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Cliff Jones 1964-2014

Cliff-Jones-CJ-1964-2014

Cliffton Anthony Jones

Cliffton Anthony Jones, 49, died February 14, 2014, in Bellevue, WA. He was born April 1, 1964, the beloved only child of Percival and Evonne Jones. A co-founder of game company Wizards of the Coast, he most recently served as IT director at Seattle-based Gen Con. Mr. Jones enjoyed games, music, travel, and sports, and was well known for his warm heart and infectious laugh. He is survived by his parents and the many friends he made everywhere he went.

~

I would personally like to thank CJ for all his contributions to Adventureaweek.com, specifically- creating and managing the development of adventure conversions into the Fantasy Grounds virtual tabletop by SmiteWorks. CJ was my go-to-tech guy, my Dungeon Master, and most of all- my friend. He will be sorely missed by all of us here at Adventureaweek.com.
-Jonathan G. Nelson
Founder & Owner
Adventureaweek.com

The Seattle Times: CJ’s Obituary Page

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Lords of Waterdeep

If you’ve heard the name, but never played the game, than this review is for you.  Before I delve into a lengthy description let me state this for the record:

To date, this is the best boardgame I have ever played!

That said, the Lords of Waterdeep board game sat, wrapped in cellophane upon my game shelves for almost two months before we finally decided to crack it open.  I think the terrible cover art kept scaring me away, I’m sorry but I hail from the days of Larry Elmore and Jeff Easley.  Anyway, I finally gathered the courage to tear away the slick cellophane skin, and that’s what matters.

Cracking open the box was a pleasure, albeit a bit intimidating.  This is actually where I would drop my first tasty tidbit of advice:

Do not let the number of pieces or supposed complexity of this game scare you away!  It’s not as difficult as it looks!

Granted, after popping out all the little cardboard pieces, sorting them, along with the painted wooden figures and cubes, it was a challenge to figure out what did what.  Luckily we had a beautiful red-headed lawyer on hand to help us sort through the rules and figure out how to play.  And this is where my next bit of advice christens this blog post:

If you have a friend who knows how to play, ask them to teach you!

This will at least speed up game play and expedite your learning time.  Alternatively you could simply watch this Youtube video which I highly recommend:


Game Instructions and Rulebook can be found here in PDF format!

 

Now that you have a little background on how the game works, I can continue!

 

THE GOOD

So, we set up and stumbled through the rules for a bit, but gradually got the swing of things.  Before long we were in the thick of it.  To the point where every person’s move could positively or adversely affect the subsequent player’s moves.  This is where things got interesting.  I found myself perched in my chair as if I was a black leather-clad rogue skirting the rooftops of Waterdeep, looking down and pondering my next move in this massive metropolis.  Occasionally someone would make a move which would completely throw off my game and I leapt from my perch, tumbling down many levels toward the rough cobblestone below only to prematurely feel my face come in contact with the far too thin plush carpeting of my home in real life.  I phrase things as such because most board games do exactly what their name personifies… bore me.  I have been bored out of my mind playing “classic” board games, and newer games like Settlers of Catan are great fun, but I still don’t find myself getting lost in the game and “on edge”, watching every player’s move.  Lords of Waterdeep does that for me.

Typically I’m a GM or player in tabletop RPGs like D&D 3.5 or Paizo’s Pathfinder RPG.  Lords of Waterdeep did what I never thought possible, it pulled me out of my mundane existence and thrust me smack into the middle of a fast paced, and dangerous vie for power in a metropolitan beautiful city set in Ed Greenwood’s classic Forgotten Realms setting.  I bet a creative DM could easily incorporate a game of Lords of Waterdeep into their regular gaming session to great success.  If you do this (or have done this) please leave a comment below, I would LOVE to know how it went!

Now, all I have set thus far about this game is good.  It’s time to touch upon a few of the downers this game had.

 

THE BAD

The Ambassador

The rules regarding the Ambassador and how you are supposed to play him are confusing and can be interpreted a few different ways.  Because of this there has been a major argument between players at every running of the game.  It has escalated to the point where the Ambassador is now removed from the game prior to play to prevent continued confusion and disagreements.  It would have been nice if WotC discovered the erroneous text during their playtest and either rephrased or removed this piece entirely from the game.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the Ambassador and find it a great twist to the game, but my fellow players did not find things as amusing as I, plus some disagreed (and others agreed) with my interpretation of the rules as presented.  Basically, a pain in the ass game piece is what this is.

 

Missing Intrigue

The game takes place in a huge city, where the Lords of Waterdeep do not even reveal their true identities.  With so much mystery and supposed intrigue I expected the game to be rife with it.  Sadly, it was not.  There were no special cards that allowed me to hatch elaborate plots on my fellow players, no dark deeds done in abandoned warehouses or hidden alleyways.  Yes, there were a few, but they were simplistic explanations performed on cards with little flavor and even less creativity.  Perhaps future expansions will hold some new advanced rules for those of us which hope to reach outside the mundane and into the world of the wicked!

 

Colored Cubes

Each of the colored cubes represents a different class: Fighter, Rogue, Wizard, and Cleric.  While this is easy to figure out, the game quickly degrades into “I’ll take one white and two blacks.”  Well, that just ripped me straight out of the illusion of being in a fantasy world.  Luckily, there’s a website online which crafts custom pieces for you to use in your games, colored icons which have the words “FIGHTER” and “CLERIC” printed directly upon them. I found some other game accessories here as well.  Let me toss the link up for your hard core gamers of board out there:  http://dapperdevil.com/product/lords-waterdeep-class-tokens

 

THE CONCLUSION:

Overall this game is totally worth the asking price.  You will get countless hours of enjoyment from a single game, and every game is totally different than the last!  Wizards of the Coast may have failed (in my book) with D&D 4th edition and some of their recent products, but if this is any indication of their delve into board games, you can count me among those willing to drop a pretty penny (or platinum) for the next release.  A round of applause from my fellow players and personal family for the team which put together this game.  Here, Here!

The minor perils and pitfalls of the game did diminish the overall enjoyment slightly (including an argument with my wife over the Ambassador), and I did miss out on some of that good old “intrigue” mentioned in the game’s description, thus I give the game 4.5 out of 5 stars.  Perhaps future rule clarifications and a future expansion shall clear this up, in which case I will revisit this post and up the total to the amount I truly wanted to grant this game.  [amazon_link id=”0786959916″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Buy Lords of Waterdeep by clicking here, [/amazon_link]and a portion goes to support NERD TREK and reviews like this one.

Well done Wizards of the Coast!  Your new board games and Magic cards have brought me back!

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Complete Kobold Guide to Game Design

A FIVE BOG TROLL HEAD RATING!

The Complete Kobold Guide to Game Design is an intimidating and healthy 244 pages of collected musings, thoughts, insights and essays from a collection of industry names that should prove familiar to most gamers or would be designers looking to sit down and read through this book. At first glance, and yes by the assumption made from the books title, it would appear this book is strictly for the designers out there, a how to guide if you will, on how to make a successful game and thereby put your name on the map when it comes to the gaming industry. But looking through the chapters and essays contained within one discovers very quickly there is so much more to this book then first impressions. Written largely by Wolgang Baur, you will be treated to his insight on everything from borrowing concepts from throughout all of media and history, why MtG worked as a game, how one actually defines design, to nurturing one’s own creativity. Wolfgang spends a great many chapters walking the reader through the many different aspects behind what makes a great designer, as well as why many will fall flat on their faces. He takes an unblinking look at the industry, and then reflects that here for the readers, which I have to admit, was refreshing. Far too many people are convinced they have the next great idea, and find themselves at a total loss when the whole o f the world doesn’t agree with them. He even voices his opinion on Magic Item Creation ala RPG Superstar, he has judged twice now, and is well established to detail what works, and what doesn’t. I can’t help but think every gamer/designer who’s ever considered publishing or submitting would do themselves a great service to spend some time reading at the very least the first section of this book, if not all of it.

Section 2 takes us into what I thought of as the reason gamers would want this book, not that the material and thoughts of the first section were not excellent, but they were aimed more towards designers looking to publish, as opposed to GM’s (who in their own right are designers, whether they realize it or not). Here is where this book really starts to attack the concept of how to improve one’s game from the ground up. Chapters dealing with topics like plot design, handling city adventures, the underdark and what one can really do with it as an ecological setting as well as a built in monster infested killing field. Hordes, humor, mystery and hardboiled adventures, this section tackles several different topics I can honestly say I wasn’t aware I had problems in until I found myself reading through these and realizing that I saw parts of my game in what they were addressing. Again, any GM worth his player’s time should spend some time with this section.

Section 3 takes us back to the business side of it again, with Writing, Pitching and Publishing. And again, we find that unblinking eye, which is what is needed in a product of this nature. After all, if you are going to buy a book that is largely a collection of advice and insight on how to succeed, would you want it to be sugercoated? No, you would want exactly what is delivered here, a fantastic collection of industry veterans not only telling you how you can improve your design and game, but how they themselves have improved their own games and designs. And just who are we talking about there when I say industry veterans, take a look:

Colin McComb– Extensive writing credits with TSR, Malhavoc Press, Paizo, and Open Design.

Rob Heinsoo – lead designer for D&D 4e as well as an extensive list of RPG, tabletop roleplaying, board, miniature and card games.

Michael A. Stackpole – Author, Game Designer both within the computer world and RPG industry

Ed Greenwood – The creator of the Forgotten Realms and successful author

Bill Collins – ENnie award winning designer (Tales of Zobeck)

[b]Nicolas Logue – WOTC Voyage of the Golden Dragon, Several credits with Paizo

Ben McFarland – credits on several Open Design projects, contributor to Kobold Quarterly, and The Breaking of Forstor Nagar

Willie Walsh – Longtime contributor to Dungeon Magazine, AD&D Road to Danger & Dungeons of Despair, Member of the Werecabbage Freelancers Creative Guild, 0one Games

Monte Cook – 1/3 of the design team for D&D 3e, Malhavoc Press, Arcana Unearthed, Ptolus, Iron Heroes, World of Darkness

Wolfgang Bauer – TSR, ICE, Open Design, just to name a few companies he has worked with. Won the eighth annual Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming in 2008.

So, 244 pages looking behind the curtain with some industry insiders. Very very few errors in editing, and by very few, I mean I think I found one. A must have book for both those looking to get into this industry, and those who merely want to play. I will admit, I did not know what to expect than I first saw this book, but by the end I was very happy that I turned the first page and kept reading, and I think you will be also.
I think my biggest fear in tackling this book was page hypnosis, and since it was a fear of mine, I would like to address it. Page hypnosis, as I call it, is that trance state you hit when reading textbook material type writing for hours on end, where you’re not really absorbing anything so much as you’re just staring at it because it’s so boring. Why would I be afraid of that? Because every guide on getting into the industry I’ve ever seen before this one essentially ended up being one of the most boring reads I ever tried to get through. The Kobold’s Complete Guide handles this with a very subtle method, that I think shows a great deal of intelligence on Wolfgang’s part. No matter how interesting someone is, when they are teaching the human brain will attempt to go on autopilot eventually, so this book breaks up Wolfgang’s writing style by interspersing essays from the other game designers throughout, giving you multiple writing styles to keep it fresh constantly. Now, am I saying that any of the material is boring? No, I am saying that the format of having multiple writing styles, and therefore multiple “voices” in this conversation proactively help to keep the book fresh throughout the entire read.

As I believe every GM and designer should have a copy of this in their library, I am going with a solid 5 star rating, but am adding the clarification, this is a collection of text. There is no pretty artwork breaking up the text, no game mechanics per say. This is a collection of insight into how to make the games we play that much better, and well worth the read, as long as when sitting down to read it, one understands that that is what they are sitting down to read.


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D&D NEXT has a new home on Wizards.com!

Wizards of the Coast has just launched a brand new hub of information for D&D Next, the “next” iteration of the game, at http://www.wizards.com/DnD/DnDNext.aspx. The new page features all the latest and greatest on D&D Next including articles from Wizards, discussions about the future of the game, and seminar transcripts from the recent D&D Experience event. It will also soon house features like Live Chats, a calendar of upcoming events and, once playtesting begins, materials will be available for download through this page. (Please note that this new site does not signify the start of playtesting – we will, of course, let you know once that begins!)

Also, as you may have noticed, the D&D site has been redesigned with a spiffy new look which went live this week at http://www.wizards.com/dnd.

Check out the new pages and, as always, let me know if you have any questions. In the meantime, check out the site and sign-up for the playtest if you haven’t already done so!

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Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition – the Red Box


The first time I held the original D&D Red Box in my hands I was 8 years old. My friend Khidr had received the Dungeons & Dragons Red Box as a gift from his Aunt and Uncle. It came with the Players Handbook and Dungeon Masters Guide. Those rule books seemed intimidating at the time, but now I think back and laugh at how simple they were compared to most.

We also received what truly got us involved in role-playing games, a set of polyhedron dice. Completely alien to us, these dice were like little treasures that required diligent safekeeping.  Strange shapes in a myriad of colors, this was what caused us to pull up chairs to what would become our gaming table and dig through these newfound books.

As soon as I found out there was a “Dungeon Master” who controlled the monsters and wrote the story line I knew that’s what I wanted to be. I have always loved creation.  I get excited about writing songs, building model scenery, and building websites.  These things give my life purpose and get my gears turning.

Fast forward 25 years and at Christmas we happened to find our old gaming group in the same room again.  Despite thousands of miles of separation, our parents living in the same city had reunited us yet again over the holidays.  As we leaned on the kitchen counter chatting over the eating bar and drinking coffee our eyes wandered to the Christmas tree.  My son had just received the Dungeons & Dragons Red Box for 4th edition as a Christmas present.  The very same box that we had used to learn D&D as children.  Wow, 25 years ago… had it really been that long?

We told my son to call up his friends and get his dice.  We were going to sit down and play D&D with them.  We would teach them a thing or two, or so we thought!

Apparently D&D has changed drastically over the years.  This version of the game came with character sheets, a flip-mat, miniature tokens that represent heroes and monsters, playing cards, and two small books.

Dashiell decided to take the role of party leader showing everyone how to roll up their characters.  While Khidr assisted in drinking all the coffee.  I sharpened pencils and prepared the miniature tokens.  Rolling up characters proved a difficult task as the initial character stats were already determined for you.  Perhaps this was to assist new players and GMs in getting started.  Hopefully this would speed things up and we would be playing within the half hour!

Almost two hours later we still weren’t playing.  The statistics for each character were hidden deep within a detailed story meant to help new players.  If anything it complicated things and was very frustrating digging through all this fluff just to begin playing.  We felt cheated out of creating our own characters.  One of my absolute favorite parts of playing a RPG is rolling up and creating my own unique character!  At least the Pathfinder Beginner Box provided your stats and gear already printed on the ready to play character sheets.  If you’re going to start me out with a pre-rolled character at least get it ready to go so we can get started and learn the game.

So, like I said… 2 hours later and we only had a bit of time left, luckily we had finished our characters.  We initiated the trial combat contained within the small Dungeon Master’s Guide!

I played DM and set up the mini tokens and flip-mat.  Everyone rolled initiative and battle began.

 

As combat progressed I noticed many changes in regards to combat in 4th edition:

  • Combat has a faster pace than most RPGs
  • Players and Monsters hit 90% of the time
  • Damage caused is almost 4 times what we experienced in older editions
  • Players have a smattering of cards which can be used strategically
  • All players can use a special ability called a “Healing Surge” to regain lost hit points

Introducing cards into the game seems like a good idea and I’ll need some more time to see how I really feel about this.  I do enjoy a faster paced combat, but it sure seems like the constant barrage of wounds is more akin to a video game than a tabletop RPG.  When flipping through the books I did notice that a focus on combat encounters overshadowed the exploration or role-playing factor.  The latter two aspects of role-playing games are what puts the “role” as opposed to the “roll” into the game for me.

Surely we need more time with the game than just a practice encounter, but I fear that Wizards is on a path which leads away from the dreams of the late great Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

My son and his friends enjoyed the encounter and were ready for more.  During combat one of the kids came up with a creative use for the Mage Hand spell and moved a small boulder over the head of an enemy and dropped it causing extra damage.  He wanted to keep going after his turn was over so he could cast spell after spell.  I told him if he got to do whatever he wanted, so did I and would loose an army of enemies upon the group.  He said “go ahead, I have a ton of spells I want to use!”  Wisdom 3, Enthusiasm & Courage: 18!

When all was said and done I realized that this version of D&D, although different from previous editions was original in and of itself.  It is a NEW game and thus is an interpretation of the great D&D game, played for generations.  Surely it has a place among my other gaming books and boxes.

It is my son’s turn to start a collection and forge his own memories and experiences in the world of Dungeons & Dragons.  Perhaps in 25 years he will be teaching his son how to play.

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D&D: Neverwinter Campaign Setting

Reduced to ruins by supernatural cataclysms, Neverwinter rises from the ashes to reclaim its title as the Jewel of the North. Yet even as its citizens return and rebuild, hidden forces pursue their own goals and vendettas, any one of which could tear the city apart.

Wizards of the Coast has launched a new line of products from board games to traditional RPG products which feature the City of Neverwinter.

I had the opportunity to get my hands on the Neverwinter Campaign Setting hard backed book that was recently released for the Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition game.

This Book contains pretty much everything you will need to know about the city of Neverwinter. It introduces you to the people who live in Neverwinter, the geography, 3 factions vying for control, new character themes, and 1 new character class.

The book looks nice and clean with beautiful fantasy artwork throughout, although the cartography of the city of Neverwinter itself appears very crudely drawn.  Oh well, you can’t win them all and besides, the rest of the book is very aesthetically pleasing.

I’m brand new to 4th edition D&D.  I started my foray into Dungeons & Dragons at the young age of 8 and have played D&D basic, AD&D 1st edition, 2nd edition, and 3.5.  Due to time constraints I never had to the chance to learn 4th, so here I am, a veteran DM once again stumbling through the rules.  One of the biggest changes I noticed in the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons are the clean page layouts.  As a DM I sometimes find it frustrating attempting to locate a detail while the players wait.   The clean layout and easy to follow color codes found in the Neverwinter Campaign Setting help me find what I’m looking for quickly and keep the game moving.  The fonts are crisp and clear, and the book has a nice organized and balanced feel which is very attractive to me.

This book delves pretty deep into details about the various characters in Neverwinter and displays quality fantasy art alongside character descriptions.  There is also a new character class in this book.  It’s a kind of variant on the traditional classes, what we would have called a “kit” in AD&D 2nd edition.  The Wizard Bladeslinger is the new character class variant which looks quite appealing to me should I decide to roll up a 4th edition character.

Here’s a brief run down on the Wizard Bladeslinger:

WIZARD, BLADESLINGER

Arcane Controller:  You realize the ultimate blending of swordplay and spellcasting, unleashing magic and making attacks with your blade with equal ease.

Why This Is the Class for You:  You enjoy having a character in the midst of melee who can also cast deadly wizard spells.

Key Abilities: Intelligence, Dexterity

The description continues,  digging into special abilities and the spells you obtain as you advance in this class.  The open options that 4th edition and the Neverwinter Campaign Setting provide are very appealing.

In the coming months I will be sitting down with my friends and family to learn D&D 4th edition and write about my experiences through the eyes of a Dungeons & Dragons veteran of 25 years.  I hope that the knowledge I glean will assist other “old timers” in taking the plunge with me, and exploring this new rule set that is 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons.


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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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WANT THIS LOOT?

“WANT THIS LOOT?” – Contest!

Here’s how to win this loot PLUS a free 1 month subscription to Adventureaweek.com!

1.  “Like” Adventureaweek.com on Facebook.

2.  Share a link to “Adventureaweek.com” with all of your friends on Facebook.

That’s it!  You’re entered to win!

 

Win more stuff:

If you wish you can also print out the flier below and hang it up at your local gaming shop.  If you do so please email us a picture at Contest@Adventureaweek.com to be entered into a special prize drawing for original artwork signed by Todd Gamble!

 

No purchase necessary. Offer void where prohibited or restricted by law. 1. Eligibility This contest is open to everyone 18 or older. The user must email a photo of the Adventureaweek.com Flyer posted in a local game or comic shop to contest [at] adventureaweek.com to be entered. 2. Length This contest will begin December 10th, 2011 and end April 1st, 2012. 3. How to Enter The user must either “like” adventureaweek.com on facebook and share “adventureaweek.com” with all their facebook friends -OR- email a photo of the ADVENTUREAWEEK.COM Flyer posted in a local game or comic shop to contest [at] adventureaweek.com IN ORDER TO BE ENTERED TO WIN. 4. Prizes No cash equivalent or alternative product will be an option. ADVENTUREAWEEK.COM, LLP reserves the right to change the prizes or intervals at any time without any prior notice. The winner is responsible for any taxes that may be associated with their prize. The winner will be contacted via email. 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RPTools: Open Source Tools for Pen & Paper RPGs

RPTools is an open source tool set for PC designed to enhance pen and paper role-playing games.  If you’re a RPG fanatic you are probably already aware of these tools or at least heard of them from your fellow gamers.  After experimenting with the tools in my own Pathfinder and D&D games I decided to dig a little deeper and obtain an interview with the folks who have made these tools openly available to the general public!

NERD TREK interview with Frank Edwards & Keith Athey of RPTools.

 

Jonathan Nerdtrek:  Hello Keith!  Please tell our readers a bit about your RPTools programs and your role within the company.

Keith Athey:  RPTools is a community devoted to producing open source software for the online gamer. By online we mean folks playing together from across the globe or those with projectors or networked laptops who use RPTools to speed game play.  MapTool is by far the most used product but we have others including DiceTool, CharacterTool, InitiativeTool, and TokenTool.   My role within the community is that of Bard.  I do my best to spread the word about RPTools and try to bring even more people into our community of users.

Jonathan Nerdtrek: I have been checking out your RPTools programs and find them very impressive.  Watching this tutorial video for MapTool has blown me away.  Your attention to detail is astounding- love that you can click on an item to see its contents, open and close doors, and obtain a light source for each character on the battlemap.

Frank Edwards: I can’t take credit for most of the code — that belongs to the RPTools founder, Trevor Croft.  However, real life has become much more real for him lately and he has left the product development in the hands of myself and Craig Wisniewski.  We are attempting to carry the banner forward!

Jonathan Nerdtrek: My business partner Todd Gamble (D&D 3.5 Core, Forgotten Realms 3.5, 3x Ennie Award Winner) and I have built a website called Adventureaweek.com.  This website is under beta testing and launches in 2012.  I was curious if you had any ideas of how we could work together to benefit your tools and our game.  We will have a lot of people who would probably like to play online with their friends.  I think it’s quite amazing that you ask for nothing in return for your tools which in itself lends great credibility to your product.

Frank Edwards: You may be familiar with the name Jonathan Roberts of Fantastic Maps?  He and Rite Publishing have produced the first commercial adventure (that I know of) that includes a MapTool campaign file as part of their module.  We worked with Jonathan over the past couple of months to ensure that any tweaks we made to MapTool weren’t going to cause him any headaches for his campaign macros.  If you haven’t seen The Breaking of Forstor Naga then you should check it out.  He has a product entry on Paizo’s web site (the module is generic enough to run in any game system, but the campaign file is primarily for PF) that links to a YouTube video that shows how he has configured MapTool.  I will warn you:  he has set the bar pretty high IMO!

Jonathan Nerdtrek:  Thank you Frank!  I checked out the module you mentioned.  It looks great!  Are the Pathfinder statistics that are worked into that adventure generally available on RPTools programs, or are those custom stats that Jonathan Roberts worked in on his own?

Frank Edwards: Jonathan created his own “framework”, i.e. his own set of macros and game statistics.  There are also user-contributed frameworks (on our forum under User Creations > Campaign Frameworks) that cover various game systems such as D&D3.5/PF, D&D4e, ShadowRun, GURPS, and so forth.  I believe he created his own so that changes in the community version wouldn’t affect the functionality of his project, although he could have included the existing framework as part of his product (there are no royalties or similar issues with frameworks; most are covered by a Creative Commons license).  I suppose you’d need to ask him that question.  If you register on our forum at forums.rptools.net, he goes by the username torstan.

Jonathan Nerdtrek: Can you please tell us more about these tools and what each one does?

Keith Athey:  MapTool is RPTools primary product. It allows online players to share maps, tokens, and chat across the internet. It allows for customization for whatever game system you use but can be used with almost any game system.  DiceTool is a computer dice roller that allows for complex dice expressions. This code was folded into MapTool proper as time wore on but it still functions as a stand alone product.  TokenTool allows you to rip images from the web or your local machine to quickly create tokens for use in MapTool or other VTTs.  InitiativeTool was created to keep track and roll game initiative. MapTool has absorbed much of this functionality as well.  CharacterTool is used to create custom character sheets for differing game systems.  All the Tools are cross-platform, meaning they run on Windows, Mac, or Linux, and game system agnostic. All the software is free and game system agnostic. You can even download the source code, if you like.

 Jonathan Nerdtrek: Keith and Frank, thank you for talking with NERD TREK.

 

If you are interested in checking out the 100% free and open source RPTools simply visit RPTools.net and click the download link!

 

 

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