30 January 2010

A 4e Version of the Basic D&D Box Set?

I don’t play 4e D&D, and I have not been following the product line since the initial three hardback books were published. (I read halfway through the PHB before deciding that it wasn’t for me.) However, it recently was brought to my attention that WotC is coming out with a number of ‘box sets’ later this year, including one that seems reminiscent of the old ‘red box’ Basic D&D set.

Here are their descriptions (from here):

Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game

The Essential Dungeons & Dragons Starter

Mike Mearls, Bill Slavicsek and James Wyatt

The best way to start playing the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game.

Designed for 1–5 players, this boxed game contains everything needed to start playing the Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game, including rules for creating heroes, advice for playing the Dungeon Master, a solo play adventure, and group-play adventure content. Learning the game has never been so easy!

Several different character races (dwarf, elf, halfling, and human) and classes (cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard) are presented, along with powers for each race and class.

Game components:

32-page book for players, with rules for character creation and a solo adventure

64-page book for Dungeon Masters, with the rules of the game, advice on how to run the game, and adventure content

2 sheets of die-cut tokens for characters and monsters

Cardstock character sheets and power cards

Double-sided dungeon map

6 polyhedral dice

Item Details

Item Code: 244660000

Release Date: September 7, 2010

Format: Box

Price: $19.99 C$23.99

ISBN: 978-0-7869-5629-6

Dungeon Master's Kit

An Essential D&D Game Supplement

James Wyatt and Jeremy Crawford

Awesome tools, rules, and adventure content for every Dungeon Master.

If you’re a Dungeons & Dragons player interested in taking on the role of the Dungeon Master, or if you’re an experienced DM looking for more game advice, tools, and adventure content, the Dungeon Master’s Kit has exactly what you need to build your own Dungeons & Dragons campaign and excite the imaginations of you and your players.

This deluxe box contains rules and advice to help Dungeon Masters run games for adventurers of levels 1–30. It also includes useful DM tools such as a Dungeon Master’s screen (with tables and rules printed on the inside), die-cut terrain tiles and monster tokens, and fold-out battle maps.

Game components:

96-page book of rules and advice for Dungeon Masters

32-page monster book

Two 32-page adventures

2 sheets of die-cut dungeon terrain tiles

2 sheets of die-cut monster tokens

2 double-sided battle maps

Fold-out Dungeon Master’s screen

Item Details

Item Code: 244640000

Release Date: October 19, 2010

Series: Essential D&D Game Supplement

Format: Box

Page Count: 192

Price: $39.99 C$47.99

ISBN: 978-0-7869-5630-2

Player Essentials: Heroes of the Fallen Lands

An Essential D&D Game Supplement

Mike Mearls and Bill Slavicsek

Exciting new builds and character options for the cleric, fighter, ranger, rogue, and wizard classes.

This essential player product for the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game presents exciting new builds for the most iconic classes: the cleric, the fighter, the ranger, the rogue, and the wizard. Each class comes with a set of new powers, class features, paragon paths, epic destinies, and more that beginning players can use to build the characters they want to play and experienced players can plunder for existing 4th Edition characters.

In addition to new builds, this book presents expanded information and racial traits for some of the game’s most popular races, including dwarves, eladrin, elves, halflings, and humans.

Item Details

Item Code: 247520000

Release Date: October 19, 2010

Series: Essential D&D Game Supplement

Format: Trade Paperback

Page Count: 352

Price: $19.95 C$23.95

ISBN: 978-0-7869-5620-3

Monster Vault

An Essential D&D Game Supplement

Rodney Thompson, Logan Bonner, and Matthew Sernett

Iconic Dungeons & Dragons monsters that are easy to run and fun to fight.

This essential product for Dungeon Masters collects the most iconic monsters of the Dungeons & Dragons world in one handy box and presents all-new variants, including new spins on such beloved monsters as dragons, orcs, and vampires. The monsters described herein are designed to be easy for Dungeon Masters to use and fun for players to fight. In addition to combat statistics, each monster entry comes with story information to help DMs incorporate the monsters into their adventures and campaigns.

In addition to a comprehensive collection of iconic Dungeons & Dragons monsters, this box contains die-cut tokens for the monsters that appear within, as well as a 32-page adventure that showcases several of the monsters.

Dungeon Masters can easily incorporate the adventure into their ongoing campaigns. Game components:

160-page book of monsters

32-page adventure

10 sheets of die-cut monster tokens

Item Details

Item Code: 244650000

Release Date: November 16, 2010

Series: Essential D&D Game Supplement

Format: Box

Page Count: 192

Price: $29.99 C$35.00

ISBN: 978-0-7869-5631-9

Player Essentials: Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms

An Essential D&D Game Supplement

Mike Mearls and Rodney Thompson

Exciting new builds and character options for the cleric, druid, paladin, ranger, and warlock classes.

This essential supplement for the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game presents exciting new builds for the game’s most popular classes: the cleric, the druid, the paladin, the ranger, and the warlock. Each class comes with a set of new powers, class features, paragon paths, epic destinies, and more that beginning players can use to build the characters they want to play and experienced players can plunder for existing 4th Edition characters.

In addition to new builds, this book presents expanded information and racial traits for some of the game’s most popular races, including dragonborn, drow, half-elves, half-orcs, and tieflings.

Item Details

Item Code: 247510000

Release Date: November 16, 2010

Series: Essential D&D Game Supplement

Format: Trade Paperback

Page Count: 352

Price: $19.95 C$35.00

ISBN: 978-0-7869-5619-7

So what is going on here? Do these box sets mark the beginning of a new ‘basic’ D&D – apparently called ‘Essential D&D’ – to run parallel to the main line of ‘regular’ D&D in just the way that Moldvay/Cook D&D, and later Mentzer/Allston D&D, ran parallel to AD&D in the 1980s and early 1990s? The ‘Starter’ kit even seems to include a ‘solo’ adventure, just like the Mentzer Basic D&D set.

Unlike the distinction between ‘D&D’ and ‘AD&D’ during TSR’s hey day, I suspect that the system for ‘Essential D&D’ will be pretty much the same as that of 4e (simply a stripped down version of it). But that minor difference aside, it does indeed seem that history might be repeating itself.

Thoughts?

26 January 2010

Badwrong Fun

Hey gentle readers and fellow grognards, the next time someone tries to tell you that playing 'old school' games can't be fun because they're 'broken' or 'outdated', send them this link to this Onion article:

Man Who Enjoys Thing Informed He Is Wrong

JANUARY 25, 2010 | ISSUE 46•04

LOS ANGELES—George Himmelsbaugh, 32, was informed Tuesday that he was incorrect in enjoying a thing he had been deriving pleasure from for many years. Authorities in the field informed Himmelsbaugh that, although he believes his appreciation of the thing to be a matter of subjective personal taste, any positive feelings or satisfaction taken from this are by definition erroneous. Furthermore, sources reported, Himmelsbaugh does not in fact enjoy the thing, but has merely been convinced that he does by the influence of others who also claim to enjoy the thing but who must be insane or developmentally disabled if they actually do. Himmelsbaugh has responded to the information by endeavoring to enjoy the correct things in the future.

20 January 2010

New Middle-Earth Roleplaying Game Coming Soon!

Did you enjoy reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings*? Do you love Professor Tolkien's world of Middle-earth? Does the thought of taking on a dreaded Nazgul with a sword forged by the Elven smiths of the Gwaith-i-Mirdain thrill you? Did you (or do you still) dig the RPG portrayed below?

If so, you may be interested to learn that a new Middle-earth roleplaying game is being produced by Cubicle 7. Here is the official announcement (from here):

20 January 2010 - Cubicle 7 Entertainment and Sophisticated Games announce that they are developing The One Ring: The Lord of the Rings® Role-playing Game.

Cubicle 7 Entertainment and Sophisticated Games are proud to announce that they are jointly developing The One Ring: The Lord of the Rings® Role-playing Game.

“We’re tremendously excited about The One Ring,” said Dominic McDowall-Thomas, Cubicle 7 Director. “Our aim is to give our audience an authentic Middle-earth gaming experience, one that really captures the feel of Tolkien’s world.”

The designer and lead writer of this project, Francesco Nepitello, is a games industry veteran, best known for the hugely successful and critically acclaimed War of the Ring strategy board game, which he designed with The One Ring co-designer Marco Maggi and Roberto di Meglio. A recipient of the International Gamers Award, War of the Ring is recognised by many ‘Lord of the Rings’ enthusiasts and hobby gamers alike as one of the most engaging recreations of the world-renowned fantasy saga by J.R.R. Tolkien. Francesco and Marco are the designers of other immersive board game titles like Marvel Super Heroes and Age of Conan, but started their game-designing careers creating Lex Arcana, the most successful and popular fantasy role-playing game published in Italy.

Francesco has designed the new LOTR RPG game system to make sure that players are completely immersed in Middle-earth from the moment they begin creating their characters. As an experienced designer of games based on JRR Tolkien, as well as being a lifelong devotee of the Tolkien works, Francesco brings a dimension -and a depth- to this RPG which has probably never been seen before in a LOTR game.

Robert Hyde, head of Cambridge (UK) based Sophisticated Games said, “When we first acquired the rights from Tolkien Enterprises to publish this RPG - as part of our wider LOTR book based board game license- we had no hesitation in approaching Francesco to conceive a completely fresh LOTR and The Hobbit RPG, and for him to be the writer. We knew that he possessed both these skills and that the game would be in very safe hands. His presentation of Middle-earth, along with stunning artwork from John Howe and others, brings this incredibly evocative and exciting world to life.”

“We also approached Cubicle 7 to be our publishing partners on the new The One Ring RPG because we loved the quality of their previous publications and felt that Dominic and Angus (Abranson) had both the experience, and with the creation of Cubicle 7, the role playing game resources, to bring LOTR and The Hobbit to a very wide audience.”

For more information on The One Ring: The Lord of the Rings® Role-playing Game please contact Cubicle 7 oninfo@cubicle7.co.uk

The One Ring: The Lord of the Rings® Role-playing Game will be published in the second half of 2010.

I wish Cubicle 7 the best on this endeavour! I certainly hope that they produce a better game than Decipher's Lord of the Rings RPG, which was poorly edited and inadequately play-tested. Indeed, I found it almost impossible to figure out how to create a player character using the first printing of Decipher's core rulebook, and subsequently lost interest in it. It is clear now that Decipher was never really committed to the RPG, being interested primarily in using the license for their collectable card game. (Of course, Decipher's problems with embezzlement did not help it promote and sustain the game either.)

I love MERP and am a huge fan of most of the campaign modules that ICE produced for the game during its glory days of the 1980s and early 1990s. While incomplete, my collection of MERP campaign modules is one of my most cherished possessions. And, of course, Peter Fenlon's maps were simply stunning, works of art in their own right. MERP was the game that I most frequently ran during my 'salad days' of RPG'ing, during the mid-late 1980s.

Nonetheless, I have to concede that aspects of MERP's system -- most notably, its magic system -- are not very 'Tolkien-esque.' While I doubt that the good Professor ever developed a systematic conception of magic for Middle-earth, the magic system in MERP does not really resemble any description of magic in the Professor's various books. On this score, the Decipher game actually did a better job.

In any case, I hope that Cubicle 7 does justice to Middle-earth. I look forward to reading it, and possibly playing it, once it's published.

* Perceptive readers might notice that I did not mention The Silmarillion or the other post-humous works by Tolkien in the opening question. The reason is that the license for the game is from 'Tolkien Enterprises,' which only has the rights to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (including, fortunately, the material in the LotR appendices). So, alas, nothing from The Silmarillion!

11 January 2010

Happy 2010!

No time for a real post for at least another week, unfortunately, but I thought that I would mention that I’ve made a modest change to the blog. I’ve now divided the list of links on the right hand side of the blog into three categories: ‘Classic D&D’ (which covers OD&D, Basic/Expert D&D, 1e AD&D, and their respective ‘retro-clones’), ‘Basic Roleplaying/d100’ (including Chaosium’s Stormbringer/Elric games, and Call of Cthulhu), and ‘Rolemaster/MERP’ (focusing on Rolemaster 2e/Classic). These are my three favourite role-playing games – or, I should say, ‘families of RPGs’ – and I hope to write more about all three in the future.

If you are unfamiliar with BRP, there is a free ‘quickstart’ version of the rules available here. Also, RPG.net has a positive, recent review of the quickstart rules here.

Finally, I thought that I would mention that a very positive review of Knockspell #3 has been posted here.

Cheers!

(Above is a picture of Blarney Castle. Since I will not be posting anything for at least a week, I thought that this picture would make a nice placeholder.)

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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who divides his time between Milwaukee and Toronto.