If you want to know how to game like the pros, you need to read the Kobold Guides.
Each of these guides, published by the disembodied intelligences known on our plane of existence as Kobold Press, takes an aspect of gaming and dives deep on it, covering everything from board game design to worldbuilding and plots.
Better yet, the editors assume this isn’t your first time tangling with an owlbear, and don’t waste time explaining the basics. Instead, they give you high-level, intimate, and detailed knowledge of how the inner pieces of game move.
Each guide is a multiplicity of essays featuring shining stars of the gaming firmament. The goal of every guide is to teach the masses how to roll like a pro.
Wolfgang Baur, founder of Kobold Press, said that the reception to the guides has been so positive that “the Kobold Guides have been used as text books in university classes on Game Design, at a dozen universities and colleges.”
Thinking about designing your own setting? You can go look up what the award-winning creator of Numenera and a little game called 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons, Monte Cook, has to say about it in The Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding.
Want to design your own game, but don’t know where to start? Check out The Kobold Guide to Game Design. Learn about how to turn the persistent scratch on the inside of your head and into a game you can actually play with an essay by Rob Heinsoo, genius creator of 13th Age and the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons.
We here at Geek & Sundry have chosen a few of our favorite pieces from the smorgasbord of gaming goodness that is the Kobold Guides.
Combat: The Thrilling Illusion
“Ready for the controversy? Okay, here goes: combat isn’t important… No. The only thing that’s important, really, is the grand illusion of combat.” – Clinton J. Boomer, The Kobold Guide to Combat
Before you start diving for the comment section, Clinton goes on the explain that combat is not important because for a role-playing game to function, the vast majority of times PCs enter a battle, they should emerge victorious. If PCs died at anything like the actual rate of people with sharpened pieces of metal trying to slaughter dragons, telling a story would become impossible because all the characters would be dead or in a medieval burn ward.
Therefore, Mr. Boomer states, combat must give the illusion, of danger and failure, so that it is exciting even though we all know that the characters are going to be fine.
On Worldbuilding: The Poison of Completeness
“The gamer’s instinct is that of the otaku who must know everything. The designer’s instinct should be to provide only that which is relevant, to provide the most immediately useful material and nothing else… Completeness is its own reward, but it is a GM’s nightmare. If everything is defined (somewhere), the GM has no latitude to invent his own material. If everything is documented, the GM needs to know and master those huge reams of material just in case.” – Wolfgang Baur, The Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding
Paladin of the Polyhedrons and publisher of the Kobold Guides, Wolfgang Baur believes that encyclopedic world design is a hindrance and not a help to gamers. Yes, building a world is a lot of fun and Tolkien did it so why can’t I? But that “otaku instinct” as Baur names it is best resisted, for that way lies madness for the GM.
If one creates a literal encyclopedia of a fictional realm, it obliges the GM to read the whole damn thing and know it root and branch. This both shackles the GM, and gives her a stack of homework. Therefore, relevance is the great test for whether or not a GM should include something in setting material.
From “Selling Your Soul: A Guide”
“As with any commodity, a soul’s value fluctuates with the market and access to potential buyers, but in most scenarios a seller can expect three things: luxury, attention, and finality.” – F. Wesley Schneider, The Kobold Guide to Magic
Co-designer of the Pathfinder role-playing game, F. Wesley Schneider literally takes the devil’s part in this essay on the hows and whys of selling your immortal soul. He describes, for example, that knowing the eternal home of one’s soul can actually provide some benefits.
To put it succinctly, if you know you’re going to Hell anyway, why not sell your soul? You will at least receive the joys of a life lived well and full. The soul-seller doesn’t lose anything, as she knew the doom of torment she’d already earned. Why not milk the devil for a few more perks before burning?
Schneider’s ability to imagine the economic ins and outs of soul-selling is thrilling, terrifying, and more engaging that watching a butterfly land on a koala’s nose during a photoshoot.
What do you think about the illusion of combat? Let us know in the comments below!
All images courtesy Kobold Press.
Ben Riggs speaks five languages, and has lived in four countries on three continents, but still manages to lose his keys in the bathroom. A friend to man, animal, and werewolf alike, you can discover more of Ben’s thoughts on game, the universe, and everything on Twitter, or on the Plot Points Podcast, available on iTunes or Libsyn.