Top Boss Fights

Across two articles on they detail fifty of the coolest bosses in all of gaming. How many have I beaten? Let’s see…

  • Ganon, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
  • Jecht, Final Fantasy X
  • Bowser, Super Mario Galaxy
  • Mother Brain, Super Metroid
  • Ridley, Super Metroid
  • Psycho Mantis, Metal Gear Solid
  • Mecha Sonic/Robotnik, Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Only seven? How depressing. Even worse, another handful of these are from games I own but have not finished. I’m looking at you, Gunstar Heroes, Shadow of the Colossus and Metroid Prime

The Gamer Resource

EvokeGame designer Jane McGonigal (of World Without Oil and Superstruct) explains how online gaming will change the world at TED2010.

She describes four skills that we develop by playing games:

  1. Urgent Optimism: Gamers believe that success is possible and we can and should act immediately.
  2. Social Fabric: Gamers build strong social connections because playing games together engenders trust and cooperation.
  3. Blissful Productivity: Gamers understand that hard, meaningful work makes us happier than relaxing does.
  4. Epic Meaning: Gamers want to be a part of a world-changing effort.

Her talk continues to describe the origin of games according to Herodotus, and the not-quite-spoken implication is that eighteen years of gaming prepared a dying society for the exodus (or diaspora?) that saved it.

It’s clear from Jane’s work that she believes we live in a dying society, but she’s not exactly suggesting we launch a colony ship in ten years. Instead, she’s hoping that the traits and the effort we invest in games can be directed at the real-world problems we face, before any such exodus is needed.

Part of me thinks that while I have learned some things from gaming, it also makes some people lazy. Another part of me thinks that she just insulted everybody who has ever led a fulfilling life without thinking of it as a game. But with the popularity of online games on the rise, maybe she is just trying to take back the growing part of society that’s been lost to aimless gaming.

Her latest effort, Evoke, started at the beginning of the month. Make this your gaming obsession for the next few weeks, and you just might learn something about changing the world.

No-Prep Games

My last post was targeted at a pretty narrow crowd… here’s one about games that more of you will enjoy.

It’s always nice to know a few games that require little or no preparation and easily acquirable parts. Unfortunately, for most of us the first games that come to mind are childhood diversions that we’re tired of by now, like 20 Questions, hangman or crazy eights. I’ve compiled a list of the more unique and/or creativity-enabling games that I’ve found.

The list (with links for each) is below. Please comment and let me know about any low-prep, creative games that I missed!

Just People
Ghost is a word game for two (and possibly more) players. Be warned – it has been solved, so your opponent may be cheating.

The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is great if you’ve got movie buffs together… probably better if you play it two-ended, so Kevin Bacon doesn’t have to be involved. Need some help? There are engines online to figure these out for you.

Werewolf (also known as Mafia) is a game of guess-who for four or more people; groups of ten to twenty seem to work best. Requires a person willing to be the narrator, and traditionally a deck of cards is used to randomize roles, though you can do this in many ways. Highly customizable!

Pens and Paper
1000 Blank White Cards (also known as the Blank Card Game) is an essentially objective-free game where players draw on index cards and then play them, often to hilarious effect. Play this with the craziest, most creative people you can find. Various rulesets and card archives can be found around the web.

Dvorak is a more structured version of 1000 Blank White Cards, for a more focused game. For the more strategic among us.

Paper Penguins is a pen-and-paper variant on the commercial strategy game Hey! That’s My Fish!. Multiple colors of pens is recommended, but not required.

Rumble is a game for 2 or more players where you bid on custom superpowers and then duke it out with other players. Can be extended with cards, dice, or any number of ways.

(If you ask me, it’s a crime that there aren’t more elegant games written for pen and index cards (and maybe some coins, and a pair of dice). It is hereby my goal to write one by January 2011.)

Ordinary Playing Cards
Ascot is a horse-race for two players with a 52-card deck.

Checks is a new card game for two players.

Cribbage never gets old, works equally great for 2, 3 and 4 players and can be scored with pen and paper. For a twist, play it as a golf game.

Cuttle is one of the earliest combat card games for two players.. It plays a bit like a CCG (Magic the Gathering, or Pokemon) but using a 52-card deck and without the fanboy factor.

Dracula is a card placement game for two to four players using 54 cards (you need your jokers!).

Mao is a card game with mutable rules, where the trick is to figure out what the rules are.

First-Time RPG Referee

I haven’t ever played in a tabletop RPG, much less GM’d, DM’d or refereed one. I’ve got the itch to try it out, though, so I’ve been compiling articles and tools about learning how to GM. Here’s a list of what I’ve found. Much of the material written on this topic is specifically about Dungeons & Dragons, but the advice can be applied more generally; myself, I’d really like to try running Star Wars Roleplaying Game: SAGA Edition or maybe Spirit of the Century. Here’s hoping these resources will help me (and maybe someone else) get started!

So You Wanna Be A DM? by AKA_Bait is the most friendly and thorough introduction to the topic I’ve found.
How to Run Roleplaying Games by Greg Stolze. Very professional.
A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming by Matthew Finch talks to both players and GMs about an older style of RPG… but to me it just sounds like good principles for running a fun game.
Rama’s Rules of Running an RPG by Jason Rama is a quick list of things to remember when learning to GM.
GM Guide by Colin G Hetherington seems like a very detailed resource, but it’s incomplete.
17 Steps to GMing a New RPG for the First Time by Martin Ralya is about your first encounter with a new system.
How to GM, DM, ST or just Run an RPG by lhewitt is a shorter and more general introduction to the topic.
The Rancor Pit – Gamemaster Tips for the West End Games D6 Star Wars RPG.

Sites and blogs for GMs
The Tao of D&D is a blog about making the rules serve the game, not the other way around.
Newbie has some interesting resources.
Gnome Stew claims to be the #1 GM blog on the planet.
Roleplaying Tips posts regular articles for DMs.

Free (or free-to-try) RPGs
Spirit of the Centry can be played for free from the SRD on their website.
Swords and Wizardry is a totally free, very simple game that’s a throwback to the earliest fantasy gaming. Lots of resources here.
Castles & Crusades Quick Start Rules are also free classic fantasy gaming.
Savage Worlds provides a Test Drive to try-before-you-buy.
The Four Color System is a free superhero RPG.
Have-A-Go Heroes is an extremely simple and quick Superhero RPG based on Mystery Men.
The West End Games D6 System core books are free PDFs.
The Dawn of Defiance Campaign for the SWRPG SAGA Edition would be a good thing to DM first. Not sure how badly you need the core book for this.
True20 Quickstart Rules for yet another fantasy system.
Blue Rose Fast Play is a free-to-try adventure.
GURPS Lite is a free condensation of the commercial GURPS roleplaying system.

World-building resources
Liam’s Pictures from Old Books is an archive of free images, including illuminated lettering and drop-capitals.
The Medieval Bestiary has similar illustrations of various animals and monsters.

The Order of the Stick is a D&D Webcomic. It never hurts to see how others have had fun with the genre/game!