April 15, 2008

D&D; 4th Edition Worldwide Gameday Announced

DD4thEditionPlayersHandbook.jpgWizards of the Coast has announced a D&D; 4th Edition Game Day at gaming and hobby stores across the world. The date: Saturday June 7th, 2008 - the day after the rumored official D&D; release day (and the historic D-Day) when the 4th Edition Players Handbook [Amazon] is released in stores. Mark your calendars.

So far the details are tailored to store owners looking to get a Gameday kit, but that doesn't mean there aren't juicy bits. The day should be centered around an introductory adventure to partake with a few friends, as well as a introductory rule book (unfortunate there won't be any full-scale players handbooks given for free). Here's a list of the schwag that comes with the kit, some of which you should expect your Hobby Store should be tossing your way on June 7th:

The kit is designed to support 30 players. You get:
  • 5 bags of miniatures and dice to run the adventure
  • 5 sets of 5 different character sheets for the adventure
  • 5 full color maps for the adventure
  • 5 copies of the launch event adventure Into the Shadowhaunt
  • Fun trivia events including Monster Charades, d20 Questions, 4th Edition Trivia and Dungeon Feud
  • D&D; Miniatures event rules
  • Instructions on how to run a fun, action-packed 4th edition Game Day"

For more information see the official www.dndgameday.com website, which promises more updates as we get closer to June. The official D&D; 4th Edition Players Handbook [Amazon] launches the new system Friday June 6th, 2008.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

April 4, 2008

Warhammer 40K Dark Heresey RPG Website Launches

DarkHeresyCoreRulebook.jpgFantasy Flight Games have launched a new website to coincide with the eminent release of the new Warhammer 40,000 Dark Hersey RPG. The website is chalk full of gobs of game information in true FFG style, including Developer Preview Articles, Rules Errata [pdf] and some Sneak Peaks into the 4 core rulebooks themselves.

Here are the official Dark Heresy RPG details:

"You are an Acolyte in the service of the Emperors' Inquisition. You stand in the front line of a great and secret war where your duty is to hunt out the foul stench of heresy, the vile alien, and the twisted influence of Chaos. You will tread where others fear, venturing to distant planets, ancient space hulks and the unsavoury depths of the under-hive.

You will never know fame nor reward, yet if you stand resolute your deeds will be whispered to the God-Emperor of Mankind and your name will be revered for millennia.

Dark Heresy is the new roleplaying line from Fantasy Flight Games based on the grim far future universe of Warhammer 40,000 from Games Workshop. The Dark Heresy core rulebook contains everything you need to start your adventure in the Warhammer 40,000 universe." - Dark Heresy Official Webiste

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 17, 2008

D&D; 4th Edition Previews: Players Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, Monster Manual

The GamerZero team conducted interviews with the editors of the major D&D; 4th source books slated for release this year. The interviews took place on the floor of the D&D; Experience that went down 2 weeks ago and though they don't include any show stoppers, they definitely add fuel to our exciting fire of the 4th edition release.

Some players seem a bit upset that D&D; is getting another installment citing that this redesign might have been hit hard with the dumbed-down World of Warcraft hammer. So far, we're totally optimistic. Reading through the Worlds and Monsters prerelease book - which we highly recommend - our hearts race with how well-thought-out their overhaul of D&D; is, smartly redesigning monsters and settings and giving them strong traits and themes. The simplification of rules seems completely wrapped around an interlocking set of mechanics that can be easily extending by gaming groups as they see fit.

Here's what we learned this week from the interviews.

Players Handbook (above)
The Players Handbook is really centered around character classes, instead of having that information up front and then filed somewhere in the back, which is a welcomed origanizational change. The interview also talks about Character development arcs. An intersting example given was that higher level powers will extend lower level versions, replacing them in the character's bag of tricks. Through this new abilities will be unlocked, but the list of options will remain smaller than in past editions, and thus more manageable. Beyond that it's slightly vague due to limiting the amount of prerelease information they're allowed to release to the public.

We hope - we really really hope - that new gameplay mechanics will open up with these new powers, instead of the powers imply adding more damage dice to make them essentially the same exact spell as before. That kind of growth really doesn't seem interesting.

A few nice new tidbits: Players will be able to retrain skills on every level, and will receive Feats ever other level. We hadn't seen this info in print before, so score!

Dungeon Master's Guide: [On YouTube]
The DMG has be redesigned to be easily approachable to new and existin DMs, more so than in past editions. The book will ship with a section called the 'DM Toolbox' which will provide clear, simple rules and steps on how to create customized adventures tailored to your party. The video doesn't get into too many hard examples, but seeing as this guide is quite a ways away, things seem to sound good for this stage of prerelease hype ambiguity.

Monster Manual: [On You Tube]
The interview starts in about the Monster Manual at 1:40 (prior to that it's general 4th Edtion experiences). But what we eventually learn: the guide is going to ship with 500 monsters (wow!). Each monster will have some creative / inventive tactics for each monster, with the goal of each monster feeling quite different. A lot of these monster traits are mysterious, and will only be opened up to players as the encounter them, including monsters that use combined forces tactics in groups, or some monsters explode when they die, etc. The players will have to learn the correct tactics to take down every different monster type, essentially exploring each monster type as they're encountered. It sounds awesome. It really, really does.

Is it June yet?

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 5, 2008

D&D; 4th Edition RPG Classes First Look

DD4thEdRangerPreview.jpgWizards of the Coast hosted a D&D; Experience last weekend where they took the lid off D&D; 4th edition. A few things have spilled out of the exciting weekend. Our favorite so far: these scans of character sheets posted on Picasa. They're so worth your time.

One of the goals of D&D; 4th edition is to streamline play and add deeper combat mechanics, and while these sheets cover the stats of all the major classes, they more importantly shed some light on how the class abilities will effect combat positioning and turn order. For instance, the fighter and rogues contain abilities to maneuver opponents into position, and the fighter gets bonuses to strike two adjacent foes in one turn. Additionally, these abilities allow the front line troops to slide foes into a position to shield weaker ranged party members from ranged enemy NPCs.

Combat will be more dynamic than before, with groups jockeying for position. Some people have commented that this requires players to play combat on a hex grid, which takes away the ability to easily play D&D; with just a pencil, some paper, and a dice. But honestly - we love the idea of mixing combat strategy into our favorite fantasy RPG of all time.

We also see glimpses of the new Warlock class (photo 1 and 2 of the set) and some Fey and Psychic abilities that toy with the minds of enemies, allowing the warlock to vanish from the minds of opponents for a turn, or to both suppress enemy abilities and damage them for good measure. We assume Shadow abilities will also be part of a potential warlock build when the players handbook launches in a few months.

The Wizards class (photo 11 and 12) has been overhauled considerably too. In an attempt to give Wizards something to do every turn, low level spells like Magic Missile are now "at Will " abilities, which means it can be cast as often as the character wishes. It seems it also packs quite a punch now, too (2d4+5) though if we're reading this right then it no longer scales as the character increases in levels.

But that's one of the great things we like about what we see here about the new rules: in any given round there are now tons of options for every character. No longer will the Fighter simply roll dice in a miserable drab and repetitive "game" of hit or miss. Instead they'll be controlling the front lines of a fight while hacking away. Paladins will be blessing nearby allies with righteous swings and pulling monster focus away from other players. Rogues will be tripping foes and maneuvering through the cracks of the melee as they dance around the fight. And no longer will Wizards become bored when their catalog of tricks empties for the day- instead they'll have a few bags, where some key abilities are ever-present, but the big fireworks have to be used and consumed at clutch times.

You might have notice that the Rogue doesn't make an appearnce in any of the sheets. We figure it's becuase Wizards of the Coast had already covered the juicy details of the class in this Rogue Preview Article.

Aside from the class and racial abilities showcased in these Picassa images, one thing we found noteworthy about thecharacter stats is the massive amount of hit points these characters now have (low 20s to low 30s). Considering the new heal mechanics (photos 13 and 14) we think combat in the early levels might be more of a contact sport than before.

Which sounds absolutely awesome. This all sounds incredible. Color us excited. We can't wait.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

March 4, 2008

D&D; Creator Gary Gygax Dies at Age 69

GaryGygax.jpgNews is going around the web like wildfire that Gary Gygax passed away in his house at 1:00 am this morning

This is definitely sad news. Gary Gygax founded the publishing house TSR, and was a major force behind the original D&D; and Advanced D&D; in the 1970s. He helped shaped the imaginations of our youth while we grew up in he 1980's. We had so countless days of fun playing within the worlds he created, that this news of his passing hits us like a lead brick to the chest.

After leaving TSR in the mid 80's Gary went on to form a new RPG system named Dangerous Journeys. It wasn't nearly as commercially successful of a system, probably because it sported a thick rulebook and some complicated rules. But this complication lead us down an unexpected path of liking Gary Gygax even more.

Two of us wrote to Gary himself (via his publisher) in the early 1990s asking for a Dangerous Journeys rules clarification. There wasn't an argument to be settled, we just wanted some clarity on a key element with confusing wording. Sure, label us dorks for trying, but one day we sat down bored and thought, "why not ask Gary?"

We honestly didn't think we'd get a reply, but a few months later we received a response from Gary himself - in the form of a Christmas card. Not only were the rules clearly explained, but he offered an apology for being overly verbose in the first place, and offered a hearty Seasons Greetings. Penned by Gygax himself we were floored, and filed that card away for extra long safe keeping.

Thanks Gary, for you gaming genius, creativity, drive, and for being such a stand-up guy.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

February 27, 2008

D&D; 4th Edition Insider Screenshots

DnD4EInsiderScreenshots.jpgSurfacing this week are screenshots of the D&D; Insider - the digital companion piece to the new Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition release this summer. Sporting voice chat, character generation, dungeon generation, and the full functionality to host adventures online, this new component to the D&D; arsenal could be ground breaking. Not only should it speed up session preparation, it should also provide some visual depth to player created worlds, allow folks to save sessions in-place when things are getting late, and - best yet - be a place where friends can play D&D; with their childhood buddies who've moved to long distant parts of the country.

Unfortunately we have some critiques so far:- these images are pretty dippy looking. Seriously. We love the fact that you roll your character, and post him online, or create a character sheet print out with a character portrait to boot. Good stuff. The problem is this: The character rmodels look like plastic dolls with sloppily added pieces of equipment slapped on there last minute. The screenshot of chap in full-plate has skin showing around the neck. Holy moley folks! It screams lack of polish. Forget about the lack of protection in one of the body's most vulnerable parts, but is he not even wearing a shirt beneat there? Think of the horrible nipple chaffing action.

And then there are the dungeons they show. They look like so bare bones, empty, and uninspiring... considering they've had months to prepare these images. We know they could do better, too. In fact, the editor looks a heckovalot cooler in this video captured back in October - about 4 months ago.

Why does this concern us? Well part of the charm of D&D; Insider is its ability to download polished content created by Wizards of the Coast, who will publish modules online on a regular basis. But if this is the example of their handiwork, then maybe that feature has been overstated.

We're still excited about the potential of D&D; 4th Edition's Insider tools for all reasons we mentioned in the opening paragraph, but we really hope they do a standup job with the content. These screenshots don't sells us, instead they make us wary.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

February 22, 2008

All Flesh Must Be Eaten - A RPG for Zombie Lovers

AllFleshMustBeEaten.jpgWe originally came across All Flesh Must Be Eaten [Amazon] earlier this week in the Ars Technica gaming forum. This fantastic post traces an impressive RPG campaign as players escape a zombie ridden cruise ship, hack their way through an overridden Disney amusement park, and eventually scramble their way out into the wilderness and refuge of a wildlife refuge. There the campaign shifted from the dangers of Zombies themselves to those of the post apocalyptic survivors vying for control of the few resources left in the starved world.

The details of this campaign tickled our brains so much that we dove into more of the All Flesh Must be Eaten source materials. And there is a lot, and it all seems really, really good.

We love zombies, and we like RPGs, so we're not quite sure how a system like this sneaked up on us while we weren't looking. Thankfully it hit us in the head before D&D; 4th Edition sucked us in 'cause there's plenty of zombie-hacking good times to be had between now and June.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

February 15, 2008

D&D; 4th Edition Wizards Presents Worlds and Monsters

DD4thEditionWizardsPresents.jpgWe're mid February now which means we're only 3 months away from the release of D&D; 4th Edition. Honestly, we can't wait. Wizards of the Coast has openly stated that they've focused on the roles and personalities of monsters, and their gameplay mechanics, so that you're not just fighting an AC/ToHit stat war against the spreadsheet monster X. Instead we should be looking forward to combat mechanics that bring forth each monster type's personality and attacking styles. This sort of background on races, classes, and monsters should carry on into the non combat gameplay as well, creating a much more rich gaming experience from day one.

Now June is still many torturous months away, so Wizards of the Coast has thrown a bone to ravenous gamers with Wizards Presents: D&D; 4th Edition [Amazon], a 100 page book detailing the decisions that were made to focus on the overhaul of the D&D; franchise, and what to expect in the results of their work. They've also posted an interview with designer Jennifer Clarke Wilkes who describes the book and offers a glimpse at some of the design decisions covered.

Here's one that we found to be pretty darn interesting:

"Q: Wizards of the Coast: As we move a bit more from the worlds to the monsters, what could be a more iconic monster to the game than the dragons--what insights might the book have to offer on these legendary creatures? For instance, I hear that metallics aren't quite the same dragons anymore?

A:... Metallic dragons have traditionally been good-aligned. While flavorful and important to the "ecology" of dragons, the practical effect was to remove half of the available dragons in the Monster Manual as opponents. How often do PCs go up against good creatures? In 4th Edition dragons are more, well, dragonish. They are all ferocious and greedy creatures, with chromatic and metallic dragons distinguished more by personality than alignment. While chromatics tend to be destructive and cruel, metallics focus more on control and power. These differences are reinforced by the dragon's special powers. The varieties of metallic dragon have undergone a revision as well, with some less well-defined kinds giving way to new ones with distinctive natures.

We always enjoyed the good dragon versus evil dragon fight, but in the end dragons ended up being rather generic, and Jennifer Clarke Wilkes is right - their stats really weren't used very often. The change of making dragons more "ferocious and greedy" exemplifies the types of things that are being done to bring personality to the races and monsters of D&D;, and we're seriously all for that.

We'll see how it officially pans-out in June of 2008, when the 4th edition Players Handbook launches and brings D&D; 4th Edition to the world.

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

February 1, 2008

January 2008 Roundup for Critical Gamers


We've finally made it through the holiday feasts of December, and we're starting to game at full speed again.  Thankfully we feel like we have a strong foundation of titles to work through after that line of great board game releases last Fall.  Coupled with the World of Warcraft TCG Raid Deck: Maghteridon's Lair this may have been the heaviest month of gaming we've had yet.

Oh and by the way, in regards to Mag's Lair: some people have had an easy time dispatching this four legged beastie from the depths of hell, and we've seen the complaints every which way in the WoW TCG forums about how the raid doesn't scale to challenge those groups with good card collections.  But we've taken matters into our own hands, and have crafted-up some Maghteridon's Lair house rules to even the playing field.

With these rules Magtheridon's Lair might be our favorite raid deck release to date - it's more lethal than the 1/1 Whelp-happy Onyxia's Lair, and has a stronger consistent theme as the epic grind of the 10 bosses of Molten Core.  And considering how well the March of the Leigon set release was, we're thinking the World of Warcraft TCG isn't some passing fancy.  This is a solid TCG series.

This month we're looking forward to getting our hands on the Tide of Iron expansion: Days of the Fox and fighting some intense tank battles through the expansive north African wilderness.  We're also looking forward to hearing more about the Heroes of Might and Magic Kingdoms massively online webgame, which definitely seems like the looker.  And it just so happens that our interest in Travian is starting to fade - you probably won't see it on our "What we're playing" list next month.  Speaking of which...

What We're Playing:

January's Board Game News:

January's TCG and RPG News:

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

January 2, 2008

Grapple This!


Hats off to this gentleman who has dared to dream that little dream, and who is more diehard than we. For you, we right a Haiku: *ahem*

Flex My Strong Dice Arm
Grimace in Pain I Bite Down
Long Sleeves in Summer

Via Hipster Please!

Critical Gamers Staff at Permalink social bookmarking

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