[Editor's Note: You can blame me, Nordling, for the lateness of this weekly entry. SXSW and personal issues had me delay this unnecessarily, so if you want in on the Kickstarters mentioned within, act as quickly as you can, for some of them end tomorrow. Without any further delay, here's Abstruse!]
Hello gamers! I know it’s been a while since we’ve had an Ain’t It Cool News Tabletop, but honestly there hasn’t been a lot going on. It’s the dreaded lull before convention season, but now things are picking up. First off, there’s a pretty big rumor I need to address before we get on with our interview.
Accord to Amazon and Barnes & Noble, the new edition of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS has a release date! July 15 for DUNGEONS & DRAGONS STARTER SET at $19.95 and August 19 for DUNGEONS & DRAGONS PLAYER’S HANDBOOK at $49.95!
Okay, yeah, those dates are plausible. In fact, even likely. However, there’s been no official announcement at Wizards of the Coast has been decidedly quiet on the date. The thing is that Amazon and B&N both get their dates from various solicitations, many of which come from publishers and printers rather than content creators. Remember back when I interviewed Jim Butcher? Amazon had a release date up for the new Dresden Files book when he’d taken a break from WRITING IT to come down for the interview. So yes, it’s highly likely those dates and prices are correct as they line up well (PHB coming out for wide release almost directly after GenCon and the quickstart set coming out a month prior), but I wouldn’t quite believe it just yet. Keep your eyes peel and I’ll be sure to update you the second I hear anything!
“Mythbusters + Role Playing Games = SAVING THROW” That’s one of the promotional taglines on the Kickstarter for the new webseries. I got some time with creator Dom Zook and star Ivan Van Norman to find out more about it.
Abstruse: What sparked the idea behind Saving Throw?
Ivan Van Norman: We love RPG's, but a lot of our friends don't. Either that or they feel TOTALLY intimidated by the idea of getting started, even with our loving support. We were astonished when we discovered no one has really taken a 'serious' stab out there to really help break it down in a way that makes sense, is engaging, and of course is fun.
Dom Zook: I was playing some 2nd edition with some friends after a long hiatus. We wanted a series that broke down pen and paper games the way Tabletop does board games. Something bite-sized and well-made.
Abstruse: The Penny Arcade podcasts tried, but they ended up mostly spectacle by the end. Entertaining, but not exactly indicative of the usual fantasy roleplaying game.
DZ: Absolutely. A lot of fun, but not a lot of instructional capacity. We thought there was room to provide both. I remember listening to the Penny Arcade stuff and going "How did they get that number? Why did they roll that?"
IVN: Absolutely. It's good information to have! These podcasts are great for inspiration, and entertainment. But we almost kinda asked ourselves 'well what if we made a Mythbusters' version of how to play RPG's. They manage to make SCIENCE available to the everyman in a fun way, so why can't we?
Abstruse: I've got to say, your Kickstarter video seemed more in tone to me with Alton Brown's GOOD EATS. Which I feel is one of the most entertaining and educational shows ever made.
IVN: Interesting! That may be a better comparison.
Abstruse: Will you be using puppets?
DZ: Hahaha..... yes.
IVN: Socks mostly...with google eyes. One will have elf ears.
Abstruse: Then yes, much better comparison. You guys went with PATHFINDER for the first season. What made you pick that game and edition specifically?
IVN: There are lots of great systems out there, but High Fantasy seems to be what people can relate to the most. We felt that Pathfinder was both 'crunchy' enough to get into specific details for rules, yet light enough that it's approachable to a greater demographic of gamers
DZ: One thing we hope people take away from the show is that there's an RPG system out there for everyone. If you don't like High Fantasy, we'll touch on a ton of others.
Abstruse: You mentioned the new Fantasy Flight Games STAR WARS RPG in the Kickstarter. Is that something you've got your eyes set on?
DZ: Absolutely. I have a weekly group I play in. I'm not saying that's our 2nd season topic right there, but there will be some EotE coverage where we'll be covering and talking about A LOT of other things then just what is on the show
Abstruse: How many episodes are you guys shooting for in the Kickstarter, not counting stretch goals?
DZ: Looking at 7 or 8 instructional videos, plus a number of gameplay episodes. The instructionals will focus on an aspect of the game, mostly in character creation but also tackling things like combat, skills, game mechanics, etc. The gameplay will be all of those things put to the test in a game situation so you can see exactly how each decision plays out in a real game. It'll be broken down almost like a Celebrity Poker show where you get color commentary from the side, graphics, etc.
IVN: Each episode will cover a different 'facet' of the system basically, so that if you want to jump to something specific, it's there. Allowing the gameplay videos to give you a 'wider picture' so to speak.
Abstruse: So you're taking newbies from "What's an AC?", explaining the terms, then showing it in context. That sound about right?
DZ: You got it.
IVN: Yup, with lots of fun and interactive graphics.
Abstruse: So what made you pick Ivan to DM your game, Dom?
IVN: Yes... *leans back in his chair* tell me. Tell me why Dom.
DZ: We had a long and grueling audition process. By which I mean co-host Ben Dunn mentioned he knew a guy who was crazy about RPGs and we should meet him. We did, we fell in love, and the rest is history. Right, honey?
IVN: Mmmhm Now we carve pumpkins on Halloween, and I TPK him every few weeks or so.
DZ: Seriously though, Ivan's involvement with RPGs is intense. I wanted someone who had a breadth of knowledge but was fun and engaging. And Ivan came about and met every criteria.
IVN: Not to mention Handsome!
Abstruse: You've got a nice cast assembled for this. Ivan from King of the Nerds, obviously. But you've also got Amy Vorpahl probably best known to our readers as Lady Vorpal from the Dungeon Bastard videos by Tom Lommel. And you've got Ben Dunn from Nerdist and 1337Lounge.
DZ: Yes, Ben and I go way back. 10 years this year, in fact! We made a zombie movie together back in 2005 and have been friends ever since.
IVN: Yup, and Amy is our funny one she's has all the charm of the Ape "Hope" that her Druid keeps around.
DZ: And Amy is, like, a whirlwind of awesome. She's funny, whip-smart, and has been gaming for a decade.
IVN: We really only wanted people in the game who we felt like has it down 'so well' that they can take it step by step for the camera, and the audience as a result.
Abstruse: So obviously this show is of use for people who have either been out of gaming for a long time and want to get back in or for those people who saw the D&D episode of COMMUNITY, IT CROWD, or BIG BANG THEORY and want to get in...What do you have to offer more experienced gamers?
IVN: Well often a lot of gamers see a new system and they're like. "Man, I wish I could just play it first and see what it's like" Or they may need clarification or want a resource if they are currently in the middle of learning the system.
DZ: The show also offers a way for experienced gamers to introduce a game to friends in an easy to grasp way.
Abstruse: So I've got that friend who saw ZERO CHARISMA and wants to know what gaming's about. You're giving me a place to point them to for an idea of what it's like in digestible YouTube format that doesn't involve people wearing cloaks on stage at PAX. Sound about right?
DZ: That's about it.
IVN: Yea! We may still wear cloaks... but it'll be charming
DZ: We offer a non-threatening environment (but not without the geekiness) for you to introduce that game.
Abstruse: And it saves me from having to explain for the eighth time what an attack bonus is.
DZ: Precisely. "Watch Episode 6... NOW. I'm not going to tell you again!"
IVN: You could even do it at the table, and everyone has the benefit of learning it again. Or while the other person is deciding which feat they are going to take. SINCE THEY WEREN'T THINKING ABOUT IT WHEN EVERYONE ELSE WAS DOING IT.
Abstruse: So you've got an entry vector for new players, a re-introduction for people who haven't played in a long time, and a source of entertainment for current players. All presented in a fun yet informative format. Did I miss anything?
IVN: We have a fun thing we are doing for our stretch goals right now. The TOMB OF FORBIDDEN Stretch Goals.
DZ: Yes. The campaign within a campaign.
Abstruse: I personally pledged at the level to get the PDF module. Any tidbits or spoilers you can give me about that?
IVN: The PDF is basically a stand-alone campaign that can allow you to play the same thing that our players are going through when doing the videos. It will be more involved than a simple 8 episode plot line. But the idea is that it's a way for ANY player to get involved ANY time no matter what level, what play style, or experience factor. It's the GM's 'let's play for a few hours' campaign of campaigns called 'The Waking Age'.
Abstruse: So I could run it on my lunch break for some guys at the office in small chunks without it suffering too much?
IVN: Yup! Just bust out sheets, run a mission, earn some gold, and maybe get a story to tell at the Tavern later. All the while the 'world' continues to grow as your players and their friends participate.
Abstruse: So do you have any final words about SAVING THROW for the readers?
DZ: If you like Mythbusters, Top Gear, Alton Brown, Tabletop... you'll probably, maybe, like Saving Throw
IVN: Also, spay and neuter your pets.
DZ: I want to thank everyone who has supported us thus far! Great responses and we can't wait to get this off the ground. And for anyone who's on the fence... there's a Cthulhu battle in it for you. Just sayin'.
IVN: Totally... and you have no idea what may happen if these goals are reached. IT MAY BE DECIDED BY YOU. Also, the show will be way cooler.
DZ: Some might say sexier. I don't know who those people are, but I'd like to meet them.
The Kickstarter for SAVING THROW runs until March 15 and is fully funded. I've personally backed it, and I'm broke as hell. So you have no excuses! The show looks great and fills a hole in the community I think greatly needs to be filled, a place to send people who know nothing about what roleplaying games are and giving them a good grounding in the hobby.
Lots of new game announcements came out recently, as several companies announced their 2014 product schedules. Steve Jackson Games probably had the largest list, so let’s start with them!
MUNCHKIN players rejoice! Several out-of-print or hard to find expansion “boosters” are being reprinted in an easier format, called MUNCHKIN TRIPLE PLAY. Set 1 contains Naughty & Nice, Skullkickers, and the Fish & Chips expansion for MUNCHKIN BOOTY (the Pirate-themed MUNCHKIN game) and comes out this month. Set 2 has Easter Eggs, Penny Arcade, and the STAR MUNCHKIN expansion Space Ships. They’re also expanding their “turn your regular set into a Deluxe game” series with MUNCHKIN BOARD OF HEALTH, themed to both the Cthulhu and Zombies games. This set contains a board for level tracking with places for Door and Treasure cards as well as male and female pawns in six different colors and eight new cards split evenly for each of the two games.
There’s also some new MUNCHKIN material coming out, in the form of the first expansion for the previously exclusive-to-Target MUNCHKIN LEGENDS based on Greek myth. I played this with Nordling and some other friends at Space City Con in August and dear lord are there a shitload of curses in this game! Considering the source material, that’s not surprising. Anyway, for those of you who want to shop at your local store for MUNCHKIN LEGENDS, you’ll be happy to know that it will soon be (if it isn’t already) available in all markets. There will also be an expansion in June, MUNCHKIN LEGENDS 2: FAUN AND GAMES, which will also be available at all retailers. These cards have the standard MUNCHKIN backings, so you can mix-and-match without having to sleeve the cards to pull any other trickery like most cross-genre versions of MUNCHKIN to avoid telegraphing which set the next card’s from.
Finally, we have one of my favorite announcements, a ZOMBIE DICE 3: SCHOOL BUS. This expansion adds a 12-sided die to the fast-playing dice game and I’m really looking forward to see how much it breathes new life into one of my favorite quick games. With as much fun as ZOMBIE DICE is, I know SJG will do well with MARS ATTACKS: THE DICE GAME. While it’s similar to ZOMBIE DICE, your goal isn’t just to score points but to take over cities, drawing on the themes of the Topps trading cards of MARS ATTACKS.
There’s been a lot of other board game announcements, starting with TICKET TO RIDE 10th ANNIVERARY EDITION. This will come out in June at a retail price of $100 (about double the current retail price of the game), but it looks SO pretty! Instead of the normal cheap plastic trains, the trains used in the game will be full-color painted, each given their own storage tin. On top of that, the cards will be redesigned and be of the larger size (closer to playing card size and far easier to shuffle than the tiny cards in the core set). This game will also incorporate the USA 1910 expansion with its additional ticket cards. Kind of makes me upset I already bought the game a few months back, so now I have to decide if I want to replace it or not.
Cryptozoic also got in on the new product announcements for 2014. They announced expansions for WALKING DEAD board game (the TV show one, not the comic book one), THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY deckbuilding game, THE HOBBIT: DESOLATION OF SMAUG deckbuilding game, LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING deckbuilding game, and the DC COMICS deckbuilding game.
They also announced several new games. The first is PORTAL: UNCOOPERATIVE CAKE ACQUISITION GAME. Designed by the original designers of the video game, this game will come out this fall and very little is known about it beyond rules for test subjects, turrets, the companion cube, and cake. Also on the fun side of the licensing spectrum, we’ve got ARCHER: THE DANGER ZONE!, a board game based on the FX animated series. This looks to be a nice screw-your-neighbor type game as you try to get the upper hand by insulting the other players. This one’s coming out this Spring at a retail price of $40.
Leaning on their experience with licensed deckbuilders, NARUTO SHIPPUDEN DECKBUILDING GAME is coming out this July for $40 and features the NARUTO characters building chakra to power cards to defeat your opponents. They’re also leaning on the WALKING DEAD license for a competitive dice game called WALKING DEAD: DON’T LOOK BACK. This 1-4 player game has different locations with different goals as you attempt to complete the mission and survive. It comes out in August for $20. Finally, we have Cryptozoic looking to expand their market into the growing “sports nerd” market with NHL POWER PLAY, a deckbuilding game based around playing a team manager for an NHL team as you try to draft the best players to create a team able to win the cup. This game isn’t finalized and is expected out this Fall.
BATTLETECH was my first real tabletop game, graduating from Milton Bradley and Parker Bros games. It’s great to see that the franchise is still alive and being given a bit of loving care. While the Introductory Boxed Set has been out of print for a while, the new printing updates the list of battlemechs included as well as providing new models on higher quality plastic (the original ones were about the same as dollar store army men) and resculpts on several of them. They’re even offering a special pre-order deal, giving you an extra set of miniatures if you pre-order two copies of the Introductory Boxed Set.
It’s with sadness that I have to report that legendary game designer Aaron Allston passed away suddenly. He was at a convention where he fell unconscious and, after being rushed to the hospital, passed away from heart failure. Allston wrote many of the iconic Player’s Option books for 2nd Edition AD&D as well as work on CHAMPIONS and HERO SYSTEM, Steve Jackson Games products, and tie-in novels for STAR WARS and other licenses. It’s a terrible loss for the game industry, and our thoughts are with his family and loved ones.
[Editor's Note: Aaron Allston's X-WING books were terrific. He'll be missed.]
DUNGEON SCROLL is a dungeon crawl themed word game that just hits so many notes for me. You have a hand of cards, each with one letter and a point value. At the start of each turn, a Dungeon Card is flipped and you have to overcome the challenge on the card by creating a word that fits the restrictions on the card. You’re timed, and everyone goes at once so move fast! The highest scoring word gets the first gold reward on the Dungeon Card, the second gets the second gold reward, and so on. You go through 9 challenges in each randomly-decided dungeon, and the player with the most gold at the end wins. Best part is this Kickstarter’s rewards are dead simple to figure out. $35 gets you the game ($43.62 total for Canadian shipping, $51.22 for worldwide). Multiply that by the number of copies you want (up to 5). That’s it. Kickstarter from Game Salute runs through March 15, and they’re fully funded.
DREADBALL XTREME is a miniature sci-fi sports game where you play the sponsor of a team of futuristic gladiators fighting in Dreadball, the bloosport of the galaxy. There’s a ton of different options for reward tiers (like most miniature-based games), but $75 will get you the base set. This Kickstarter has blown through most of their stretch goals already, but still have a few left before the March 16 deadline.
TOKAIDO spread like wildfire when it came out a while back, quickly becoming a standard of game tables all around. Funforge is looking to update the game with new pieces and incorporating the expansion into TOKAIDO COLLECTOR’S EDITION There’s a ton of reward levels for this one, but $75 will get you the base game with all-new pieces and tokens as you travel the Japanese countryside attempting to have the best vacation by gathering points on your trip. This Kickstarter funded on its first day and still has until March 23 to work on all those stretch goals.
That’s it for this week. Next week, I’ll have a full review for you of HeroLab, the character creation and management software from Wolf Lair as well as more news from the tabletop gaming world. If that’s not enough for you, you can listen to myself and Ross Watson explore tabletop gaming’s ins and outs at our podcast, GAMER’S TAVERN. We’ve also recently started a new podcast, GAMER’S TAVERN GAME TABLE, where we’re playing Shadowrun every week! You can also follow me on Twitter @Abstruse to bug me when the next column’s coming out if I’m late again, and you can email any news or press releases to firstname.lastname@example.org.