The Golden Apple of Shangri-La September 23, 2014 The Golden Apple of Shangri-La David Barnett A Gideon Smith story. Selfies September 17, 2014 Selfies Lavie Tidhar Smile for the camera. When Gods and Vampires Roamed Miami September 16, 2014 When Gods and Vampires Roamed Miami Kendare Blake A Goddess Wars story As Good As New September 10, 2014 As Good As New Charlie Jane Anders She has three chances to save the world.
From The Blog
September 23, 2014
It’s All About the Benjamins in Sleepy Hollow: “This is War”
Leah Schnelbach
September 23, 2014
The Death of Adulthood in American Culture: Nerd Culture Edition
Lindsay Ellis
September 22, 2014
Five Brilliant Things About Doctor Who “Time Heist”
Paul Cornell
September 19, 2014
“WCKD is Good,” But The Maze Runner is Bad
Natalie Zutter
September 17, 2014
How Goldfinger Bound Sci-Fi to James Bond
Ryan Britt
Thu
Sep 18 2014 5:00pm

Dungeon World Puts Narrative First

Dungeon World is having a very real, meaningful impact on how I look at games, and how I look at my game.

I’m a big believer in cross-product, system-neutral play, which is to say that I encourage everyone to steal from every game they own when building a campaign or creating an adventure. If the mechanical crunch doesn’t work, ignore it and take the story ideas or abstract rule concepts that you like. If flavor and genre don’t match, use the mechanical parts you like and just reskin the rest. I’ll use Pathfinder’s GameMastery Guide to roll up a random location for my World of Darkness game just as easily as I’ll repurpose the time travel rules from Transdimensional TMNT with a heaping serving of cosmic horror for my Great Race of Yith themed Call of Cthulhu mini-series.

No matter what, I’m always on the lookout for the next mechanical innovation to inspire my own homebrew campaign; last time is was Mouse Guard’s Trait system, and those are now being tempered by Dungeon World’s similar Tags and complications. I like this game enough to...already be thinking about how I could rebuild it from the ground up to suit my play style.

[Read More]

Fri
Aug 29 2014 2:00pm

Descend Pathfinder’s The Emerald Spire

Pathfinder’s The Emerald Spire is a true megadungeon. Rise of the Runelords was a campaign, but Emerald Spire is an big old fashioned dungeon that just keeps on going and going. I like boutique, meticulously DM-crafted worldbuilding. I like open, sandbox games in unique homebrew settings. I also really like giant, out of the box, hardcore superdungeons. There is no need to be forced into some “new school versus old school” rivalry here. Have some cake. Eat it, too! Then throw it at opponents for d3 non-lethal damage in a giant food fight, that’s what I’m saying.

If you have talked to me at any length in the past year, you’ve probably heard me go off on a rant about defeating The Temple of Elemental Evil; one of the perks of playing one of the great classic dungeons is that you can brag about it, as well as share war stories with other survivors. The Emerald Spire belongs up there with your Tombs of Horrors and Castle Ravenlofts; PCs are going to be delving into the Spire for a long time, and I’ve no doubt it will generate its same share of shaggy dog stories.

[Read More]

Tue
Jun 17 2014 4:00pm

In Praise of Mahjong

Mahjong

I first learned how to play Mahjong in high school. My best friend Arthur, an immigrant from Taiwan, taught me. Mahjong is sort of like a Chinese version of poker, only with tiles instead of cards. Like most games that are able to captivate an entire culture, Mahjong blends skill and luck. Four players sit at a square table, pulling tiles from the neatly stacked wall or pushing them into the mush pot middle. Sessions can often last for hours.

When I told my parents about my new pastime, my mother was thrilled. She’d played with her family when she was young, so she felt like I was reclaiming a piece of her past.

[My father didn’t quite have the same reaction...]

Fri
Apr 4 2014 1:30pm

A Game of Thrones: The Board Game Sweepstakes

Winter is coming...actually, if you live in the Northern parts of the US it may feel like winter is never leaving, but no matter where you live, this weekend is host to one of the most highly anticipated events of the year. The premiere of Season 4 of A Game of Thrones? Yeah, that too, but this Saturday, April 5, 2014 is International TableTop Day, and what better way to celebrate than to give away a copy of A Game of Thrones: The Board Game? We happen to have a review of the first edition right here on Tor.com. This sweepstakes is for the second edition, which is just like the first, only way better, with all-new art and the best parts of both expansions thrown in.

Comment on this post to enter and visit your local game store to join in the celebration!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States and D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec). To enter, comment on this post beginning at 1:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on April 4. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on April 8. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Tor.com, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Fri
Apr 4 2014 10:00am

Game On: International TableTop Day 2014

Get ready to flip some monopoly boards—International TableTop Day is nigh! On April 5th, 2014, fans of tabletop gaming around the world will gather together for the largest (known) game day in the (known) universe.

[Roll again]

Thu
Jan 23 2014 6:05pm

This Supercut of NES Games Will Delight Your 11-Year-old Heart!

There was a time, shrouded in the mists of the distant past, when 8-bits ruled the earth. When donkeys and Italian plumbers and snotty duck-hunting dogs haunted our dreams. A YouTube user, using the dignified moniker of NicksplosionFX, has edited together an exhaustive collection of the start screens of nearly ever NES game, in alphabetical order. Sit back, friends. Pause Arkham City for a moment, and allow the nostalgia to wash over you like a blocky, pixelated blue wave. 

[Dragon Warrior! Space Harrier! The Hudson Hawk game!]

Fri
Nov 15 2013 5:00pm

Pathfinder: Bestiary 4 Delivers on the Promise of its Cover

Listen, this is a book with Cthulhu, Grendel and a bunch of nosferatus on the cover; you tell me whether or not you think this book is going to be awesome.

Okay, okay, since I can’t really just write a one-sentence-with-a-semi-colon as a review, I guess I will tell you: Pathfinder Bestiary 4 is in fact as awesome as you would guess that a book with a Lovecraftian horror, an Old English poetry reference and nod to German Expressionist films on the cover would be. I’ve seen what Pathfinder can do with its Bestiaries a few times before, and this keeps of the tradition of delivering diverse concepts, interesting mechanics, and enough art and fluff to give even the system neutral reader enough bang for their buck just shopping for inspiration.

[Read More]

Thu
Oct 24 2013 10:00am

Mummy: the Curse Inverts the Formula of the World of Darkness

Mummy The Curse World of DarknessI’ve always really liked the World of Darkness games about mummies. Maybe it is a genre thing, a cross-over thing; despite all intentions, I sort of think the cartoony eco-warriors of Werewolf: the Apocalypse (and even the more shamanic Werewolf: the Foresaken) don’t really mix with the brooding ultra-gothic tone of Vampire: the Masquerade, (or Reqiuem) quite right.

Ancient mummies on the other hand just sort of plug right in, if you ask me. It might help that the mummies of the new Mummy: the Curse are just the kind I like: full up with plagues of locusts, necromancy, and the apotheosis of divine power. The game makes the journey from crypt to shambling horror to alienated immortal and back again the central pillar of the story, which as a core conceit translates the “feel” of playing a mummy really well.

[Read More]

Wed
Oct 9 2013 11:30am
Excerpt

If You Think Dungeons & Dragons Leads to Suicide, You Don’t Understand Gaming

Kevin C. Pyle and Scott Cunningham

Bad For You Scott Cunningham Kevin C. Pyle Dungeons and Dragons

In Bad For You, coming on January 7th from Henry Holt, authors Kevin C. Pyle and Scott Cunningham expose the long-standing campaign against fun for what it really is: a bunch of anxious adults grasping at straws, ignoring scientific data, and blindly yearning for the good old days that never were.

Today’s excerpt highlights the tragic story of Dallas Egbert, a child prodigy who committed suicide, and the publicity-chasing detective who linked his suicide to his love of Dungeons & Dragons. The excerpt takes a deeper look into the real connection between fantasy gaming and the emotional development of young adults. This excerpt may contain material of a triggering nature.

[Bad For You and the story of Dungeons & Dragons]

Fri
Oct 4 2013 5:00pm
Excerpt

Chess Was Once Considered Bad For You

Kevin C. Pyle and Scott Cunningham

Bad for You games chess

In Bad For You, coming on January 7th from Henry Holt, authors Kevin C. Pyle and Scott Cunningham expose the long-standing campaign against fun for what it really is: a bunch of anxious adults grasping at straws, ignoring scientific data, and blindly yearning for the good old days that never were.

A portion of the book looks at the hysteria over gaming, be it tabletop or video, and how depressingly cyclical that unthinking hysteria can be. As evidenced by the following snippet from the book, even chess was once considered a path to moral degeneracy. Checkmate, said the devil.

[We must not allow our youths this “chess,” lest they form clubs and unite against us]

Wed
Aug 7 2013 5:00pm

Gloriously Break the Canon of Legend of the Five Rings with Imperial Histories 2

Imperial Histories 2 Legend of the Five RingsI’m on the record as saying “break your canon” is my favorite role-playing game ideology, right? I’ve said it about the World of Darkness and now I’m going to say it about Legend of the Five Rings. If you aren’t familiar, Legend of the Five Rings is a game setting that takes its inspiration from Eastern sources, rather than Western ones; most crucially, feudal Japanese samurai stories. The Empire of Rokugan, where the stories of “L5R” are set, is richly developed, through a variety of sources, from collectible card games to published books, and much of it is fan driven. Imperial Histories 2 is exactly the sort of book I am looking for when I say “break your canon.” They smash Legend of the Five Rings wide open, exposing the guts, the nuts and bolts, proposing campaign settings like Miyazaki-like fables to steampunk samurai tales all the way to samurais…in spaaaaaaace….

[Read more]

Thu
May 16 2013 5:00pm

The God-Machine Hints at the World of Darkness’ Future

The God-Machine World of Darkness review

Beneath the skin of the world you know, a terrible machine grinds and gnashes its gears. Its cogs range in size from the flap of a butterfly’s wings to the meteor that killed the dinosaurs. The God-Machine’s tools are timeclocks and angels, crushing banality and outrageous supernatural intervention; these contradictions are unified in the alien-clockwork of its inevitability. Azathoth is not a screaming, pulsating tumor of chaos at the center of reality; it is rust and cold and wire, soldered together. The factory assembly line for the banality of evil. Darkseid’s Anti-Life Equation, made from iron and clockwork and tesla coils. This is the premise behind The God-Machine Chronicle, the newest major World of Darkness offering (and its attendent short fiction anthology). Based on the piece of flavor text that began the core World of Darkness book, The God Machine Chronicle also introduces a number of major rules updates.

[Read more]

Fri
Apr 26 2013 2:00pm

Nintendo Has an Opportunity to Make a Legend of Zelda Game With Zelda as the Hero

The Legend of Zelda game Zelda as hero

Or perhaps that headline should read “I think Nintendo could make a Legend of Zelda series with Zelda as the hero,” because while I was playing Skyward Sword earlier this year in preparation for my review of the Hyrule Historia, I noticed that the game had left an interesting back door open that no one seemed to catch. A back door that, probably unintentionally, allows Nintendo to create an entire Legend of Zelda series of games featuring Zelda as the heroine.

[Onward. Spoilers for Skyward Sword]

Mon
Apr 22 2013 10:00am

Final Fantasy 7 and the Death of Aeris Gainsborough

It is cold, and snow is falling. You run, like you always do, because time is of the essence. You’re on the Northern continent, beneath the forgotten capital of the Ancients—a long-lost culture who understood makoenergy as the Shinra Electric Power Company never will. The Ancients possessed profound wisdom about the life force of the planet... but you’re not here for ancient wisdom. You’re here for personal reasons. You’re here because of her.

[Read more...]

Wed
Apr 17 2013 2:00pm

BioShock Infinite: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Continue?

Rosencrantz and Giuldenstern are Dead. Continue? BioShock Infinite

The difficulty in discussing free will in fiction is that fictional characters have no free will. Whether the characters are aware of it or not, there definitely is an all powerful creator (or creators) who dictates their every move, thought, act, and word. Characters’ choices are fated to happen.

That’s not as true for video games, which have the additional factor of player interaction. Sure, the story only continues if you run to the right, but Mario has the option of just standing there, twiddling his thumbs. And if it’s a sandbox game like Grand Theft Auto or a sprawling role playing game like Final Fantasy, the player is actively encouraged to go left, try mini-games and side quests, explore the world, take up odd jobs like taxi driver or chocobo farmer.

[Spoilers follow for BioShock Infinite and BioShock]

Wed
Apr 10 2013 10:00am

Infinitely Weird: All Your Genre Are Belong to BioShock

BioShock Infinite Genres Ken Levine

At E3 2010, somewhere near the mechanical bull at Bethesda Software’s annual Sunset Strip bacchanal, BioShock Infinite visionary Ken Levine leaned across a liquor-sticky table and gave me the best storytelling advice I’ve heard: “F[orget] macro choices, do what works.”

Three disclaimers: he didn’t really say “forget.” He also didn’t mention that having the narrative chops to make your crazy vision work is a lot harder than a single aphorism makes it seems. Lastly, we were discussing self-limiting approaches to world-building in particular, not the wholesale disavowal of consistency within a work. (That remains a bad idea unless you’re, like, James Joyce).

[Read more...]

Mon
Apr 8 2013 9:00am

Geek Love: What It Is and Where It Came From

Geek Love nerd culture column by Jacob Clifton

I’ve been writing about television for the site Television Without Pity for about ten years now, and while I love having the opportunity to think more intensely and talk things out when it comes to the shows and stories I love most, that part of the job pales in comparison to interacting with the fans of the shows and seeing the communities they build around those shared interests.

It’s practically impossible—for me, at least—to think about shows (especially in the genre) without immediately attaching a kind of parallel narrative about the fandom of the show, its connections with other fandoms and geek interests, and what the things we love say about us as people. Not really in the same way as scholarly “media studies” work, or even the snarky metacommentary and inter-fandom sniping that goes on (no matter how often it’s hilariously true), but in the very personal and heartfelt ways fandom appreciation creatively expresses itself.

Being a TV recapper for so long, I’ve sometimes felt stuck in that blurry area between “consumer” and “producer” of content. I mean, I write stuff that people find enjoyable for some reason, but in my role as recapper it’s not really my toys I’m playing with.

[I don’t think I’m alone in that blurry place.]

Thu
Mar 21 2013 3:00pm

2013 International TableTop Game Day, Saturday March 30th

2012 International TableTop Game Day

Wow, it has been over a year since my last installment of The Analog Gamer. Lots of changes in my personal life, a new career, a new location, and a new addition to the family on the way. Lots of changes to the tabletop gaming hobby as well. Signs of the hobby entering popular culture are everywhere; frequent episodes of The Big Bang Theory feature the gang playing games well known to hobbyists, TableTop, a slickly produced reality-based videocast with host Wil Wheaton and other game playing celebrities, is entering its second season, and games like Pandemic, Ticket to Ride, and Settlers of Catan, once strictly the domain of specialty stores can now be found featured in your local Target.

[Game on...]

Tue
Feb 26 2013 6:00pm

Games for the Cold Hours: Gloom by Keith Baker

Games for the Cold Hours: Gloom by Keith Baker

While the weather ping-pongs from sixty degrees and sunny to freezing rain and negative wind-chill over the course of a single day, or while blizzards bury cars, sometimes staying in is preferable to going out. And, if you’re going to stay in, fending off cabin fever is a necessity—winter, to me, is the time for games. One recent acquisition that’s captured my interest is a card game designed by Keith Baker and published by Atlas Games: Gloom, the game where you “make your characters suffer the greatest tragedies possible before helping them pass on to the well-deserved respite of death.” In 2005, it was given an Origins Award for Best Traditional Card Game of the Year—but I hadn’t heard of it until a few months ago.

The game is designed for two to four players, and revolves around creating the most crushing, bizarre, appalling series of grotesqueries and accidents possible for your characters—while your opponents try to play cards like “Was Delighted by Ducklings” to remove some of your negative points. (Which are actually good, in this context.)

[If you like card games, story-telling, and puns…]

Wed
Feb 13 2013 3:30pm

Halo: Silentium Book Text Holds Codes for Additional Halo Content

Halo: Silentium Book Text Holds Codes for Additional Halo ContentLeading up to the release of Halo: Silentium (March 19, 2013), Tor and 343 Industries will be sending out encrypted communications via halowaypoint.com bulletins and forums, which will allow Halo fans to unlock additional content. There will also be embedded data in the text of the Halo: Silentium paperback and e-book editions.

These communications will begin now, and continue on halowaypoint.com leading up to the March 19th release of Halo: Silentium. Check out a larger version of the cover, along with a synopsis of the story.