2009 in review

It’s been a great year for gaming,  possibly the best ever. All year long I’ve been up to my ears in D&D, 4th edition to be specific. If I’ve got my maths right I’ve DMed 55 sessions this year alone. My home group are nicely into the paragon tier, and still loving every minute of it. I’m getting lots of reviewing done, both here and at RPGnet. WotC have been very busy too, and I thought it would be a good time to look at some of the highlights for the release schedule in 2009.

I’m a collector as  well as a gamer and I think I’ve bought just about every release for D&D from WotC this last year. Exceptions being The Best of Dragon and Adventurers Vault 2. It’s getting harder and harder to keep up with the relentless release schedule. I can just about hold on to the book releases but I hardly ever get the most out of Dragon and Dungeon despite being a subscriber. In fact, one of my resolutions for the coming year is to only pick up the DM books as I rarely play and the DDI can help me out when I do get the chance. I guess that’s why I passed on AV2 in the end. In fact, the 3s for next year are going to have to be really impressive to get me to pony up for them. It’s not that I dislike them, I don’t, but I’m not getting much mileage out of Primal Power (for instance) simply because none of my group play a primal class. Character death is rare these days, so it’s even less likely I’ll see the newer classes at my table. Shame really.

Back to the topic. My picks for 2009 are going to start with a cheat. The best adventure I’ve yet seen for 4e was part of Dungeon 161 which hit our screens in Dec 08. It’s The Temple Between by Ari Marmell. This was reviewed in 4 parts on this very blog as well as over at RPGnet as part of my ongoing series. Ari himself was kind enough to join the conversation and I was delighted to be able to tell him how highly I rated his adventure. My review is available right here.

Speaking of adventures, this year I wrote two, the Fey Team and the Night Riders, both for Furnace. I don’t write many and I really took my time over these. Thankfully I got the luxury of some time at the keyboard whilst on my summer holidays and WotC really came to the rescue with the best digital app of the year, Adventure Tools. Finally I could export decent looking stat blocks to a word processor. Not only that but I could delevel and raise monsters in a second. I can’t wait to see what else they add to this, it’s only going to help the beleaguered DMs like me. I may even put my adventures up as PDFs if I can find the time this year.

When it comes down to it, I’m old fashioned and like to have solid books on my shelf. WotC delivered quite the assortment in 09. They finished the H/P/E series of adventures (which most groups are years away from finishing… sheesh), they kept the Power books popular, they dropped in some very well recieved 2s for the core books, and then of course there was Eberron. Eberron never really grabbed me in the previous edition, and I’m still not sure why. This time round I got all giddy and bought up loads of old stuff on ebay for pennies. Pick of that bunch was City of Stormreach from very late in 3.5’s cycle. I really enjoyed DMG 2, it had real effects on my games and made me see things in all kinds of new ways. When you’ve been running games for 30 years that comes as a surprise. But my winner for the year is the book I keep coming back to, the single best read in the 4e catalogue, Manual of the Planes. Every page has something extraordinary on it, yet it’s not overwhelming. It manages to balance inspiration with aspiration. You never get the feeling it’s someone elses universe, every little bit is for your group to use as you see fit. It was the inspiration for my own world where the Feywild and the shadowfell are at war, and the world is the battlefield. A great book. 

Finally, there’s the supplementary things that actually for me make the whole game come to life. Minis. The decision to repackage the minis with the RPG foremost in mind has really worked for me. Now I can get all my monsters, some of which I know about in advance, some I don’t. Better, the players can see their own picks and I don’t have to worry about supplying everything. Then there’s the tiles. I don’t use tthem every single week, but whenever I do they’re well recieved. My fave was Sinister Woods, a really inspirational set that manged to combine the wilderness with the dungeon beautifully.

So there you go. A great year for seperating my money from me, but all worth while because i’ve gotten some awesome gaming out of it. 2010 is looking good too, I’m eagerly awaiting Hammerfast and the Ravenloft board game.

Lastly, a big thanks to my players Claire, Dan, Steve, Jules and Mark and to all those who have stopped by to read my posts and especially to those of you who have left a comment. I’m delighted to report that today has seen the 10 000th visitor to the site. Who knows what the next year will bring.

Cheers!

Baz

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