Geek Parenting: D6 Thoughts for Tabletop Gamer Parents

Thursday, February 26th, 2015 | Posted by M Harold Page

2kg of Halo Megablocs. It's hundreds of pounds worth of plastic, but we'll only get a few quid for it because the sets are all jumbled.

2kg of Halo Megablocs… hundreds of pounds worth of plastic, but we’ll only get a few quid for it because the sets are all jumbled.

At the moment, Kurtzhau and I are trying to flog off 2kg of Halo Megablocs. It’s hundreds of pounds worth of plastic, but we’ll only get a few quid for it because the sets are all jumbled. Worse, he only got 18 months play out of the lot, less out of recent acquisitions. He’s 11 now and Bolt Action and Warhammer 40K have swept away all his toys.

So, this set me thinking about things I wished I known when I started parenting.

1. Your old games are rubbish

Seriously, your old edition of AD&D is unplayable — too many subsystems, too much obscurantism for anybody growing up a digital native. This is also true of those older boardgames that tried to emulate some aspects of role playing, but without the verbal problem solving and character stuff that make RPG worthwhile. In terms of making interesting decisions, Talisman, for example, is not really much better than Snakes and Ladders.

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Future Treasures: Temple of Elemental Evil Board Game

Friday, February 13th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Temple of Elemental Evil Board Game-smallThe Temple of Elemental Evil, written by Gary Gygax and Frank Metzner and published by TSR in 1985, is considered one of the greatest RPG adventures ever created. When Dungeon magazine ranked them in 2004, on the 30th anniversary of the Dungeons & Dragons game, The Temple of Elemental Evil was voted the 4th greatest D&D adventure of all time. In his 1991 history of role-playing games, Heroic Worlds, Lawrence Schick wrote “If you like huge classic dungeon crawls, this is probably the best of the lot.”

It has seen several incarnations since its original release, including a Fourth Edition re-release of the first chapter, The Village of Hommlet, and a popular computer game version, developed by Troika Games and published by Atari. It remains the only computer game ever released set in Greyhawk.

Now Wizards of the Coast is converting this grandaddy of all dungeons crawls into a board game, to be released in April of this year. Here’s the description from the WotC website:

In the Temple of Elemental Evil board game, you play as a heroic adventurer. With amazing abilities, spells and magic weapons, you must explore the dungeons beneath the Sword Coast where you will fight monsters, overcome hazards and find treasure. Are you ready for adventure?

The Temple of Elemental Evil board game features multiple scenarios, challenging quests and cooperative game play designed for 1-5 players. The contents can also be combined with other D&D Adventure System Cooperative play board games, including The Legend of Drizzt and Castle Ravenloft.

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The Art Of Retreat, a.k.a. “Run Away, Run Away!”

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 | Posted by markrigney

Run MemeOver the last thirty-five years, I’ve enjoyed gaming (mostly D&D and its ilk) with something like ten different role-playing groups. Other than the blindingly obvious traits that all such gatherings share, such as a love of good company or having a pulse, the most salient characteristic exhibited by each band of gamers was a stunning inability to retreat in the face of bad situations or superior foes.

I find this mind-boggling. Fascinating, too.

Let me provide a couple of classic examples. Once upon a time, my friends Nick and Suzanne, playing a barbarian and a cleric, respectively, “went on ahead” of the rest of the group, which is to say, the rest of us couldn’t make it that week. They came upon a lonely cave inhabited by creatures we later came to call graylocks. I don’t recall the source or where the referee culled them, but that doesn’t matter: they were mean and tough. Think ogres with spells.

Nick and Suzanne pressed the fight, even though they were outnumbered; they pressed the fight even though their opponents were winning; they pressed the fight even when it was hopeless. In short, they behaved as if they could not possibly lose. It took hours of painstaking work over the ensuing weeks to rescue them.

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Who You Gonna Play? – Ghostbusters: The Board Game on Kickstarter

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Box - StandardOne of the earliest films that I have a distinct memory of anticipating is the original Ghostbusters. I would have been 8 years old, but I remember the commercials for it, a mix of humor and horror that I eagerly wanted to dive into. I wasn’t really allowed to watch scary movies, but this, this was one that I’d be allowed to see. In the theater!

Over the following years I watched the cartoon series (both the bizarre Filmation Ghostbusters cartoon series, which had no connection with the film continuity at all, and the later The Real Ghostbusters, which most definitely did) and of course the sequel, Ghostbusters 2. Though I never felt that any of these quite captured the greatness of the original film, over the years I came to realize that’s what tends to happen with many of the things we loved in our childhood. We want them to never change, but they do.

While I haven’t maintained a strong Ghostbusters fanaticism over the recent years, I’ve never fully lost it. There’s usually at least one Ghostbuster walking the halls of GenCon, even after all of these years, and seeing that jumpsuit always makes me smile. Every time I’m in our local comic book store, I notice that there are ongoing adventures in the comic book realm, including a recent cross-over with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The recent announcement of an all-female reboot of the franchise has caused some turmoil, to be sure, but it guarantees that there is interest. For my part, I tried to argue for a different direction in the new series, still largely female but no reboot, but I guess they didn’t take me up on it. And for Christmas, I did get this LEGO Ecto-1 kit from my mother. (Last year she bought me the Back to the Future DeLorean LEGO kit, so this is apparently becoming our thing.)

So… okay, I guess that I’m still something of a fanatic.

Which brings me to the news of the day: Cryptozoic Entertainment has started a Kickstarter for their new Ghostbusters: The Board Game. I was able to ask some questions of the Cryptozoic lead board game designer, Matt Hyra, about the game.

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James Mishler’s Color Maps of TSR’s Known World

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

TSR Known World James Mishler-small

On Saturday Lawrence Schick posted The “Known World” D&D Setting: A Secret History here at Black Gate, a look behind the scenes at the early version of TSR’s Known World, one of the earliest published settings for Dungeons and Dragons. Yesterday Lawrence pointed me to James Mishler’s blog, Adventures in Gaming V2, where he said Mishler had “taken the maps from our article and transformed them into labeled, full-color wonders.” That’s an example of Mishler’s re-worked maps above (click for legible version). Here’s what Mishler said on his blog, in part:

Lawrence Schick, one of the early designers of Dungeons & Dragons at TSR, has revealed some interesting maps that detail the Original Known World that he and Tom Moldvay used in their Kent, Ohio Dungeons & Dragons campaign. If the “Known World” sounds familiar, it is because it is the world that was used in the 1981 edition of Basic/Expert Dungeons & Dragons, revealed in the module X1: The Isle of Dread and detailed further in the Expert Set book… He has posted several maps and note sheets with this article on the Black Gate website…

It is not exactly the same world, but instead is obviously the progenitor of the Known World that eventually evolved into Mystara. When Tom Moldvay, David Cook, and the rest of the development team for B/X needed to use a world, they went back and borrowed from Moldvay and Schick’s Original Known World. Many of the names and ideas survived; you can also see much of the TSR Known World geography owes its design to the Original Known World’s eastern half.

So as usual, when I get excited about mapping stuff, especially when it comes to one of my favorite campaign settings, I kind of took the maps presented and ran with them…

James took Moldvay and Schick’s hand-made Known World maps and knit them together with annotations of location names to create the image above. He also created Hexographer versions of the Western and Eastern Known World, and a jumbo map of both stitched together. See the impressive results on his blog.


Monolith’s Conan Board Game Raises Over $2 Million on Kickstarter

Sunday, February 8th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Conan Monolith-small

Earlier today the Kickstarter campaign for a new Conan miniatures game from start-up Monolith Board Games surpassed $2 million — more than 25 times the $80,000 goal. Monolith has no track record, but they’ve done a fine job generating excitement. Game components  – including double-sided boards and over 70 plastic miniatures — look excellent, and the art, chiefly by Adrian Smith, is terrific. Here’s the description of the core game:

Conan is a miniature-based board game that pits one player, the overlord, who controls hordes of savage tribesmen, no-good lowlifes and undead minions against 1 to 4 players who incarnate the legendary Conan and his fellow adventurers. The gameplay is asymetric, as the overlord possesses a large selection of models and objectives which are his own, whereas the brave heroes are played from a first person perspective, much like in a role playing game. An adventure can be played out in 1 hour on one of the beautiful game boards as you pit your wits, daring and tactical acumen against your opponent.

Who the heck is Monolith, and why should you be giving them your hard earned money?

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The “Known World” D&D Setting: A Secret History

Saturday, February 7th, 2015 | Posted by Lawrence Schick

TSR's Known World

TSR’s Known World

Recently some old friends in Akron, Ohio, turned up a few pages of the pre-TSR homebrew Dungeons & Dragons rules created by Tom Moldvay and me in the mid-1970s. I was delighted to see them, as I thought all of our early collaborative work had been lost to history.

I first encountered Tom Moldvay in late 1973 at a meeting of the Kent State University Science Fiction Club. We hit it off right away, and quickly decided we ought to collaborate on something — we just weren’t sure what.

In early ’74 Tom came back from an SF convention with Dungeons & Dragons in its original white box edition. He DMed asession, I DMed a session, and suddenly we knew what we were going to create together: a fantasy world setting for D&D.

We had both read widely in world history and mythology, and enjoyed a lot of the same fantasy fiction; we traded Lin Carter’s Ballantine Adult Fantasy books back and forth until we’d read them all, as well as everything we could find by Howard, Lovecraft, Tolkien, Merritt, Haggard, Harold Lamb, Dunsany, Hodgson, Machen, and Zelazny.

We were both nuts about Clark Ashton Smith, Tom was a Michael Moorcock and Philip José Farmer fanatic, while I could quote chapter and verse from the works of Jack Vance and Fritz Leiber. So we knew what we wanted to create: a single world setting that would enable us to simulate the fictional realities of these, our favorite authors.

It was going to have to be a big world.

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Seven Lessons I Learned from RPG Games of Yore

Friday, February 6th, 2015 | Posted by mariebilodeau

Final Fantasy 2 Super Nintendo-smallGrowing up, my brother was a huge gamer, and I loved watching him play. He used to rent a Nintendo at the library every weekend, as well as the Final Fantasy cartridge. He would practically turn blue holding his breath all week, hoping no one else would rent it and save over that one precious on-cartridge spot.

Then, when the Super Nintendo was announced, he saved allll of his monies and my dad drove us to the States (it was coming out only months later in Canada!) He bought it, and we stared at those “high-res” graphics on the box all the way back home.

I bought him Final Fantasy 2 (I know, I know, it’s IV, but back in the day, Google didn’t alert us of all these things. Wait, am I old?  I’m going to ignore that.) I had to get Dad to drive me to the States to get it again, and it ate up all of my hard earned paper route proceeds. Totally worth it to see him jump up and down.

BUT, on top of the games teaching me things through their acquisitions (saving, planning, emotional manipulation/whining), I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all learned many other fine lessons from playing pixelated heroes.

Here are a few of mine.

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New Treasures: The Emerald Spire Superdungeon

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Emerald Spire-smallI’ve been playing AD&D with my kids and their friend Will a few days a month (yes, that’s first edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. It’s the only version I know how to play. Plus, used copies of the rules are still cheap.)

As I mentioned in my 2013 article, I’ve been gradually running them through Gygax’s classic adventure modules, and setting them on the Outdoor Survival map, just as Gygax used to do. Right now we’re in the middle of G2: The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl, which is just as much fun as I remember it.

I mention this because they’ll soon be done with Gygax’s Against the Giants adventure modules, and I’ve been on the hunt for another epic adventure to involve them in. These days it’s superdungeons that get all the good press, and I can understand why. Nothing gets players excited like a truly epic adventure they can sink their teeth into.

I’ve been extremely impressed with the Pathfinder adventures I’ve purchased in the past — including the massive 420-page Rise of the Runelords, a gargantuan hardcover collection of the first six Adventure Path modules — so when I heard Paizo was releasing a standalone supermodule, I thought it would be worth checking out.

The Emerald Spire Superdungeon (yes, Superdungeon is part of the actual title — how cool is that?) was released last summer, and it’s as ambitious and as gigantic as I could have hoped. The dungeon spans a whopping 16 levels, designed by superstars like Ed Greenwood, Frank Mentzer, Michael Stackpole, Lisa Stevens, Sean K. Reynolds, and many others.

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Forbes on the Books that Inspired the New Dungeons & Dragons

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Name of the Wind-smallGary Gygax, creator of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, famously listed the fantasy writers and books that inspired him in Appendix N. We’ve had lengthy discussions on Appendix N, and its suitability as a jumping-off point for a fantasy collection, here on Black Gate.

Now that there’s a new version of D&D on the market, it’s not too surprising that its creators have included their own version of Appendix N. And while I consider Gygax’s Appendix N to be a terrific resource for classic fantasy fans, I was pleased (and not at all surprised) to find that the new inspiration comes chiefly from a new generation of fantasy writers.

Forbes magazine writer David M. Ewalt, who’s written about Dungeons and Dragons before, interviewed Mike Mearls, head of R&D for Dungeons & Dragons and co-lead designer on the fifth edition rules, and designer Rodney Thompson. Here’s some excerpts:

Patrick Rothfuss ”showed that bards didn’t have to suck,” according to Mearls. Fifth edition designers knew that players would use the bard class to create characters inspired by Kvothe, the hero of Rothfuss’ novel The Name of the Wind. “We actually talked about using words of power as big element of the bard, but toned it down as too on the nose.”

Saladin Ahmed ”did a great job of capturing the concept of an adventuring party in Throne of the Crescent Moon,” says Mearls. “A lot of the stuff behind bonds, flaws, all the stuff that binds characters to the campaign, was inspired by reading Throne…”

Mearls, Thompson and the rest of D&D team are also inspired by the storytellers who wrote for previous versions of the Dungeons & Dragons game. Last week, Wizards of the Coast announced “Elemental Evil,” a new storyline in the Dungeons & Dragons product universe tied into several new products: The storyline is based, in part, on the 1985 game module The Temple of Elemental Evil, which was written by Gary Gygax and Frank Mentzer for the first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules.

David M. Ewalt is also the author of Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It. See his complete article here.


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