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July 2003 Archive

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July 31, 2003

07:30 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
GenCon wrap-up: Aarrrrrr!!

Living Imagination has refined their booth display to near perfection, creating a dockside bar in the middle of the exhibit hall. Those who stopped by for a chat couldn't find a drink, but heard the details of the company's two newest d20 products. Pirates, a book that sports a classic Clyde Caldwell cover, provides LI's take on the privateer life. Several prestige classes, feats, magic items, spells, ship plans, and a fully described "pirate haven" round out the package, for $19.95. LI's second GenCon release, Agents of Faith, introduces a system of divine feats and over 200 feats to test it out with. New cleric domains, spell, rituals, magic items, and prestige classes are in this book as well, also for $19.95. Those at the show also learned of LI's November release, Charge! Subtitled "The Handbook of Military Adventuring," the supplement will present a mass combat system, military organizations and how characters interact with them, and, of course, prestige classes, feats, spells, and so on, again for $19.95.


05:58 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Line noise: Peter Adkison on GenCon slaps and bennies

Peter Adkison released an "open letter to the Internet" today on the problems and successes with the first Indianapolis GenCon. The unedited text of his letter is included below; I think you know where to click.


05:09 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
GenCon wrap-up: Warriors... come out to play-ay...

Just in time for GenCon, Skirmisher Publishing rolled out the sequel to their acclaimed d20 supplement on an NPC class, Experts. The new book, Warriors, is 126 pages of the same approach, only focused on the more combat inclined NPC class. Jumping over to the company's website, I found even more details:

  • The book has sixteen military prestige classes, including the Aerial Cavalryman, Charioteer, Combat Engineer, Executioner, Marine, Mechanist Infantry, Mountaineer, and Sheriff.
  • More than 30 military subtypes, including archers, artillerists, beast handlers, cavalrymen, infantrymen, medics, pathfinders, peasant levies, provosts, and templars.
  • Nine non-military subtypes, including bandits, barkeeps, thugs, and traders.
  • New weapons, armor, and equipment, [...] siege engines, balloons and blimps, and guidelines for incorporating high-technology weapons into a fantasy campaign.
  • Sixteen new spells, more than 80 new magic items and five new weapon special abilities.
Warriors also provides guidelines for heraldry, large war beasts, combat with chariots, over twenty NPCs, a few monsters, two dozen skills, close to twenty feats... seems like Skirmisher's all over this NPC class.

More Skirmisher products are waiting in the wings, too. Nuisances will be the company's flagship product next year, and two adventure-oriented products will round out the catalog: Tests of Skill and a yet-to-be-named book of paladin's quest ideas. If the quality of d20 rules continues, all three are likely to be strong additions to any D&D campaign.

03:27 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
GenCon wrap-up: Space - the revisited frontier

Darkfuries Publishing had its impressive Masterwork Maps d20 title, Inns & Taverns, in all its print-format glory. The pages were packed with extremely detailed maps for food and lodging establishments of all sizes -- damn useful stuff in and of itself. Combine that with authentic, old world recipes in the original olde English, and Inns & Taverns is an outstanding resource for fantasy GMs. Darkfuries was also attempting to bring in sales from the Spelljammer fans with Aether & Flux: Sailing the Traverse, which brings space galleons to D&D once again. Cut out miniature tokens are provided for use with the space combat system, directly extrapolated from d20's aerial combat rules. A PDF will be along in a month or so that converts all the old Spelljammer ships to d20 stats, making Sailing the Traverse a winner for space fantasy fans.

July 30, 2003

11:14 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
GenCon wrap-up: FFG keeps busy

Fantasy Flight Games was having brisk sales on the new A Game of Thrones boardgame. The same box size as the Lord of the Rings game, the $40 product pits 3-5 players against each other in a... um... game of... thrones... uh, yeah. Not only could gamers take control of one of the houses in the boardgame, the new Ice & Fire set for the A Game of Thrones CCG offered a starter for each house and 240 cards, 200 of them new. Of the starters, House Lannister sold out by early Saturday.

For the d20 inclined, Legends & Lairs: Cityworks is the latest installment for the hardcover D&D resource line. Written by Mike Mearls, Cityworks goes into great detail on setting up those urban centers of commerse your thief wants to visit so bad. Also a new d20 release, Redline is the first of FFG's new mini-games line, in the general style of Polyhedron. To bring Mad Max to the d20 Modern game... well, ya gotta admit, that's a no brainer.

Finally, an oversized promotional box for Warcraft: The Boardgame was on display behind the counter in the middle of FFG's booth. Due this fall, all I know about it is that FFG's Greg Benage said "It plays like a tabletop version of the computer game." I hope it'll have something more than that going for it. Seems like everyone has a new adaptation of a PC game these days.


12:08 AM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
GenCon wrap-up: unearth those arcana

We've kinda known this all weekend but haven't quite gotten around to reporting it till now: Monte's Bizarro World Players Handbook, better known to the world as Arcana Unearthed, has been rocking it all over the competition at the show. This whole world-of-the-Diamond-Throne thing looks to have dominant traits; will Eberron measure up?

July 29, 2003

11:10 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
I'm just waiting for the Hungry Hungry Hippos wargame

Oh, and I found a little more on BattleBall. Apparently it's also a Toys-R-Us kinda game, actually branded Milton Bradley but demoed at the Wizards booth anyway. It's been described as "like Blood Bowl meets Epic Duels," which pretty much means it'll kick your ass, and then take your ass' stuff. (That thread also has some interesting details on the D&D board game that was released in the UK.)

11:05 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
They finally did it! Damn you all to Cybertron!

This game is fully compatible with, and properly power-scaled to, Star Wars: Epic Duels. (That's legalese for LET'S GET IT THE HELL ON)


06:17 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
GenCon wrap-up: Fairies, monsters, and minis

Next to the drifts of Hackmaster products, which I confess to having no interest in, were a couple of new Kenzer & Company goodies. Though a repackaged Fairy Meat boxed set was a good bargain for the money ($40 for the original game, the two expansions, and all five metal miniatures), it was still a repackage. Stand and Deliver, on the other hand, was brand new for D&D v3.5. Designed for characters of 4th-6th level, the adventure populates its ruins with beasts from the Monsters of Tellene book. But neither of these releases stood out as much as Final Days, a miniatures game of apocalyptic horror. Using playing cards for combat resolution, 25 metal figures go at it in a stylish, bleak future. The boxed game sells for $50, and a great many of them seemed to be going home with eager customers.

06:05 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
GenCon wrap-up: It's your Stargate

The Stargate SG-1 RPG was prominently displayed at AEG's GenCon booth, a hefty 488-page tome that could probably stop a bullet. Powered by the Spycraft system, as opposed to the basic d20 System, Stargate SG-1 was an impressive package. The book seemed nicely laid-out, and packed with info from the show. One complaint: the book seemed a bit light on pictures from the TV show, and on art in general. Made more room for rules text, though.

05:23 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
No longer live from Gen Con: the real photo gallery is pending, ho ho

But in the meantime, this cat has a decent one. The first couple are broken for me, but just keep scrolling. Suddenly I'd really like to know what BattleBall is.

04:02 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Not very live from Gen Con: corral those electrons

Those interested to hear another outside perspective on the big news of Gen Con, and a good summation of the show's big PC gaming announcements, can check out this convenient index of GameSpy's coverage. This quick rundown of the WotC-licensed PC games coming out over the next while is particularly interesting.

01:54 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
I hated to do that... but it's the law of the West

Word on the Cheapasses mailing list is that the preview version of One False Step For Mankind sold in limited quantity at GenCon is not only a surprisingly strong game for the neglected-of-late Cheapass box line, but it's not that cheap for the money! The board and cards are in full color, but the price is the same as that of Great Brain Robbery, Captain Park, and other recent boxed titles. This epic battle between Old West towns determined to colonize space features an auction mechanic and, according to one longtime Demo Monkey, some aspects of tactical wargaming(!!!). Look for the final version to ship to stores in a month or so.


01:20 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
On having one's priorities straight

You know, I guess I can forgive the White Wolf folks for having let the creativity of the World of Darkness product line flag a bit over the last few years... because as Jane reports over at GGA out of fear of offending the tender souls among you in the Cave's audience, they clearly know how to live.


04:27 AM: Demian Katz says...
Rio Grande Games for Everybody

A new Rio Grande Games newsletter has just been made available, and it looks like a good variety of new products are on the way along with many, many reprints of out of stock titles. If you have small children and want to expose them to German boardgaming as soon as possible, you may appreciate Gulo Gulo, a game involving the theft of eggs from vultures, or Capt'n Clever, a simple game of treasure-hunting pirates. For older gamers, there's also Lord of the Rings: The Duel, which simulates the famous battle between Gandalf and the Balrog, and the re-release of Ricochet Robots with new boards. For more details, check out this PDF file.

July 28, 2003

12:55 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
It's totally different - the character's hair is black and white, see? Totally different.

"Duel Masters, one of the hottest card games in Japan, is heading for the U.S. [...] The problem for WotC and Dreamwave will be to create a separate identity for Duel Masters so that the property doesn't end up playing 'Digimon' to Yu-Gi-Oh's 'Pokemon.' " Yeah, that's a challenge all right. The other-CCGs department at WotC certainly looks to be flailing right now.

July 27, 2003

11:59 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Live at GenCon: Eberron errors

While finishing a final tour of the exhibit hall today, I ran into Keith Baker, winner of WotC's D&D setting search contest with his land of Eberron. Apparently, there's considerable online buzz already about what little information WotC has released, particularly the lightning train image, and the "strong presence of lost-world creatures such as dinosaurs." According to Baker, the press release could've used some rewording, as dinosaurs exist on Eberron but hardly in an all-pervasive manner. Also, there's the issue of the "diverse cultures" which site the examples of Dwarves, Drow, and Orcs. Umm... I think we've heard of those before. Not the best examples of what WotC wanted to convey.

As for how it was to work on the project, Baker was upbeat. "It's been a lot of fun, very exciting. There have been compromises, of course. Out of all the [entries] I submitted, I never would've guessed that WotC would choose that one. However, it's been toned down in some ways since reaching the 125-page draft." Baker grimaced. "I just wish it wasn't a whole year away."

05:15 PM: jane says...
Live from GenCon: Party Hard

Afterhours Saturday night is the time for the kinds of raging parties you only read about. Several LARPs had their culmination last night, in all their costumed, face-painted glory. NASCRAG crowned their mad-cap role-playing tournament winners and celebrated with an awards ceremony. Perhaps the snazziest affair was the White Wolf party, following on the heels of their "The World is Ending" pronouncement that morning.

It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine. Actually I don't feel that fine. Time for a full disclosure here: I stayed up all night and drank myself silly, sang karaoke, watched shirtless teenagers frolic in the fountain in front of the Hyatt, and wound up dried and wrung out in the hotel restaurant trying to force down a huge plate of not-quite-ripe fruit. And so it's possible that my memory may be less than eidetic.


07:55 AM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Live from GenCon: World of Darkness ending. Make travel arrangements now.

So yeah, the World of Darkness is coming to an end, as Mike mentioned. I find myself looking at White Wolf with a bit of admiration after hearing their plans, and how long they've been secretly building toward Gehenna, the Apocalypse, the Ascension, or whatever you want to call it. Between now and next March, an array of products will wrap up events in the official timeline, including a hardcover each for Vampire, Werewolf and Mage. The wrap-up storyline will include various options Mike Tinney, President of White Wolf, let slip a number of other details during the Q&A session after the tongue-in-cheek intro film.

  • "As for Adventure, you will see that again."
  • "There will be a Dark Ages core feature for Changeling, as well as a Time of Judgement wrap-up book."
  • "Exalted will not be affected, and will continue getting support."
  • Mind's Eye Theatre will have a Time of Judgement book; the Vampire: The Eternal Struggle game will get a Time of Judgement set , but will still continue with more product releases.
Apparently, the White Wolf guys started celebrating their announcement early, since some of the staff later admitted to being drunk from the night before when the press conference was held.

07:29 AM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Live from GenCon: Gothica stakes its claim

Human Head had their new d20 supplement, The Redhurst Academy of Magic, prominently on display. The "widescreen" format of the book looks good, though it's hard not to notice that the cover text is designed to be equally readable when seen vertically or horizontally (wouldn't want to get the retailers all riled up like that oddly-shaped Nobilis now, would we?). But the booth's demo tables are occupied by the company's upcoming board game release, Gothica: Dracula's Revenge, set to reach stores in October. Like a cross between The Hills Rise Wild and Space Hulk, Dracula's Revenge pits the infamous Count and three of his cohorts against Van Helsing and nine of his fellow vampire slayers. Gameplay is fast and simple, allowing strategy to reign rather than rules confusion. Once the interchangable board pieces are ready (the demo had a static board), we'll be seeing missions, new victory conditions, and possibly even campaign rules, I'd imagine. Human Head plans a line of Gothica releases themed around mummies, werewolves, Frankenstein's monster, and so on. All this from a game Matt Forbeck thought up 12 years ago for Grenadier which never saw print.

July 26, 2003

03:40 PM: misuba says...
Mediocre news comes in threes: White Wolf kills World of Darkness, sort of

Even bigger than the rumored announcement of a product with no colon in its title (Anthony at the store came up with that joke, although he seems to have forgotten about Exalted), White Wolf announces the Time of Judgement. When I saw they were casting this as a "Year of _____" storyline event, I suspected the worst - it happens in comics too often. "Hey, let's kill off Superman, get a bunch of media attention, then bring him right back." The press release says, however, that they will be neither continuing nor reprinting the World of Darkness lines after next March, with the exception of the Dark Ages books. Uh-huh. Quoth WW President Mike Tinney: "What will ultimately follow is going to be wholly different. A new and compelling setting." Uh-huh again. How much ya wanna bet that there will be a bunch of clans in it who all have different powers, secretly run the world, and hate each other? And that there will be colons?


03:31 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Live from GenCon: WotC setting winner announced

Apparently only a couple of us news types managed to hear about the WotC plan to announce the setting search contest winning entry, Eberron, and only a few press were present for the announcement. I never heard about it, so I'll quote the press release that was in the press room today:

In August 2004, D&D players can enjoy an entirely new world of medieval fantasy to game in: Eberron's rich, racially diverse culture, forged in war, has a magically industrial edge that expands the traditional D&D universe, offering players new, exciting possibilities. Created by Keith Baker, Eberron is being developed for roleplaying games, novels, miniatures, and electronic games.
Some of the new setting's features will include new character races like shifters and changelings; new feats like Bond Armor, Dragon Totem, and Right of Counsel; the Inquisitive, "an urban detective prestige class; and the use of the Action Point System originally used in d20 Modern. All sounds pretty cool. I'm just surprised that WotC didn't make more noise about it; several other news guys I talked to said it slipped right by them.

July 25, 2003

11:19 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Live from GenCon: 2003 ENnie Award winners

I've just returned from the 2003 GenCon EN World D20 System Awards (the ENnies, for short). The awards were far better attended this year than last, and the continued partnership with GenCon has proven to have its advantages, with a projector display of nominees. Of course, that display also caused some minor confusion a time or two by showing the wrong product, but such is the price paid for advanced technology. Now, I wasn't able to be at the ceremony from the very start, so I missed a couple of the winners. However, after checking with the EN World guys, I've verified the ones I missed. Here's the complete list of winners and runners-up:


06:50 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Live at GenCon: Pale Writer soon publishing

So there's this little d20 company toward the back of the hall, in the shadow of the largest booth (which isn't WotC this year; it's Upper Deck), called Pale Writer Publishing. The website doesn't have any info yet, but PWP's small booth has been a whirlwind of activity and interesting tidbits since the show began. Besides the movie theater marquee and freshly-popped popcorn, besides the trivia contests every couple of hours to win DVDs and such, there's the extremely cool artwork the booth was displaying. Set up to look like the backlit movie posters you'd see at the local cineplex, there were five gorgeous scenes, each featuring a classic D&D monster: a beholder, a mind flayer, a bullette, a displacer beast, and a rust monster. The rust monster piece, which was unmistakably the work of Phil Foglio, simply sings of a time when adventures were each lovingly crafted, with plots that made sense (something PWP emphasized as an important goal). Watch for adventures to be announced from PWP later this year or early next, along with other surprises.

06:12 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Live at GenCon: Llama makes Penguins

I would be remiss if I failed to mention Eight Foot Llama's game coming this October, particularly because of its subject matter. The Penguin Ultimatum will follow the tradition of slightly wacky, but very solid, games the company has produced, like Who Stole Ed's Pants?, which was runner-up on the Games 100 list for Best Family Cardgame of 2002. Hey, how can you go wrong with penguin jesters forced to amuse the Emperor and the rest of the colony? Works for me, and I know my wife will be all over it.

05:16 PM: jane says...
Live at GenCon: Indie RPGs

There's big buzz surrounding the Forge booth! People were crowding around to check out independently created, published, and owned role-playing games. In addition to industry philosopher and The Forge co-founder Ron Edwards's Sorcerer, there were a number of great-looking games. One that generated a lot of excitement was Paul Czege's My Life with Master (Halfmeme), in which players play various minions of a domineering and nefarious Master. I'm going to try to play some of it tomorrow - it looks absolutely beautiful.

02:48 PM: jane says...
Live at GenCon: The Futures Panel

Since I'm new to this whole gaming without batteries thing, I figured I should just jump right in and figure out where it's headed. I was in the mood for some Cassandrean predictions for the fate of the gaming industry so I headed over to a seminar on that very topic. "Future Trends in Gaming" brought together James Ernest (Cheapass Games), Mike Gray (Hasbro), Jordan Weisman (WizKids), Dave Williams (Alderac Entertainment Group), and Christian Moore (Decipher) together to talk about the current state of the industry - and try to sketch out a picture of where it's going.


01:34 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
BattleTech fiction junkies to get the hookup online?

Longtime CBT novelist Loren Coleman is apparently now officially in talks with WizKids to write BattleTech/MechWarrior fiction to be delivered to subscribers at his BattleCorps website. Online delivery makes perfect sense for fans of this kind of material, who know exactly what they want and who they want it from. FanPro appears to be involved somehow, or else the press release wouldn't be on their site. Or maybe it would, I dunno.

01:28 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
A Game of Thrones CCG gets gamier (have I used that joke before? I think I have)

Hey, Jane: go to the FFG booth, they're debuting a new edition of AGoT that has starter decks for all five Houses. There are just five, right? You would know better than I would. The Game of Thrones board game is also there, if it hasn't sold out.

July 24, 2003

10:56 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Live at GenCon: D&D v3.5 press conference

Wizards of the Coast held a special press-only seminar on this little game release you might have heard of, D&D v3.5. Overseen by Bill Slavicsek, WotC's Director of RPG Design and Development, a general discussion of the changes made to the biggest roleplaying game in the world. "We believe firmly and completely that this is the best D&D ever," Slavicsek announced. Ed Stark chimed in, saying "We tried to keep our changes to a minimum. [...] We didn't want to do 4th Edition. It's too soon, and too much." The free 40-page update document for the rest of the D&D 3e books was mentioned, showing again that only the three core books needed to be purchased to make the upgrade. Having over 150 pages of new material between them, the core books could hardly be described in the short seminar, but the WotC folks tried.


10:14 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Live at GenCon: Yes, Virginia, there is a Mage Knight 2.0

Seemingly subtitled "The New Hotness," the big WizKids announcement was indeed a major revision of Mage Knight. This revelation, however, was not revealed to those of us in attendance until nearly two hours of build up and odd delays. Still worth waiting through, but I never got a slice of pizza.


07:22 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Big GenCon announcement #1: Mage Knight refurbishment

I am dimly suspicious that we already knew about this in some way, shape, or form, and I didn't report on it because I didn't think it was all that big. But, still. Mage Knight 2.0 features an overhauled combat dial format, as well as new collectible pieces for terrain, relics, and other stuff. Rules have also changed aplenty, including a new win condition. Older figures will apparently still work somehow in the new scheme. Man, White Wolf's announcement had better be better than this.

02:15 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Nevermind whether it's a game, I'm just glad it's not a fetish

Our buds at Game Girl Advance have launched the first issue of their "Virtual Magazine" today, including Justin's piece on, er, water play. It's not what it sounds like. Anyone who's interested in expanding their thought on what it means to play would do well to check out GGA. (GGA's editor Jane is at GenCon too, and we gave her an account with which to post here in the Cave; hopefully that will bear some interesting fruit.)

July 23, 2003

10:35 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Jordan Weisman and Nobilis tie for Diana Jones Award

Having just returned from the 2003 Diana Jones Award ceremony, I can now inform you that the traveling trophy has now been jointly awarded to two worthy parts of the game industry, selected for "seeing something missing, and filling that void": Jordan Weisman, founder of WizKids, and Nobilis: Second Edition. The voting committee apparently came to a stalemate, and it was decided that both would share the honor. Weisman accepted the trophy, and thanked the committee and everyone in attendance, saying simply, "this means a lot to me." Ken Hite read statements from both James Wallis, former head of Hogshead Publishing, and Rebecca Borgstrom, author of Nobilis. Wallis' statement urged the industry folks in attendance to "push the envelope, push it until it tears apart. Then create something new." Mark C. MacKinnon, president of Guardians of Order, promised to continue supporting Nobilis with quality releases in the future, a promise that was met with hearty approval all around. A grand time was had by all, and the drinks continued to flow as we retreated to the hotel.

July 22, 2003

11:49 AM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Privateer readies another sneak-preview sale for new Warmachine box

If you lust for the Warmachine, stay up late on Thursday night and get your order in for the new, not-in-stores-for-a-while box, chock full of "Magnus the Traitor and his personal battlegroup". They'll also be selling the box at Gen Con, natch. On a side note (literally), the Iron Kingdoms campaign book has apparently been suffering delays due to some of that bad ol' RSI on the part of the esteemed Brian Snoddy. We can certainly empathize, and wish Mr. Snoddy a speedy recovery.

July 21, 2003

12:27 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
WizKids creates publishing arm, takes over Girl Genius

If this is the big announcement, some heads are gonna be pissed off. But the announcement about Girl Genius is interesting; did they acquire it from the Foglios outright, intellectual property and all, or are they simply handling the publishing side of things? Nothing on Foglio's site even mentions the deal yet; details are probably forthcoming.

04:15 AM: Demian Katz says...
Invisible City Encounters Sprawl

Invisible City Productions has just released its forty-third free game of the month. In Sprawl, three to eight players use Icehouse pieces to simulate (in abstract strategy fashion) the process of urban growth and suburban sprawl. As always, lots of variants are included to keep things interesting for a long time.

July 18, 2003

04:37 AM: Demian Katz says...
Lore Gaming Returns

After disappearing for a little while, Lore Gaming, the future publisher of the Lore: Uprising, Lore: Origins and Lore: Hunters RPGs, has returned to the gaming scene. The first game, Lore: Uprising, is due out in the second quarter of 2004, and the search for beta testers in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia has begun (contact if you'd like to volunteer). To learn more about the forthcoming games or to participate in conversations on the company's newly reopened forums, you can visit

July 17, 2003

04:12 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Human Head to preview Dracula's Revenge

Looks like I won't have to dig for details on Human Head Studios' upcoming boardgame. At both GenCon and Gamefest Milwaukee, the company will be previewing Gothica: Dracula's Revenge, a two-player game set a few years after Bram Stoker's Dracula novel, where Dracula and his forces face off against Van Helsing and his allies in the streets of London. This will be the first in a line of Gothica games Human Head has plans for, and should reach stores in early 2004.

July 15, 2003

11:43 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Unbidden Arrives

Politically Incorrect Games announced the release today of Unbidden, an 80-page PDF roleplaying game of "modern horror - both psychological and real." Using a variation of the game mechanic that powers Shady Gulch and The Colonies, the new game imposes both power and madness on unique individuals, forcing them to question reality and struggle as outcasts from society. No, it's better than having a triple espresso while visiting your inlaws. Unbidden can be found at RPGnow for a fin-and-a-half ($7.50).

11:35 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Diana Jones Nominees Announced

The increasingly coveted Diana Jones award will once again change hands at GenCon '03, and the short list has been announced of who or what will be awarded the remains of a burnt game. Created in part to recognise worthy people or items in the industry missed by other awards, the Diana Jones award is voted on by a select committee of industry insiders, of which only a select few have revealed their membership. This year there are two individuals and five products in the running for the award. Jordan Weisman (of FASA and WizKids) and Monte Cook (of WotC, and now Malhavoc Press) are the two industry professionals up for the pyramidal prize. The game products nominated as their competition are Neverwinter Nights (Bioware), Nobilis, Second Edition (Hogshead Publishing), Nyambe (Atlas Games), The Riddle of Steel (Driftwood Publishing), and Unknown Armies, Second Edition (also Atlas Games). As the full announcement says (below), the winner will be announced at a ceremony on July 23. It'll be hard to top last year's surprise presentation of Tracy Hickman's GAMA Hall of Fame award, though.

July 14, 2003

04:49 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Gameboard Breaks 3.5 Street Date, Makes Many Friends

ICv2 reports that Gameboard Distributors has already shipped D&D 3.5 and is selling them at Gameboard retail stores. This is despite the WotC mandated street date of July 18, and despite the fact that Gameboard is not an authorized WotC distributor. Many folks in the industry are angry at this, noting that Gameboard has given an unfair sales advantage to certain stores (its own). Gameboard most likely ordered their copies of 3.5 through the book trade, where big chain stores that may not care about street dates make their orders. In response to Gameboard's breaking the street date, a number of folks at all levels of the industry are voicing a general sentiment of "what goes around, comes around." Way to make friends, Gameboard.

July 13, 2003

12:33 AM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Taking a Dip online has real sanction?

So I was nosing around the Avalon Hill site tonight, given the recent news, and I found this: the complete rules to Diplomacy as a PDF, from the publisher. This is pretty interesting to me, because I remember back when I was investigating the online Diplomacy scene, when physical copies of the game were a little harder to come by than they are now. Anyone who had an online Dip client or server was quick to tell you they couldn't actually give you the rules to the game, because they were under copyright. Now the copyright holder is giving them away. I suppose because Hasbro Interactive's online version tanked? (Just speculation on my part.)

July 11, 2003

11:46 AM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Avalon Hill dead again?

Veteran designer Greg Costikyan reports in the second-to-latest entry of his weblog that Hasbro has killed off its Avalon Hill division. I can't find any confirmation of this, but I have heard talk of a "small box" version of Risk 2210 coming out soon... perhaps a smaller box to accommodate the lack of a big AH logo. More details as we can ferret them out. [UPDATE: We've just heard that Avalon Hill isn't dead, although it's been folded into Wizards now. Our information says that Mike Selinker of Wizards has been named to head up the new Avalon Hill division of WotC.]

01:12 AM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Human Head Rolls Onward

Yes, the folks who created the Rune PC game are continuing their expansion into the tabletop game market (or "adventure game" market, a moniker I still find amusing), and a new website is the next logical step. As already reported, the first Human Head RPG product will be The Redhurst Academy of Magic, a new d20 setting sourcebook compatible with D&D 3.5. Apparently, the book was bound along the short edge, presenting the book in "a widescreen look." One of Matt Forbeck's journal updates also mentions an upcoming boardgame that's still being tweaked. Interesting. I'll have to hunt for more info at GenCon in a couple of weeks.

July 10, 2003

08:06 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Rumor Confirmed: Dungeoneer at Atlas

Atlas Games has just confirmed the rumor we reported a month ago, stating that Dungeoneer will indeed be published by Atlas from now on. The game was transferred to Atlas from Citizen Games, which admitted a lack of funds was making the proper support of Dungeoneer impossible. The sold-out dungeon-delving card game will have a 2nd edition printing of the original set, Tomb of the Lich Lord, this October. A month later, the game's expansion/sequel, Vault of the Fiends, will also ship out from Atlas, and each set will retail for the same $19.95 price the 1st printing sold for. For the official word on the arrangement, click "Read more" and check the press release yourself.


11:00 AM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Everything's Getting GOO-ey

As Mike reported at Origins, Big Eyes, Small Mouth d20 was released upon an unsuspecting world, and all of the rules content is Open Gaming Content. Now Guardians of Order has taken the extra step of creating a BESM d20 System Reference Document, taking those three special little initials (SRD) and making them its own. Aside from WotC itself, no other d20 publisher has taken this step, which allows Joe Everyman to use parts of BESM d20 in his own publications. As if that weren't enough, GOO has also made the Tri-Stat dX rules, the new version of GOO's in-house system, freely available through RPGNow. A 96-page printed version is also available for those who really want a hardcopy. GOO seems to be making the moves d20 publishers, and indeed, most publishers in general, haven't been willing to try yet. Here's hoping it pans out for them.

July 08, 2003

05:43 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Babylon 5 Previews Build Anticipation

Now that the Babylon 5 RPG is fully operational (read: shipping to stores), Mongoose Publishing has multiple preview downloads available on the B5 section of the company's website. Currently, three preview downloads are available, including the official character sheet. I'm waiting. Gimme, gimme, gimme.

04:36 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
GenCon Indy Chat at WotC Site

You've got less than half an hour to get to the chat on GenCon Indianapolis with Mr GenCon himself, Peter Adkison. The chat's today at 5pm PST, so if you don't already have a password at the WotC community section, you may be out of luck today (it can take a hour or more to receive a confirmation email). But sign up anyway in preparation for the next WotC chat, and be all set for next time.

July 04, 2003

11:42 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Mongoose Plans for GenCon '03

Mongoose Publishing's Matthew Sprange sent out a notice to the company mailing list which showed just how evil he can be when he wants to. Sure, the email let us know that the Babylon 5 RPG will be there in case we don't have it already, and that several other titles would be there as well, like The Ultimate Arcane Spellbook, The Ultimate Character Record Sheet (is that a book, or a couple pieces of fancy paper?), Sheoloth - City of the Drow, The Quintessential Drow, Earth 2089 (a supplement for Armageddon 2089), Fiery Trial (for Babylon 5) and possibly even the new hardcover Macho Women with Guns. But Sprange concluded the email by saying "So, enjoy yourselves at Gen Con and remember, all the Mongoose staff present will really, really want to hear your character stories. They can't get enough of 'em!" Why is this so evil of him? Because he's the only Mongoose member not attending the con. Dirty pool, Mr Sprange.

11:34 PM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
Roleplaying Tips Weekly #179

The latest issue of Roleplaying Tips Weekly features a guide to player types, a popular theme that comes up now and then in various forms. However, this list actually has useful suggestions on how to deal with those Munchkins, Power Gamers, Rules Lawyers and the like. Other than killing their characters, that is.

11:35 AM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Origins 2003 hangover: BESM me, BESM me mucho

New at the show from GOO was BESM D20, and the big news was that the whole rules content of the book is Open Gaming Content, not just the five percent or whatever demanded by the D20 System License. I had a long conversation with Mark MacKinnon about parallels between how the business of software has adapted to open source, versus how the game industry is still adapting. GOO's new strategy is to type the rules up and put them online for you, so you'll read them, spread them around, and eventually want to buy a gorgeous full-color hardcover and a mess of supplements. Two words: razors, blades. This strategy has a better shot of making some money in the games world than in the software world, actually. I hope it goes well for them, and the book is indeed gorgeous (and pricey in the deluxe edition). They were also selling the new Tri-Stat dX Core System, which allows you to dial the intensity of your game up or down by adding sides to the dice. If you know Tri-Stat, you'll probably understand that better than I do. At the show, it was a dollar; for you people, it'll be $9.95. Joy!

04:20 AM: Demian Katz says...
Saving Private Checkers

Invisible City Productions has done it again with a new free checkers variant as the latest of their free game of the month offerings. In Saving Private Checkers, a regular game of Checkers is played on a pattern of face-down poker cards. These cards can cause pieces to get blown up, and the game's scoring is based on how many checkers are "captured" or "rescued." Rules for multiple variants are included. If you just can't get enough Checkers, this is another nice change of pace to try.

July 03, 2003

03:51 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Origins Awards: are they broken, should we fix?

Ryan Dancey has floated a very specific set of proposals to change the voting process for the Origins Awards, and they're eliciting unusually active discussion on GamingReport. I like the vote-count suggestions, but if the goal is to make the awards less of a flavor-of-the-month popularity contest, why eliminate "outdated" categories like historical miniatures, thus assuring they get nothing?

July 02, 2003

03:23 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Origins 2003 aftermath: better living through tiny giant robots

A friend ordered me to find out about something called Solaris VII at the WizKids tournament space at Origins. Turns out that it's a set of unofficial alternate rules to make MechWarrior a fast, brutal game for mechs only. It's named after the BattleTech universe's "arena planet," written into the storyline for the sake of players who didn't give a damn about the storyline. Whether SVII is a simplification, complexification, or even an improvement of the basic MWDA rules, I can't tell, but it looks interesting and my MW buddy is way into it. There are also some rules clarifications (ruh-roh!), and a bunch of other MW stuff on the same page where we found this.

12:30 PM: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Spiel des Jahres 2003 winner announced

Winners and nominee lists are here. Most of this year's nominees are relative unknowns here in the states, although I've seen Amun-Re get plenty of play on the strength of the Knizia name. Shortlist nominee Clans is the only other one with an identifiable English edition. This is the second year in a row that the SdJ jury has selected a relatively simple and approachable game for its winner: odds are we'll hear an announcement soon about Alhambra from Rio Grande or someone like them.

July 01, 2003

07:10 PM: Demian Katz says...
Gamebooks on the Rise?

These are good days to be a gamebook fan, it would seem. Just a couple of days ago, I noticed that the forthcoming American reprints of the Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks are starting to show up in major online bookstores, and this morning, an informant let me know that Troll is reprinting Carol Gaskin's entertaining Forgotten Forest series. On a whim, I went over to Barnes & Noble and typed "plot your own" into the keyword search box. Minutes later, my shopping cart was brimming over with recently published and forthcoming works of interactive fiction: six Rollercoaster Tycoon books, four Gameboy spin-offs, a pair of Miss Adventure novels, and a trio of Scream Shop interactive horror tales. I suspect that most of these are simple pick-a-paths rather than full-fledged gamebooks, but it's nonetheless exciting. I hope this is a trend that keeps growing!

11:07 AM: Allan Sugarbaker says...
ENnies Nominees Announced

EN World has just posted the nominees for this year's ENnies (aka The 2nd Annual Gen Con EN World D20 System Awards). Voting will soon begin on the popular prize, and as with last year, the winners will be announced at GenCon. Notably absent from the nominees this year is Mystic Eye Games, receiving only an honorable mention in the Best Rules Supplement category for Necromancer's Legacy. Even more conspicuous is the low number of WotC nominations, which has only been nominated for Best Official Website and Best Non-Open Gaming Product (in this case, the Epic Level Handbook). This year's ENnies will bestow second place trophies, a move I approve of, nicknamed "silver ENnies" in true Olympic form.

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