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2010-01-02 Boxed Sets

Whoa, is 2010 the Year of the Boxed Set?

I’m confused, but in a good way.

I think treating Bioware’s computer role-playing game Dragon Age as “a fantastic opportunity to bring new gamers into the hobby” [1] is a great move, and I hope it succeeds! Many people have complained about a missing boxed set to present to friends and relatives – specially since most people seem to have started gaming somewhere between ten and fourteen – as have I! At that age, I would have never started playing a game requiring me to read four hundred pages of rules or more.

I’ve been playing Dragon Age on my Xbox 360 these days, and I like it. I’d love to see people pick up the pen & paper game and join our hobby. I’m not a big fan of licensing deals like these, but if the original game is good, and the pen & paper rules are well written, short, and they come in a boxed set with dice, then I’m intrigued. I feel like buying the Dragon Age RPG. :)

I don’t really understand why James Edward Raggi IV of LotFP has to make a boxed set. He mentioned that “it will be made with complete beginners in mind” [2] which I support. He also mentioned that it was supposed to help his adventures get into distribution since otherwise they’d depend on Swords & Wizardry or Labyrinth Lord being in distribution. [3] I don’t really have an opinion about that. I don’t know whether it’s a valid concern, and I’m perfectly happy with old school gaming being a not for profit hobby. I guess I’m biased because my Free Software endeavors are also not for profit.

Also, I could go on talking about how I feel that my hobbies and making money don’t go together well. Money seems to corrupt the things I love doing, transforming “fun” into “work”. cry

Anyway, I’m intrigued because I’d like to hear what James has to say to new referees. But then again, perhaps Michael Shorten’s Swords & Wizardry Quickstart Rules already cover that?

I also understand the old school renaissance making a move and applaud John Adams of Brave Halfling Publishing. But I already own Labyrinth Lord, a German translation, Swords & Wizardry, Swords & Wizardry Whitebox, Ruins & Ronin, the two volumes of B/X D&D, and the Rules Cyclopedia. If all he does is republish the rules, then I cannot convince myself to buy it. I’d love to see it, and I’d love to see it succeed! After all, I loved the purple Labyrinth Lord box.

I guess I want to have it because it’s cool, but I have too many very similar rules already!

I need to figure out if I want to buy any of these boxed sets. My wife plays in my D&D 3.5 Alder King game, and I’ve played a handful of Labyrinth Lord solo sessions with her. I don’t really need a new boxed sets.

Instead of buying more and more stuff, I should just play more! Since I’m already playing on at least eleven days every month, finding the time might turn out to be difficult. ;) Also, I promised myself that my next campaign would be all weird. The boxed sets are not weird enough.

I think I’d like somebody else in the area to buy the Dragon Age RPG boxed set and run a campaign! :D

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Comments on 2010-01-02 Boxed Sets

Don’t forget the Doctor Who: Adventures and Time in Space box set from Cubicle 7! It got delayed… a little bit more than just a bit, and they’re only doing a limited run until the new Doctor takes over, but still - Doctor Who!

I’m very excited about it, in case you can’t tell.

Aaron 2010-01-03 00:05 UTC


I’ll buy dragon age because it’s a box. I might run it.

Harald Wagener 2010-01-03 09:23 UTC


Hurray, Harald! :)

If you preorder now, you get the PDF for free, I think. I’m sure Green Roning will stop doing this once Dragon Age RPG is out.

Also, you need to find the time to run a biweekly campaign on a regular basis!

As for Dr. Who I must confess having never watched a single episode. Dr. Who? Licenses based on TV series have a much harder time appealing to me.

But since it’s a boxed set, I’ll add it to the list. :)

AlexSchroeder 2010-01-03 11:19 UTC


Apparently JB of B/X Blackrazor wants to release his companion as a boxed set, too? [1]

AlexSchroeder 2010-01-06 01:03 UTC


Dragonage RPG is a big step in the correct direction. If you look at the terrible movie/video game ventures, this Dragonage endevour could go so wrong! I hope it’s good. The video game was excellent.

You seem to like wierd, therefore you cannot miss Dr Who. It’s the best thing to be made in Britain since the Spitfire aeroplane.

misterecho 2010-01-06 19:00 UTC


Swords & Wizardry Whitebox Boxed Set is apparently sold out. [2]

I’m surprised. :)

AlexSchroeder 2010-01-07 09:33 UTC


75 more boxes available! [3]

AlexSchroeder 2010-01-11 16:31 UTC


Review of Dragon Age by Mike Hensley.

AlexSchroeder 2010-01-14 23:11 UTC


Boxed sets with “stuff” such as special dice or cards are great because they deter piracy. At least I think that’s what the big players are thinking to themselves.

AlexSchroeder 2010-01-30 17:23 UTC


James writes about the economics of his boxed set

AlexSchroeder 2010-02-01 11:40 UTC


Hm, Rob Donoghue wrote some stuff over on Some Space to Think that I missed. Thanks @stargazersworld for bringing them up on the #rpmn channel.

AlexSchroeder 2010-02-12 17:45 UTC


Wow, Luke Crane’s FreeMarket will also be a boxed set – and it’ll cost USD 60. With T-shirt, USD 80. – AlexSchroeder 2010-05-14 17:30 UTC

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2010-01-03 Creative Commons Switzerland

Meeting Creative Commons Switzerland – if you’re in Switzerland, and interested in copyright law, and Free Software or Creative Commons, this meeting is for you.

18.1.2010, 19:00, ETH Zürich, HG F33.5.

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2010-01-05 Arms and Armor Source Books

Looking around for some books on medieval arms and armor – including details about polearms, and not necessarily with gaming application – I found the following books via Amazon. What do you think? Other books you want to suggest? Warnings? Is this series from St. Martin’s Press good?

Or start with some books from other lists? [1]

I got recommendations for Gary Gygax’s World Builder and The Palladium Book of Weapon and Armour via Twitter. What do you think of these?

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Comments on 2010-01-05 Arms and Armor Source Books

Hello Alex,

the “Fighting Techniques” books are mis-named, imho. Their main focus is on mass warfare; i.e. types of military formations, their positioning and use on the battlefield and similar tactics. Arms, armour and the use of either (actual “fighting techniques”) are mentioned only in passing in this context and are sometimes overly generalised. If you are looking for how individual fighters of the period were equipped and how they used their weapons, you will find a lot of books on swordsmanship (i.e. here: http://www.amazon.com/Medieval-Sword-Shield-Combat-Armouries/dp/1891448439) but little on other weapons.

I also own The Palladium Book of Weapon and Armour.

– Jorunkun 2010-01-06 01:05 UTC


Hm, interesting. I have Talhoffers Fechtbuch here, but without annotations or commentary. It’d be cool to have some interpretation from people with experience. Then again, I’m no European martial arts geek; my Aikido is hard enough to master, haha.

When I walked back from work today I thought that something I’d like to see is a discussion of the arms race through the centuries. Why flails, halberds, maces, rapiers, shield shapes, and so on. I have some amateur ideas. I’d like to read a historian’s perpective, I guess.

AlexSchroeder 2010-01-06 01:16 UTC


(oops … hit save prematurely - continuing)

It features a very detailed list of weapons and armour, each of them with a little picture and detailed statistics such as weight, length and ratings for speed damage etc. History buffs will surely find much at fault with these numbers, but as a guideline for statting up weapons for an RPG, they aren’t all that bad. Also shown are fully quipped “typical fighters” from certain periods and cultures; but there isn’t much descriptive or context given - the book is one big collection of lists, essentially.

Personally, I really like the Osprey books “Men at Arms” series, which features detailed description of warriors, weapons and armour plus a very readable summary of the historical and cultural context, complete with pictures, maps and often great artwork (i.e. by Angus MacBride). http://www.ospreypublishing.com/men_at_arms/

Lastly, TSR put out a 2nd edition AD&D Weapons and Armour Guide (forget the exact title) that did a pretty good job presenting all the weapons usually seen in FRPGs, complete with pictures so you can tell your Bec-de-Corbin from your Glaive Guisarme.

Hope this helps.

Jorunkun 2010-01-06 01:17 UTC


Thanks! I keep hearing about the Osprey books but have never seen any here in Switzerland. I’ll have to try and get a book or two!

AlexSchroeder 2010-01-06 01:23 UTC


Matthew Bennett is an excellent military historian, so I would have no qualms recommending a book on that subject by him. The Palladium book of arms and armour is pretty interesting, but really a gamer’s primer to arms and armour. Gygax’s World Builder I probably would not recommend over any other. The Osprey series is pretty reliable and well illustrated. I was recently given a review copy of Codex Martialis, which is a pretty thorough and well researched guide to historical arms and armour written for D20/3e: http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=65250

Matthew James Stanham 2010-01-06 01:24 UTC


Thanks. That sounds like a start. I’ll take a look at the Matthew Bennett book.

AlexSchroeder 2010-01-06 01:27 UTC


Hehe, parallel post. Looks like someone is up late in Switzerland … :)

I don’t know of any book focused specifically on the arms race, probably because there isn’t one clear historically accurate narrative about it. Metal availability and quality, manufacturing skill or access to quality weapons and their use varied greatly by region and period so the historical record is patchy. History buffs frequently get into shouting matches over which side used what weapon to which effect (i.e. see here: http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=487764) so proceed with caution.

Jorunkun 2010-01-06 01:28 UTC


Haha, I guess I wanted a book that would allow me to join conversations such as these! :)

I ordered the following books:

  • Fighting Techniques of the Medieval World 500 - 1500 AD
  • Fighting Techniques of the Oriental World: Equipment, Combat Skills, and Tactics
  • Weapon: A Visual History of Arms and Armour (Military)
  • Fighting Techniques of the Ancient World (3000 B.C. to 500 A.D.): Equipment, Combat Skills, and Tactics

AlexSchroeder 2010-01-10 10:50 UTC

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2010-01-11 Playing With Kids

Yesterday I played some Labyrinth Lord with my best friend and his three kids aged five to ten.

  1. The youngest one was drawing and rolling dice. Writing a to-hit table on the character sheet with target numbers for AC 0 to 9 worked really well.
  2. Both boy and father cheered like madmen when they hit and killed some goblins.
  3. The oldest girl complained about wanting some “action” when they stumbled into the third empty room.
  4. We are playing Tomb of the Iron God with the characters starting 5001 XP, ie. mostly third level except for elves and thieves. The kids don’t seem to mind loosing a lot of characters.
  5. I’m using Trollsmyth’s Death and Dismemberment table. I’m not sure the kids really need it, though. Twice now characters have ended up with broken bones and had to effectively retire.
  6. I forgot about Shields Shall Be Splintered, but I’ll remember that for next time.
  7. I had the mummified goblin head intone “Turn back ye grave robbers. If you continue, ye shall all die!” whenever the characters addressed it. The kids loved it and asked half a dozen questions before moving on. They also had lots of ideas involving kicking the head, showing it the middle finger, swearing, and doing all sorts of silly stuff.
  8. When they retreated after having killed nearly all the goblins in the first outpost they mounted the goblin leader’s head on a post outside the temple, writing “V.A.M.K. was here” using their initials. When they returned, the head was gone and the goblins had written on the floor “V.A.M.K. must dry!” The kids thought the typo hilarious and nearly fell off the bench.
  9. The boy had a character with strength 12 (which was the highest in the party) and all other scores below average (with a -1 penalty). Only when his dad’s character had to be replaced did it occur to him that he might also want a new character.
  10. New characters were made and then we spent some time drinking hot chocolate. The boys looked at Star Wars deck plans and the girls looked at Elfquest comics. All in all we got about two hours of gaming. It was good. :)
  11. The kids don’t understand the concept of XP and level advancement, so I think we’ll keep it without any XP for a while. All characters start at level three except for thieves starting at level four and elves starting at level two.
  12. My basic idea is that the Temple of the Iron God holds a holy sword of Mitras that needs to be returned to the knights of Curnitha in the Wildlands, the first setting of Rob Conley’s Points of Light. We’ll see how they take to wilderness adventures.

I think we’ll try and get those two hours of gaming once a month. I’ve added the campaign to the long list of campaigns I’m involved in.

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Comments on 2010-01-11 Playing With Kids

Sounds like a great time!

Matthew James Stanham 2010-01-13 16:31 UTC


It was! I really don’t know when I last enjoyed role playing game that much. Love my kids and their silly ideas. And all of a sudden, I became a child, too. ;)

– zeno 2010-01-22 19:50 UTC

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2010-01-20 Looking for 1PDC Judges

I think I’m going to run the One Page Dungeon Contest 2010 in the first Quarter of 2010! I asked Chgowiz and ChattyDM, and they had “decided to pass the torch on to the next generation.”

That means I'm looking for some judges! Five to seven would be a good number, I think. Last year we got a bit under 120 submissions. If you read four submissions every day, you will still need thirty days to read them all. And that’s what we’ll have: A full month to read all the submissions. Or look at it another way: If you need ten minutes for each submission, you will spend a total of twenty hours reading. Interested? Let me know!

My basic plan is for people to write submissions in February, judges to read submissions in March, and winners to be determined in April… Can it be done?

Don’t forget Design A Dungeon Room Contest 2010 – all entries are due January 31st, 2010. ;)

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2010-01-22 Small Dungeon Maps

Ready for the One Page Dungeon Contest 2010?

If you’re looking for inspiration, you can look at the submissions to the One Page Dungeon Contest 2009, or you can look at some of the fabulous map threads and blogs out there.

Any other threads or blogs you want to recommend?

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2010-01-25 One Page Notes

I’ve been running Rise of the Runelords for my biweekly Monday campaign for a while, now. Last year, I already mentioned how I felt that the adventure paths were providing too much detail. They are overwhelming me with notes!

I looked at old school dungeons, and started to like what I saw: a lot less text! At first I thought these dungeons were boring hack-n-slay expeditions, but I started to realize that this doesn’t have to be true. The most important points were the monster reaction table where you roll 2d6 and add a Charisma modifier, and morale checks where you roll 2d6 at appropriate times to see whether the enemies retreat or flee. That changes many combat situation into social situations! And suddenly the referee has to do a lot of improvisation.

I was scared of the improvisation, but two things converted me anyway. Taking notes after the game instead of preparing notes before the game, and the one page dungeon phenomenon of 2009.

I was listening to the Fear the Boot episode on GM and player notes and got reminded of a blog post I had written last year suggesting the opposite of preparation: postparation. :)

As a referee, preparing less material, taking notes during the game, and writing them up on a Campaign Wiki has opened my eyes. The world ends up being rich and detailed, but I don’t have to prepare ahead of time and railroad my players through the detailed plot. I can wing it, react to my players, and write it up afterwards.

Notes I take for two sessions I decided to try and prepare less. I set myself limits, such as not preparing more than one hour for a four hour session, or not writing more than two pages in my notebook (3.5” x 5.5”).

Then the second thing happened: One Page Dungeon Contest 2009. I discovered that other people were doing just the same. I wasn’t alone! Until then, I had felt bad. I had felt lazy. I had set myself limits because I was too lazy to spend more time on it. Suddenly everything came together:

  • more improvising at the table
  • the referee can be surprised
  • less shuffling through the notes at the table
  • improved immersion
  • less railroading

And with more than a hundred entries to the One Page Dungeon Contest, I could learn from other people. I saw that other people were drawing maps just as I was. They had dungeons just as I had. Some did not fit my style. Others I loved. I could learn from these, and be a better referee.

That’s why I started organizing another contest. One Page Dungeon Contest 2010!

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2010-01 Book Club

What: Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

January 27, 19:30 @ Café Schober, Napfgasse 4, 8001 Zürich.

Suggested as an alternative to In Defense of Food by the same author. This non-fiction book was suggested by Alex based on a friend’s suggestion. A book on the origin of food. Apparently written with a strong American bias, but it’ll be interesting for us here in Switzerland none the less. See the author's page about the book and In Defense of Food on Wikipedia.

Comment from Valpuri: I’ve read this, and it’s fine, lots to discuss, but I’ve heard that The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by the same author, is better? Maybe something to consider?

Comment from Alex: The person who gave me the book said the same thing, but since he didn’t have it… :) I’m fine with getting The Omnivore's Dilemma, though. Wikipedia says:

“What should we have for dinner?” To answer this question, he follows four meals, each derived through a different food-production system, from their origins to the plate. Along the way, Pollan examines the ethical, political, and ecological factors that are intertwined in the industrial, large-scale organic, local, and personal (hunted-gathered) food chains, while describing the environmental and health consequences that result from food choices within these chains.

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