Sunday, April 23, 2017

Product Review: Designers & Dragons

Product Review: Designers & Dragons
Book & pdf $20 Pdf $10
by. Shannon Appelcline

Designers & Dragons is broken down in four separate books. The 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s.  The breakdown is by what companies were created in that decade.  Companies both defunct and still in existence.  Each book stands on its own nicely, and at the end of each section is a handy reference on what to read next depending on if you want to follow the books organization or jump from the end of TSR to the beginning of Wizards of the Coast and so forth.

Each volume reads nicely, with a narrative flair that tell the story of the people and the games/companies they made.  I wish I had found this gem earlier, or like so many things wish I had a time machine to read this as a kid as it was not only a great read about hte companies and games I love(d) but about companies that I never knew existed, yet either influenced my hobby and style of play, or were more in line with what I was looking for but never knew.

The style of writing does change with more emphasis on mechanics design, especially in the 00s. Of course as with all history, it is easier to understand why a mechanic or idea came about when you can interview the direct source, rather than relaying on interviews of someone that has already passed on.
The indie revolution of the 00s focuses a lot more on the development of game theory and so forth.

Finding out some of the logic about why my favorite lines of games died (it isn't always just sales were low...) was enlightening if bittersweet.

The book may miss your favorite obscure publication, I know it missed one of mine, however the book tries to focus on games and companies that had impact on the gaming community.  So certain omissions are to be expected, however, the books are quite extensive and cover as much as they can.

In the world of Amazon and DrivethruRPG friendly neighborhood games stores are getting fewer and far between.  Which in turn makes it hard for new games to get exposure and get known.  The series serves as a great treasure trove to discover what has and does exist out there and may provide some fun and interesting systems for people to go out any try.

Some personal favorites from the books include:

- Clarifying a rumor I heard as a kid about Vampire the Masquerade.

- As a young player of Vampire the Masquerade I was told that the Tremere clan existed because one of the founders wanted to play their DnD Wizard in the early game. Reading a developer history (Designers and Dragons '90) I found out this had more to do with the acquisition of the rites to Ars Magika by WW, which was going to be the original "history" of the world of darkness. Tremere is a house from that game, and was directly implanted over. The Order of Hermes in Mage:the Ascension is a hold over from Ars Magika as well. Although the idea was scrapped, you can kind of think of Mage: Dark Ages as kind of a re-invention of the Ars Magika roots.

- Why the Warhammer wasn't in Mechwarrior Online launch.  The Warhammer is perhaps one of the most iconic mechs from Battletech.  I had seen a nearly identical looking mech in the anime Macross, and began to wonder which came first.  It turns out that the whole issue comes down to a miniatures production company and licencing (The owners of Macross anime had the design first, which licenced it (and others) to a miniatures company, which sold them to FASA (with a licence), then FASA was later sued by the folks who had gotten the robotech licence and that conflict resulted in it not being there much to the surprise of many fans (along with 13 other mechs).  I guess the issue has been resolved since the Warhammer is in the game now.

-What killed FASA and White Wolf

The short version is Microsoft killed FASA and the company that ownes EVE Online killed White Wolf.

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