January 27th, 2008

The Fool

Official : DnD more expensive than WoW

D&D's 4th Edition is set to release this summer, and the base price for each of the core books is $35. Since running a game with just the PHB is... difficult, at best, this comes to $105 USD. World of Warcraft + expansions at that time will be about $70. The subscription price for WoW is $15/mo; as I understand it, D&D will have a subscription to access new content, as well. Given their MMO-type format for everything else, I wouldn't be too surprised if it's in the same ballpark.

If D&D had a vibrant, active community, such that I knew I could have a blast with the new product, it might be worthwhile. The draw to playing an MMO is that you can sit down whenever you want, wherever you live, and play. Where I live (a smallish city in southeast pennsylvania), I know a handful of tabletop gamers, most of whom hate being the DM and don't always have time to read new products as they're released. Most of them have transitioned over to WoW or similar games for basically those reasons.

I don't know if WotC has been paying attention, but there's a massive pirate torrenting network out there for roleplaying books. I prefer to own my books, and hardcopies at that (much easier to game with)... but I'm not blind. They seem to be trying to combat this with digital licensing (like that's proven effective for anything so far)... but that's stupid, when more reasonable prices would cut the problem in half. Offering discounts on professionally done and thoroughly indexed web copies of books would take out another chunk; I've looked into sites like drivethrurpg before, and often times, the books I want are cheaper in hardback from amazon than they are to download a PDF of (and the PDFs I've seen aren't that wonderful, either).

I'm not under any illusions about tabletop games having been especially cheap in the past, but the industry's struggling and WotC's response is to raise prices. It seems ludicrous. Why are they doing this?
  • Current Mood
    annoyed annoyed

Dreamation AP

Hey guys! I just got back from Dreamation and thought maybe I'd post about some of the games I played while I was there. If you attended also say hey!

Grey Ranks: This is the second time I played Grey Ranks and it just doesn't disappoint me. I love tragedy and emotional catharsis and this game delivers. To those who don't know, it's about the child soldiers of the Warsaw Uprising. Phew. This game hits you right in the guts. I played a girl nicknamed "Elf" who was in love with a boy named Tadzio in the midst of all this insanity. However, as the only female in a squad of adolescent boys, she was pursued by nearly all of them, all in the midst of scurrying through tunnels, trying to rescue besieged academics, and delivering intelligence across enemy lines. In the end, the stress of the war and her struggles with budding romance caused her to have a nervous breakdown at a German guardpost and attack a Nazi soldier. She was restrained and shot in the head. Everyone I played with was really good at honing in on the tragedy of the setting, which the mechanics push heavily and amazingly, and were also real good at humoring my romantic plot. One of the players, James, was particularly good at playing a shy, blushing suitor.

Food Holes, a hack of Contenders: Going from Grey Ranks to Food Holes made my had spin so fast the planet started rotating just a little bit faster. Food Holes took the rules for a game about desperation and boxing, and replaced it with competitive eating. I played Brock Johnson, an ex-professional wrestler who joined competitive eating for a fundraiser and found his true calling, leaving the world of professional wrestling behind. I ended up taking the #2 spot for the competitive eating competition after winning the South Carolina Summer Kool-Aid Chug, a Slim-Jim eating competition, and a Live Sponge-Eating contest. He lost in the final round, nearly drowning in a chocolate fountain when the sugar shock made him pass out. He was the crowd favorite and went on to a successful career in politics. One of the players, Terry, would occasionally be cast in the role of Jose, a competitive eating trainer, and I wish I had a recording of her exchanges with wannabe competitive eaters. It was fantastic.

Beowulf, a hack of In a Wicked Age: So this was a game I did not enjoy so much. There was a lot of energetic rules discussion going on, about rules that I hadn't read and only barely understood. I've recognized recently that if I'm trying to play a game without understanding the rules and, as a result, don't understand the decisions I'm making and how they're impacting play, I don't feel like I'm actually playing. This made me surly and cranky, and when a non-disruptive way to leave play came up I took it. I was playing a giant, sentient tree who was trying to kill the dwarves who lived inside him. Eventually, a sorcerer dispatched some "heroes" to kill the tree and take its fruit, and they succeeded. I should note that I wasn't pissed off at anyone involved the game, nor do I think it was a bad game at all! In fact, I bought the rules and I'm looking forward to trying it out again. Things just got a little messed up is all.

Misspent Youth: Rob Bohl has a tight game here that is near-done, if not completely done. It was cool to come in and be totally impressed by it since the last I'd heard a lot about it was when Jeff and Bob played it in early playtesting and it wasn't together yet. Basically, you play a gang of teenagers who are fighting authority. In our case, we were playing young Inuit who were fighting their absorption into a global monoculture. I was a gene-hacker who was trying to restore the animal populations of sea and land life that the Inuit traditionally hunted. Over the course of the game, in order to succeed in conflicts you have the choice to sell out. This is poignant and thematically... what's a good word, awesome? Awesome doesn't really describe it but it'll do. Cool characters become trendy. Smart characters become pedantic. He's done a swell job with this game. It is fun.

1001 Nights: So this game surprised me, very pleasantly, like being woken up to find yourself receiving a blow job from a rainbow(?). So I thought it was a storytelling game in the vein of Baron Munchausen, but it's more like... huh. How to describe it? So, I was playing a food taster who was in love with a beautiful, untouchable dancer. He would occasionally be called upon to tell stories and would tell stories of unrequited love turned requited, and happy endings. When you tell a story you call upon other players/characters to take roles, so the dancer always played the beautiful princess and object of unrequited love in the stories. Generally, as the character telling the story, you frame scenes and occasionally provide narration that the other players spin off of, but the primary story-drivers are the people playing the characters themselves. It's not as storytelling-heavy as Baron Munchausen. It's almost like a rotating GM game, where the characters are GMs if that makes any sense. Anyways, my food taster eventually won the favor of the dancer (she caressed his cheek. At first she mocked him, but after listening to the wonderfully sweet and poignant love stories, decided to run away with him. It was really, really nice.

Contract Work: Russell runs a cool game. CW is still in playtesting and I think the rules mechanics aren't there yet, but I had a good time and I'm real interested in where this goes. While Russell's written a game specifically about hitmen, I think this game could do any sort of caper story - Ocean's Eleven or a Shadowrun mission.

Under My Skin: Okay, this game deserves a couple pages of write-up, but it was a Jeepform-style LARP. We had fewer than ten players. There were rules about scene-framing and character creation, but there was no "conflict resolution." It was just acting out the relationships of the characters. The situation that the game presents is a group of friends and acquaintances who begin pursuing relationships with multiple people simultaneously, either as explicitly permitted polyamory or affairs. You play out these people's lives as these situations begin to create pressure and tension for them. I played a locksmith whose business was failing after his brother and business partner went to Iraq. After a horribly damaging prior relationship, he became involved in an affair with a politician. I had to go to bed at this point but Emily, the game's designer, took over the character and I hear he and the politician were outed at a political event by the politician's enraged wife. It was intense and fantastic. I couldn't be happier with it. In fact, I'd really like to try to run one sometime in the future. It might be too late to submit one to Arcon, and I'm not sure how much interest there would be in one, but it was excellent. I can't heap enough praise on it. I am so invested in its creation.

That's all! AP! Yay!