Playing at the World: Book Review

This week I’m covering a non-fiction book on the history of Dungeons & Dragons, and the various influences that fueled it.

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Shadowrun: Hong Kong – Video Game Review

The first two parts of what I’d call the “Shadowrun Returns Trilogy” – Shadowrun: Dead Man’s Switch, and Shadowrun: Dragonfall, showed steady improvement over their earlier installments, reaching a zenith in Shadowrun: Hong Kong. Dead Man’s Switch re-introduced the game mechanics and the world of Shadowrun to video games after decades of absence, along with telling a story that adapted parts of the setting that hadn’t been adapted before.

Dragonfall, for the first time, took Shadowrun, in video game form, out of Seattle – and in the process gave some fanservice to the game’s very vocal German fan base. It also demonstrated elements of the evolution of PC RPGs that the first game lacked – regular party members each with their motivations and story, along with quests specific to those characters that helped to progress their story. However, both games had some mechanical hiccups that made them frustrating to play.

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Video Game Review: Shadowrun Dragonfall

When I beat Shadowrun Returns: Dead Man’s Switch, I enjoyed the game but found it lacking in a lot of respects. While Dead Man’s Switch was an RPG that captured a bunch of the feel of the world of Shadowrun and invoked one of the classic adventures from the game, it was missing some of the dynamism of the RPG that other PC RPGs brought to the table. Shadowrun Dragonfall addresses these concerns and creates an RPG that is a more marked improvement over its predecessors.

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GBP: Pool of Radiance – Part 4 (Podol Plaza)

The Podol Plaza Auction

After taking care of the bandits in Kuto’s Well, you’ve got a few options ahead of you. In order to reach the Cadorna’s Textile House, you have to go through either Mendor’s Library or Podol Plaza. You also get your first quest specific party member here – a quest to liberate the Temple of Il-Mater, which has been defiled into being a Temple of Bane on the other side of the river. This gets you a sixth party member, the cleric who is carrying out this quest – and he’ll stick with you until you complete the quest. Which means he’ll stay with you for any other quests you do between then and now – so that quest can wait.

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RPG Book Review: Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide

Oriental Adventures was a sourcebook for AD&D 1st edition that sort of re-imagined and re-interpreted the game to fit a setting inspired by various stripes of Asian cinema, with varying degrees of success. However, two things that book did moderately well was to present a setting in microcosm that used the mechanics and the book’s non-weapon proficiency system. What it didn’t do well was to create classes and races that were conducive for adventuring, and it didn’t create a setting that a standard adventuring party could be inserted into.

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Book Review: Oriental Adventures (1e)

AD&D 1st Edition received a smattering of different settings. The longest lasting of those were the Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, and Dragonlance settings. However, a little less memorable one is Kara-Tur, which was born out of the Oriental Adventures sourcebook. While it would later be folded into the Forgotten Realms, on the outset it was very much its own thing. Read more

Adventure Review: B2 – The Keep on the Borderlands

Keep on the Borderlands is a lot of people’s first experience with a pre-written D&D adventure. While it isn’t the first published D&D adventure, or even the first 1st Level D&D Adventure, it’s one of the first ones with a drawn out map and wilderness environment combined, and many people’s first D&D adventure – including mine. Since the first time I’ve played the adventure, I’ve played many more RPGs in a multitude of systems, and had an opportunity to GM a couple times. So, I’m revisiting the adventure. Read more

Book Review: Deities and Demigods (1980)

Probably one of the first sourcebooks put out for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was Deities and Demigods, a book with a collection of beings that would provide something for your Cleric to be, well, a cleric of. However, it doesn’t really hold up very well, particularly compared to later deity books for later editions of AD&D and D&D. Read more

Book Review: Empire of the Imagination

I don’t know if you know this, but I like tabletop RPGs. I really like tabletop RPGs. So, when I learned of the massive amount of scholarship going around RPGs and the history thereof, I got really excited. Though not the first book on the topic that I picked up (that being Of Dice And Men, which I reviewed in the fourth issue of my fanzine) this is one of the first, and one that warrants some discussion. Read more