Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What I’ve been reading - Part III

A better title would’ve been “What I’m trying to read...”. Sometimes I believe I’ve been studying for a public job my entire life (and the previous 2d4 incarnations). The feeling is almost “vancian” in that you have to constantly keep a large part of your brain occupied with arcane e esoteric (besides useless) information that, once you’re going to make a test, is forgotten.

However, I’m still reading game stuff (thanks God!) and fantasy literature (thanks Crom!).  The later has been dedicated to finish some Leiber and Burroughs romances. The fact that I’m reading both authors’ weakest novels (“The Mouser goes below” and “Swords of Mars”) isn’t helping.

On the game side of things, I’m finishing the Inner Sea World Guide and loving it. It isn’t simply a Pathfinder-version of the Golarion setting, but a vastly improved version of the original product – both graphically and in terms of material. Paizo even managed to turn the most boring nations in a good read (Andoran and Galt, I’m looking at you). And the “pulpier” parts of Golarion (like the Land of the Mammoth Lords and Numeria) are even better. It’s a must for all fantasy gamers. Golarion isn’t original, no sir, but it’s a great amalgam of the various types of fantasy (better than the Realms from 2nd and almost as fun as Mystara).

I’m also re-reading Nyambe. This is an old 3.0 D&D supplement from Altas Games for running campaigns in a fantasy Africa-like setting. This is not ancient/mythological Africa, but “D&D Africa” (in the same way that Greyhawk is “D&D Europe”). It’s funny, interesting, light and very useful. Nyambe is a wonderful game accessory; it has a complete and portable setting, together with nice rules, tons of variant and prestige classes, new races, spells, a cool bestiary (with advice on reskinning monsters for African-based lands) etc. This is how every game supplement should be.

For those that love Old School stuff or just like to read about the hobby’s origins and the various projects and interpretation that never managed to see the light of the day, here are two good suggestions. First there is this small (and free) PDFfile, from the Original D&D Discussion forum, that tries to “decode” the ever elusive “official” combat system use by Dave Arneson on his Blackmoor campaign. Finally, there’s a similar but bigger project by Daniel Hugh Boggs, of Dragons at Dawn fame. He opened a Kickstarter project for a new game based on Arneson material (including personal notes) – Champions of Zed. I’m already a backer and I’m reading the first draft. Very interesting stuff.

For those that like D&D 4E and/or love Jonathan Tweet’s material (like me) – stay tuned for 13th Age. Unfortunately I missed the playtesting’s subscription, so most of what I know comes from this thread at RPGNet. 13th Age is, basically, a remake of D&D 4E (it evens has Rob Heinsoo on it), mixed with “indy sensibilities” (whatever that means). At first, it really sounds like a heartbreaker project, but it got Tweet and is being published by the great guys of Pelgrane Press. A closer look already revealed a meta-game tool that I loved – the Icons. These iconic and abstract NPCs are the most original and interesting mechanism for setting creation/development that I read in a long time. Let’s wait and see (I dearly hope that there’s no grid combat).