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Elminster’s Forgotten Realms

An instant classic, this fantasy book steeped in lore is sure to get any Realms fan in the mood.

I highly suggest you get out an old wooden pipe, don your musty wizard robes, and pull up a guady, over-sized plush armchair next to the fire, no that’s too close… OK, there you are.  Now, have a seat, light your pipe and crack open this old… er new tome.  Trust me, you’ll be lost within her pages fast enough.

Yes, it’s that good.  A book published by WotC that caused my jaw to drop due to the fact that they finally let Ed Greenwood have his way, and run amuck through his world.  Losing the constraining statistics of various systems has truly set this book free as one can enjoy the read regardless of which system they run.  There are NO game statistics here folks, just pure, tasty LORE.  Ah, the stuff I love.  Role-playing games would not be the same without the “role-playing” and I feel that many of the newer systems and games (*ahem*D&D*ahem*) have truly lost their way seeing as the acting out a character is what set these games apart from simple miniature games (not THAT kind of simple, geez calm down guys!)

I’ve been a fan of Ed Greenwood and his gorgeous setting the Forgotten Realms for more years than I can count.  I was a child when I opened up the gray box and had my players roll up their first characters in this world.  I remember the first time the PCs ventured through the Cormyr forest and into the Ruins of Myth Drannor.  If I recall the entire party was killed, but their epic adventures lived on in new characters which continued for many more decades.  One game lasted from senior year of high school all the way to marriage and kids.  It would still continue to this day if my friend had not left the realm of RPGs behind for good.  Taku Okamiya, Guardian of Luruar and Ruler of Nesme, I salute you, as well as Alin Durqua and the rest.  May you all rest in peace within the Forgotten Realms.

Now comes the part where we break the book down into various sections and ramble on for a good three hours or so… huh?  You don’t want me to ramble for three hours?  Well, if you do you can visit this link and get the entire breakdown of this book.  If you want to [amazon_link id=”0786960345″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]buy this you can pick it up at this link[/amazon_link], otherwise jump to the conclusion below.

 

Conclusion

This book is a thick tome clocking in at 192 pages.  There is a personal foreword and afterword by Ed Greenwood himself along with some very old pictures of a very young Ed.  Throughout the book you’ll get personal notes, maps, and sketches by Ed which truly make this book feel like you hold an ancient relic.  It’s as if WotC was on vacation with Ed running the offices and the printing press.  I feel that Ed Greenwood has finally had the chance to tell the story of his world, how it came about, the people who live there, the lore, the magic, and more.  It’s all contained within these pages and really this is all you need to run a good game in any system, this book and a bit of creativity.  I give this book 5 out of 5 stars due to the fact that they finally let an author run loose, naked in the fields, and despite his age… Elminster sure can run, and according to Sune, he still has a nice… *ahem* Sune, for a goddess you sure can be inappropriate, this is a professional news site for nerds after all!

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THE LEGEND OF DRIZZT Board Game

The Legend of Drizzt board game is part of the Adventure System Board Games by Wizards of the Coast. These games are designed as a co-op experience with no DM required! In this game you get to play as Drizzt and his companions.

It contains scenarios set around the city of Neverwinter. You will be getting a lot of Drizzt and his followers throughout your adventures in this board game.  For those of you who don’t already know, Drizzt Do’Urden is the most famous character in the Forgotten Realms world.  Created by R.A. Salvatore and featured in his New York Times Best Selling novels, Drizzt and his companions have become a fantasy staple for fantasy fans and RPG fanatics alike!

This is a great game for families. My wife enjoyed the Neverwinter Nights computer games but has never been very interested in joining my friends and I for tabletop D&D games. My son is 9 years old and although shows much interest in the D&D RPG, still has a tough time with the vast amount of rules required to play a fair and balanced game. The Legend of Drizzt Board Game is a perfect introduction to a family who has not yet played D&D or anyone who has trouble fully grasping the concept of tabletop role-playing games.

My family decided to set up the Legend of Drizzt game on our dining room table at home.  We started a timer to see how long it would take to get all the pieces out, read up on the rules, and start playing.

It took almost an entire hour to get all the dungeon tiles and other icons punched out of the large cardboard sheets and read up on the rules.  Even after reading the rules multiple times we were still all a bit confused despite my 25 year background playing role-playing games.  We decided to just dive right in and figure it out as the game progressed.

My suggestions for first time players:

1.  Make sure you read ALL of the rules by yourself prior to having friends over.  

2.  Punch out, organize, and bag up all the cardboard pieces in advance of your first session.

To start out you choose one of multiple adventures you would like to play.  Next the adventure tells you which cards and items you will need.  After gathering these you mix the specific dungeon tiles up with the generic tiles and place them within a stack of tiles from which you draw each round.  I know, it’s a bit confusing but it’s much easier if you can sit down and look at the pieces.  Then you choose which hero you would like to play and find the required cards for that hero.  Each hero has an attack they can do every round, an attack or stance they can do once per day, and some other one-time use abilities or items.  As the game progresses you find treasure which helps you reset these powers or obtain new powers in the form of magical items.

The game progresses like this:  

  • Hero Phase: This is the phase in which your hero moves through the dungeon and makes attacks against monsters.
  • Exploration Phase: This is the phase in which you add new Cavern tiles, draw Monster cards, and place Monsters.
  • Villain Phase: This is the phase in which you draw and play Encounter Cards as well as activate Villains.

Each player performs all three of these actions each turn, so by the time it is your turn again as many as 3 additional monsters may appear on the map and engage you in combat!  If you would like a detailed play by play (with images) of a session check out this site!

Opinion:  As a veteran RPG Game Master I found the game to be fun, but lacking and repetitive in many areas.   Take in mind that I have over 25 years of role-playing experience under my belt so my opinion is a bit biased.  As an introduction to D&D or a “D&D gateway game”, I think the Drizzt Board Game is excellent.  My family had a lot of fun playing it.  My 9 year old son enjoyed the game immensely and was quite excited each time his turn came up.  He played Drizzt and mangled most enemies he encountered very quickly.  My wife was interested in the game, perhaps a bit more so than traditional tabletop RPGs, but she found many of the rules constraining and suggested we throw out some of the rules and play it our own way.

Overall family score: 3/5

Name: The Legend of Drizzt Board Game
Company: Wizards of the Coast (HASBRO)

Price: $65 US

Type: RPG/Adventure

Number of Players: 1-5
Target Audience: 12+  (9+ will do fine) 

First time set-up: 45m-1hr
Subsequent set-up: 10-15m
Game time: 1-2hrs per adventure 

This game includes the following components:

  • 42 plastic heroes and monsters
  • 13 sheets of interlocking cardstock dungeon tiles
  • 200 encounter cards and treasure cards
  • Rulebook
  • Scenario book
  • 20-sided die

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Interview with Todd Gamble: Forgotten Realms Cartographer

The following is an interview with Cartographer, Graphic Designer, Illustrator, and Model Scenery Creator Todd Gamble who spent a number of years working for Wizards of the Coast on the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting for Dungeons and Dragons.  For me, he has been a creative influence for many years as well as a positive influence in the small logging town of Snoqualmie.  The quaint city of Snoqualmie is deep in the rain covered Cascade Foothills of Washington State.  It was a pleasure to meet with Todd and take a short journey into his past accomplishments.  Please join us now as we travel into the creative realm of Todd Gamble, artist magnificent!

Jon: So, you worked at Wizards of the Coast for a number of years and did cartography for the Dungeons and Dragons games including the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting.  How many years did you work for Wizards?

Todd: I think I worked there for about six years or so.

Jon: Please tell us in detail what a normal work day is like at Wizards of the Coast for a Grandmaster Cartographer such as yourself.

Todd: Roll in to work when I wanted, coffee in hand, say hello to my coworkers and sit my ass in front of a monitor assembling maps.

Take a long lunch, if it was sushi, we’d walk from the restaurant to Toys R us and get something cool and unnecessary, then walk to Half Price Books which rocks and get some cool art reference books for mapping ideas.

Later on, take a break from work and go get an Americano, stay late and get some more maps done. Fight my way home in traffic from Renton to Shoreline which was lame.

Jon: What was it like working with other artists and cartographers?  Was there anyone memorable that you especially enjoyed working with, or had strange little quirks?

Todd: It was awesome working with other artists. The illustrators, sculptors, and mappers worked in a secure area called New Siberia (because it was so far away from the rest of the employees and behind two large steel doors which required an electronic key card to get in. There were all kinds of neat costumes stored in our area for the illustrators to use on models.

I especially liked working with Matt Wilson because he was always so nice to me and not big headed like some of the illustrators there. He has his own successful company now, Privateer Press / Iron Kingdoms. I also liked my lead, Robert Lazzaretti.

He took me in when I was new and showed me all the ropes single handedly. He taught me how to use the computer basically. Up until then, I had no real computer training and I was worried about that but Rob helped me out. His wisdom helped me get three EN Awards for best in cartography. I was so proud to receive them because the real people chose for themselves in that contest.

Jon: What are some of the different projects you worked on at Wizards?

Todd: I worked on several Avalon Hill military strategy games, Pokemon JR trading cards, Star Wars RPG, maps and illos for several gaming magazines, Map of the week on the web, fantasy novels, 3D miniature scenery and cardstock structures, D&D maps and Forgotten Realms maps and more.

Jon: Are you still doing work on the side for wizards of the coast?

Todd:Yes, mostly maps for fantasy novels. Once in awhile, they will throw me a board game to do artwork for.

Jon: You are an amazing artist and I have followed your work for years.  After working on cartography you also built model scenery both for miniature photo shoots for Wizards and for model railroading.  Tell me about your history with model railroading and model scenery.

Todd: I’ve always liked anything in miniature form. My passion is for model railroading because there is so much real history to delve into. Where I grew up in Northern California (Ingot, CA.) there was plenty of mining and railroad history. A flume carried cut lumber from Terry Mill down to a small line that carried lumber and ore to Bella Vista. They would send apple shipments down the flume as well. I used to go hunting for spikes along the old roadbed as well as climb around the old gold mine buildings.

I tried to recreate the scenery around me in miniature and that’s how I became addicted to scenery building. Wizards had me build several miniature sets for photo shoots for their miniatures. Now, I build model scenery as a profession (among other artistic endeavors). You can see some of my work at my website ToddGambleART.com and on my blog at toddgambleart.blogspot.com

Jon:I’ve seen some pretty impressive graphic designs that you have dreamed up.  How do you get started on a project?  Do ideas just come to you or do you sometimes have to go out into the world and look for inspiration?

Todd: An idea usually pops into my mind as the client is describing what they want or think they want. But I still do research on the web and magazines and books at my local coffee shop (Isadora’s Café, downtown Snoqualmie, WA.)

Jon: Isn’t your Dad a graphic designer?  How did he influence you?

Todd: My Dad was a major influence on my creativity. He was a fine artist when he was younger, became a firefighter and then created his own advertising and design business from his home. His company grew from our home into a business park with employees. I was one of his employees for awhile. I learned more from him in design than I did from my formal college education. He taught me how to be professional above all. My Mom was also a great influence on my creativity. She is an artist and showed me that art is everywhere and you can make art without any money. Just look around and hot glue stuff together or paint it or whatever.

Jon: What kind of a graphic design would you dream up for NerdTrek.com?

Todd: Geez, I like the way it looks now. I’d have to think about that one for a bit. It’s an awesome place to go each day and daydream.

Jon: Is there anything you would like to say to our NerdTrek.com fans?  Do you have a website or blog where they can check out more of your work?

Todd: I would say keep your dreams in front of you always no matter where you are in life and they will eventually come your way. Maybe not when you want them to, but it’s better when they come naturally in their own time. Also, it’s ok to be weird and playful with your imagination. Dr. Suess says,”I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.” And, Albert Einstein say,”Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

You can see some of my work at my website: www.ToddGambleART.com and on my blog at: http://toddgambleart.blogspot.com