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domingo, 19 de febrero de 2012

The Ghosts of D&D: Past







The Ghosts of D&D: Past

 | 26 DECEMBER 2011 3:00 PM

Sitting around a table pretending to be human fighters and elven mages delving through dungeons in search of loot and fame hasn't been a favorite pastime for fantasy fans for all that long. The first tabletop RPG was released a mere 37 years ago, in 1974, but there are now more roleplaying games on store shelves than ever before, - covering every niche of geek culture from the superheroes of Mutants & Masterminds to character-based "story-games," to space exploration in Traveler, to games that meld all genres like Rifts. Through it all though, there was one game to rule them all - Dungeons & Dragons - and even though the rules were revised over the years, the majority of the fantasy-gaming audience have used whatever edition of D&D was currently available.

Confidence in the officialDungeons & Dragons is at an all-time low. Players are split into various camps, viciously defending what they believe is the "true" D&D.
That changed in 2008, with the release of the 4th edition ofDungeons & Dragons. Many tenets of the game like spell memorization and alignment were thrown away in the name of modernization and streamlining. Confidence in the officialDungeons & Dragons is at an all-time low; on forums, at conventions and at your local game store, players are split into various camps, viciously defending what they believe is the "true" D&D.

To understand the current landscape of the RPG industry, it's essential to comprehend the important events in D&D's past and present before we look to the future. Like Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, lets visit with the ghosts of RPG history to get a better understanding of how the hobby got here, what is happening in the tabletop gaming industry today and what it faces in the future.


In the beginning, there was only one set of rules. Dave Arneson adapted the rules of Gary Gygax's war gameChainmail in the early 70s to concentrate on a smaller group of characters fighting against monsters. Gygax finalized those changes into what would come in a white boxed set called Dungeons & Dragons. He later revised the rules and his company TSR published them as Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in 1978. TSR published a new 2nd edition of AD&D in 1989 that significantly changed the core rules in order to unify much of the supplementary material that had been published for D&D - a move that pleased some players but disenchanted many others. A troubled run in the 1990s nearly bankrupted TSR, but, but the game survived when Wizards of the Coast stepped in and published another edition edition of D&D in 2000. This new edition not only spurred sales, but also fixed many of the previous edition's problems. Another slight improvement, called Edition 3.5, arrived in 2003, followed by yet another edition of the beloved roleplaying game in 2008. By this time, D&D had passed through so many hands and filtered through so many imaginations that playing 4th edition bore almost no resemblance to playing the game created by Gygax and Arneson some 35 years before.

Gygax had a troubled relationship with his own game because he was a much better game designer than a publishing company CEO. In the 80s, a lot of his attention turned to overseeing the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, and a faction within TSR wrested control of the company from him in 1985. Unfortunately, TSR fared no better without Gygax running the books, and Magic the Gathering-owner Wizards of the Coast purchased TSR in 1996 when the D&D publisher was on the brink of bankruptcy. Despite no longer owning the game he created, Gygax still remained active in the hobby, posting on forums and attending gaming conventions whenever possible until his death in 2008.

When Wizards of the Coast was acquired by toy-maker Hasbro in 1999, there were already plans to create a 3rd edition to unite the various disparate groups of tabletop RPG fans. "You had people playing 1st edition AD&D, 2nd edition AD&D, five or more flavors of Storyteller games, a couple of different games from FASA,GURPSs, Call of CthulhuDeadlandsLegend of the Five Rings5R," recounts Ryan Dancey, the VP of Tabletop Games at Wizards of the Coast at the time from 1997 to 2001. "By percentage, it was probably 2nd edition 30 percent, everything else 70 percent.

"When we were working on 3rd edition, it became clear that our biggest competitors were 1st and 2nd edition AD&D, not a third party game system."
"When we were working on 3rd edition, it became clear that our biggest competitors were 1st and 2nd edition AD&D, not a third party game system," Dancey continued. "2nd [edition] had clearly suffered because it had not managed to get enough 1st edition players to switch."

In order to group all of these camps under the same game umbrella, Dancey had a crazy idea that ultimately shaped the current roleplaying marketplace. "I remember Ryan Dancey walking into a meeting where all of RPG R&D was gathered," said Mike Selinker, one of the creative directors of the 3rd edition of D&D. "Ryan and his team came in all sheepish, as if they had something to say that could have gotten them lynched. Ryan starts talking about the open source computer movement and the future of paper-based publishing and so on, and eventually gets to the nugget. 'So,' he says, 'we're thinking about giving the system ofD&D away for free. Pretty much anybody can publish anything they want using our game and our text. They can even copy it and print it. Other game publishers can republish their own settings using our rules. What do you guys think?'

"The room was dead silent. Eventually, from the far corner of the room, I said, 'I think that's the most brilliant thing I've ever heard.'" Selinker remembered that there was an intense debate afterwards but eventually everyone "coalesced around this crazy idea." The Open Gaming License [OGL] was born in that room, a legal document with very loose copyright restrictions that allowed basically anyone to produce content using the coreD&D mechanics.

"We wanted to ensure [the division of 2nd edition vs. 1st] did not repeat, by trying for an (unobtainable) goal of 100% conversion," said Dancey. "The OGL was a big part of making that possible - because it let hundreds of developers fill in the niches that Wizards didn't have the time or the inclination to do itself, including a lot of content desired by 1st and 2nd edition players."

When it was published in 2000 along with the 3rd edition of the rules, the OGL sparked unprecedented growth in the RPG industry. The OGL made it so easy to use the rules conventions of D&D like hit points, spells and monsters that hundreds of products - the official signifier of D&D-compatible materials created using the OGL - emblazoned on them made their way to game store shelves.

"The core of the D&D property was released through the Open Game License. WotC held back a few monsters like beholders and mind flayers, but for the most part the guts of D&D were made available to everyone for legal re-use," said Chris Pramas, President of Green Ronin Publishing. Companies Green Ronin were able to use the OGL to create entire RPG lines like the superhero game Mutants & Masterminds and make a significant amount of money.

The OGL and the 3rd Edition of D&D were unarguably a success. "[3rd edition] was the most successful RPG published since the early years of 1st edition AD&D," Dancey said. "It outsold the core books of 2nd edition AD&D by a wide margin. I attribute some of that success to the OGL and to the massive amount of player network support the OGL engendered." According to a 2007 issue of Comics & Games Retailer , five out of the top ten bestselling RPGs were either published by Wizards of the Coast or utilized the OGL. More than that, the OGL allowed smaller companies and even individuals with big ideas to bring their products to the market. Because of the OGL, gamers could concentrate on imagining new adventures, dungeons, and characters instead of reinventing the nuts and bolts of the mechanics.

Of course, not every module or supplement created using the OGL had the same level of quality and polish. "Plenty of distributors and retailers assumed that all d20 stuff was of a similar quality," said Andy Collins, who was a design team lead for 4th edition under Bill Slavicsek and Rob Heinsoo before taking over as Design & Development Manager around the launch. "Which is a little like expecting that every new book with a vampire on the cover will automatically sell as well as Twilight, but hey, these were exciting times." The swell of new products with a somewhat "official" D&D stamp on it led to a boom period in the industry with hundreds of new products suddenly on hobby store shelves.

"Wizards has a $100 million brand - Magic: the Gathering. It tried to convince Hasbro that it could have two, by amping up D&D to that level."
With every boom, there is a bust. The glut of unsold d20 products from the early 2000s began to weigh down those same store shelves, as did the core D&D products that supported them, such as the Player's Handbook. Wizards of the Coast added to the 3rd edition rules with product lines like the Complete series, but, with only a few exceptions such asPsionics, it never again released its content as open source, nor took material others had developed using the OGL and incorporated it into official D&D products.

"D&D had to support itself through the sales of secondary books - such as the class books, or the setting books, or additional rules supplements. As more and more of these become available (over the life of any edition of the game), the audience gets closer and closer to a saturation point," said Ed Stark, a creative directors from the 3rd edition era of D&D. "Eventually, the individual consumers start buying every new book and become pickier about what they add to their collections. Sales drop off - not necessarily because of book quality - and a new edition becomes necessary to 'reset' the knowledge base and introduce a new influx of sales to the support products."

As much as fans of the game were impressed with 3rd edition and its modest revision of 3.5, market pressures began to build. Wizards of the Coast, at first emboldened by the corporate resources of Hasbro, suddenly felt the need to make D&D more profitable. In the mid-2000s, "Hasbro restructured itself internally to focus on its most successful brands," said Dancey. "Brands that did $50-$100 million a year in revenue were considered 'core,' and smaller brands were going to be marginalized. Marginalized businesses get downsized in headcount. They may also be mothballed, or sold."

The sad truth was that D&D was in danger. "Wizards has a $100 million brand - Magic: the Gathering. It tried to convince Hasbro that it could have two, by amping up D&D to that level," continued Dancey. "D&D was not a $50 million a year business, nor was it likely to ever become one on its then-current trajectory. So the reaction of the folks working on RPGs at Wizards is totally understandable - they felt their jobs were at risk."

The desire to grow roleplaying games and D&D into a bigger business is a noble goal, but the executives at Wizards were divided on how to make that happen. The obvious success of fantasy MMOs like World of Warcraft in 2004 suggested there was an as yet untapped audience for fantasy RPGs. A new edition of the beloved game that catered to these folks might push growth of D&D players to new levels. The OGL and its degree of success was also a hot topic of debate, and many of the people in charge when it was implemented - including Dancey and former Wizards CEO Peter Adkinson - were no longer employed at the company. Executives' confidence in giving away content for free began to wane as the company invested time and money in having young, eager game designers develop a new edition of the rules. Even to fans, an update to the D&Drules seemed like an exciting prospect, but unlike how the OGL and 3rd edition united audiences, Wizards' handling of the release of the 4th edition of D&D in 2008 splintered roleplaying gamers into violently opposing groups.

Find out what happened, and the current state of the RPG industry, in the next installment as we welcome a visit from the ghost of D&D Present.

5th Edition D&D Is in Development — Should We Care?





5th Edition D&D Is in Development — Should We Care?

On Monday, Wizards of the Coast announced that work is already under way on the 5th edition ofDungeons & Dragons. An article in the New York Times by GeekDad contributor Ethan Gilsdorf details some of the recent history and philosophy that underlies the new development, while a Legends & Lore article by Mike Mearls reveals that part of the process will involve an open play-testing, with rules, classes, monsters and other material being revealed through the D&D website for playtesters to try at their own tables and provide feedback, thereby shaping the development of the game.
I think it’s safe to say that this announcement doesn’t come as a major surprise to anyone following the difficulties the Dungeons & Dragons game has experienced as of late. An excellent series of articles (pastpresent, & future) on The Escapist details several of these.
Not the least of these issues is the fact that Paizo Publishing’Pathfinder RPG, built on the Open Gaming License (OGL) of D&D 3.5, is now the number-one selling RPG for the past two quarters.
Paizo has also recently introduced plastic miniatures for the Pathfinder RPG, as well as a new Beginners Box set for its game, and has also recently announced that both a MMORPG and comic book series are now in development.
Add to that the fact that recent articles on the D&D website have hinted at ideas that might form the foundation of a new edition and that Wizards has recently rehired Monte Cook, well known for his role in developing the 3rd edition of D&D, and it seemed pretty clear that a something new was in the works. In fact, speculation that a new edition would be announced at GenCon 2011 was very high after Wizards had announced the cancellation of several highly anticipated 4th Edition products (a game based in Ravenloft, e.g.). Then there was the indication that something big was going to be announced at GenCon but was withdrawn at the last moment. Hence, it’s hard to be surprised or, at least for me personally, excited about today’s announcement.

Photo: Wizards of the Coast
As for the 4th edition of D&D, it’s hard to say what its lasting legacy will be. On the positive side, it introduced a new way to play the game, adding streamlined play, improved ease of dungeonmaster preparation, and character classes that were complementary and balanced. Many, including Mearls himself, have suggested that they may have been too well-balanced. Many players felt these changes were a breath of fresh air and ingenuity.
On the other hand, the introduction of 4E caused a major schism in the D&D player base and publishing world alike, one that ultimately lead to the rise of the Pathfinder RPG and a fragmentation of D&D’s player base. Go to any game store or basement table playing D&D and you will likely discover groups playing a D&D retroclone, D&D 3.5, the Pathfinder RPG or 4E. While you will find some groups that overlap, for the most part these groups are mutually exclusive.
So what was once one relatively small player base, at least compared to Magic: the Gathering‘s or World of Warcraft‘s, has now split into four groups who (as a quick look at most forums or blogs will reveal) do not get along. The disagreements, rooted in both philosophical and economic differences, have spawned the term “edition wars.”
It’s hard not to predict that the announcement of 5th Edition D&D is going to have the same effect, only this time splitting an already reduced 4E player base into 4E and 5E camps — especially considering that the current edition, which was released in June of 2008, has had such a short life. It is also difficult for me to expect much of a change when it comes to a new edition because most of my issues with the current edition are not due to the system itself but the lack of support and consistent vision from Wizards of the Coast about the game.
For the past few years, starting with the very announcement of 4E and the Virtual Tabletop debacle, Wizards has been very poor at communicating honestly and openly with its fan base and has put out a string of very sub-par or poorly supported products, many of which saw errata almost immediately after their release. The inclusion of new “features,” such as the Fortune Card — which, regardless of what they claim, was meant to be collected since issuing cards in randomized packs with common/uncommon/rare designations by definition makes them collectible — and putting most of the online support material behind a paywall, also turned off many potential players. Confusing titles and formats (for example, the adoption of the digest-size books for the Essentials line and then subsequent abandonment of that format) didn’t help the matter.
In addition, Wizards of the Coast has had a great deal of difficulty delivering on what they have promised. The online software tools have regularly gone months without updates, the online “magazines” have been up and down in quality. It’s unclear what will become of the much anticipated VTT, which is still in beta testing after years of delay, now that a new edition is underway. It’s not hard to imagine that the 4E fans who have been waiting more than three years to play their favorite version of D&D online are out of time and thus out of luck.
Therefore, I view this announcement with a great deal of skepticism. However, I also cannot help but hope that perhaps the D&D developers have truly reflected on what went wrong and right with the last edition of the game, and are going to make a serious effort to rectify all of the shortcomings with the upcoming edition. Where they need to start is with rebuilding the bond of trust with their fans, through open communication and an honest effort to make a great, open-sourced game, rather than one built strictly based on corporate profit margins. If they were to do that, I think it would be an immense step in the right direction and perhaps begin to bring all of the disparate “D&D” players back into the fold

5 Cosas que Dragon Age me Enseñó para Narrar un Mejor Juego




5 Cosas que Dragon Age me Enseñó para Narrar un Mejor Juego

Un articulo de Hannah Lipsky

Recibí mi copia de Dragon Age: Origins, y ha devorado a mi hogar por completo. A cualquier hora, por lo menos uno de nosotros está jugando, ya sea en el 360 o en la PC, y los otros estan probablemente observando. Considerando solo a dos de los cuatro nos encantan los video juegos, eso debería decirnos algo.

He estado jugando el juego con la visión encaminada a lo que pueda enseñarme sobre cómo desarrollar una mejor partida de Calabozos y Dragones. Al parecer, la respuesta a la pregunta es, “mucho.”

1.- La Oscuridad Está En El Detalle

Dragon Age es un juego oscuro. Eso es lo que me dijeron. Y sí, el arte es hermoso y la ambientación es lúgubre y la gente muere en escenas de enormes batallas sangrientas.

Pero lo que me trajo el tono de la ambientación fueron los pequeños detalles. Las misiones alternas que involucran el encontrar a familiares perdidos, y lo alterados que estaban los PNJs con que su hermano o hermana menor estaba perdida.

Hay huérfanos por todas partes, tratando con su situación en una basta variedad de formas. Viudas dolientes, y hombres que huyen de sus obligaciones militares porque estaban aterrados de abandonar a su familia.

Ninguna de éstas cosas son más que misiones alternas, y muchas de ellas nisiquiera eran eso – solo eran PNJs que tenían algo que decir si uno ponía la suficiente atención. Y sin embargo habían logrado impregnarme del tono oscuro de Dragon Age mucho más que cientos de escenas violentas.

Ésta es una lección que es fácilmente aplicable a sus campañas. Sin importar el tono que quieras que sea, usa los detalles a tu favor. Las cosas pequeñas se suman.

2.- No Todas Las Decisiones Son Iguales

Tienes que hacer muchas decisiones en Dragon Age. Algunas son pequeñas, como ser cortes y rudo con un mercader, y otras son grandes, como quién vive y quién muere.

Lo interesante es que algunas de las pequeñas decisiones importan, y algunas de las grandes no. Y ese es un concepto que debería ser aplicado a sus campañas.

Algunos arboles de dialogo tienen un lugar donde todas las opciones tienen la misma respuesta. Es la ilusión del libre albedrío, y lo sabemos y lo adoramos – es una forma de hacer que las cosas sigan su curso sin que se sienta como si la historia viajara sobre vías del tren.

Preséntale a los Jugadores situaciones sin opciones. El Duque no siempre tomará en cuenta su consejo con respecto a lo que debe hacer con los prisioneros, pero eso no significa que no preguntaría o que no aprecie el consejo, simplemente que le es poco usual ser persuadido de otra cosa. No importa qué tan importante es el prisionero para los Personajes – él está bajo el control del Duque.

De igual forma no importa que tan amables o rudos sean los Personajes con el Rey – él seguirá sentenciándolos a trabajar en las minas de carbón.

Pero también debes de dejar que las decisiones pequeñas importen de vez en cuando. Insultar al borracho de la taberna en lugar de portarse bien con él, y al día siguiente enterarse de que es el hijo del Capitán de la Guardia. Ser un poco más amable de lo necesario con esa pobre viuda, y resulta que es cuñada de una poderosa hechicera que necesita de alguien para conseguir sus materiales.

Hacer que las decisiones importen es de lo que tratan los juegos de rol, pero hacer que algunas no lo hagan te ahorra mucho trabajo y hace al juego realista.

3.- Planeación Modular

Hay algunas cuantas instancias interesantes en Dragon Age donde puedes discernir cómo fue construido el diálogo. Hay partes que suceden sin importar qué, partes que aparecen dependiendo a lo que hiciste ayer, partes que aparecen a partir de una decisión que hiciste hace mucho tiempo, y otra parte que podrían aparecer dependiendo de quién eres. El PNJ parece moverse entre esas partes, así que si no estabas prestando una minuciosa atención, pensarías que toda la trama esta hecha solo para ti.

Todos conocemos lo pesado que es escribir un dialogo previo al juego, solo para que nunca suceda, o para que ocurra torpemente entre las lineas de nuestro PNJ que debería ser un sofisticado mercader, pero actúa como un idiota incompetente porque realizamos todas las negociaciones muy superficialmente.

Me agrada éstas idea del planeamiento modular – planificar un par de cosas que podrían suceder sin importar lo que el grupo haga, y luego un set de cosas que sucederán si eligen la opción A, B, C, D o la siempre popular opción E.

Te permite saltarte mucho trabajo, pero al mismo tiempo, puedes saber exactamente qué tanto de tu planeación simplemente saldrá por la ventana – los pedazos de las otras cuatro opciones que los Jugadores no eligieron.

4.- No Muere por Razones de la Trama

Esta es un punto pequeño, pero he llegado a disfrutar de como puedes atacar con todo a un enemigo, ver como su barra de salud se reduce rápidamente a cero – y entonces que diga, “Espera, espera, hablemos.” Solo ocurre de cuando en cuando – solo por razones de la trama.

Todos hemos estado ahí – los Jugadores entran en combate con algún PNJ importante, y cuando te das cuenta, el último heredero a la corona o el único tipo que podía encontrar la isla yace sobre un charco de sangre. SU sangre.

Es bueno recordar puedes insertar pausas durante el combate, puntos donde la pelea se detendrá sin importar lo que los jugadores hagan para intentar eliminarlo o no.

Sus puntos de vida bajan a la mitad, o tal ves hasta un cuarto. Incluso si el último golpe fuese lo suficientemente fuerte para sacarlo de combate, pretende que está derrotado, pero no inconsciente y pueda decir, “Espera, espera, hablemos.”

5.- Heridas desde la Inconsciencia

Cuando te dejan noqueado en Dragon Age obtienes una herida. Estas pueden hacer varias cosas, desde reducir tus habilidades hasta imponer un penalizador a tu máximo de puntos de vida, y tienen una descripción gráfica como “Cráneo Descalabrado” o “Herida Abierta”. Puedes tener hasta cuatro heridas al mismo tiempo.

Una queja común sobre Calabozos y Dragones 4ta Edición es que los héroes caen fuera de combate y regresan a la consciencia inmediatamente – no existe un miedo real a ser noqueado ya que requieres de tres tiradas de salvación fallidas o una gargantuosa cantidad de daño para deshacerse de ellos de una vez por todas. E incluso si no juegas 4ta, nada puede añadir suspenso a una pelea como escuchar al Narrador tirar algunos dados mientras estas inconsciente.

El curar heridas dentro de Dragon Age es relativamente fácil. Cómo se tratan dentro de tu juego depende, pudiendo modificar algún hechizo para también tratar heridas, o un hechizo extra u objeto que podría introducirse para solventar el problema.

Tal vez estas heridas desaparezcan al final del día o después de una serie de encuentros. O debería ser muy difícil deshacerse de ellos, pero si costar un tanto de trabajo.

He aquí una lista de posibles heridas y malestares para agregar un estilo muy Dragon Age a tu partida.

Tira un d10 cuando el personaje reciba una herida.

1 – Contusión; -1 Inteligencia
2 – Nariz Rota; -1 Carisma
3 – Cráneo Hendido; -1 Sabiduría
4 – Toser Sangre; -1 Constitución
5 – Brazos Desgarrados; -1 Fuerza
6 – Piernas Desgarradas; -1 Destreza
7 – Hemorragia Interna; -5 al máximo de Puntos de Golpe o la mitad de su nivel, lo que sea más alto.
8 – Hemorragia Interna Severa; -10 al máximo de Puntos de Golpe o igual a su nivel, lo que sea más alto.
9 – Tobillo Luxado; Reduce el movimiento en 1
10 – Herida Intestinal; todos los efectos curativos que no traten la herida tienen la mitad de efectividad.

La severidad de las heridas depende del estilo de tu juego. En Dragon Age son relativamente menores, pero si vas por un juego realmente oscuro duplica los penalizadores.