Monday, 30 January 2012

The hit and miss list {Comics}

I'm introducing comic books to Trollish Delver as they're a big part of my life, making up a large chunk of my weekly entertainment. I probably spend more time reading comics than watching TV; I really love them. 

Every few months or so I like to review my current pull-list to see what ongoing series I'm going to stick with and what I'll dump. If I haven't been enjoying a book for a few months then I tend to cut it from my stack to save time and money. It's a hard thing to do sometimes, but I'm finding that I can't afford the cost of physical comics. Of course, you can always go to Best Buy for an Ipad and by some of these comics digitally if you're that way inclined, but I don't really have that kind of money.

What I'm holding onto for dear life:

 Fewer mainstream comics are as fun and unique as Thunderbolts. This book is consistently entertaining, creative and all-round pulpy. The art is spot on, especially with Kev Walker at the helm. It's a great read and I highly recommend it.

DC has had a pretty rocky start with the new 52, but hits like Animal Man and Wonder Woman have proven the company has still got it. For me, Batman is the best thing they're putting out at the moment, with the excellent Scott Snyder penning each brilliant issue. Issue 5 was one of the best and most inventive comics in a long time and the current storyline is incredible.

Captain America
With Cap back in the game, Marvel did some re-jigging and created a new Captain America series, turning the previous series into Captain America & Bucky. Brubaker is still writing and while it's a little different from the gritty espionage-tinged stories of the past, it's still a great read. Plus, Cap is my favourite hero.

Captain America & Bucky
After Bucky escaped the Russian prison in the 'Gulag' storyline, Captain America became Captain America & Bucky. The transformation saw the action turn to Bucky's past, from the Second World War, through the Winter Soldier years and now into present day. Brubaker's handed the reigns over to Asmus while he concentrates on other projects, but it's still a great read.

For me, IDW stands out as a publisher who knows how to do licenses, and as well they should as they seem to have rights to all of them. Ghostbusters has recently launched an ongoing series and it's all kinds of awesome. If you love the movies and cartoons, there's no doubt you'll love this series. Amazing stuff.

Punisher Max
Sadly, this series will be ending soon, but the past year's story has been nothing short of legendary. We've seen Frank Castle's past exposed, his escape from prison and his life in the gutter. This is the Punisher at its best and the ending promises to be a big one as he faces off against the Kingpin.

In the aftermath of Fear Itself, the Avengers has a few new recruits. But Osbourne is stirring the media, turning people against the very heroes that saved the world from The Serpent. Even worse, he's got his hands on samples of all the Avengers' DNA and created his own super-powered army.

What I'm on the fence about:

Secret Avengers
Warren Ellis, you've ruined me for other writers. Ellis took over writing duties on this book over the last 6 months and it's been nothing short of amazing. For a book that had a rocky beginning, Ellis really distilled the Secret Avengers into its core components and wrote one-shot 'episodes' that had everything super-hero black-ops stories should. The thing is, Ellis has gone and Remender has arrived with a new team of Secret Avengers, led by Hawkeye instead of Steve Rogers. Herein lies the reason I'm now turned-off by this book. Remender had some rave reviews about his Uncanny X-Force and Venom has been doing well, so I'm giving this a chance.

What I'm dropping like it's hot:

Detective Comics Batman
Oh, Detective - where did you go wrong? Before the relaunch, this book was the bastion of everything that was great about comics. Of course, this was under Snyder's tenure, who turns everything to gold. Now, it's a shadow of its former self. I've just not been impressed with what used to be my favourite comic. This has to go.

Justice League America
Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, how have you not made this the best DC has to offer? JLA has been criticised for a limp start and although more characters have been introduced it's still not hitting the sweet spot. Darkseid is rising and I don't really care. Every issue someone makes a joke about Batman not having powers and every issue it isn't funny. It's not a terrible comic, or even a bad one. It's just not entertaining me, and that's why I'm dumping it for now.

The Ultimates 
Mark Millar created pure awesomeness with Ultimates volumes 1 and 2 but under a new writer volume 3 tanked. Volume 4 started out promising but I think it's dragging now and I don't really feel invested in the story. Like JLA, it's not a bad comic - it's pretty good. It's just not one I get excited about reading every month, which is my main criteria.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

USR is available from Lulu FREE! {USR}

My first RPG system, USR (Unbelievably Simple Role-playing) is now available to download for free. I intended on getting it out in February, but because I'll be moving into my sexy new apartment it probably wouldn't launch until late February/ early March, so here it is now!

USR is a really easy-to-play generic role-playing system that will be used as the basis of my future games. With USR you can play any genre you want using simple, character-driven rules that can be read in 15 minutes, meaning you can spend more time playing and less time looking up rules.

Character creation is fast and easy and level advancement relies on character development rather than min/maxing. There are rules for weapons that allow for anything from a wooden club to a gamma ray blaster and combat is quick and easy but can be changed to a higher level of complexity if the players prefer.

The whole system is flexible and modular, so feel free to change rules to whatever suits you. What matters is that you have great adventures and a fun time with your friends.

Two new solos released this week {T&T}

I've said it before, but I think that the T&T fanbase is one of the most creative and hard-working fanbases in RPG-dom. This week, two new solitaire adventures were released: Dragon's Blood and Temple of the Fool God.

Yup, T&T players are being spoiled this week with two great-looking adventures. First off, Dragon's Blood by Ken St Andre hit DriveThruRPG at the beginning of the week. This was published by Flying Buffalo and is an unusually higher-level adventure for levels 4+, so I reckon it's going to be a fairly difficult one to complete. I'll have a review up in February.

The other solo launched today and I reckon this is going to be a real treat. Temple of the Fool God is by fellow blogger-in-arms Stuart Lloyd or Lloyd of Gamebooks fame. Remember the guy who wrote the virtual handbook on gamebook writing? Yeah, that's Stuart, so I doubt this 190 paragraph romp will disappoint. The plot follows the delver attempting to retrieve priceless treasure from the belly of a mad god while avoiding tricks, traps and all that great stuff that just wants you dead. Again, I'll be putting a review of this up next week.

Friday, 27 January 2012

New info on classes in D&D Next {D&D}

Today Monte Cook, Bruce Cordell and Robert Schwalb talked about classes in the latest D&D Next seminar held on the WoTC site.

Here, the guys talked about their experiences with designing each class, giving us an insight into what we can expect from our favourite classes. Here's a summary of what we found out about the next edition:

Vancian magic is here to stay
It seems that Monte Cook has a soft spot for this sometimes-maligned system. Monte said:  "I know it's a bit contreversial, but I think Vancian magic is a core element of D&D. Maybe it's not the only option for magic, but it's definitely an iconic and flavorful one that I would like to retain. It's also an interesting way to handle game balance. For example wizards have magical feats that are basically at will abilities. Balancing them with vancian magic which are essentially daily abilities is an interesting way to go, especially when comparing to the fighter and rogue who have more of an at-will style play. It offers a very different playstyle than those other classes, but those different playstyles are something we want to embrace." So it looks like we'll see a mixture of 4th edition "unlimited magic missile" type spells and more old-school vancian shiz. 

Classes will be categorised by rarity
This is a weird one that people will probably have mixed feelings about. There will be common, uncommon and rare classes (or categories of that nature), which basically show the player what the easiest and the more complex classes are to play. Monte said: "Going along those lines we seperated things along the lines of what's common or uncommon. So for example fighters, clerics, wizards and clerics might be commmon while warlocks fall into uncommon and something like the assassin might be rare. This helps DMs determine what options they want to run in there games as well."

Magic items will be separate from character advancement
4e introduced the notion of treasure parcels, whereas each character received a cool magic item every level. Because they were tied so close to character development, magic items became compulsory and almost mundane. D&D Next will bring back mysterious and quest-focused magic items. Monte said: "We're running with the idea that magic items are special and not bound to character progression, though things could change through playtesting. But we want it to be something that the DM plans, or something that a player/character wants to go on a quest to get that magic item they've heard of or need to accomplish there goals."

Power sources will (probably) no longer be keywords
The most recent edition contained a hell of a lot of keywords tied to powers, even if it didn't seem logical. The new edition will seek to get rid of the jargon and make iconic classes that are archetypes of their power sources. Rob said: "We're not going to be using the power sources as keywords or anything any more (probably). You'll still have psionic characters and primal characters for example, but we won't be using those words or jargon to separate things." 

There will be fewer status effects 
While it wasn't a big deal in low-level play, status effects tend to rule combat in Paragon and Epic, which if not managed properly can be a massive headache for the DM. Status effects will be re-thought in the next version in light of this annoyance. Rob said: "So talking about things like stun, daze, and immobilzed right? Currently we're in the area that the effect should be relevant to the spell or power. For example there might be a power word stun spell that explains what stun in and goes from there. But we're probably not going to have too many abilities or spells that would do something like that."

Classes can be as complex as you want them to be
This will go some way to getting rid of the power bloat that plagued 4th edition. While it's great to have an array of options, having 4 pages of powers can hold a game up and stop the flow of combat. The new edition will allow players to make their classes as complex as they like, swapping out default attack bonuses for cool moves. Monte said: "If your fighter goes up a level and would normally get some bonus damage or a bonus to hit, or something simple, then maybe instead you could choose to replace that with an option or options that allow you to do some cool moves that allow you to push people around, or protect your allies a bit more, or control the battlefield a little more." 
Rob added: "Even in the core you varying levels of complexity within each class. Even the wizard has a base starting point that is less complex than what you can get into if you opt into some of the options."

Balance will be important, but not crucial
It looks like classes will have a good degree of balance, but they will also come into their own elements. Bruce said: "We definitely want the classes to be balanced, though having things exactly mathematically balanced isn't always the goal. Different classes or different play styles will shine at different moments, though of course we want everyone to be able to contribute in the common situations like combat."

Rituals will be "awesome"
I really like the idea of rituals, but they seemed to be pretty underused in 4e. Monte Cook really wants to make rituals as cool as possible that probably won't do mundane stuff like create campsite of animal messenger. Rob said: "Monte started running with the ball and wanted to make rituals there for the really big spells that are super awesome, but might take a bit longer to cast. I ran with that and really wanted to make them all very interesting and complex, and really invest the player/character in what they're doing." Moreover, magic will be mysterious again, rather than being second nature to every person and their mothers. Monte said: "Magic is taking a broader turn than just spells. In the past we got to the point where everything you encountered in the game had some kind of spell attached to it or that replecated the effect. I really want to go back to the idea that magic is mysterious and wierd and not always entirely definable. I think it's good for the story of the game when the DM can use it to help to define and area or maybe a unique magic item. Things like rituals help us accomplish that - makes things more open ended and more interesting and also takes away some of the focus from the wizard and puts it on other things in the world."

These were the main points brought up in the discussion. Now you're full of information, how do you feel about the new edition now we're finding out a bit more about it?

Thursday, 26 January 2012

What we learnt from the first D&D Next seminar {D&D}

Today Mike Mearls, Monte Cook and Jeremy Crawford shed a little more light on what we can expect from the new edition of D&D in a live chat on the WotC site. 

The theme of today's seminar was character advancement and how levelling will work in D&D Next. We gleaned some great information that got people in the room excited. The three WotC giants fielded questions and gave us some insight into what to expect.

Iconic monsters will remain threats at higher levels
This is something that has always bugged me about the game and it looks like it's finally being rectified. Iconic D&D monsters like goblins and orcs will be just as capable of challenging a party at 1st level as they will be at 8th level. Monte Cook said: "I think it offers a better play experience that the orc/ogre can remain in the campaign, and people can know how the monster would work from a previous experience, but they remain a challenge for longer." Instead of having a level 1, level 5, and level 8 orc, there will just be the quintessential 'orc' creature that easily scales. 

Levelling won't be all about big bonuses
To keep low-level monsters relevant as above, bonuses will be handled differently. Instead of a fighter gaining a constant stream of attack bonuses, he will gain a "modest" amount spread throughout the level spectrum. Instead of bonuses, characters will receive more options "to do stuff". This should allow for more roleplay-oriented gameplay.

Flexibility will be key to gameplay
It's clear that the designers want to make the game as flexible as possible to suit every play style. Jeremy said: "I would want to have the flexibility to swing back and forth between mass battles and normal sized encounters, and for the rules to cover those kinds of things." Customising combat to suit personal preferences is a great idea and allows for epic 4th edition battles along with smaller 1e skirmishes. 

More advice will be given to DM's on how to run games
One major complaint about 4e is that initially there was no real advice given to DM's about how to run a game in the new edition. This resulting in them going in with the same mindset as 3.5 and then realising that they're not having as much fun as they should be. In D&D Next, there will be a big focus on aiding the DM with tools and tips. Monte said: "We're going to give the DM a lot of tools to address players actions as well as rules discussions. We want to keep play moving quickly. The same goes for the player with too many options - we're planning on DM and player help to address as much of that as possible."

Old-school randomness will make a comeback
For those of you who mourned over a severe lack of random tables in the most recent rule-sets then prepare to rejoice. There will be random tables for DM's who prefer that kind of playstyle. Mike said: "I think D&D needs to have elements of chaos in it. Sometimes that can be funny, or weird or off the wall. I think that's one of the places where the randomness fo the d20 can come into play. I think that some of the recent history of the game has the designer buttoning down and eliminating some of that chaos, and we want to get away from that. It's the interactions between the DM, the players and the game that make it was it is, so we shouldn't stifle that."

Characters will feel like individuals
D&D Next will get rid of the 'copy and paste' model of 4e, where some powers were often mechanically the same but used by different classes. They're definitely trying to let players have it their own way, choosing what kind of wizard or fighter they want to be and having full reign over how they play it. Players will be able to make their characters as complex or simple as they like and this will (hopefully) work in group situations. Monte said: "Running a few playtests, I had at one long term table a guy who hadn't played since 1st editon, a guy who was more 3rd edtion and a guy who was recently in to 4th. The guy who hadn't played in 1st edition didn't want a lot of options. This solidified in my mind, along with the other evidence we've seen, that there are a lot of players who want to have very few options on their character sheet. As a game goes on, that guy might see some of the cool things that other classes are doing and might want to add some of those modular abilities. This is something that is easy to do and change as the character progresses - he can pick up some of those more modular options if he wants after that point."

The art will be harken back to the good old days
This is a great change and something that I can really get behind. While the recent art has been really good, it just hasn't really captured the gritty dungeon-delving lifestyle of heroes. Jeremy said: "In our recent art we've added a more diverse, modular approach - you've got people that look vastly different. You'll have the halfling who's a bit overweight with some food stains on his clothes along side the more heroic look dashing sort."

So it was a fantastic session where we learnt quite a bit about the new edition. Playtesting will begin in Spring, so look out for that special email in your inbox.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Sherlock Holmes in USR {USR}

Early February will see the release of my first roleplaying system, USR, which I'm really excited about. This is the beginning of a series of posts looking at characters in USR, starting with one of my favourite literary heroes of all time - Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes
Level 13
Consulting Detective

Action: d8
Wits: d10
Ego: d6
Hits: 73

Wits - Observant (+5), Chemistry (+4), Deduction (+5), Geography (+2)
Action -Handgun (+3),  Fencing (+2), Boxing (+2)

Sherlock Holmes is a renowned consulting detective from London, England. He is well known for his baffling powers of deduction and superior investigative skills. He knows much about the minutiae of seemingly random topics, such as cigar ash and varieties of mud, but this vast knowledge serves him well in his investigations. Although a loner, he does have one companion: Mr John Watson, who accompanies him on his many adventures. 

 So what do these stats tell use about Mr Homes? Having a high Wit score means that he is a very intelligent man who is perceptive and cunning. He also knows how to handle himself in a brawl, so hit Action is his secondary stat. His lowest attribute is Ego, which is due to Holmes' irritability, loner lifestyle and apparent rudeness towards others.

His specialisms sum up his life experience and what he has learnt through his countless cases. He is incredibly observant and well-versed in chemistry. The bonuses you see are added to their respective rolls when Holmes wants to use a specialism. For instance, if he were to use his Chemistry specialism, he would roll 1d10 + 4, the result ranging from a respectable 5 to a mind-boggling 14.

As you can see, characters in USR are very easy to make and advance. Attributes don't increase because they are very broad and someone can't automatically get better at everything within a given attribute. Instead, characters either level up a current specialism or add a new one that they have a logical reason for acquiring. This means that characters will gain experience through good roleplay and advance according to their character.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Announcing the Unbelievably Simple Roleplaying system (USR) {Trollish Delver Games}

Lately I've been having a lot of different ideas for RPGs and I want to be able to do them all. The trouble is that they're all different, from the gamebook series DemonLord, the RPG of pulp heroes Derring-Do, and the time-travelling alien invasion game Dwellers. I have written a bare bones of rules for each of these games, but I'm not entirely happy with them. So instead I've created my own generic roleplaying system called USR (Unbelievably Simple Roleplaying), which I will be releasing in early February. 

USR is a very simple (hence the name) system that can be used for any genre. I will be putting the system up for sale on Lulu and possibly DriveThruRPG/RPGNow for a small fee, likely $1 or even for nothing. I'm pretty pleased with how it's turned out and USR will serve as the basis for all future Trollish Delver Games RPGs, including:

  • DemonLord - a gamebook adventure book set in a dark and twisted world where the legions of hell walk the earth. Genre: low fantasy
  • Derring-Do - a game of two-fisted pulp adventure where players take on the roles of 1950s heroes out to fight for freedom and justice. Genre: pulp heroes
  • Dwellers - aliens have invaded Earth, but not in a way you would think. They have spread themselves throughout the timestream, from ancient Greece to the far-flung future. Players take on the role of 'Hoppers', who are tasked with tracking down and killing these Dwellers.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Get your face in a T&T adventure {T&T}

I don't mean pick up a copy of Arena of Khazan and start rubbing it against your cheeks. Liz Danforth, master artist who has done work for Magic: The Gathering and Tunnels & Trolls is giving you the chance to be drawn into the new French version of classic adventure Buffalo Castle. 

Liz is letting people bid on having their face stuck on one of four characters in the book, with a closing date of February 5th. If you fancy being part of roleplaying history, then her blog has all the details you need.

For those unfamiliar with Buffalo Castle, it was the first solitaire adventure for Tunnels & Trolls and the first ever gamebook of its kind. You might have thought The Warlock of Firetop Mountain was the first gamebook, but that was actually released six years after Buffalo Castle.

While Buffalo Castle is a rather generic dungeon crawl that lacks a lot of the imagination that went into subsequent books, it still stands as the classic solitaire adventure and is often used as a gauntlet for freshly rolled characters by T&T fans. Author Rick Loomis has stated that the main purpose of the solo is to get folks interested into the game, which I think it does pretty well. You have your wandering monsters, traps and phat lewt: the basis of every good T&T adventure.

Flying Buffalo has kindly put the whole solo up online if you want to give it a shot.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Shipman continues to pirate T&T material {T&T}

James Shipman is infamous within the Tunnels & Trolls community for a history of ultra-dodgy dealings, from flogging a facsimile copy of 1st edition as genuine to flat out stealing artwork for a vast number of talented and hard-working artists, including some of my friends. 

Unfortunately the little cretin continues his baffling digital kleptomania by putting new solos and adventures on his site for free, even though many of them aren't available freely from the publishers. His latest additions have been the brand new Dwarf World and Formication by Ken St. Andre and Sid Orpin respectively.

Please, please, PLEASE! If you come across Shipman's site and you see the list of pirated adventures - don't get them, or if you do make sure you try and find the real version and actually purchase it. Not only will you be helping out the small press RPG community that T&T relies on, you will also be receiving a much better quality copy of the adventure since Shipman just copies the text into a Word document and puts it online.

In similar news, I have a hunch that Shipman is behind the recent one-star reviews of T&T material on RPGNow. A certain reviewer called Chip Suel has been posting negative scores for adventures and Trollszine offering, in my eyes, one-sided criticism. The thing that makes me think it's Shipman is because of the references to Hobbit Hole being still available and saying the artwork in Trollszine has been taken from Hobbit Hole. The reviewer says:
"Overall TrollsZine #1 was just okay, even if most of the artwork from this issue has been used before in The Hobbit Hole. Shouldn’t that be credited to it? I’ve since heard that TrollsZine has stalled at issue #3, but that seems very ironic seeing how TrollsZine said The Hobbit Hole was dead, yet it still lives. Wanting something to die doesn't make it true. Keep up the good quality, but leave out the nasty Trollhalla politics."
He also references Dungeoneer's Digest, which is another Shipman publication, so either this is an overly-critical T&T fan that's blind to Shipman's bullshit, or it's the slimy hobbit himself.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Livingstone writing new Fighting Fantasy book {Fighting Fantasy}

Good news everyone! Fighting Fantasy/ Games Workshop/ Eidos god Ian Livingstone has announced that he is hard at work penning a new Fighting Fantasy book to coincide with the 30th anniversary of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. 

This will be Livingstone's first original FF gamebook since Eye of the Dragon in 2005, but he has of yet to come up with a title. He said that it's possible that he may give the fans a choice of two and have them vote on it.

Ian Livingstone
Today I've spent 12 hours working on my new Fighting Fantasy book. Writing branching narrative is hard work. I'm getting too old for this!

The new book will be released in August, but until then Livingstone is giving fans updates via Twitter, including live tweeting brief passages.

Ian Livingstone
Live: 277 If you want to carry on running towards the ladder, turn to 134. If you want to retreat back through the double doors, turn to 249

When I got in touch with him for some clarification, he told me that he's currently not thinking of another book after this one. But we'll see how it goes, eh?

Ian Livingstone
 Actually I am adding some new twists to a couple of sections of the 30th anniversary book. Not thinking of another one yet!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The digital adventurer -an interview with Tin Man Games {Interviews}

He recently stated that 2012 will be the year of the gamebook and it looks like he's right. Neil Rennison is the Creative Director of Tin Man Games, the studio behind the highly popular Gamebook Adventures series on iOS and the upcoming Judge Dredd gamebook app. I managed to snag Neil for an interview where he told me about the origin of Tin Man and what we can expect from the gamebook renaissance.  

What was your first experience with a gamebook?
An easy first question! That would be the Fighting Fantasy book, Deathtrap Dungeon. I was on a family trip to the south coast in the UK and we couldn't go on the beach as the weather was terrible (what's new eh?) so I wandered down to a small bookshop at the end of the beach car park. There before me was the disgusting bloodbeast that adorns the cover and as kid who loved monsters and gore, I presuaded my mum to buy it for me. That moment was so important to me and catapulted me not only into the world of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks but also in the whole RPG genre.

How did Tin Man Games come about?
I was running a UK based games art outsourcing company called Fraction Studios for a number of years. We worked on a lot of ports of titles like Need For Speed and Tiger Woods for handheld consoles and mobile phones. While I really enjoyed working in that space, I was very keen to create my own games. Both my wife and I had planned to move to Australia so it seemed like the perfect time to start an independent games developer, especially as I had made a bit of money from Fraction Studios to get things up and running. After we moved to Melbourne in 2008 I founded TMG in October of that year. Ben Britten Smith joined me later in 2009 and Gamebook Adventures well and truly kicked off!

Did you think it was going to be as successful as it has been?
I always knew we had a good chance to build the Gamebook Adventures brand as we were at the forefront of a new technology in the form of smart phones and tablets. E-books were becoming popular and it made sense to bring back the interactive storybook genre to these devices. What surprised me was how quickly Gamebook Adventures became a brand. While it was our intention to get GA out there as a digital only series and be seen as a new take on interactive gamebooks, it very quickly got compared to Fighting Fantasy and Choose Your Own Adventure and in many examples held up alongside those famous titles - something we are very proud of achieving.

Fighting Fantasy veteran Jonathan Green is one of the writers for Gamebook Adventures. How much input do you have in the story when he's writing?
Actually not that much! Jon is a very creative fantasy and science-fiction writer and we didn't want to burden him too much. Not only that but he's written more gamebooks than we have during his career, so we knew we could learn from him too - his knowledge of gamebook design is second-to-none! The only time where we did discuss narrative elements were in relation to our fantasy world and even then, Jon was the one asking the majority of the questions and probing us on the best way to fit his story elements into our world and continuity.

What's the most difficult thing about making Gamebook Adventures?
The most difficult thing about making GA is keeping the financial train on the track - a boring answer, but sadly very true of most independent game developers. It costs a lot of money to develop an app and has cost a lot of money to develop our gamebook engine and software tools. Even though we have secured bit of funding from bodies like Film Victoria and Multimedia Victoria, much of the last couple of years we have developed on a shoestring, which has sometimes meant that both Ben and myself (as well as some of the other GA contributors) get very little financial reward, if any, at times. This can be tough when you have mortgages or rent to pay. Our business model hasn't never been about a quick pay off however and we're well aware of that - it's all a long-term plan. Ben and myself have a motto: "Slow Burn Baby!".

Late last year you managed to acquire the rights to Judge Dredd. What thought processes go into making a gamebook for such a huge licence?
The key to Judge Dredd was getting the right people on board to work with us. Our current writer and illustrator know the Dredd universe inside out which is invaluable with such a complex license where the devil is all in the details. Our aim for Dredd is to provide a gamebook experience for the fans whilst at the same time bring Judge Dredd to new audiences. It's a delicate tightrope to walk, but one I believe we are achieving at the moment.

Do you envision a series of Dredd books?
That would be great! At the moment we're going to see how this gamebook goes down and take it from there with Rebellion. If I had my way we'd have at least a trilogy and perhaps look at other 2000 AD characters. I get a lot of people asking me for Rogue Trooper or Slaine gamebooks - so you never know.

If you could get any licence, what would it be?
Now this is a difficult question! This is mainly because we're starting a process of actively seeking out existing licenses and saying anything at all in relation to those at this stage could damage the process. I will say this though, that I believe we could bring interactive fiction to any number of novel, comic, movie, TV or video game characters and worlds! Apologies for being so vague.

You recently said on your blog that 2012 will be "the year of the gamebook" and gave your reasons. Do you think there will be a resurgence in interest in the genre?
I already think there is and has been for a year or so! 2010/2011 certainly laid the foundations of a renaissance and I really think 2012 will be the year where we'll see lots of really cool gamebook projects appearing especially in the digital domain. Many of the "old school" gamebook writers and illustrators have come to the fore again and I know many who are working on exciting projects - a lot of them with us thankfully!

Can you give us a clue as to what we might be expecting from you guys further into 2012?
More of the same and lots of different! Our key this year is going multi-platform and getting GA out to as many people as possible. While iOS has been fantastic for us, we're well aware that Android is a huge market. We also think that we can make GA work on desktop platforms so expect PC and Mac versions later in 2012. As for the gamebooks themselves, expect to see more set in our fantasy setting of Orlandes, with a couple of sequels to An Assassin in Orlandes and Slaves of Rema. We have our first Sci-Fi gamebook out in February called Infinite Universe, which we're going to experiement as free to download and offer the reader the option for paying for chapters. We also have a series called Gun Dogs later in the year which is illustrated by Gary Chalk of Lone Wolf fame. As well as lots of other things we can't discuss, we also have a crack team of U.S based writers creating a brand new gamebook series which we're aiming more towards a female demographic - a little less testosterone flying around.

Is there anything else you'd like to say?
Turn to page 400.

Thanks to Neil for the interview. Trollish Delver wishes Tin Man Games all the best in 2012 and I'll be reporting on all the cool new stuff that's released from this awesome company. 

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Atomic Robo RPG promises action, science and robots {News}

Evil Hat Productions announced today that they will be publishing the Atomic Robo roleplaying game based on the Eisner-nominated comic book series, of which I'm a huge fan.

Atomic Robo writer Brian Clevinger and Strange Fate creator Mike Olson, are working on the rules for the upcoming book.

“I’m such a big fan of the world Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener create in every page of Atomic Robo,” said Fred Hicks of Evil Hat. “When I found out they were fans of role-playing games—including Evil Hat’s own Spirit of the Century—it was clear we had a giant-sized opportunity that had to be pursued.”

The RPG will begin development in February and we may be looking at a 2012/13 release, as the folks at Evil Hat "want to take [their] time to make sure we serve the license and the fans well." 

With Atomic Robo's pulp style, the publishers of Spirit of the Century are a great pick to release the RPG, promising to deliver fast-paced gameplay and "high-weirdness" that will do the licence justice.

If you've never picked up an Atomic Robo volume before then I highly recommend it. This is possibly the most fun comic out there at the moment and a real treat for the science fans among us. The story follows the adventures of Atomic Robo, the titular character invented by Nikolai Tesla. Each volume features a standalone story, from Second World War adventure to Lovecraftian pulp horror. This is one of the funniest and creative comics around and I can't wait to play the RPG. 

Cheers, Evil Hat!

Monday, 9 January 2012

What you need to know about D&D '5th edition' {D&D}

Earlier today, Wizards of the Coast officially announced the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons, an event that has now been covered in major media outlets like CNN, Forbes and The New York Times. Ever since Monte Cook hopped aboard the WoTC train, we've all been waiting for this reveal and it's a pretty interesting one. Here's what you need to know about the next edition of D&D.

It will encompass all editions
We know that D&D 5th edition, or D&D Next as some twitter users are saying, is going to try its best to please everyone, from the grognards to the new guard. The game will be modular, beginning with a basic game and allowing the players to build on it depending on their own play style. That's right, we're not getting the MMO many of us were worried about, but tailored experience. Mike Mearls said: “We hope to create a system that allows players to use much of their existing content, regardless of the edition. Our goal is to make sure we are on course for a game that hits the broad spectrum of D&D.The question remains that with this new modular take on the game, will WoTC be putting out endless supplements? Very possibly.

It will have open playtesting 
One very encouraging tid-bit from the news is that the new edition will utilise open playtesting, which will allow the players to shape the game before its release. Wizards has been criticised in the past for not quite being in touch with the player-base and it's clear they're trying to rectify this. If you're interested in taking part then you can register here.

Forgotten Realms will be the first setting
Wizards has stated that Forgotten Realms will be the setting that will supported from the get-go. There's no doubt that others will follow, but from the sounds of it they're going to go all out with Forgotten Realms by releasing material for its entire history. Expect this to be massive.

GenCon 2012 will reveal the first draft
Mearls has stated that this year's GenCon will show off the first draft of the game and people will get to have a gander to see what's what. Whether there will be any demo games remains to be seen, but I imagine that they will be saving these for 2013.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Prep an adventure in the time it takes to boil an egg {GM Secrets}

We've all been there. It's the night of your regular campaign and you gather around the table eager to roll some dice. Except, only two people have shown up because the others bailed last minute because of illness or work. The adventure you've worked on won't work even if you scale it down for two players, but fortunately you have a bunch of back-up games. But how do you prep when you're about to start?

Use Toys of the Sandbox
When you have no time to come up with a location, NPCs and an adventure hook then Toys of the Sandbox can help. Containing all the aforementioned information along with maps and encounters, having a copy of this tool with you at every game night will mean that you'll be prepared for a change in game. Right now Toys of the Sandbox only caters for fantasy systems, but a clever GM could re-skin it for other genres like sci-fi and steam punk.

Generate a random adventure
If you game with your laptop, then head over to the Donjon random adventure generator which gives you a smorgasbord of ideas for your game. With a framework containing things like story hooks, themes, villains and even red herrings, it'll take you about 5 minutes to sketch down your ideas and hey presto! you have an adventure. The site also has random dungeon generators and a bunch of cool generators for sci-fi games too. If you're running 4e then the good folks at Dungeons Master have even created a pre-made character library you can quickly pull from.

Run a co-operative story RPG
There's a tonne of pressure on the GM when coming up with an adventure, so why not alleviate some of that pressure by running a co-operative game. 3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars is one of my personal favourites, as it requires about 4 minutes of prep time and the rest is up to the GM and the players to unravel the story as they go. Other such games are Polaris, Capes and While the World Ends, and the great thing is that they're relatively inexpensive.

Use Mythic GM emulator
I've yammered on about Mythic in the past when talking about solo RPGs, but one of the other uses for the engine is group play. The best thing about Mythic is that you need almost no prep: the GM and players come up with a premise and then the random dice rolls do the rest of the work for you. I recommend using rules-lite games with Mythic so you don't get bogged down with dice rolls and rules. Risus, Tunnels & Trolls and Swords & Wizardry work really well, I've found.

How to wargame on the cheap {Wargaming}

Wargaming can be a hugely expensive hobby, especially if you're creating a huge army one soldier at a time. From paints and flock to the miniatures themselves, wargaming is a hobby that can quickly leave you out of pocket. But worry not, fair armchair general, because it doesn't have to be like that. You can enjoy wargaming without worrying about your bank balance with this handy guide.

Use paper minis
Believe it or not, you can build an entire army for free. Well, as long as you have a printer with ink in it. There are a few sites that offer free paper minis like One Monk, and you can even get 3D terrain pieces for free too! While this is the cheapest way to get an army together, the spectacle of a huge miniature army is diminished by the fact that all your soldiers can easily fall over with a breeze. If you want a quick army for free, then use paper minis, but if you want something a bit meatier then there are other ways to save money and get great armies.

Shop around
We all know that Games Workshop has the monopoly on fantasy and science fiction wargaming and it's often the first place a beginner will go for their first army. While the miniatures are of good quality (though definitely not the best) they are getting increasingly pricey, especially if you're buying your paints and terrain from their stores. Instead of going straight for the mainstream minis, shop around online. There are loads of sites selling quality minis at much lower prices, even as little as £7 for 50 men and there are various art outlets that will sell the appropriate paints for half as much as Games Workshop.

Scale your game
Arguably the most popular model size is 28mm because of how easy they are to paint and how awesome an entire 28mm army looks on the tabletop. Of course, the bigger they are, the harder you'll pay so scaling your models to 15mm or even 6mm will save you a lot of money and still look impressive on the battlefield. Hell, my preferred mass war size is a mere 2mm, which actually looks great and costs next to nothing. The only problem is that small minis are more difficult to paint, so you'll need a steady hand.

Change your format from mass combat to skirmish
Wargaming isn't all about huge battles, and although they might look cool, you can have just as much fun (or more!) with skirmish games. These types of games give the players control of small warbands of typically 5-15 minis with a focus on personalities and special abilities. Obviously buying a handful of miniatures costs far less than forking out for 100 and it also means you can afford the high quality ranges. Personally I think Song of Blades and Heroes is one of the best fantasy skirmish games out there and well worth a buy.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

5 free RPGs you can download right now {Free Stuff}

Everyone likes free things, so here are five RPGs you can get your hands on right now for no money whatsoever: 

Cubicle 7 is one of the great British RPG powerhouses and most of the games I've read are high quality and well-written. Renaissance is a d100 system for historical and fantasy gaming containing gunpowdery explosive goodness. The game uses OpenQuest rules, so if you're familiar with Runequest or Legend you can easily get to grips with Renaissance.

Download here.

Atomic Highway
If post-apocalyptic Mad Max style adventure is what you're looking for, then 2010 Ennie nominee Atomic Highway has a high probability of floating your boat. The system is built on the V6 Engine, which promises action-packed cinematic style gameplay. While you have all your usual stock post-apocalyptic tropes like mutants and salvageable items, the book also details how to create your own unique setting, which I think is pretty damned cool.

Download here.

Over the past few years there have been some great superhero roleplaying games released, such as Icons and Wild Talents 2nd Edition, but in my mind there's always room for more. Kapow! is built with the SFX! System which keeps the game flowing, allowing the players to really feel like heroes. It may not look like much from the cover, but this little game has it where it counts.

Download here.

With a positive review from Trollish Delver friend Tenkar's Tavern, you know Novarium is going to be good. While it's set in a fantasy realm, the premise is actually really original. An angel visited the land of Vaena and endowed ever female with magic, turning the tables of what was a patriarchal society into one where women have risen into power. Each player has a primary and secondary character, where the secondary tends to things like research and care for their land while the primary is off on quests. Oh, and the art is smashing!

Download here.

The Age of Shadow: Roleplaying Game
If you want good honest fantasy fun, then you might want to give The Age of Shadows a bash. This is another one based on OpenQuest and has a gritty, deadly feel, where combats are quick and brutal. While not a lot has been changed from the original system, there are a few modifications and for the price of breathing, you'd be silly not to get it.

Download here.

Where's the House of Hell post? {Fighting Fantasy}

Well, after I tweeted about the latest developments in the House of Hell movie I was contacted by the studio asking me to delete them. Apparently the information given was not for public consumption. It's probably my fault for not explicitly stating I ran a blog, though I did include the address in the email. The last thing I want to do is piss the people off that are making a Fighting Fantasy film. So I deleted the tweets and the original blog post.

Apologies to the guys at Superteam Studios, but be sure that I'll be contacting you down the road for an official interview.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Turn your workplace into a living RPG (and increase productivity) {Gamification}

Work and play generally don't go together unless you're a sports person and your whole career is a game. Our hobby is separate from our day jobs, but what if you could blend the two together and create a game that's not only fun, it actually encourages you to work better? 

Gamification is a philosophy in which game conventions are applied to non-game situations. Processes that were once mundane are now goal-oriented and more fun. People are more productive when they think they're taking part in a game because of the consistent gratification games bring and the clear tasks they're given. Using gamification, we can begin to see how this method can be applied to the workplace in order to enhance enjoyment of fulfilling tasks and increasing productivity.

Create a quest list and start levelling up
The to-do list is the backbone of most people's workday, so this is the easiest aspect of work to transform into a roleplaying game. Your to-dos become your quests and each quest grants experience points upon completion. The number of points directly reflects on the difficulty of the task in hand, meaning you will gain more experience points for more difficult and time-consuming tasks. Take this table as a guide:
5xp - send an email/ call someone
5xp - arrange a meeting
5xp - clear desk of clutter
10xp - take notes in a meeting
20xp - complete an important report
+5xp for every day you are under deadline
-5xp for every day you are over deadline
Experience points are tallied up at the end of the week and kept in a spreadsheet. Every 1000xp you increase a level and every time you level up you can treat yourself in some way, whether it's to a big dessert or a new DVD - whatever makes you happy - you've earned it.

Get Epic Win for iOS
If you don't feel like manually tracking all your experience points then there's an app that can do it for you as well as a bunch of other cool stuff. Epic Win allows you to collect xp and gold for tasks as well as battle evil monsters and level up your stats. You get a quest map which you move along for every quest you fulfil and each new location contains a cool new over-the-top sounding item.

Roll random office encounters
One of the best parts of any RPG are the bloody fights we get into (in character). There's no reason why you can't have a dice battle or two during your regular work day though. Draw up a list of 12 monsters you can battle so you can roll 2d6 to fight one Write them out on a spreadsheet, but codify them so it still looks like work. For example, an Orc could just be 'O' and a Balrog, 'BG'. Give each monster a number from 0-3. After you complete a tasks with a total of 40xp you can roll for a wandering monster using a web-based roller. When one comes up you must fight it, first rolling a d6 for the monster and adding the number you have associated with it. Then roll your die plus your level. Whoever has the highest number wins the battle. A win is worth 5xp. Note that every time you increase in level, move the monsters' number threshold up by one, so if you're level 2 then monsters will be +1 to 4 and so on.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

How to choose a new game for a new year {RPGs}

The new year gives us a chance to shake off those old 2011 cobwebs and have a fresh start. While many of you, like myself, will still be in the middle of a campaign or perhaps rounding one off, why not use the 2012 as a springboard to play some fresh new games?

Everyone and their mothers have played Dungeons & Dragons, and while it tickles the sweet roleplaying spot, so many games fall by the wayside. This year, crawl out of your comfort zone a bit and be adventurous instead of falling back on the most popular games on the shelves. You never know: you might find the RPG of your dreams hidden away in your local hobby store or deep in the pages of RPGNow.

So how do you go about choosing a new game? First off you need to figure out whether you want to have a massive three-year-long campaign or a series of one-shots that wrap up in 6 months. In my own group we're going to start playing GURPS on the last Thursday of every month in between our 4e campaign, which will be coming to an end mid-year. After that we will either turn GURPS into a full-time thing or keep the format and get something new.

Follow your curiosity
It's good to select games by taste, but sometimes it pays to get something that you wouldn't at first glance want to buy or a game that piques your curiosity. For example, I bought Tales from the Wood, a game about anthropomorphasised woodland creatures, because I was interested in the setting and how the author might make it work. Although I was apprehensive at the game being complete garbage, I actually really enjoyed it. Sure, it could be that you play something that's catastrophically bad, but at least you've tried it and you can now move on to something else.

Alter your setting
If you've spent the last two years roaming around a fantasy realm then there's little point in going back to another fantasy game unless your group is desperate to play a certain game. Try and steer as far away as possible from your last setting. If you played space opera, go historical. If you indulged in horror, go for a more light-hearted, comical game. Shifting from one setting to a completely different one will also serve to shake up the players, who will have carved out their own roles in your previous game so now they're dunked into unusual territory they'll have to think about their new role.

Play publisher roulette
Rather than sticking to the big publishers, pull up a list of every publisher you can find and randomly select one. You can do this by simply going to your favourite RPG download site like DrivethruRPG and using the publisher drop down menu. Once you've got your publisher, check out what they're selling and get whatever system gets you curious. I just tried this method and pulled up Psypher 2430, a sci-fi RPG I have never heard of, plus it's super cheap.

Of course, these are just some suggestions of what you could do to find a new game. However, if you want to hop from D&D to Pathfinder then by all means do it. If you're happy with what you know and love then that's awesome, but a little RPG experimentation could go a long way to broadening your horizons and finding a game you love even more.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Cons I want to attend this year {Conventions}

Right now it's almost 4am and I'm feeling absolutely lousy, so I've made myself a cup of hot milk and sat myself in the living room. Fun times. 

Being up has given me some time to think about what conventions I want to attend this year. Being based in England, big cons like Gen-Con are non-existent, but from the looks of it there are a few that look pretty good.

Me and my buddies attended the inaugural Kapow! Comic-con last year and had a blast. This is really the UK's answer to SDCC and although there were numerous teething problems, I can see huge potential in the coming years.

Thought Bubble 
Another comic convention, but one that's probably the most established in the country. Showcasing the hottest talent around, TB is a great place to check out some great indie comics alongside huge names like John Romita Jr and Kev Walker.

UK Games Expo
I imagine this is the closest to Gen-Con that we have in this country, so it would be great to try to make it this year. Although there's a heavy focus on wargaming and boardgames, there should be a fair amount of roleplaying to be head as well as Living Munchkin.

Although much smaller than UKGEX, Con-Quest is much more roleplaying and CCG oriented from the looks of things and this is likely where I'll run my first ever con game (probably T&T, but we'll see).

Probably the biggest con in the UK as far as flat-out roleplay is concerned and somewhere that I've always wanted to attend. Hopefully I'll rub shoulders with industry giants and some of my favourite fantasy authors.

Beer & Pretzels Games Weekend
I badly wanted to attend this year but real life got in the way. Another small one, but an event that's been growing since its inception. I know that some of my fellow T&T fans attend, so hopefully I can get there and run a game this year.

If you're attending any of the above events then do let me know - I'd love to meet with TD readers!