Shameless Plugs

Shameless Plugs – Podcasts, Masterplan, DDI, and more!

As I continue working on the next installment of the World Workshop, and try to decide what aspect of DS4e to discuss next (I’m thinking the in-game timeline), I realized that last week I never plugged anything shamelessly.

So this week, you get a double-dose of shameless pluggery – double-doze plus interest!

First up are the podcasts. I’ve recently been sinking my teeth into a number of gaming-related podcasts, and have found them to be just excellent. The ones I’ve been listening to lately are;

  • The NewbieDM.com Minicast – if you remember the old Sage Advice column from Dragon Magazine, you’re already familiar with the format. Every episode one listener calls in with a question, and the NewbieDM and his guest for the week do their best to answer it. Each episode is only around 5 minutes long, so it makes for a quick listen.
  • The Dungeon Master Guys – three DMs, including NewbieDM, “The Game” (founder of what’s shaping up to be this edition’s EN World, Critical Hits), and the ChattyDM (a contributor to CH). I’ve only listened to the first one so far, but it’s pretty cool – each guy takes about ten minutes to discuss a topic of interest. Most interesting, thus far, is The Game’s discussion on how to run a Groundhog Day-style time loop adventure, but with demons and giant armies of gnolls. Good stuff.
  • Open Design – this one, unfortunately, isn’t on iTunes. Also unfortunately, it seems to no longer be updating. Despite that, I’m very much enjoying it and looking forward to listening to all nine episodes – run by Wolfgang Baur of Kobold Quarterly (and known for his work as editor of Dragon Magazine, as well as work on Planescape, Al-Quadim, and plenty of other WotC properties), this podcast features a lot of pros including Skip “The Sage” Williams and Monte “My Mancrush” Cook. As you can guess, I’m a big fan of Cook’s especially – I continue to name my biggest rpg-regret as having never gotten the opportunity to run Arcana Unearthed (which I do own, and adore).

Next comes the blogs.

  • NewbieDM.com is awesome – while I might not technically be a newbie Dungeon Master, the advice there is fantastic, and as I’m prepping to run my first 4th Edition game the tips are very helpful. Specifically I’d recommend his tutorials section, there’s a lot of handy tips for alternatives to (awesome-looking but expensive) miniatures or making battlemaps.
  • Kobold Quarterly looks neat, though I haven’t had a chance to really dig my teeth in. I haven’t yet decided to subscribe to the magazine, but I’ll probably decide whether or not it’s worth the money based on my read-through of the blog. If the magazine features more material by Monte Cook and Skip Williams, then I think I’ll definitely be leaning in that direction.
  • Sly Flourish, run by Mike Shea, is another one I’ve recently followed. Shea recently put out Sly Flourish’s Dungeon Master Tips, which I bought before reading the blog based on the recommendation of The Game (of Critical Hits). The book is packed full of tips that I already knew, but tend to forget while playing or in the rush to prepare, and is a worthwhile reference guide for veterans and has some really good stuff that’ll help newbies get over the initial hurdles of running their own. Based on the book’s quality, I’ve got high hopes for the blog.

I’ve also been checking out some software:

  • Dungeons & Dragons Insider – imagine having access to a digital database of every chunk of rules material. A searchable database of every official monster – and which streamlined the process of creating your own, new creatures. Imagine being able to create PCs quickly, through an automated process that automatically ensured you didn’t take feats you don’t meet the requirements for, that updated every time a new race or class was introduced in a book, accessory, or even Dragon Magazine. Imagine this same program came with a subscription to both Dragon and Dungeon Magazine. Imagine it only cost $10 a month. It’s not perfect (I really wish you could apply monster templates with one click, instead of doing it manually), but for the price I’m not going to complain. There are plenty of other people airing their grievances online – some rightly, some wrongly – and I don’t feel the need to add to the noise. I love DDI. Period.
  • Masterplan – haven’t had a chance to really dig into this yet, but I’ve heard about it from a bunch of different blogs and podcasts. Basically, it’s an adventure-planning application, designed to streamline the design process. Apparently its very simple and a great program. I’ve installed it, and hope to check it out later this week, but playing with new software is sort on the bottom of my priority list right now. Underneath packing, moving, finding a job, blogging, and prepping my first adventure.
  • Adobe Photoshop – I realize that I’m lucky. As a student of web design, I get to buy this software on the cheap. That said, I’ve made heavy use of Photoshop in prepping for my upcoming game. I’ve made regional maps, battlemats, monster tokens, and handouts all with Photoshop and I can’t imagine anything else doing half so well by me. If the price-tag turns you off, there’s always GIMP (the open-source equivalent). I’ve checked it out, but definitely prefer Photoshop. If I weren’t a student, mind you, I’m not sure I’d prefer it by a margin of a thousand bucks of so.

Alright, I think that’s pretty much everything I’ve been digging into lately. Hope it helps some people find something useful for themselves.

Shameless Plugs

Shameless Plug – Maps, Languages, Sports, and the Pater familias

This week, as I’ve said, I’m pretty busy so I haven’t had a lot of time to look for “cool shit” – which means that what I’m plugging this week is mostly stuff I’ve come across incidentally or in the pursuit of some other aim.

First of all, as I’m sure anyone following this blog has noticed, I’m all about mapping these days. Which means I’ve got a big plug for the Cartographer’s Guild, which is basically just a forum for map-making enthusiasts (and some pros, it looks like – I haven’t had time to dig deep just yet). I recently downloaded a new tutorial by Ascension (the CG member whose tutorial I’m mostly following while doing the World Workshop articles) – this one about mapping cities – which I’m looking forward to digging into, after I finish all my school assignments. Also, a secondary map-themed plug for the Athasian Cartographer’s Guild, which seems to be less of a community than it is a place to get all kinds of Dark Sun maps and mapping resources.

Sticking with the World Workshop stuff, I want to give a plug to Sean K. Reynolds’  awesome articles on the Dwarven, Elven, and Draconic languages (which originally appeared in Dragon Magazine issues 278, 279, and 284) and can now be found on Fantasist.net (which I haven’t had a chance to check out beyond those three articles yet). I used the stuff on the Draconic language in naming the city of Io’Rasvim, and plan on making good use of the other articles as well.

A plug also goes out to the HBO documentary Magic and Bird: A Courtship of Rivals, which is about Magic Johnson and Larry Bird’s concurrent rise to NBA superstardom, and the incredible rivalry that existed between them. People who know me, know I’m not really a sports guy, but I found this movie fascinating – if nothing else, it provides a fascinating insight on how to create a rivalry with a foe who isn’t really a “villain.”

And, lastly, a great big plug goes out to my dad. I’ve always had the habit of inventing words out of nowhere, and I always assumed that was just something I did that didn’t come from anywhere. Turns out it runs in the family, as he busted out the following gem yesterday afternoon as a way of explaining a bad habit he and I both possess:

pre-cras-ti-nate: to be completely aware of one’s tendency to procrastinate, to the point of being able to plan in advance to not do something

Shameless Plugs

Shameless Plug – History

I’m a big history buff; those of you following my World Workshop will come to realize that pretty quickly as I love to integrate notions and ideas from real-world history into any setting I’m developing. Specifically, I like to look to earth’s history to constantly remind myself that the span of centuries is full of examples of idiots doing stupid shit, so I shouldn’t feel the need for things to make too much sense.

Want an example? Pertinax, the Roman Emperor who was put on the throne by the Praetorian Guard, stiffed the imperial bodyguards for the bribe (I believe the Praetorians referred to it as a donativum) he’d promised them. Do you really need to be a genius to realize that’s not going to end well? (It didn’t – Pertinax was unsurprisingly murdered by his own bodyguards after 86 days in power.)

Anyways, the point is that I love to study history. Not all of it – some of it is tedious, but there’s a lot of good stuff out there. So, that’s what I’m plugging. Specifically Mike Duncan’s The History of Rome podcast (also on iTunes) and The Cold War: A New History by John Lewis Gaddis. I’ve listened to every episode of the former, and am most of the way through an audiobook copy of the latter. Both the Punic Wars and the Cold War are providing lots of inspiration for the setting I’m working up in the World Workshop, I’m pleased to say.

Now for Penny Arcade. I know I plugged their Dark Sun podcast last week. They’ve finished, and even released a bonus episode that features them all discussing the Dark Sun setting (which the three players – Scott, Kris, and Mike) had never played in before. This episode is hilarious, if only for the chitin/chitinous/carapace conversation that kicks things off.

Tycho: There is a carapace in Dark Sun that has its own carapace.
Gabe: You can’t throw something chitinous without hitting a carapace.
Scott: You throw something its gonna hit six chitins before it touches the ground.
Gabe: Chitin isn’t a thing, is it?
Tycho: Chitin is the material that, um-
Gabe: Makes something chitinous?
Tycho: Yeah.
Kris: Yeah, carapaces are chitinous.
Tycho: Apparently you can lose weight eating chitin.

Honestly, the bonus track is more ridiculous comedy than it is genuine commentary on Dark Sun. Still great though, I strongly recommend checking it out.

Shameless Plugs

Shameless Plug of the Week!

So, I’m back from my vacation and thoroughly refreshed, and ready to resume my bloggy ways. I’m sort of buried under a massive pile of schoolwork, but I knew that was going to happen. My goal is to not let that affect my output here – whether that’s realistic I can’t say, but that’s the goal anyways.

Alright, so, this post marks a new ‘feature’ on the City-State of Balic – the Shameless Plug of the Week! Basically, I’m going to plug things I think are cool or worth checking out – since I typically won’t be affiliated with whatever I’m plugging, I’m not sure if it’s all that shameless or not, but whatever. “The Plug of the Week” just doesn’t sound as good.

This week, I’ve got three things to plug:

Mike, of the aptly-named Mike’s D&D Blog has a pretty good post up about food. Now, I like food – I like taste and texture, I like trying to pick the right salad to go with the right main course, I like trying to figure out what wine will go best with what meal. I’m (at best) an amateur gourmand. But reading his post made me realize that I typically ignore food when creating my characters – and that food preferences are the sort of thing that every person has, and can really give a character some personality. So good on him for raising the point.

The last two pretty much go together. If you’re online, and into roleplaying and other geek endeavors, I have to assume you’re familiar with Penny Arcade. Well, the latest episode of their pseudo-reality TV series (Penny Arcade: The Series) is about Dungeons & Dragons and is a pretty interesting look at four different people’s take on the hobby. Secondly on the Penny Arcade menu, you might notice that the four guys featured in the episode are playing through a 4th Edition Dark Sun adventure – well they’ve recorded it, and are making it available as a podcast. The first five episodes (of, I believe, eight) are already up. Definitely worth checking out.