Saturday, October 25, 2014

An Abundance of Riches

The Political Desk is making some foul, grumbling noises, but before descending into THAT particular madness, let me tell you about all the cool RPG stuff I'm currently ignoring. Part of said ignoring is because I have way too much on my plate at the moment (there is also a horrendous headcold, but that matters little - just trust me when I say I've been a bit busy), but part of it is that there is so MUCH of it right now.

It used to be, in the before-time, previous to the Internet, in the land of hobby gaming, the late summer/early fall would be the best time to release the game. Part of this would be the presence of GenCon, where all the gamers would coalesce into an uncritical mass, and then disperse, to colleges and high schools across the country, bearing with them the news of the latest releases. So getting a game released at GenCon was always a big thing. But with the passage of time, releases hit all through the year, and people are in continual communication, so it is not a such a big thing.

This year, however, it feels different. Part of it is the release of the newest edition of D&D (which is damned good, but is still in the process of being released, so I'm going to dodge it for the moment), but part of it is that there are so many things coming out, such that it overwhelms the reader and may lead to a number of cool things being missed in the greater tumult.

In my case, I have this ever-growing "to-read" pile that I cannot seem to get the chance to go through. Normally, I prefer to read, digest, and even PLAY the stuff I am working on before talking about it, but here are some quick hits to make everyone aware that there are really cool things out there right, and that we are currently passing through a bit of a golden age. Enjoy it while you can.

Calidar: In Stranger Skies from Bruce Heard gets the lead because it is likely the one you likely haven't heard of, having charted its course into this perfect storm of releases. It is very much the descendant of the D&D Known World/Mystara and Bruce's own stories of the Princess Ark from DRAGON magazine. As a result, it has the wonderful air of adventure of that late 80's/early 90's gaming era. The hardbound leads off with a massive tale of the Star Pheonix and its crew, then drills down from the solar system to the planet of Calidar to the kingdom of Meryath to the city of Glorathon, and concludes with a set of Pathfinder stats and a collection of skyships. An excellent laying of groundwork here, beautifully presented.

13th Age Bestiary by Rob Heinsoo et al, which popped up just before everything got crowded, goes to the other end. It is the "monster manual" for 13th Age, but exists in a postmodern, post 4E/Pre 5E space, and shows a direction the industry could have gone if 5th Edition never crested the horizon. There are a lot of old-fashioned beasts within, but with new spins on them, as well as a slew of varieties for use in the game and a host of 13th Age specific monsters. Conversational in its presentation, this is my "I have five minutes" hardbound right now, and the main reason I haven't delved too deeply into the new 5E Monster Manual as deeply as I might otherwise.

Tales of the Crescent City: Adventures in Jazz Era New Orleans from Oscar Rios' Golden Goblin Press has been parked by the bedside and is one that I am slowly moving through before bedtime. It is part of the bulging golden age of Call of Cthulhu adventures that we have seen over the past few years. Golden Goblin has got the entire kickstarter thing down - their first product was Islands of Ignorance, which was a bulging volume of lore and adventures, and this one does the job for New Orleans. Set within the bounds of the Big Easy, it summarizes the city and then lets loose with a plethora of adventures, including a revised version of Kevin Ross's "Tell Me, Have You Seen The Yellow Sign?". The group just wrapped another kickstarter for Cthulhu Invictus, and I have high hopes of reading that (slowly) when it comes out as well.

Guide to Glorantha by Greg Stafford, Jeff Richards, and  Sandy Peterson poses an interesting challenge to the reader - where do you read it? Clocking in at a two-volume, 800+ hardbound, full-color pages, this coffee-table book-sized guide to the homeworld of the original Runequest is massive, defying the ability to read it in bed or curled up in a favorite chair. Currently I have it enshrined the text the living room, though I might have to get a book stand for it. Another Kickstarter, this underscores that method's ability to reach a niche audience directly, as something of this size would daunt even the most established publisher. Yep, it's expensive, but worth it (and did not get to support the Kickstarter, but I was fortunate enough to pick it up at PAX).

New PDFs - Not all of my game-reading list is in ink on dead trees, and I have a host of projects where I have gotten the pdfs early, but will not get to them in print for a little while. Yet despite this early advantage, I have barely cracked their pixelated covers. Part of this is the challenge of the computer/kindle/iPad - yes, you have the ease of having the text right there at a touch of a screen, but you also have every other distraction in the world at the same touch. So I have in hand (well, in pad) the new Call of Cthulhu 7th edition, Cthulhu Britannica's London Boxed set, and most important of all, Jeff Dee's new Bethorm game for Tekumel, home of the Empire of the Petal Throne.

And someday, perhaps soon, I will get a chance to READ all of this stuff.

More later,