D&D PDFs Are Back, and Other News

A couple of days ago, Wizards of the Coast brought D&D PDFs back on sale. They pulled them originally something like four years ago, after the decision that selling PDFs leads to PDF piracy, which equals lost sales, which can be rectified by making sure that the wealth of already-released D&D PDFs was only available illegally. No, I don’t get it, either. Indeed, the decision’s arrant stupidity made me so angry at the time I made me decide not to buy a single thing from WotC until they brought the PDFs back. This was not hard, because it was at the beginning of the 4E era and in the absence of PDFs, they didn’t really sell anything I particularly wanted to buy, either.

I may also have demanded an apology for the travesty, but I understand if that’s not forthcoming. I was pretty mad at the time.

Now they’ve finally decided to rejoin the rest of us in the 21st century. The PDFs are back at OneBookShelf, and even people who’d originally bought them got their purchases returned to their downloads, which I thought was nice. They’re now available at D&D Classics, as subset of the same webstore that operates under the titles of DriveThruRPG and RPG Now. They’re not all there yet, but it isn’t a bad selection for a start. Also, if the free B1 In Search of the Unknown they’ve got up is any indication of the quality we may look forward to, it’ll be worth the wait.

It’s a professionally-done PDF. Clean scan, quality OCR, fully copypastable. The pagination matches up and the bookmarks are all there. The text comes with some unnecessary line breaks, but I can live with that. Commendable job, all around. I can’t really fault the pricing, either. As a nice touch, most of the product pages have a product history, which are written by Shannon Appelcline and Kevin Kulp.

Like said, the selection isn’t comprehensive yet and they lack stuff like all of Dragonlance, but what’s there is the good stuff. For instance, they have one of my favourite gaming products of all time, Uncaged: Faces of Sigil, which is how NPC accessories should be done. Unfortunately, their Deities & Demigods doesn’t appear to be the original, with Cthulhu and Melnibonéan mythos. Then there’s the historical reference series, which, like most things 2E that didn’t have to do with the ruleset, are awesome. There’s The Sunless Citadel, whence comes the only lovable kobold in the history of the game, Meepo; often imitated, never bettered. Craploads of 1st-edition and basic D&D adventures, too.

So, here’s me saying something nice about WotC for the first time since December 2007, when I first playtested Dungeons & Dragons 4E.

Incidentally, WotC also sells novels as ebooks on Amazon, nowadays.

Rock’n Loud at IndieGoGo

There’s a new Finnish RPG project on IndieGoGo. It’s called Rock’n Loud, and it’s about the life of a rock band, exploring themes like power chords, drug addiction, groupies and black leather. I don’t yet have a really good feel of the content, but pledged for the PDF copy just on the merit of it being Finnish, and music being an underexplored theme in roleplaying games (the only other RPGs about musicians that I can think up now are Umlaut, Tähti and the d20 minigame published in Polyhedron, “Hi-Jinx”).

There’s not much out about the game yet, but I am optimistic.

Me, D&D Novels, on LOKI

I just started an article series on LOKI about gaming tie-in fiction. It’s in Finnish, which may not be overly helpful for most of you, but if you want, I can recommend a good self-studying package. I foresee writing quite a few followups to it. Despite the picture, I am not condemning them all, but seeking the about 100 good books that according to Sturgeon’s Law should exist underneath the mound of crap.

In other news, I spent a few days in Zurich a couple of weeks ago and picked up some fascinating gaming products in strange and foreign tongues. There will be at least one photoessay forthcoming once I can wrangle the time to do something about it.

2012: A Recap

The traditional New Year’s post follows.

2012 was an interesting year to be a gamer, at least from my point of view. My personal list of most interesting things from last year:

Finnish Games Released in English

Not one but two Finnish role-playing games saw their release in English. The first one, translated by yours truly, was Burger Games’ Stalker. It combines an elegant diceless system with a setting packed with a remarkable amount of Soviet dystopianism, considering it’s set in present-day France. I’ve yet to see a negative review online and I’m not sure I’ve yet seen one that didn’t give it top score. Had I been asked to pick one Finnish RPG to see release in English, this would’ve been it, even before I got contracted to translate it.

The second one, which looked like vapourware for the longest time, is Valley of Eternity from Vagrant Workshop, a game about heroic penguins and mystical antipenguins fighting for survival in the harsh Antarctic, inspired by spaghetti westerns an Conan the Barbarian. It’s a weird game, but it takes itself seriously and manages to carry it off, keeping its themes of heroism and tragedy to the end. The rules are lightweight and pretty traditional. Here’s my review.

PhD in RPGs

It was also a fascinating year for those of us who pay attention to the academic side of things. The University of Tampere has been a hotbed for that this year. First of all, the Hypermedia Lab hosted the Role-Playing in Games seminar in the spring. I was fortunate to attend and though to my knowledge – and I’ll admit I haven’t been paying as close attention as I should – none of the papers presented have yet seen publication, some of them will eventually make it to the International Journal of Role-Playing.

Incidentally, its third issue was released just on New Year’s Eve, making it also 2012’s news. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to read it, but there’s one article by Karl Bergström, “Creativity Rules. How rules impact player creativity in three tabletop role-playing games” that focuses on D&D 3.5, Pathfinder RPG, FATE and World of Darkness, and looks very interesting.

The main event of the year, though, were the PhD defences of Markus Montola and J. Tuomas Harviainen in the autumn. Despite being highly theoretical and academic, they are surprisingly accessible to a layperson (Montola’s probably more than Harviainen’s), and I recommend taking a look.

D&D Next Announced

Well, that happened. I still haven’t had the opportunity to play it, but I’m not going to deny being mildly interested.

Promotion to Venture-Captain

This also happened. Last May, I got an e-mail from Mike Brock, the Pathfinder Society campaign coordinator, asking why am I not volunteering as a Venture-Captain already. My explanations were brushed aside and I was given a load of PDFs and four bright red polo shirts, and have been coordinating Pathfinder Society in Finland with my trusty Venture-Lieutenant Jussi Leinonen ever since. We had a “state of the nation” post up on Paizo.com last month, and play numbers are at an all-time high.

The campaign is now well into its fourth season, and developing in interesting ways. With the newest batch of scenarios, player actions will have an effect on the storyline, and there’s a promise of more on the way. Exciting times. The scenario quality has also taken a jump since the early days and I haven’t found a single stinker in the third or fourth seasons.

Crowdfunding Madness

Kickstarter and IndieGoGo look like they’ve changed the game for good on how RPGs can be published. Mike Pohjola’s Myrskyn sankarit, Jim Raggi’s enormous crowdfunding efforts, Hillfolk, Pathfinder Online, Reaper Miniatures’ Bones project, the list goes on. I’ve received a pile of fascinating games that I otherwise might not have found or might not even have been made through crowdfunding services. Incidentally, the second kickstarter for Pathfinder Online is still running. Regardless of one’s interest in the MMO (I’ve already given my soul to World of Warcraft), one should note that as a side offering, they’re producing The Emerald Spire, a megadungeon with levels written by such esteemed authors as Erik Mona, James Jacobs, Frank Mentzer and Mark Rein·Hagen. MMOs come and go, but books like that are seldom seen.

So, 2013

I find myself in the same position I did a year ago. There are few things in the pipeline that I’m really excited about at this time, but I expect that such things will roll around in due time. . The industry seems to be doing pretty well, and I know that cool stuff will pop up sooner or later. There is, of course, the Vihan lapset project from Myrrysmiehet, the promise of another doctoral dissertation on RPGs, a Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars RPG. Then, of course, there’s Ropecon 2013, the 20th of its name, which ought to be good. Awesome, in fact. There’s also a Tracon coming up in the late summer, where I’m serving as a RPG consultant.

So, let’s see what the year will bring.