Saturday, August 29, 2009

Return and Review

After saying that I wanted to update this blasted thing regularly, I drop off the face of the earth for six months again. Partly, it was professional obligations (that is to say, writing for which I am being paid), and partly my schoolwork. I don't talk about my personal life on here very much, since I think it detracts from the point of a design blog, but I feel the need to brag: Taking six months away from the blog must have paid off somewhere, since I am now in the running for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. If I manage to keep my GPA up and not horribly botch something, I could be one of a select group of students chosen to finish out my graduate education at Oxford University in England, where I will be pursuing my Master's in Library Sciences. Hold your applause, please. The odds that I'll be chosen even if I manage to still be qualifying for the thing in two years (which is the soonest I can apply for graduation) is about one in six at best.

Ah well, even if I don't get it, it's one of those things that's genuinely an honor for which to even be considered. And there's always getting my MLS right here at good old U of K, at which I am currently enrolled and pursuing my BA in English.

I just got back from GenCon the week before school started, and they had quite the plethora of things I wanted there. While I picked up Geist: The Sin-Eaters on the first day, as I always do with the new White Wolf game, I've barely glanced through it. Something about it is off-putting; maybe it's the lower quality of the book overall (coarser paper, smudgier edge work, that sort of thing), or maybe I'm just too melancholy about it not being NWraith. Either way, I'm hoping to slog through the thing at some point in the near future.

The big purchase of the convention for me was the Pathfinder RPG, of which I am a huge fan. Being out in the cold with the arrival of D&D 4th Edition, I'm pleased that Paizo, whose work I have respected for years, has decided to carry on the torch of 3.X. It's a huge book, weighing in at 500+ pages, and the interior is so beautiful that mere words can't describe it. Suffice to say that Paizo has outdone their usual (very high already) standards. I even got to run Pathfinder Society events on Thursday and Friday of the convention, so bully for me!

I was able to hit the Studio 2/Pinnacle booth for a while, and I basked in the soft glow of Savage Weird War II and Realms of Cthulhu, both of which I desperately wanted but couldn't afford. My only purchase there was one I've been waiting for, though: the Fantasy Companion. Two of my friends picked it up at Origins, and I'd been tearing out my (last remaining) hair over wanting my own copy. I'm still planning on picking up the other books (as well as Hellfrost and Space: 1889 when I can get around to them), though it might take a month or so before I have the funds.

My last significant purchase at GenCon was something of an impulse buy. I was hearing about a new d20 variant game on the week before GenCon, something called FantasyCraft. It's made by Crafty Games, and is a revision/alteration of their very successful SpyCraft game engine (which they are apparently calling "Mastercraft"). I was iffy about the game, having had only sporadic and somewhat mediocre experiences with SpyCraft, until someone mentioned in their review of the pre-release that one of the base races were dragons.

Let me repeat: dragons. Not dragonborn, not lizardmen, not half-dragons, but actual fire-breathing, flying, scaly dragons. That sold me right there. I couldn't give Crafty Games my money fast enough at GenCon.

Now that I actually own the book, my ardor has cooled, but only somewhat. There's a definite learning curve involved, and one that isn't necessarily made any easier by having played numerous other d20 games before. There's an odd combination of flavorful, even amusingly snarky, writing mixed in with very dry (like arid) statistical description and standardized abilities. I mean by this, you can have a class with the incredible cool-sounding ability "I'll Cut You!" alongside similar class abilities such as evasion III and uncanny dodge IV. It's jarring to the eye, as well as making NPC and monster stat blocks incredible dense, almost to the point of incomprehensibility without understanding every niggling little thing very well.

Still, the game has a lot of charm, and almost all of the added heavy lifting seems to be on the GM end or on character creation. The actual system part of the game is much more smooth and easy to swallow than standard d20 in a lot of ways. I'm reserving final judgment on it until I run or play it.

Hopefully, I'll have it in me to actually update this thing at least once a week from now on, but I won't hold myself to unreasonable expectations. I am studying Japanese this semester, after all. ;)

No comments: