Sunday, 15 November 2009

Practical Magic

I was reading through the Magic Burner tonight and am wholly intrigued by the idea of practical magic. For those who've not read it, these are rules that let you incorporate magic as an everyday thing, as something that most people use and that is mostly used for mundane things. Rather than making a cake, it's a magically tasty and magically nutritious cake. Rather than just forging a plough, the plough can magically cut through the strongest roots and dislodge stones in the soil.

It made me think of technologies like steam power, internal combustion and electricity. A long time ago people knew about steam and fire and electricity, but had no idea how to make it practical. Eventually we reached a point at which it was ubiquitous in daily life, but not quite beyond the understanding of most people. Particularly, I think of internal combustion engines. The basics of that engine have been understood for decades and there are people all over the world who tinker with it in sheds and garages every day.

So what would an RPG setting with this feature look like? One option is that practical magic became so widespread that technological innovation would never take place. The problems solved by steam, petroleum and electricity would be solved by magic. But imagine the governmental approach to it: a magic utility company, funded through taxation and with the mandate to ensure that the magic is available, regulated and safe. Or consider the free market, in which magic items are not potions of invisibility, but potions of stain remover. If magic were principally practical and mundane, it would feature in a game in an entirely different way to other fantasy. It would almost be invisible, but it would give such flavour to the game setting.

I want to play this.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Monday, 2 November 2009

Cthulhu Art

I'm no fan of Cthulhu literature (haven't read any), but this pic was too good not to share.

cthulhu rising by *nebezial on deviantART

Go Play Brisbane

Dates for the 2010 Go Play Brisbane will soon be available. Go see the website at for details.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

A target date for the Dresden Files

After all the waiting, the folks at Evil Hat have set a target date for a release of the Dresden Files RPG. That's not necessarily the final date for when people can get their hands on a printed book of the game, but a date when people can get their hands on something playable and complete. Read the announcement for the details.

I've restrained from criticising the whole venture (DFRPG = Don't Finish a Role Playing Game?) for a couple of reasons. Evil Hat has produced some of my favourite games. They also set a very high standard for themselves. They continue to persist with gaming and the nay-sayers of the gaming community, giving great advice on designing and running games. Lastly, I don't see the point of bringing people down when they're sincerely trying to produce something good and are met with more delays and complexities than expected. I'm not their boss, I'm just a customer. My feedback is useful, but not authoritative. The DFRPG has a long history of mistakes that you can read about elsewhere. Go and vent over there if you must, but only after you've read the story.

Of course, I always wondered about whether the One Bad Egg project would distract from DFRPG. Officially it didn't - the lead developer for DFRPG isn't part of One Bad Egg. Since I have nothing to do with the creative processes of the Hat, I can't argue against it. I can only wonder. It's just horribly circumstantial that the announcement of the end of One Bad Egg was followed so closely by the announcement of DFRPG target dates.

I've also wondered whether it was a good move to delay release because Jim Butcher seems to write faster than Evil Hat. Perhaps a publishing model that included a core rule book and supplements could have been used to deal with this. A supplement for each novel in the series, or one supplement for two or three novels, could have provided an ongoing product line. Still, I can only speculate. If you know of any commentary on this, can you post a link in the comments of this post?

Overall, I think this is a good move by Evil Hat. The DFRPG has been in development for a very long time and has generated a lot of passionate and toxic argument on the internet (and elsewhere, I'm sure). With all the lessons learned in marketing (discussed at length by Fred Hicks in several podcasts over the past couple of years) I think this will be a well managed, if not formulaic, release.

My expectation is influenced by my experience with Evil Hat games, blogs and podcasts; as well as by the disappointment of the long development time. Nevertheless, what I expect is a well produced game that has great content, robust rules and admirable publishing standards. The key people behind the project have a good track record with other games and also with steady improvements in their publishing ventures. If you're a fan of the Dresden Files, I expect you'll be pleased with this game when it comes out.

And sometime next year I'll find out whether my expectations will be met. Keep up the enthusiastic work, Evil Hatters.