April 28th, 2010
Published on April 28th, 2010 @ 03:18:46 am , using 201 words, 372 views
Two things today:
1) I can happily announce that the PDF of Amethyst will have a small difference from its print version. Just to remind, the PDF is being released AFTER the print version, not at the same time (to support local game stores). However, the PDF will be partially in color. That's right, color. The powers are color-coded. The character sheet is in color. The world maps are in color. Even a few images in the book are in color. Not only that, but we are also offering it as a low-ink PDF which reduces strain on inkjet toner. This version has no background imagery, though it does have art.
2) Completely unrelated. From advice from friends, I have joined Webook (http://www.webook.com). I have posted two "first-pages" so far. One is Amethyst - Aiden's Way (based on game), and the second is a fairy-tale called House of Skye. If any of you are signed up (or plan on signing up), and if you happen to come across any of these, I hope you will give it a favorable score (Amethyst currently has a 62% approval which is REALLY high for that site and for the number of hits I have).
April 24th, 2010
Published on April 24th, 2010 @ 02:15:58 am , using 106 words, 249 views
Couple little points, all of them big.
Firstly, Gnomes Stew has an article where they thoroughly cover the first four chapters of Foundations. They'll be doing a full review in a couple weeks but this is a great article about the character generation in Amethyst.
Second, the Pre-Order package has increased yet again. We have created four high-res wallpapers which are being included in the DLC. You can see them below. They won't be available to regular download for some time after the release. They come to us from our resident master painter, Nick Greenwood. I think these are fantastic.
April 21st, 2010
Published on April 21st, 2010 @ 03:53:31 pm , using 1174 words, 309 views
Rarely do I weigh in on current talking points. Firstly, because I feel they are manipulated and forced into the light by its fanatics and also because people are entitled to their opinions but not necessarily their facts. The one catching my attention recently deals with the dialogue over whether or not video games are art. The extremes of this conversation appear to be defined by Roger Ebert at one extend and the operators of Penny Arcade (Gabe and Tycho as they are publically known) at the other. The reason I am discussing this is because I'm a huge fan of both of them and regularly frequent their respective sites. I value Roger's opinion as well as Tycho's (the more vocal of the pair). So where do I place myself?
Flat squarely in the middle. I sincerely believe both parties are sitting too far in their respective camps. I've played computer games from the early days of Pong. It comes down to expression, which I believe is Roger's point. If someone is expressing something passionately through a work, it is artistic. Someone can even make the claim that true art is long, frustrating, and ultimately unrewarding in its process. Roger's point stems from the format of games. Since a game is user defined and user influenced, and forces a purpose and an objective, it removes the capacity of total expression and is against the purpose of art...to have no purpose. Games must make concessions on multiple levels for the purpose of gameplay.
A work must be rated on its total expression--meaning music in a game or art in a game does not render the game artistic--it is the totality of the work. Just because a game has art or music does not translate to it being anymore artistic as is an oil painting on canvas being considered more artistic than a graphite expression on paper. In this way, Roger is absolutely correct; nearly every game you can think of is not art. Not Pong or Wing Commander, not Sims or God of War or Gran Turismo. They have no artistic merit. It is unfortunate that these works include music and art and writing, which, when separated, become art, but amalgamated into an interactive game, it loses that expression. However, some other people claim art is any medium which does not produce or serve a function. If you create something which does not create something else and does not serve a purpose (other than entertainment) and is only there to exist, it is an artistic expression. Then, anything can be art.
In the end, art is subjective and a matter of opinion. For either side to declare their opinions as absolute and fact I believe shows a weakness in both their arguments. There are so many examples of artistic expressions some critics would claim as art and others they would not. Consider these: War miniatures, automobiles, role playing games. Are they artistic? If you buy a warhammer miniature, is it art? Is your painting of that miniature art and if it is...yours or the original sculptures? It's important to know that I never look at aspects of my life and world around it as artistic or not artistic. I don't sit in a theatre contemplating if Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen is art and if Michael Bay considers himself an artist. If we claim Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain is artistic, then Transformers 2 must also be considered art as well, just art I particularly despise. I never liked Jackson Pollock's work but I acknowledge that many people considered him a master. I look at Nick Greenwood, my primary artist for Amethyst and I do indeed declare him as one...an artist. Am I? I have never stood on a soapbox and declared my writing as artistic, but some writing is.
Going back to Roger and PA, they both make extreme points of yes and no. I've explained Roger's argument. PA counters by declaring my previous point, that nearly anything is art if it's an expression of one or several people's opinion. I can see and understand that as well. However, I think PA missed a hat trick by reducing their talking points to personal attacks against Mr. Ebert. It threatens their opinion as being the knee-jerk reactions of the extreme opposite.
Tycho makes a point that games like Braid and Flower can be considered art. Roger makes a point that they are not because they have an objective--a purpose to be completed--and thus cannot be considered artistic. I think both sides are right. However, I disagree with Tycho where he says "If a hundred artists create art for five years, how could the result not be art?" Well, a million monkeys typing at typewriters will eventually create Shakespeare but it is not art despite the fact it looks like Shakespeare. I was also upset by Tycho's dismissing of Roger's opinion, further degraded with remarks like "I can't for the life of me figure out why we give a shit what that creature says." It's unnecessary, especially since Roger effectively says something similar ("Why aren't gamers content to play their games and simply enjoy themselves?")
Mr. Ebert 's fallacy stems from his lack of experience. He refuses to indulge the possibility that he is wrong, nor is he willing to sit down and play these games people have been suggesting. Braid is a good example, so is Flower, two games I have played and would very much claim is art. Yes. I would say that. Braid and Flower have artistic merit. I would go further than that and also claim that Okami, Ico, and Shadow of the Colossus are also artistic. But I have experienced these games directly. But this is my opinion. It is not a declaration to be considered as fact. There are people out there that think Pong has artistic merit. Some people feel Okami and Ico are horrible games and not worth your time. They may not call it art.
So this is my opinion, which it always was. I think Roger is on shaky ground because he is not willing to expand his definition of art nor is he open to seeing if these games have artistic value by actually playing them. I also think Penny Arcade is wrong by declaring, without concession, that Roger Ebert is "on the wrong side of history" discrediting him as an old man who just doesn't get it. I'm sorry Tycho. We can lay that argument against O'Reilly or Glenn Beck, but don't aim your crosshairs to Roger Ebert in questioning his comprehension of artwork. Remember, this is the guy that stood on a soapbox and declared Dark City as the best film of the year. It is wrong to dismiss him and to drop him in the wastebasket as an obsolete voice of an almost forgotten age.
Am I an artist? You can call me one...but if someone asked me, I would say no. I'm a storyteller. This is what I do...
April 20th, 2010
Published on April 20th, 2010 @ 04:49:55 pm , using 690 words, 3919 views
Something which has been brought up a lot recently deals with canon and non-canon classes and races from later WOTC publications. We state with the first PHB which classes are canon and which are not--the guide being that divine classes are all out and the only arcane class is Wizard. This actually extends to further publications as well. Amethyst has always been a low-to-medium magic setting. There is powerful magic but it's rare. So there should only be one arcane character per group.
As for races, the same rule applies--no races other than our own...so let's go back to classes.
Let's look first at Player's Handbook 2:
Avenger: A divine class so no.
Barbarian: This is the tricky one. While there is nothing to really prevent someone from choosing barbarian, it's something you would never see in my personal Amethyst game...at least if my players were good guys. Many of the nations in Amethyst are too civilized to really have them. Still, I won't say they are non-canon. If anything, I would avoid making these human. Chaparrans, pagus, sure.
Bards: If these guys were charismatic leaders with the power to sway the masses with their words (like the way we altered them for Amethyst 3.5 or how Goodman presented them in their book last year), I wouldn't mind...but PHB2 makes them spellcasters...so they're out.
Druid: Druids were present in the 3.5 Amethyst and we have lifepaths which emulate some of their powers. This is another tough one. I would definitely see them with the condition that they are rarer than wizards and nearly always non-human (once again, chaparrans being the best suggestion).
Invoker: This is another divine class so they are out.
Shaman: Another primal class and like Barbarians, would be well suited to the wilder races (chaparrans, pagus). This is another rarity but not against canon.
Warden: This one's good but still another common sight with wilder races.
So in conclusion, we can see how this is going. Arcane and Divine classes are always out. Primal classes are optional on the condition the fluff matches. I recommend connecting them to wilder race in Amethyst like Pagus, Half Pagus, and Chaparrans and some humans. You would never see a primal class with Damaskans, Laudenians, or humans from a kingdom or free house.
Now to Players Handbook 3:
Here is a shock...I could see allowing Minotaur. It is a mythological creature based on real legends...so I could see allowing it in canon.
Now PHB3 introduces Psionic classes. It should be noted that psionics don't technically break canon, but we don't explain why. For now, let me say that they are not a common sight and would be the rarest class in the game.
Ardent: As stated, we would allow Ardent...though we cannot say why yet.
Battlemind: Same as above...
Monk: Despite being called psionics, Monks are good.
Psion: Kinda pushing it, this one. Just saying. I would avoid it and keep with the other three.
Runepriest: Divine...waaait. Not necessarily. If you homebrew a rule swapping divine runs for Pleroma...I could see allowing it. This would be really rare and I would only allow it if a player was really begging.
Seeker: Returning to the Primal conversation with PHB2, this can be included, though it would be rare and more accustomed to wilder races.
So PHB3 spices things up a bit. For one, we make an exception for Runepriest and give a provisional tolerance to the psionic classes on the condition they be allowed sparingly.
After all is said in done, of the 14 classes in between PHB2 and 3, ten are good to go, though some are more well suited than others. Personally, I would allow any primal classes if the player wanted to play chaparran. But beyond that, I would recommend my player group stick with the staples.
In a strange sense of irony, it should be noted that (with the exception of the necromancer), the classes in both Forgotten Heroes: Scythe and Shroud and Forgotten Heroes: Fang, Fist, and Song are all allowed. And it's not just because they are also published by Goodman.
April 17th, 2010
Published on April 17th, 2010 @ 03:08:45 am , using 584 words, 370 views
In Neuroglyph's praise of Amethyst, he did voice some criticisms I would like to address.
The first, and I placed it there for a reason (thanks Justified) deals with the character roles we assigned our techan classes. We eventually decided to double title our classes (Defender/Controller, Defender/Leader, etc). Now, Mike stated that the Grounder is a strange Defender because he doesn't have an at-will ability to mark targets. Now, he DOES have some marking abilities (about three or four if I recall through the class) but the reason we assigned the Defender position (beyond the fact that marking is not specifically mentioned as being a requirement) was the fact that the Grounder has the capacity to defend his position and prevent enemy advancement. Area Denial allows you to shoot enemies that get too close. Meat Shield allows you to hold up in a defense position as well. He is also a controller as he can lay down area affects to multiple enemies.
The Marshall is a Defender/Leader and he totally fills that as he DOES have an at-will which marks and he does alter the combat field by moving both allies and enemies around the combat field. He does have some healing but it is insignificant to the Warlord equivalent. The Operator is labeled Leader/Striker. Massive healing means leader but Striker? Strikers inflict heavy damage to single targets. Well, the Operator has one of the most powerful at-will's you will ever find, Weapon Savant. He also has other powerful single target abilities like Pattern Recognition, Weak Spot, Disruption Blast--in fact most of this attack powers involve single target attacks with some inflicting condition. Now that being said, the Stalker is listed as being a Defender/Striker....yup, that's wrong. He's a Controller/Striker. Oh well. Mistakes do occasionally occur.
Now, as for the Non-AC bonuses, if you take a real close look at the techan classes, you'll notice their Will Saves don't get much better with time compared to fantasy characters. Other than drugs and a few implants, it was hard to create items which can boost these. So we wrote in a fluff piece indicating that techans were especially resistant to enchantment and offered them all a +2 bonus to Will Defense. That was basically it.
Additionally, Mike brings up the common issue people have--the removal of divine classes. Firstly, from a crunch point of view, the alteration of these classes to confine into Amethyst's view of "non-gods" may be interpreted as redefining--something the GSL states clearly we cannot do. Second, canon Amethyst has wizards and magical items (both natural and forged). It even has alchemy and although a few people exhibit some natural powers, there is nothing in the setting which allows someone to bond with a gate.
The mentality being that I don't see clerics in Middle Earth. I don't see clerics in Harry Potter. Do I sacrifice setting integrity for crunch or do I follow the canon and simply say, no clerics? I just felt spinning the rules around to find an excuse for Warlocks and Clerics was just that...an excuse. Amethyst is intended to be a medium to low magic setting, and if there are all these power casters walking around, the entire setting falls into the absurd...in my opinion. Spellcasters in Amethyst are intended to be rare. Many people try, but not a lot of them succeed. As one character says in the novel...
"If everyone could wave a wand, there'd be anarchy."