RPG Blog Carnival – Monster & Maps

When I started working on Open Game Table I asked for people to choose what categories of posts they would want in the anthology. New maps and monsters came out as one of the top categories, but the problem was that these were one of the least blogged about topics. We had virtually no submissions on these topics, save for a very few excellent posts. So, when it came to be my turn again to host the RPG Blog Carnival for February I naturally chose Maps & Monsters to be the topic. I’m very pleased to report that we had some excellent contributions as a result.

  1. The Art of the Near TPK not only features a regular new monster or other crunchy bit for your 4E game… but Jennifer Weigel (one of the artists contributing to Open Game Table) usually adds in her own illustrations of these Weekly What the Heck creatures. Last month we saw:
    1. The Demodracosauralisk (L15 Elite Artillery)
    2. Triclops Manipulator (L20 Soldier) and the Ultimate Dungeon Master (L35 Solo Brute) LOL!
    3. Shellsong Siren (L10 Lurker) and the Archaic Gastropod (L2 Soldier)
  2. Project Valient also contributed — but sadly their site has vanished (anyone know what happened?).
  3. Newbie DM delivers again, this time with his first post to be included in the RPG Blog Carnival — Rufus Drunkbeard and a map of his tavern for 4E D&D.;
  4. Vulcan Stev comes out swinging with three new NPCs and creatures for Pirates of the Spanish Main RPG. If you like Pirates of Caribbean and want the stats of a whole host of characters and creatures from those flicks for your PotSM RPG game — drop by his site and check out all his hard work. Anytime someone includes a Monkey, a Kraken, and a dead guy in the same post — he’s on my A-list
  5. Compromise and Conceit’s author wants you to use your camera as a automatic map-maker in “Map-making the easy way…” He also posts “Infernal Constructs: The Myrmidon” along with some amazing artwork — click through to see it.
  6. Bob over at The Dice Bag jumps into the carnival with some excellent musings on “The Value of a Good Map“. So — do you loath mapping for RPGs too?
  7. RPG Brouhaha reviews the online “E-Adventures Mapping Tool“. Individual experiences may vary — but Harnish’s review is worth a look if you are looking for something useful for quick, easy mapping.
  8. Chgowiz from Chgowiz’s Old Guy RPG Blog throws his name into the carnival hat with a PDF download of his WinterWar campaign adventures – “The Kobold Caves of Terror“.
  9. Fame & Fortune also adds some maps to the mix with “Undead Maps for the Carnival“.
  10. Mad Brew Labs also shows up to the carnival, post in hand, with “Map Tutorial from the Cartographers’ Guild“. Mad Brew links to an amazing tutorial that — if anything — should top your reading list to check out in depth.
  11. Spirits of Eden shows up as well with 4E D&D; stats for Utsuho, the final boss of Subterranean Animism and Kuannei, a world-ending “Scourge” monster. RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!
  12. And finally, Mike Bourke of Campaign Mastery contributes to the carnival with a MASSIVE 3 – part series (!) with “The Flói Af Loft & The Ryk Bolti“; which is quite possibly the weirdest blog post title I’ve ever seen too. Go get a cup of coffee… and enjoy this lengthy read; it will be well worth your time.

That is it! Excellent work by everyone involved… my only wish is that I had more time to participate in my own way other than hosting it. Hopefully, once Open Game Table is published… I’ll have more time to just get back to blogging. =D

    Worldwide D&D Game Day Blog Carnival

    Wizards of the Coast will be kicking off its annual Worldwide D&D; Game Day on March 21st, 2009. These events are cast as a hybrid mini-con / new release party / gaming event. It’s good marketing for WotC too, as it brings together people into their local hobby, game, and book stores to play D&D;, win free stuff, and buy the new releases.

    My FLGS is Dream Wizards in Rockville, MD, and I’m planning on “covering” the event. I mean covering as in how the press media covers events as they happen. I doubt I’ll be live blogging it, but I will be posting a story about my impressions of the event at Dream Wizards later that day or the following day.

    I want to ask the rest of the RPG blogging community to do the same. Visit your local hobby or game store and cover the event as a blogger, player, DM, or simple observer; whatever suites you best. Need to know the closest location where the event is going to be hosted? Use the WotC Store & Event Locator service.

    Now… Why would you want to do this?

    Well, for one, I’m not proposing we do this as a means to prop up WotC in the blogosphere. I’m suggesting we do this … for us. By visiting your local game stores, and connecting with the owner and operators of those stores, you increase your own presence in your community. You will make a new connection between the ether of the blogosphere and your physical local community. You can gauge the intrest other gamers have in “RPG blogging” or, if they didn’t know or hadn’t heard about our community, you can challenge them to visit your blog and check out what our community is all about.

    Oh, and don’t forget to prop up the RPG Bloggers Network. This is the proverbial firehose of the RPG blogging community.

    If you are a blogger, and plan to cover the event then leave a comment here. A few days after the event I’ll post a blog carnival round up of the event with links to everyone’s blog and their coverage of their local scene. I’ll also post a reminder about this carnival the week prior.

    If you are NOT a blogger, but plan on attending… then let me know what you think of the event once it happens.

    I think it will be very interesting to see how each different locale varies from one another. Where are the best game shops? Who had the most fun?

    Hero Building vs. Stronghold Building

    The “adventuring company” is distinctly different from “the party“.

    It is, however, a common misconception that these terms are in fact synonymous.

    They are not.

    “Old School” is to Stronghold Building as “New School” is to Hero Building.

    … there, I said it.

    The meaning behind the phrase “adventuring company” has drifted away from its original intended meaning. This is likely due to a similar change in play-style (in general) over the more than three decades D&D; has been around.

    Our beloved hobby started with dynamic groups of players, sometimes as many as 10 or even 20, mingling and mixing between different Dungeon Masters and different campaigns — all in a shared world. Characters moved around with their players too, from game to game, sometimes even between campaigns. Player characters had henchmen. Players would often play more one character, although not at the same time.

    Nowadays, the focus is on the “the party”. This likely started in the mid- to late-phases of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. The game started to shift its focus away from stronghold building and toward being heroic and playing “epic campaigns”. I suppose this is what people wanted – I mean… just look at the success of the Dragonlance modules. Both 2E and 3E Dungeons & Dragons defaulted to a 4-person group of “heroes”, making most viable games requiring 5-players (including the DM). In 4th Edition the default part has been expanded to five PCs. Other than for the obvious commercial advantage, the reasoning for the subtle increase in the default party size somewhat escapes me. To be fair – the 4E DMG does do a fine job of offering a very scalable system. You could easily play with fewer PCs without much house ruling, in terms of DM planning, etc. But I digress… the point is that it is easier to be heroic and epic if each player invests all their time into a single character’s development. The more emphasis you place on Tim the Wizard, the more you want Tim to be a (super) hero. Whereas, if you have a whole entourage of characters to worry about then you just might be more interested in the development of the group over time (stronghold building) instead of just one of your PCs (hero building).

    Your hero requires ever increasing challenges. Your epic gear must be upgraded to even epic’er gear. Your foes must become even more eliter than the eliterists. Your gold must become even biggerer. In the end, you become a god.

    The funny part is that this is finally in the core rules. It’s no longer implied, its explicitly the goal of the game. It is the RAW.

    Now, you all know I play 4E D&D.; I don’t see that changing any time soon as my gaming group is somewhat in the middle of things. However, the next game that I run I’m planning on steering it more towards a stronghold building campaign – as a basis from which to have a fun time, etc. I just think I’ve realized something though — this sort of game is going to be difficult, or extremely house ruled, if I stuck with 4E D&D; as the rule set.

    4E is to Hero Building as 1E/2E/CC/S&W;/etc is to Stronghold Building.

    Maybe if I run a stronghold building campaign I should use a different rule set? Maybe… because you know what they say…

    “Always use the right tool for the job”

    Share you comments, and I’d love to hear what game system is best suited, in your opinion, for a stronghold building game.

    New 4E Ritual Feats

    Inspired by this post over at A Hero Twice A Month, I’ve decided to offer up something that might help DMs who are looking for a fix to rituals in 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. First off, to use these new homebrew feats – you need make two changes to your game:

    1. The Ritual Caster feat is dropped and replaced by other feats listed below.
    2. Classes that normally gain the Ritual Caster feat as part of their design (clerics, wizards) gain, instead, three other feats (shown below).

    The feats below are aimed at addressing some of the “issues” people are having with 4E rituals in that 1) money is the main obstacle towards gaining new rituals; and 2) anyone can be a ritual caster as easily as a wizard or cleric – thus devaluing the the importance of the ritual caster class feature.

    Epic Ritual Caster
    Prerequisite: Trained in Arcana or Religion, Paragon Ritual Caster Feat.
    Benefit: You can master and perform rituals of your level or lower. These rituals are limited to those of level 30 or below. See Chapter 10 for information on acquiring, mastering, and performing rituals. Even though some rituals use the Heal skill or the Nature skill, the Arcana skill or the Religion skill is required to understand how to perform rituals. Clerics and Wizards automatically gain this feat as part of their ritual caster class feature.

    Heroic Ritual Caster
    Prerequisite: Trained in Arcana or Religion.
    Benefit: You can master and perform rituals of your level or lower. These rituals are limited to those of level 10 or below. See Chapter 10 for information on acquiring, mastering, and performing rituals. Even though some rituals use the Heal skill or the Nature skill, the Arcana skill or the Religion skill is required to understand how to perform rituals. Clerics and Wizards automatically gain this feat as part of their ritual caster class feature.

    Natural Study [Wizard]
    Prerequisite: Int 13, wizard.
    Benefit: You gain a +3 bonus to all ritual casting checks that rely on the Arcana or Nature skills.

    Paragon Ritual Caster
    Prerequisite: Trained in Arcana or Religion, Heroic Ritual Caster feat.
    Benefit: You can master and perform rituals of your level or lower. These rituals are limited to those of level 20 or below. See Chapter 10 for information on acquiring, mastering, and performing rituals. Even though some rituals use the Heal skill or the Nature skill, the Arcana skill or the Religion skill is required to understand how to perform rituals. Clerics and Wizards automatically gain this feat as part of their ritual caster class feature.

    Ritual Mastery
    Prerequisite: Heroic Ritual Caster, Paragon Ritual Caster, Epic Ritual Caster.
    Benefit: You automatically gain mastery in two rituals of your level or below. You may take this feat multiple times to gain mastery in additional feats.

    Scholar of the Sacraments [Cleric]
    Prerequisite: Int 13, cleric.
    Benefit: You gain a +3 bonus to all ritual casting checks that rely on the Religion or Heal skills.

    Hopefully these rituals might provide a quick fix to anyone who is looking to make clerics and wizards the _real_ ritual casters in the game once again. At the same time, these changes don’t prevent anyone else from learning how to cast rituals.

    Comments? What do you think?

    International Journal of Roleplaying

    For those of you out there who are interested in the more theorectical aspects of roleplaying and game design; as well as the social impact and placement of roleplaying games – check out the International Journal of Roleplaying. They just released their first issue as a freely downloadable PDF. It seems to be a fledgling journal with a legitimate academic interest in roleplaying as social medium. If you look at the review board, you will notice that nearly all of them are either postdocs or professors at universities around the globe.

    Very interesting at the very least…

    Blog Comments – who owns the copyrights to them?

    First off, this is not a post about roleplaying games (my usual fare). This is a post about blogging, specifically blog comments and who owns them.

    Who owns the copyrights to comments left on blogs?

    The comment author?

    The blog author or owner?

    You see, I’m currently working on publishing an anthology of roleplaying game blog posts from 2008 and before. The project, called Open Game Table, has been a labor of love for me and (much to my surprise) has benefited greatly from an overwhelming number of supporters and volunteers from the RPG blogosphere. The 48 blog posts that have been selected to be included in the anthology were selected from over 130 posts that were nominated by blog authors and readers. I’m now in the process of doing the layout, design, and editing of the anthology’s manuscript and recently the subject of blog comments and who owns their copyrights came up. Two of the contributing blog authors expressed concerns over my use of selected comments in the anthology without the expressed consent of the comment authors. To be completely honest, this struck me by surprise as I had assumed that the blog comments were considered part of the blog article itself (much like an addendum) and were therefor the property of the blog owner. Thus, I had assumed that by obtaining permissions to publish the blog articles in the anthology from the blog authors this would in turn include the comments as well.

    Not so fast.

    It turns out there is very little in the way of legal precident for this. Go ahead and Google it. You see a whole lot of talk talk talk by blogs cut from all different cloths; but very little actual legal precedent. There’s one case I know of that involved a MySpace blogger who refused to remove comments from their blog when the comment authors requested it. But that’s about it.

    Of course, standard US copyright law clearly supports the author in that [paraphrasing here] “as soon as you write it down it is copyrighted”. This would lead you to believe that the author of the comments owns the comments, even though they appear on some other medium they do not own. Some would say it is fairly cut and dry. Others say that its not so simple.

    But do they own their comments after they are published?

    The comment authors have no control over them, since the blog owner can often delete, edit or otherwise suppress any comment left on their blog. Furthermore, things become much more complicated if you consider third-party applications that republish weblog comments, such as Twitter, Friend-Feed, Google Reader iPage, etc. Disqus does a good job of summing up the real issues here.

    This becomes even more bizarre when you consider that many bloggers are running advertising on their websites that is context sensitive (such as Google AdSense; which is in place on this blog). If someone else’s comments are helping generate the ads that appear on a blog due to their content, but that person is the owner of those comments, not the blogger, then shouldn’t they be also entitled to some royalties or payments from the sale of ads? Surely not.

    Where then do you draw the line?

    What about then the situation with the anthology I am publishing. Each and every one of the blog authors have signed permissions agreements that stipulate that I have the right to republish their blog post in a printed book. Should I also then seek the permissions of each and every blog comment author whose comment (that adds value to the article as a whole) I may also want to include? What if the comment author used a fake email address or was simply anonymous? What if they were under the age of consent (18)?

    These are all issues that bloggers should consider. Many bloggers outside our little RPG blogging community have already considered these issues. You will often find, especially on commercial blogs, a Terms of Service agreement that clearly stipulates the status of the comments left on the blog. I have added one to The Core Mechanic as a result of this minor brouhaha and you can find it in the footer below, or on the comment page. Section 5, Information Rights is the part you will want to pay attention to. I’ve provided here as well:

    5. Information Rights. The Proprietor does not claim ownership of Content you submit or make available for inclusion on the Service. However, with respect to Content you submit or make available for inclusion on the Service, including without limitation comments you post to the Service, you grant the Proprietor world-wide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty free, non-exclusive, fully sub-licensable license(s) to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, publicly perform and publicly display such Content (in whole or in part) and to incorporate such Content into other works in any format or medium now known or later developed.”

    This basically means that the blog owner (“The Proprietor”) can do whatever they wish with the comments left on the blog; and the author of the comments can as well. The copyright is, however, still technically owned by author. I’ve since seen some other blog TOS’s where the comments fall under a Creative Commons license; still others I’ve seen where the comments are released into the public domain.

    I would urge anyone who is writing a blog of their own to consider this issue of comment ownership and permissions; if only for a moment. You may never know when, in retrospect, you had wished you had a Comment Policy or some other TOS agreement in place. I’m not a lawyer, and after reading several dozen blogs and other websites about the copyright status of blog comments, one thing is clear to me: this is a very grey area that I have no interest trotting in … I tend to think that blog comments are functionally the same as addendums to the main blog post and the comment author is giving up their control of the content once they post it on the blog owner’s site. But, that’s just my opinion – and with regards to Open Game Table – I’m not interested in putting everyone involved in the project at risk of some sort of infringement of copyright permissions simply because I wanted to include a selected number of comments in the Anthology.

    In the meantime, I’ve stripped the manuscript for the blog anthology of all comments for the time being. I’m perfectly happy publishing the book without them included, although I do recognize that blog comments are our currency and often times it is the comments that “make a post”, not the post itself. Bahh….

    REVIEW: Kobold Quarterly #8

    I was surprised when I was recently asked to review a portion of the newly released Kobold Quarterly #8, specifically the article titled “Tossing Kegs and Smashing Chairs“, by Steven Furlanetto. And, although the article in question is mostly for 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons (and Pathfinder), I just couldn’t say No since editions don’t really matter to me – and I love tavern brawls.

    “…Imagine the party wizard careening across the beer-slicked floor with angry peasants launching mugs at her as she slides by, the fighter wildly waving a broken chair while perched precariously on top of a rickety table about to be smashed by the town brute, or the rogue swinging to their rescue dangling from the chandelier…”

    Furlanetto describes in detail some of the problems related to well… bar room fights. Usually in D&D;, combat encounters are between the party (a limited number of ‘heroes’) and the enemy (a limited number of mooks). Of course, a bar fight is a completely different animal. You might be faced with an angry mob of disenfranchised dwarven mine workers who may already be six kegs deep into the latest union meeting. Or, you might be ducking the mugs and knives as the bartender quells a group of unruly thugs out for “a good time”. You might even find yourself going to fisticuffs with fellow party members who “mistakenly” thought you were someone else before they crashed the chair over your head. Well, whomever the fight is with – a tavern brawl can work in D&D; even though it should be non-lethal and often against many many foes. Fulanetto does a great job of pointing out the pros and cons of barroom brawls, and even provides some crunch for DM’s asking questions like “I wonder how damage a small cask of ale would do? What about a large cask of ale?” For PCs who like to imbibe more than others, all this begs the obvious question: Can I get proficiency in Keg Throwing?

    Heck, there’s even a fair amount of “chandelier” mischief. Want some quick rules on swinging from a chadelier? Check. Want to fight a mob of  drunks? Check. What some ideas on how to incorporate a bar fight into an ongoing adventure? Check.

    So if you are looking to add a little spice to your game by introducing your players to the fine art of drunken combat – pick yourself up a copy of Kobold Quarterly #8. Go break some kegs for me!