Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Recap Last Year Predictions

Last year, in December, I made 1d6 Predictions for the New Year 2014. It is now time to revisit the list and see how poorly my psychic powers manifest.

1) D&D Next will be released in 2014. Of course! How could they possible not take advantage of the 40th anniversary and try to get the old timers to buy the game again out of nostalgia. Since that one is so easy, the magic crystal dice will go a step further and predict that they will have "next" somewhere in the title.

I think everyone already knew D&D would come out in 2014. But, the marketing department must have saw the light and removed "Next" from the title. In a way, I was hedging my bets. Even though I was wrong on that prediction, I am glad I was wrong.
Scoring: 0

2) Dwimmermount will be released by Autarch, but it barely registers as a blip on the gaming radar scene. No one was able to pick up the OSR torch in the same way Grognardia had a following. With D&D Next's release and the increasing rise of boardgames, the scene is subdued.

When I write these, I purposely try to make them cover more than just one tiny little detail. I think this prediction is much more right than wrong so I am going to score myself a half of a point.
Scoring: 1/2

3) My old prediction with the previous crystal die was off in predicting Elder Scrolls Online would be released in 2013. We now know that ESO will be released in 2014. The new crystal predicts that Dragon Age 3 will be released in time for Christmas 2014. And that Chris Pramas Green Ronin will get a big boost in sales with a new edition of the pen and paper version of Dragon Age. Going a step further, someone will also get the rights to publish a pen and paper version of Elder Scrolls.

Of course Dragon Age 3 would try with all its might to be released during the Christmas buying spree for 2014. And of course, Green Ronin would attempt to capitalize on that fact by publishing a new set of rules to buy (See Dragon Age in 2014 by Green Ronin Publishing)

But of course, I had to throw in the bit about someone getting the rights to publish a pen and paper version of Elder Scrolls, so I am only giving myself a half a point for this one.
Scoring: 1/2

4) D&D Next will outsell Pathfinder, but only because it is new and Pathfinder's core books have been out for several years now. If Paizo is on the ball, they will preempt D&D Next with a surprise announcement release to capture some of the nostalgia coming with the 40th anniversary of D&D.

Easy to see a new release was going to outsell Pathfinder (See Amazon's Best Sellers).
Man, I don't even really know what Paizo releases. Did they release the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game this year? I don't even know if they did anything to "capture the nostalgia of D&D" this year, so I will give myself a half of a point unless someone alerts me to something I missed.
Scoring: 1/2

5) WotC will leverage the D&D brand again to come out with another good board game like the Ravenloft, Lords of Waterdeep games from previous years. There is a chance this game might be more "card oriented", like Dominion.

I knew WotC would try to tap into side markets. They let WizKids take over making board games (See ICv2 WizKids Post). But, still, I think the qualifier of releasing a "good" game is hard to judge, so I am only going to give myself a half a point again.
Scoring: 1/2

6) This is a tough one. World of Warcraft has already lost relevence and it appears they will never recapture the heyday of 5 years ago. The crystal die predicts that the maximum level of the play for free version of Warcraft will increase significantly, and better offers will be made to entice players back to the game, but it won't be enough to turn around the loss of players.

Well, I got this one wrong. But my idea was on the right track. Instead of boosting the free to play version level cap, they went another route. They give one character a free level 90 boost if you "buy" the new expansion (See Blizzard Level 90 Character Boost).
Scoring: 0

So, for the final tally, I have 2 out of 6. Which is exactly what I got last year. Yep, I think it might be time to hang up the old crystal ball and give up on predicting the future.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

B10 Nights Dark Terror

I consider myself lucky to have acquired this module in 1986 and to have been able to play this adventure soon after it came out with a group of friends who were as eager as I was to devour the content within.

Now, nearly 30 years later, I also count myself extremely fortunate to have had the chance to interview one of the authors of the module, Phil Ghalager. The interview sheds light on the last days of TSR with Gary Gygax at the helm and the perspective of the employees at the European division of TSR UK. (See Phil Ghallager Interview).

But back in those long ago days, my friends and I were blissfully unaware of corporate politics, and spent our summer afternoons taking on the the nefarious gang known as the Iron Ring. This adventure is a tour de force of the lands of Karameikos, the same setting presented in the "Known World" Expert Set and X1 Isle of Dread as created by David "Zeb" Cook, but fleshed out in a level of detail that is neither too heavy nor too light. I have also had the great fortune to get to ask Mr. Cook about the original inspiration for the setting and if he thought it would endure for so long (See David "Zeb" Cook Interview).

I have often stated that my style of running a game is more in line with the UK series of modules. In OSR circles, there tends to be a emphasis on the older modules with their bare bones, sandbox like settings. And there is a definite vibe that Tracy Hickman's later Dragonlance adventures are the anti-thesis of old school play. But I feel the UK modules are a nice sweet spot, somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between freeform and story.

But even above and beyond the philosophical debate about play style, there is just something magical about the UK modules. They are packed with little details, flourishes, that help to set the mood of adventure that blends myth, man, and magic in a setting that somehow seems believable despite its fantastical elements. B10 follows right in line with the series; a table of weather is presented that changes with time, a chart details the phases of the moon, the motivations of various factions are presented in some detail to help the Dungeon Master immerse himself into the daily operations of the lands of Karameikos.

The highlights, for me, from this large wilderness adventure are the assault on Sukiskyn, and the discovery of an ancient, mysterious civilization with jackal headed beast men fighting a primitive Neanderthal like tribe. The ending, too, was quite memorable as it had a unique Cthulu like vibe that was not yet seen in the Basic series of modules.

I find it a bit sad, in a way, that B10 represents the end of a great series, not only of the original B modules, but of the UK division of TSR. In the dichotomy of thought between sandbox and story, the UK adventures are often overlooked.

Looking back through history, it is always an interesting exercise to ask, "What if?" And I always find myself wondering what would have become of TSR UK if Gary Gygax did not part ways with TSR in 1985. What if TSR UK had been given it's chance to write a setting in the same manner as Tracy Hickman (and team) had with Dragonlance? The idea is not so far-fetched when you consider that quite a few of the TSR UK employees left to go work at GW, and helped build up the world for the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (See The Enemy Within).

This wraps up my series of reviews on the Basic series of modules (See Basic Dungeons and Dragons Reviews). I should mention that after B10 was released in 1986, fans would have to wait 3 years for the next in the series; B11, B12, B13. Those were to support the new (at the time) "Black Box" edition of the rules. But for me, B10 represents the end of the Basic series.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

One Page Dungeon Contest 2014 PDF Statistics

It seems I have had less and less time to post articles. When I do get a free moment, I tend to concentrate on the One Page Dungeon Contest, so why not combine both endevours and show a little bit of what I have been working with.

The three PDF compendiums I have put together have sold better than I expected. There will be a nice prize fund for the 2015 contest because of it. This has led me down the path of exploring what it would take to make a print version of the compendiums. And let me tell you, it is not an easy task to put together a digital version of the contest entries that will "translate" well into a physical product.

I wrote a little program to loop through the PDFs of the 2014 contest and get information out of them to get a sense of what is popular for paper size. And I can also use the same program to make a shell of a book if I put more effort into it.

Here is a spreadsheet of the data. Scroll down to see some observations I have of the data.

The most popular program for making the entries for the 2014 contest is
Microsoft Word with 23 entries plus 5 Adobe plugins that work on word documents for a possible total of 28.
Nothing else comes close, but if you combine all of Adobe's products (PDF Maker, Acrobat, Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop) you get 25 entries.

I find that suprising, as I, personally, find Microsoft Word very tedious to work with but I guess it all comes down to what you are use to.

But mainly, I did some inspection of all the PDF's because I wanted to get a handle on the paper size used.
There are 31 entries that are the ISO A4 standard (popular in most of the world except the United States).
There are 68 entries that are the US Letter standard (dominate in the United States).
There are 10 entries that did not follow the directions and submitted another format. I would like to mention here that I will be much less forgiving on such transgressions in the next contest.