Saturday, May 30, 2009

Review - Open Design Podcast

Whether you're interested in the art of design and development of role-playing games as a gamemaster or professional, I think that the Open Design Podcast is going to be just the podcast that you're looking for. Our hosts are Wolfgang Baur, Ed Healy, and Rone Barton, with Monte Cook and Skip Williams slated as regular features verbalizing their Kobold Quarterly columns, respectively Game Theories and Ask the Kobold. Thus we have the vanguard of the patronage movement for the design and development of role-playing games, the hosts of Atomic Array and RPG Countdown, amongst other things, and two of the lead folks of 3rd Edition, one of whom is an OGL pioneer, himself.

How's that for potential and that's just the hosts and monthly featured folks.

Open Design 001: Kobold Ecologies, the initial offering from the Open Design Podcast comes out guns blazing with Jeff Grubb and his authoritative thoughts on design and development, as well as his experience with the patronage movement. The next offering is Brandon Hodge, senior patron and contributor to Halls of the Mountain King, an Open Design patronage, as well as the proprietor of Big Top Candy Shop and Monkey See, Monkey Do, both of Austin Texas. Hodge talks about his experience with Open Design and patronage. Last, but not least, we have Clinton J. Boomer, RPG Superstar finalist and all around interesting character who talks about his own path to monster design, as well as his current projects.

Of course, during all of this are have the feature contributors, Monte Cook and Skip Williams, respectively talking about contrasting differences between fiction and game writing and sage'd advice about the rules for occupying a five foot space in an OGL game.

Clocking in at just under an hour, Open Design 001 covers a lot of subjects in a pleasant format that imparts a fair amount of information in a modest amount of time, entertainingly so, with time passing by rather quickly. While it would be easy to associate the Open Design Podcast with d20 mechanics and the Open Game License movement, there is plenty of information that could easily be used, independent of system, by the listener.

Although this is only the first episode of this podcast, it's my opinion that anyone interesting in being better behind the screen, learning to design and develop their own works or works for others, could do a lot worse for themselves than listening to this podcast. Not only does the Open Design Podcast have over three-quarters of a century of role-playing industry experience in its core offering, but it has the potential of hitting the century mark with any given episode, simply based on the wide-ranging potential of guests.

Also, if you're more of an auditory learner, or someone whose always got an MP3 player plugged into your head, than this should definitely be in your rotation, as you're bound to learn something, each offering.

So do yourself a favor, however you wish to listen or subscribe to it, and give the Open Design Podcast a listen and see if it's for you; I think you'll be quite pleased with the results.

Open Design 001: Kobold Ecologies

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Friday, May 22, 2009

My Evolving Experience with Rite Publishing...

Since my piece about Patronage and the RPG Industry I have had a growing relationship with Rite Publishing, one that has grown on several levels, both personal and professional, and I think that is a sign of one of the aspects of New Media. Initially my relationship with Rite Publishing was as a customer and reviewer, as not only did I join the Heroes of the Jade Oath patronage project, but I had also bought Rite Publishing products previously, as I am a fan of Monte Cook'sArcana Evolved.

But, as is increasingly more common with the patronage movement within the role-playing game industry, my relationship with Rite Publishing has grown more complex, yet easily segmented. Not only am I a patron on several projects, such as the aforementioned Heroes of the Jade Oath, but I am also a member of the design and development team for one, the recently fast trackedLitorians. Plus, I am involved in writing the "What Has Gone Before..." pieces for the Rituals of Choice adventure path, where a synopsis handout is provided to players who may have missed the previous adventure. This part of the series appears for the first time in To Kill or Not to Kill, which is the second entry in this adventure path.

It is this potential in the patronage movement that is so tempting, so possible for change, in that a member of a patronage project can easily transit from customer to talent, simply because of the intimate nature of such projects. Due to an increase of exposure, both of the patron and the publisher, there is more chance to impress one and other, which allows the interaction to move to another level. It happens on various patronage projects, where in one you see folk as members, yet in the next you see them as talent, all of which, in my opinion, is one of the most exciting things about patron projects.

As an example, my experience with Rite Publishing has transitioned several times, in different ways and manners, from purchase reviews to supplemented ones to membership participation to talent participation, which is one heck of a sexy thing, when you think about it. Most gamers fantasize about being a designer or a developer, maybe even a publisher, and patronage projects, such as those done by Rite Publishing, are an exciting venue to try their hand at what it takes do just that.

Hopefully, if sharing my experiences has helped with making the choice to join a patronage project, be it the aforementioned Rite Publishing or someone else, then it is my hope that sometime that that story can be shared with someone else and help them to make the choice, too.

Want to learn more about Rite Publishing? Read on...
Jade Oath Preview: The Demon Hunter
Stungeon Studios: Jade Oath Artwork
Apath Blogs: Pride and Patronage
Drop by Rite Publishing and become a patron today!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Behind the Screen Tradecraft - Improvisation

There are many things that I've had standout to me about a solid gaming experience as a player, as I've been quite fortunately to have some rather solid folk behind many of the screens I played before, but one of the top things I've appreciated has been someone's ability to be improvisational. Consistency of rules, in and of its self, is important, however the ability for the voice behind the screen to adapt to unexpected twists and turns of the players is paramount.

Anyone can regurgitate, verbatim, what is written in a published adventure, however the ability of someone to take what is written and manipulate it, on the fly, can make for some memorable gaming experiences. 

One of the best ways to do this, I think, is look more at the emotional content and context of a given encounter or moment and focus less on what is directly written. Sure, the foes in the encounter, especially if it's a combat encounter, matter, but the verbage only matters if it fits the campaign that is being ran, otherwise it is optional. By focusing on the emotional content of the moment, instead of trying to repeat what was written, the flow of any scene is more organic, seemingly more true.

Watch a good improv comic, ones who feed off of the audience that they talk to, as opposed to the ones who talk at the audience, and you will see what I mean. Monte Cook, who happens to be an excellent game designer and developer, talks on his blog about taking an improv class, which just adds to the talk of his excellent tradecraft behind the screen. After all, running a game is helping guide the core narrative to the game, a narrative that the players are also helping to craft, which turns most any role-playing game into a shared story, if those involved so wish it.

In fact, as with improvisation, shared story telling is a choice, as is role-playing, and it's not about the system, but the folks involved with the game. Any group of players, who love character development, can turn the most dry, mechanical game into a role-playing festival, just as any group of folks who just wanna kill, loot, and move on can turn even the most verbose system into a hack and slash event to end all events.

In the end, it is your game, do with it as you like and have a blast.