Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Best Board Games for the Nascent Board Gamer

So, I recently ran across a “Best Five Board Games” list made by some random website that appears to have no actual experience with board gaming. Their picks were utterly sad and pathetic, including the likes of Monopoly, Life, and Candy Land.

If you’re an avid board gamer, you probably already have a “gateway game” list to play with those friends who are not in your normal board game group… but here is my take on the best introductory games, simply because I have a gaming blog and the more we spread the word, the better. The list, in no particular order…

Alhambra  


This set collection and puzzle game is light enough for the novice gamer, but has some real strategic meat on its bones. In Alhambra ($25), you collect gardens, pavilions, and various building tiles to expand and beautify your 13th century fortress. Money management is critical as you gain bonus purchases for paying the exact amount for a tile. The player who has collected the most of specific tiles sets over the course of 3 rounds will score the points for a win.

Catan 5th Edition  


Originally published in 1995 as “Settlers of Catan”, this resource management and building game kick-started the board gaming renaissance. Over 20 years later, Catan ($35) is in its 5th Edition with numerous expansions and spin-offs. In Catan, you collect the resources of brick, wheat, ore, wood, and wool in order to expand your settlements to become cities.

This “gateway” game is easy to teach in that you can compare it to existing popular games like Monopoly. You build “Settlements” instead of Houses and upgrade to “Cities” instead of Hotels. Expanding your road system onto valuable resource tiles is key, similar to expanding the number of properties in that other game. Players who have grown up on Hasbro and Parker Brothers will find a familiar home in Catan, but with a much greater depth of play (and hopefully fewer fits of crying).

Codenames / Codenames: Pictures   


Codenames borders on the “party game” genre, but I honestly love this game and everyone to whom I have introduced this game has also loved it. For around $12, what’s not to love? In summary, you give clues to your teammates in order for them to make the word associations and select one or more cards, while trying to avoid selecting the other team’s cards.  I believe Codename: Pictures is slightly superior in that there are a lots of clue variations that will arise due to the esoteric artwork (which is the same reason I also enjoy the next pick).

Dominion


Originally left off this list as an oversight, Dominion ($30) defined the deck-building genre -- creating synergies from a shared deck of cards, as opposed to games like Magic: The Gathering where each player has their own separate deck. While other better deck builders have come along in the intervening years, the simple Action, Buy, Cards (ABC) mechanic of Dominion makes it a breeze to teach to new players. It makes for the perfect stepping stone to more complex deck-builder games.
A multitude of different expansions has also kept its reply value high despite its age.

Dixit / Dixit: Odyssey  


Dixit is the original “weird art” game in which the players give one word clues for the other players to guess the correct card. However, your clue can’t be too obvious such that everyone gets it, or else you do not earn any points. The key is to get one or two players to guess correctly while leaving the others pondering. The art is truly evocative, but the replayability is only good if you play with different groups of people from time to time (or buy more expansions). The Odyssey version supports up to 12 players. The original Dixit is inexpensive at $20. The Dixit “International” version includes the fancier built-in scoreboard for another $8.

King of Tokyo 


In King of Tokyo ($27), you play giant monsters invading Tokyo, and beating up upon one another. Using a Yahtzee-like dice mechanic, you roll for attack power to assault your opponents, energy to purchase power-up cards, hearts to heal oneself, or just victory points to get you closer to a win. The winner is the first to 20 point or the last monster standing. This humorous, fast-paced, streamlined game will win over gamers of all ages (8 and up).

Love Letter 


Love Letter is kind of like a sophisticated version of “Old Maid” for adults. Using deduction and card mechanics, you try to obtain cards close in rank of the Princess, while not getting caught with the Princess and forced to discard it. It’s simple to learn and quick to play. If you think the cooties-laden theme will turn off younger gamers, there are Batman, Adventure Time, and Munchkin versions as well. At less than $10, this is a great value.

Lords of Waterdeep


Despite the somewhat odd combination of theme and mechanics, Lords of Waterdeep ($35) is actually a solid worker placement and resource management game which serves as an excellent example of this sub-genre of board games. As a secret Lord of Waterdeep, you place your agents in the city to recruit "adventurers" (resources represented by black, white, purple and orange cubes) in order to complete quests and gain victory points. You may also build additional locations in the city to provide resources to you and others in the game. At the end of 8 rounds, the winner is the player who has completed the most quests that match the affinity of their secret identity.

Ra  


Ra ($50) is a set collection game that uses an auction mechanic. In Ra, you bid on various tiles representing advances in civilization, pharaohs rising to power, agriculture along the Nile, and monuments to gods and kings.  It also has a press-your-luck aspect as you try to squeeze in one or two more big auctions before the end of a round in a desperate attempt to get the last 2 or 3 tiles you might need. The combination of luck and strategy makes this game exciting to the last Sphinx.

The Resistance / Resistance Avalon


Find the traitors. Backstab and accuse your friends! Resistance is one of the best traitor mechanic games on the market. As the leader, you must pick a team to execute a covert mission (or quest).  However, there are traitors in the group attempting to sabotage your success while not revealing themselves. You might think you know who your friends are, but these deception and social deduction games will put you to the test.

Splendour  


Splendor ($24) is another simple set collection (hmm… I’m sensing an unintended theme here…) and card drafting game, which is easy to learn, but still has a strategic depth often not found in other “light” board games. In the beautifully illustrated Splendor, you collect gems (chips) in order to purchase cards which also have a gem value. As you collect more gem cards, you are able to purchase gem cards that have higher point values as well as collect Noble cards worth additional points. The first player to 15 points wins. This is another game that quickly becomes a favorite among people are not not hard core  board gamers.

Ticket to Ride Europe 


Ticket to Ride Europe ($40) is yet another set collecting and route building game that almost always wins over non-gamers. TTR is probably considered one of the original “gateway games” due to its simplicity (along with Catan), but it still offers a decent amount of strategy and a soupçon of luck. There are numerous editions, but the Europe version of Ticket to Ride probably has the most balanced board. Many also love the Nordic Countries.

Tsuro


I just couldn't stop at ten. Tsuro ($25) is tile placement at its simplest. Place your tile, move your pawn, and try not to fly off the board. One minute to learn, twenty minutes to play... such a light, quick game for just about anyone, and it supports up to 8 players! With Tsuro of the Seas, you can play the base Tsuro mechanics, or add in the boat-eating dragons for a little more chaos (but at the cost of a slightly longer and more fiddly game).


Final Thoughts


This list is by no means exhaustive, and there are a number of recent releases are not mentioned. There are several more that could make the cut like Carcassonne, JamaicaForbidden Desert, Stone Age7 Wonders, Small World, Sagrada, Sushi Go Party!... I had to stop somewhere.  I purposely did not include 2-player only games, as this was intended for the wider audience playing with a group of friends. If there are additions you'd like to see, tell us in the comments what "gateway games" are at the top of your lists and how they are good for beginning strategists.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Owlbear's D&D Holiday Gift Guide

The holidays are here, so you might be wondering what to get your gaming friends (or, let’s be honest… probably a little gift for yourself). The great news is that there is a whole plethora of D&D-related gifts for a wide variety of diverse gaming interests.

D&D RPG


The recent release schedule has had quite an array of books for the tabletop gamer. For players and Dungeon Masters alike, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything ($30) includes 32 new class paths and new spells for PCs, as well as offering an array of of advice for DM’s on encounter building, proficiencies, traps, and downtime activities. Volo’s Guide to Monsters ($34) gives DM’s new variants of classic, iconic monsters as well as includes other fantastic creatures that didn’t quite make it into the Monster Manual.

The most recent adventure offerings have included a variety of adventuring locales for gaming groups with a variety of play styles.

Storm King’s Thunder ($34) is sprawling Sword Coast campaign crossing the wilds of Faerun from Waterdeep to Anauroch and nearly all places in between. This sandbox-like adventure path has multitude of hooks and side quests all over its massive Sword Coast map.

Tales from the Yawning Portal ($34) brings back old-school dungeon crawls from prior editions, updating them for D&D 5th Edition. Classics include the Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, the Sunless Citadel, White Plume Mountain, and the infamous Tomb of Horrors.

Tomb of Annihilation ($34) is the most recent offering with an Isle of Dread and Tomb of Horrors inspired campaign in Chult, updating the hex crawl style campaign for 5th Edition.

For fans of Critical Role, you can now play in Matthew Mercer’s world, the Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting (apostrophes included at no extra charge) for $26.

Or if Tolkien is more your thing, Cubicle 7 has converted its One Ring game to D&D 5th Edition rules with Adventures in Middle Earth. If you've wanted to play a low fantasy version of D&D, especially set in Tolkien's universe, this is probably right up your alley.

In the accessories category, there is the newly revised Dungeon Master's Screen Reincarnated ($10), the thick, folding cardboard D&D Adventure Grid (more than just a battle mat at $20) and the venerable, but still available D&D Dungeon Tiles: Wilderness Master Set ($18), soon to be reprinted along with the Dungeon and City master sets.

If you’re playing on the grid, you may want to pick up some D&D Icons of the Realms or Pathfinder Battles miniatures… and for the DM who has everything, there is the massively, huge Tiamat Ma’al Drakar miniature for about $100 from Reaper Miniatures. Can that thing even be called a “miniature”?

D&D Board Games


But it’s not all about D&D role-playing. Wizards of the Coast has expanded the brand into some really amazing board games.

Wrath of Ashardalon miniatures
For those who don’t have time for a regular rpg home game, or may be missing a Dungeon Master to run the group, Wizards of the Coast has a series of dungeon-crawl board games that might serve as a reasonable substitute. The most recent version is Tomb of Annihilation (not to be confused with the D&D adventure of the same name).

The Temple of Elemental Evil version introduced campaign play, which the prior versions lacked. However, Wrath of Ashardalon probably comes with the best variety of miniatures, including an amazing Huge Red Dragon. Not only are theses fun dungeon crawl board games, the miniatures themselves make these games a fantastic value if you also play D&D tabletop.

Assault of the Giants takes on the area-control board game with asymmetric play and features a beautiful Sword Coast game board and over a dozen giant miniatures. Even though the giant miniatures are not as large as the Icons of the Realms miniatures, they are still sizable enough for rpg play in a pinch. This also comes in a painted miniature premium version.

Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate reskins a D&D theme onto Betrayal at the House on the Hill. Fans of the original will almost certainly like this version (full review here).

Dragonfire brings Catalyst Games’ Crossfire deck-builder mechanics into the D&D world. This game not only offers cooperative deck building, you can also play campaign scenarios that allow your characters to progress similar to a legacy game. I will have to opportunity to play this title more extensively this weekend and I’m looking forward to seeing how it fares. Fans of the Shadowrun Crossfire game are bound love this D&D themed version.

Tyrants of the Underdark combines deck building with area control in an Underdark themed game board (my initial review here). Like other deck builders, you mix and match cards from different factions to give the game a huge replayability factor.

There are multiple paths to victory and the lead can swing wildly from player to player across turns. Victory points at the end are almost always very close, making the game play exciting to the very last turn. This is one of the top board games in my collection, and probably ranks just behind Roll for the Galaxy as my favorite.

Lords of Waterdeep along with its expansion Scoundrels of Skullport provide a solid worker-placement board game. Though it is now several years old, it is still in print and is well regarded even among the most jaded board gamers. This is also a great “gateway” board game for D&D groups that may not be as into the board game scene.

D&D Adjacent Games


Though not strictly D&D themed, there are several fantasy games that give a similar flavor.

If you are lucky enough to live near a 5 Below thrift store, keep an eye out for Magic the Gathering: Arena of the Planeswalkers for only $5 ($10 - $12 on Amazon)! This Heroscape-based game uses characters and creatures from the Magic the Gathering universe in an entertaining, squad-based miniatures skirmish game. But the best part is that it come with 35 miniatures. That’s a fantastic value at $5 or even $10.

It’s $5 expansion, Battle for Zendikar come with another 16 miniatures. That over 50 miniatures for between $12 to $18!!!  If you are really lucky, you can also find Shadows over Innistrad for less than $10 and add another 25 figures to that total! Hell, even if you hate skirmish board games, you can pick up 75 miniatures for under $30… and the game is pretty fun, too!

While not quite the stunning Planeswalker deal, Zombicide: Black Plague offers a zombie apocalypse with fantasy flavor. Zombicide has been so popular that it has generated many expansions, but this stand-alone version is probably the best, especially if you like the fantasy theme.

Speaking of fantasy re-themes, Defenders of the Realm generates the race-against-the-clock excitement of games like Pandemic, but instead of fighting disease, you are fighting orcs and dragons!

And lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the old-timer dungeon crawlers, Descent: Journeys in the Dark and its many expansions. Descent now includes an app from Fantasy Flight that allows all the players to play cooperatively against the game without the Overlord player. (Imperial Assault offers a similar dungeon-crawl-slash-race-against-the-clock experience, but in the Star Wars universe).

Final Thoughts


We're definitely in a golden age of gaming. Between D&D and other fantasy rpgs and board games, there are dozens of ways to get your fantasy kicks this year.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Owlbear Reviews Betrayal at Baldur's Gate

With Betrayal at Baldur's Gate, Avalon Hill has expanded the array D&D themed board games published this year. When placed alongside Assault of the Giants (review pending), Dragonfire, and the Tomb of Annihilation board games (as well as prior year offerings such as Tyrants of the Underdark), there is quite a variety of play style offerings in 2017 for D&D board game enthusiasts. If you are already familiar with Betrayal at the House on the Hill, Betrayal at Baldur's Gate will be super easy to pick up.

Like its predecessor, the players move around revealing the board one tile at a time while encountering Events, gaining Items, and discovering Omens. Eventually, the Haunt is revealed which determines the win conditions for the traitor (usually one player) and the heroes (everyone else).

Full disclosure: I have only had the chance to play a couple of haunt scenarios in the new Betrayal at Baldur's Gate, so you might want to keep that in mind when you consider my evaluation.

The Pros


First, I'll start with what I really enjoy about the game.

The new characters all have a special power, like a spell, or ranged attack, or re-roll mechanic for example. This gives each character a bit more flavor and adds to the already high replay factor.

The D&D theme is well done in terms of the scenarios, events, flavor text, etc. I wasn't sure a thematic mashup of Betrayal and D&D would work, but so far, so good. Also, there are quite a few D&D in-jokes and Easter Eggs sprinkled throughout the game tiles and text for those with an eye for detail.

The new haunt roll mechanic also ensures that the haunt cannot happen prior to the 3rd Omen card. Unfortunately, you can't read through the haunts without spoiling them, so I don't have enough data to know how well they fit the theme. However, in one play test, the haunt involved all players versus the game. There was no traitor, and working together to beat the boss monster gave a familiar D&D feel.

I do like the way the buildings and streets combine to make a large "ground level" map, with a smaller catacombs level. I also like that each level has its own draw pile. In the original, a critical room can often be accidentally "buried" at the bottom of the draw pile because of the way the draw mechanic works. This does not occur in the new version.

The sex pre-painted miniatures are also pretty nice and, as a bonus, are sized appropriately for D&D table top.


The Big Con


That said, one of my biggest complaints with the various Betrayal games (the original, Widow's Walk, and now this one) is that the scenarios do not appear to be play tested very well, or well edited in some cases.

How do I know?

We almost always have questions about the traitor powers or actions within the haunt. And I'm not just talking about minor questions, but almost always key issues with the way the powers are worded that make the haunt rules overly ambiguous.

My wife and I are veteran gamers. We have played the different Betrayal games as well as other traitor-mechanic games like Shadows over Camelot, Battlestar Galactica, Dead of Winter, etc... The design challenge with the Betrayal games over other traitor mechanic games is that every scenario has slightly different rules for the traitor and heroes. Because of this, the game designers need to be extraordinarily detail-oriented when writing up the haunt rules.

Due to the age of the original Betrayal game, haunt clarifications can sometimes be found online, but not so for Widow's Walk or Baldur's Gate, so you are on your own to interpret the rules as written.

For the hero group, the players can generally come to a consensus after discussion if there are any doubts. However, the traitor is usually on their own to interpret any potential rule problems or vague wording, unless they want to give away their secret powers or victory conditions.

I have yet to play a haunt that hasn't had an issue where the text was not entirely clear and required some varying amount of interpretation. In almost every case, a single sentence (or two at most) would have cleared up the confusion. A good editor should have caught these ambiguities, but I have the distinct impression the the designers did their own editing... or if there was an editor, the editor was only looking for grammatical issues, and not rules ambiguity. A play test of each haunt should haven eliminated most of these problems.

All boards games have some amount of rules vagueness that often need a forum, faq or site like Board Game Geek to help, but it is more pronounced in the Betrayal games simply because there are some 30 to 40 different haunts that all may have different issues, and you are not able to read the haunt rules in advance without spoiling the game.

This has been a big problem for me in that any win or loss is tainted by the "Hey, did we play that part correctly?" discussion after the game. It often takes away some of the shine of a win, or adds to the frustration of a loss. I don't mind losing. Losing a competitive game can be lots of fun. But I hate losing when it later becomes clear that an incorrectly interpreted rule may have changed the whole scenario or player strategy.

As a non-spoiler example, one of the haunts had a big monster with some smaller minions. The minions came out first, and the big boss a couple turns later. In the haunt, it appears to state that the minions go away once the boss monster comes out, but a sentence or two later, it implies the exact opposite. Within the same haunt, the text appeared to imply that the boss monster may be able to attack more than one character given certain conditions, but it didn't explicitly state it. As a group, we ruled that the minions stayed and continued to attack, but the boss monster did not attack more than once. That seemed to be the most balanced interpretation, and we won the scenario... but we may not have won if the boss monster were allowed a second attack, so the victory felt diminished given that we still don't know what the correct ruling is. Since that we had not just one, but two rules clarifications required for the haunt, I was a bit disappointed in that particular scenario, and that has tainted my view of the game for the moment.

Final Thoughts 


Don't get me wrong. I don't dislike the game. If you are a fan of the other Betrayal titles and you like D&D, you will almost certainly enjoy this mash up. However, my recent experiences with poorly worded haunts in the various Betrayal incarnations has tarnished what would otherwise be a really fun experience. It may be that I'm pre-judging Baldur's Gate too hard based upon the play experience with the other Betrayal titles. But it does not bode well that one of the first haunts I encountered had the same problem.

I would give it 3.5 stars of 5. It's a strong Buy recommendation for fans of the Betrayal line, but if you are also annoyed by rule ambiguities of the haunts in the other titles, you will likely find the same issues in this one. The great news is that there are plenty of D&D themed board games to choose from if this one is not your cup of tea.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Raging Owlbear Interviews Chris O'Neill

Continuing my "interview series" (used very loosely) this month, I speak with Chris O’Neill, co-founder of 9th Level Games, best known for the comic RPG "Kobolds Ate My Baby!"  9th Level has also broadened its offerings in recent years with card and board games like Schrödinger's Cats, Knuckle Sammich, Bearicades, and Hot 16.

This month, 9th Level launches its newest Kickstarter, Tragedies of Middle School, a collection of tongue-in-cheek RPG horror games about the nightmarish experiences of pre-teen grade schoolers. Tragedies of Middle School includes 21 short-form storytelling RPGs, LARPS, and activities for only $10 in PDF and a mere $20 in print.


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Gargantuan Dragons invade Owlbear Lair!


Gargantuan Red and Green Dragons from
the Pathfinder Battles miniatures line.
I’m a bit of a miniatures nut when it comes to dragons (or really, just a miniature nut... period). I was lucky enough to chance upon the Paizo website when they had both the Pathfinder Battles Gargantuan Red and Gargantuan Green dragons temporarily in stock over the summer. Both of these models have been out of print for some time, but Paizo occasionally gets restock from random distributors. The Gargantuan Red Dragon is complete sold out now, but Paizo.com still has the Gargantuan Green Dragon in its store (last chance to pick one up for under $50 with shipping).

I was extremely surprised to see the Gargantuan Red come back in stock, and I’m pretty certain I got one of the last, if not the last one on their shelves. I had been hesitant to buy both of these models earlier due to luke warm reviews, but the Green and Red were the only chromatic dragons I did not yet have in the Gargantuan/Colossal size category. No one else, to my knowledge, has put out a pre-painted green dragon of this size, and the larger pre-painted red dragons are all ridiculously priced on the secondary markets. I kick myself to this day that I did not pick up the ICONS Colossal Red Dragon when they were only about $60!

Both models are beautifully sculpted. From an artistic standpoint, they really do stand out with very dynamic poses. However, they both suffer from what I consider a serious design flaw when it comes to tabletop play… They are both looking up. Both poses have the neck and head craning in something akin to an upward roar. From an artistic standpoint, I suppose I understand why the sculptor went in that direction, but I am disappointed that they are not looking down at the PC miniatures with an “I’m totally going to eat you!” menace.

The Gargantuan Red also has one wing folded inward in what appears to be a packaging consideration. I may try to use the heated water method to see if I can get a little bit more spread from the left wing. The painting on each is reasonably good, although I think the green dragon's color palette could have used a little more contrast.

The Pathfinder Battles Gargantuan Dragons are slightly smaller than the amazing WotC ICONS from 2006 - 2007.
From a size perspective, the models are unsurprisingly smaller than the legendary ICONS miniatures from Wizards of the Coast, but they are decently large, and considerably more bulky than the Elder Dragon models that came out later in the D&D Miniatures line.

While these may not be my absolute favorite dragons in my collection, they are impressive models and I am glad I was able to pick these up for retail pricing. The secondary market for large dragons is quite ridiculous. Don't wait until they are gone!

The Gargantuans fit favorably well in size category with the huge WotC Elder Dragons from 2009 - 2010.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

GM 101: Basics of Stealth and Hiding in D&D

Dragon Magazine #88 cover by Jim Holloway
Why is stealth so hard in D&D?

Based on recent social media chatter, it appears GM’s have some confusion when adjudicating stealth and hiding, and players believe their Rogue skills give them Advantage more than the rules as written would suggest. A re-review of the rules as written with a few examples should help.

To break this down a bit, let’s start with the rules as stated in the SRD 5.0 (bold emphasis added).
___________

Stealth

Make a Dexterity (Stealth) check when you attempt to conceal yourself from enemies, slink past guards, slip away without being noticed, or sneak up on someone without being seen or heard.

Hiding

The GM decides when circumstances are appropriate for hiding. When you try to hide, make a Dexterity (Stealth) check. Until you are discovered or you stop hiding, that check’s total is contested by the Wisdom (Perception) check of any creature that actively searches for signs of your presence.

You can’t hide from a creature that can see you clearly, and you give away your position if you make noise, such as shouting a warning or knocking over a vase. An invisible creature can always try to hide. Signs of its passage might still be noticed, and it does have to stay quiet.

In combat, most creatures stay alert for signs of danger all around, so if you come out of hiding and approach a creature, it usually sees you. However, under certain circumstances, the GM might allow you to stay hidden as you approach a creature that is distracted, allowing you to gain advantage on an attack roll before you are seen.

Passive Perception

When you hide, there’s a chance someone will notice you even if they aren’t searching. To determine whether such a creature notices you, the GM compares your Dexterity (Stealth) check with that creature’s passive Wisdom (Perception) score.
__________

So there are a few things that are implied by the above rules that could be stated more clearly, or at least clarified with examples.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Raging Owlbear interviews Frank Mentzer

Source: Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
This past week I was delighted to welcome Frank Mentzer as a guest in my first video chat. I hope to do more of these with other industry folks in the future, but that's for another day. Forgive my rough style, as I don't usually do interviews, but this opportunity was one I just could not let pass by.

In the chat, we talk extensively about Worlds of Empyrea, his new game setting coming to Kickstarter on October 2nd, as well as anecdotes about his life before, during and after TSR Inc in the early 1980's.

Full disclosure: I did not ask for, nor was I offered, any compensation for this interview. It was my absolute pleasure to talk with Frank as a fellow gamer and fan, and I would be pleased to chat with him again at a future date. I hope I don't come off as too fan-boyish, but I found him to be extraordinarily open and friendly.

Highlights


A couple weeks ago, Frank's website leaked several names on the Worlds of Empyrea project which are mostly unconfirmed (as of this writing) such as Janelle Jaquays, Clyde Caldwell, Jeff Dee, David "Diesel" LaForce, Larry Elmore, and Erol Otus.

Box contents will include perfect bound books, maps and an introductory adventure. Jeff Easley planned as designer of the box covers. Pre-generated characters in small brown character folios reminiscent of OD&D box set.

13:25 Hoping to release Worlds of Empyea in game system specific box sets -- RuneQuest, Savage Worlds, D&D 5e, AD&D, BECMI, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Pathfinder, and Swords & Wizardry all hinted. Chaosium and Pinnacle Entertainment were specifically noted in the discussions, and RuneQuest is one of Frank's favorite game systems. (Hints also at sci-fi toward the end).

15:10 / 23:04 Darlene (World of Greyhawk) confirmed as art direction and cartography. Alyssa Faden (Dragon Kings, Bethorm) also confirmed for cartography and game maps. Hints at an "Anna" which very well could be [unconfirmed] Anna B Meyer (Midgard game setting).

52:00 Looking to release Empyrea box set for Gen Con 2018 and more details about the box content.

Frank also dropped two exciting names off the record which I cannot reveal, but suffice it to say, D&D fans will be thrilled what these folks will bring to the realm.



Video Index:
00:00 Introduction
00:50 Empyrea - TSR/RPGA origins
03:16 Contrasts between Gary's Greyhawk game and Frank's Empyrea campaign in the 80's
05:48 Distinction between I12 intellectual property and Frank's new setting
07:52 Reminiscing about early internet chat room play
09:18 How is the content for Worlds of Empyrea being developed?
10:11 Eldritch Enterprises side bar
11:25 Talking about the setting format for Worlds of Empyrea
13:25 Intent to releaseWorlds of Empyrea for multiple game systems -- RuneQuest, Savage Worlds, D&D 5e, AD&D, BECMI, Dungeon Crawl Classics, and Swords &Wizardry...
15:10 Darlene as the Art Director and doing the large maps, and other well known TSR names adding art and other content. Roughly 35 contributors developing content of some variety.
17:57 Community crowd sourcing setting content as a future project
19:53 Future project to develop a global non-profit gaming database allowing gamers to connect, game together and share community ideas/content.
22:30 RPG Creators Relief Fund - http://www.rcrfcharity.org/
23:04 Darlene and Alyssa Faden contributing to cartography and game maps... Hints at an "Anna" which very well could be Anna B Meyer (unconfirmed).
25:14 Box set content: Maps and perfect bound books, full color bleed. Aiming for top quality contents and product design like you would find from one of the larger game companies. Jeff Easley planned to design box cover. Liz Danforth (Tunnels & Trolls) invited to contribute production efforts or artwork? [unclear]. Character folios reminiscent of OD&D brown books.
29:52 Discussions with Chaosium on a RuneQuest-specific version of the Empyrea box set
31:04 Talking about the history of TSR and breaking into a job during the early days
34:04 Getting the Basic / Expert set project
36:45 Legacy and importance of the RPG design community
41:40 Development of Basic and Export into BECMI
46:20 Life after TSR
48:33 Coming back into game publishing
52:00 Empyrea Kickstarter details
54:07 Genre variants for Empyrea to match the theme of the different game systems, including sci-fiction or space opera.
58:00 Frank's play style

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