Random Encounters (Friday, May 8 2015)


Welcome to Random Encounters, the weekly round-up of interesting bits and pieces from across the worlds of gaming that didn’t really fit anywhere else. Roll a D7 (they exist!) and begin:

1 – A History of Dice, Part 2

An interesting look back at old dice: what they were made of, what they were used for, and how they were carved. The ancient Greeks even had dice weighted with lead for cheating, just like I cheat at dice today!

2 – An In-Depth Look At How Dungeons & Dragons’ New Miniatures Are Made

This is old now, but interesting nonetheless: Gale Force 9, who make the official D&D miniatures, take us behind the scenes on how they do it. It probably won’t be anything earth-shattering to most wargaming afficionadoes, but hey:

We sit down as a team and decide what the miniature will be doing; the pose, any specific details and the scenic base theme. This normally involves one of us in the office pulling poses with swords and brooms. Anyone walking in would think we are a bit mad! After the basics have been decided, one of us will draw a pose. In this case with Aerisi, the artwork is so evocative [pictured above], that we decided to go with the pose provided.

The next stage is to scale the miniature correctly. This is very important when producing large ranges of different miniatures. We use accurate height charts provided by the RPG team.

3 – Treasure trove of untouched old toys and games found at toy shop which has been closed for years

A bunch of what will no doubt turn out to be incredibly valuable old Star Wars toys and other associated goodness has been found in an abandoned toy shop in North Wales, dating as far back as the 60’s.

All the items are expected to appeal to collectors from across the country when they go on sale later this month at Vectis Auctions in Thornaby, Stockton-on-Tees.

Despite damp creeping into the shop and damaging some of the boxes, the company said the items remained in great condition.

A spokesman from the auction house said: “The items are likely to appeal to collectors and dealers as the toys have stood in the closed-up shop for many years.

“Our specialists are working through the collection one pallet at a time and so we could find many hidden treasures as the sale is uncovered.”

Last month a collection of 3,000 toy cars, trucks and trains went up for sale at the toy specialist auction house and fetched a total of £227,000.

4 – How do you keep a game — and community — like Netrunner alive?

A great interview with Netrunner designer Lukas Litzsinger about living card game cycles, balance, nerfing and the looming spectre of Magic: The Gathering.

“There’s two ways that you can go about starting to design a card. There’s the top down, which is beginning with a theme and then trying to extrapolate out of that theme, or out of that idea, or out of that nugget of reality, some mechanic. And then there’s the bottom up or mechanical approach: where you start with a game idea and then you try to figure out where that actually fits into the world that you are creating. I usually employ a combination of the two. It depends on the card and it depends on just where the idea came from.”

5 – My Daughter Spent This Whole Week Prepping To DM Her First D&D Game

Nicole Wakelin of Total Fan Girl explains how her daughters got into D&D, how her youngest requested a D&D all-nighter for her 11th birthday, and how her older 13-year old stepped up to design her own game. Adorable.

She has now spent every day working on this game. Every. Single. Day. It’s vacation week here in New Hampshire so she even spent one day in her pajamas, buried with books and maps and her laptop as she planned the most epic of adventures.

I am loving every minute.

My kid didn’t want to play video games. She didn’t want to go out. She just wanted to plan her campaign so that they could all play again this Friday, after we see Avengers: Age of Ultron. She has also spent a lot of the time working with her younger sister to flesh out some of the bits for her character so it will be ready when their cousins join them for the game.

6 – Jeff Grubb brings un-used TSR ‘Storm Front’ setting out of the archives after 20 years

Old-school Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms author Jeff Grubb has dug into his personal archives to reveal Storm Front, a setting he (unsuccessfully) pitched to TSR two decades ago which “involved sailing ships on clouds”.

I had lost the original two-page proposal, but Steve Winter (who had mentioned it in a podcast) did not, and dropped me off a copy, which I am presenting below. The other sources referred to in the first paragraph were other concepts that were bouncing around at that time, which were either naval-style campaigns or monster-dominated “reverse dungeons” where the bulk of the world was hostile. So this is the last of a series of similar proposals, and reflects the input of others on the TSR team.

I am leaving the text as it was originally written, with corrections in [red brackets] and footnotes.

The story of how Stormfront came to be, and what happened to it, can be found here. I wanted to get this out there before an entire year had passed since my last mentioning it. Some fans have responded to the stories about it with interest, and now you know as much as our management did at the time about the product.

7 – Shut Up and Sit Down reviews Cards Against Humanity

Well I say “reviews”, but the game has been out for a very long time now — so perhaps a better title would be an “airing of grievances”. I don’t agree with a lot of this personally and I think it’s more than a little bit judgmental in the wrong places, but it’s good reading and thought provoking if nothing else.

There are plenty of naughty things you can do that don’t rely on grinning vacantly while dicking on minorities, but perhaps these aren’t socially acceptable at dinner parties. The vast popularity of Cards Against Humanity allows for any residual guilt to be spread so much further, diluting any sense of responsibility to the point where it’s almost negligible.

I can’t help but feel that the success of the game has been virally powered by this desire to reduce those pangs of guilt: the more people who you know who’ve also bought this game, the better. You’re never expected to take responsibility for any of the things that the game makes you say, but that doesn’t solve the problem of why you own it in the first place.

It’s a question that I don’t think has any pleasant answers – only a truth that we can dilute by sharing it with others. That’s the dirty reality of Cards Against Humanity. I could tell you about better and funnier card games, but it isn’t about cards or humour or games. Cards Against Humanity is just a shoddy magic trick: smash the system, but not before you’ve covered it up with a silk handkerchief.

Ta-da! The taboos remain intact, it was all just a ruse. “Horrible” grants Cards Against Humanity more bravado than it deserves – beneath the brash and explicit surface is a system that enables behaviour that I personally find to be tepid and weak.

If you’ve got something you think belongs on Random Encounters, why not flick it to us on Twitter, or send us a tip!

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