September 1, 1996: Our launch, news from GenCon, demos, new LARPs
Hello, and welcome to the 1st edition of RPG.Net's News and Reviews column. We're finally up, but it'll be a couple of weeks before our ISP is up to full speed, so we apologize in advance for occasional slow accesses. If you're interested in knowing why we exist, try this pointless digression!)
Moving on, GenCon '96 was a lot of fun, definitely a strong Con to play in. The dealer's room started slow, but did good business. Most gamers felt there weren't many new products, however. The CCG business was still going strong, and many games we'd thought would quickly die were still selling decks and updates. Some CCG sleepers included "Legend of the Five Rings", which has been gaining a strong following, and "Mythos", which was released only this year but seemed well worth the effort spent. "XXXenophile" wasn't visible, though the game is out. Gee, I wonder why? (It's a fun game, by the way, a lot like dominos + marbles + strip poker).
As a non-CCG, Atlas Game's "Lunch Money" drew a lot of attention, increasing their rep as a company that makes great stand-along games. With that and the classic "Once Upon a Time" both out, I can't wait to see what they plan next. Edge City, creators of the very cool but not yet wildly known stand-alone cyberpunk/ netrunning game "Edge City", alas, was hindered by shipping problems, something which I understand befell several of the companies. Considering the cost to show at GenCon, such acts of fate cut deeply indeed.
Among the new GenCon RPGs, Pinnacle Entertainment's "Deadlands" clearly wins for most complete product launch-- they had the game, the poster, the CD, the custom miniatures, the promo materials, and the demos. And, it's a great game setting, with quirky and fun (but a bit busy) mechanics. I'd suggest people waiting for White Wolf's "Wild West Werewolf" just buy "Deadlands" instead and go nuts. Replace "manitou" with "Pentex" and go nuts. It's a cool background and the developers seem really dedicated. And, for writers, they do the SJG's bit of matching fees if you get articles published.
Chameleon Eclectic's fronting for the B-5 roleplaying game was the other toast of the town, albiet with mixed reception. The game wasn't actually out yet, and after being in the demo, I can see why. The setting is pure gold (for B-5 fans), but the mechanics draws from their "Millenium's End" system and drew almost universal outcry as "too many tables", "too complex", "pointless". Considering that, after 10 minutes of rolling and table-hopping, PPG hits always turned out fatal, I'd have to agree. The designer loves that system, though, so I fear the worst. If they ditch the combat mechanics as people are urging, they'll do well. Otherwise, they'll still have good sales as a source book, but they'll be missing out on a great opportunity to have a good game.
Daedalus's Feng Shui had a strong appearance, definitely helped by their strong net presence (in rec.games.frp.misc and over the WWW). Their first sourcebook is rumored to be coming out soon. Rubicon Games has picked up Everway, and seem to be very pumped on supporting it. They've sent out the demo kits that the previous owners had advertised, which was a nice way to honor commitments to the game.
Several new LARPs are out, following the success of White Wolf's glossy but behind-the-times "Masquerade". West End's "Star Wars Live Rules" was out, as was "Cyberworld" (though I didn't see it at GenCon), and rumors of other systems are rampant. But, as a LARPer, I rate most of these as still being behind-the-times, with most actions requiring not just die rolling (which breaks the mood) but GM intervention. It's not really "live action" if you have to degenerate to a table-top resolution of every simple task! Rather than designing clever new systems which use the best of what LARP culture has come up with, most companies seem happy just packaging their table-tops with some people-scaled miniature rules. But enough soapboxing, I'll shut up now. See you all again next month!
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