January 26, 2009

Obsidian Portal Seeds a Golden Age of RPG Authoring

WarcraftPortal.jpgHere's a sweet little... actually quite large site that was brought to our attention from two directions at once over the weekend. The Obsidian Portal is a Wikipedia for RPG players, specifically created for a DM and his/her party to keep track of the story so far, the equipment they've gathered, and the maps they've obtained. Pages include all the Wiki perks such as URL and Image embedding, and of course, all the cross referencing you can muster.

So if you've been looking for a way to disseminate your adventure materials for the next session, or to track all of your past progress to keep track of the story so far, then this is this the site that gets it all done for you. The best thing is that the site has an established set of user rated content, so you can browse and borrow material from DMs that may be a bit craftier than you are - if you care to admit it. Everything from factions, to NPCs, to items and custom rules. There's a library already there, and it's growing even as we speak.

But it's not just a repository to shove stuff into. DMs looking for constructive tools will find it easy to create quick cross reference between concepts and NPCs. Refer to an NPC in a few descriptions, and then link them to a character description entry in your group's own customized wiki. Such consistency and organization won't just earn applause from your players - it'll help you sculpt out a complete world from start to finish, too.

Gotta love the Internets.

PS. Everything that Obisidan Portal is was supposed to be a feature of the D&D; Insider and Gleemax, too, but the slothlike progression of that compendium of tools and the cancellation of the social community piece has caused the official D&D; 4th Edition tools to loosen theirgrip on relevance even further.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 20, 2009

D&D; 4th Edition Players Handbook 2 Slated for March

DD4thEdPlayersHandbook2.jpgA new layer of source material is slated to ship this spring, just nearly a year after the launch of D&D;'s 4th Edition. Coming down the pipe this year are new focused supplements, a new overarching Monster Manual 2, and a Dungeon Master Guide 2 slated for release this September.

But it's the D&D; 4th Edition Player's Handbook 2 [Amazon, Funagain] that kicks-off things in March. The stand alone release extends the current Players Handbook materials with 224 pages of with new races, new classes, and new abilities that expand upon the already vast suite of slick things to chose from when making your own character from scratch.

Here are some of the details:

Player's Handbook 2 expands the range of options available to D&D; players with new classes, races, powers, and other material.

This 224-page book builds on the array of classes and races presented in the first Player's Handbook, adding both old favorites and new, never-before-seen options to the game. Some of the racial options include the gnome, shifter, and half-orc. The classes featured include old favorites like the barbarian, druid, bard, and sorcerer.

The book adds a new power source for 4th Edition D&D;: classes using the new primal power source include the barbarian and the druid.

It's crazy to think that a second iteration of source materials are preparing for launch, and yet the D&D; Insider Tools we coveted so seem to be on the vaporware horizon. Come on guys, get cracking!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 5, 2009

D&D; 4th Edition Character Builder hits Open Beta

DD4thEditionPlayersHandbook.jpgRemember back in the day when we saw a first glimpse of D&D; Insider, a suite of computer tools for D&D; 4th Edition that included everything you ever wanted: character creators, monster creators, map editors and even a 3D game client to play the slick new edition with your friends across the country? Yeah, well none of that was ready in time for the product's launch.

Now Six Months after release, Wizards of the Coast has posted an Open Beta of the D&D; Insider Character Builder, which will not be free at launch so we highly recommend that you try them out now while they're free.

We're afraid to say that from the get-go we weren't impressed with the level of craftsmanship of this release, even in beta. Most of our beef comes from the installer:

First it defaults to installation on your Desktop, which is probably one of the worst places to install anything by default. Oh wait, it wasn't installing! It was just downloading more files and then automatically installing where it wanted to. Super, and strike 2. Then after a long pause the installer claims to require a reboot..! Are you kidding me? We're shopping for a top notch character generator here, not something that hooks into our Windows System. We're beginning to wonder just what other payloads were attached to the installer that required a system reboot. Ugh. We ignored the request, launched the Character Builder, and started poking at it with a stick anyway.

ArrowContinue reading: "D&D; 4th Edition Character Builder hits Open Beta"

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

December 16, 2008

Are You Sure Your Dice Are Random?

Part 1
Part 2

Who knew that our dice have been so inadequate after all these years? We sure as heck didn't. Not until we came across this video on youtube a couple of weeks ago, anyway.

Turns out that no only have our dice been made of crappy material, rock tumbled into near obliteration, and sloppily pushed through quality control, but they aren't even random. Bastages!

If you've already clicked the movie then you'll notice that the GameScience owner knows way more about dice than we've ever though was humanly possible. He's in love with his job, and speaks with conviction, but we couldn't just take his word for it before posting up the flick. We wanted to test the goods ourselves.

So we picked up a GameScience Dice Set on Amazon.

Wow. You can totally tell that these things are the real deal. They stop on a dime, feel sweet, are perfectly random, and look gorgeous We've never even thought much about dice before, and now we're fanatical about these things.

We took them for test drive in our Wow Minis session the other night, and we cringed when we had to dip into the dice that came with the game's base set. They're such crappy crap in comparison to the Game Science ones. People were pawing for the GameScience dice hand over fist, and refused the older dice whenever possible. Get those things away. Unclean!

If you're only into Eurogames and playing Six Sided Dice Games then the GameSicence Dice probably aren't worth your time. But if you're into to RPGs or Mini Games like we are, then GameScience dice have absolutely no equal, and are simply the best upgrade around.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

November 27, 2008

Critical Gamers 2008 Holiday Gift Guide - Board Games, Strategy Games, and Card Games Galore

We know how important it is to find the right game for the right person - it's hard work. And so once again we've lovingly crafted individual guides chalk full of selections tailored for various specific of gaming styles and genres.

Rest assured that you'll find the right game for the right person for some unwrapping goodness come December. Your anchor is this page. Everything you'll need to shop for a gamer spirals out from here, linking to all of our selections for best-bet titles to gift wrap this holiday season.

And here they are:

Critical Gamers 2008 Holiday Shopping Guides:

If you haven't found exactly what you're looking for then please also check out our 2006 Holiday Gift Guide and our 2007 Holiday Gift Guide. They're both also chalk-full of great game ideas with staying power - we still play many of these games even years later!

Happy Holidays folks!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

October 27, 2008

D&D; 4th Ed. Deluxe Handbooks - Something to Avoid


Months after release of the original D&D; 4th Edition Players Handbook, Wizards of the Coast has shipped a collector's edition of the same source material: the D&D; 4th Edition Deluxe Players Handbook [Amazon, Funagain].

And that's the the the problem - it's the same exact source material. Sure, it sports a new foil cover and embossed pages, but it doesn't ship with anything usefully new. At this point we're knee deep in D&D; goodness, and if you're not going to bring anything new and useful to the table, then you're just something the stare at.

And the Deluxe edition isn't even strong in that capacity. The foil cover doesn't impresses us at all. In fact, it's straight-up ugly. And as far as the actual art on the cover: all they did was cut off half of the original cover, and focused in on the hot chick. Did they Photoshop this in just one afternoon? It's like they're phoning it in.

If Wizards of the Coast had shipped some sort of gold-embossed leather bound edition, then just maybe it'd be worth the 75 bucks MSRP. Just our $0.02.

Here are the book's official details:

"The first of three core rulebooks for the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game.

These deluxe volumes are special editions of the 4th Edition core rulebooks that every Dungeons & Dragons player and Dungeon Master can appreciate. These books feature embossed, premium foil covers, and premium, gilt-edged paper."

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

October 8, 2008

D&D; 4th Edition Adventure's Vault

DD4thEditionAdventuresVault.jpgHere's a sweet sourcebook pickup that extends the standard collection of Items and Magic Items found in the D&D; 4th Edition Players Handbook or the D&D; 4th Edition Dungeon Master Guide.

This D&D; 4th Edition Adventure's Vault [Amazon, Funagain] is perfect for anyone looking to find a larger selection of standard item types. It also extends some of the more expensive items including new armor and weapon types, which makes it a great starting point for new characters that plan to join higher level groups. Additionally, have the book details a wide collection of balanced magical items that could supplement work by the DM, or serve as a standard for a DM to make a set of balanced magic items of his or her own.

The items are presented in charts, so if you're looking for in depth backstory and details of the equipment then you may be disappointed. This isn't a huge deal to us, honestly; Half the fun is the creating the narriative to these items via interesting adventure creation from the DM, and the wants and needs, and styles of the Players themselves.

For more reviews checked the D&D; 4th Edition Adventure's Vault page on Amazon.
Here are the official details:

"Hundreds of new weapons, tools, and magic items for your D&D; character.

This supplement for the Dungeons & Dragons game presents hundreds of magic items, weapons, tools, and other useful items for your D&D; character. Whether you're a player looking for a new piece of equipment or a Dungeon Master stocking a dragon's hoard, this book has exactly what you need.

The book features a mix of classic items updated to the 4th Edition rules and brand-new items never before seen in D&D.;"

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

September 22, 2008

Forgotten Realms D&D; 4th Edition Modules Released

ScepterTower.jpgAnd unfortunately it might be not worth your time.

Following the release of the quite nice set of source books for the Forgotten Realms Campaign setting, Wizards of the Coast has now released the first module set in the Forgotten Realms universe. Scepter Tower of Spellgard [Amazon] starts players off on a new adventure designed for a party of level 2 characters; this is not a direct continuation of the first 4th Edition module trilogy of Keep on the Shadowfell, Thunderspire Labyrinth, etc.

While we're excited to start hacking and slashing in the Forgotten Realm campaign setting, Scepter Tower has come under a bit of fire. Like other official adventures, the module packs just about everything you need to run the adventure from the DM's perspective, from room and character descriptions, to maps, to monster encounters, etc. The chief complaint that we've been hearing about Scepter Tower is in the organization - you may find yourself flipping around quite a bit from maps to encounter descriptions, which honestly has been a problem in all 4th Edition module releases up until now. Additionally, Scepter Tower's backstory is a bit lacking, and the module is mainly a series of combat encounters that lack significant installments ont he Role Playing encounter front.

Thankfully we're a big fan of the combat encounters, so this last complaint falls on deaf ears in our group.

Here are the official details on Scepter Tower of Spellgard:

"A Forgotten Realms adventure for 2nd-level characters.

A mysterious presence has taken up residence in one of the towers of Spellgard, and now its dark minions plague the Gray Vale!

Scepter Tower of Spellgard is the first full-length Forgotten Realms adventure published for 4th Edition D&D.; When paired with the adventure that appears in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide, this adventure provides the Dungeon Master with all he needs to get his campaign started. This stand-alone adventure is designed to take characters from 2nd level to 5th level."

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

September 1, 2008

Crtical Gamers' August 2008 Gaming Roundup

RoundUp.jpg It's crazy to think that the Summer is officially unofficially over. Its sad to look over our shoulder and wave goodbye to the crazy nice weather, but there is a bright sight waiting for us just a few paces onward: with Fall comes the holiday release season where gobs of games race to be published before shopping commences! That includes a the new Battlestar Galactica board game, more D&D; 4th Edition goodness, and a new WoW TCG set release, Raid Deck, and a new line of World of Warcraft Miniatures. Thats on top of the standard Eurogame releases from Rio Grande and Mayfair, and the Days of Wonder updates to both BattleLore and Memoir '44. We need to take a nap just thinking about the major publishers and the amount of titles they're pushing out this year. And then hopefully a dark horse will emerge and surprise us as well, and freshen things up from offstage. But before we start chomping at the bit, lets first wipe the drool away and slowly digest the interesting month that was August 2008:

Board Games

Collectable Card Games

Gaming Culture

Gaming News

Party Games



World of Warcraft TCG

OK, now that's over. Let the drooling commence.
Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

August 18, 2008

D&D; Forgotten Realms 4th Edition Flashes into Existance


Sometime around nowish your D&D; party should be climbing out of Thunderspire Labyrinth, rubbing their light-adjusting eyes, brushing off the dust, and thirsting for more action. You have two options before you - continue the main story of first series of modules by playing the third release Pyramid of Shadows [Amazon], or clean the slate and set off an entirely new campaign in a new fully flushed out world - The Forgotten Realms.

In our humblest of opinions FR is classic bliss. Its the first campaign setting we were acquainted with when we struck out and played D&D; so many, many moons ago. It also served as the backdrop to some of our favorite Computer RPG adaptions, including Pool of Radiance, Curse of the Azure Bonds, and the Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale series.

And we're darn glad it's back, and in a nice, compact way to boot. Wizards of the Coast has decided to release core campaign materials in a few upfront books, and expand on that with new mythos and monsters in the D&D; Insider. That means there's very little you'll need to fork out cash for to have a solid, core understanding of all the inner workings of Forgotten Realms from the get go.

For DMs there's the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide [Amazon] which lays out everything you need to know to craft your own Forgotten Reams adventures. From cities, to creatures, to social folkways and a knowledge of the Faerun's various factions.

Players can also pickup the Forgotten Realms Players Handbook [Amazon] which has all the information needed to tackle adventures in the world. Included is a new character class the Swordmage who slices and fries his way toward bloody, toasty victory (so long as your DM isn't a punk).

All this comes on the eve of a new series of modules set in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. The first being Scepter Tower of Spellgard [Amazon], which is slated to hit shelves on September 16th. Get ready.

Here's the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide official details:

"Welcome to Faerûn, a land of amazing magic, terrifying monsters, ancient ruins, and hidden wonders. The world has changed since the Spellplague, and from this arcane crucible have emerged shining kingdoms, tyrannical empires, mighty heroes, and monster-infested dungeons. The Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide presents a world of untold adventure; a land of a thousand stories shaped by the deeds of adventurers the likes of which Faerûn has never seen before.

This book includes everything a Dungeon Master needs to run a D&D; campaign in the Forgotten Realms setting, as well as elements that DMs can incorporate into their own D&D; campaigns. The book provides background information on the lands of Faerûn, a fully detailed town in which to start a campaign, adventure seeds, new monsters, ready-to-play non-player characters, and a full-color poster map of Faerûn."

And the Forgotten Realms Players Handbook details:

"The complete guide for building Forgotten Realms characters!

The Forgotten Realms Player's Guide presents this changed world from the point of view of the adventurers exploring it. This product includes everything a player needs to create his character for a D&D; campaign in the Forgotten Realms setting, including new feats, new character powers, new paragon paths and epic destinies, and even a brand-new character class never before seen in D&D;: the swordmage!"

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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