Here are some interesting ideas, blogs and gaming sites I’ve been checking out lately. If you like beer with your games, non sequitur gaming chatter or frequent character death, there’s something for you here.
First up is Draft Beer, a video series from GenerationD20.com. Each video features two of the GD20 writers entering a Magic Online draft together, discussing their picks and playing through the rounds. Meanwhile, they’re drinking some of their favorite beers and discussing those as well.
Now, all too many podcasts and video blogs descend rapidly into a territory I refer to cryptically as “people laughing uproariously at their own jokes which weren’t all that funny to begin with,” aka NPR’s Car Talk Syndrome (I love the show, but sometimes…). You’d think the addition of beer to the equation would exacerbate the problem, but the GD20 crew manages to avoid this for the most part. They stay relatively focused and avoid the three-minute guffaw jags even as they enter the later rounds and somewhat more advanced stages of inebriation.
Successfully drafting Magic is part science, part art, and it’s actually quite fascinating to watch someone go through the process, talk through their decisions, then see those decisions play out in practical terms in the ensuing matches. Magic Online puts a lot of information in front of the viewer for this purpose. I’d love to see this done with a live draft, each player with a separate camera recording their picks and thinking out loud as they make them (I guess they’d have to be sequestered in separate rooms). Then they could be edited together into something watchable? I don’t know, just brainstorming here. But as it is, Draft Beer will teach you something about Magic drafts and something about beer choices while keeping you entertained. I can’t ask for much more than that.
Meanwhile, here at Robot Viking we’re always interested in what game designer Owen K.C. Stephens has to say. He tends to post interesting thoughts on game design and role-playing on his blog, but this particular post caught my eye: “Overheard at Gen Con.” It’s a collection of the stray bits of conversational detritus you pick up when you’re surrounded by people who are deeply invested in fictional universes and fantasy games. This kind of parlant vérité is always a bit surreal and hilarious, but even moreso when there are zombies and dragons involved, and it actually gives an oddly accurate take on what it’s like to walk through Gen Con.
My personal favorite: “You boys need to be taking that plastic weapon stuff to your mother. If you need dice or minis I’ll buy you some, but I ain’t got no money for larping crap.”
Finally, a blog I’ve been reading semi-regularly lately: Save Versus Death. Its core premise is to dispute the idea that 4E D&D is a friendlier, cuddlier version with no relation to the insta-death and brutal TPK action of older editions. It doesn’t dispense with role-playing in favor of pure hack-and-slashery, rather it turns up the danger level to more realistic levels. It doesn’t do this by creating broken encounters five levels above the party or fudging DM rolls. No. It will teach DMs to kill PCs the honest way: with horrific traps, clever monsters that use terrain and each other to their advantage, and an overt lack of mercy.
I already got some mileage out of their reworking of the trap cards included with the 2E Ruins of Undermountain boxed set. Even adjusted for 4E, they’re still plenty nasty. If you want your players to be more worried when their favorite longtime character enters the next room in the dungeon, bookmark this one.