RPG LTE: Swords & Sorcery Beta Release

I have written a small Role-Playing Game. RPG LTE: Swords & Sorcery is a light, 5-page (for basic rules), easy-to-learn, and hopefully very intuitive fantasy Role-Playing Game. I’ve made a few posts already about how and why I ended up writing this game, so this post is simply the “official” beta release. The game is fully playable and working, but not every aspect has been extensively tested. Certainly any feedback would be appreciated, and updates will be forthcoming.

Core Rules (Beta) (PDF)

Game Mastering (Beta) (PDF)

Monsters (Pre-Made and Made) (Beta) (PDF)

Character Sheet (Beta) (PDF)

I hope anyone taking a look enjoys the game, and if all goes well the system can be adapted into more themes and genres as time progresses to allow it to be enjoyed in as many ways as possible.


Book Review – The Role-Playing Game Primer an Old School Playbook (By: Chris Gonnerman)

The Role-Playing Game Primer is a book by Chris Gonnerman intended to be used as an introduction to RPGs in general and “old-school” RPGs in particular. “Old-school” here being mainly “retroclones” of older RPGs (as opposed to those games themselves) such as Gonnerman’s own “Basic Fantasy RPG” (Based on the Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition rules using the Open Game License {That gets complicated}) and “Iron Falcon” (Based on older D&D {Also under the OGL}) games, and several others that are mentioned by name (but those names don’t really mean much to a person who isn’t in the culture yet). But just how good is it at being the “primer” it set out to be?

I’m not exactly the best one to evaluate this book, as I don’t really need “priming” on the whole RPG thing. I am far from an “old-school” gamer, but I generally know the differences in play styles between them and the “new-school” (or whatever they’re called) gamers. So this book was more of a curious read and not me actually looking for an introduction. And it was a nice, short read. The 62 pages have slightly larger than average text and a good amount of illustrations. These illustrations are either: stock images, those sent in by contributors for Gonnerman’s “Basic Fantasy” game, or maps of areas designed as examples. At least that’s my assumption, since, while the art is good, it varies wildly in style and has almost nothing to do with what is written on the page (a common theme in most “OD&D*” books I’ve seen). But it’s still nice to look at and gets the job done. (*Original Dungeons & Dragons)

The text is divided into chapters, but can be further divided in my mind into the first part, where Gonnerman describes new players starting up a game with the Game Master (GM) (using his own system as an example), and the second part, where he talks directly to the reader and gives them advice. I really like the first part. It does a good job of giving an explanation and examples for how to play a Role-Playing Game (even if the dialog is a bit unrealistic at times). It’s one of those reaffirming sections where one can go “whoo… I’m not doing this thing wrong” in reference to starting up and playing an RPG. And it’s short enough to not overstay its welcome. The second part needs to be taken with a grain of salt as it’s written with an obvious bias against newer RPGs (but maybe the title gave that away) that’s never really given adequate justification. One might, through some unlikely circumstance, come out of this book thinking that “old-school” role playing is simply “better” or “the way to play” rather than there being different sets of people who enjoy either. With that aside, however, it does do a very good job of explaining how “old-school” games work for both players and GMs while providing some nice tips along the way.

The brevity of this book is another plus. The language is nice and concise while being informative and not particularly confusing (as far as something being about an RPG can not be confusing). It moves along fast enough that it can be easily recommended as a read before diving into, or while beginning to read, one’s first role-playing game (it does help if it’s one in the older vein, though). The advice, information, and explanations are informative and well laid out (probably from years of experience) while being simply but not dumbly written. Aside from one humorous example where an “old school building” is referenced and in the text hard to differentiate from the many other times “old school” is used in reference to RPGs I was never confused when reading (though as I say I did know about the subject going in). Gonnerman’s experience in the area and writing skill show through when reading.

It’s far from and essential book, but it’s inexpensive (being print-on-demand), short, and well written. I would recommend looking into it as a beginner, but I have to question whether or not it’s really worthwhile with so many good forums, blogs, and videos on the subject out there. If one doesn’t want to sift through that content or wants a more focused experience, this book would work great (and I also can’t imagine you ever finding this review). Otherwise it’s more of a curiosity so that one may, like me, make sure they aren’t “doing it wrong” and maybe get a few helpful tips along the way (except for the part where he calls the traditional way to draw {dungeon} maps into question, but maybe the reason is only obvious to me).

Book Review – How to Draw Fantasy Art and RPG Maps (By: Jared Blando)

How to Draw Fantasy Art & RPG Maps: A Step by Step Cartography for Gamers and Fans is a book with quite a long name that is aptly described by said title. It’s a “how-to” art book detailing the creation of fantasy or “medieval” maps for use generally with role-playing games. I picked a copy up mainly to get some inspiration from the included examples and not to actually get any solid drawing information from, as my in experience most “how-to (art)” books I’ve read don’t provide any real benefit other than that (the worst being the “Step 1: Draw a circle, Step 2: Perfectly draw a bunny then color it” kind). But does this one break the mold?

All first impressions indicate that this is a fairly standard, if nicely produced, how-to-draw book. The almost 8½ x 11” size is nice and fitting while the 128 page length is right in the middle of books of this type (most good ones at least). The cover stock is decent and the inside pages are heavy and well coated. The image quality is phenomenal; it’s all nicely printed and well laid out (and meant to look old on the covers. meaning the damage to the corners caused by shipping doesn’t show up as much)

The actual content of the book is where it seems to lose purpose. Not necessarily the art, which is very good if a bit overly specific, but in the writing, which spends most of the books length telling you “now sketch/draw/fill in X” without giving any real hints, tips or tricks. And sometimes I get that, maybe there aren’t any “tricks”, but at that point the text could just be omitted. It seems like the author was only writing most of the book because it was supposed to be a “book” and not show-and-tell, but I’m not necessarily against show-and-tell, especially in this context. The worst part is that even with all of the unnecessary text there are constantly little blocks like pop-up ads in book form that “inform” the reader of “free content” on the publishers website (that I’m sure will be around for as long as all physical copies of the book last). I personally haven’t looked to see (now I have, it’s not much) what’s there but they are used frequently enough (to fill space I’m guessing) that it almost seems like there’s a second book online I should be looking at (there isn’t, just wallpapers).

Still, there is some good stuff in the book; scattered around are helpful “aside” boxes that have useful information (generally better than the regular guidelines) and most of the information and images are on a solid foundation. The shield chapter is particularly nice (if short) one where many examples and color palettes are provided to give the reader some inspiration. This stands in sharp contrast to the previous icon chapter where little-to-no variation or creativity-inspiring options are presented, with boring text that at times (citadels) is directly in opposition to the drawing being displayed. This chapter is by far the worst example of the main problem with the book; that is, just stating the obvious about what is drawn. I have eyes and can see that that is a circle, I also know that the first step in drawing it is a circle, but the book explains that to me. I kept reading in the hope that some interesting fact or technique would be presented but none were (or very few at least). It’s still a problem, but much less so in other chapters where the drawings being directed are actually slightly complicated.

But that’s always been a problem art books have. They provide very few options because they can’t provide more. They don’t know exactly what you want, and when they start to provide the reader with options they lose their cohesiveness. Even this book, which is very straight forward and “constricting”, seems to be about how to make two very different styles of map, but they’re presented as one, in chapter order like you’re supposed to follow. But if you included each of the elements suggested in each chapter as you made the map, you’d have a hard time fitting everything in nicely and you’d end up with a graphically confused and cluttered map.

The book fulfills the purpose I bought it for in giving general inspiration and techniques for creating “fantasy” maps, and it’s an alright beginners tool. The author is a very good artist even if he wasn’t given the ability to flex his writing muscles (that may or may not be there) and the whole thing is nice looking and well produced. I think it would have been better served (like most art books) as a series of images to use as “suggestions” or to draw inspiration from, but if one knows about that (perceived) flaw in books like this going in it is no real problem. If one is looking for actual instruction, the sections on supplies, inking, and digital manipulation at the start and end of the book will do the job with little in the middle being particularly helpful. I am glad I got the book, but I’m not sure how much I could recommend it; it’s nothing special in the world of “how-to art” books and I’m not much of a fan of the (quite digital) aesthetic. So maybe take a look at all of that “free content” on the publisher’s website before making a decision (it just takes one to a page to enter their email address to get “wallpapers”, hardly worth it. I’d try and leaf through the book at the store or with an online “quick look” feature before considering it).

What I Need

I’ve bought quite a few things in my lifetime: from action figures to board games, to tools, to art supplies, to the things I carry every day. But did I really need any of that stuff? Probably not. I could probably argue that my EDC (every-day carry) stuff is pretty necessary in my day-to-day life based on how much I use it, but I don’t think it would qualify in anybody’s bare-bone definition of “need”.

What everyone needs is obviously food, water, (in theory) shelter, and the ability to obtain those items. All of the things I “needed” to complete those collections, fill out my EDC, or upgrade my toolset probably weren’t that necessary. But I think I did “need” some of them. Not in the “food and water equals life” sense, but in the “helps me obtain life necessities” sense (the tools), and in the “I have enough resources to get something extra that doesn’t interfere with basic survival” sense.

They might not be things I need, but I can afford them without taking away from mine (or anyone else’s) means of living. In many cases I’m either supporting the company that makes them directly, or the endeavors of the local charity shops. And since I take good care of my stuff I end up with a lot of it, and with a lot of it comes the constant need to justify what I “need”. Do I “need” all of this stuff? If not, why do I have it? Well, I like it, it lets me have fun, and in several cases it gives me an activity to do with friends. It helps me learn new skills to both simply be a more educated person and help friends and family who might be in need.

Now most of it is me just asking myself, but sometimes it’s other people asking “do you really need all of this?” or “What are you gonna do with that thing?” And really, I admit to not being the best person ever, but: I’ve given to people who needed it, donated to charities, recycled and reused many of my disposable items, not stolen from anyone, gotten my basic needs taken care of, and not created a giant pile of stuff that will fall over and kill me or breed disease like a cesspool. I think I can decide I’m at a point where what I “need” isn’t all that needs to be considered when I intend to purchase something.

Now that’s not to say I buy things at random, or that I should “over buy”. Or that I’m too high and mighty to consider what I really need. But I think that I (or you) after basic needs are taken care of (food, water, shelter, safety, backups, etc) have been taken care of, shouldn’t have to justify absolutely every purchase in my mind or to others with “needing” it. It overcomplicates things and puts too much emotional influence on the object. It’s just a thing, and I like things, but I don’t need them.

Blog 8-26-15 – Moving and Mini Convention

Hello folks! Unfortunately today there will be no extra review or article post like the last few weeks as I am moving and had to prioritize many of the more regularly scheduled items. This is the same reason many of the videos I have planned have been delayed. There is another EDC series to go with the summer blog posts, and a few other fun ones in the making right now. I hope to put these up soon after I get my life smoothed over.

But in more exciting news, I have been working on 4 books, 2 more collections of my web-comics, and two updated versions of small books I did previously. If all goes well, these books will premier at the Big Bend Mini Comic Con on September 5, at which I will have a table. When they are released, I will have a separate post dedicated to that.

I hope the summer went (and is going) well for all of you, and I hope you can be patient with the posting schedule. And if you’re in or around the Big Bend area of Texas on September 5th, I’d recommend coming this new fledgling event in Alpine.