RPG Software Pre-review
Micky Gunn and Mike Lloret
Some of you are aware that I have been known to spend some of my free time playing Computer Role Playing Games (CRPGs). You may remember that I wrote a review of The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall a while back, for example. Theres a fair amount of RPG-related content on my website, too, including a couple of the fantasy stories Ive written loosely based on the Daggerfall world of Tamriel. Involvement in a Daggerfall mailing list (email@example.com) originally led to participating in some of the multi-author continuing fantasy fiction stories sagas, really which are one of the features of that list, and it was a fairly smooth progression to go from that to implementing a pilot run of a Play-by-e-mail (PBEM) RPG with the participation of some of my friends from the mailing list and the designer of my website, an RPG fan and fantasy artist himself. Eventually, a PBEM RPG will be one of the permanent features of my website, but the test is proceeding currently with participants from New Zealand; Denver, Colorado; Portland, Oregon; and Zionsville, Indiana.
I somehow missed the entire pen-and-paper role-playing game thing; my introduction to RPGs was through computers. My comrades in the PBEM game, though, are veterans of "kitchen table" RPGs typified by Advanced Dungeons & DragonsŪ, the rules and style of which form the basic template for our PBEM RPG (and many others, too). In CRPGs, of course, the computer uses the game software to keep track of player characters (PC) and non-player character (NPC) statistics, inventory, etc., and to provide maps and perform the calculations which determine such things as whether your characters blow hit home or whether the monster gets to eat you. In pen-and-paper RPGs, the Dungeon Master (or Game Master) is largely responsible for rolling multi-sided dice to determine such things, for keeping track of the characters condition and inventory, and a host of other details, including keeping the story moving.
The PBEM were testing out is in the very capable hands of Micky Gunn, our lovely, intelligent, witty, multi-talented, and very devious and crafty Dungeon Master. Basically, she has designed a complex medieval fantasy story and is revealing and modifying it as the various participating characters e-mail her their responses and reactions to the tales events as it unfolds for them, which is of course made more difficult by the geographical separation and the consequent timing issues. To help her in her task, she has been using TSR, Inc.s Advanced Dungeons & DragonsŪ CD-ROM Core Rules (which includes, among much else, the contents of several reference books used by RPG players and Dungeon Masters), and ProFantasy Software Ltd.s Campaign Cartographer 2, a map-making application. Ive been sent a review copy of Campaign Cartographer, and Il be writing a complete review in a near-future issue of the AJ as soon as I find the time to investigate its many functions and climb a bit further up its learning curve. For now, listen to what Micky says about her first impression of her brand-new copy of TSRs new version, 2.0, of the AD&D Core Rules (which contains a limited version of Campaign Cartographer called Campaign Mapper). She sent us players an e-mail "first look review", which I decided to print in the AJ for the benefit of any of you gamers out there (you know who you are).
I've spent just one hour exploring this CD so far, but already I can tell you that this is a vast improvement on the first edition (which was very restricting, if you didn't want a "stock standard" character). The interface is easy to use, more flexible (you can still add things that wouldn't normally be allowed in the rules...it warns you of this, but you have a "go ahead anyway" option), and space saving (Grungebeard's character sheet condensed from three pages to one page, and Lys' condensed from four to two!). BTW Mike, that annoying "goody two shoes" wizard tutor guy is back...but only for the first couple of minutes <g>. [Gods, but I loathed him. Mike]
I like the fact that there are more books (Players Handbook, Dungeon MasterŪ Guide, Monstrous Manual tm, Skills and Powers, Combat and Tactics, Arms and Equipment, Tome of Magic, Spells and Magic, High Level Campaigns, as well as a help manual and access to online help)....most of which I didn't previously own (real value for money there). There's bound to be a few sticking points though, so I'll make a list of 'em when I find 'em.
Everything is customisable, and that's always handy. Loads more weapons and equipment too (was able to overlook something as basic or important as that?), but there are more races available as PCs (good to see the half-orcs there!), and you can choose to use the standard AD&D rules, or enhance them with the "Players' Option" series of books (many of which are mentioned in the above paragraph).
Eventually I'd like to do this, since we've got the time to enhance the characters, and it would make for better roleplaying (I believe so, anyway). Let me know what you think...don't worry if you don't have the books, I can liaise with you until we get the balance of skills, etc., you want...no hurry.
There is a basic version of Campaign Cartographer included (renamed Campaign Mapper), as well as another mapping program, which I haven't bothered to check out yet, since CC is so good. I'll be getting Dungeon
Designer 2 (made by the same company) in the next couple of weeks (hopefully sooner), so will be putting that to use for future dungeons! Oh, while we're on the subject of maps: two of you have mentioned the download time is minimal, and I haven't heard from Sherrian yet (because she doesn't have access to a PC until Monday...bummer!), so for now I'll just keep sending the maps out, but I'll try to bear in mind that it's a long download for some of you.
Back to Core Rules: The overall impression is that this was a worthwhile investment...an invaluable tool for DMs everywhere. Where else can you find all these books, roll up a character (without having to look anything up) in five minutes max, create a campaign map, roll dice, encounters, treasure, NPCs, etc., without having to leave your chair!
Ill probably be doing a review sometime in the future of our PBEM, when we get all the kinks worked out. Its a fascinating concept, and an interesting pastime. Ill save the enormously detailed sample maps for my review of Campaign Cartographer, but the one at the bottom of this page is one of those that Micky produced for the PBEM, to give you an idea of what the program can do. You can contact Micky at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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