to see large beasts wandering about. Still it falls short of seeing an actual T-rex, but this is the best we have in the modern age.

With all that said, I think the key to the draw of Africa is the idea that older civilization once lived here. The mysteries of the pyramids still remain with us, and are not fully understood. When Europe became aware of Africa, it was a new civilization meets old civilization, and with this, concepts and ideas become possible. It is here that Sword and Sorcery can take root, and creative writing can fully blossom. It is the unknown that defies traditional thinking, allows for the possibility of fantastic stories, and has become a fertile field for numerous authors to plow away on, which they have.

But, Africa is not the only Dark Continent on our planet. One could argue that all the continents have some mysterious past, which begs for exploration by creative authors. The Indian myths of North and South America, the Dark Ages of Europe, the Chinese and Japanese dynasties, just to name a few. This brings us to Antarctica and Australia.

Antarctica is a difficult beast to write about, as no one really lived there in ages past. One has to create a past and give the readers context in which to believe in the possibilities. There have been a number of authors that have succeeded in creating this plausibility for the audience. John Carpenter’s The Thing created the idea of an alien in the ice that goes on to terrorize a group of researchers. This idea of aliens in remote places is not new, and earlier authors, most notably HP Lovecraft, made generous use of this idea, and I suspect that Carpenter was well versed is Lovecraft mythology. Chris Carter’s X-Files borrowed this idea for his first movie with Molder and Scully chasing alien space craft under the frozen ice. Antarctica does work, but one has to set the stage and tap into our primal subconscious, as it does not exist naturally.

This brings us to Australia, a sort of forgotten island in the South Pacific. Australia is a place where civilization exists on the coast and a rugged outback exists in the middle, which to this day is sparsely populated. Lovecraft used Australia as the backdrop for the end of The Shadow Out of Time, as the main character was looking for the remains of the ancient Great Race. Clearly the remote outback, with its unique and dangerous animals, rivals that of the remote plains of Africa. But perhaps where Australia has Africa beat is with its legendary great white sharks. That is not to say that Africa does not have any white sharks, as indeed it does of the off coast of South Africa, but I think most folks, if asked the question, would respond with Australia rather than Africa.

Today, I was out at Bondi Beach, and I could not help but think about the sharks off the coast, as they are out there. My thoughts drifted a bit to Nick Logue’s Razor Coast Adventure which is due out soon (hopefully before Gencon). While I have not seen any of the manuscripts, and what I know from Nick’s website is that it makes liberal use of shark and Lovecraft mythology. I am looking forward to seeing the final product, and my trip here has only heighted my anticipation for this upcoming release.

To return to the opening theme of Dark Continents, this is one of the cornerstones of the early Sword and Sorcery pulps. It’s combination of familiarity and mystery, which lend themselves to be harvested into a new creation that plays right into a reader’s mind. With but a sentence or two, an entire stage is set, and the author has the reader hooked. Blend in a bit of fantasy, and the sword and sorcery story comes alive. To bring this around full circle, I would say that all the major world campaigns have borrowed from this, and one can clearly see where the real world has intersected in the creation of these campaigns.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Wildlife in Australia

Continuing on with the vacation theme, I will take a break from my normal blogging on gaming and write about the real reason we work, which is to have fun and go on vacation. Next week I will get back to gaming and such.

There is something really cool about seeing wild life up close in Australia. While one can always go to the local zoo, there is nothing like actually being in one of the more exotic spots on the world and seeing the native animals up close. Australia is one of those far away places that one see’s on Discovery, but only very rarely one gets to go there. From the US, it is a good 12+ hours away from the west coast. Even from Shanghai, it is still 10 hours away.

Today we zipped up to the Reptile Park for some up close animal encounters. Its name suggests that it specializes in reptiles, but the coolest thing about the park were the kangaroo and koalas. To be honest, I was actually a bit disappointed with the reptiles that they had, as I thought it paled to what is available for viewing at the San Diego zoo, which really is one of the nicer zoos in the world. Of all the zoos that I have been to, which are quite a few, I would rank the San Diego and Washington DC zoos as the top two.

In the greater Sydney area, there are a number of places that you can hold and get your picture taken with the koalas. Without a doubt, koalas are rather cute looking. They just sit there, so they are perfect getting the entire family up close with one. The Reptile Park had a number of them, and we were able to spend a good 10 minutes with one up close. This was a big hit with the family.

They also had a large open area that had a number of free ranging kangaroos. Kangaroos are also surprising very cool. The ones at the park were very friendly, especially if you had food, and they would let you get really close. They had a number of red and grey kangaroos that wandered about. The reds were a good 5+’ tall and the greys were a bit smaller, coming in around 4’ tall. I am sure that there is a more scientific name, but for the purposes of this blog, I will still to describing them as the red ones and grey ones. I was expecting to see them hopping around, but for the most part they did these slow hops and moved rather slowly. The fastest I saw one of them move was when a loud duck charged one of the red males, and he hopped away pretty fast. It was funny to see this much smaller duck frighten off a big kangaroo. To be fair, the duck was rather an ugly one, and seemed to be a bit upset at the kangaroo for some reason.

Now the kangaroos were very friendly if you brought food to them and would eat out of your hand. Well my young daughter I think tried to hug one of the smaller greys, and promptly ended up on her bottom as the grey gave her a bit of a shove. Apparently she was not interested in little people without food. She was a bit stunned that the kangaroo gave her a push, but otherwise she was ok.

There was another grey female that had a joey in the pouch. One would think that the joey would have its head sticking out and be looking about. However, this one only had its big ‘ole feet sticking out, and eventually stuck its head out. It was rather funny looking at the grey with the feet sticking out of the pouch. As a side note, they really do have incredibly big feet.

Right behind the main store they had a very large American alligator pond with a number of alligators swimming about. It was rather amusing to see Mississippi alligators in Australia, but there they were. As we walked down the path that ran alongside the alligator pond they had a sign post with a memorial to Steve Irwin. Apparently, Steve liked to come to the park to look at the alligators, and was a regular visitor. I liked his shows, and it was easy to get wrapped up in his over the top style. He brought a certain excitement to life, which I found very refreshing.

On our way out the door, my daughter spotted a stuffed animal snake that she just had to have. After a couple of attempts to return the snake failed, it ended up going back to the hotel with us. Needless to say she was very happy, and sang the snake song all the way back to the train. Even as I write this blog, she is still holding it while watching TV. I suspect that she got the snake gene from me.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Since I am on vacation, I thought I would give my thoughts on some of the various airports that I have flown through.

Shanghai – The first time I flew through Shanghai it was a bit of a mess. It was just after the bird flu of 2003, and it took forever to clear the health quarantines, immigration, baggage pickup, and customs. I arrived at 5pm, and I think I finally arrived at the hotel at 8pm. Truly a miserable experience. Fast forward to 2009. Checking in and out is now a breeze. The check in is very fast, and they have streamlined the arrival set up. Usually I am flying in through terminal two, and it is radically easier than back in 2003. My boss had an interesting discussion with some Chinese government officials, and their goal is to make Shanghai the equivalent of our NYC. That is how they think of Shanghai. As a final note, the 2010 World Expo is going to be held in Shanghai, which I believe will be a great event. China is doing a lot of work to make Shanghai ready for the Expo.

Sydney – It was good. They are picky on their customs clearance procedures, but all in all, it was not too bad.

Singapore – Although this was a very clean airport, I was not a fan of their departure procedures. I did not like the way they managed their gates, but I may just be being too picky on this. BTW, Singapore is beautiful.

San Diego – Having spent a number of years in San Diego, I have a number of things to say about this one. The short version is that it is too small, and the location stinks. They only have one runway, and it is right on the coast. While one can argue that it is located right in the middle of San Diego, there is no room to expand. The airport really should be located out near Miramar. The Marine Corp (ex-Navy) Airbase is a great location, and the civilians should have taken some pointers from the military chaps.

LAX – I am just not a fan of LA.

San Francisco – This airport is ok. If you are flying out of the international terminal, you have a long walk, unless you can find the bus which cuts across to the international terminal. The only issue I have with this, is that it is easy to miss, if you do not know about it.

Denver – I love the Denver Airport. Even though it is located well outside of Denver proper, there is plenty of room for growth, and I think they could probably put 10 parallel runways in.

Chicago – This is airport is ok for summer travel, but I cannot recommend it for winter travel. I had one flight that was stuck until well after midnight waiting for weather to clear. During winter, I try to avoid that one like the plague.

Swords &Wizardry - The hardcover version

It was a about two weeks ago that I bought and printed out the new S&W v2 PDF, and I was going to leave it at that. Then I happened to read Chgowiz's blog, which has a picture of the hardcover version.

I think I just failed my will save on this one.

Hardcovers are just plain sweet.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Blog entries will be a bit slow this upcoming week, as I will be on vacation in Australia. But, I will try to post a couple of entries while I am away.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Weekend game in review

A little late in coming, but I have a couple of minutes to write up what we did this past weekend. Work keeps me way to busy, when I really would rather be working on fun stuff.

So my son invited a couple of his friends over and they wanted to go through a dungeon. It is interesting in that they go through phases where they want to play all the time, to phases where they just want to do other stuff. We decided on using the C&C rule set, and they made up new characters. Since having newly signed up for Monte’s Dragon’s Delve, I thought that I would sent them through an old fashioned dungeon crawl and see how they do.

Dragon’s Delve starts with the stairs going into the dungeon. I wanted to provide a bit more than that, so I took my ruined stockade from my Winter of Darkness campaign and placed it on top of the dungeon to create the classic castle and dungeon adventure site, and that worked out rather well. The stockade is not that big, but there is plenty of encounter areas for characters to go through, and they can pick and chose which areas they want to explore. Since it is ruins and fairly open, it does not force the players to a linear progression.

They probably spent about an hour or so going through the surface ruins before finding the entrance into the dungeon. As we were tight for time, they only made it through about 5 of the dungeon rooms. They have run into a couple of the traps and defeated some orcs, but that is about it. So far, they are still alive, and actually still in good shape.

I have a couple of observations after watching them go through this dungeon.

1. Clearly the concept of an old school dungeon is new to them. They think about the game differently. For a dungeon crawl, it’s about enjoying the exploration, finding plot threads in between encounters, finding the secret doors, solving the puzzles, etc. They think in terms of treasure and killing monsters.

2. They will actually run from encounters that they deem too tough. In one particular encounter with an orc leader and a couple of body guards, they ran first, and then came back later with a more organized approach, in which they were able to defeat the body guards, but the leader ran away.

3. They sometimes come up with some really crazy ideas. This is not always a bad thing. Sometimes it is kind of fun to watch.
4. They have not figured out the concept of traps and how to avoid them yet. They see to stumble into them quite a bit.

After the game, my son was flipping through the 4th ed Dungeon Master guide, and he stumbled on the section which described the different types of players. Now in general I would say that the 4th ed DMG is fairly light weight when it comes to actually content, but this section is rather interesting as it describes a number of different styles of play, and it attempts to provide insight on what these types of player like. While it is not anything new, it is still a nice summary and encompasses a large number of the frequently encountered play styles. My son read through this section and then asked me what type of player he was. I told him that I thought he was more of the power gamer, as he has a tendency to focus in on the class and race abilities, rather than focus on the player skill. He thought about this for a moment, as I think my answer surprised him a bit. Then I proceed to give him examples of a power gamer and they enjoy. I was intrigued by his questions and the fact that he is now starting to think about the game in a larger context, and that folks play for different reasons. We also talked a bit about his friends and what category they belong to. It was interesting to watch him think through this, as I do not think he even thought about this much prior to reading the chapter in the DMG.

After that discussion, I am looking forward to our next game to see how that effects his play and how that will influence how the group interacts with the dungeon.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Review: Pathfinder #6 The Spires of Xin-Shalast (Part 2)

Continuing on with the review from yesterday.

As with all Pathfinders published to date, this one is in full color. Wayne again is the cover artist and has once again drawn up the giants, this time swinging the big sticks at the iconics. The interior art is excellent, and I do want to call out a couple of specific pieces. The opening picture on page 6, really sets the tone of the adventure with a shot from downtown Xin-Shalast. Its mountain top local, and along with its Asian flare are clearly visible in this work. Considering my current location, I am very fond of this piece. In addition, all the monsters in the bestiary have been drawn with a certain style, that I just really like. I am somewhat embarrassed to say that I am not sure which of the artists actually created them, and I wish that the artists names were more clearly indentified. I have to give props to WotC for listing out the artist next to their art in the 4th ed books, as I do think this is a nice touch, and it gives clearly gives credit where it is due.


With the completion of Pathfinder 5, the characters are well equipped to challenge Runelord Karzoug, in his mountain top abode. The only problem is that the exact location of Xin-Shalast is a bit of a mystery. A series of clues with lead the characters up to a dwarven outpost up in the Kodar Mountains. The characters arrive finding the place deserted of living creatures, and haunted by some dwarven ghosts. After defeating the an ancient terror of the mountains, and a bit of sleuthing, the characters find the map to Xin-Shalast. The trail takes them up through the mountains to a hidden trail that leads into the lower section of Xin-Shalast. Finding unexpected allies, the characters take to ascending the spires of Xin-Shalast to the final showdown with the Runelord.

Key features

There are a number of features that this module provides that I am going to list out below:

1. A lost city adventure, taking a new spin on a classic theme

2. A high-altitude adventure, with specific rules on how to give flavor to adventuring in this environment.

3. An expanded set of Lamyros (Lamia-kin), which greatly expands upon the fluff of the Lamias.

4. A fully mapped out lost city.

5. A bit of Lovecraft mythos included with a number of references to Leng.

6. The Pathfinder Journal, which continues the chronicles of Eando Kline.

Final notes

I really want to like this module more than I do. As I stated earlier, I have a lot of respect for Greg, and in general I really like his work. Clearly he put in a lot of effort on this one, as he practically wrote the entire thing. The lost city theme is a classic, and one that continues to be used in just about every entertainment media from movies, to books and everything in between. I really like the concept, with the Asian flavor. I also like what Greg did with the rules around adventuring in the mountains. I would be remiss if I did not mention the bestiary which is excellent. I can really appreciate the theme of the monsters as they are all excellent.

However, there are a couple of parts that seem a bit disjointed to me. Even though I am a fan of Lovecraft, the Leng story line feels a bit out of place. Likewise, the dwarven outpost encounter which is required to find the map to Xin Shalast feels a bit forced.

Overall, I do give this module a thumbs up, as there are a lot of things I do like about the module, which offsets some of the other items that feel forced.

Rating: 3.5 Dragons (on a scale of 5)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Review: PF#6 The Spires of Xin-Shalast (Part 1)

I was planning on just doing this in one blog post, but the finished write up came in at over 1400 words, so I thought I would split it in two parts to make it easier for the reader. I will post part two tomorrow.


This is the final installment of the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path, which is the first in the Pathfinder product line, which I have been reviewing over these past two months. I have been looking at these modules singularily, and in my next product review I will do a holistic review of the entire adventure path, and give my perspective of it.

For this last module, the focus is two things; the exploration of a lost city, and the final battle with Runelord Karzoug. These two focus points dominate the book from front to back. The lost city of Xin-Shalast, with its double entendre of an Asia city and its pronunciation of “sin-shall-last,” is meant to foster images of ancient city teeming with gold and lost treasures. Lost cities are a classic in the lore of pulp adventures, and it always seems as though the hero is stumbling on to a forgotten city, with an ancient evil beginning to stir. Whether the lost city is on a deserted island, deep in a dense jungle, in the underdark, or high on a secluded mountain top, one does not have to look very far to trip over numerous examples located in all of these remote locations. The old school modules in the early days of D&D, made ample use of this concept, and I cannot fault any new designer for following this well established trend. The challenge is to provide a different twist on this old idea.

Greg A . Vaughan

Greg is another one of the group known as the Werecabbages, whose elite membership includes some of the more active writers/free lancers in the role playing industry. Paizo has had a history of tapping into their talent pool, and has continued this trend through the Pathfinder lineup. I can remember seeing the term thrown around on message boards and in chat rooms, and I had no idea of what the story was behind the group. Eventually I stumbled upon their website, and was immediately impressed with the number of names that I recognized. Their current membership stands at 42, and I think most active and well read members in our hobby would at least recognize at least a name or two.

Greg recently caught my notice with his publication of The Skeletons of Scarwall, in Pathfinder #11 which is just brilliant. Since then, I have been backtracking through some of his other works, and I have been impressed with a number of his works. James Jacobs raves about his map cartography, which he claims is just stunning. He compares this with some of the other Cabbages, whose map work is less than stellar. I will protect the guilty and not mention any names. James in the forward of Xin-Shalast, has some nice things to say about Greg’s map turn over for this particular module. In light of this, I can see why he continues to be featured heavily in the Paizo rotation. I would go as far as to say that in this particular adventure, he wrote almost the entire book, including the supporting articles and the bestiary.

While I have never personally met him yet, he is one of the writers I hope to run into at Gencon. Based what I have seen from his comments on the Paizo message board, I suspect that he is quite the prankster and has a good sense humor. His frequent poking at Nick and Rich always leaves me chuckling.

With that, let me start in with the review of the book.


Not much new to add on here. The layout is very similar to the earlier Rise of the Runelord Pathfinders, and I am including the text here for completeness. The book comes in at hefty 96 pages not counting the covers, with the actual adventure taking up 56 of these pages, with an approximate word count of ~40,000 words. From strictly a page count perspective, this is one of the longer adventures of the first series. The book is divided up into several sections including the main adventure, two supporting articles (Karzoug the Claimer and Hazards on the World’s Roof), the Pathfinder Journal, bestiary (seven monsters) the pregens, and a teaser for the Curse of the Crimson Throne.

This adventure shares the same criticism as the other in the series with regards to the small font and the ease of reading. I personally did not find it that bad, but I can see how this could be a valid criticism. There have been a number of modules created with small font, and this module is not any worse than some of the others that I have seen.
For tomorrow, I will continue with the review and post my final thoughts along with my overall grade for this module.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Playin' with the kids

Not much of an update today. My son and his friends want to play, so I will be running them through Monte's Mega-dungeon. I have stockade ruins that I will use as the surface level, and then use Monte's first level. I will post an after action report tomorrow.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The March Mad Mega-Dungeon Month


Signs of spring. One can feel it in the air. March is the month for March Madness and the college basketball NACC Final Four Tournament. It’s the season where everyone puts together their brackets and after two rounds, it looks like a complete disaster. And it’s also the month of mega-dungeon madness. I had no idea, but apparently this is true.

As a self admitted dungeon addict, this is all good stuff. Why should I have to eek by with just one mega dungeon, when I can have 2 or 3 or even 5? Who cares that I might not run any of them! I am the type that will look at a small dungeon and say, “size matters.” That was probably harsh say about all the small dungeons out there. But I am really sorry you are small. Like’em big! Really big! I think the Texas mentality is starting to really set in, as I feel comfortable saying that.

So let’s bring it on.

In my mind, the biggest issue with mega-dungeon campaigns is how to keep them fresh and exciting for long periods at time. If we say that the average campaign goes about 18 months, then there has to be enough interesting stuff to keep the interest there, and not turn it into a meat grinder. Going back to the 18 month concept, if one meets 1/month that means 18 sessions of about 10 encounters each, which would be about 180 total encounters. If a group meets 2/month, that number clearly doubles, and at 4x/month the number doubles again. For the purposes of this discussion, let’s go with 2x/month, so roughly 360 individual encounters total. And, yes, I have a tendency to get wrapped around the numbers, as I am a numbers guy (but not a bean counter).

360 encounters..let’s think about that some more.

Assuming that not much action happens in the town, which means the 360 encounters happen either near the dungeon area, or in the dungeon. If we say that a level has 36 encounter areas, then that would be 10 full levels. Now in a mega-dungeon environment, there will be a number of rooms and encounters that the party never sees, so that could add another 50 encounters, if we assume another 5 encounter areas per level that the characters never get to. Now let’s suppose that there are some hidden levels, or it is possible to skip levels, then that would mean another 2-3 levels that would have to be designed also. This puts us near 500 total encounters for a 13 level dungeon that the players would hit 360 encounters or about 2/3 of the total encounters would be discovered.

So where am I going with all this? Good question.

If we take it at face value that we are going to need to design 500 encounters, they had better be interesting, or the players will not make it to #25. That is the challenge for the designer. How to make 500 encounters interesting to support a campaign that meets 2x/month for 18 months.

Last December I wrote a bit about mega-dungeons, and I covered some design tips to think about when creating them, and I stand by what I wrote. I do want to hit on a couple of additional items about mega-dungeon design that I like that helps keep 500 encounters interesting.

I like interconnected details. I appreciate the work that my fellow bloggers have done in terms of creating summary pages that allow for quick creation of mega dungeons. There are a number of my peers that will spout the virtues of randomness, and there is nothing wrong with this. However, I like a bit of extra detail thrown in. There has to be a plan to the madness. With that, let me begin my list:

1. Keys – I like keys that go to rooms that are located on different levels

2. Maps – I like to find maps to secret areas

3. Unique magic items – I like to find special unique magic items, especially when it comes to magic swords. Magic swords that have a special ability are the best! They just rock. Talking swords are even better. I am not sure why I like talking magic swords, but I just do. As a GM, obnoxious talking swords provide me with hours of entertainment at the party’s expense, especially when they are cynical and sarcastic. But I digress…

4. Special magic items – Items that provide a foreshadowing of things to come are awesome too.

5. Notes – Notes that provide insight and impart knowledge, especially when combined to form bigger notes. This works well with maps too.

6. Castle ruins on top – Castles with dungeons just ooze classic game play.

7. NPC’s in the dungeon – Chances to interact with the players is a must, otherwise it turns into a hack-n-slash fest

8. The hidden stalker – These guys are great to set the mood, and they do not even have to actually engage the party. It’s the footsteps in the dark.

9. Walls with eyes – related to number 8 above, there should be a feeling that the bad guys are always nearby.

10. The treasure horde – There has to be some massive treasure haul at the end to make 18 months of slogging through the dungeon meaningful.

More thoughts on mega-dungeons to come.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dungeon-a-day - First look

This is just a quick post to say that Monte's Dungeon-a-day is up and running, and it is impressive. I encourage everyone to just take a peek at what he has done, regardless of whether one is planning on subscribing or not. It is definitely a one of a kind web site that he has put together. There are a couple of things that I find interesting about what he is doing:

1) He has put together a website that has all sorts of built in links to tie everything together

2) He has multiple sections to page through

3) He has pictures of what the dungeon looks like using Dwarven Forge terrain

4) He has both a blog and a forum

5) Lots of art work

All in all it is very cool. Now some folks may not find it that useful, and that is fine. I am sure that numerous reviews will pop up all over the net over the next week or two. After I have used it for a week or so, I will post more thoughts and a more formal review.

Anyway, take a look, and feel free to post your impressions here. I am curious to see what everyone thinks of it

Monday, March 9, 2009

Review: Pathfinder #5 Sins of the Saviors

What if the players had to use evil things to defeat the bad guys? Does the means justify the ends? Interesting question. In a game setting, maybe it is not much of moral dilemma. In real life, this is a completely different story. In a novel or a movie, moral dilemmas are what make the movie. Seeing the hero come to grips with choices and how they will effect the end result is why we are watching the film or reading the book. Throw the hero a set of crappy choices and see how they react is what pulls us into the story, and this is how we can identify with the main character. Life is not always about easy situations and easy choices. We can relate to the main character when things go badly.

But in a game, it is entirely different. A game is a different form of entertainment. For players that are not invested in their characters, moral dilemmas may not be that interesting. For players that are very invested in their characters, and have been playing them for awhile, moral dilemmas may become very interesting to role play through.

In Pathfinder #5, Sins of the Saviors, Paizo is attempting to create a moral dilemma for the characters. The adventure revolves around the characters attempts to create special magic items in order to defeat the Runelord, the only problem is that the weapons are created by a corrupt instrument of the Runelords.

The layout is very similar to the earlier Rise of the Runelord Pathfinders, and I am including the text here for completeness. The book comes in at hefty 96 pages not counting the covers, with the actual adventure taking up 50 of these pages, with an approximate word count of ~40,000 words. The book is divided up into several sections including the main adventure, two supporting articles (Magic of Thassilon and Lamashtu), the Pathfinder Journal, bestiary (six monsters) and the pregens.

This adventure shares the same criticism as the other in the series with regards to the small font and the ease of reading. I personally did not find it that bad, but I can see how this could be a valid criticism. There have been a number of modules created with small font, and this module is not any worse than some of the others that I have seen.


As with all Pathfinders published to date, this one is in full color. Wayne again is the cover artist and has drawn up a great action scene showing a white dragon attacking Paizo’s iconics. Being a fan of dragon art work, this is a winner in my book. The interior art is solid, with the color maps of the dungeon areas dominating the adventure section. The artwork and layout of the Magic of Thassilon is very good, and I found this to be one of the high-lights of the book.


With the defeat of the giants, an earthquake hits Sandpoint opening up a hidden dungeon that is really a shrine of Lamashtu. The Characters investigate and find the location of the Runeforge, and with it the secret of defeating Runelord Karzoug. Following the clues, leads the characters north to the mountain Rimeskull and the massive dungeon underneath, which contains the Runeforge. The characters quickly realize that the dungeon is not empty, but is still tended by the Thassilonian wizards from an earlier era. As the characters move through the dungeons of sin, they uncover the secret of creating weapons using the Runeforge to use against Runelord Karzoug.

Key features

There are a number of features that this module provides that I am going to list out below:

1. A number of fully mapped out dungeons for exploration

2. A cunning white dragon that is sure to cause a party fits

3. The puzzle of the Runeforge and the ability of the characters to make special weapons.

4. A very well written article on the Magic of Thassilon, along with a web supplement on this topic.

5. An article on Lamashtu.

6. The Pathfinder Journal, which continues the chronicles of Eando Kline.

Final notes

The main focus of this adventure is the dungeons of sin, which should provide 3+ game sessions for the characters to go through. I will say that the main dungeon is fairly flat, and I think the author should have created more vertical movement possibilities. While the dungeon is separated into sections, I would have liked to have seen some vertical separation included. The Runeforge and the possibility to create special weapons is a plus, which the characters should enjoy piecing together on how to accomplish this. The moral dilemma that I opened the review with, adds an additional twist to the adventure, although most parties will probably not think about it too much. Over the course of the adventure path, this is something that the GM can build up to, but it does require a fair amount of upfront work to successfully pull off.

Overall, I give this module a thumbs up, as the design is solid.

Rating: 3.5 Dragons (on a scale of 5)

Saturday, March 7, 2009


I was planning on writing up a review today, but I think I will push that to tomorrow. I have a couple of smaller blog posts that I would like to make first before hitting my weekly product reviews. With all the excitement around mega-dungeons and old school, I thought I would post a couple of things first before hitting the review.

Before we get into mega-dungeons, I want to blog a bit about value. From a consumer perspective, value is what a consumer desires and is willing to pay for. I use the workd desire to include both needs and wants. Needs are the things that a person requires to survive, things like food, clothing, warmth and shelter. I will also use the term expanded needs to include things that are needed for a person to get and keep a job. These include education, transportation, special clothes, and other equipment or tools. While they are not specifically needed to survive, one needs them in order to make money to buy things to satisfy the basic needs. Desires also include the wants. Wants are basically anything that a person has a desire for, but are not directly tied to the basic needs. Entertainment and gaming falls into this bucket.

With this in mind, I want to hit on the concept of paying for value and how it relates to gaming. WotC recently launched its digital initiative that included Dungeon and Dragon magazines. The concept they had in mind was to create an online subscription service that folks would want to buy into. While I have no idea on the numbers of the subscribers that they have, their digital initiative holds no value for me. During the launch of 4th ed, they offered a free trial for folks to take a look, which I did, but there was not a consistency of content that was of value to me. Now it is fairly easy to point at the current short comings, but I think that one of the fundament issues with their digital initiative, is the complete lack of content for the earlier editions. They are focused on one thing, and that limits the possibilities of truly creating value for the hobby. To me, the value proposition is not there for me to invest in a subscription.

Wolfgang Baur kicked off this Kobold quarterly a while back (~ 2 years ago), and it has received rave reviews. His offering not only supports his Open Design work, but it also includes a wide variety of topics and supports several editions. He is creating value for the gamer with the depth of his offering. There is also the feel that this magazine supports the hobby, which is important to me. I usually buy the PDF version, and I have been happy with the content. I wish Wolfgang continued success with his project, as I believe that this is filling the niche that Dragon magazine has left.

I have been very impressed with the Fanzines that have recently popped up. Fight on! has lead the charge, and that has been followed by Knockspell and Weredragon. I would not be surprised to see more pop up. Fanzines offer a collection of fan created material, that are not necessarily tied to anything in particular. Fanzines offer value in a number of areas, which include a chance for unknown authors to get published, they generate interest in the game, and they push the more established magazines on the quality that they put out. They fill a very important role in any hobby, and are indicative of the over health of ours. I am buying the PDF's as these fanzines are of value to me.

This brings me to Monte and his recent announcement. Monte is basically a free lancer that has made quite a name for himself. The niche that he has filled with his own imprint was in providing different material that is a bit off the main stream path. He is style is a bit different, and that is by design. He is not an old school gamer, but I think he appreciates industry and its history, which he has been apart of. His newer products are very polished in terms of layout and art work, and he has access to one of the best editors in field. Just last week, he announced that he was going to launch a web site that offers a dungeon-a-day for a monthly subscription rate. He threw out a teaser on his blog, but until anyone sees his product, none of us really knows what’s included. There has been some discussion on the boards about his announcement, which has prompted me to write this blog. Monte is part of the industry, which means he is a professional and needs to make a living. He is trying to create value through this new project, and only time will tell if he can be successful. The ultimate question will be, do the fans believe that he is creating value to be worth the subscription price. He is surely capable of creating good content, but will it be deemed valuable?

James, over on Grognardia, looks to be doing something similar. Monte’s announcement has pushed him to seriously consider creating a site to post content related to mega-dungeons. James has stated that he is going to do this for free. Interesting. If James carries through with this, it does put pressure on Monte to deliver value over and above whatever James does, as if he does not, the customer base will flock to James’s web site. This will create an interesting dynamic. I want to go back to the statement about “free.” While I think it is an extremely generous offer of James to provide significant content for free, we need to consider what he is providing. It sounds like he is providing a dedicated website, he will invest a significant amount of his personal time, and he will have to generate content on a regular basis. As I stated earlier, this is a generous offer. But if indeed James does create value in this project, could he charge money. Absolutely, no question. Would he be successful if he did? I think he would. As I suspect he will not charge, I do believe that he will have a “donate” button on this website. If the content is good and consistent, I will probably make a donation, as this will be of value to me, and I want to show my support in his efforts.

As I have mentioned in my posts on various blogs, I think this is an exciting time for our hobby. The recent announcements have created buzz, which I think is a good thing. I do wish Monte, James, Wolfgang, and all the rest of the creators of content and value the best of luck, and I sincerely hope that this will ultimately create a stronger game as a result, and I believe it has already.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Monstrous Discussions: The Gnoll

These guys are just plain nasty, filthy animals, and I am comfortable with this.

Paizo will be launching their new adventure path, Legacy of Fire, later this month, which will have gnolls as their featured villain. With villain names such as “The Carrion King,” I will be looking forward to see how it all fits together. With that in mind, I thought I would step back and review the gnoll and give my thoughts on its development and why I like them.

In the beginning (c1974), gnolls began life as a cross between gnomes and trolls, which is where the name came from. Huh..what? Wait. Gnomes and trolls? Are we talking about small elvish fey and big green monsters mixed together? To be honest, I am struggling with this combination. It’s not quite the classic peanut butter and jelly combination. Are we talking about small green guys with pointed ears, or are we talking about giant green fey, or are we talking about the green goblin? To be honest, I am not sure what this looks like. While it is probably better than the flumph, it still feels a bit like (green?) mashed potatoes to me. By 1st ed, the gnoll had turned into the familiar hyena humanoid, and this version has stayed with us to the present day. So to summarize, in the span of just a few years, we have gone from a green goblin thing to a nasty, filthy humanoid monster, which I will mark down as progress.

One of the issues with the humanoid monster is how do you differentiate it from each other. We have the orc, half-orc, goblin, hobgoblin, bugbear, troglodytes, ogres and the gnoll all occupying the same space. If we expand this category a little more to include just humaniods, one could add humans, drow, and dwarves. If we include animal humanoids, we could throw in lycanthropes, lizard men, beastmen, ratmen, and a host of other critters. From a mechanics point of view, they are all very similar, and I would argue that one can stat them up to look almost identical to each other. So back to the question of how do we make them look and feel different? This is a tough one.

I think in order to really answer the question, one has to understand what exactly is a gnoll. I am going to stick with the newer version of the gnoll, as I like this one better, and I think this is what most folks think of when they think of the gnoll, which is a nasty, filthy animal.

In the gnoll’s most basic form, it is a smelly, stinking, beast like humanoid. What’s not to like? In retrospect, having the gnoll based on a hyena, was brilliant. There are a number of wolf or dog creatures already in the game and in literature, so the hyena-humaniod is similar but different. On a side note, I was reading a fan created dungeon that I think was sponsored by the fine folks over at Enworld, and they had created a dungeon, in which the gnoll barracks had beds. I am not thinking that they sleep in beds, but that is just me.

In first edition, the link between gnolls and demons was firmly established by the presence of Yeenoghu, the demon prince of gnolls. With this link, their alignment as chaotic evil was the natural fit. With the appearance of the D series, the drow took center stage and their culture defined chaotic evil. The drow’s form of chaotic evil is a cruel society in which the matriarchs wield power, and everyone watches their back in fear of an assassin’s blade or worse. Gnolls version of chaotic evil is very different.

Paizo, in their Classic Monsters Revisited book, dedicated a chapter to fleshing out what gnoll culture is like. True to their animal heritage, gnolls are vicious pack animals that live by the law of the pack. Their slant on the gnoll resonates well with me, as it draws on the culture and image of cannibalistic tribes, and the hunter/scavenger nature of the hyena. The flavor hangs together very nicely.

However, after spending some time reading through this, I start rethinking their alignment of chaotic evil. For the most part, the write ups in the various clearly show the gnoll as a pack animal. This feels more like lawful evil to me. Clearly their pack is ruled by the strongest alpha male, and to compare it back to the drow, feels completely the opposite of their culture. Now with this statement, I do not mean to imply that just because there is a stark contrast between the two, the gnolls would be by definition lawful evil. But this pack society with an implied law of the pack, feels a bit like lawful evil rather than chaotic evil. If we extended on this line of reasoning, it would question the categorization of Yeenoghu as a demon prince. Wizards published an interesting article on Yeenoghu in Dragon 364, which is available as a download from their website, that provides some insight into Yeenoghu. While this article is written for 4th ed, there is still some good fluff that can be pulled out and applied generically to any previous version of D&D.

To circle back around to the question on differentiation, I think it’s the link between them and the hyena, that helps to separate them from the other humanoids. Very rarely is the hyena seen as the good guy, and the pop culture view of the hyena is something that can be built upon. The Lion King is an excellent example as the hyenas are the servants of Scar, and are the embodiment of evil. Even their nature as scavengers of carrion brings up images of a savage beast. To be blunt, they are smelly, nasty animals.

If I get a chance to GM with gnolls again, what I would like to do is mount them on dire hyenas that look very similar to the wargs in Lord of the Ring movies. While I have mixed feelings about the depiction of them in the movies, if I take that warg and put a gnoll on it, now we have an interesting mounted warrior to use against the characters. The nomadic gnoll tribe now would have a quick striking arm that could run down characters that try to get away. I like it!

General News Items

This week was a busy week for announcements and such. Enclosed is a quick summary of news worthy items:

1) WotC announces a new GSL.
2) Clark from Necromancer Games announces that he is working on a 4E Classic, and has set up a forum to discuss this on his boards.
3) Paizo announces two new licenses for their Pathfinder line. The first is a compatibility license and the second is a community use policy license.
4) Fight on! volume 4 is released
5) Monte Cook is announcing his new Dungeonaday web site which launches next week.
6) We are getting closer to the publish of The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs, with most of the work being done by Jonathon Jacabs, over at The Core Mechanic. Catch up on the latest news here on the project.

While not everyone may be interested in all these items, I think anything that creates buzz for the hobby is a good thing. As weeks go, this one was a good one for our hobby.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Remembering Gary Gygax – 1 year later

I actually met him at Gencon 2007. He was hanging out at the Troll Lords' booth and I had him sign a couple of items for me. That was a cool moment.

The first D&D book I ever bought was the 1st ed Monster Manual. That book will always be special to me. It’s corny, I know, but it’s still true. I remember when my buddy first bought it, and there was a bunch of us drooling over it. It was one of those, “Wow, this is really awesome” moments. That was back around 1981-ish, and I think I bought my copy about a year later in 1982. Yikes, that was 27 years ago! Looking at that book 27 years later, I can honestly say that one has seen more use than any other D&D book, and it has held up rather well all things considered. Having Gary sign it was really cool. I have to admit that my 1st ed Unearthed Arcana book is not quite as old as my MM, is slightly less used than my MM, and it is falling apart. When I mentioned that to Gary, he had a quick response to that. Some things are hard to let go of, even after 25 years.

I was in middle school when I first started playing, and that was with the Holmes edition, but we quickly moved to AD&D. I had some exposure to the revised Basic D&D and Expert D&D, but at the time, I did not like either one. A good buddy of mine at the time started out playing the Expert rules, but that rule set never caught on with the group that I did most of my playing with.

It did not take long for us to realize that Gary was the co-creator of D&D and that all the AD&D core rule books had his name on the cover. I remember thinking that Gary must be a really cool guy. Since I liked the game, and his name was on the cover, I naturally had a high opinion of him, even though I had never met him. One hears rumors and such, but I always dismissed them. I was wearing rose colored glasses, and I saw no reason to take them off.

Second edition came out about the time I was graduating from High School. I never bought any of the core second edition books. I liked AD&D just how it was. It was not until 1991 that I started buying some of the 2nd edition supplements. I enjoyed Ravenloft, so I bought a number of those products. I also started buying some of the monster books and page packets. The monster binder was an interesting idea. I like the books better, but if I was extremely organized, I could pull the monsters out that I wanted and put them into a smaller binder and have them ready for use. It was not a terrible idea, just a bit different.

It was around 1993 that I first heard that Gary had left the company. One of the folks I worked with was very familiar with the story, and he filled me in on what had happened. To be honest, I did not know what to think. It was as if I was hearing about something happening in a parallel world. Here was a guy who created D&D, then was forced to leave the company, and he did not own the rights to the game he created. My reaction was “What?!?” That can’t be right. It does not make sense. It was like listening to an old record that the needle just fell off of. As it turns out, it was right, and it still did not make sense. Even thinking about it 16 years later, it still does not make sense. How could something so good, end up in such a mess?

As the 1990’s went by, I was more of a collector rather than a player. I bought a bunch of stuff, but I did not really play. I was hearing that TSR was in big trouble. The brand was dying. It was a bad time to be a fan of the game. Then 3rd ed was launched. I remember when it was launched. I remember that WotC put a lot of energy into relaunching the D&D brand. They had to. The brand was circling the drain.

For the first couple of years, I did not pay much attention to 3rd ed. I knew there was a D&D website, and that WotC was updating it on almost a daily basis. But that was about it. It was not until 2002, that I really discovered 3rd ed. I was surfing the net at work, and I found a lot of sites that were supporting 3rd ed, and that there was tons of fan created free material. So I started collecting and reading D&D stuff again.

I am a bit embarrassed to say that between 2002 and 2008, I bought tons of stuff. I probably bought too much stuff. But, most importantly, I started playing again. 3rd ed encouraged me to play again. That is not to say that I liked everything about 3rd ed, but the timing was right for me to start playing again.

That brings me back to Gary again. One of the things that I was pleasantly surprised to see was that the fans of the game were reaching out to Gary, and Gary was making himself accessible to them. Before I met Gary at Gencon, I had traded several message board comments with him. I enjoyed reading his take on what was going on with the hobby, and his own historical perspective on why things were designed the way they were. While he was not interested in 3rd ed, I think he was supportive of the activities that were going on around him. Now I could be totally wrong on this last part, but I think at the end, he appreciated the legacy that he was leaving behind. While he did not own the rights any more, the fans still considered him the rightful owner of the game. I think he recognized that. I can pull just about any game supplement, adventure or rules book and see Gary’s name acknowledged in the credits. Just to prove that, I pulled down the Pathfinder Campaign Setting, and on the credits page, one can find the text, “in Memory of E. Gary Gygax.”

While Gary was not perfect, and I think some of his flaws are fairly well known, I think fans are willing to both acknowledge that, and they can still appreciate the contribution that he made. I am not one to look at things with rose colored glasses, and indeed, I like to think of myself as an realist, but in this case I am ok with putting my high-school rose colored glasses back on.

Did I mention that I actually met him at Gencon 2007 and that he signed my 1st ed MM?

Thanks Gary!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

4th Edition "Classic" – Necromancer Games

Last week I posted about the Beta testing that Paizo completed with their Pathfinder Role Playing Game (PFRPG). I remarked that this was a significant event, and that I thought it was important for businesses to actively seek feedback from their customers. There are a lot of businesses that claim to put their customers first, but with this open Beta testing Paizo is backing up their claim with action. With that said, there are probably dozens of companies that would like to do something similar to what Paizo did, but lack the resources or expertise to make this happen. I closed with a comment that this maybe the start of something new in this industry.

After posting two blogs on the topic, I suppose I should not have been surprised to see the announcement on Necromancer’s board that Clark wants to follow in Paizo’s footsteps with open playtesting. Clark "Orcus" Peterson is the CEO and founder of Necromancer Games, which was created around the time of 3rd edition. Necromancer’s tag line has been 3rd edition rules, 1st edition feel. It’s a catchy slogan, but it captures what Clark and team were trying to do with they started up Necromancer. They are old school gamers that wanted to apply the same philosophy to the new rules. Were they successful or not, that is probably the topic of another blog, and depending on who you ask, you will probably end up with a different answer.

Now, whether or not one agrees with their slogan, one has to give props to Clark for engaging with the fan base and Wizards of the Coast, and really being an advocate for both. He has always said that he is a gamer first, business man second. This is true as he has a full time gig as a lawyer, and I suspect he is a very good one, and Necromancer is more of a hobby for him. This puts him in a good spot to reach out to fans and to the larger companies. On the message boards, he comes across as someone that cares about were the game industry is going, usually offers well thought out positions with some insider insight. As a result, he has created a significant amount of good will for himself. He is probably one of the few folks that can just call up Scott Rouse and tell him what he thinks about Wizard’s latest GSL, and Scott will actively listen and engage in the conversation.

One of the foundations of Necromancer is to support the latest version of the game, and impart into it old school feel. To a certain extent, this is the theme of my blog as well. In my “What is D&D” series, I posted a bit about adventure types, character roles, and mechanics. One of the questions I was asking in the series was on the topic of evolution and is it good or bad. Clark holds the position that evolution can be good. Mechanics can be improved over time. I actually hold a similar view in that mechanics can be improved, but that not all new mechanics are good. Clearly not everyone agrees with this line of reasoning, which is fine. This is not to say that I would not argue a rule over two at Gencon (or any other convention) over a beverage of choice, but I digress.

Even before the announcement that 4th ed is here, Clark had stated that he would support the new rules. Initially the GSL was delayed, and then the first iteration was terrible, but it now looks like we have a version that is usable. That is not to say that it is perfect, but some of the objectionable sections were removed. My understanding is that Clark was able to get a preview copy of the new GSL, and he deemed it acceptable to move forward on. With a new GSL in hand, Clark is basically relaunching his web site with the announcement that he would be working on his own version of 4th ed, which he is initially calling 4E Classic. It feels like what he is trying to do is come up with a supplemental Player’s Handbook that would a move 4th ed closer the old school versions of the game. As he says, he wants the old school feeling, but with the new tech. In order to accomplish this, he is opening up his forums for feedback on the concept. He wants to run this exactly like how Jason ran it over at Paizo. Since he just announced it, I will cut him some slack on the organization side of things, as I am hoping that he puts some structure around this, and he makes an Alpha document available for review.

While I am not ready to jump right into a 4th ed campaign, I applaud Clark for taking a stab at making a 4E Classic. I have no idea if he will be successful or not, but to be honest, it almost does not matter. He is following Paizo on the path of open play testing, and who knows if other companies will also follow this lead. If this becomes a trend, perhaps we will see WotC open up play testing for 5th ed, when ever they decide to move in that direction. At this moment, I believe that this is a win for the fans of the game, as it means we can have some say in the direction of our game design and development.

As a final thought, I would like to welcome Necromancer Games back into the hobby. They have been very quiet since late 2007, and I suspect that they will be updating their product schedules, and maybe, just maybe we will see something from them come August. In any event, I will be watching them very closely to see how this all plays out.

New GSL is posted

Lots of news to report. But first and foremost, Wizards has posted a new GSL that seems to be more user friendly. While not perfect, this is moving in the right direction.

I will have more analysis on this later in the week. I have another post to make first.