Greetings! I see that Iâ€™ve managed to let a few weeks go by between posts again; my apologies. For the last several months, Iâ€™ve been engaged in a string of relatively short-deadline projects, and itâ€™s harder to make time to keep up with my blog. Iâ€™ll try to do better! Todayâ€™s topics: The map of Athas, the War at Sea starter set, and fantasy baseball!
Redrawing Athas: I spent an hour or two this last week looking over the cartographerâ€™s first draft of the Tyr Region poster map for the new Dark Sun set, so I thought Iâ€™d say a few words about how itâ€™s coming along. Back around August and September of last year, I was working hard on the geography chapters for the revised Campaign Guide book. While I worked, I marked up a map from the original 1991 boxed set. (Initially we planned to use the map from the 1996 set for our starting point, but we decided we wanted to focus more on the core part of the setting and provide better detail there; we wound up spending less time talking about the Jagged Cliffs and the Last Sea and other such peripheral areas than we first planned to.) Now, I love the 1991 map of Athas; I came to know Diesel (thatâ€™s Dave LaForce) pretty well in our days at TSR, and the guy was a genius. Diesel did all that meticulous work by hand â€“ no Photoshop or Illustrator back in those days! But for as pretty as the old map is, there are places where it falls short on functionality.
As I marked up the map, I added scores of tags for places mentioned in the text but not labeled, such as the Black Spine Mountains, the Black Sands region, and various villages and landmarks. I marked a difference between shallow silt and deep silt, which is obviously important for letting the DM know where travelers can go on a silt-skimmer or with the help of a well-paid giant. I also added terrain symbology for mudflats (a terrain thatâ€™s talked about a lot but not actually shown on the map) and requested a sharper visual distinction between terrain types; Dieselâ€™s old map blends terrain in spots where you might want greater precision. We played with the scale on the map so that the Tyr Region wouldnâ€™t be quite so close together. It simply feels like thereâ€™s more room for wilderness adventures, unexplored ruins, and vicious raider tribes when you can get several daysâ€™ travel away from a city, which was hard to do at the old scale. Finally, we came up with dozens of new sites to give DMs great places to set adventures. Anyway, the new map is coming together, and I hope youâ€™ll like it! Â
Revised War at Sea Starter: Itâ€™s really satisfying to see folks finally getting their new starters and reporting on what they think. So far the reviews seem pretty positive, although Iâ€™m puzzled by the folks talking about the new designerâ€™s notesâ€”I donâ€™t think I actually included many (any?) new ones in the rulebook. I think it just shows that the original rulebookâ€™s graphic design was way too busy, and there were things that people just hadnâ€™t ever found or noticed before.
Iâ€™m a little surprised that the fixed units are commanding so much attention and commentary. I figured that most people would pick up the new starter for the sake of the reorganized rulebook incorporating the official rules updates and new scenario-building options, as opposed to getting the starter for the units included. It was my idea to make sure that each of the reprinted units in the starter was a â€śsisterâ€ť ship or new variant rather than a straight-up repeat, so Iâ€™m really gratified to discover that thatâ€™s been a big driver in fan interest for the new starter. Naturally, Iâ€™ve been following the discussions of which units are useful and which arenâ€™t with interest. Well done to those people who noticed how important the Bettyâ€™s extra activation is! Outnumbering your opponentâ€™s airplanes is really, really useful in the game, and it increases the Bettyâ€™s offensive potential by 33% or so in a typical 5-6 round game. I gave the Betty an airfield strike special ability in the design phase, but development thinned it out because we figured that the starter units ought to be kept a bit on the simple side. Some number of new players will be starting with this set, after all.
Fantasy Baseball: Iâ€™ve been playing different varieties of Rotisserie baseball off and on for almost fifteen years, and I just wanted to say a word about a very cool online game â€“ ESPNâ€™s fantasy baseball. You can find it at: games.espn.go.com/frontpage/baseballÂ . Basically, you can choose the categories you want to score in for your league, assign values so that you can score your league on a ranking system or a points-accumulated system. I played it last year with old TSR colleagues Thomas Reid, Dale Donovan, and Daleâ€™s friend Leon. Iâ€™d always imagined that a league where you were checking in every day or two to tinker with your lineup and set your rotation was going to be a real burden to play, but as the season went on, I came to enjoy it a great deal. I also was crushed and came in a distant fourth place, but at least I had a good time getting beat. If youâ€™re a fan of fantasy baseball, Iâ€™d encourage you to go check it out. The price is right, and itâ€™s a great toolkit for a fantasy league.
Thatâ€™s all for today â€“ I need to go scout my picks for the draft!Â Â Â