Monday, September 13, 2010

Review: Open Game Table Volume 2

So, over the summer someone was posting around looking for reviews of their work. Wanting something to do, especially if it gave me more to do here, I volunteered. Lo and behold, said work was the Open Gaming Table volume 2, which arrived yesterday and I have spent a good chunk of time since flipping through and reading the various articles found inside. Now, this review is going to be a bit different. It's not a game system after all, so scoring it doesn't seem right. Instead I'm going to use a simple Pass/Fail mechanic for the over-all nature of the book. If it passes, I'll be recommending it to you all, as the material in is good enough to warrant a look through in my opinion. If it doesn't, I won't be. So, lets go and see how it does.

Just the Review: Pass, I recommend you look through this when/if you get a chance.

Open Gaming Table Volume 2 is an anthology of various blog posts from all around the internet blogosphere, you have a lot of heavy hitters in here like the folks over at gnomestew, Newbiedm, and Stargazer's world. From about 400 nominated articles, they've parsed it down to the 65 ones they felt were the best, compiled them into one book, and are going to be selling it in both PDF and Physical format. The copy I have for review is the physical format, so your mileage with the PDF may vary.

The best way to think about this would be a compilation of game advice, for both the player and GM, and touching on a number of sections and subjects involved therein. So, now that we know what it is, lets begin.

I'll be honest, this isn't the most beautiful book I've ever held, but it is far from the worst. The book is an anthology of blog posts, and considering the budget I think they did very well. The cover art is simple, but engaging and actually prompted me to pick it up not realizing what it was at first because of how interesting it looks. Inside, while the paper might not be of the highest quality, it is good quality and feels good in my hands. It flips easily, and is easy to read off. Simple white paper with black text for a contrast that is easy to read. Definitely a plus. The two columns per page works great for physical format, though may be a turn off for some people in the PDF area, since it could mean having to constantly scroll up and down the page to read the whole thing.

The art work is from a number of authors, and while the styles vary, it is all entertaining and engaging as well. Some of it is more light hearted than others, but then again, some of the sections are more light hearted than others. Be aware that some of the 'art' is actually ads. This book is sponsored by a number of places, and it is only right that they get their due in the advertisement space. The ads are not garish, nor do they take away from the book at all. They're placed well, where they draw the eye but do not pull away from the reading, and I commend whoever did the layout for that monumental feat. Plus, as a gaming guide, some ads may be good for helping you find stuff you want for your table.

All in all, the presentation of the book impressed me. I don't think it will win any awards (are there awards for presentation?) but it is solid, and most importantly, looks professionally done, and helps to make the read much easier.

I have a confession to make, as of the time of reading this I have not read every article inside the book. I've been flipping back and forth since the mail arrived yesterday, and I want to say I've read about 65% of the material, but that still leaves 35% unread. However, some of that stuff I have deliberately skipped. I don't play D&D, in any version, right now so it holds no real interest to me. I've in fact, avoided all the (very few) system specific advice in the book. You should be aware it exists though, as it may color your purchasing, but for me there is still more than enough "generic gaming advice" to be more than worth the price of admission.

That being said, what I have read I have liked a whole lot. There are good anecdotes here, great advice, and while I doubt you will agree with all of it (I certainly don't) it is presented well and with a strong argument. It makes you think, either in pointing out stuff that you agree with, or in giving you that point of view that is well based in fact that you might not agree with. The advice covers everything from learning from your mistakes, to making new characters, to running your game, to even having a quick and dirty organizational chart for an RPG that you want to release to the public. There is very likely something here for everyone, and the editors did a good job in making sure all bases are covered.

My only real complaint content wise is that I am not a fan of the interviews in the book. Not that there isn't good stuff inside it, just that when I pick up an Anthology of RPG Blogs (like the book advertises) I'd like the bloggers thoughts on the subject, more than an interview with someone from the industry. When I read the interviews, even if I like them, I can't help but wonder what else could have been there? Perhaps 2 or 3 other thought provoking entries from new voices, or even old ones, on the hobby. Keep in mind, I am saying this even liking both the interviews themselves, and who was interviewed. They're good things, I just don't think they belong in this book. Your mileage may, and probably will, vary however.

Did I mention there are mechanics in here? Because there is. The one that took the prize for me was the newbieDM's kid friendly RPG system. It's quick, sure, but it is a game geared towards getting your 4-6 year old involved. Helping to teach them math and critical thinking in a fun way. There is a lot in here about using RPGs as a teaching tool, and all of it is well presented.

Aside from that you also have some charts and monsters for 4th ed D&D (you may like that or not). Along with speculation on how to run mechanics like narrative control.

There isn't something for everyone here mechanics wise, and if you don't like D&D you may not have anything mechanics wise here to like, but they are still handy to have, and small enough that it doesn't take away from the value of the book.

In summary, there is a lot in this book. It is only about 150 pages, and has 65 articles in it, but there is a lot in here for most people. The D&D stuff doesn't interest me, and I didn't like the interviews being present as I don't feel its what the book wants to be about (I could be wrong here mind), but that content is still good to have as others will probably like it. The advice contained inside is varied, but well thought out, and provides arguments in a well structured format. Even if you don't agree with, or like, an article it will get you thinking.

I checked RPG Drive Thru for price, and it is currently listed as being $10, down from $22. $20 may be a bit steep for 65 articles on RPing for some people, but I think the book is worth it. It is definitely worth it at the $10 sale price point, and as that is what it is listed at currently, that is what I am using for the basis of affecting the review.

All in all, I like the Open Gaming Table Volume 2. It is an interesting read on a variety of topics. Its not perfect, and definitely has places I don't like (which I've mentioned) but the layout is strong, the editing is good, and the selection over-all is well done. I'd definitely recommend checking it out if you are able to, as either a GM or a Player.

Final Score: Recommend!

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