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Generic Dungeons, Universal Dragons 241

It's been about six months since we took the pen and paper gaming industry's temperature. There have been some important product releases since November, many of them well worth looking at. Steve Jackson Games continues to release books for its Fourth Edition of GURPS, and Wizards of the Coast works to expand the appeal of both the core Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) setting and the Eberron campaign world. Read on for some highlights from the world of tabletop gaming.
Spell Compendium
Matthew Sernett, Jeff Grubb, Mike McArtor
Wizards of the Coast
$39.95, 288 pages

A purely functional book for D&D, the Spell Compendium is exactly as the title implies: a text collecting spells. As an 'options' book for players, it's hard to argue with the punch of the content. The book does exactly one thing. Spells from such disparate sources as the Complete series of books, the Wizards of the Coast website, and Dragon Magazine were compiled to provide an interesting, fresh set of magical effects for spellcasting characters. The book focuses solely on providing additional spells; My players objected to the title of 'compendium' considering the absence of the spells from the Player's Handbook (PHB). Unfortunately the search for novelty results in what you'd expect from a product like this: extremely variable. While some entries make you wonder why they weren't in the PHB, there are also many confusing or unbalanced ideas. At forty dollars retail it's hard to recommend a product that has such inconsistency in the content. If only on the basis of player/Game Master (GM) arguments, there's a lot of opportunity for frustration as a result of this book. This is definitely a title you can take a pass on unless you only play spellcasters and have a GM who is willing to negotiate with you.

Races of the Dragon
Gwendolyn F.M. Kestrel, Jennifer Clarke Wilkes,Kolja Raven Liquette
Wizards of the Coast
$29.95, 160 pages

The Races series attempts to fill the same niche with player species as the Complete series does with player classes. Each book concentrates on familiar races, gives new background for enthusiastic players, and offers up one or two new races suitable for character creation. Races of the Dragon is somewhat unique, in that it focuses solely on new races for players tired of the standard set. Specifically, it details the Dragonborne, Spellscale, and Kobold races as options for D&D characters. The Dragonborne are a race created, not birthed, a proud warrior race touched by the dragon god Bahamut. Spellscales are vainglorious sorcerers, an impish people with an ingrained sense of style. Kobolds are, of course, the diminutive reptilian race usually slaughtered in large numbers by early-level adventurers. Of the races discussed in the book, the Kobold information is far and away the most interesting to me. An often overlooked race, the simple creatures receive a good deal of fleshing out. As a member of a non-standard party or a quirky addition to your typical humanoid group the Kobold seems to have a lot of potential in this book. The other two races strike me as simple cosmetics: Dragonborne are statistically just magical orcs (though the concept of your character being reborn is an interesting one), and Spellscales feel like elves with shiny skin. The book also touches on half-dragons and dragonblooded creatures, and provides the usual assortment of feats, prestige classes, and spells (my favorite: Gnome Blight). As one of the iconic elements of fantasy, I can understand that there are some folks who just have to play dragons, and they'll find a lot to like here. Similarly if you're looking to complete your collection of the Races books, Races of the Dragon meets the standard set by the other titles in the series. Dungeon Masters (DMs) and non-dracophile players can safely pass; this one's pure candy.

Magic of Eberron
Bruce R. Cordell, Stephen Schubert, Chris Thomasson
Wizards of the Coast
$29.95, 160 pages

Keith Baker's Eberron setting has taken on a life of its own since it launched almost exactly two years ago. The background for Dungeons and Dragons Online, the pulp/noir/fantasy mashup is now Wizards of the Coast's premier product series. Magic of Eberron does a fantastic job of getting across core elements of the setting, elements that have been so far unclear or under-explained. With only two years of development behind it, there is still a lot about the continent of Khorvaire that's not nailed down. For example, creating magical items with Dragonshards is thoroughly covered. Dragonshards power many of the vaguely technology-inspired elements of the setting, and this fundamental flavour element speaks volumes about the world at large. Nightmarish Daelkyr magic, dragon magic, and grafting magic is also explored. Each of these elements not only adds rules grit to the setting, but explains and expands the background presented in the main campaign sourcebook.The tome also manages to balance the fine line between DM and Player content; background information is mixed well with feats, prestige classes, and spells. The Eberron preoccupation with 'places' also works well here, offering up barely sketched out dungeons to add information by example. This is definitely one of the most interesting and informative Eberron resources that has been released to date. Players and Dungeon Masters who are working with this setting should at least take a look. It may not fit your campaign's playstyle, but there is sure to be something here that will spark ideas for later.

Heroes of Horror
James Wyatt, Ari Marmell, C.A. Suleiman
Wizards of the Coast
$29.95, 160 pages

Most D&D products focus on the specific: a sourcebook covering a geographical area, a type of magic, a class or race. Heroes of Horror is the second book in a more thematic series that attempts to add a new twist to the standard Dungeons and Dragons game. Horror, and the previous book Heroes of Battle provides rules and guidelines to focus your campaign beyond the traditional fantasy tropes. As you may guess from the title, Heroes of Horror offers ways in which to include elements from the suspenseful and supernatural we normally associate with games like Call of Cthulu. I'm a big Lovecraft fan, and I was skeptical when I cracked the book if such delicate setting elements could be incorporated via a core book. I should have respected Mr. Wyatt's name on the cover more, because Horror is an unmitigated success. The secret to that success is the light touch the authors take with the source material. Instead of attempting to convey the genre in one go, they break the milieu down into digestible chunks. First they explain how to set the stage for a horror-style encounter (one specific fight, or scene). Then, using the language established with the encounter they expand that to an entire adventure. The Lovecraftian use of suspense, of lurid language, and the need to heighten tension over time is explored with ghoulish examples. Then they take the final step and work with the reader to understand what would be involved in a horror campaign. A series of adventures all with a horror theme could take the players into relatively untrod territory in D&D, and the book is a great guide for the journey. They add a mechanic for 'taint', the psychic residue left behind by dealing with the horrific, but that's just crunch thrown in to make sure you feel like you got your money's worth. Definitely not a book for every Dungeon Master, those that are willing to experiment a little with the traditional D&D experience will find a very worthwhile read here. Players need not apply.

GURPS For Dummies
Adam Griffith, Bjoern-Erik Hartsfvang, and Stuart J. Stuple
$13.99, 410 pages

Wiley's series of cheery yellow books continues to expand beyond the borders of technology. This title, along with Dungeons and Dragons for Dummies and Dungeon Master for Dummies seems to represent a new commitment to pen-and-paper gaming. I'm not going to question it, I'm just going to enjoy it. With GURPS for Dummies, there's a lot to enjoy. GURPS stands for Generic Universal RolePlaying System, and is designed with the idea that you can run any kind of game you like using the rules they provide. Anything from fantasy schlock to post-apocalyptic sci-fi to hard-science space adventure can be represented with the system. The downside to the flexibility the system provides is that it's ... a little fussy. GURPS character creation relies on set of advantages and disadvantages, each of which has a point cost or payout. This entry in the Dummies series distills down the complexities into the most basic elements, and then walks the reader through point expenditures step-by-step. Even if used as nothing other than as a first-time player aid, this text is well worth the price of admission. Above and beyond that, they walk through combat, running a GURPS game, and provide some guidance on creating a campaign world suitable for use with the rules set. The combat section is especially brilliant, breaking down options, actions, and skill rolls, and explaining what the best route to finishing a fight is likely to be. My players often joke that no one actually plays GURPS, because the popularity of the system's sourcebook content far outweighs the popularity of the rules-set. Just the same, if you do find yourself looking to get in on a game this is a worthwhile explanatory text for a very ambitious system.

Jon F. Zeigler and James L. Cambias
Steve Jackson Games
$34.95, 240 pages

While it might be that no one plays GURPS, it's easy to understand why the books sell so well. GURPS supplements are works of art in the roleplaying industry. They're well researched texts, something similar to an informational piledriver. I've known grad students in difficult college courses who refer to GURPS books as a way to get a handle on the assigned subject matter. GURPS Space is a new edition of a classic sourcebook for the line, complete with updated scientific information and new rules to match the fourth edition of the rules-set. Quite simply, this book is the finest resource you will find for running a campaign set in space. It covers, exhaustively, every detail you'll need to consider when your players blast off into the black. The granularity of the subject matter begins quite large, expounding on information like methods of propulsion, interstellar organizations, and the theme of your campaign. It then quickly descends into the nooks and crannies of off-planet science, offering up the rules governing a moon's tidal force on a planet ((T = 17.8 million x M X D)/R^3), as well as the proper placement of planetary orbits around a star. The text has random generation rules for everything from individual alien species to entire solar systems, and ties it all together with a great discussion of future societies at the end. They even include guidelines if your players decide to conquer a planet or two, and what that would entail. ('The Cortez Option', as they call it.) Even if you don't play GURPS, it's hard to recommend against this book if you're considering running a game in the briny black. Heck, even if you don't roleplay, there is enough here to keep a space nerd happy for a month's worth of afternoons.

A Player's Guide to Ptolus
Monte Cook
Sword and Sorcery
$2.99, 32 pages

Five copies of this small sourcebook showed up in my mailbox last week, a harbinger of the release this August of the massive 600+ page Ptolus setting book from Malhavoc Press, in conjunction with the Sword and Sorcery imprint from White Wolf games. The book being released in August is going to be an enormous campaign setting book thoroughly exploring a single city. The five copies I received in the mail were 'rewards' for preordering the book, intended to be given out to my players to excite their appetite for the setting. I'm a sucker for a setting, so here's one of my cynical player's assessment of the book: "Who know if the final price will be worth it, but the little promo looks good. Admittedly I read it pretty late at night, but I didn't notice anything really worth complaining about. I liked how there's a strong element of evil in the setting, not just 'island of civilization beset by darkness' type stuff." In short, the Player's Guide gives every indication that the larger book will offer up a pretty unique setting. Firearms sit side-by-side with swords in the markets, and the populous is well-informed about the dangers of spellcasting. Minotaurs and cat-people walk the streets without incident (or, at least, little more than subtle glares), and every street in the city will be named and numbered. Here's hoping this year's GenCon will see the release of another really worthwhile campaign setting from Malhavoc.

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Generic Dungeons, Universal Dragons

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  • by BengalsUF ( 145009 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @02:50PM (#15264622)
    What be this pen and paper of which you speak?
    • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @02:53PM (#15264643)
      > What be this pen and paper of which you speak?

      It's like a MMORPG, but with content.

      (And because most player interaction is verbal, it doesn't matter whether or not DungeonMasterTaco can spell :)

      • Don't forget the funny dice with wierd shapes! Content is good and all (depending on the developer/DM), but you know some people play just because of the innovative system. Just imagine, instead of black-box results which can only be understood by statistically analyzing the game for hours or days on end, we *give* you the numbers and the random number generators from the start!

        Well okay, you have to go buy your own dice... but then you get to choose cool-looking ones, too!
      • Don't forget that DungeonMasterTaco had to change his name to Violated [slashdot.org].
    • Which brings up an interesting point. I used to play Silent Death and Battletech, years ago, and one of the annoying things was copying the datasheets so you could check off damage and the like. There has certainly got to be PDA based datasheets now, don't you think? Sort of a convergance of electronic and tactile gaming?

      If not, I call the copyrighted patenting trademarking rights!

      • Re:Pen and Paper? (Score:2, Informative)

        by irablum ( 914844 )
        for Battletech, its even gotten better. thanks to the guys at Heavy Metal Pro [heavymetalpro.com] there is a windows application which allows you to not only get access to all mechs from all of the books (even some of the really obscure ones) but also allows you to customize them and then print them out. No more am I using coversheets and dry erase markers to perserve sheets, now, just mark the damage and throw them away at the end....

        fun fun!


    • 'Pen' is just another word for 'mouse' and I think 'paper' refers to any surface on the screen that can be directly modified by use of the mouse.
  • WOTC+D&D (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pl1ght ( 836951 )
    Ive been loving what WOTC has done with the D&D franchise. Many say they dumbed it down(and they did), but they completely rivtalized what was a dying franchise save the hardcore. My only complaint is that Eberron is not appealing at all imo. Not many groups have been bothering with that setting. Forgotten Realms/Greyhawk still seem to be top dogs by a far margin. I just cant get into the Eberron setting.
  • by Orrin Bloquy ( 898571 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @02:52PM (#15264639) Journal
    http://forums.palladium-megaverse.com/viewtopic.ph p?t=57048 [palladium-megaverse.com]

    Doesn't look promising.
    • I think the link is /. but I miss palladium. I used to thoroughly enjoy their "After the Bomb" mutant stuff. I still have them in my closet. Never got into Rifts though.

    • I have a huge collection of Rifts RPG books as well as several other Palladium books. At one point, I had most of the books they had printed. But I feel they've really strayed. Their game system is broken and the point of each book is to just supply bigger, better, badder weapons and spells and whatnot. It completely throws off the game balance. It's been a while since I've played Rifts and I'm much happier with the new D20 system.

      That said, I'd hate to see them go under given the circumstances as repo
      • The Palladium system is certainly broken (it never was that great, but looking at its age, there weren't many systems that were), but the out of control power situation is not the system's problem, it's the writers, who often, being lazy or just simply bad at writing, choose to describe their creations purely through the system's attributes.

        What this means is that when a writer creates a new race, say Chiang-ku Dragons, rather than making the creature unique through some good descriptive writing, simply jus

  • GURPS Space (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cthefuture ( 665326 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @03:03PM (#15264712)
    I have to agree with the GURPS Space thing. I haven't played GURPS in probably 15 years but I still love to read some of the books. Especially GURPS Space is very interesting reading because it compiles a whole bunch of research knowledge down into a single digestible book.
    • "GURPS for UNIX Geeks"

      This would be a pretty cool introduction to the GURPS system. GURPS is very UNIXy in the sense that you have a pretty good generic system that allows for small pieces to be integrated into it pretty much anywhere you want.

      Or maybe a joke about if operating systems were tabletop role playing games...

      GURPS would be Linux (or maybe *BSD)
      D&D would be Windows
      Warhammer would be a Mac
      I don't know, any others?
      • GURPS would be Linux (or maybe *BSD)
        D&D would be Windows
        Warhammer would be a Mac

        Well, except that D&D is the one with a core available under an "open" license inspired, in part, by the GPL, whereas GURPS and Warhammer and both "closed".

        There aren't really good analogies; the P&P RPG market isn't much like the OS market (though maybe its like what the OS retaining enormous marketshare dominance, was bought out by a dominant player in an faster-growing, overlapping market [Google, maybe?] who then

  • by ApathyCollider ( 972850 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @03:05PM (#15264724) Homepage
    You know, this story justs reminds how much I've wanted to get into pen and paper rpgs lately, but can't find anyone within 50 miles who runs them. I don't know if it's just Pittsburgh or what, but the internet is pretty useless for locating games, and as a beginner I can't really start my own. I think if some of the bigger companies came out and made like a uniform game location tool, popularity would skyrocket.
    • Actaully, I'm from the Pittsburgh area and there is an active gaming community here. The questions come down to where in the area do you live and how far are you willing to travel.

      Unfortunatly gaming shops don't advertise much and that's the fertile ground for getting involved in the local gaming scene. I live about 5 miles from my closest gaming shop and I will say that unless you walked up to the store front to see what the store is all about you'd probably not guess it was a gaming store.
    • by pdboddy ( 620164 ) <pdboddy@gmai l . c om> on Thursday May 04, 2006 @03:13PM (#15264798) Homepage Journal
      http://www.rpol.net/ [rpol.net]

      A good resource for either playing online, via forum/group posting, as well as a player/gm locator for such games, and I do believe they have other resources for finding live tabletop rpg games.

      There are also a huge number of Yahoo! Groups and Google Groups games going, not to mention LiveJournal and Greatest Journal rpgs.

      You can also find games on IRC, which are a bit more interactive (not to mention faster).

      I realize these games lack some of the things a live tabletop game offers, such as the social time and friendly banter, but I think these sorts of forums are good for those who can't find live games elsewhere, or who don't have 6 hours to set aside on a regular basis to roleplay.
    • by MadMorf ( 118601 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @03:51PM (#15265095) Homepage Journal
      I have had great luck finding games and players over the years with AccessDenied.Net:
      http://www.accessdenied.net/index.htm [accessdenied.net]
    • i have a similar problem, and I thought 'hmm, maybe i'll check the gameshops.' unfortunately, the people at the gameshops (that are *just* games, and not game-comic hybrid) are incredibly rude to me. I'm not sure if its because I'm in 'newb' status (I've been out of the pen and paper loop for a few years) or if its because I'm not exactly 'one of the guys' and they just don't know how to talk to me without making complete asses of themselves (every time i've been in these places, i was the only one who wasn
    • If you're fortunate enough to have a gaming shop in your town, go there. Chances are that there will be a billboard and a registry of gaming clubs in the area.

      Brick and mortar may be so very twentieth century as far as retail goes, but as beacons for hobbyists who want to find their community, they can't be beat.

      Another good place to look: the local university will probably have a gamers' group.
    • Hehe... you know, there are enough folks in this thread alone looking for a game to get into... one could start something up, online-wise anyways.
  • by spun ( 1352 ) <loverevolutionary@nOspaM.yahoo.com> on Thursday May 04, 2006 @03:05PM (#15264726) Journal
    The fourth edition is really great. Totally reworked a lot of things I thought were broken from the beginning. All skills progress at the same rate now. DX and IQ cost way more than HT and ST now, but they don't increase in cost. Advantages and Disadvantages can be modified with Enhancements and Limitations. The rules have, in general, been simplified and made logically consistent.

    I have the "Characters," "Campaigns," and "Magic" books right now and have been waiting for the "Space" book so I can update my third edition space campaign. A new version of "Vehicles" would be nice, too.

    Not to be too fanboyish, but GURPS beats any other tabletop RPG hands down for clarity, simplicity, realism, and playability. Plus it only uses 6 sided dice. It has the largest collection of licensed game worlds of any system, including Conan, Uplift and Riverworld, among others. Plus, it has a huge collection of historical supplements allowing people to role play in historically accurate game worlds from the Aztecs to the Vikings.

    So all you other RPGers out there who haven't, please give it a try. You have nothing to lose but your huge bag of polyhedral dice.
    • Not to be too fanboyish, but GURPS beats any other tabletop RPG hands down for clarity, simplicity, realism, and playability. Plus it only uses 6 sided dice. It has the largest collection of licensed game worlds of any system, including Conan, Uplift and Riverworld, among others. Plus, it has a huge collection of historical supplements allowing people to role play in historically accurate game worlds from the Aztecs to the Vikings.

      Y'know, if you've got a system that works equally well with weird space mon

      • There was a Who RPG a while back. It was kind of odd because it was only one sourcebook and that was sold as a regular paperback. I can't remember if Virign published it but it was around the time Virgin was publishing Who novels that I saw it. It was a system that only used six-sided dice. I kick myself for not buying it when I found it. It looked like rubbish but would've been fun to have around just for the sake of it.

        I'd seriously consider updating my GURPS collection to include some Dr Who.
      • If you want to do Who, you should use Hero System 5.

        Absolute Time Sense
        Danger Sense
        Universal Translator
        Simulate Death
        Teleportation (Time/Unlimited Range/Obvious Inaccessible Focus)
        Find Weakness
        Mind Control (only on friendly target/limited to suggestion)
        and then 20 INT and a billion points into various skills.

        And, of course, Dependent NPC.

        Fun stuff.
      • >> heads over to Google and types in 'gurps "doctor who"' and wonders what stat bonuses might be conveyed by a recorder, a bag of jelly babies and / or the Key to Time, and how much one might expect to pay per month for one of those call-through-time SIM cards

        There have been threads discussing Doctor Who in GURPS on the SJGames forum. See:
        http://forums.sjgames.com/showthread.php?t=14788 [sjgames.com]
        http://forums.sjgames.com/showthread.php?t=15351 [sjgames.com]
    • You have nothing to lose but your huge bag of polyhedral dice.

      Except for those six sided polyhedrons we call cubes...
    • Yeah, I got the 4e books out of curiosity and wow it is more organized than 3e. The rules are very similar, with (as you said) some welcome stat additions (separate HP, Will, and FP for instance). They've also folded Psi into advantages, which is ... interesting, at least. Definitely a bit less confusing, with the downside that it's not quite as focused as before.
    • I've been a big fan of Steve Jackson's creativity since I compared Melee to the combat system in Basic D&D almost thirty years ago.

      But I haven't done much more than collect books since I got married the first time... Supporting a wife and a house and a child doesn't leave much time... and I'm away from all my friends who used to game...

      It's the middle-aged geek's lament.
      • It's the middle-aged geek's lament.
        I hear ya, buddy. Just wait 'till the kid's old enough to play. My dad and I played the original blue-box D&D when I was ten. When I started DMing, he came up with the best four character names ever: Eski Ker the fighter, Kneal Downs the cleric, Dewey Tewya the thief, and Balzo Phyre the wizard. Hehehe, and I still remember them. Every kid loves playing make believe, not much of a leap to RPGs.
    • Not to be too fanboyish, but GURPS beats any other tabletop RPG hands down for clarity, simplicity, realism, and playability.

      While your mileage may vary in what you consider fun, and I respect that opinion, there's a bit too much chest-thumping pride to ignore in your statement when you so boldly declare the GURPS wins the trophy for all of these things.

      You obviously have not strayed outside of the classic supplement machines of WotC, White World, SJG, etc. if you think that GURPS wins in ALL four categorie
      • "Playability" is of course a completely subjective virtue, so I won't try to dispute you there since it's pointless to argue about a subjective opinion.

        Simplicity and clarity are subjective, too, and you had not problem debating them. (and I disagree with all your specific counters, though I think that Risus beats GURPS for simplicity, and some forms of clarity, though not realism.

        Objectively, though, any time your game relies on a grid of some sort with facing, turning, and movement rigidly defined, y

        • Simplicity and clarity are subjective, too, and you had not problem debating them. (and I disagree with all your specific counters, though I think that Risus beats GURPS for simplicity, and some forms of clarity, though not realism.

          Risus is an excellent minimalist game, but you're going to have to dispute that all of my specific counters are not simpler than GURPS? All of them?

          Let's describe a few of them:

          QAGS rules are dirt simple. You have a job with a score beside it. You roll a d20 under the score to
          • Risus is an excellent minimalist game, but you're going to have to dispute that all of my specific counters are not simpler than GURPS?

            No, I'm not going to have to dispute them, I'm pointing out that the issue is subjective and that I disagree with your assessment. I'm most emphatically not going to argue about each of them. Though, as an example, I emphatically agree with the factual part of your description of Theatrix but would suggest that resorting to subjective story-based determination for everyth

      • Well, I did admit to being in a fanboyish mood when I wrote that, so you have every right to criticise. Let me clarify. I think GURPS has the best balance between clarity, simplicity, realism, and playability.
        • Fair enough. I disagree, but that's because I sit at a far end of the "simplicity" vs. "realism" spectrum. I don't think that "realism" should even be a goal of a game compared to ease of play. I started gaming with diceless games, and so I've been "ruined" for most mainstream systems.

          Tastes differ. As long as we're gaming with people that have similar goals and are all capable of having fun, that's what really matters, you know?
      • For the DIY games I would recomend FATE rpg, it is free (as in speach) and has a (very) well written rule book, simple character creation and a new way to look at the hole thing. Very good.

        Check it out. [faterpg.com]

        Ps. sounds like an add? It's not I don't have no connection to the creator what so ever.
        • Actually, I'm playing in a FATE game on weekends right now, and I really like the rules system. The Aspects rules fit nicely with the high action game we're playing in. I only didn't mention it because it adds complexity to FUDGE, and I was shooting for the simplest systems that people are likely to have at least heard of.
    • Not to be too fanboyish, but GURPS beats any other tabletop RPG hands down for clarity, simplicity, realism, and playability.

      The biggest problem with GURPS is that it tries to be all things to all people (hence the Generic Universal part). That's what kills it. GURPS is just...boring. It's a clear and fairly straightforward system, to be sure. But it's just not at all fun. GURPS is what a role playing system would be if it were invented by IBM.

      • Well, I disagree and I would disagree if you made that comment about any game system. Game systems are all boring, if you sit down and read them. In this regard, GURPS is actually the least boring.

        Games themselves can be boring, but that is invariably the fault of the GM, the players, or the person who wrote the particular adventure. I can GM a game with no frickin' rules and no preparation, just making shit up off the top of my head and it will be exciting, because I have an imagination and a head stuffed
        • Well, I disagree and I would disagree if you made that comment about any game system. Game systems are all boring, if you sit down and read them. In this regard, GURPS is actually the least boring.

          No, they're not. That's my point. Technical material can be presented in an engaging and entertaining manner. GURPS fails miserably at this. Reading a non-setting book is like reading a technical manual. I enjoy reading most game books, even if I don't play the systems involved. I've never gone back to rea

    • Not to be too fanboyish, but GURPS beats any other tabletop RPG hands down for clarity, simplicity, realism, and playability. Plus it only uses 6 sided dice.

      If they made the English edition metric, I'd consider it. However, I'm primarily interested in modern and SF RPGs, and there's no way I'm going to be using feet, inches and pounds in a modern or futuristic setting.

      Hence, it's T20 [travellerrpg.com] for me.

    • > Not to be too fanboyish, but GURPS beats any other tabletop RPG hands down
      > for clarity, simplicity, realism, and playability.

      Sorry, but you're being way fanboyish.

      I like GURPS quite a bit, so I'm hardly "anti-GURPS", but saying it beats any other RPG for simplicity and playability is just not believable. I could never get a game started because almost all the gamers I knew found GURPS way too complicated and too hard to play.

      Indeed, that's a key reason GURPS has languished in obscurity for so long
  • by crossmr ( 957846 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @03:08PM (#15264760) Journal
    There are a lot of things WoTC could be doing to revitalize D&D, but they're not doing any of them. Lets have a look at what they did do:
    A long time ago, probably in someone's basement Ed Greenwood developed Forgotten Realms. He developed it for his group, and someone caught wind of it. It turned into phenomenon. It was home grown, made purely for fun, and spawned countless wonderful hours. He wasn't a professional, he didn't do it for money, he did it to enrich his group's play.

    WoTC tried to duplicate that by soliciting submissions from everyone and creating a new line based on their original home grown idea. They had judges, a competition, etc. I'm surprised Fox didn't air it. Forgotten Realms was far from dead, and many continued to enjoy playing in it. They decided to abandon what was working, and try and force the same success the line had had under TSR.
    I'm not sure how this has worked out for them. I've only just gotten the Eberron Campaign setting, from the bargain bin, over 50% off. That is probably pretty telling.

    What else have they done besides trying to capture old glory? They gave the video game license to Atari. I really hope they gave the license itself a tube of KY after doing so. Atari has done nothing but produce crap. Temple of Elemental Evil was the only product that showed promise, and Atari bungled that beyond recognition. Its actually shown so much promise that a group of fans have gone on to work diligently in recreated B2: The Keep on the Borderlands. Atari long ago abanonded it. This engine had the potential to be the next "Gold Box" line of games. Instead they created a mediocre RTS, and a mediocre MMORPG. Because those are all the rage. They also had that bad LoTR rip-off with Demon-stone or whatever it was.

    Sometimes the right thing to do is suck it up, give Troika a little more money and realize that you could probably sell 5-10 more games using that engine without a problem.

    What else is around the corner for D&D? NWN2. Ah...Bethesda. The providers of such quality games as Oblivion. Anyone with a critical eye can easily realize what a bad console port the PC version of this game is. Its VERY shiny. Its a lot like that hot model with the vacant stare. I don't really want to talk to it the morning after. I'm not particularly optimistic about NWN2.

    • Obviously, you're not a fan of Eberron, but I think the setting has promise. It makes several bold moves and at the same time, it retains compatibility with other D&D settings and the system as a whole.

      I like the warforged for several reasons:

      *They're not just "humans made of metal" (role playing not withstanding)
      *They impose unique needs on players
      *Their background isn't based on mysterious, powerful "ancients" who are gone now
      *They can add as much or as little steampunkishness as you like

      The other rac
      • "*Their background isn't based on mysterious, powerful "ancients" who are gone now"

        Incorrect; there have been multitudinous hints that Merrix D'Cannith received/recovered the basic blueprint of a warforged from a giant ruin in Xen'drik; Grasp of the Emerald Claw's climax basically confirms this.
    • A couple points:

      1) Demonstone was a fine game, if a little short.

      2) Oblivion is the best RP released since Morrowind, whether or not you think it looks too much like a console port. (And BTW, what the hell does that have to do with how fun the game is? In case you haven't noticed, consoles have fun games on them. Would you have been happier if there was no port and it was 360-only?)

      3) What the hell does Neverwinter Nights 2 have to do with Bethestha?

      4) What the hell game *do* you like? Do you like any v
  • More than that... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kriticism ( 225999 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @03:40PM (#15265005)
    Good grief....D&D...D&D...GURPS...D&D.....

    You make it sound like the only books coming out for pen-and-paper gaming are D&D and GURPS supplements. There's a lot more than that in the past 6 months.

    Here's a few new releases that seem to have flown beneath /.'s radar:

    - Exalted 2nd Edition - http://www.white-wolf.com/exalted/index.php [white-wolf.com]

    - Weapons of the Gods - http://www.eos-press.com/products-wotg.html [eos-press.com]

    - True20 from Green Ronin - http://true20.com/ [true20.com]

    - Shadowrun 4th Edition - http://www.shadowrunrpg.com/ [shadowrunrpg.com]

    - Mutants & Masterminds 2nd Edition - http://www.mutantsandmasterminds.com/ [mutantsand...rminds.com]

    All excellent books. I suggest taking a look.
    • by Arandir ( 19206 )
      When you get down to small and independent publishers, there are hundreds of new and upcoming RPG products.

      Frankly, I'm surprised Slashdot even bothered to mention the existance of GURPS. That's because D&D is the Microsoft/McDonalds/Budweiser of the roleplaying industry. I outgrew D&D around the time the third pubic hair came in. Three and a half editions later and I still have no desire to play it. Give me Runequest, Rolemaster, CoC, HârnMaster, HARP, Fudge, etc.

      Windows user upon learning of
      • Re:More than that... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Golias ( 176380 )
        There are few things worse than a game-system snob.

        I've had fun playing one of the worst game systems (Doctor Who) designed by one of the worst game companies (FASA) on the entire planet.

        I've had fun playing RPG's with no rulebooks at all. Just a DM willing to wing it.

        If the game system is the most important thing to you, then I would suggest you are doing it wrong.

        I agree that D&D is not perfect, but I wouldn't call it the "Budweiser" of games. I'd call it the "vi" of games. It might not be your fav
        • I am not a game-system snob. I am an anti-snob. It is the D&D players who are the snobs. They won't buy a supplement unless it has the d20 logo, even if it's a completely generic supplement that doesn't have system-specific rules in it. They won't even bother trying other game systems, even systems far easier to use than D&D/d20. These people NEVER sign up for alternate games at conventions, something that is routine for players of every other system.
    • Your Paranoia comment got me wondering, is this excellent game still around? Turns out it is! [mongoosepublishing.com] I thought it went out of print ten years ago, but a new publisher, Mongoose, is publishing a brand new edition. Okay, sorry Steve Jackson, but this just bumped "Space" off the #1 spot on my must buy list.
    • What about Spycraft? [spycraftrpg.com]
      • I was replying in the context of the last 6 months.

        To go further than that, I would have added Ars Magica 5th Edition, Paranoia, the New World of Darkness+Vampire+Werewolf+Mage, Legend of the 5 Rings 3rd Edition, Nobilis, Deadlands, the Mechanical Dream, the Riddle of Steel, Risus, Fudge, Fate, Dust Devils, Savage Worlds, My Life with Master, Dogs in the Vineyard, Feng Shui, Tunnels & Trolls 5.5 and 7th edition, Unknown Armies, Godlike, HERO, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2e, Talislanta....the list just go
    • Slashdot never reviews anything but supplements from the mainstream publishers. Some of these D&D supplements have been out for a couple of months now; I've seen them in stores.

      Given who and what they review, I honestly have to wonder if they have no taste or if they're getting paid for it. Honestly, none of the smaller publishers could afford this kind of product placement, and none of these supplements are really worth a review. They're just more feats, more prestige classes, more races, etc -- in
    • Damn, you'd think Exalted 2nd edition, the second most popular fantasy TRPG ever, and the return of Shadowrun (which also has routine sales a significant fraction of D&D's) would merit more news than a GURPS supplement or even most D&D supplements.
    • We've just started using Ars Magica 5th Ed. It's really great and I recommend the core book to everyone no matter what system they currently use.

      http://www.atlas-games.com/arm5/index.php [atlas-games.com]
  • Ever since the release of D&D 3.0e, my friends and I only relied on the Dungeon magazine for our campaigning fun. There were additional purchases, such as the 3.5e revisions of the core books, and even the main Eberron core book upon its release. Other than that, I just summarized the last 5 years of gaming for my friends and I.

    Things have been coming around lately, over the past year I'm starting to see more and more interesting stuff being released. Its like a new wave of D&D hype is buildin
  • Dead to me (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Apreche ( 239272 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @04:02PM (#15265194) Homepage Journal
    I used to be all about D+D. But ever since discovering Burning Wheel I really don't care anymore. As far as I'm concerned Burning Wheel is the be all end all of RPG systems.

    http://www.burningwheel.org/ [burningwheel.org]
  • by sammy baby ( 14909 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @04:09PM (#15265265) Journal
    You know, I keep seeing these stories on pen and paper roleplaying games pop up, and there's never any damn coverage of the really interesting and fun games that keep coming out from small, independant publishers.

    Slashdotters, please: if you're sick and tired of shelling out twenty to forty bucks for the latest supplement, how about throwing a little money to some of the little guys who are making truly innovative stuff? Look here [indie-rpgs.com] for some ideas on where to start, and I'll plug a few of my favorites. (Disclaimer: I know one of the authors of some of the following games. He's a great guy. But he doesn't pay me to say this, or to plug his games. ;) )
    • Kill Puppies for Satan: An Unfunny Roleplaying Game [lumpley.com]. "the system is minimal in the way that particularly irritates people who would rather be playing rolemaster or millenium's end. you have only six stats, for instance, and that's counting generously. one stat is how many people hate you"
    • Dogs in the Vineyard [lumpley.com]. The Lord may be your shepard, but sometimes he can use a gnarly old Watchdog to help keep the wolves at bay.
    • Primetime Adventures [dog-eared-designs.com]. Roleplaying games are about telling stories - why not make them about television shows instead?
    • Polaris [tao-games.com]. Once upon a time, as far north as north can go, there lived the greatest people that this world will ever see. They are gone now, destroyed just as the world destroys all beautiful things.

    Please make a few indie developers happy. You have nothing to lose but your twenty-sided dice.
  • by TrentC ( 11023 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @04:21PM (#15265367) Homepage
    First, some background. I'm 34 years old, but I started playing 1st edition D&D when I was in 7th grade. I played D&D fairly consistently until college, but starting playing again after the 3.5 edition came out. Every campaign I've ever played in, with one brief exception for a Forgotten Realms game in high school, has been homebrew. But I'm currently playing two campaigns with the same gaming group; one person DMs their own homebrew campaign, and the other, a brand-new DM, is running an Eberron campaign.

    These are some of the things I like about Eberron:

    1) It takes familiar D&D staples and makes them interesting. For people who feel constrained to stick the to the Rules As Written, Eberron gently gives them permission to bend (or break) them; this can also serve to wake up players who might feel compelled to attack every goblin on sight, because "everyone knows goblins are evil". Chromatic dragons and metallic dragons are not constrained to their usual alignments. A cleric of an Eberron deity is not required to be within one step of their deity's alignment (although they still get the undead turning/rebuking options and, more importantly, the holy/unholy aura generated by the connection to their god). Clerics in Eberron are not tied to being a follower of a single deity; the Sovereign Host pantheon and the Dark Six pantheon are valid options, and Player's Guide to Eberron has clerics of an entire plane of existence and of the nation-state of Riedra. With two nations of non-humanoids -- the goblinoid empire of Darguun and the monstrous lands of the Shadow Reaches, ruled by a trio of night hags -- PC options are more varied while making intergrating backgrounds easy.

    2) It makes it easy for the PCs to stand out. One of the design goals of Eberron was that the majority of NPCs will not have PC levels; they use the generic "NPC classes" from the DMG a lot, and introduce a new NPC class, the magewright (a magically-enhanced craftsmen). It also makes it easy for casual players to get up to speed in a relatively short amount of time. Many NPCs as written top out around 8th or 9th level -- the two exceptions that spring to mind are the Lord of Blades, a 12th-level NPC who is the leader of a group of warforged that assert superiority over the "fleshy" races, and the head of the Church of the Silver Flame, who has the powers of an 18th-level cleric so long as she remains in the capital city of Thrane. So in a relatively short amount of time, players can rise to the top of their game. One downside of this is that WotC provides few options for epic- or near-epic-level play in Eberron, although the Player's Guide to Eberron suggests taking one of the major themes and building a campaign around them.

    3) The focus of many of the Eberron products is adding options for storytelling. There are certainly DMs who don't need a book to tell them what a human who was tainted at birth by the horrific daelkyr is capable of, or what a knight sworn to the service of the necromancy-friendly nation of Karrnath can do. But not everyone has the creativity (or more importantly, the time) to work such things out, and a gaming business doesn't make money off of the Dms who just need the core books. I tend to think of WotC products (or any D20 product, really) as options; you can either use what they provide you verbatim, you can tweak something for your own campaign -- maybe the bone knights of Karrnath become the sentinels of K'Dar, God of the Underworld in your campaign -- or you can simply use the ideas presented for inspiration. (Thrane, a nation under the mostly-benevolent rule of the Church of the Silver Flame, is a pretty good model for how a theocracy might operate in practice.)

    4) Some of the Eberron products are really well-designed. Although the Ptolus sourcebook may end up surpassing it in size and depth, Sharn: City of Towers was a well-written product focused on the signature location in Eberron, taking you from the top of the highest towers t
    • >>4) Some of the Eberron products are really well-designed.

      Sure, like the one that lets a 7th level Psion cast as if he were a 21st level psion? Only three times per day, but that's some crazy astral constructs you can spit out. Or the original weretouched master, or bleh.

      Well-designed and Eberron don't really go hand in hand. The setting is almost overwhelmingly bland, doesn't fit their goal (film noir / action film D&D) in the slightest, the setting has no rules support for this goal (action poi
      • As someone with more than a passing interest in 3e game balance, I must ask exactly what feat/prestige class/whatever you're referring to that results in such a manifester level jump from 7th to 21st --- which one is it?
  • Ka-ching! (Score:3, Funny)

    by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @04:31PM (#15265455) Homepage
    All I know is, when I was buying AD&D manuals the Players Handbook, Monster Manual, Deities and Demigods each retailed for around $11. The Dungeon Masters' Guide was maybe $12.50. That, a bunch of clear plastic dice, a few afternoons crafting the world's most elaborate and comprehensive character sheet (complete with box to draw your guy in), and one friend who was sucker enough to buy the Dungeon Master's Screen were pretty much all you needed. Lead figures were optional (albeit cool).
    • Why do you think you need more now? The books cost about the same in 2006 dollars as they did then, and you still only need the three core books to play. In fact, if you're an experienced gamer you can get by with just the PHB and the free Open version of the d20 System, the System Reference Document [d20srd.org]. They've been churned out supplements almost since the beginning, it's what killed TSR, and they're no more required now than they were then.
  • by Gunfighter ( 1944 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @04:34PM (#15265484) Homepage
    How does this work again? You just write "/roll" on a piece of paper with a pencil and then the DM shouts out numbers between 1-100?
  • by tacokill ( 531275 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @04:39PM (#15265517)
    OMG. I read through the entire thread and I honestly have to say - I have no earthly idea what you people are talking about.

    Yea, I know D&D and played it as a kid. But I haven't the foggiest clue about anything else mentioned on this entire page. It's like I just got a blinding hot dose of unexpected geekdom and I kind of dig it.

  • by Cheetahfeathers ( 93473 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @04:47PM (#15265582)
    As with many mass market items, look to the smaller press for the more innovative and interesting ideas. Not every game is for every RPGer.. it's worth it to check out some of the indie games out there. From the serious and gritty, to the silly, there are a lot to choose from. Below are only a small

    http://www.sorcerer-rpg.com/ [sorcerer-rpg.com]
    http://www.anvilwerks.com/?The-Shadow-of-Yesterday [anvilwerks.com]
    http://www.septemberquestion.org/lumpley/dogs.html [septemberquestion.org]
    http://www.adept-press.com/trollbabe/ [adept-press.com]
    http://l5r.alderac.com/rpg/ [alderac.com]
  • by Robotech_Master ( 14247 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @04:49PM (#15265603) Homepage Journal
    Have you looked at RPGNow [rpgnow.com]? It's an e-bookstore that sells PDFs of various games--some from the bigger gaming companies, others from small companies that you've never heard of, such as this giant robot RPG [rpgnow.com] that was written by a friend of mine. Many of these are just as imaginative, if not more so, than a lot of the stuff you'll find from the larger companies--but since they're so small you'd never have heard of them.
  • I know this is slightly OT, but forks of Falcon's Eye - Vulture's Eye and Vulture's Claw (Nethack and Slash'Em, respectively) are finally available for OS X. [darkarts.co.za] For anyone who didn't like the QT version, or couldn't get the terminal version to compile or don't have classic, this rocks.

    One of the nicest RPGs is finally running on the mac, and is rock-stable! On to YASD!

    Before you mod this down, I'd like you to know I have my Powerbook on a table, AND I use pencil and paper to write down my Inventory when I die - cheating as much as I can.

    All the hallmarks of tabletop D&D'ing. Don't judge me.

  • by TrentC ( 11023 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @05:05PM (#15265761) Homepage
    This thread is exactly why Slashdot needs a dedicated tabletop games editor; these kinds of stories need to come out more often, so people can work out their frustrations and actually get around to discussing the topic at hand.

    It seems like 5% of the posts are about the actual story, and the other 95% of the posts end up being:

    * D20/3e/3.5e sucks
    * (Insert campaign world) sucks
    * WotC sucks
    * Only losers need sourcebooks -- give me the core rulebook(s) and I'm happy
    * Tabletop gaming is for losers
    * Computer RPGs are for losers
    * Why not mention (insert gaming system)?
  • by Aeonite ( 263338 ) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @05:27PM (#15265994) Homepage
    I'll stick my head in here and mention that the 2nd Edition of the Ninja Burger RPG is now available at DriveThruRPG [drivethrurpg.com], RPGNow [rpgnow.com] and SJGames' e23 [sjgames.com] as PDFs, with a Print-on-Demand option through Lulu.com at RPGNow.

    The new edition is based on the PDQ system that's used in the cult hit Monkey, Ninja, Pirate, Robot from Atomic Sock Monkey Press [atomicsockmonkey.com], which is obviously what inspired the current Slashdot Poll.
  • For the last couple of years I've been packaging the support line for the current edition of PARANOIA, the RPG of a darkly humorous future. The new line now has a dozen supplements (see the Mongoose Publishing PARANOIA page [mongoosepublishing.com]) and an enthusiastic and growing fan base at the leading fan site, Paranoia-Live.net [paranoia-live.net]. The reviews of the new line have been so congratulatory, even The Computer would approve. If you remember the glory days of PARANOIA from the early 1980s, or if you want to understand what all those old

Time to take stock. Go home with some office supplies.