Thursday, September 18, 2014 17:44

Gen-Con 2014

August 13th, 2014

Ahh, it feels good to be back.  Hitting Gen-Con for the first time in too many years.  I’m only here for 2 days, but it should be a fun filled one.   I have never been one for many pictures, but I may try and snap some and post em up here.  Otherwise, I’ll It least post up anything I get a chance to play, with little mini reviews.

Now, I should probably get some sleep.  The morning comes all to soon.

 

-OuterDork, Dorking out.

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On the warforged.

February 4th, 2014

The Warforged are still a fairly new thing in the world of Kelduran.   They were originally created in the city state of Artifax to shore up their defenses in a border war with their rival city states.  The original warforged were designed to fight, and were created with a knowledge of basic fighting tactics, and a knowledge of common to aid in receiving commands.   Their free will was a surprise to their creators, and a flurry of laws were drawn up to grant their creators legal ownership of them as created property, rather then as citizens of their home city states.   The secrets of their design were stolen by a group of adventurers shortly after their unveiling, and sold to the other city states.  In the last 20 years, most of the city states have at least a couple artificers who can create them, and most have a standing guard of them in their military forces.

Mostly created to be front line fighters, the average warforged is not created with any knowledge of the other races of the world.  Over time, most pick up the basics, but few know more then what they can pick up in a barracks.   Elves are haughty, dwarves are short and insular,  serpentmen are creepy, and gnomes are weird, and talk to rocks. Warforged can learn as well as any sentient being, but they are rarely given much opportunity to learn more then additional combat training.  Some warforged have started to try and get away from their military enslavement, but it is rare, and most are caught and destroyed to try and curtail such thoughts in others.

Outside the human lands, warforged are all but unheard of.   Too expensive for traveling merchants to buy as guards, most of the other races have heard of the warriors the humans build, but they are rumor and hearsay, rather then fact.   Some warforged have been used in border skirmishes with the other races, but only very rarely, so eyewitness accounts are few and far between.

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Wadijar, Land of the Serpent people

February 4th, 2014

The southern jungle swamps of Wadijar are home to the Serpent People, and are ruled over by the priests of the Serpent God Ningishidar.

Ningishidar is the believed to be the guardian of, and bridge to, the underworld, and the Serpent people worshiped him in time past by sending mass sacrifices to him.  In the modern day, this has mellowed a bit, and Sacrifices are usually willing volunteers, and only offered up on high holy days.   The Empire itself is ruled by his Priesthood, and the Ningish sect controls most aspects of life  there.   Each village is ruled be a priest who enforces religious law, oversees worship, and directs the people in planting and harvesting.  The larger cities are overseen by over-priests and Templars, and all are answerable to the High Serpent.   In practice, Wadijar functions much like the other empires of the world.  The priests maintain order, and direct life, but the people are free to pursue their own livelihoods, as long as they pay tithes and attend services.   Outsiders and nonbelievers are tolerated in order to foster trade and keep the peace, but they are rarely welcomed.   Due to the fairly insular nature of their people and religion, it is rare for a serpentman to leave his home, let alone the swamps as a whole.

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The races and classes of Kelduran

January 20th, 2014

Kelduran is currently being re-built for 4th edition, so I wanted to give a quick run down of the possible race / class combinations.   Kelduran is a restrictive world, the gods are not free with their power.  In 4th edition, this means not every race has access to every power source.  Some classes are allowed, even if the race does not have access to the power source as a whole.   Also, some classes are allowed, but their power source is altered.  The Artificer is considered a martial class in Kelduran, for example. 

Elves (eladrin / wood elves):  Both types of elves are available in the game, the Eladrin are more the city elves, while the wood elves are more rural in nature.     They gain access to the Marital, psionic, divine, and shadow power sources.

Humans: Martial, psionic, divine, shadow.  (barbarian)  The humans have much the same access to powers and gods as the elves.

Warforged: Martial, psionic.  The warforged are not accepted by any god, but the human’s have found a way to build crystals into their frames that grant them psionic powers.   To date, all warforged are owned by either private craftsmen, or the larger city states that commission them.

Dwarves: Martial, Divine, Shadow (limited psionic) The dwarves have not, historically, had any psions, but in the last 300 years that has changed.  Dwarven psions are now occasionally born, but are usually killed when they are found to maintain the “purity” of the dwarven clans.  Some do escape to grow up, but these dwarven outcasts are rare, and are never allowed to return home.  Most dwarves found outside the clanhalls are exemplars, dwarves hand picked and trained to be the “face” of the clan’s sent out to bolster trade for their home clan.

Gnomes Martial (no artificers) Divine, Shadow, Primal.   As the chosen people of the nature goddess the Gnomes are the only race able to tie into the traditional primal power source.

Serpent people (dragonborn)Marital, shadow, Divine.    The serpent men of the southern jungles are a rare sight in the north, but some do make the trip.  They are most often of the shadow or divine power source, their empire is one ruled by necromancy, sacrifice, and dark and hungry gods.

No other races play a large part in Kelduran.  While some exist, they do not have major empires or patron gods.  The traditional demihuman races, goblins, gnolls, bugbears, and orcs, have not been seen in kelduran in one thousand years.  They are all presumed to be extinct, after a long genocidal war raged by an alliance of elves and dwarves.   They are considered little more then myth by the younger races of the world.

 

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Welcome to kelduran

January 20th, 2014

Kelduran is my home-brew D&d Campaign world.   Designed off and on over the last 10 years, It is far from finished, but I am getting ready to show it off for the first time anyway.   To start with I wanted to give a quick overview of the races and the  world.

kelduran is a land of jealous and spiteful  gods, old empires, and powerful psions.   Arcane magic is unknown to the world, but most of its capabilities have been duplicated using the powers of the mind, as granted by the Kelduas, God of psionic power, ruler of the astral sea.   Patron deity of the Elven empire, he has guided his chosen people to greatness.

The Dwarves worship Durg Lord of the forge, and keeper of the plane of Order.   Denied access to Psionic power, the dwarves lost the great war with the Elves over 500 years ago, and now stay behind the walls of their mountain homes, sending out rare exemplars to maintain contact with the outside world, and negotiate trade deals that keep the Dwarven clanholds fed, in return for the labor of their forges and mines.

The humans have filled the gaps left between the dwarven and elven empires, growing into a number of semi-allied city states built on the bones of the dwarven empire.   Psionic power is becoming more common among humans, and they have used their new abilities in inovative ways, developing psi-tech.  The greatest achievement of this has been the warforged, Artificial constructs designed for war, labor, and obedience.   The Humans claim no god as their Patron, worshiping as they wish.

The in-hospital seas are home to the gnomes, the masters of elemental power.   Driven from their pastoral homeland by the great war, they survive on great oceanic barge cities, held afloat more by elemental power then by engineering skill, or even natural buoyancy.   The gnomes worship Vela, Goddess of the natural world, and she has granted them the ability to commune with the elementals that inhabit all natural things.

To the far south, the humid swamps and jungles hide the empire of the serpent people (dragonborn).   Not much is known of this ancient empire, few who visit ever return.

Other God’s exist, each overseeing their own divine domain, and aiding or interfering with the world as they wish.   Perhaps most important is Charbolga, the lazy and capricious Lord of the dead.  Never a god to keep a close watch on his domain, the undead are common in Kelduran, ranging from fairly weak zombies and skeletons, considered a nuance by most, up though the powerful undead that hide in plain sight among the civilized races.

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Back in the saddle again.

December 12th, 2013

Welp, I’m back, after a.. 4 year.. absence.  Turns out running a shop takes way too much time for me to get around to doing anything convenient like updating a personal blog.   The shop is gone now, however, so I guess I can spend some of my new free time updating again.   You can expect random musings, badly written diatribes against the game industry as a whole, and maybe some reviews or something.  I want to get better as a writer, and they say the way to do that is to write a million words and throw them all away.   I don’t know about a million, but i can probably devote a couple hundred a day to this site.   Might actually help me process some things.   Today, I think we’ll do a store postmortem.   Up until a few months ago, I was the owner of 21st Century Comics & Games in East Lansing, MI.  I shut it down after 6 years of ownership.  I was the third owner, but actually owned it the longest out of any of the owners so I like to think it was mine by the end.

21C shut down for a number of reasons, some of them my fault, some of them just the nature of the industry as a whole.

Reason 1: Parking.   21C did not have convenient free parking.  We were located right next to MSU’s campus which gave us great walking traffic from campus, but made it suck if you actually drove out to see us.  This was not a huge deal if a customer was just stopping by to grab something, but I think it hurt our event traffic over time.   I looked into moving the store, but we had such a nice deal on rent where we were, I could not find another location with parking that was worth moving to.  Everything was going to be the same money for less space, which was not a trade I wanted to make.

Reason 2: Magic.   We did not support the magic community, sell singles, or host Friday night magic.  There were a number of reasons for this.   I did not play magic, and did not know that part of the industry as well as I should have.  I also did not want to deal with the hassle of buying and selling singles, and trying to keep up enough with the industry on that to make a profit.  Magic players as a whole also have a reputation for being difficult customers to deal with, largely due to a problematic minority, and I just did not want to put up with the hassle.  We also were more set up to handle war-gaming on Friday night,and I did not want to fight for the space.   There were also a number of stores in my area already doing magic.  My closest competitor was less then a block away, and had been focusing heavily on magic for a number of years.  That leads into reason 3.

Reason 3: Competition.   I ran the best store I could, and felt I did a pretty good job, but the market in East Lansing/ the greater Lansing area is pretty crowded.  The closest store to mine was literally a stones throw away, and we had a number of other shops in the area.  Some pre-dated mine, and some opened shortly after I bought the store.  It lead to a very diluted market.  I think the area has enough gamers to keep 1 or 2 shops running very profitably.  Unfortunately, within 15 minutes drive, I think we had 6 or 7, depending on what you count as competition.

Reason 4: Comics.  I like comics, I enjoy reading some of them, and I think it’s a great medium. However, I don’t love comics.  It is difficult to grown your comics business if you don’t eat sleep and breath comics.   I had a very wonderful manager helping me with comics over the years, which is the only reason my shop did as well as it did with comics, but I did not do what was needed to support the business.  I was never up on the current mega super crossover, and over time, my ability to recommend current titles dwindled.  I just lost most of the interest I had started with, in the day to day grind to keep the doors open and the lights on.   I was never the kind of owner who could grab a new comic off the shelf, and know which of my customers might enjoy it.   I am told there were other shops in the area that did that, and did it well, so I gradually lost comics business to them.

Reason 5: Loss of dominance.   When I bought 21C, it had some competitive advantages, that eroded over time.  We had the best RPG selection, the best Board game selection, and the largest Warmachine and Hordes section locally for sure, and possibly in the state.   People drove in from out of town regularly to pick up warmachine / hordes models, or to browse the new and used RPG section.   Over time, we lost some of that, as our competitors got better.  Board games became a bigger and bigger thing, so more stories carried more games, and our selection stopped being as impressive.   Other game stores got larger warmachine and hordes communities, and started stocking better.

Reason 6: Privateer Press.  Privateer press’s line also hurt us a bit on the stocking front.  Being the shop with everything was great, until the line got prohibitively huge.  They got so behind on orders I could not keep the shelves re-stocked.  By the time everything I wanted was in, I had so many holes to fill, I could not afford to get it all, so we were constantly out of stock on something.  Our community also dwindled.   I think in part because other stores were carrying the line, and getting their own groups people did not want to travel as far to be part of ours.  The first league I ran at 21C has 32 people signed up.  The last league only 6.

Reason 7: Lose of markets.   In my time at 21C, I got to watch the RPG market die another death.  In just a couple years it fell from one of our largest sales categories, to one of the smallest.   The big companies stopped publishing, one by one, and now only a few are sputtering along.   Heroclix died, and while it came back, our community never really did despite the efforts of a couple great volunteers.  We tried to fill the gap with other collectible minis, and for a while,  we did OK, but eventually that whole category was dead, another hole in my offerings.   I experimented with a number of different possible replacements from model rockets, to swords, but nothing ever really took.

Reason 8: Dilution of focus.  That experimentation I mentioned also cost me.   When I bought 21C, we sold warmachine, and its sister game hordes.  We also supported a battle tech community.  That was it as far as wargames went.  We did not sell Games workshop products, Malifaux and dystopian wars did not exist yet.  We were dabbling in AT 43 and Confrontation, and that may have been a mistake.  Every time I brought in a new game, the goal was to get in new customers.  What happened instead, was a percentage of my current customers tried the new game, and stopped or slowed their buying of whatever they had been getting before.  Over time, we tried this with a bunch of games, and it never really grew our customer base, it just diluted the focus of our existing customers.   It’s hard to say for sure what the shop might have done, had I kept with just warmachine and hordes, but I would have had a lot more money to devote to just those 2 lines, if i was not trying to keep all the others stocked.

Reason 9: The internet.  Sad but true, the internet retailers, and the granddaddy of them all, Amazon, were hard compete with.   They have us beat on price, period, and so we basically had to bank on loyal customers who play in the shop, and people who want it now, not in a couple days, or a week of shipping.  There were enough of those in 2007, less so in 2013, and it is only going to get worse.   When amazon is prepping to do 30 minute drone delivery by 2015, it’s going to be very hard for a traditional brick and mortar to compete.  A strong event focus seems to be a key to combat that problem, or picking a product categories where you have enough buying power to drive your wholesale costs down as far as possible.

Reason 10: Owner burnout.   I spent the entire time I owned 21C working 2 jobs.  I had a tech job, and I had the store.  This worked, in that it kept me solvent while the store was keeping itself solvent, but I feel it hurt 21C’s potential over all.  I never had as much brain space left at the end of the day as I needed to plan and work to grow the store.  I did not personally run weeknight events, which I would have liked to have been able to do, and I almost never played in the store.  By the end of the day, I always felt too burned out to jump into something.  We did as well as we did on the strength of my great employees, and the events they were willing / able to run.

I’m sure more things will come to me as time goes by, this is less an exhaustive list, and more just the surface thoughts.   I loved the store, and had a great time running it, and would not trade the experience for the world.   I may even try again someday, but how that might come about is a post for another day.

-Outerdork, dorking out.

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D&D Combat in the 4th Age

May 4th, 2009

Well, I have been selling, and Playing 4th ed for almost a year now, and one of the big arguments / complaints I hear a lot of is, its just like an MMO.   Now i play World of Warcraft, and have dabbled in a lot of other MMOs over the years, and as far as I can tell, that assertion does not really make sense.   I have combat powers in both games, but they usage mechanic is real time vs. turn based, I am balancing a magic point system, and the powers come back in seconds rather then fights.   Honestly, they don’t feel the same, and I never get the same character interaction out of an MMO that I get riffing with my friends on a Saturday night.    Recently however, I was chatting with a customer and they made a point I had to think about.   They pointed out it does play a whole lot like a Turn Based Tactical RPG like final fantasy tactics or Disgia.  You have a set amount of movement a turn, and then the ability, generally to drop one power on an enemy or group of enemies, and then you hop back in the Initiative queue till next turn.Obviously the parallels are never perfect, but I am inclined to think that D&D 4 does play a lot closer to that type of game then it has in previous editions.  The power system feels pretty similar and the grid plane just reinforces that feeling.   Now personally, I love those kinds of games, so if anything it just gives D&D another spin I enjoy, but I can see why some people might find the new combat system a bit more restrictive then the older editions.   The powers system in D&D 4 as written is not helping with this much.  For space and simplicity, the powers are almost all written as damage to enemy, plus effect, and then we move on.  Now when you start to actually play the game, they blossom with cool effects, and neat combos that build based on your creativity and that of your other party members.  Unfortunately, they only work in combat and generally still only hurt / move enemies.

In the interest in exploring if D&D 4 can be all the game I want it to be, I have started looking into other uses for combat powers.   I am playing a warlock, so my focus has been on their powers, and I am not having as much luck as I would like.  Up through 6th level, the best power I have found for creative uses is Diabolic Grasp.  A big demonic fist grabs your foe, sneezes them like a grape, and then yanks them to a position more to your liking.  Awesome, but it is still just a combat power.  However, when we look at the description, it is a big hand, so why can’t I use it for other things, like pulling the locking bar off a gate, or pulling a barrel or something over on an enemy.  I am inclined to think a lot of powers can be used more creatively, but this is not really discussed in the books, as yet, so it is going to be pretty much up to individual players and DMs to find the creative uses for these powers.   If Wizards ever finds a way to open up the power system to more creative usage, I think it would go a long way to putting to rest the “it’s like an MMO / Video game” argument.  I just wonder if they can do it and still keep the fun fastplay feel of the new system at the same time.

-OuterDork, Dorking out

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Musings on D&D 4th Ed, crafting and professions.

March 7th, 2009

Hello All,Here is my first stab at a real actual OuterDork Post.   Blogger extraordinaire I am not, so bear with me.

Time to blow the dusk off this blog, and I figure D&D 4th ed is a fine topic to kick things off with.   I have been a proponent of the revision since it was first announced, and I was devouring all the preview information I could get.   I love the rebalance of power between magic users and non mage users, and the simplification of everything that got between me and my dungeon crawling.   As time has moved on, I have gotten to dig into the game more, and actually play in an ongoing campaign, and I continue to be impressed.   I chat with customers every day, and Have found it interesting to see how some of the things I love best about the new game seem to be the same things others don’t like.

The most recent discussion I had was about the loss of the profession and Craft skills.    I have not really noticed they were missing until it was mentioned, and that got me thinking.   I used to take Craft with most of my fighter characters, with grand plans to build my own custom armor some day.  Sadly, in the scope of all the campaigns i ever played in, I almost never managed to MAKE anything.  The checks were too high, and it took to long to actually get anything constructed.   It turned out my hero’s rarely had the months and months it took laboring over a forge to actually make a suite of full plate.  usually they were too busy being…well.. heroes.   It was even harder if you wanted to make a magic item, which took as much time and as many checks, plus rare ingredients and a lot of your hard earned experience.

In 4th edition, they got rid of almost all of that.   Gone are the craft skills, No longer can your hero hope to take time off to be an armeror, or a Jewelry maker.   I can see why this would bother some people, but as I look at it… why did we need rules and skills for that?  D&D is now more then ever about being a hero, and fighting the good fight.  In fantasy rarely does the hero labor over a forge to create his own armor and weapons.  He either finds it, or is gifted it.   If you want your character to have a hobby… take one, the world of role-playing is open to you, but now you don’t have to put points into it, to prove you can do it.   Leave the forge to the blacksmith… your character is a HERO!

As for magic items, the rules have been made as simple as possible.   Learn a ritual, grab a mundane item, and spend gold = to the item you want.  Its capped at your level to hold down power creep, takes almost no time, and anyone who can learn rituals can technically do it.   As far as game rules go, tt seems to me that is all you need.  Sure the epic quest for reagents is no longer laid out in detail… but that is what the DM is for.  Say your wizard wants to make a rare magic wand.   Sure all the rules say is you need cash and a mundane item, but there is nothing to stop a good DM from requiring you to hunt down rare materials, in lieu of just paying the gold cost.   The rules are there, but they are simple, so they don’t distract from getting back into the fray against the forces of evil.  The way I see it, the simplicity makes it much easier to set up awesome role playing quests to build magic times, with just a little imagination, then you were ever able to do with the old clunky experience draining system.

I view professions much the same way.  In my games, rarely, if ever, did the profession skills actually come up.   When I was playing or running D&D we were off fighting, so my former skills as a professional whosiwhatsis never came up.   Professions made for cool role-playing backgrounds, but were rarely worth the skill points you pumped into them.   In 4th ed, its all background.  The few professional type skills, the knowledges, all have a good place, its clearly labeled what you can learn, and how to use the skills.   If you want your character to be a former legal aide, cool, write up a nice back-story.. but don’t worry about the “proof” because its not going to come up the next time your fighting an enraged red dragon.

This post touches on a theme I will likely hit on again, which is that 4th ED D&D is all about the hack and slash, heroic, dungeon crawling loot gathering dragon slaying fun that was always at the core of D&D.  I will agree wholeheartedly that tools for building your characters personality and background are missing from the rules… but I think this is both intentional, and a good thing.   Trying to cram everything into one game rarely works and I think 3 and 3.5 suffered from trying to provide a bit too much, leaving everyone with less.  If you want to run a heavily character driven, no combat style fantasy adventure game, there are better systems out there, like earth dawn, or exalted etc.   By stripping some of that out of D&D, they have created a lean, mean dungeon crawling machine, and I am loving every moment of it.   I’ll touch more on this later, and I would love to hear your comments, but I am late for my game, and I am eager to get back into my warlocks skin, and start burning the flesh from the bones of my enemies.

This is the Outer Dork, Dorking out.

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Hello Dorks!

January 5th, 2009

Welcome to The Outer Dork!   This came to me one evening while i was staring out into the interspaces, playing with domain names.   Every so often I get the idea for a domain name and go check to see if its been registered.  Usually it has, but that evening, i punched in The Outer Dork… and here we are.  This small addition to the blog-oh sphere is dedicated to dorkly pursuits of all kinds.   I personally consider myself something of a renaissance Dork.  I work tech support, I own a comics and games store, and I play far to many war games for my wallets own good.   I make no promises to be a decent writer, because, well.. I’m not a good writer.  I’m just a dork, expressing my dorklythoughts.  We threw together a forum, I’ll have that running in a day or two in the hopes that you are all better writers then I am, and will be willing the share thoughts, ideas, and dorkly madnesses with each other.

Note this is probably a place holder I’ll replace with something more polished at a later date… so save this now, because its a collectors post.

Yours Dorkly

-The Outer Dork

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