Sunday, 31 August 2014

RPG A Day August 2014

To celebrate the end of August's RPG A Day here are my 31 entries.

Many thanks to Dave Chapman for setting up this excellent month's worth of fun. It's been very informative!

1st

First RPG played, Red Box D&D in 1984. It was my first foray into tabletop gaming after spending more than a year playing Fighting Fantasy ganebooks and it was something of a revelation. Instant creativity, storytelling, fun and excitement.

2nd

First RPG Gamemastered - Fighting Fantasy, the introductory RPG. I didn't have the confidence to run a game as complicated as Basic D&D, so I chose a simple game system. The FF rules were so simple anyone could run it, and I remember running a game set in Port Blacksand - at the time Allansia was my favourite gameworld and it was fun to run.

3rd

First RPG Purchased - that'll be the red box Basic D&D in 1984, from the toyshop up our town precinct that had a wall full of games, miniatures and dice. I'd been playing Fighting Fantasy for a year and that's a kind of RPG, but Basic D&D was the first dedicated group tabletop game I bought.

4th

 Most Recent RPG purchase - Ars Magica 4th Edition. It was at a gaming convention and it was cheap, so how could I say no?

5th

Most Old School RPG owned - D&D Cyclopedia. Not my favourite system but full of nostalgic goodness.

6th

Favourite RPG never get to play - Warhammer FRP 1st Edition. Played this to death in the 1990s but nobody wants to play 1st Edition days.

7th

Most 'Intellectual' RPG owned - Blimey, that's a tough one. Probably Call of Cthulhu as that asks for a bit more from gamers than just hack n' slash.

8th

Favourite Character - Tere Swordsong of MERP. He had a simple beginning, had a proper run of adventures with great NPCs and ended up married and owning the inn in which his adventures started. He was a great character.

9th

Favourite Die / Dice Set - my original pair of D6s from my early 1980s Fighting Fantasy days. They're in a lined miniature chest on my desk. No, really.

10th

Favourite tie-in novel/game fiction - that'll be a toss-up between RA Salvatore's Icewind Dale books, and the Warhammer Gotrek and Felix books. I'll go with Gotrek and Felix.

11th

Weirdest RPG owned – That has to be Task Force Games’ Prime Directive. I know that Star Fleet Battles went off on another timeline from the official Paramount course but it’s peculiar to see Star Trek almost ‘militarised’. I ended up using the character sheet and some elements of the game in a post-Dominion War campaign using the D6 system.

12th

Old RPG you still play/read – Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, 1st Edition. It’s really full of flavour and atmosphere and always gives me ideas for campaigns.

13th

Most Memorable Character Death – Zeke Greyfellow, Shadowrun 1st Edition. Unmodified and with no magic, Zeke met with a Dragon to cut a deal. When it went south, the rest of the group ran for it and Zeke stuck around to fight it, riding at it on his Yamaha Rapier and blazing with his SMG. One round later; dead.

14th

Best Convention RPG Purchase – The 25th Anniversary edition of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, because I met Jackson and Livingstone and got it signed.

15th

Favourite Convention Game – Pathfinder. Always a great game with some great convention GMs.

16th

Game you wished you owned – Anything to do with Dune.

17th

Funniest Game you’ve played – Paranoia, by far. There’s nothing quite like double crossing other players and appreciating being nailed in the process.

18th

Favourite Game System – The D6 System. Versatile and easy to use, I love it as I enjoy more cinematic games with plenty of action adventure.

19th

Favourite Published Adventure – Mask of Nyarlathotep. Pure genius from start to end, and a great read to boot.

20th

Will still play in 20 years time… - Star Wars D6. Because it’s the D6 System and Star Wars.

21st

Favourite Licensed RPG – Tough one. I’d say Star Wars or the FASERIP Marvel game, but I have very fond memories of MERP. I’ll go with MERP.

22nd

Best Secondhand RPG Purchase – Ars Magica. Great game, and very, very cheap.

23rd

Coolest looking RPG product/book – Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition. I’ll probably never play it again, but it’s a beautiful book.

24th

Most Complicated RPG Owned – MERP, for the obvious Rolemaster reasons.

25th

Favourite RPG no one else wants to play – That’s easy: Dragon Warriors. From the flavour of the text to the excellent Johnny Hodgson artwork this game is a little quirky but very playable. It’s the setting more than anything and I got one excellent campaign out of it, but sadly it’s no longer top of my group’s list.

26th

Coolest character sheet – It’s not so much cool but clean and functional; red box Basic D&D sheet. It’s nice and simple and easy to use. If it’s sparkly cool you’re looking for then I’d say Icar, the free game from the talented Rob Lang. It’s a good system and the character sheet helps enhance the atmosphere. http://www.icar.co.uk/

27th

Game You’d like to see a new/improved edition of… - Wow – I’ve never been a lover of new editions because to me, the liquid nature of a roleplaying game means that if there’s something you don’t like about a system you change it best you can. That’s why a lot of the games I play are still first edition versions. I’d like to see a new Star Frontiers, though – that’d be a great open setting D&D-esque sci-fi RPG.

28th

Scariest Game you’ve played – Call of Cthulhu. Without question. It introduced me to Lovecraft’s works and gave me some of the most intense games I’ve ever run or been involved in, and some of the adventure plots I came up with, and the NPCs I played, made me very uncomfortable.

29th

Most memorable encounter – MERP, 1990. ‘So… it surely can’t be a real dragon, can it?’

30th

Rarest RPG owned – Sadly, thanks to real life, I was forced to part with my collectable games, but I used to have an original copy of Boot Hill, that I never even read but sold for a lot of money many moons ago. I think now, the only game I have that I don’t really see anywhere else is the first edition Star Trek RPG, but it’s unboxed and in bad condition.

31st

Favourite RPG of all time – Oof. Wow. Erm… because I’ve gamed in just about every genre and I’m able to change my attitude and creative angle to suit each of those genres, I think my favourite RPG of all time is the hobby itself. Is that answer even allowed?



Saturday, 23 August 2014

NOMCAST Episode 4 - The 'STAR WARS' Special

NOMCAST

Nerds On Mic

Episode 4 - 18th August 2014

The 'STAR WARS' Special

Be advised that there is some colourful adult language in this week's episode.


(c) 2014 Newbold/Hicks Productions

A podcast in which we talk about random nerd stuff.

In this episode -

Star Wars, Star Wars, and some more Star Wars. And some Star Trek.

Of course, these are things we wanted to talk about, but there's plenty of digression.

Thank you to Britain's Got Talent's Stu Arnold for the incredible Arnie introduction!

With:

Jonathan Hicks
www.farsightblogger.blogspot.co.uk
@jonmarkhicks

Mark Newbold
www.jedinews.co.uk
@jedinews2010

Lisa Hicks
www.thebathobbit.blogspot.co.uk/
@bathobbit

Nancy Petru
@dasmoosh

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Review - 13th Age Bestiary

13a_Bestiary_30013th Age Bestiary

Lead Designer and Developer: Rob Heinsoo
Developer: Kenneth Hite, Cal Moore
Art Direction: Rob Heinsoo, Kenneth Hite
Interior Art: Rich Longmore
Monster Tiles: Lee Moyer
Editor: Cal Moore
Authors: Ryven Cedrylle, Rob Heinsoo, Kenneth Hite, Kevin Kulp, ASH LAW, Cal Moore, Steve Townshend, Rob Watkins, Rob Wieland

I’ll admit this up front - the 13th Age roleplaying game gets a lot of love in my house. The game’s clean, simple rules and innovative extras have gone down really well with my D&D group and we’ve already got one great campaign out of it. I managed to get through the entire adventure with just the core rulebook but now that I’ve got my hands on the new 13th Age Bestiary I feel like I can take the adventure further.

The 13th Age Bestiary is a full-colour and beautifully presented 240-page book filled with 52 monsters to throw at your players during their travels across whatever gameworld you’ve decided to run around in. It covers plenty of classic monsters such as the instantly recognisable Dragons, Bugbears and Drow, so veterans of the D&D game will recognise many of the creatures straight away, which also means that the possible campaign worlds that the 13th Age core rulebook can cover is expanded. I ran a successful 13th Age campaign in the Forgotten Realms and now that I have this book, with plenty of recognisable monsters and races, I feel I can expand on that campaign with new creatures and adventure hooks.

The opening of the book gets you instantly geared up and introduces you to other concepts other than simply using the stats within as a combat encounter for adventurers to overcome. There are routes to take with these creatures beyond battles, including reasoning, possible treaties, creatures that might do something other than kill you… the book tries to make sure that the creature serves the story, or at least gives the GM plenty of plot hooks and story choices. There are monster entries that give you enough detail to create three of four entire adventures around, as well as use the manual as a simple grab-a-critter tome. This gives the book plenty of scope.

That’s not to say that the book is just a volume of potential adventure hooks. The book is, at its heart, a tome of monsters to throw against your players and there’s a handy section on how to build battles and encounters to truly test your group. The types of attacks, the dynamic of the gaming group, the nature of the creature itself; all these elements and others are taken into account to help the GM create memorable encounters.

These elements are taken further for each of the creatures in the 13th Age Bestiary. Each entry has plenty of details regarding statistics and what level they are, how to use the monster in independent campaigns, how to build battles around them, their interaction with the 13th Age Icons (although using Icons is not necessary), the nature of the creature and adventure hooks to get the most out of the beast, changing it from a simple stat block into an entire game of its own. With different variants of each creature in each entry this gives a possible 202 unique encounters in the book.

Each entry comes with an excellent illustration of the creature and this is something I like to see in bestiaries of this kind. Instead of going into long-winded descriptions of the creature I like to hold up the book and say ‘there it is’ and then get on with the action. The illustrations are dynamic and evocative and are excellent visual examples of the monsters for any campaign setting.

As well as all this the book also gives you guidelines on how to re-task the creatures, create your own creatures, how to mix them up and, fundamentally, create hybrids – effectively giving GMs the option of creating an endless list of strange unpredictable monsters - and there’s a handy index of all the monsters in this book as well as the 13th Age core rulebook.

All these factors make the book pretty much invaluable as a 13th Age resource. Not only is it expanding on the creatures you can use in the 13th Age world, as well as any other campaign setting of the group’s choice, it’s expanding the scope of the campaign by introducing adventures, story ideas and unpredictable encounters. I’m usually reticent about allowing my gaming group to read bestiaries and manuals of this kind as it may give them an angle on how to defeat the foe, but in this case I don’t think I’d be too bothered if they perused the pages of this book as the variants still make the monsters somewhat unpredictable, both in a combat and a roleplaying sense. I think a player reading this book won’t be fully prepared; I think they’d actually be concerned about what was to come because they could never be sure what was gong to be thrown at them, or in what context.

I can find very little to criticise about the 13th Age Bestiary. It has taken the monster stat book idea and added extra elements such as the nature of encounters and adventure hooks and this means the book is a fantastic resource not just for monsters but for plot, adventure and even campaign ideas. This means the book will stretch out your 13th Age campaigns beyond the simple encounters the book can offer. Of course, GMs who just want a book of stat blocks to put into their own 13th Age campaigns get just that, too, and the details can be used as flavour. I can’t imagine many GMs using the book just for creatures for the party to fight, though; there’s far too much material in here to be left to the wayside.


Well written, well presented and well realised, the 13th Age Bestiary is an invaluable resource for any and all 13th Age GMs. Highly recommended.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

A L I E N : Isolation

I've covered a few console and PC games after they were released but I don't usually big them up beforehand, but there's a game coming out that I am incredibly excited about and my impatience for it is starting to make me dribble.

A L I E N: Isolation is coming.

My disappointment with the incredibly lacking ALIENS: Colonial Marines is well known and upon hearing about a new ALIEN game in the works I wasn't exactly enamoured. But, after reading and watching the developer diaries and trailers I've slowly come to realise one thing; this could be the ALIEN game I've been waiting for.

The developers have gone back to an analog, pre-sleek n' swish flatscreen future and made everything clunky, grimy and dirty, and that element alone makes me more than excited for this game. The entire game reeks of the original Ridley Scott movie so there's no 10mm explosive-tipped standard light armour piercing rounds being blasted from a M41a Pulse Rifle here - just a single killing machine and a space station full of twitchy, terrified people... and very few resources. It's survival horror at it's best.

Oh, and if you get it on pre-order you can play on the Nostromo. As one of the original crew. I shit you not.

Everything you'll need to get you in the mood for some classic sci-fi horror is below. Knock yourself out, and keep October free in your gaming diary.



Announcing the 2014 ENnie Award winners

The Gen Con EN World RPG Awards (the “ENnies”) are an annual fan-based celebration of excellence in tabletop roleplaying gaming. The ENnies give game designers, writers and artists the recognition they deserve. It is a peoples’ choice award, and the final winners are voted upon online by the gaming public.

Best Adventure
Best Aid/Accessory
Best Art, Interior
Best Art, Cover
Best Blog
Best Cartography
Best Electronic Book
Best Family Game
Best Free Product
Best Game
Best Miniatures Product
Best Monster/Adversary
Best Podcast
Best Production Values
Best RPG Related Product
Best Rules
Best Setting
Best Supplement
Best Software
Best Writing
Best Website
Product of the Year
2015 Judges
  • Annah Madrinan
  • Jakub Nowosad
  • Kayra Keri Kupcu
  • Kurt Wiegel
  • Stacy Muth
2014 Judges’ Spotlight Winners

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Review - Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set

D&D Starter SetLike the rest of the roleplaying community I’ve been waiting for quite a while for this next version of Dungeons and Dragons.

After my less than stellar relationship with D&D 4th Edition I reacted to the news of D&D 5th with indifference, and then I was a little dismissive after reading the playtest rules and after pretty much ignoring the development of the game my attention was finally hooked by the art, release schedule and the snippets of news I was reading on the internet. I have to admit, once I started to take more notice I began to get more excited about the prospect of a new D&D game. This is, after all, the flagship of the tabletop RPG hobby and, no matter what I personally thought of it, I wanted to see it do well.

THE BOX

The game is a sturdy boxset containing the books and tools a gaming group will need. The cover art is very nice, as is the artwork in the books themselves, but design-wise the actual product doesn’t really grab hold of me and scream ‘YOU MUST PLAY ME!’ The presentation is, for want of a better description, bland. The booklets are staple stitched in full colour with glossy pages but they have the cover image and the contents on the front page so they look like books that have had their covers taken off, and the interior, while well laid out, have some but not a lot of art and pages of simple, uninspiring text. For a game that’s supposed to be getting new gamers into the hobby it’s simply not that exciting, and although the artwork is very good and evocative – they appear to have moved away from the improbable high-fantasy design of the previous two editions for something a little more grounded in reality – none of it makes my imagination spark into life. That may be more my issue than the game as I have a long history with the genre and there’s no doubt a ‘been there, seen that’ thing going on in my head. Regardless, as a starter set designed for new gamers I expected a few more fireworks and I simply do not feel that here.

The game itself comes in a box with the following contents:

64-page adventure book – it says that this comes ‘with everything the Dungeon Master needs to get started’, and that’s quite accurate. The adventure book is actually a mini campaign in the Forgotten Realms world called ‘Lost Mine of Phandelver’ that’ll take the players from level 1 to level 5, and there’s plenty to do in this campaign. It’s a good introductory adventure and includes what amounts to a small bestiary and magic item list, so there’s material you can use here in future games as well as stage other adventures in the campaign area. You’ll get a good 4 to 6 weeks worth of gaming out of this book - assuming you game once per week for about three hours – so that in itself makes the game a great purchase.

The adventure is aimed at making sure that DMs new to the hobby have everything they need to get through their first campaign. It’s a nice little guide to running adventures as well as playing in them and first-time groups will find it a great guide to the hobby. However, as with the rulebook – which I’ll get to in a moment – it doesn’t feel like there’s enough in here to fully explain the hobby to new blood. It feels like an expanded DM section of any roleplaying game in so much as you’d get this information in any RPG rulebook worth it’s salt. It’s good that it takes DMs and gaming groups through a campaign in steps and new gamers will find this very helpful, but I can’t see a group of new gamers who know absolutely nothing about tabletop RPGs understanding everything about the hobby; I think it’ll still take an experienced gamer to play with the group for them to fully grasp the concept and what’s required of them.

32-page rulebook – this is where I expected to find the driving explanations that got to the meat of the gaming hobby, but sadly it’s not there. It does explain the game in a few pages but, like I mentioned before, it’s nothing you wouldn’t find in any core rulebook for any other roleplaying game. I just do not feel it’s doing enough to be a true beginner’s starter set. If you know the hobby but you’re new to D&D then you’re fine, but if you already know RPGing then that kind of makes this whole boxset redundant.

5 pre-generated characters with character sheet – clean, nice and functional. I like the new character sheets, they’re laid out well and very clear.

6 dice – which are blue and do the trick. Another ten-sided ‘10s’ die would have been nice.

THE GAME

Readers expecting me to give a blow-by-blow description of changes to the game based on previous editions are going to be disappointed. That’s not how I write my reviews as I prefer to talk about what the game did for me and how it made me feel.

Moving away from my somewhat negative opinions of the presentation and my view on the new gamer approach the game takes, I’m glad to say that the game system is excellent. I’m a huge fan of Basic D&D and certain elements of the other editions and this game seems to have taken into account tat many D&D players will come from at least one of those backgrounds. It’s still the same system we all know and enjoy and the basics are definitive D&D. There are no power cards, no overbearing lists of talents and no reliance on grids or battle mats but there’s still plenty of options to flesh out a character and give each one their own identity and purpose.

The thing is, the Starter Set has no character creation rules. You are given the choice of five pre-generated characters of different classes – you’ll find these characters suit the ‘Lost Mine of Phandelver’ adventure well, of course – but there are no character creation rules at all. This not a problem, however – if you go to the Wizards of the Coast D&D page you’ll find a handy downloadable 100 plus page document that has character creation rules, expanded system rules and plenty more magic. What’s more, it’s a free PDF. So, with the Starter Set and these rules, gamers can get plenty of gaming out of the system and get all the way up to level 20. This is where the seasoned players get to experience D&D proper, and they get to use the ruleset to pretty much it’s full potential.

There are a lot of simple changes to the game but by far my favourite is the Advantage/Disadvantage rule. If you have a, Advantage in a skill, then you roll 2 D20s and keep the higher score. A Disadvantage means you roll 2 D20s and you have to use the lower score. It’s quick, neat and adds a great dynamic to the game.

The rules feel very stripped back and simple which is what you want in a starter set, but because of this the game feels incredibly playable – the kind of games I run are very fast and free flowing and I don’t want to get bogged down with rules and tables and page-flipping, especially when I’m running a combat encounter, and this allows me to do that. You still have to watch your book-keeping but battles don’t feel like a lesson in mathematics and you don’t have to worry too much about powers and abilities. You choose your skill and roll your die and that’s that. It’s nice to run a D&D game in which the players will only need the single-page character sheet in front of them and their dice. Other than a pad for adventure notes, the character sheet is all a player should need to play in the game

Of course, the Players Handbook might change this and add plenty of extra options and abilities, and part of me thinks that’s a shame. I do hope that this simple, quick and easy system is what I hoped for and I hope it gets plenty of support.

All in all, I really like this new D&D. My initial sceptisism has been cleaned away and I really like this quick and easy to use game system. It runs and feels like the D&D I remember - a lot more than 4th Edition ever did, in my opinion – and it’s a welcome return to the simple game I used to play in my youth.

It’s the presentation that lets it down for me. I wanted a bit more whiz-bang to really get me excited for the game but, other than the rules, I never really got any flavour from the design of the box, books and extras. Get past that, though, and you’ve got the beginnings of what is going to be a great game, and the system reminds me of what us older gamers loved about D&D in the first place.

It’s a great game system. I’m really looking forward to running more games of this and, looking past the presentation, I hope this is a return to what I love about D&D.

Review - Dragons: Riders of Berk - Dragon Down

A review of the new title from Titan Comics 
'Dragons: Riders of Berk - Dragon Down'

With Jonathan and Bruce Hicks



Snotlout's dragon, Hookfang, is shedding scales - and that's causing fires in Berk! When an upset Hookfang flies off and disappears, the gang set up a search party. Unfortunately, Alvin the Treacherous is also on the hunt for Hookfang...Who will get to Hookfang first - the Riders or Alvin? 

Find out in the first exciting Dragons Riders of Berk graphic novel, written by Simon Furman (Transformers, Matt Hatter Chronicles) with incredible art by rising star Iwan Nazif!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

NOMCAST Episode 3

NOMCAST 
Nerds On Mic

Episode 3 - 4th August 2014

(c) 2014 Newbold/Hicks Productions

A podcast in which we talk about random nerd stuff.

In this episode -

Computer Games - No Man's Sky
Bringing the disparate Marvel movies back together
Growing up a nerd
Post-apocalyptic: is it still doable?
And a massive unplanned Star Wars free-for-all!


Of course, these are things we wanted to talk about, but there's plenty of digression.

Thank you to Britain's Got Talent's Stu Arnold for the incredible Arnie introduction!

With:

Jonathan Hicks
www.farsightblogger.blogspot.co.uk
@jonmarkhicks

Mark Newbold
www.jedinews.co.uk
@jedinews2010

Lisa Hicks
www.thebathobbit.blogspot.co.uk/
@bathobbit

Nancy Petru
@dasmoosh

Friday, 1 August 2014

#RPGaDAY in August

And now for a word from Autocratik - AKA Dave Chapman - about this month little escapade that would be great for every enthusiast to get involved in and share across the internet.

'In August 2014 we want you to fill the internet with your memories, favourites and most enjoyable thoughts about tabletop roleplaying games.

Simply download the image from the site

Look to see what the topic of the day is, and then join in the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, etc. Just remember to use the #RPGaDAY - and let's get the world talking about our favourite hobby!'



Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Interview - Joe Theis of Lone Wolf Development

Please welcome to Farsight Blogger Joe Theis of Lone Wolf Development, the people behind the digital gaming aid Realm Works.

Realm Works is the tool every Game Master has dreamed about for managing campaigns. Spend less time preparing, more time creating, and focus on sharing the story with your players! Built by a team of experienced GMs, Realm Works can be used with any game system and allows you to create and manipulate your world like never before.


Perhaps you'd like to tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Joe. I’m a designer and software engineer for Lone Wolf, specifically Realm Works. I’m an avid PC gamer and builder, miniature painter, and RPG game master and player. I also enjoy running and target shooting, along with personal software development side projects. I’m married to the wonderful Liz, who you might already know from Lone Wolf’s forums, website, or social media. We have an adorable and energetic Formosan mountain dog named Kaylee.

Tell us about your RPG history - what got you into the wonderful world of tabletop roleplaying?

My first game was a long time ago. My friend’s older brother was running a game and the group needed a cleric (of course). I had no idea what was going on, but I thought it was weird and cool. After that, I didn’t think much of it. Years later, some friends and I discovered the board game Hero Quest, which is sort of like a proto-RPG. There wasn’t really role playing, but there were random/variable dungeons, killing monsters, avoiding traps, collecting and spending loot, etc. After lots of Hero Quest, one of our friends introduced us to Dungeons and Dragons 3.0. Since then, I’ve played with a number of different systems and genres.


What is it about the tabletop RPG hobby that attracts you? What do you enjoy most when playing a game?

I suppose now I should mention that everything in my answers is my own personal opinion, and doesn’t in any way reflect the opinions of Lone Wolf Development as an organization. I also recognize that these are my own personal preferences and opinions, and that others can and should feel free to have their own differing opinions.

My love of computer gaming undoubtedly colors my RPG preferences. There are certain things that I believe computer games are just better at as a medium: complex mechanics and computation, physical simulation, visual and audio immersion, etc. If I want a grid-based tactical challenge, I’ll prefer a video game like Civilization or XCom. If I want mechanical character progression, loot, and itemization, I’ll look to games like Diablo, Borderlands, Elder Scrolls, Planetside 2, etc. It’s not that I won’t play a combat and mechanics-heavy RPG (you’ll see that below), but it’s not what attracts me to RPG’s. I believe that video games are not (and perhaps never will be) good at deep social interaction with NPCs, open-ended storytelling, and player/GM freedom. I think RPG’s can reliably provide these things, and that’s why I come to them.


What's your favourite game? What games that are out there at the moment float your boat?

I’m a big fan of the new Star Wars games coming out of Fantasy Flight (Edge of the Empire, Age of Rebellion, etc). Part of this is because I’m a fan of the original trilogy, some of the novels, and these games are set in the thick of that. The systems are very different from the d20-based systems I’ve been used to for so long, and change can be a good thing in my opinion. They are a deliberate departure from heavy mechanics, and also have a clear focus on interaction, storytelling, and freedom (see above). The things I love about the system itself aren’t Star Wars specific though, and could apply to any genre really. The same game designer made an earlier, similar system for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd Edition, for instance.

Do you still get time to play? What are you playing at the moment?

I don’t have a ton of time for RPGs lately, but I’m currently involved in a long-running Pathfinder game with the Savage Tide adventure path. I joined it at around 9th level when it was being run under D&D 4th ed. We’re now in the high teens (18th or 19th) with a few Mythic tiers to boot. While Pathfinder is undoubtedly a mechanics-heavy game, it’s a solid system, I like playing with my friends, and our GM is able to inject a lot of personality into the NPCs and storylines.

Tell us more about Realm Works. It's been seen all over, most recently at PaizoCon, and it's a handy tool for world building and makes campaign management much easier; what was the attraction in making such an application?

In general, I think the big attraction people have to Realm Works is that everyone wants to have immersive, believable worlds but that getting there is so hard. I remember my first attempt as a GM to make a system for myself involved a big stack of index cards and tabbed dividers. It was helpful, but limited in a lot of ways.

I think another attraction for people is that it refocuses RPG tools on the major strength of RPGs: role-playing and collaborative storytelling. Most tools have been centered on managing mechanical complexity: character creators, dice rollers, initiative trackers, combat grids, and so on. You’d think that tools for managing mechanical complexity would reduce the complexity of our games, and they do to a certain extent. From my perspective though, complexity is inherent in the system and mechanics and doesn’t go away, but becomes easier to deal with thanks to the tools. I also think that easing this burden results in more game sessions focusing on mechanics, which is great if that’s your preference.

Realm Works helps you manage narrative complexity, and in the same way, this doesn’t mean you’ll be spending less time on narrative because it’s less complex. It means that you can have more depth to your narrative before it becomes burdensome. Where before it was difficult to have more than a handful of NPCs and plot threads, you can now have Game of Thrones-level intrigue going on (and again, just my personal feelings, no endorsement from George R.R. Martin or HBO!) Much in the way that I believe mechanically-focused tools encourage mechanically-focused games, my hope is that  having some narrative tools will result in more game sessions with enjoyable role-playing, narrative and collaborative storytelling elements.

The big attraction for me personally is that there’s nothing really comparable to Realm Works. As a developer, working in uncharted territory like this is exciting, educational, and rewarding. It’s also very exciting to want to actually use the product you’re working on, which is something many developers can’t say.

It's very polished, so what went into building the tool? Was there a lot of work involved?

We’re happy to hear that! We’re a small team working on a big project, so it’s sometimes hard for us to look past what we see as obvious, glaring flaws. We’re often our own worst critics, but that keeps us always relentlessly pursuing quality and polish.

Realm Works has a lot of intelligent technology under the hood that hasn’t really been seen anywhere before, certainly not in gaming products at any rate. There was a lot of thought and effort put in to design and architecture for the engine that drives Realm Works, which took a considerable amount of time. Really the concept itself has been a lifelong dream for Rob (it’s creator and Lone Wolf’s owner), and technology has only recently caught up to make his vision possible.

Work is still ongoing, and will be for a long time. Realm Works is not really a product where there’s a finite set of features, where we package and deliver it in a final state and then never touch it again. It will be constantly evolving as the gaming and technology landscape changes.

The tabletop roleplaying hobby has been through a lot changes over the years and it seems that its death-knell is always sounded when newer hobbies come along, such as collectible card games and online computer games. It still seems to be able to hold it’s own, though – what do you see happening to the hobby in the future? What changes, if any, do you think will have to be made to ensure its survival?

I think RPGs are already seeing a split, with systems focusing on storytelling, player and GM creativity, and social interaction parting ways from systems that focus on mechanics, simulation, combat, and number crunching. There’s nothing wrong with having a personal preference for either, but I do think the narrative-focused branch will have an easier time in the long run. It delivers a unique experience that can’t be found elsewhere, while the more mechanical games will need to differentiate themselves from other mechanics-focused card games, board games, tabletop war games, and video games.

I also think we’re going to see technology playing a greater role in tabletop RPGs of all kinds. We already have virtual tabletops, telepresence, and obviously tools like Hero Lab and Realm Works. This is only going to become more common and mainstream as time goes on. I think there’s still a place for low-tech RPG play too. There’s something special about paper character sheets, miniature figures, pencils, books, and dice. Humans like concrete, tangible objects. We like sitting around a table, talking face-to-face. I think there’s a balance to be struck that is unique to each group and player.

What are you working on at the moment?

Right now I’m playing with learning the Unity 3d game engine, as well as some basic 3d modeling in Blender, both of which have been new and interesting challenges for me. But as a developer, artist, and gamer, it’s scratching a lot of my itches all at once!


Lone Wolf Development also bought us Hero Lab. Hero Lab makes character creation a breeze, automatically tracking modifiers for every stat, ability, item, spell, and option you select. The automated validation engine verifies that all prerequisites, minimums, and other requirements have been met, pointing out where your character is in conflict with the rules.Hero Lab also acts as an electronic character sheet at the game table, keeping track of your health, abilities, and more during the game. Once the adventure is over, use your experience to advance your character to the next level and beyond!

Many thanks to Liz Theis for arranging the interview.