Review: Open Game Table Anthology, Volume 1

April 3rd, 2009

ogtlogo-rectangleI’ve mentioned Open Game Table: The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs, Volume 1 before, but last week I got my hands on the hard copy and set to reading it.  The long and the short of it:  It met my expectations (and they were high) in every way.

Jonathan Jacobs, of The Core Mechanic, brought the project together quickly and professionally.  He’d probably be the first to tell you he didn’t do it alone, but the time and effort he put into this went way beyond a couple of blog posts — not just collecting the various posts that went into the anthology, but rounding up some artist volunteers, investigating means of distributing the final product, even getting Wolfgang Baur to write a foreword.  That shows in the quality of the finished book.  This is a professional product.  A round of applause here for him.

So, what’s in the book?

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First, there’s that foreword.  Wolfgang Baur reflects on the history of “fan community engagement” in roleplaying games, from the ‘zines of the 70s to the blogs of the present day.  It’s more than just that, of course, but it’s pretty complimentary.  Next there’s Jonathan’s own preface, written, like so many of his posts, with humility and grace.

After that come the posts.  Almost 50 blog posts from 2008, in fact, collected and edited, divided into chapters based on such topics as “Characters & Players” and “Game Setting Design.”  Interspersed among them are about 70 pieces of art, which spans the gamut from Jennifer Weigel’s lighthearted, cartoonish pieces (which remind me of Tom Wham’s work)  to Hugo Solis’s detailed sketches.

The posts themselves mostly talk about Dungeons & Dragons… but to say that is deceptive.  Those posts discuss virtually every edition of the game, from the original booklets to the fourth edition.  But that’s not the end of it, either:  the posts talk about the game, but their content is, with a few exceptions, not directly dependent on the game.  David Bowman’s post on the Entourage Approach to a game is written from an OD&D perspective, but the idea could easily be adapted to 4e… or to HERO, or to whatever your game system of choice might be.  Likewise, Stuart Broz’s Culture-Making Checklist, from Neitherworld Stories, was written for a D&D campaign, but it could just as easily be used to generate an alien culture for a game of GURPS Space or the Star Wars RPG.  Of the entire book, only chapter 8 (“Classes, Action & Equipment”) might be hard to adapt to other systems, since it contains a new class, a new Warlock pact, and two articles about new weapons, all for 4e.

(The class was my monk.  Nice as it is to see it in print, I wonder whether the entire thing should have been published.  It seems like it takes up an awful lot of space.)

That still leaves nine other chapters, 100 other pages of gaming goodness.  Do you know about the first modern roleplaying game?  No, not Greyhawk, not even Blackmoor, but Braunstein.  There’s an article about it in here.  Maybe you’re a GM who wants some help writing your next adventure?  There are several posts in here that might help you.  Do you want to be a better player?  Here’s an article for you.  Got everything down cold, and the only thing you need is something to put on the battlemat to represent the PCs at your next session?  There’s an article about how to make your own counters.

I can’t stress this enough:  There is truly something for everyone in this anthology.  Everyone who has any interest in roleplaying games, at any rate.  NPCs and rules, tools and tips, musings on the past and on the future.  As a reader of roleplaying-related blogs, you will enjoy this book.

You may have noticed the “Volume 1″ on the end of the title.  Yes, there is hopefully to be a Volume 2 — but that depends on how well Volume 1 does.  If you’d like to see the project continue to flourish, please support Jonathan by purchasing a copy.  You won’t regret it.

Open Game Table is a 130-page (plus foreword, preface, and table of contents) perfect-bound softcover.  It retails for $22.95, and it’s available at Amazon and Lulu.

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Related posts:

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  3. Anthology Contest Update
  4. Reminder: Contest Closing Today
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