Friday, October 31, 2008

Rite Publishing previews Mandragoran from Heroes of the Jade Oath

Recently, Rite Publishing put up a preview of the Mandragoran race from Heroes of the Jade Oath, which should give those on the fence about joining this patronage project something to chew on and help them make a final decision toward joining. The preview gives us an interesting insight into the project, its teammates, and the unique setting from the mind of Frank Carr.

The preview its self is well laid out, upon a white background with golden title lettering, as well as golden Kanji upon a jade colored leather page-edge border. However, for those more ink conscious, RiP also offers a printer friendly preview, too.

Prominently features upon the Heroes of the Jade Oath cover, in the brilliant artwork of Wayne Reynolds, the Mandragoran are humanoid species with very plant-like qualities, abilities, and dependencies that can add an interesting species to any campaign, but also add a unique element to this Asiatic flavored role-playing game. Not only do they fit the classic elements of Wu Xing, but these methodical people have a Taijiquan feel to their slow confidence.

Slow and steady is an excellent way to describe the Mandragoran, however those who gain false confidence from their cautious nature will soon learn the follow of their ways. As they are quite confident in their ways, yet not crippled by them, and their word is their bond, if you have it on paper. Mandragoran are in a caste bound society that is male dominant, which obviously is an excellent source of inspiration for a character choosing the life of an adventurer.

Bet they merchants, philosophical warriors, determined priest, truth seeking witches, or an infinite combination of things, these verdant beings will not disappointed, even under the harshest of sunlight. While there may be potential hazards for their race, they are definitely an enjoyable race to contemplate, as well as an excellent sign of things to come from the Lands of the Jade Oath.

My suggestion, visit the Rite Publishing site and checkout the preview, as it is not only an enjoyable read, but it will help you decide whether you'd like to offer them your patronage. I know I have and it's an excellent community, too.

Kobold Quarterly Presents - Funny Friday: R.A. Salvatore

Now I've heard tales before, second, third, and forthed handed about a Wand of Wonder story that some would say is one of the best, the funniest, and it is known as the Wubba Wubba Story, however I've never heard the full story told by R.A. Salvatore until, thanks to Kobold Quarterly, tonight.

While the audio quality varies, I found it better by putting the headphones into my audio jack on my laptop, the story is quite audible, enjoyable, and worth hearing several times, as it is good gamer schtick told by a fine storyteller with a Massachusetts brough in his voice. The audience loved it and, although it make suck KQ's bandwidth dry, it is definitely worth a listen to what is, perhaps, one of the best Wand of Wonder stories that I've ever heard.

But, of course, it inspires me to share my own Wand of Wonder story, from my tragic misspent youth when I was a much more comedic role-player, in the world of Krynn upon the lands of Ansalon, where there was a kender named Friadoc (this was the third time I used that name, by the way, all other times was for, and has been since, a halfling) who put it lightly.

Friadoc the Kender wanted to entertain everyone, by everyone I mean the party, their foes, and anyone or thing that happened to be within earshot. As players many of us were young, our ages ranged from a youthful eight to a venerable twelve and our dungeon master was an adult, the older brother of one of the players and in community college. He was a kind DM, in hindsight he put up with a lot of the oddest stuff, some of which was my fault and by my fault, I mean Friadoc's.

Derek, that was the DM, placated to the younger crowd, often throwing in some oddities that you'd have found in the Dungeons & Dragon cartoon, such as a pool that saw into the "real world" and stuff like that, which is what put Friadoc on the path to insanity, as he looked through that pool once and something stuff. The Kender saw a spaghetti western on a television, as well as an unshaven man wearing an odd blanket, talking husky, and people feared this man. Friadoc thought it was cool and set about to mimic this man, Clint Eastwood, as only a weird kender with delusions of grandeur could.

Eventually Friadoc, dressed as a spaghetti western cowboy, with an amulet of theme music that played a very familiar tune, and with a Wand of Wonder in a sheath upon his hip found himself in front of the dragon who had captured the party, save for Friadoc who had been off finding coins that someone had misplaced in a very disorganized pile. But, he was helpful and put them into a more orderly sack, which he stowed away until the owner was found.

Friadoc walks into the room with his friends, who are caged by the dragon, who is now trying to menace the kender, who is tough now, as his theme music tells him he is, so he wipes out his Wand of Wonder and points it at the dragon and just as he dragon's maw goes to bit him, the kender presses the activation button.

Butterflies rushes from the wand into the small space of the dragons mouth, which was now closed around the wand and Friadoc's hand.

What do you think happened?

Yeap. It was very messy, very weird, and very funny to a bunch of tween gamers, downright the best moment of our young gaming lives, at that time. In adult hindsight, which can suck all the fun out of things, I know there was no rules to really cover that, but Derek was cool like that, very cool.

If you've Wand of Wonder stories of your own, why don't you fly them over to Kobold Quarterly's Forums and share them with the folk there, I know Wolfgang would love it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Patronage and the Role-Playing Game Industry

Patronage, according to a definition found at Wikipedia, " is the support, encouragement, privilege and often financial aid given by a person or an organization." During previous eras various artistic and engineering feats and projects occurred under the act of empowerment found via a patron or group of patrons, such as City-States and religious groups. Michelangelo and de Vinci both had patrons, several, throughout their years who fueled their endeavors with monies, resources, and even places to create at, and look at the wonders that came from those times.

Yet, over the years, the act of patronage turned more and more into employer and employee, with less and less freedom of the previous eras and a more modern mercantile thought applied to various creative projects. Society often changes a concept, yet there are still exceptions to those facts and there are still patrons today, yet they apply more and more to the arts like music and painting, with the occasional author in resident seen from time to time.

It's been over two years since Wolfgang Baur brought the patronage concept to the RPG industry and, I think, it's quite evidently a success for Baur, as well as a torch that others in the industry are looking at or, in the case of Rite Publishing, a torch to be touched from and carried on their own. The patronage model has obviously been kind to Baur, as he has not only worked with others on projects, but he's also launched Kobold Quarterly, an analog and digital gaming magazine that has taken residence in the niche that Dragon magazine once filled.

Recently, Rite Publishing has decided to use the patronage model to bring Frank Carr's Heroes of the Jade Oath, a setting powered by Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved, to print via two levels of patronage, patron and senoir patron. Originally, Lands of the Jade Oath was a homebrew, yet it's fan popularity and interesting flavor has brought it quickly to the land of (soon to be) published RPGs. How many other new worlds are waiting such a launch to prominence and are they more likely to see the light of day due to the patronage model?

At the height of the d20 boom, self-publishing brought a new age to the small press RPG designer and developer, especially with services like Lulu enabling them to go to print, as opposed to just PDF. Not only were these designers and developers successful in the digital world, but many of them soon found success in the analog world, too. Which brings to question, what and who will the patronage movement bring to the forefront?

Thus far the patronage movement has had no real stumbling or examples of misuse of trust of it's patrons, which is a good thing and, hopefully, will continue for some time to come. If folks follow Baur's example and professionalism, not only will the patronage movement take a firm hold in the industry, but it could bring a new age to the RPG where people get the exact product that they've hoped for, tailored to their needs and desire. Not only will this add a desired product to their patrons' gaming tables, but it will also fuel the creative engines of the companies that use the model, but bring an interesting level of freedom to game designers and developers who would like to work outside of the mainstream industry.

Although some of the higher levels of patronage are of a higher cost level than most products, they bring with them extras such as manuscript and art review, creation process updates and articles, as well as a hands on tutorial in game design and development. In addition to producing custom products that their patrons want, the patronage movement is also training new designers and developers who might use the same model to bring their own work and ideas to gaming tables. While some could look at this as adding hairline fractures to a multi-faceted industry, a more positive outlook is that it is an excellent training ground for future professionals who are taught by experienced veterans using patronage to supplement their own income and lives.

While the patronage model is new to the role-playing game industry, with few examples of its success, these existing examples are so strong that the potential benefits outweigh any, as of yet, theoretically misgivings. Not only is the patronage model a boon to the individual game designer and developer, as well their patrons, but I feel, in the end, it will show to be a boon to the industry, too.

But, that's just my thoughts, what's yours?

Monday, October 27, 2008

How To - Play by Post Role-Playing

Life is about adaptability and gamers are no exception. Not all of us have the ability or time to have a regular tabletop group, it could be due to life changes, work, or that the local pickings for fellow gamers is slim and far between. For many of those folks, myself included, there is the option of PbP and PbE, also known as Playing-by-Post and Playing-by-E-mail, both of which are descendants of the Play-by-Mail offerings that we use to see as ads in Dungeon or Dragon Magazine, back in the day.

However, unlike the Play-by-Mail games of the day, most options for play-by-post/e-mail are free for game masters and players, alike. Although there are some membership sites that gather much of what could be needed for a PbP(E) game, most all of the tools and utilities are out there on the Internet for free. Be it using the offerings of sites like EN World, which has dedicated areas within their forums for PbB(e) games or creating your own private group on a place like Google's Groups, or even on blog sites like Blogger,  there are plenty of places to host your game.

Of course, one of the first questions that pops into the minds of some folk are, "What about the dice?" Fortunately for us, there are sites like Invisible Castle and Irony Games that have us covered, with secure dice rolling options that have archived results and multiple methods of sharing those results with both sides of the screen. With shared links, e-mail results, and other options, dice rolling worries are not something that should be worried about.

Now comes to the hard part of PbP(E), perhaps even one of the most important, which is communication. Text-based online gaming has been around for years and while it is enjoyable, it does remove a key component of tabletop gaming, a subtle one that we sometimes forget about, and that is emotional subtext to ones words and actions. As most experience folk on the Internet have seen, misunderstandings turn into flamewars rather quickly, which sometimes are worked out when it was realized that the perception of what was said did not match the intent. The same can be said for online gaming, so it is important to note what is going on with both in-character (IC) and out-of-character (OOC) text and statements.

Clear and concise communication is just as important as timely postings, good spelling and grammar, and a solid grasps of the game mechanics. Due to the lack of seeing you as you do or say something with you character, people often have to assume the meaning behind the words, which can lead to a lot of fireworks. So, when playing in an online venue always remember to be patient and seek clarity if something strikes you in a bad way, the worst that can happen is that th worst thought is true. But, odds are, the worst will not be true and you kept yourself from being the fool.

Whether playing or running a PbP(E) game, it is always best to know what sort of time frame is expected by everyone involved, how many posts a day or week, or just a good outline of a frequency for the game, that way everyone involved is on the same page and enjoying themselves. While some folk like a faster pace game, others prefer slow and steady, so it is good to make sure that everyone involved knows what to expect.

You will also want to have three threads to keep track of while playing in a PbP(E) game, which is a Rogue's Gallery, an OOC Thread, and the IC Thread of the game. Now the Rogue's Gallery is where the character sheets, background, and related information is kept. The RG is an excellent resource, in that it allows players and game masters to check needed information, including making a roll for a missing player, or making silent rolls on the GM side of the screen.

In-Character and Out-of-character threads are a way to separate the normal activity of the gaming table, as it occurs online, which is the story side of gaming (IC) and the socialization of the players (OOC). Also, the OOC Thread is a good place for asking the GM questions that are less immediate then a rule clarity or encounter-based question. The OOC field would be where you would ask about which books are used and not used, potential development for your character, and other type questions.

Due to the sheer volume of information that you are potentially exposed to in OOC threads and the Rogue's Gallery, it is important to keep out of character and in character knowledge separate, as it is not only fair to other players and the game master, but it makes for a more enjoyable game, too. So get out there and have fun!

Also, if you'd like, feel free to share your own thoughts, tips, and comments about PbP(E)s by commenting in this article.

Kobold Quarterly's Monday Monsters

Folk are creatures of habit, there are things that we do and do not do when we get out of bed in the morning. Some folk like to get up, get dressed, and go for a run, while others like to relax, drink coffee, read the morning paper or watch the news. Regardless of what, we all have those habits and one of my weekly habits is Kobold Quarterly's Monday Monsters.

Monday Monsters is a series of free articles from Kobold Quarterly, which is both a website and periodical, for those who do not know, that is, to quote Erik Mona, "the spiritual successor to Dragon Magazine." In Monday Monsters we are shown a variety of monsters, many of which from urban legend and folklore, that can be dropped into many a campaign, be they contemporary or period fantasy. 

Whether you are working behind the screen, looking for a new foe for your players, or a memorable encounter, a developer or designer who enjoys monster articles, or just a fan of a well-crafted monster that can be dropped into a campaign, you will love KQ's Monday Monsters. Not only are they an interesting take on some traditional tales of myth, legend, and mystery, but it is a good place to see new faces in the halls of game design and development, like John E. Ling and Joshua Stevens.

Thus far, Kobold Quarterly keeps hitting them out of the park, with both their analog and digital offerings, and Monday Monsters is no exception, it is an example.

Welcome to Emerson's Bookshelf

Welcome to Emerson's Bookshelf!

Yeah, I know, the name is a bit vain, but so is the assumption that folk will wanna hear my views on all things role-playing game, so why break the trend. Hehehe.

It is my hope that you'll enjoy your time reading this blog, where I take my close to thirty years of gaming experience, mostly playing the games, but also as a freelance writer. Here I plan to offer my opinions, editorials, reviews, and interviews, all about traditional role-playing games, across all systems, genres, and other delimiters that I'm not thinking of right now.

So, sit back, enjoy the ride, and feel free to participate.

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