Sep 25, 2011

Mouseguard RPG boxed set the Unboxing

Seems like boxed set RPG's come fewer and farther between these days. I was surprised to find that Mouseguard RPG, one of my favorite RPG's to come out recently, was being released in a boxed set. So I had to order it and wait patiently for it to arrive.

The wait was worthwhile. The components are gorgeous. And unlike the recent "red box", this set isn't a large box filled mostly with air. It is packed with quality parts: a softcover version of the original rules book, a 48-page supplement with adventure scenarios, a GM deck of 12 Action Cards, two Player Decks of 12 Action Cards, Condition Cards, Characters Sheets, GM sheets, a GM screen, Mouse Dice, Mouse Playing pieces and a Map of the Mouse Territories.

That's a lot of value in a surprisingly deep box. From pictures I thought it would be much smaller. And the square format is quite novel and pleasant. Everything is gorgeously designed the layout, the art, the typesetting. I'm looking forward to reading through this and hopefully convincing some friends to play!

Sep 15, 2011

The Complete Tome of Horrors

The third party 3rd edition "d20" products varied widely in quality and usefulness. The vast majority of them deserved no better than a trip to the landfill. There are a few exceptions though, and the Tome of Horrors was one of them.

The Tome of Horrors, of which there were three in total, brought back the menagerie of monsters from D&D's dusty past and updated them for the d20 system. The beauty of it was that the updating was so well done that little effort was needed to run them in your own classic D&D game.

And now Frog God Games has brought back this classic trilogy for the Pathfinder system. While I am fond of Pathfinder in many ways, I much prefer the original in my own game sessions.

Paizo is running a limited time offer to get all 3 Tome of Horrors in one monstrous 800 page book! I have long since lost interest in such encyclopedic volumes, but I do love it in PDF format for my iPad - which I have migrated as much of my collection to as I have been able to. I love being able to bring this one thin lightweight device to the gaming table that also provides instant search.

I've already purchased the PDF and have been enjoying reading through it. Adventure ideas leap out at every page!

Sep 11, 2011

The Two Towers

In 2002 the best of the LotR movies came out. History often seems to have interesting parallels to it, who could have imagined that the themes in good professor Tolkein's mighty trilogy would tie so directly to events surrounding the release of these movies? Film critic John Mclaren in his review of The Two Towers puts it well:
The screenplay explains (with barely disguised contemporary resonance) what we are protecting in Western civilisation when we defend ourselves against those who would wish to destroy it. When Sam tells Frodo that there are "some things worth fighting for", when Merry tells Pippin that there "won't be a Shire" unless they do something about it, when King Theoden laments that "the sun has gone down in the West" this film could be entitled not the "Two Towers" but "the Twin Towers". It is Miltonic in its scope. It is cinema as art.
I love Peter Jackson's interpretation to film of LotR. Each film is unique and wonderful in its own way, and work remarkably well together as one giant 9+ hour movie. But of the 3, The Two Towers is my favorite, and is the only one that wasn't improved by the "extended editions". The theatrical release was perfect to me. The pacing, the framing devices, the epic clash of good and evil so well drawn. And it also had an eerie relevance to what was going on in the world at the time. (ok, I could have done without Legolas surfing down steps on a shield, but that is the only thing I didn't like, and that is only a minor annoyance).

Sep 6, 2011

Estebon Maroto's Lizard Men

Pretty cool take on lizard men. Maroto's art is one of the original inspirations for D&D art.

Sep 5, 2011

Shortsighted TSR

When D&D exploded into my middle-school world I had no comprehension of the history of the game. I searched desperately at bookstores for copies of the DMG and MM, to no luck. I do faintly recall a bookstore in Tucson AZ that had some unrecognizable D&Dish books, but they weren't the droids I was looking for. In hindsight I think they were Judges Guild products, but it was so long ago I can't be sure.

It took some time for me to get the core books, though I did get a few Dragon issues early on (the mighty #83 being the first, and still my favorite, if only for nostalgia's sake).
It was only later that I discovered that the PHB was really intended to be the gateway drug for AD&D. And it was one of the last of the hardcover books that I acquired back then!

TSR always seemed embarrassed about the original D&D. What I mean is they were constantly trying to make new RPG systems to get away from it. Classic D&D seemed to be the neglected orphan as the company went on to AD&D and AD&D 2nd edition getting further and further away from the elegance of the original game that was such a huge hit.

For a short time I was enamored with GURPS. Looking back now I don't understand why TSR didn't take the original D&D and adapt it to other genres to become the first true universal RPG. Instead they made various RPG's that bore little resemblance to their breadwinner. Boothill, Gamma World, Star Frontiers, Top Secret, Marvel Super Heroes, and the infamous Indiana Jones RPG and so on.
I'm all for innovation, but when you have the best and best selling RPG in the world, why in the world do you do everything in your power to run away from it? Why weren't these game designed to be fully compatible with the original D&D? There was obviously more going on at TSR than good creative direction. What a sad state of affairs to end up being bought out by an usurper like WotC! All because you don't "get" your #1 product.

When I look out at the OSR landscape I am blow away and inspired by the creativity and passion for this beloved game. But, I see a little bit of the short sightedness that blinded TSR. Why are so many trying to copy, to duplicate -literally- the original edition, when there are so many frontiers left to be discovered that the original edition can be adapted to?