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An Aetheric Guide for Christmas 2007
 

An Aetheric Guide for Christmas
Downloadable gift ideas from 2007

By Allan and Mike Sugarbaker

It's Christmas eve, and panic has set in: you just remembered a gaming buddy that you have no gift for. That's where OgreCave comes in, with this short list of last-minute gifts that require zero shipping time to bail you out - and in many cases, no cash, either. This fourth and final list looks toward the downloadable game goodies, the playable PDFs our Cave dwellers suggest as gifts this season. While our other 2007 lists have equally worthwhile gift ideas, if you don't have the luxury of time anymore, we recommend the gigs of gaming goodness below.

Monsters and Other Childish Things:
Completely Monstrous Edition

Arc Dream Publishing, $14.99

Your imaginary friend isn't imaginary, and is far scarier than you imagined he'd be. In this RPG of "kids and the relationship-devouring horrors from beyond time and space who love them", you'll play as both kid and monster, just trying to get through the difficulties of childhood without too much soul-shredding terror. Monsters and Other Childish Things: The Completely Monstrous Edition is available as a 180-page PDF now, or should arrive as hardcover in March 2008.

Og - Unearthed Edition
Firefly Games, $7.95

Remember the tagline "No need big words play Og"? The classic Wingnut Games title has been redesigned by Robin D. Laws to take itself just seriously enough to be streamlined and campaign-ready, while still remaining thoroughly hilarious and vocabulary-impaired. We would've put Og on our $20 or less list, but ran out of space, so we feel compelled to recommend it here.

The Supercrew
Tobias Radesäter, $6.21

The first complete RPG communicated entirely in comics form is also a simple, lovely little superhero game, with attitude and mechanics to match its clean-line cartoon artwork. It's a big download, but worth it for anyone interested in the way RPGs are communicated as well as new ways to play them.

E6/Raising the Stakes
Ryan Stoughton, Free

Named for the first six levels of experience that the author feels form the heart of the D&D game, E6 started its life as a d20 hack and is well on its way, in form as well as in popularity, to being a game in its own right. It's gone through several rounds of playtesting (probably more than most published D20 games) and drawn considerable praise from people who would dismiss mere house rules. When combined with the additional hack known as "Raising the Stakes," E6 is a focused, efficient core for traditional-system story gaming to rival systems like The Shadow of Yesterday.

Savage Donjon Squad
Simon Carryer, Free

Also in the tradition of gaming mash-ups is this recombination of Pinnacle's Savage Worlds, Clinton R. Nixon's Donjon and the little-known free game Dungeon Squad by Grey Ranks author Jason Morningstar (also worth checking out). SDS cherry-picks the light, speedy bits of Savage Worlds and the dice mechanics of DS, and sprinkles it all with the player-participation madness of Donjon for a tightly-focused good time.

The Lazy GM: Dungeon Beasts
The Creative Conclave, $9.99

Even the best Dungeon Master can run out of time to prepare for the game, so it's no surprise products like this are popular. For emergencies or as a tool for each game, The Lazy GM: Dungeon Beasts saves DMs considerable time by listing more than 400 stat blocks for advanced, template-enhanced, and class level creatures. Ranging from CR 1/3 up to CR 48, this is 146 pages of extremely useful material for d20 games.

Doubt
Fredrik Axelzon and Tobias Wrigstad, Free

The loose association of designers known in Scandinavia as Vi Aker Jeep ("We Go By Jeep" in English - to be clear, "Jeep" is a nonsense word in Swedish) has produced a wide array of "Jeepform" games that combine the immersive ethos of LARP with the systemic focus of story games and the mechanics of long-form improv theater. Doubt is one of their most legendary productions, a beautiful and challenging game about stage actors (and their characters) on the verge of a breakup, make-up, or both. Playing Doubt is a powerful, personal experience and a real gift for LARPers with an open mind.

Hear more about Doubt (and many other things) in this episode of the OgreCave Audio Report

Instant Game
Animalball Games, Free

Maybe you've got game, but do you have Instant Game? Recently released by Animalball Games, the folks behind Sandbox Hill (featured on our 2005 Christmas Gift Guide), Instant Game is a quick RPG setting creator and game in a 100-page PDF. Players and GM consult charts to randomly roll their session's genre, setting, and plot elements, then roll up characters and start playing their custom RPG session in just 30 minutes. Instant Game takes the collaborative design approach a step beyond most systems, for a unique, and often wild, experience.

Classroom Deathmatch
Jake Richmond, Matt Schlotte, and Nick Smith, $10

Although the print version didn't make our $20 or less list - Jake'll be shanking Mike with a sharpened chopstick for that any day now - Classroom Deathmatch is a marvelous tool for the arsenal of any gamer who likes his dirty-hippie mechanics best when they come with a heaping helping of senseless death. Yes, folks, this is Battle Royale with the serial numbers filed off, married to the Panty Explosion mechanics, and aren't we glad we can stop having to explain that title to people? Over fifty pre-generated characters slay and scheme for the opportunity to outwit their captors and escape. If you've got four or more players who want to backstab each other in the grim future of Hello Kitty, here's your ticket.

Dirty Secrets
Seth Ben-Ezra, $12

It's been a banner year for innovations in the mystery-RPG category; designers everywhere simultaneously seemed to discover that people really hate rolling Spot Hidden until they see something. This "one player, many GMs" take on the problem surfaced at Gen Con and built solid buzz. Dirty Secrets takes the noir genre of detective fiction and gives it a suburban spin, focusing on the misdeeds under the skin of peaceful towns everywhere. If your target seems keen to experiment with being cagey possible-murderers for a night - or, indeed, if you know somebody susceptible to How To Host A Murder-esques and want to turn them to the dark side! - then this is a succulent choice.

 

That closes another OgreCave Christmas Gift Guide, taking a last look at a few of the quick downloads that will keep you out of trouble when you forget someone's gift. But when time isn't so short, be sure to look over our other 2007 gift lists and see what you might want to deploy your gift certificates toward.

Happy holidays from OgreCave.com!
 

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