Monthly Archives August 2013

Star Wars: Edge of the Empire: Players’ Response

The Castles & Cooks team finally sat down to play a proper game of Star Wars Edge of the Empire. We already did a review of the core rulebook, but after spending time with character creation, the world and the game itself we’re back to discuss the experience of playing the game. Previously we looked at what DMs (GMs) can expect. Today we tackle the game from perspective of the players.

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Star Wars Edge of the Empire: Being a GM

The Castles & Cooks team finally sat down to play a proper game of Star Wars Edge of the Empire. We already did a review of the core rulebook, but after spending time with character creation, the world and the game itself we’re back to discuss the experience of playing the game. Today we tackle the game from the role of the GM (or DM), and tomorrow we’ll look at it from the perspective of the players.

As someone who has played several RPGs, but only ever been the GM in Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) I must express a bit of trepidation that arose prior to my first session with Edge of the Empire. This game and this system are decidedly different from D&D, not just in how the game adjudicates combat or the addition of vehicles and rules for space combat.

Even using the book adventure as my guide, I still felt the need for an extended prep period. This wasn’t because I hadn’t played the game before (that was a small part of it), but because the way storytelling is woven into the fabric of everything the game does forces the GM to be prepared for unexpected moments. The PCs have more control over twisting the plot and taking the story in a new direction than they do in something like D&D.

How does this work and where did it impact my role as GM? Let’s break it down: 

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Portals of the Week

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Portals of the Week

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One Hour Library Review: Star Wars Edge of the Empire RPG

In our One Hour Reviews, we set a clock for sixty minutes and analyze the book. When time is up, we stop. The goal is to try and look over as much of the book as possible, without getting bogged down in any one section. Similar to how you might leaf through a book in the store, with some specific granularity, but mainly to focus on gaining a high level understanding of everything the RPG has to offer. Set the clock and let’s go!

This book has been a long time coming, and I’m excited to crack it open. First things first, this book is absolutely gorgeous. The art team outdid itself with the layout, the way they use art to frame the text, and the quality of the images. My favorite piece is a scoundrel type gritting his teeth and pointing a blaster at a Jawa who is casually holding a thermal detonator. How do you say “come at me bro!” in Jawa? Beyond that, there’s a nice heft to the book, and at over 400 pages it is definitely going to stand out in your gaming bookcase.

Time is ticking away and I’m eager to breakdown the chapters, but one other thing to note is the setting. The game is set during the original trilogy, specifically right after the destruction of the first Death Star. This is important to note because it means there really aren’t any Jedi or Sith, so don’t expect to be stating up a Jedi Consular or Sith Assassin with this game. Instead the focus is on playing players on the fringe or “edge of the empire” if you will – smugglers, bounty hunters, droids, etc. Time to dive in.

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One-Hour Library Review: Numenera

When I first started playing in D&D, I didn’t start out in a “standard” fantasy setting like Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms. I started off in the weird, nightmarish, wonderful, though-provoking realms of Planescape, traveling from the City of Doors through portals to all corners of the multiverse. Behind this remarkable setting is a man named Monte Cook who started his own company years ago and created a number of fantastic d20 products like the epic-scaled urban setting of Ptolus and the psionic adventure If Thoughts Could Kill. When Monte joined the development team for D&D Next, I was excited and eager to see what his reunion with Wizards of the Coast would yield. When he left the project suddenly and without much explanation, I was disappointed but curious what else he had planned.

That’s when I started to see teasers for Numenera. It looked strange and confusing and intriguing and bizarre. It looked like everything I loved about Planescape, and every subsequent teaser is even more interesting. Now I have the pdf in front of me and I can’t wait to delve in for my first hour with the book. Come on down the rabbit hole…

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SolForge open Beta has launched!

Normally at Castles and Cooks, we avoid talking about electronic games beyond the occasional port of a board or card game (you really should pick up Ticket to Ride and Ascension). It isn’t that we don’t play video games, but it just isn’t our focus.

Then there are exceptions. There are two groups in gaming that I will blindly follow: Richard Garfield and the team over at Stone Blade Entertainment. Then again, the only game I play more than Ascension is Magic: the Gathering. So when the SolForge Kickstarter started, I went all in.

And yesterday launched the open beta of SolForge for both Steam and iPad and has released SolForge: Core Set.

The new beta introduces five big things to the game:

  • Core Set is released – this is 180 card set, which means a lot of new stuff (especially those not on Steam)
  • Booster Packs & Collection Management – three kinds of boosters are now out, along with the ability to manage your collection and deck building
  • Free-to-Play – normally, I tend to dislike F2P games since it means getting nickeled and dimed the whole way, but SolForge allows everyone to play and earn cards just by playing.
  • Cross platform compatibility – yes, you can now play on your iPad against your friend’s Steam account. Oh and Sean, I challenge you.
  • Game Timers – A little thing that goes a long way, now online matches have a timer to keep everyone moving (and to prevent others from stalling)

I haven’t gotten to play much since it got released last night, and the iPad version keeps crashing right now – but guess what. It’s a beta.

See the full press release after the break.

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Of Dice and Men Levels Up from Play to Movie

Of Dice and Men (ODaM), the play about what it’s really like to play D&D, by Cameron McNary, is becoming a film. We’ve been talking about this play since Castles and Cooks began, and have tracked it from a humble stage reading at the first PAX East, to the first staged production at PAX Prime 2010, all the way through its various performances around the country, including at the Brick theatre in New York City in July of 2012.

Based on a screenplay by the man himself, McNary and a team of talented thespians will be bringing the hilarious, heart warming, and occasionally gut wrenching adventures of one middle aged D&D group to the big screen. The story is a “blisteringly funny and deeply affecting comedy feature film about six tabletop roleplaying gamers and what happens when one of them enlists to go to Iraq.”

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Portals of the Week

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Messing with BBQ: The Evolution of BBQ Pitmasters

There are many ways to make BBQ and even more opinions on sauces and side dishes. Yet, regardless of geographic allegiance the one key to making good barbecue that everyone agrees on is “don’t mess with it.” Dress the meat however you want, put it on the smoker and then leave it alone.

That mantra hasn’t been part of the production of BBQ Pitmasters – a show that began on TLC in late 2009. Now in it’s 4th season, the show has undergone significant changes each year. What started as a reality show following some of America’s best BBQ chefs to competitions around the country has morphed into a more familiar competitive cooking show in the vein of Chopped. While constant changes and tinkering with the format might signal a show that has lost its way, BBQ Pitmasters has emerged from its growing pains with quite possibly the best format in competition cooking. So how did this happen?

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