Thursday, January 26, 2012

Oz Is Not A Cookie-Cutter Land

(Except for Utensia, but I digress)

I recently discovered that an adaptation of L. Frank Baum's Scarecrow of Oz was in the works by the same studio that has previously done a Tin Woodman of Oz film. (I gave it a pretty big thumbs down)

The original story was clever in many ways, mostly by subverting romantic tropes. Although the Tin Woodman and the Tin Soldier are rivals for the affection of Nimmie Amee, neither of them really loves her. You see, now that they're tin, their hearts are not as capable of properly loving her (The Tin Woodman got a heart from the Wizard, but it was a kind heart rather than a loving heart. The Tin Soldier got a tin heart from the tinsmith, but it was cold and hard.). When they finally find her, they discover that she is married to an unusual man named Chopfyt who is actually made of their original meat parts (You know, the bits that got cut off and had to be replaced with tin). So, in a sense, neither of them wound up marrying Nimmie Amee and yet both of them did.

The movie adaptation revises the story so that the love story is played straight. The Tin Soldier is gone, though Nimmie Amee is still married to Chopfyt. But this happens early in the film, rather than at the climax. Instead, the Tin Woodman meets a Tin Girl (who happens to be a tin replica of Nimmee Amee) and falls in love with her over the course of their adventures.

Even though Baum wrote 14 books in the Oz series (and a number of other books as well), he never reverted to formula. Even when he was repeating himself, he never truly repeated himself. For example, Tik-Tok of Oz was an adaptation of his musical extravaganza The Tik-Tok Man of Oz (itself an adaptation of early Oz novel Ozma of Oz) . While each of those stories shared the same basic narrative, the details quickly became radically different.

So when you're preparing for your next Oz adventure, don't worry so much about the "supposed to"s. Baum didn't.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Laying It Out

The visual impact of a game book is very nearly as important as the words in it. Illustrations are part of that, but another aspect is the layout of the book. For Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road, I went for 2 separate layouts.

The print version of the book is laid out to measure 6 x 9 inches, a nice compact size that can fit on the shelf with your other Oz books, or game books.
But as I contemplated the digital release of my book, I realized that this layout was not quite right. While it can look fine on a screen, there are those PDF buyers who want to print the book out, either in whole or in part. And it's current layout would waste a lot of paper. So the PDF layout would have to be 8 1/2 x 11.

One of the problems with most game books in PDF is that they use a standard 2-column layout. Once you've zoomed in to the point where you can read it comfortably on a screen, your reading process is something like this: Read, scroll down, read more, scroll right, scroll up, read, scroll down, read more. A lot of scrolling, right? So I decided that I would throw that methodology out on its head. Or, more accurately, its side.
(Typical gaming PDF. Specifically the Advanced Player's Guide for the Pathfinder RPG by Paizo Publishing)
(Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road PDF layout)

By turning the page on its side, it's much easier to read. Once you've finished one column of text, simply scroll to the right and read the next column. While you might have to do some scaling to get this to work on your tablet, it is far less scaling than would be required of your typical gaming PDF.

So why not support gaming PDFs that are designed for the way you actually read them? And don't forget, you can also get AiO in EPUB format, a specialized format that dynamically lays itself out for optimum viewing, no matter what you're using to read it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

5e Doesn't Have To Suck

As new developments are announced for the latest edition of Dungeons & Dragons, there is a seemingly inevitable litany of complaints.

This time, it's about the announcement that the modularity of the ruleset would allow players at the same table to use different character sheets and maybe even different rules. The more I think on it, though, the more I realize that it's not a terrible idea.

Let's say that the Basic Set for D&D 5e includes the basic combat system (truly the core of any version of D&D), basic classes, and a basic skill system (maybe only a few dungeon-specific skills that advance automatically by level, as in 4e).

Then the Advanced Set introduces feats for each class (Basic Set might have only included a few feats, or gone back to something like Weapon Proficiencies and thus feats are a supplement, not necessarily a replacement, for that), maybe some more classes built around ideas in the advanced combat rules, and the skill advancement is broken down into 3e-ish skill points for finer customization.

There's really nothing keeping an Advanced Character and a Basic character from sitting side by side. The Basic character may be proficient in 5 weapons and have a static value in their skills, while the Advanced character has spent his 5 proficiency slots being that much better with his longsword (maybe picking up a few tricks) and might have fewer points in each skill, but have points in more skills.

The only real challenge here seems to be the implementation of prestige classes (or whatever they decide to call them). For much of their existence, prestige classes bribed players to take them by offering significant power boosts when compared to a base-class character. But since Basic (no p-class) and Advanced (p-class allowed) characters would have to balance against each other, this sort of thing really can't happen.

There even seems to be hints of a 3rd set for activities "beyond the dungeon." with rules for social influence and kingdom building a la Birthright.

The real sticking point here (and I think it's valid as well) is that the pitch they have provided seems geared towards letting players decide the complexity of the rules used at the table, instead of the Dungeon Master. And since the DM is the one making the rulings on the events at the table, I think letting them make the decision as to what rules are going to be used in those rulings is perfectly fair.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Adventures in Oz goes Atomic!

That's right, folks. The wonderful guys over at the Atomic Array have finally managed to make my deranged ramblings sound coherent. We talk about The Wizard of Oz, in movie and book form and how that all fits into a game.

Check it out!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

As someone mentioned on my Facebook fan page (I have one, you should check it out), I should mention conventions where I will be demoing AiO. And if you've been following my blog for any length of time, you know that my favorite convention is coming up next month. That's right, DunDraCon!

Just like last year, I have signed up to run the sample adventure The Jaded City of Oz twice: Once as a walk-up game for their kids program (though grownups have shown up) and again on the regular convention schedule (requiring convention registration). If you were at either of these last year, you know that I gave away a free print copy of the game at each of these demos, making some gamers incredibly happy and others Insanely Jealous (TM). Depending on demand and my energy level, I might also make an appearance in the open gaming area and run unscheduled demos as well. (probably no freebies there, though.)

If you've already purchased a copy of AiO and you bring it to the convention, I will gladly autograph it or let you take my picture with it or whatever.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Oz Character of the Month: The Scarecrow

Amusing fact: While everyone knows about the Twelve Days of Christmas, they generally don't know that these days fall after Christmas. These twelve days mark the time between Jesus' birth (Christmas) and the arrival of the Three Wise Men. So the Twelfth Day of Christmas is today. It's also my niece's birthday, so on the off chance that she's reading this: Happy Birthday!

Now on to business.

Our Oz character this month is another preview from the Characters Pack: The Scarecrow.

Speaking of the Characters Pack, it just went down to 99 cents. This is not a sale, but a permanent price drop. So if you've ever wanted to bring the heroes from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (and lots of other classic Oz stories) into your game, there's never been a better time.
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