Iddy Approved: Fourthcore Alphabet

A detailed review of Fourthcore Alphabet follows, but I believe my thoughts can be summarized effectively with a visual representation. First, look above at Iddy the Lich. He’s the mascot for my blog. He’s cute, he’s cuddly and you just want to pinch his cheek and squeeze him.

Now, take a look at Iddy the Lich after he spent a few hours reading through Fourthcore Alphabet.

"You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."

Good god almighty! Iddy has been forever changed!

I had previously commissioned the viciously-talented Cat Staggs to draw an image of Iddy the Lich, and I received the art just a few days ago. I’m scared of the image above! Many thanks to Cat for taking on the project, and as luck would have it, the image is a perfect representation for my review of Fouthcore Alphabet. The review below is structured by the questions a DM may ask before committing to the product.

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Ego Check: Scott Fitzgerald Gray, Freelance Editor and Designer for Wizards of the Coast

Over the summer, I ran my group through the first adventure in Tomb of Horrors, and it was an enjoyable experience for everyone that culminated in our departing Paladin (leaving town for graduate school) sacrificing himself so the party could escape. I look forward to the group uncovering the remaining adventures in Tomb of Horrors throughout the campaign, so I was eager to interview one of the designers for the book, Scott Fitzgerald Gray.

In a sprawling interview, he offers advice to freelance writers in the roleplaying-game industry. He speaks about his design work for Wizards of the Coast (e.g., Tomb of Horrors, Seekers of the Ashen Crown) including a candid exchange about the level of lethality in 4th Edition and why some new DMs may not fully appreciate the fine art of customization and improvisation. He speaks about his latest book, A Prayer for Dead Kings and Other Tales, details his writing and editing process and comments on the growing mainstream acceptance of the fantasy and science-fiction genres.

Settle into a comfortable chair and enjoy my interview with Scott Fitzgerald Gray.

Thank you for agreeing to spend some time discussing your work. The bio on your site answers several questions including the veracity of your name, and states you have been able “to make a living doing exactly what [you] want to do by way of creating and shaping words.” You have identified yourself as a writer, screenwriter, editor, story editor, script consultant, writing teacher, and designer and editor of roleplaying games. So I must ask, how did words become so important to you?

Happy to be here, and thanks for the opportunity.

That’s a tough question, insofar as I can’t really remember a time when words weren’t important, so it’s hard to judge. However, I think the easiest way to sum it up would be to describe myself as an imagination addict, and to say that words continue to feed that addiction. Everyone who has kids knows that very early stage, ages 2 to 3, where everything is imagination. I remember that stage in my own life, in faint and scratchy flashbacks. I can remember even as i was learning to talk, making up my own stories and my own little worlds in which those stories took place. I can remember learning to read a few years later, and the mind-blowing revelation that reading suddenly gave me access to other people’s stories and worlds. I can remember starting to write my own stories in fourth grade and the incredible feeling of accomplishment, as unaccomplished as those stories were. I can remember my first exposure to speculative fiction and fantasy, the first time i saw “Star Wars”, my first exposure to Dungeons & Dragons — all of these seminal moments of imagination which, taken as a whole, kind of underline a hunger for the worlds and experiences that all start with words.

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Fourthcore Is Dying. Save Ends?

The last couple of days have been quite interesting to me. I never read a Fourthcore adventure until this weekend, and never ran or played in a Fouthcore adventure until two nights ago. I had every intention of writing a blog post about the experience (cribbed from a massive email with feedback I sent to the designer of the adventure), but then I learned that the very same creator pulled the plug on Fourthcore mere hours after I sent feedback. I do not think I caused Fourthcore to die, but I hope the 3,500 words reacting to only 25% of the module was not the straw that broke the camel’s back! There were aspects of the Fourthcore experience that I thoroughly enjoyed, and other aspects that I felt needed some tweaking. But overall, I thought it was a great addition for DMs to play with and learn from.

So I am equal parts sad and confused by the creative team behind Fourthcore moving on to other endeavors. I do not fully understand why the creators of Fourthcore are ending the project. I’m certainly curious, but I realize it’s no business of my own what someone else does with his or her time. I understand the creator is going to be on a future episode of the DM Roundtable Podcast, so I’m definitely looking forward to learning more about the decision and all that went into it. I do not begrudge anyone the decision to step away from something that is causing too much stress in their life, whether that is a job, relationship or hobby. For example, I left a job just over three years ago because it was poor for my physical and mental well-being. But the incident leaves me with questions, and I realize that I need help to find those answers.

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