Tabletop Gaming Feeds

Of to the Con and Middle Earth!

Bat in the Attic - Fri, 11/10/2017 - 13:10

So around 3pm I will heading from work to Con on the Cob in Richfield (Cleveland) Ohio. There I will hang out with my friends +Tim Shorts and +Chris C.. and get in on some gaming action.


On Saturday at 1 pm,  I will be running a modified version of my Scourge of the Demon Wolf for Adventures in Middle Earth called Scourge of the Werewolf. Because it is a face to face session I can go all out with my Dwarven Forges, props, and minis.




Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On a Grim Dawn After a Titan’s Death, Part II

Hack & Slash - Fri, 11/10/2017 - 13:00
The Dawn of. . .grimness?After Iron Lore and Titan Quest had been put to sleep, lead developer Authur Bruno wasn’t done. He still wanted to keep working on the Action Role-Playing genera.
Because Iron Lore had approached THQ with a working engine, THQ owned all the titan quest intellectual property, along with all the graphics and assets. It turns out however, that Iron Lore still owned the rights to the underling engine.
Obviously there are fans of this type of game. But at the time, late 2007, Torchlight, Path of Exile, and the rumored Diablo 3, all stood on the horizon. What’s a small time developer to do?
Kickstarter
Over 12,000 people and half a million dollars later, there was a budget to finish the game. And the work stands as an ode to what Titan Questwasn’t. Now, when you swung your weapon at enemies, they visibly reacted, flying into the air or gibing when killed, sprays of blood arcing across the screen. They might have gone a bit overboard after all the restrictions from THQ.
It also positioned itself in the market, catering to what the other Action RPG’s didn’t. There was no competitive multiplayer. No streamlined simple builds for causal players. No endlessly running maps. There was just this impossibly large, single player, traditional three-difficulty, action RPG, with 15 different class combinations (28 after the expansion), and hundreds of different builds and options.
Then, the game went into early access on Steam, late in 2013. And although Grim Dawn has been out of early access since February of 2016, early access defines the way this game was made.
Grim Dawn
What is it about Grim Dawn? How is it so different from everything that came before?
The essential truth about it is that Grim Dawn isn’t about money. It’s a small team with expertise, doing a small do it yourself project, that is a thing they want to see in the world. If they wanted money, they wouldn’t be pouring their skills into this project. They would be selling their substantial technical skills to the highest bidder. 

Since early access and after release, every few weeks, there is an update. The updates constantly pour new free content in the game. They contain quality of life increases. They adjust things for better balance. In large part, they do this, because the employees at Crate love their game and are playing it. These are additions they make because they want to see them. This constant nearly decade long stream of constant development isn’t a thing that will last forever, but it is an amazing thing to be part of this process for as long as it lasts.
Secrets
Grim Dawn is a game for old people. Not a catchy sales pitch, I know, but it is a game designed in the old style, by people who miss the way games used to be. This doesn’t just mean that the game systems are complex, or that the game doesn’t hold your hand, or that the game has 80’s references. It’s more than that. Grim Dawn is an old game, built on a solid foundation and worked and worked into a masterpiece of what was. No global multiplayer. Local multiplayer. Personal servers. And secrets.
Lots and lots of secrets.
Speed runs of the Veteran Difficulty take somewhere around 40 minutes. A non-glitched run can be done in under a few hours. A significant and substantial part of the game involves hidden content. There’s a whole zone with a shrine and a golden chest behind a secret wall in an underground hive. There are dozens of zones with no integration to the main quest, but that provide useful and unique rewards. There are at least three completely hidden secret quest lines, two of which can only be completed on the ultimate difficulty. Finally, depending on which factions you choose, certain areas only become available after you’ve reached maximum reputation with the faction.
One update included the “Path of the Witch Gods”, 4 bosses, a secret mega-boss hidden within a secret area, a new dungeon, and a bonus skill point, and four areas completely hidden within the main game, with hardly any information on how to even begin the quest.
Complexity
Arthur has an extended post on the Grim Dawn forums where he talks about his design philosophy.
In his own words: “I think we’re probably unique . . . While most studios are redesigning their games to be more casual-player friendly, we’re busy making Grim Dawn more complex and probably casual-player hostile.
An example of this are the number of overlaying systems within Grim Dawn. On top of picking some combination of two classes and gear, there’s a separate overlaying devotion system. As you restore shrines around the world, you get a pool of up to 55 points that allow you to select benefits from constellations. Running a critical build? Work up to Unknown Solider and have a shadow double run around and attack things critically. Do you like being defensive? If you use a shield, get the obelisk and turn into living stone when you get hit. Any of these are available no matter what your base classes are, giving you entirely new options for character development.
He continues, “I think older, traditional PC games had a certain magic that has been lost in most modern games. . . Publishers and developers are increasingly looking to boost their sales by attracting more of the casual market and increase their revenue by getting this larger audience to make a lot of small purchases. . . We’ve come a long way from my childhood, where failure in most games caused you to start completely over from the beginning, to a point where it is impossible to fail in many games and in some you can just pull out your credit card when you decide it is time to win.
The sad reality though, is that this isn’t some evil corporate executives have perpetrated upon humanity, it’s what people want. At least, some people. Well, as it stands, it appears to be quite a lot of people and that is why the industry and gaming is largely trending in this direction. This is all anathema to what I love about games and is much of the reason that I’ve forgone earning an income the past couple years and instead slave away, with a few other dedicated souls, to create a game that we hope will embody some of what we loved about the games of yesteryear.
Which is why I say, Grim Dawn is a game for old people. No seasons to keep up with. Pause and quit anytime. You are able to play and make progress in short bursts. You can play with people you know or your family, without worrying about lag or online competition. It’s huge and complicated and there’s always something new or interesting to find or do. You buy the game once and never pay again. If you want more, there are expansion packs to buy with more content. All things done in the old style.
GameplayWhen other games in the genera are long dead, Grim Dawn will remain. It is a monument. Not because of the updates. But because of the systems, gameplay design and refinement.
All the systems in the game are designed with the end-user experience in mind. For example, the reputation system. Each faction, both friendly and hostile, tracks your relationship. Rather then this being a grindy annoyance, it’s well designed. Friendly factions, once you reach your maximum reputation, offer a scroll that gives a 100% to faction relationships to any character that reads it. So while your first time you have to put in the work to reach revered with a faction, subsequent characters can do the same though just regularly playing the game.
This also provided them with the opportunity to create rewards for your actions in game. the more you slaughter a faction, the more the faction hates you. The more they hate you, the more heroes they spawn. The more heroes that spawn, the better loot you get.
The level system is another example. The recently released Ashes of Malmouth expansion raised the level cap to 100. Doesn’t that sound grindy? Only, once you get a good relationship with the Malmouth factions, you get access to a potion that grants 100% bonus experience. Now you can level up even faster, if you want to.
That’s another thing that’s nice about Grim Dawn. There is no endgame. There’s no rushing through the leveling process, because although you can farm, after you finish the game on ultimate, the game is basically done for that character. It’s time to try a new build and take on the challenges again. The endgame is the game.
That’s really the core of the game play design. The way the game is structured, is it’s always most rewarding to actually play the fun part of the game, rather then farm or grind. Moving forward means new shrines, new one-time chests, new quest rewards. You’re never encouraged to just farm and farm and farm. All systems are most efficiently maximized by simply exploring and playing the game. 
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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

In case you forgot: BUNDLE OF HOLDING OSR+5

Sorcerer's Skull - Fri, 11/10/2017 - 12:25
The Bundle of Holding Old School Revival +5 (including all the fine products you see above like the Mortzengersturm digital edition) is still for 10 more days as of this writing. So you haven't missed out yet, but don't wait!

Also, the boys at DIY Games have extended an extra offer: Just send Mike Evans a receipt showing the purchase and he'll give you a discount on the print on demand version of Gathox. How cool is that?

OSR Commentary On The Orc Raids Of B11 King's Festival By Carl Sargeant For Your Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Fri, 11/10/2017 - 06:29
"Someone has "borrowed" a cleric, and without him, the fabled King's Festival cannot go on. Unfortunately, it looks like the orcs have him, and your characters must rescue him. "So I've been playing around with & looking over lots & lots of B/X  & Advanced  Dungeons & Dragons adventures over the last six to eight months. Now let's dive into the deeper B/X pool with an adventure that Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

GameHole Con 2017 Photo Dump

Tenkar's Tavern - Fri, 11/10/2017 - 02:42
Yes, I spent most of my time in the vendor's hall. Hey, its where all the cool kids were ;)

Sharing with minimal comments...

Convinced Rach I need a 3d printer for Christmas...
Still trying to convince Rach we NEED The Well for our new shower curtain, lace be damned!

Laughter is awesome!

Venger & I




Jolly & I
















Rach bought a dice cup and some coasters
AS&SH arrived today. My weekend is shot


Swords & Wizardry sold well

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

November Campaign Design V - Lippegen

Greyhawk Grognard - Thu, 11/09/2017 - 22:00
So last time I covered some details about New Valais, and now I'd like to put a little meat on the Lippegen bone. The map hasn't changed:


Lippegen is my pseudo-Germany colony, linked back to the Dual Kingdom of Grott-Heimburg, with its Summer King and Winter King who swap roles at the equinoxes.

I see Lippegen as the second colony founded, after New Valais, and its territory spans from the Uffberry River in the north down to the mountains south of the Southrun. This gives them an enormous frontier they can exploit, through the forest to the north as well as the valley to the southeast (in which they will inevitably run into conflict with New Valais as their efforts meet in the poorly-defined border area). The key to their expansion eastward is the town of Osttur, which commands a strategic gap in the mountains and serves as the gateway into the Shining River valley as well as its northern section.

The whole is ruled by the Herzog of Lippegen, Oscar I. Founded some 80 years ago by the grandfather of the current ruler, and stocked with continuous shipments of new serfs, prisoners, and goblinoid mercenaries, the colony has been steadily built up. Oscar's father, Frederic, was especially aware of the importance of roads to the nascent colonial venture, and embarked on a great road-building program, linking all of the towns in the country. The road between Durst and Uffberryton in particular was a stroke of genius, as it provided an incentive for the North Aegarians to use Durst's port rather than develop their own, both stalling development and providing taxes and fees to Lippegen. He also established the frontier-town of Osttur, intended to open up the great valleys to the east to exploration and eventual settlement. Beneath the herzog are a number of grafs of various sorts.

Durst is the largest settlement in Lippegen, ruled by Josef II, Graf von Durst. It is a thriving port-town, one of the main destinations for traffic from the west, as well as possessing a large fishing fleet. It has a population of more than 10,000, and the surrounding countryside is thickly settled with farmers, and the whole peaceful. The burggraf of the city, Ernst von Durst, plays a subtle game of politics, playing the herzog off against the graf, and ends up being the real power within the city itself, and in many cases far beyond the city. Finely drilled units of goblin soldiery with hobgoblin and bugbear officers protects the lands of the town from marauders and generally keep the peace. A small force of human Grott-Heimburgers is on hand to keep the mercenaries in their place.

Stuttbad is on the official border with South Aedgaria, but there is little trade between the two, as there are no roads connecting them on the Aedgarian side. The primary industries here are fishing and trade with the sea elf and triton communities in the southern portion of Chivar Bay. The current Graf von Stuttbad, Erik II, is much more interested in his antiquarian and artistic endeavors - he has actually built a dedicated opera house in a struggling colonial town of 8,000 - than he is in effective governance, which he mostly leaves to the burggraf of the city, Prophero Musk, a hobgoblin of exceptional intelligence and ability. Stuttbad has more integration between the goblinoid soldiery and the civilian population than usual, and the people are gradually getting used to the idea of a hobgoblin among the petite aristocracy, as long as it doesn't start a trend.

Zweistadt is a frontier town, ruled by the Markgräfin von Zweistadt, Corinna I. She is a young woman of exceptional ability and wealth, a first-generation immigrant from Grott-Heimburg and widow of the previous Markgraf. She is considered the most eligible widow in Lippegen (some say all of Artanis), as her territory is not only at the northeastern edge of Lippegen and thus poised to bring in wealth from the thickly forested lands beyond, but the hills and mountains surrounding the town are also home to very profitable mines, worked by a large contingent of imported dwarf and gnome labor. The markgräfin manages to navigate through the treacherous shoals of politics, all the while entertaining a host of would-be suitors and attending a never-ending cycle of balls, masquerades, and other social functions. And as she does so, her wealth increases daily, as does her power. It is rumored she has her eyes set on the handsome young son of the Graf himself, but that one is already pledged to another.

Osttur is the bright hope for Lippegen, founded explicitly as a gateway to the rich valleys to the east and southeast, and aimed like a crossbow bolt at halting New Valaisian expansion in that quarter. The Markgraf von Osttur, Karl II, is energetic but unimaginative, and has a strategy that consists of little more than buying serfs in Grott-Heimburg and transferring them to small landowners to whom he grants land titles. Much of the time, however, those land titles are in name only, and the holders have never even set foot upon "their" land. The only thing that prevents his incompetence from coming out is the even greater incompetence of his New Valaisian counterpart, the Marquis d'Onjoi.

Chivar Bay is home to three fairly large islands; the Anville, Welcome Island, and Gareth Isle. The Anville is so named because it regularly gets hammered by the hurricane-force storms coming off the Stormsea. The early Valaisian explorer Jon Borjeaux had a sense of humor. Both Welcome Island and Gareth Island are inhabited, and there are thriving co-existent communities ashore and underwater, with sea elves, tritons, and mermen aplenty.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Swords & Wizardry Light Adventures from Pacesetter Games & Simulations - Print & PDF

Tenkar's Tavern - Thu, 11/09/2017 - 16:48


Just a quick heads up. Pacesetter Games & Simulations has a series of four Swords & Wizardry Light adventures in their catalogue. I was given print copies of all four at GameHole but have yet to get the chance to read them - con catch up is still in full force - heh.

I was told that the SWL titles were selling very well for them. Exciting times.

The adventures are:

Q1 The Screaming Temple (S&W Light)

Q2 Eruptor's Vengeance (S&W Light)

Q3 Death on Signal Island (S&W Light)

Q4 The Final Chapter (S&W Light)

Three bucks each for the PDFs, eight bucks each for Print plus PDF


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

2000+ Posts

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 11/09/2017 - 12:00
Today is actually blog post number 2003. It may not be what it was back in 2010, but I still think it's got life in it yet.

Here's a selection of posts to walk you down memory lane, one from every year:
Hateful Glare: The Beholder Examined (2010)
The Night Mail (2011)
In the Belly of the Beast (2012)
Cyclopes (2013)
Ruritanian Rogues (2014)
The Fae Moon (2015)
Mall Security 2020 (2016)
Again the Giants!: Sanctum of the Stone Giant Space God (2017)

This is not a best of but rather a "posts I thought were interesting that were not the most popular in their year."

Thanks for reading!


Swords & Wizardry Continual Light PDF has Been Updated at OneBookShelf

Tenkar's Tavern - Thu, 11/09/2017 - 04:43


The Swords & Wizardry Continual Light PDF has been updated to correct typos, update some art, add missing text and other small changes. If you've already downloaded a copy, the new file should be up on RPGNow / DriveThruRPG right now.

Yes, this does mean we are a step closer to going Print on Demand at RPGNow / DriveThruRPG.

Additionally, we will be pricing the SWCL PDF at its suggested price of $2.50 starting next week, so the PWYW pricing will be going away shortly. If you've been on the fence about snagging a copy of the PDF or its been sitting in your wishlist, now is the time to snag a copy.

Nearly three and a half weeks later, Swords & Wizardry Continual Light is sitting in the 2nd spot of the Hottest Small Press at RPGNow and that's because of readers like you. I can't thank you enough.

We have lots in store for Swords & Wizardry Continual Light and we are thrilled to have you along for the ride.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

New PWYW Release - Under Tenkar's Tavern, Levels 1-3 (written by someone more talented than me ;)

Tenkar's Tavern - Thu, 11/09/2017 - 01:44

Under Tenkar's Tavern is a new PWYW release from Thom Wilson / Throwi Games. Yes, it has my blessing ;)

Seriously, Thom reached out to me to ask if I was okay with him releasing Under Tenkar's Tavern to the masses (as opposed to just Patreon backers) or if he needed to change the title. I happen to like the adventures included in this package, so saying yes was extremely easy. Besides, Thom simply does good work.

Written for Swords & Wizardry it will easily work with SWL / SWCL.

Did I mention its Pay What You Want?

Under Tenkar's Tavern

Yep, we use affiliate links here at The Tavern. Helps keep the lights on and the taps flowing.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Universal's Dark Universe

Greyhawk Grognard - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 23:03
Well, that didn't take long. News has come out that Universal's Dark Universe, which was supposed to be a shared universe with their various monster properties like Dracula and Frankenstein, has folded after just one (well, two, if you count Dracula Untold, which was in, and then out, of the Dark Universe) film, this year's awful Tom Cruise Mummy flick.

I mused on the Universal monsterverse a few years ago, but I'd like to do so again.

To my mind, the chief problem was the idea of taking a classic horror movie icon like the Mummy and putting it in a non-horror movie.

2017's The Mummy was a high-budget action movie, with planes, and explosions, and Tom Cruise, and action, and chases, and spectacular special effects, and all the things that were suspiciously missing from almost all of the other Mummy movies that came before it. Even the excellent 1999 Mummy with Brendan Fraser, which was sort of a mix of action and horror, played up the horror more than the action most of the time. But the sequel inverted that formula, and suffered greatly as a result.

My proposal is to make a shared Universal horror universe (I'll call it DU2) that is focused not on big-budget action flicks, but which is focused on medium-budget horror movies. Stop swinging for the fences, and concentrate on hitting singles and doubles, and you'll have a franchise that will be going for decades. Here are the guidelines I'd use.

1. Make the films period pieces. Start them in the late 1870's, near the height of the Victorian age. Explorers are penetrating deepest, darkest Africa, science is advancing steadily but superstition is still rife, Bedlam is still in operation, surgery is still a gruesome thing, and Spiritualism and ceremonial magic are surging. H.G. Wells and Jules Verne are writing, and some of their stories could also be used as material. Jack the Ripper is only a decade away, but there's also Spring-Heeled Jack and other Victorian curiosities to work into the background. Doing so can accommodate all of the major monsters, while nicely avoiding high-tech cop-outs that modern films have to explain away.

2. Start small, and build to crossovers. Have a Dracula movie set in Transylvania in 1878. Then Frankenstein in Bavaria in 1879. An expedition to Egypt uncovers the Mummy in 1880. Dracula arrives in London in 1881. Frankenstein and his former mentor Doctor Praetorius create a female monster in 1882. Stretch them out, again emphasizing horror and suspense over action and flashy special effects.

3. Don't have a generic, all-encompassing "anti-monster society." Each film has their own protagonists and heroes, but there are crossovers with minor characters. Keep the early crossovers to minor characters; the same British police captain that we see in a Dracula movie set in London is also in the Invisible Man movie, or Doctor van Helsing is a correspondent of Doctor Jekyll, both being interested in the nature of the subconscious, but they don't get together until a few movies later. That sort of thing.

4. Tie things together, especially in the early years, with a television show. Universal's House of Horrors would be episodic, centered on a trio of characters (a Spiritualist medium, a ceremonial magician (proto-Golden Dawn), and a former soldier from service in India) who encounter supernatural oddities across England and Europe, and help various people overcome them. Have the same minor characters we see in the films, show up here. But keep it centered on horror. This should be a creepy, tense, scary show, not "Supernatural by Gaslight." Ghosts, Satanic cults, monsters out of folklore; these should be the focus. They can hear about the big bads, but they don't encounter them, except second-hand.

5. The payoff isn't a big, Avengers-like mash-up of all the players. It's the set-up of pairings between the monsters, and the subsequent mixing and matching of their adversaries. Dracula and the Mummy are excellent "organizer" type monsters, who might enlist others as minions, pawns, or partners in specific schemes, such as the Monster or the Wolfman. Others might get together due to mutual affinity; Dr. Jekyll and van Helsing are both scientists, as are Frankenstein and Griffin (the Invisible Man). There are also possibilities for neat inversions; the audience may know that Mr. Hyde is the same person as Dr. Jekyll, but van Helsing might not realize it, and it might become a plot complication as Hyde is in league with Dracula, while Jekyll is helping van Helsing.

I really think that would work, and would keep the studio churning out films for a goodly while, as long as they were good in and of their own right, with strong characterization and a heavy emphasis on horror and suspense.  But what do I know? They'll crank out some standalone Frankenstein movie set in modern-day New York and have cloning or some crap, and lots of car chases. sigh
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Commentary - B/X Dungeons & Dragons Campaign Watz & Science Fantasy Campaign Construction

Swords & Stitchery - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 21:06
Many folks look at B/X Dungeons & Dragons as a basic or beginning set for the grand game of table top role playing but I have found a bit more respect rummaging through the annals of this game. Lately I find myself referring constantly back to it mixing and matching B/X with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition & Adventurer, Conqueror, King with bits of Labyrinth Needleshttp://www.blogger.com/profile/11243274667834930867noreply@blogger.com0
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Reminder - Tavern Chat Tonight - 9 PM Eastern = Post GameHole Con Wrap-up, SWCL and More

Tenkar's Tavern - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 20:53
Yep, its another Wednesday night. I missed last week's Tavern Chat with GameHole Con but I'll be there tonight.

In truth, I'll need a nap just to stay up as I'm still catching up from GameHole (what a fucking blast) but I'll be ready by 9 PM.

Use the following link if you haven't stopped in and joined The Tavern's Discord Server prior:

https://discord.gg/fReGmuD

See y'all tonight...



Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wear Some Swords & Wizardry Continual Light - You Know you Want to

Tenkar's Tavern - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 16:39

To quote my 6 year old niece "This art sells!"

+James Shields has put the cover art from Swords & Wizardry Continual Light up on RedBubble, so you can now get it on shirts, hoodies, wall clocks and yes, even gamer bags:


Damn but I NEED that bag for cons and such. Oh, and Pinky needs a shirt. heh!

Support your local OSR artist and snag some :)




Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On a Grim Dawn After a Titan’s Death, Part I

Hack & Slash - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 13:00
Death is only the beginning” - Reanimator
One million copies sold as a studio dies. It gives rise to a slow burn, do-it-yourself, action role-playing game that stands poised to be one of the best ever created. Was there ever any failure? How did the Crate team get to use the Engine from Titan Quest in Grim Dawn? What is the key to Grim Dawn’s ultimate success?
Iron Lore and Titan Quest
Iron lore died quickly, even among gaming studios. It closed its doors after 8 years in February of 2008, citing “unrelated issues” that resulted in a failure to secure funding. Its sole work at the time was Titan Quest, and Soulstorm an expansion for the Games Workshop branded real-time strategy game Dawn of War III.
8 years isn’t long. The first two years were spent on the pitch for Titan Quest, which was their only project till its release in 2006. The Titan Quest expansion “Immortal Throne” came soon after in 2007, though it was less an expansion, closer to the final act of the game. Substantial work on the expansion had already been completed by the time of the games release. The Dawn of War expansion was finished from 2006-2007, and then the company ended early the following year.
So why?
Well, Michael Fitch of THQ has some ideas.
if. . . people who pirated the game had actually spent some god-damn money for their 40+ hours of entertainment, things could have been very different today.” -Michael Fitch
Now Titan Quest sold a million plus copies. Is that the end of the story?
What Michael goes on to explain is that the copy protection scheme they paid for to prevent piracy caused the game to randomly crash if it was cracked. This led to a lot of chatter online about how the game was unstable. The onerous copy protection scheme drove many legitimate owners to use the crack so they could play the game.  
This is on a game that made money and sold a million copies. He goes on to say:“Some really good people made a seriously good game, and they might still be in business if piracy weren't so rampant on the PC. That's a fact.” -Michael Fitch
Your eyes might dart over to Crate Entertainment and their Digital Rights Managment-free highly successful game Grim Dawn at this point. He further complains about the modular personal computer hardware market and goes on to say:
Which brings me to the audience. There's a lot of stupid people out there. . .PC folks want to have the freedom to do whatever the hell they want with their machines, and god help them they will do it; more power to them, really. But god forbid something that they've done—or failed to do—creates a problem with your game. There are few better examples of the "it can't possibly be my fault" culture in the west than gaming forums.” -Michael Fitch
What’s going on here? Where’s his disconnect? Even at 40$, one million times should be enough to keep any studio in business.  This was over a decade ago, before the dominance of Steam. Another popular game of the time, Sins of a Solar Empire also had no copy protection and made a bundle of money for it’s publisher. What actually happened with Titan Quest and Iron Lore?
Answers
It has a great deal to do with how publishers (like THQ) and development studios (like Iron Lore) function. First, the studio makes a pitch to the publishers. If accepted, the studio gets an “advance”. Then once the game is complete, the sales should pay off the advance, until a profit stage is reached. However, much like movie studio accounting, very few games ever are shown to make a profit, and unless you have a breakout hit, developments studios will never see a dime past the advance. 
Arthur Bruno, head of Crate Entertainment, lays out exactly how they didn’t get any money from the sales. “What a lot of people don’t realize is that many, if not most independent studios, make little or no money off the actual sales of games they develop. If you take the case of Titan Quest and Immortal Throne, information I’ve been given put the combined sales over a million copies in late 2008. At that time I heard that it had reached profitability for THQ. Since then it has continued to do surprisingly well in digital sales given its age. Yet, the owners of Iron Lore never and probably will never receive a royalty payment due to the structure of the funding deal.
What this means is, they need to have another project ready to go after a project is completed in order to secure another advance. This did not happen for Iron Lore. Arthur explains, “Ultimately though, all the decisions the company made and all the events that transpired, lead to a situation where Iron Lore couldn’t survive a gap between projects.
So not only did it sell a million copies, the publisher didn’t have to share that profit with Iron Lore. How did the game get viewed as a failure? 
Early bad press and obnoxious copy protectionDuring the release, leaked and hacked pirated copies surfaced, and due to the copy protection crashed to the desktop. This combined with the obnoxious procedure of inserting a random disk on launch in order to play the game, means that many legitimate users used a crack in order to play more conveniently. 
This led to a great deal of early press talking about the games instability, even though for a new release it was reasonably bug free. This word of mouth caused release sales to be very slow.
Unrealistic ExpectationsBoth Brian Sullivan the director of Iron Lore and THQ believed that this action role-playing game would sell more copies than the sims. John Walker recalls "[Brian Sullivan] said, as I interviewed him for PC Gamer, how he expected Titan Quest to be a break-out success, to be a game that reached a non-gaming mainstream audience—that it would do for the RPG what The Sims had done for management games. And I didn’t really know what to say, because, well, no it wouldn’t. It was a game about hitting mythical creatures with an axe. It was slightly awkward.
Studio InterferenceIn pursuit of that ideal, THQ played a heavy hand. Arthur (née Merrida) talks about it on the Grim Dawn forums, “There seemed to be a constant fear during the development of Titan Quest about upsetting this or that segment of the audience or someone's grandmother. I was literally told by one of the higher-ups that the game should be designed so that his grandmother would want to play it (even though his grandmother had never played a game before in her life).
Some examples of the changes they were forced to make:
  • They were required to remove snow, because people might not realize it snowed in Greece. 
  • Enemies were not allowed to be shown using language or building any structures. 
  • Humans were never allowed to die. 
  • Human corpses were not allowed to be shown.
  • No Greek ruins were allowed to be shown. 
  • Greek mythology had to be relegated to dialog boxes because addressing the gods, either though gameplay or in the story was too religious.


Quests were removed, ideas were formed, and the team moved on from Titan Quest. But that still doesn’t tell us how Grim Dawn managed to get made. We'll be taking a closer look at that on Friday.
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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Crypts of Indormancy

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 12:16


By Ezra Claverie
Melsonian Arts Council
1e
Low-levels?

The tomb of Thuuz, Lord Nanifer, Elven General of the Western Isle, has been found. The Islanders he once exploited and terrorised would gladly hurl his bitter carcass back into the ocean. Others, hearing of an untouched crypt in the mountains, no doubt filled with all the pomp and pride of an aristocratic burial, arrive with less ideological motives for defilement.

This is an unconventional seventy digest-page adventure in an old elf tomb, about forty pages being devoted to the encounters … all ten of them. Kuntz is born again. Hidden depth abounds adding flavor at every turn, all seventy of them. But I don’t remember the hidden depth. I remember the weariness of page turning and trying to figure out what it going on.

There are ten encounters here, and they are essentially linear. The encounters run to the long side, with wide margins and large fonts helping some of the encounters to spread to four or more pages. The pages are organized well, generally one per topic, so if there’s a table in a room then one page will be devoted to the table and maybe another page devoted to the sword on the table, and so on. This gives almost a page worth of detail and background and history and Kuntz hidden depths to these objects. There’s a lot to explore and discover, with very little of it being more than window dressing.

But first, how about a couple of sentences from the first encounter, as the characters reach the top of a snowy couloir at the top of a mountain and see a state on a slab … “Passing this figure activates a phantasm: snow from the couloir above swirls down into a figure resembling the skeleton of a human infant some four meters long. It will crawl head first down the couloir, snapping toothless jaws.” Well, there’s something you don’t see every day! This is typical of the content and originality in the adventure. The rooms and objects are well detailed and slightly off the beaten D&D path, all of which I applaud. It’s not so alien or dark to be gonzo or a turn off to the mainstream crowd.

This adventure is crafted. It doesn’t engage in long-winded unfocused writing as most high page/low encounter adventures do. It is layered with depth, built up layer on layer. A singular vision of the designers making it the page. Can I admire and praise something while still not recommending it?

So, yeah, 40 pages describing ten encounters. The first fourteen or so pages describe some background and perfunctory islander civilization. “High level overview” would be an understatement. It’s just the vibe of an islander civilization. Part of what makes the adventure … compelling? is the setting. Almost-evil elves, no dwarves, little tips like “elfs are secretive, when PC elves retain secrets they get 250xp.” Specificity is the soul of narrative, and Ezra has that shit DOWN. It’s also so setting-specific that it’s probably impossible to integrate in to your game. Could you drop a Dark Sun adventure in, with their elves and dwarves? No? The content is excellent and I’d love to see a full on setting, but it’s fuck-all hard to deal with in an adventure. It reminds me of those historical D&D adventures in Dungeon. “A level 7 Holy Lands D&D adventure? How the fuck do I use that?”

The first real room has fresco’s on the walls. Interesting ones, with a history, that mean something culturally. And as far as I can tell have no impact on the adventure. After a couple of pages the last sentence is “On the floor on the north side of this archway sits the stub of a candle in a pool of congealed wax.” Yeah, it tells us someone was here. It’s a creepy detail. It helps it feel like a real place. All of it helps it feel like a real place. The two pages it takes to describe two dead bodies and their possessions (oilskin cloak, flint & steel) make it feel real. But Jesus fucking christ man …

Look, I want to emphasize that there’s a lot for a party to figure out. That’s VERY good. Players love figuring things out, even if it’s as simple as “oh, a candle, someone was here!” It’s also generally well organized (one thing per page, or so) and the shit is flavorful as all fuck. Those large margins and big fonts contribute to an easy to read zine-like vibe.

But fuck me, the length. I think the cracks really start to show in room 4, the Parlour. There’s more description here, especially around a wargaming table, than can be easily digested. And while most of the pages CAN be easily digested and related to the players on the fly, at least up until this point … well … the highlighting and note-taking increases a lot after this.

This thing screams ONE SHOT to me. Great for a convention game, once you digest the second half of the encounters. And digest and highlight you will, as things get more and more involved as you progress. It’s that … complexity of depth? in the second half that I think drags the entire work down. More effort in writing, editing, and presentation would have helped.

I’m keeping this to run at a con. Look, you can use this, but its unconventional format sometimes fights you and leaves you lost.

It’s $11 at DriveThru. The four page preview doesn’t show you anything. Bad Melsonian’s! No Boxing Day for you!
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/208756/Crypts-of-Indormancy

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wednesday Comics: Storm: The Slayer of Eriban (part 4)

Sorcerer's Skull - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 12:00
My exploration of the long-running euro-comic Storm, continues with his adventures in the world of Pandarve. Earlier installments can be found here.


Storm: The Slayer of Eriban (1985) 
(Dutch: De Doder van Eriban) (part 4)
Art by Don Lawrence; script by Martin Lodewijk

In the unwilling service of  the assassin Renter Ka Rauw, Storm and friends set sail for the capital of the strangely shaped planetoid of Marrow. Not long after they are underway, Storm discovers a stowaway, a young boy who really wants to learn to play chess.

Renter immediately wants him thrown overboard. Storm tries to argue, but Renter reminds him who's boss:


Renter suggests a fishing vessel will like pick him up, but then two eel-like sheels come swimming toward him! Storm swims out to try and save him, and surprisingly Renter tries to help out as well. 


Ultimately, It falls to Ember to rescue Renter with a well-placed arrow, though he insists he never needed her help at all. Still, her efforts convince him to let the boy stay aboard until the next port.

Along the way, Storm teaches the boy chess, Renter even gets in on the game after picking up the rules by watching, but he throws a bit of a tantrum when Storm wins.

Soon, they arrive in the capital city of Rommily:


After docking, they say goodbye to the boy, Tillio, who plans to make a living teaching people chess. Renter plans to go into the city and find where the Barsaman games are going to be held. He takes Ember with him and commands Storm and Nomad to stay with the ship.

As soon as Renter is out of sight, Storm goes ashore too. He plans to find the authorities and warn them of Renter's planned assassination of their ruler. It reassures Nomad he'll be back before Renter and Ember return.

Storm locates some guards, but when he warns them of the assassination, he does get the response he hoped for.



TO BE CONTINUED

Ch. 5, Page 5

Castle Greyhawk - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 05:11
Tenser and Ehlissa shared a laugh over the pun.

"Ah, it's always fun talking to you," Tenser said. "You should rejoin our group. I'm sure if you tried adventuring again, you would like it."

"I've heard this before..." Ehlissa said, still sounding pleasant. "Now listen to this."

She spoke a magic word and a magical cantrip caused the bird she had been holding to break into a beautiful song, more complex than a songbird could normally do.

"Very nice," Tenser said. "But..."

"I'm very happy now with my birds." Ehlissa stood up and started walking the bird back to its cage. "There is no shortage of adventurers out there these days, looking to plunder the old castle. I'm sure one of them will amuse you."

There was an awkward pause, too long for Ehlissa's liking. When she glanced back, she saw Tenser had dropped his jovial facade and now looked tired, and older. She knew she had best change the subject back to something Tenser would enjoy talking about.




Press Release - BARREL RIDER'S BIRTHDAY SALE (50% off all digital releases)

Tenkar's Tavern - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 02:57
BARREL RIDER'S BIRTHDAY SALE


To celebrate Barrel Rider Games founder James M. Spahn's birthday, all digital products are 50% until November 17th! That's 50% off White Star, The Hero's Journey, White Box, Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC, and DCC supplements for over one week! It's James's Birthday, but you get the presents!

Barrel Rider Games Store

Those are affiliate links above. Affiliate links keep the lights on here at The Tavern. Oh, and the taps flowing ;)

Yes, James is a very good friend of mine. He also does AMAZING work. Don't wait too long to snag stuff...
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