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AICN TABLETOP: 4E GSL woes!!! And What the Hell is DESOLATION???

Hola all. Massawyrm here. Well, next week is the biggest weekend of the year for gamers. Gencon Indy. For those of you unfamiliar with it think of it as the San Diego Comiccon of gaming. Many of the year's big releases will see their first sales at the tables of gencon. There will be panels, booths to buy stuff in and LOTS of gaming. Sadly I can't make it this year, but a few companies have seen fit to send along some of their releases, and info is beginning to trickle in about some of the announcements. Right now I'm trying to collect and put together a list of the Gencon giveaways and limited edition items for next weeks column. So if you're part of a company and you've got something cool coming out next week, let me know about it. Drop me an e-mail so I can include you in the list. Okay, so let's get this week started!
D&D 4E GSL Woes Okay, this stuff is coming in from all over the place. It appears the glory days of 3rd Edition with dozens of different companies putting out scads of original content is a relic of the past. Whether by accident or design, the new GSL (Game System License) the replacement for the 3E OGL (Open gaming License) is incredibly restrictive in that it has a few provisions that when combined together create a legal nightmare of potential Intellectual property loss. Leave it to fucking rules lawyers to get funky when it comes to law interpret...wait a second... The long and the short of it is that it appears that if you make a book that includes something, say for example stats for a Land Shark, then WotC puts a Land Shark into one of their books and includes it in the GSL, you no lose ownership of your creation. Some people are telling me this is definitely the case while others are saying it COULD happen, but might not be a real concern. Either way between the foot dragging on the OGL/GSL confirmation and this new hiccup, many of the giants of the previous edition have decided to call it quits on d20. At least in 4th edition. Paizo has put their efforts into the fun pathfinder upgrade (which someone described it best as "3.5 cranked to 11") and that book will see its first sales at Gencon next week. Necromancer has apparently backed out of the d20 biz. And now a bunch of the second and third tier d20 companies are quickly moving in to take their place. And at least one of them is playing with fire by putting out books early under fair use laws before switching to the GSL on the starting date everyone else is being held to (October 1st.) Lord only knows what this is going to do to the industry and what that means for us players. Some of those second and third tier companies were considered that for a reason. Are we going to be inundated with crap, choking the shelves of our FLGS until they refuse to carry it anymore? Or will some cream once again rise to the top as a bunch of out of work freelancers put their pens toward crafting the same quality we saw before, only this time at new studios (or those not actually known for their quality?) We'll find out this October when we no doubt see a flood of books that give us stats for the various monsters, classes and settings not found in the 4E PHB and MM.
Desolation Look. I'm not a big fan of offshoot fantasy games that play like D&D, but aren't actually D&D. So for me to like one is actually a big deal. It's not that I think D&D has the market cornered on fantasy, but when you create a world that is virtually identical with the only real difference being your own homebrew dice and stat rules,'s a knock off. Pure and simple. BUT, and this is a big BUT, if there is a real, honest to god legitimate reason for it, then I can get behind it. If it's good. Enter Desolation. Now this is the new book by Greymalkin Designs being released next week at Gencon (which uses the Ubiquity Roleplaying system.) At first glance it isn't abnormally impressive. The art is alright, but nothing really eye-popping. And really, in the world of indie gaming, art can be everything. When you're sitting on a shelf next to something from PAIZO (from which every cover screams PLAY ME NOW) it's hard to get noticed. But Desolation has a lot going for it, most importantly its concept. It's about the end of the world. While not exactly ground breaking, the handling of this material is TOP NOTCH. Imagine if a bunch of D&D players sat around watching Jericho and then followed it up by discussing Thundarr, The Road Warrior and Atlantis. Then they asked the DM to make that world. THAT'S Desolation. Set in a very stereotypical fantasy world that could easily be Greyhawk or Azeroth, there is very little that you will find unfamiliar. Orcs, elves, gnomes, strange magical beasts all living side by side in a relatively peaceful world with a magnificent enlightened kingdom stretcing far and wide throughout the land. magic rules the day and whatever wars once ravaged the land have since calmed and left the world as it should be. And then it all goes to shit. In one night, some kind of bizarre magical storm whips up and rains all sorts of death and mayhem on the world. Fire rains from the skies, flash blizzards freeze entire towns to ice, people turn to glass and shatter when they fall to the ground, volcanoes erupt, earthquakes split the earth, fire and brimstone, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria. The worlds most powerful mages tap into their magic to save their cities and towns only to find the storm in the weave even more tempestuous. 9/10's of the worlds epic level sorcerers are vaporized within the first minute, incinerated from the inside out. Magic items explode or inexplicable shrink decapitating or dismembering its wearers. All hell breaks loose and the world you knew was no more. You play one of the survivors. Humanity is broken, scattered in small camps fighting for survival. The magic that destroyed all you knew also mutated animals and creatures and released magical beasts long thought extinct from the bowels of the earth. Few trust magic at all anymore, treating most sorcerers like the Colonial era puritans treated witches. There is no law and packs of bandits raid what communities are left for supplies. Now. Doesn't that sound like fun? I've seen a number of campaigns like this in the past, but never so richly laid out and wonderfully conceived. They've even included rules on playing through the "Night of Fire." reading the fluff provided with this book is worth the price alone. It's a hell of a well conceived apocalyptic event which leads to a rich delicious world with nothing but possibility. Everything is a ruin. Everything can be dangerous. A shattered city is now an open air dungeon, teeming with mutant creatures and savage beasts just looking to eat. And speaking of eating, there are rules for how much nutrition each animal and creature can provide when properly prepared. While I'm not a fan of the Ubiquity Roleplaying System they used in this (I really wish they'd waited until October and made this a 4E product) I can fully understand stepping back from D&D. In the post-night of fire era, magic is unbalanced and risky as all hell to use. You could play a spellcaster, but there's also a chance you can melt while casting something funky. And the magic system reflects that. I love the kind of Hyborian limited magic feel there is to this. magic is still powerful, but using it could be the end of you and your party, so tread carefully wizard. And frankly, that kind of concept doesn't play well in the all balance all the time world of 4E. A magic user who hesitates to throw a magic missle every round is playing well below the curve. And in that vein, Desolation isn't exactly about balance. The Ubiquity system puts much less focus on dice and isn't tactically minded at all. It is more for the folks who prefer touching the dice as little as possible. If you're into alternate gaming systems or are someone running headlong from 4E, this might be something you'll wanna look into. Being a staunch 4E lover, I'm going to try to work out an alternate magic system that mirrors these effects and play this as my next campaign. As a sourcebook for fluff, this is excellent and highly recommended to any gamers that enjoy such things. Especially if you're one of those Non-gamer types who buys the books JUST FOR the fluff. Desolation is for you. hell, what they do with gnomes is the very first time I've been inclined to include those stupid little things into a cmpaign. Desolation makes them pretty damned cool. If you're at Gencon next week, stop by and pick up a copy. Until next time friends, smoke 'em if ya got 'em. Massawyrm
Got Gencon news or rumors? Send 'em to the Wyrm.

Readers Talkback
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  • Aug. 9, 2008, 8:07 a.m. CST

    I have no clue what i just clicked into!!!???


    is dungeons and dragoons type milarki!?

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 8:12 a.m. CST

    Gnome Hater!

    by Redmantle

    For shame

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 8:25 a.m. CST

    RIP Bernie Mac.

    by EvilWizardGlick

    So long.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 8:37 a.m. CST

    Bernie Mac, RIP

    by JoeSixPack

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 9:05 a.m. CST

    Nobody Seriously Plays These Games Do They?

    by A-COD

    I know a decent amount of people and I do not know one person who has played a tabletop game in 10 years. My wife's cousins's husband was into Heroclix like 5 years ago but he even admitted it was stupid and stopped. I'm not calling for Massawyrm to stop because I actaully read this column, but it's worth saying that the thought of actually playing any of these games has never even crossed my mind. I keep waiting for a decent D&D videogame. I got the PSP Tactics a few months back played it for 15 minutes and literally threw it in the trash.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 9:19 a.m. CST

    Surely the only ones playing these games are

    by theycallmemrglass

    the mid 30s to mid 40s. I cant imagine any one younger hooked into this because of on-line gaming. However, to those who dismiss D&D on tabletop because there is online gaming is missing the point. Online gaming, networking etc creates bigger nerds than before. People go out less. Less face to face socialising. At least with D&D there is an element of face to face socialising and hey, there's far more chances of having sex with a female gamer than online...even though those chances are actually slim... Oh and holly shit, RIP Bernie. Fuck thats way way way too young to die, especially now he was approaching the more comically cynical time of his life. There was a lot more comedy to come from him.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 9:20 a.m. CST

    Why did you throw the game in the trash?

    by Fat and Curious

    You could have returned it and got your money back. That sure was a waste.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 9:21 a.m. CST

    White Dwarf

    by theycallmemrglass

    Still in publication. Thats symbolic enough to prove D&D is alive.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 9:32 a.m. CST


    by jeffdo

    Computer RPGs involve zero imagination. Staring at a screen and continually selecting x, y, or z array element to trigger x, y, or z animation/sound sequence? Yeah, your generation sure does have gaming figured out.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 9:52 a.m. CST

    Massa needs to cover some of the White Wolf games.

    by MrGonev5

    White Wolf is releasing the new Hunter game at Gencon. :) BTW, I make character sheets for White Wolf games: And yes, there are people who still play pen & paper RPG's.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 10 a.m. CST

    D&D not dead...

    by Bigstadder

    Thats just crap. The longevity of this game has shown MMORPGs will come and go, but D&D will live on forever. I have run school based D&D campaigns and they have continued on after I moved on. Those with imaginations will continue to be draw to all pen and paper type gaming for years to come. Don't get me wrong, MMORPG's have a place and alot of my friends are into them, but most enjoy kicking it back and RPG'ing in freedom.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 10 a.m. CST

    Bernie Mac has fucking died

    by barnaby jones

    He was the best thing about Transformers.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 10:08 a.m. CST

    the dude was 50

    by bacci40

    you arent supposed to die at 50....of pneumonia??? thats crazY

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 10:12 a.m. CST

    What a shame about Bernie Mac

    by OBSD

    He was a funny guy, even if he was in Transformers.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 10:14 a.m. CST

    Fat and Curious

    by A-COD

    I bought it on ebay. I know I could have traded it in but it wasn't worth the effort for the 6 dollar trade in. The game was just so tedious I was excited about the concept, they were attempting to reproduce the table top experience. The execution was awful, unplayable.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 10:15 a.m. CST

    By The Way

    by A-COD

    I can't believe I'm having an online conversation with someone named Fat and Curious. This seems like the kind of thing you can get arrested for.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 10:22 a.m. CST

    Fantasy but not D&D

    by enderandrew

    I'll take Exalted and/or Earthdawn over D&D any damned day of the week. D&D itself was once a cheap knock-off, stealing quite liberally from Tolkein except the Hobbits became Halflings.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 10:23 a.m. CST

    Need to put Bernie MAC in Deities and Demigods!!!...

    by babblerouser

    Cuz he IS a Comic God! Anyone who came up like he did gets my respect.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 10:37 a.m. CST

    So is this the Bernie Mac topic?

    by Underdogthe3rd

    Where is the official?

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 10:37 a.m. CST


    by Bloo

    I gotta say, I actually read this column every week, I haven't done trad. pen and paper campagins in forever but appciate the hard work you put into this<P>btw where is gencon being held at?<P>Finally to one of the OKC, Godspeed adn God rest

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 10:40 a.m. CST

    Re: Bloo

    by MrGonev5

    Gen-Con is held in Indianapolis at the Convention Center, downtown.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 10:42 a.m. CST

    I don't understand this thread's title AT ALL...

    by mr_macphisto

    ...but, since we don't seem to have an official Bernie Mac thread, this'll have to do. RIP.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 10:44 a.m. CST

    D&D is as dead as...

    by CharyouTree

    Berni...naa too soon

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 10:52 a.m. CST

    Good news and Bad news

    by Underdogthe3rd

    Bad: There isn't a Bernie Mac thread. Good: There isn't a Scrip Girl thread.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 12:08 p.m. CST

    I miss Alternity

    by Reverend Toast

    Even though the system itself was complex, i think Alternity had the fastest and fun gameplay of any of the more "modern/SciFi" based games. D&D is fun, but its about attaining power, Alternity was about becoming better at what you did... but you never really became godly.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 12:22 p.m. CST

    why do people still play D&D?

    by DrLektor

    An internet RPG is all well and good for some, after all, loosing yourself in a online fantasy world, for inexpicable reasons doesn't get as much stick as "group of nerds in a basement rolling dice". It's obvious why D&D appeals to me, for one I get to hang with friends and drink beer with them, smoke, laugh and make a night of it. As someone mentioned above, the imagination used in such a game is more potent than a computer based one. Fight monster, level up, fight monster, level up, buy weapons, fight bigger monster, level up, get killed by elitist scum that spend more money and time on the game than you do, start over. That's not fun and IMO it's the epitome of the modern nerd which I've now come to despise. I plan on spending tonight with mates, watching a movie, having a drink and playing a game that we control, rather than one that control us. Come out of your bedroom gamers! Make some real friends.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 12:33 p.m. CST

    Where's the Bernie Mac death thread?

    by TheBoManKicksAssAndTakesBlame

    10:30am Pacific time and Harry still hasn't posted a gushing obit on Bernie Mac! Where's the love?

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 12:33 p.m. CST


    by MattmanReturns

    How's it feel to be a walking piece of shit?

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 12:47 p.m. CST

    Spymunk 13

    by Nearside

    The only thing it has in common with RIFTS are words like "post" and "apocalypse" and "the" and that it uses dice.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 1:03 p.m. CST

    I can't believe aintitcool

    by Rat Fink

    doesn't have anything about Bernie Mac. is such a better site. Thier shit's always up-to-date unlike this bullshit ass second rate site.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 1:08 p.m. CST

    Bernie Mac

    by Nearside

    Harry is probably taking his time to compose something decent about BM rather than rush something out. Chill.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 1:09 p.m. CST

    Fuck! Bernie Mac gave up the ghost..

    by Stalkeye

    Rest in Peace man,first Carlin now Mac. Who's next Mencia? Sad year for comics I tell ya.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 1:16 p.m. CST

    My two copper pieces...

    by Lord Haw Haw

    1. As usual, it's good to hear from all the anti-D&D people that think they're too fucking cool for the room. Last I checked, this was one of the geekiest sites on the Internet. I will not begrudge anyone's right to their opinion in an open forum, but let's get real here... 2. Bummer about Bernie Mac. Still one of the best Def Comedy Jam routines ever. 3. I went to GenCon last year for the first time, and enjoyed the hell out of it. It's like a geek Woodstock. GenCon is to nerds what Mecca is to Muslims. Make the trip. 4. Still kickin' it 1st Ed. and damn glad too, from the sounds of things. Fuck WotC.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 1:34 p.m. CST


    by mr_macphisto

    "Who's next, Mencia?" We can only fucking hope, friend. We can only fucking hope.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 1:45 p.m. CST

    Mencia is wack yo!!

    by Harold-Sherbort

    If he died, it would probably erase some of that karmic debt that I hear so much about. Stealin' jokes is bad business. But when you steal bad jokes, well that's just sad.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 2:23 p.m. CST


    by CharyouTree


  • Aug. 9, 2008, 3:56 p.m. CST

    WotC: The Microsoft of RPGs.

    by Royston Lodge

    Not long after Vista first came out, store were actually selling copies of XP for a higher price than Vista. Today, I see similar phenomena at game stores. Anybody hoping to pick up cheap copies of the 3.5 Players Guide will be sorely disappointed. I just wish Mongoose could put out a 3.5 version of their Pocket Player's Guide. AFAIK, it's stuck at the 3.0 ruleset. Point's moot, I suppose, since you can easily play with nothing but the SRD, and enough people have websites with the 3.5 SRD in an easy-to-read format that WotC can never shut it down.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 3:59 p.m. CST

    Response to the "It's the 21st century" whines...

    by Royston Lodge

    My buddies and I all bought MMOG games and gave LAN parties a shot. We quit pretty quick. Tabletop is more fun. Computer games require the players to conform to the limitations imposed by the designers. Tabletop imposes no such restrictions. You don't like a rule? Don't use it. Try doing that with World of Warcraft.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 4:32 p.m. CST

    I tried WOW and I thought it sucked

    by Ko-Dan_Mothership

    It's either for people who can't muster up enough friends to play real D&D, or can't muster up enough basic hygene to take a daily shower. Here's a tip for you WOW wannabes: Prioritize - Sometimes taking the shower actually helps you get the friends. Just want to throw that out there.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 5:19 p.m. CST

    Wow, Massawyrm

    by The Thinker

    You and the rest of your staff have seriously got to start proofreading your articles before you post them. You come off as one of the dumbest sites on the internet.

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 6:53 p.m. CST

    thanks MrGonev5

    by Bloo

    appciate the response, I can't make it but I was curious as to where it was at

  • Aug. 9, 2008, 8:26 p.m. CST

    4th Ed. is Shit

    by Duke of Hurl

    Check to see who's really carrying the torch...

  • Aug. 10, 2008, 1:23 a.m. CST

    Lord Haw Haw

    by Dingbatty

    Ditto on your feelings toward WoTC and 3rd and 4th bastardized editions (though I actually enjoyed 2nd ed under TSR).<br> Castles & Crusades at Troll Lord Games is the true heir of OD&D.

  • Aug. 10, 2008, 4:04 p.m. CST

    Like this column a lot

    by Cyrus Clops

    I'm actually surprised AICN didn't have an RPG column sooner (but then again, I thought the same thing about their comic book section). I find all the weird intra-nerd snobbery towards gaming here a little weird, but I for one really like this column, and think Massawyrm's taking the right approach to it: a little news, a little commentary, something mainstream (read: D&D), something a little more obscure (i.e. everything else). I'm interested to see how the GSL situation plays out. And I agree some White Wolf/WoD coverage should be put on the docket (and Mr. Gone's character sheets are indeed very good; he's well known for them on White Wolf's boards).

  • Aug. 10, 2008, 5:08 p.m. CST

    How 'bout this - don't buy 4E, don't play 4E.

    by Veraxus

    Personally, I think 4E sucks... and hard. For starters, the loss of a few very staple classes and races, replaced by new ones that are so retarded they make the screaming mongoloid next door look smart. Then there's the whole "power" system. It's not fun, it's not logical, it's not reasonable, and it's a pain in the fucking ass. My group stopped playing DnD a while back and thought we'd give 4E a shot - but not only is it terrible, this GSL legal nightmare ensures that there's no market for players OR third party developers. So you know what - fuck you WoTC. We're not buying your shit OR playing your game. GURPS, here I come.

  • Aug. 11, 2008, 1:31 a.m. CST

    Landshark is OGL

    by Calastir

    To clarify; The classic monster you mentioned; 'The Landshark' AKA 'Bulette' is part of the OGL. BTW: 3E 4ever!!!

  • Aug. 11, 2008, 7:54 a.m. CST

    So... Desolation is WARHAMMER?

    by Voodoodolly

    Humanity is broken, scattered in small camps fighting for survival. The magic that destroyed all you knew also mutated animals and creatures and released magical beasts long thought extinct from the bowels of the earth. Few trust magic at all anymore, treating most sorcerers like the Colonial era puritans treated witches. There is no law and packs of bandits raid what communities are left for supplies. Now. Doesn't that sound like WARHAMMER?

  • Aug. 11, 2008, 8:05 a.m. CST

    But seriously

    by Voodoodolly

    Thank you for this part of Ain't it cool. I dig the gaming reviews. and Mencia can fuckoff.

  • Aug. 11, 2008, 9:01 a.m. CST


    by Nearside

    The society in Desolation is gone, totally shattered, but yeah, shades of Warhammer. Better comparison than Rifts, at least. Imagine Warhammer if the Empire had fallen and you're getting there.

  • Aug. 11, 2008, 7:34 p.m. CST

    You're welcome Bloo

    by MrGonev5

    You're welcome. Yea, I was wanting go too, but I won't be able to make it this year. I'm going to for next year.

  • Aug. 11, 2008, 7:34 p.m. CST

    Oh, and krack

    by MrGonev5

    Yes, there's a new Hunter game coming out. It;s going to damn awesome too.

  • Aug. 11, 2008, 7:37 p.m. CST

    Thanks Cyrus Clops

    by MrGonev5

    "..and Mr. Gone's character sheets are indeed very good; he's well known for them on White Wolf's boards. " Thanks, glad you like my stuff. Yea, I'm all over the boards there, and I even have a section on White Wolfs sites for my sheets. I have my own site as well, but they thought it would be cool to host some of my stuff there too, so they gave me access to upload whever I wanted of mine. I thought it was pretty cool of them to do.

  • Aug. 12, 2008, 1:28 p.m. CST

    GSL to be Updated

    by Jindy

    Just an FYI, per Wizard's of the Coast: Wizards of the Coast announces a forthcoming revision to the Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Game System License (GSL) and System Reference Document (SRD). “We recognize the important role third party publishing support plays in the success of the 4th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons. We have listened to the community and our valued colleagues and have taken their concerns and recommendations to heart. Our commitment to the health of the industry and hobby gaming lifestyle is reflected in the revisions to the Game System License.” --Linae Foster D&D Licensing Manager While the delivery date is not yet firmly established, the revised documents will be available in the very near future. The new fan site policy, to be made public at a later date, will be posted upon completion.