Sunday, 8 February 2015

LARP Sheath - Start to Finish

The past few weeks I've been working on several projects for my character Kampi's LARP kit for start of next season of Medieval Chaos. This is one of those projects: constructing a sheath out of leather for my Seax/Scramasax dagger. Below is the final result:

Herein I aim to list what I did and learnt whilst building it from conception to completion. I used a couple basic pointers from this Instructable on Leatherworking, but the majority of this was experimentation.


The first thing I did before anything else was sketch out the basic design and dimensions of what I was aiming to create. Historically, seaxes varied in shape and construction but one of the most commonly related factors among them was that these single-edged blades were kept horizontally inside a scabbard with the edge facing upwards. As I was looking to do something similar and this proved to be beneficial since the construction of the foam seax meant the back of the blade was the thickest part, which made it easier to shape a piece of leather around it with the edge facing the seam and suspend it from a belt rather than the other way around.

I had a pair of snaps on swivel hooks from a couple old wallet chains sitting around (because I hang on to 'useless' junk like that) and decided they would make excellent straps for attaching the sheath to a belt. Not exactly period but hey, this is for a fantasy LARP so to Hel with exact authenticity. They make the sheath a bit more modular without having to undo ones' belt to add/remove the scabbard. I can also attach each snaps to each other if I ever need I larger mount. Also my reasoning for placing the slightly shorter strap near the throat of the sheath was to give it a tiny upturn to the hilt-side of the blade.


Now that I had my basic blueprint, the first thing I did was construct a mock-up sheath out of cardboard. I actually did this twice, as I realized the first one I made was going to be too tight for the rivets and lining I was planning to add (also I redesigned the point); I adjusted my plans accordingly and made another mock-up with the correct dimensions. I also used a bunch of binder clips instead of staples to close the mock-up and simulate the rivets; I used them to figure out their general placement along with the eyelet straps, and tested the balance of the whole piece by wearing it around.

Cuttin' Time

This was a vital part for me, I had to make sure my pattern was correct else I'd be wasting precious leather. I took my mock-up, unfolded it, and placed it upon my vegetable-tanned leather, where I then traced its outline upon it and then cut the piece from the leather. I then wrapped the piece around the blade and clipped it up, again testing its arraignment.

Because the inside of the leather would be too abrasive on foam dagger and might rub the paint off the blade, I measured a piece of felt the length and circumference of the blade for a protective lining.

Making Impressions

I wanted to try my hand at making actual designs on the leather, as so far it looked a little plain. The difficulty arose lacking the specific tools to carve and 'tool' (leave impressions on a moist surface); also since the local leather supplier had closed I was unsure where I could acquire these tools; so I made do with the (somewhat unorthodox) items what I had available.

I didn't have any transfer paper to move the vector images I had selected onto the surface, and I didn't trust plain paper to hold up to the stress of being drawn upon with a stylus against wet leather. Rooting through my junk I found a bunch of printable labels, so I experimented with both the sticky label and the non-stick back by printing the appropriately scaled images on both sides.

Using a damp sponge, I moistened the leather so it'd take an impression better. Using a pointed wooden stylus (normally used for sculpture) I traced the lines of each of the printed images through the template onto the surface of the leather. Both the label (serpent) and it's non-stick, water-resistant backing (raven) worked fairly well for their purposes; though the label held fast enough to the damp surface to get a reasonably accurate transfer without slipping, I was initially concerned that when I peeled the label off of the moist leather it raised some of the surface along with it (noticeable in the top-right photo), but fortunately that has since disappeared.

The basic imprints looked okay, but since I lacked a swivel knife to carve a deeper impression, I opted to use a solid-point burning tool to make the images stand out more. Following the impression lines was fairly easy and the results look great.


Now, many people dye their leather; I, instead, opted to paint mine using acrylic paint. A couple of the reasons for this are a) I don't know how to confidently dye leather, and b) the Missus used just paint on the leather helmet she built for me and it looks awesome. Any future marks to the leather can easily be touched up with a bit of paint. After the paint dried I gave it a quick layer of boot polish.

Then I stitched a small strip of rabbit fur to the end of the felt liner facing the mouth of the sheath (partially to provide additional tension on the blade, as a wipe, and for looks) and glued the whole thing to the inside of the sheath.

I ran into a bit of a challenge as the glue we opted to use was a wood glue that was too liquid-y and seeped through the felt and into the leather before it had time to dry. I then used ordinary white glue, which better suited my purposes.

Hammer Time

Once everything was dry, it was time to punch holes for the eyelets, rivets, and the stitches. We have/had a proper leather punch somewhere, but I was unable to find it where I last recalled it being. Instead I used a hollow length of thin copper pipe with a partially conical end; it worked perfectly for punching the eyelet and rivet holes. I placed the rivet holes relatively evenly across the spine of the sheath approx. every 2 inches, and placed the eyelets between them about 6 inches apart.

Stitchin' Time

I used a proper stitching awl for puncturing holes. I knocked numerous holes into and stitched together the sheath point with a thicker buttonhole thread that I waxed prior by drawing it through a lump of beeswax (to improve weather resistance and prevent the thread from drying out and cracking). I worked along the seams one way making a 'Z' pattern, then went in the opposite direction with an 'S' weave.

Once I had both sides of the sheath's point sewn up, I did a similar process along the spine towards the throat. I didn't place the stitch holes as frequently as I did on the point (thank the gods); about every centimetre. I kept the rivets in loosely, to ensure the binding didn't offset the punched holes.

I may have made a mistake because when I reached the throat at the opposite end, as I went and fully hammered in the rivets; doing so might've made my attempt to back-stitch down the spine extremely difficult (I broke a needle and my patience in the process). Even when punched, sewing hard leather is arduous for the uninitiated/those without the proper tools. Probably would've been far easier with an actual sewing awl. Plus my stitch holes weren't lined up as parallel as they should've been.

I am unsure if the rivets were to blame and/or if the initial stitching itself combined with poor hole placement made the whole thing too taut to do my back-stitch. I feel the final result might've looked more complete, but with the current mixture of rivet and stitch, I have no concerns about the overall sturdiness of the sheath.

Finishing Touches

I hooked the two swivel straps through the eyelets, and bent them closed. Finally, I gave the whole thing another coat of shoe polish and then blasted it with a heat gun to really bring out the shine.

Overall I'm quite happy with the end result, though I have a minor gripe beyond the incomplete back-stitch: I found the white interface backing of the rabbit fur around the throat far too noticeable when viewed up close; it looks better now that I've painted it a darker shade but I would've rather if I didn't have to do that in the first place.

I've worn the sheath during rather vigorous activity and it performs admirably; it's tight enough the blade doesn't slip or fall out, but not too tight as to make it difficult to draw. All-in-all this was a good project that improved my confidence, know-how, and skills when working with leather.

Advice, Comments, and/or Questions Appreciated!

Skoal! ;{١

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

A Belated Rebellion Day [Character Sheet Tip]

The last day of January, I ran the Star Wars Roleplaying Rebellion Day gamekit at a FLGS, who originally got the kit for FFG's event back in September of last year but had neither the time or people to run said event. Eventually, some time was put aside last weekend to run it after I inquired/volunteered to helm it.

Only a couple people showed up to game (one of which was my friend who'd already played the system), but the experience was still enjoyable and the new player left with positive impressions of the system and a set of narrative dice as a prize. Beyond gaming I had the chance to chat with a few familiar faces; reminds me how much more I need to get out and about, and I'm considering running a RPG at the game store on the last Saturday of each month (or each weekend before and/or after GottaCon and Medieval Chaos).

Speaking of GottaCon, I was trying out a GM aide that session: Though printing character sheets is somewhat low-cost these days, many don't have access to a printer or suffer from various printer issues: lack of ink, poor print quality, etc. Or a times you may get access to very nice colour prints of (usually pregenerated) character sheets and it seems a shame that they're going to end up marred by pencil, pen, and eraser marks. Additionally, let's say you're GMing the same adventure repeatedly at a convention; that means you need to provide fresh copies of character sheets to your players every game. A bit of a hassle.

For example, the Rebellion Day kit came with several full-colour pre-generated character sheets, and I was considering reusing them at GottaCon later this month as one of my Games-On-Demand selections, but lamenting that I'd only be able to do so a few times before all copies were trashed.

I quickly came across a solution to many of these problems: Vinyl Sleeves and Wet-Erase Markers. You just slide the character sheets into the appropriately-sized sleeve, give each player a marker along with their sheet and POW they can write on the sheet all they want. All you need is a bit of water on hand (like a small finger-pump spray bottle) and a tissue to make corrections and clean up the sheets afterwards for reuse next session.

I choose Vinyl and Wet, not Dry-Erase markers for a couple reasons; Specifically, Dry-Erase markers don't work as intended on vinyl surfaces (too porous); they smear messily when you attempt to clean them up and may stain the surface (as I learned in my younger days both with a vinyl tablecloth and a battlemat in a household of gamers). Also, since Wet-Erase markers don't wipe away without water, this means that you can safely transport a stack of sheets without worrying what's written upon them being erased.

I presume you could go with another type of plastic sleeve (in a pinch, magazine sleeves used by collectors work for both ink-types; inexpensive but they aren't as sturdy nor as nice looking IMHO) and possibly Dry-Erase for quick-wipe, non-permanent marking, but these were the options I went with.

Even if you're not using fancy or pregen char sheets, I think using these sleeves it on regular sheets are just as useful at the gaming table: the sheets last longer because they're not longer subject to the constant writing and erasure wear (particularity in the areas of hit points) and are protected from food stains and drink spills. Maps can easily be sleeved and wrote upon without fear of permanent marks, and clever GMs could have their own sleeve for keeping notes/tracking initiative (and in the case of EotE/AoR, Group and Base sheets respectively; making tracking and editing Obligation/Duty easier).

The map provided in the Rebellion Day kit was full-page, but the PCs only had access to part of it.
Solution: Fold it in half and stick it in a sleeve with a blank sheet and presto, a place to track initiative.
The trial run of this idea at the Rebellion Day event was a success and I plan on using this aide when I'm running Games-On-Demand at GottaCon; since the sheets provided with the kit are only one-sided, I went and printed the pregens for the free EotE adventure, Under A Black Sun and sleeved them on the reverse, giving me quick access to both current flavours of the Star Wars RPG for interested players.

[Quick aside: I really like how FFG has designed the pregens in both these adventures; they allow a bit of customisation and such choices actively effect the related adventure with a slim-down version of the Obligation/Duty mechanic respectively. Brilliant.]

Regardless of system, I think that this whole concept has merit and despite the initial cost, might prove invaluable. I'm considering implementing this beyond my convention games.

Cheers! ;{١

Friday, 23 January 2015

A Red & Pleasant Land - Impressions and Stuff

I've finished absorbing +Zak Smith's latest work, A Red & Pleasant Land; which for those of you not in the know, is a pseudo-campaign setting for use in D&D, retro-clones, and other fantasy-minded RPGs; which is heavily based off of Lewis Caroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and it's sequel Through the Looking Glass; mixed with Eastern European vampire folklore (think Vlad Tepes and Elizabeth Báthory).

There's plenty of reviews out there already that praise this piece of work and one would say I'm fashionably late to the croquet game; regardless, I'll just give my general impressions and note the parts I particularly enjoyed:

I had way too much time on my hands that day...
First off, the book itself is a gem of a gamebook: approximately digest size, covered red fabric, and printed in gold-leaf, it fits nearly perfectly next to our copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Coincidence? Nah...
I'll say now that I'm a big fan of smaller books height-wise for their portability and whatnot; also, I think all hardback books should come with a cloth bookmark; they're too damn useful! What are RPG books mostly used for? REFERENCING; a built-in bookmark doesn't loose your page like a slip of paper can!

Anyway, the layout is top-notch, printed on slightly-textured cream pages that provide excellent contrast to the bold art. The editing is tight with few errors, the largest of which is a printing goof that left us without the last two pages of the book: a map fragment handout and a larger version of a chess puzzle, neither of which is a huge loss; the puzzle already exists a couple times in the book albeit smaller. PDF version is complete and LotFP's website has the missing pages [here].

In the introduction and first chapter, our author gives us the whys-and-why-nots, the who-cares, and the whats about the wonderland of Voivodja (a.k.a the Place of Unreason) and some useful advice for GM's; I particularly like his brief dissertation on both the differences and similarities of 'whimsical' and 'creepy', as I think that both are important for GM's to consider when they set the tone of any game using AR&PL, or any RPG with similar themes.

On a related note, he cites several works to inspire mood and help set the theme beyond the source material (the Missus' owns a copy of Alice by Jan Svankmajer, which I find hypnotically bizarre). One could easily suggest the soundtracks of American McGee's Alice and Alice: Madness Returns for a creepy audio vibe or the Danny Elfman's Alice in Wonderland for something a bit more whimsical. But if I were to suggest a single audio inspiration, it'd have to be the surreal Alice in Wonderland soundscape by Randy Greif: part narration, part weird avant garde project.

The above sampling is only thirteen and a half minutes of a six-hour-long work that spans five albums. To a weird guy like me, this is an excellent audio paring to the strangeness of AR&PL. If you happen across a copy, it makes for good inspiration. Spice in nearly any classic Dracula soundtrack (by Wojciech Kilar, John Williams, Philip Glass, etc.) and you're set.

Anyway, back to my impressions.

The four pages that comprise Chapter II introduce the 'Alice' as a optional character class (for classic D&D rule-sets and the various incarnations derived there-from, though people have made 'Alices' for recent editions like 5e. Just Google it). The Alice has an interesting subset of random abilities/powers that are in a way tied to a meta-plot: the concept here is that the protagonist, despite getting into situations perhaps over their head, has the storyline occasionally conform beneficially to them.

In contrast to the previous chapter's length, Beasts & Peoples takes up a good chunk of the book. Zak has comprised a truly unique bestiary of individuals inspired from all corners of Caroll's works but seen through looking glass darkly. As I've said before, I really dig Zak's art-style and the books wouldn't be a half as evocative if his drawings weren't there to visually support his words. I like how GM's are given four factions to weave intrigue with (if you have factions of vampires, there has to be intrigue), along with a variety of unaligned creatures. 

A pair of Pale Rooks
Likewise the rank and file of the major houses' armies are arranged by four suits and ten ranks for the Card faction, and by eight ranks of pawns below the bishops, knights, and rooks of the three Chess factions. Because all the stats of the lowly orders scale with rank, it's relatively easy to randomly generate basic NPCs on the fly; as it should be. There's also a listing of vampire traits common to all or just to particular factions, ensuring that not all the vampires in the Place of Unreason have the same strengths and weaknesses. It's a tough choice, but I'm going to go with the rooks (all three varieties) as my favourite creatures; again it'd be a close call.

I was compelled to create my own unusual creature from a mix of inspirations: Animated Objects, Axe beaks, Borogroves (obviously), Flamingos used as croquet mallets, the one-legged version Groth-Golka (as depicted on yog-blogsoth), and the staggering variety of Poleweapons.


These miserable, shabby-looking creatures appear as extremely thin, flightless birds standing upon a single leg whose bodies are surrounded by ruffled masses of feathers. The height of borogroves vary as much as the configuration of their heads and beaks, making them superficially resemble various types of medium-sized mêlée weapons or polearms. By gripping fast to any stable perch or surface with their single powerful talon, these creatures swing their hard beaks viciously at any perceived threats.  
HD 4 HP 16 Speed flutter-hop 1/2 as human,  
Armor as chain+shield Intelligence animal Reference ... 
  • Beak Strike: +1d8 (varies) to hit for d8hp damage
  • Mimsy: (once/day) as Ray of Enfeeblement cast by a d8 level Magic-User, but the target must also Save versus Paralysis or be overcome with such misery that they can take no action for the remainder of the spell's duration.
  • If killed, the body of a borogrove becomes very rigid after an hour; provided it's relatively straight, it can function as a weapon of similar design.
A pair of Knights fighting with the plucked and prepared carcasses of dead borogroves
  • Borogroves with blunt, hammer-like beaks are highly sought after by croquet aficionados as status symbols that double as mallets; living specimens tend to fetch higher prices than dead ones. Worth d8x1000gp alive or d4x1000gp dead to prospective buyers. 
  • It is rumoured either the fruit or the nut of the Tumtum tree inebriates borogroves to the point of flimsy paralysis upon ingestion; the other kills them outright.

Like Smith's previous published work, Vornheim, AR&PL gives GM's a basic overview of the setting with a few major adventure locations (such as the Card Castle and the Looking Glass Palace), a basic worldmap (which uses clever rational why it conforms so easily to the grid of graph-paper), and a few sample locations but is mostly an open sandbox with all the tools for GM's to add elements on the fly. Many of these tools are several pages of random tables and drop-tables similar in design to those seen in Vornheim, most of which could be used outside of this particular given setting.

I don't think it needs to be said that I really like this book and have little negative to say about it: It's a solid piece of OSR work. If I had the chance, I'd run this thing in a heartbeat; I'm as equally as eager to drown in the bizarre setting as I am to see if all the tools presented function as well as they appear to.

If what I've gone on about seems intriguing, get this. If not in hardback, in PDF.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Busy New Year

So what have I been up to so far in 2015?

State of the Chap 
  • It's amazing to think that around this time last year I was coping with immense pain, mostly out of stubbornness and hoping the snail's-pace route I was taking through medical system would provide succour come March.
  • As of today, the 17th of January, it'll be exactly one year since I finally took action and checked myself into the hospital to deal with my VHL complications; it wasn't until 10 days following I had my dual surgeries on the 27th/28th, and a week following that I was finally discharged from the hospital. 
  • After a few months of somewhat speedy recovery, I've been in good health since. I'd been exercising during the warmer months, though not so much during the fall/winter. I've gained weight, but since I've always been a rail-thin guy, I'm happy to have the extra poundage. My hope is now I have mass to convert to muscle come when I get off my duff and begin exercising again.
Anyway, enough about me specifically, here's what I've been up to since the beginning of the new year. It's been busy, and yet paradoxically, I took time to write this post:

When I have time to, I've been consuming A Red & Pleasant Land, and hopefully after that the rest of LotFP stuff I received the first week of the new year, such as the revised Death Frost Doom and No Salvation For Witches. Good Impressions forthcoming. I'm also expecting a few other print items to arrive at my door in partial preparation for GottaCon.

Second-hand Loot
I organized a bunch of my old junk, and sold some to get more, smaller junk. I also sold my collection of Arkham Horror stuff to a friend. As much as I enjoy that game, I have neither the time or space for it anymore. I was glad to see it go to a good home.

Amongst the items I acquired was an interesting minigame by TSR called SAGA - Age of Heroes. I like the pseudo-Viking Age theme of it and would like to give it a try but the cardboard chits are unpunched, and doing so might lessen it's collectable value. I also picked up the eighth book of the ridiculous Grimtooth's Traps series, and a couple of modules, one of which was a complete and better condition of Quest for the Silver Sword. Score.

My best friends were to come over this weekend from Vancouver and we were looking to nerd it up hard, but unfortunately I've been unable to get the time off of work because of a busy promotion and limited staff. Hopefully I'll get the chance to see them next month for my own birthday or GottaCon.

Speaking of GottaCon, I've been working on finalizing my schedule:

Note: you might have to manually select the dates above because I can't figure it out to display specifically those days.

Hopefully any future changes I make will be updated above. During the 2-6pm slot on Saturday and possibly Sunday, I might be running a couple Games-On-Demand sessions (I have yet to figure that all out; still trying to build a roster of games I'm comfortable running with little prep).

I'll be running a late night Dread Cthulhu game, and Star Wars: Edge of the Empire game on Sunday; the remainder I'm planning on attending as a player. +Larry Spiel and I are still in the process of writing our dual-table EotE game, but I think the good majority of it is done.

The folks behind the Fate of the Norns RPG were nice enough to send me some material and offer to assist teaching the game via Skype; but unfortunately I've been unable to secure a slot to run the game, let alone confidently grasp the mechanics of FotN. I honestly thought the Runic system was going to be easier to initially grok and less crunchy than it actually is. My enthusiasm for running a new game I'd never learned met unreasonable expectations. :(

During most of the event I plan to dress up as my MC LARP character Kampi, both for larks and for some sweet in-game XP. On Sunday, if I have time to finish it, I might also cosplay a Scoundrel-type character from Star Wars.

And speaking of Star Wars, I've finally introduced my long-time Friday gaming group to EotE via the Beginner Game; they're having tons of fun with it. I'm hoping to bring them through the Long Arm of the Hutt arc before diving into the full game, rolling up characters, etc.

Additionally, I've been in contact with a FLGS on running their Rebellion Day material for Age of Rebellion. They received the game kits last summer but couldn't find the time/people to run the promo adventure. So tentatively I'm going to be running the game on the 31st of Jan. Better late than never!

    A local leather shop and supplier has gone out of business, so the Missus and I grabbed a roll veg tanned leather to fashion into another helmet and possibly a sheath for my new Calimacil Scramasax before they closed their doors. We got almost 12 feet square of leather, so we'll have plenty for future projects.

    The design we're following/aiming for is going to be similar to the Viking Spectacle-style helm constructed [here], but out of leather instead of steel. I'll try to keep posted on our progress. For a sheath, I'm thinking of something similar to this design [here], though I'm sure it won't look as stellar given my crafting skill, but I'm lucky to be working with my talented partner!

    A similar design we're aiming for.

    On Sunday the 25th of this month there is a free Live Action Apocalypse Role Playing Paintball (LAARPP) game that I'm considering attending. If so it should be fun, some friends and I are going as a beach-bum-themed raider band: the Zegema Beach Raiders. (Mostly a inside joke; bonus points if you get the reference.)

    Again on the topic of Star Wars, amongst all the things I've been organizing has been my still-too-large collection of SW memorabilia. Though I just sold off some of it, and I'm planning to sell more, I think a share of the items don't really have any resell value. So I was thinking that next month during the weekend before GottaCon is my birthday, and I might use all these things as decorations and prizes in a Star Wars-themed birthday party. I just need to find a venue as our place is way too small to entertain large groups.

    Incidentally, they could also make excellent table prizes for Rebellion Day/GottaCon games!

    Finally, on the topic of exercising again, I was hoping to get some weapon training for MC during the off season with another group in town since Vanguard is also closed for the season, but alas my work and personal schedule have been preventing so. But the Missus and I have been doing something to together just as awesome: Learning to Swing Dance! We just had our first lesson last Thursday, and practiced what we learnt the following eve at the drop-in dance, both by Red Hot Swing.

    Learning to dance has definitely made me conscious of just how uncoordinated I can be. Hopefully with practice and diligence I'll become at least a passable swing dancer. :)

    Anyhoo, that's me in a nutshell. What've you been up to so far this year?

    Cheers! ;{١

    Wednesday, 17 December 2014

    2014 Retrospective

    First off, Happy Holidays readers! I hope you've all enjoyed the festivities of the season, and look forward to a New Year!

    This'll be the only post for December, and the last post of 2014. I didn't get too many chances to blog this year in comparison to the previous two; hopefully that'll change next year.

    What with my VHL medical concerns and somewhat uncooperative work schedule, this past year I didn't have many opportunities to game as much as the previous years, giving me little to blog about and thinning my choices for this years' Retrospective. Hopefully next year I'll have more interesting things to post about, but without further ado, here is (on time for once):

    Jerreth Esq's Choice Selections of 2014

    Note: I apologize if the G+ name dropping is annoying to their respective owners, I was unsure if it pinged the account directly; I just wanted to give credit where credit's due and link to the relevant G+ account. Please contact me if this is an issue and I'll remove it.

    RPG Pick of the Year 

    During the #RPGaDay event back in August, I touched upon my then Favourite RPG of All time; a difficult question because I enjoy so many RPGs for so many different reasons. I did end up narrowing it down to two choices, which will remain my picks for this year despite being on my previous retrospective: Numenera & Star Wars: Edge of the Empire/Age of Rebellion.

    For gamers who've yet to check out either of these lines, I recommend them both for similar and different reasons; both systems have fairly unique mechanics:

    Numenera, by the illustrious +Monte Cook, has my vote for best system that uses a d20; excellent character construction and options, and phenomenal setting, to list a few reasons. A variety of books, products, and PDFs thoroughly round out the line without it getting bloated (So far). If the setting of Numenera is not your cup of tea, consider checking out The Strange; which uses the same Cypher System but allows the setting to be of any thing of your imagination. We also get to look forward to a release of the Cypher System itself in the near future.

    I just heart this game so much, but I barely had the chance to play it this year; hopefully next year will afford more opportunity.

    Edge of the Empire Age of Rebellion; both contain somewhat run-of-the-mill talent trees, skills, stats, and the same basic mechanics, but this is all takes back-seat framework to the narrative dice system itself which is downright brilliant in both design and execution; you could toss the talents and all that aside and easily run a dynamic game with the dice alone. Plus the setting(s) will appeal to any fanboys.

    The downside is I can possibly foreseeing this line following what WotC did with D&D or FFG's Warhammer 40K line by releasing too many additional products and making the line bloated (and costly for die-hard fans like me), but splitting the themes into separate sub-lines for fringers and outlaws (with the Obligation mechanic) for Edge of the Empire, rebels and warfare (with the Duty mechanic) for Age of Rebellion, and Jedi and the force (with the Morality mechanic) in the upcoming Force & Destiny, allows gamers to focus solely upon the line(s) that interests them and may limit this bloat.



    Brainchild of +Epidiah Ravachol, this game is approaching its 10th year anniversary and I think now it's finally starting to get the recognition it deserves (it's also slated to be featured on +Wil Wheaton's TableTop, so we can expect a huge upsurge in popularity). Last month I ran a few sessions of Dread playtesting a scenario from Call of Cthulhu I'm looking to run next year at GottaCon (I'll post the specific scenario and the custom questionnaires I generated following the convention).

    I just love running Dread. You can make awful things happen to the characters but not really feel bad about it because the players have total control over the narrative via the tower. The host just tells a story, and aside from re-stacking a collapsed tower, all the power is in the players' hands whither or not their character survives, suffers, and/or dies.

    Simply Brilliant.

    Have you still not tried Dread? What're you doing reading this? Go play or get Dread!

    I've made a beta mod/hack of Dread that one can read about [here].

    Honourable Mention


    Aside from a few months recovery, the vast majority of the year I've been working evening shifts, which made it very difficult to schedule time to game. With the little free time to game I had, I lived and breathed Torchbearer for a good part of the year. I quite enjoyed the pseudo-old school approach that this loveletter to classic D&D by +Thor Olavsrud. I further invested in TB, purchasing another copy of the rule book and a couple Player's Decks. My group and I played a few months before I was distracted by something else (more on that later).

    Being a game with a good amount of crunch also means one may tire of the strict rule minutiae and lack of freedom. We had a good bunch of sessions in Torchbearer, but I think my players may have had their fill; I know I have for the time being.

    I'd recommend TB to GMs/Players that aren't put off by the interesting mechanics and strict timekeeping/inventory rules, that appreciate older-style fantasy RPGs, and/or fans of the Mouse Guard RPG.

    Adventure/Supplement of the Year

    Numenera - The Ninth World Bestiary

    +Monte Cook+Bruce R Cordell, and the rest of the folks over at Monte Cook Games released one of the best bestiaries I've seen for any roleplaying game. The creature entries are unique, the stats are simple and easy to incorporate within Numenera, any other Cypher System games like The Strange, or even different RPGs. I recall myself and other Numenera fans going gaga over the two-page spread of size-comparison silhouettes when this first came out.

    I only had the chance to use this a bit during an online game near the beginning of the year, but I look forward to the next time I can utilize the wonderful weirdness therein.


    Star Wars: Edge of the Empire - The Jewel of Yavin

    This hardcover is so far my pick out of the available pre-written adventures for FFG's Star Wars RPG lines. Though the location is limited to Bespin's Cloud City, the adventure gives the PCs plenty of things to do between the three main acts that connect to the major heists.

    Though not as galaxy-spanning as say Enter The Unknown, I think The Jewel of Yavin works a bit better as written given the somewhat limited locale.

    Age of Rebellion - Onslaught at Arda I

    Currently, we have little to directly compare in the AoR line against Onslaught At Arda I; it's a well-written adventure path that spans three different planets with an overarching investigation plot that makes for some very good RP potential, given that most military games can end up highly mission centric.

    Honourable Mention

    The One Ring - The Heart of the Wild

    Whereas Tales From Wilderland is a series of adventures that can be linked together, The Heart of the Wild is a gazetteer that focuses on the regions of the Vales of Anduin and the forest of Mirkwood, and all the notables characters, locations, and lore contained within. The remaining third of the book contains a bestiary of Tolkien-esque monsters.

    THotW is actually the companion volume to campaign book, The Darkening of Mirkwood (which I have yet to obtain), and is said to be required for use of TDoMAs to be expected with any The One Ring product, the art is both evocative and phenomenal.

    Physical Purchase(s) of the Year

    Dungeon World & Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Rules and Magic

    These are two games that I've picked up at a FLGS and ordered from Finland respectively this year that I've only had the chance to play once, and I hope to do more so the following year:

    The phenomenal Dungeon World, by +Sage LaTorra and +Adam Koebel; is tentatively on my Games-On-Demand roster for GottaCon, possibly aided by the Dungeon World/Labyrinth Lord modules by +Johnstone Metzger and the fellow Canucks over the water at Red Box Vancouver.  

    There's a least two 
    Lamentations of the Flame Princess games at the upcoming convention, both of which I'm currently signed up for. I finally ordered this book back in August; partially because I'd been meaning to for sometime and I have the two Free RPG Day adventures released for it, but also because I backed the eye-catchingly gruesome and awesome old-school bestiary Lusus Naturae, by +Rafael Chandler, art by the talented +Gennifer Bone. It's system compatible with LotFP, and is bound to arrive sometime in the new year.


    Classic D&D Modules

    For the collector in me, coming upon a box filled with old D&D modules in good condition for a decent price was an excellent find. I've also found a few other modules elsewhere, and there's still a several boxes of retro gaming material at the local collectible toy shop that I need to rummage through.

    I've glanced through most, and aside from The Quest for the Silver Sword adventure and Thunder Rift setting that I used as a basis for my Torchbearer game, I've yet to run any of these other modules, though I look forward to the possibility of doing so.

    Honourable Mentions

    LotFP Adventures

    Speaking of LotFP-compatible products, I've technically paid for printed copies of the following adventures, but they have yet to arrive as of writing this. Nonetheless, I'll wager they should be included on my list based upon the excellent things I've heard about the revised Death Frost Doom adventure, No Salvation For Witches (also by Chandler), and perhaps most of all, A Red & Pleasant Land, by +Zak Smith. 

    Electronic Purchase of the Year 


    PDFs are certainly useful to us gamers, but I've always been more of a dead-tree kinda guy. PDFs are excellent for cross-referencing and planning a session, but I find it difficult to sit down and run a game using a PDF, let alone reading fully through it. I find it faster flipping through pages of a book than searching even a well-bookmarked PDF for the info I'm looking for. I enjoy the tactility, something that PDFs lack, and this entry only goes to prove this point:

    Vornheim: The Complete City Kit by +Zak Smith, is one of the few PDFs I purchased this year during its 48 hour pay-what-you-want-sale, primarily because it was recommended to me. Only until recently I've had the time to read through this lauded piece of work. There's plenty of reviews online that one can read to get the general gist of Vornheim, so I won't go into it. All I can say is I really like it. I like its unique, weird take on fantasy, its quirky layout, and I like the tools and concepts within. Beyond OSR games, I think Vornheim would fit perfectly in Numenera; they're both weird enough to mesh together.

    Currently Vornheim is out of print, but rumour has it that it might be available again come the new year. I totally want get a physical copy of this, especially because the book itself can be used as a game aid generating a variety of things. Now that's just cool. This has also made me doubly anxious for my copy of A Red & Pleasant Land...


    TIE Fighter 

    I believe I've mentioned how I don't play video games much any more, but a recent article I read sorta hit the nail on the head, at least on how members of the video gamer culture may tend to suffer from social isolation whereas tabletop gaming tends brings people physically together, preventing that. That article can be read [here].

    Anyway, I just wanted to emphasise how I usually don't play video games, and when I do, it's usually replaying retro games from my childhood: such as Star Wars: TIE Fighter Special Edition on This has to be one of my favourite games as a kid, and many times throughout the years I've gotten the urge to play it, so I'd install the game from the discs I still have, configure it in DOSBox, and play away until it'd inevitably crash.

    It's excellent that an optimized version for modern systems has been put up on, along with X-Wing and Knights of the Old Republic.

    The Last Door

    On the note of retro games and their pixel-y goodness, I want to plug a modern game that combines a pixel art with two other favourite things of mine: adventure games and Lovecraftian horror. The Last Door is a series of short episodic low-rez horror adventure games, that has been so successful thus far it's on a second season.

    Up to the current chapter, the game is entirely free to play (and thus also deserves mention under my Freebies of the Year below). If you chip in and donate you gain access to the most recent chapter, and if you donate above the current average you also get the stellar soundtrack for that episode by Carlos Viola. I, being a junkie for good gaming music, beat the average donation in order to gain access to those excellent albums for horror/investigation games.

    If you're a fan of adventure games, pixel art, atmospheric soundtracks, and/or Lovecraftian horror, I recommend you check out The Last Door.

    Honourable Mentions 

    Black Goat Games' products

    Local gamer, personal friend, and head cultist +Steven Saunders behind Black Goat Games has released a handful of interesting little nuggets of system-neutral, grimdark goodness throughout this year, together costing about as much as a decent cup of coffee. A few weeks ago BBG just released their latest micro-PDF instalment in the Ye Nerterological Abecedarium series: A is for Arjetkainen!

    This entry, along with a few others, can be snatched up on BBG' RPGNow page; and currently the other entries are on sale as Pay-What-You-Want items! Scoop 'em up and sprinkle them liberally into your dark fantasy RPGs.

    Torchbearer Sagas - The Wanderers

    If you're into Torchbearer and would like to explore options beyond the classes listed in the corebook, I'd highly suggest The Wanderers by Jared Sorensen. Six well-designed and unique classes for $6. Unfortunately it seems most of the referral pages links no longer work. You're best luck is contacting +Jared Sorensen directly and requesting it.

    RPG'ish Item of the Year

    Calimacil Weapons

    That thing that distracted me from my Torchbearer game? This is part of it. If you've been following me for the past several months you'll know that I'd been filling my RPG void with something as equally awesome: LARP. Specifically, Medieval Chaos, a HARP (heavy action role play) that's not your average boffer larp. Rather than attempt to explain the awesomeness of MC, I'll direct you to this skookum promo video:

    If that piqued your curiosity, check out the videos better explaining it all a bit more [here] and [here].

    Anyway, whilst I was first weapons training back in July at Vanguard and then when I fully dove into MC with my character Kampi in September (my initial impressions of which can be read [here]), I've acquired three foam weapons: Dentist, a studded club; Percefer, a warhammer; and Skaegi, a Danish-style axe. made by Canadian manufacturer Calimacil. These weapons look awesome and feel great. Well worth the hefty price. I foresee increasing my 'armoury' in the future.


    Fate Tokens

    Oooo, shiny! This was one of the few kickstarters I backed this year that arrived before the year was out, and all the way from Australia no less! (I'm still waiting on a couple I backed from the year before; I'm looking at you Call of Cthulhu 7th edition and Horror on the Orient Express!)

    Either way the final product from folks down-under at Campaign Coins looks stellar; I have yet to make use of them, but I'm sure they'll do their job well and look good doing it.

    Honourable Mention 

    Hamlet's Hit Points

    I finally finished reading through the copy of +Robin Laws' book that I ordered in around half a year ago (my To Read stack is ceiling high, absorbed at my own pace, and I tend to switch books mid-read). A few notes:
    • One can easily see how this was the theory behind Hillfolk.
    • The book does a decent recounting of how primary drives of hope and fear function in narratives, regardless of type, using the three examples provided.
    • Con: Many of the narrative symbols don't match up with the related texts, thus making analysis confusing at times. Could've used a bit more editing in this regard.
    • How does this apply to RPGs? The book gives some example how specific narratives could be applied to a similar event/session, and the final chapter deals with application specifically. 

    Freebie of the Year

    Tabletop Audio

    The best free resource I've come across this whole year, regardless of the game/system you play, has to be Tabletop Audio.

    A while back I touched upon Tabletop Audio during one of my Music To Roleplay To segments and at the time the site had only 35 tracks; now it's nearly doubled that amount. Dark and Stormy makes for excellent ambience during Dread games. You can thank me for suggesting that one. ;)

    Additionally they've implemented savable playlists and a way to get around connectivity issue I originally saw as a drawback: savable audio files!

    And what's best of all, it's all FREE.

    That said, I strongly encourage you to become a patreon (like me) of these excellent folk who're providing you with top quality gaming audio for nothing at the cost of hosting and bandwidth. Support this excellent resource.


    D&D 5e Basic Rules

    I have yet to delve into the whole 5e thing (I know, travesty and blasphemy), but I've heard many things about it, (most good, some 'controversial'). The fact the WotC released the Basic Rules for free on PDF before the corebooks started hitting the shelves meant they're actively taking steps toward healing wounds and drawing interests from a variety of diverse (some would say fractured or isolationist) groups of gamers.

    I've quickly glanced over the PDFs and am quite happy with the changes to the line. I'm sure that when I get around to picking up the books, I'll enjoy them, but right now I already have enough fantasy systems I don't get to play enough.

    Honourable Mentions 

    The Doom-Cave of the Crystal-Headed Children

    The second winner in a row of Free RPG Day (in my humble opinion) was the +James Raggi's LotFP's adventure: The Doom-Cave of the Crystal-Headed Children! Not as huge as the previous years' entry, TDCotCHC is still has the best content and production values out of all the entries.

    Unapologetically remorseless as ever, I hope I get the fortune someday of finding a playgroup interested/willing to take on this brutal dungeon crawl. The PDF of this adventure is available of [here] for pay-what-you-want.

    Bonus: Favourite Present

    It's generally rude place one's gift above others and normally I'd refrain from doing so, but the amazing leather helmet you see in the photos below was custom made for me by my incredibly talented better-half. She secretly laboured several days on it, and on Christmas Day we put the finishing touches upon it.

    Words cannot express how ecstatic I am on this wonderful gift! I finally have some protective headgear for MC, plus she also got me a little blowing horn. I can't wait till I use them next year upon the field of battle!

    Gaming Resolutions 

    My obvious choice for 2015 would be to play more RPGs in general, but here are a few selections in particular among those I haven't tried:

    • Any OSR game (1e, Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, Labyrinth Lord, Sword & Wizardry, etc.) I've had an itch to play a simple OSR-style RPG, and it doesn't really matter which one because they're all basically similar at their core. I'm looking for that old school feel.

    • D&D 5e (or 13th Age) - Both are fairly recent games I haven't had the chance to try out; I'd be happy sampling either/both, but I'm not looking to add them to my bookshelf just yet.

    • Fate of the Norns by +Andrew Valkauskas - I've been dying to try FotN ever since I heard about it; the game is set in the fantastic worlds of Norse mythology, and uses runestones as its resolution mechanic. We tried to get the designer to fly from back East for GottaCon 2015, but it wasn't in the cards for this year. After I inquired, the company offered to send me material to run and support this game, but right now I have so many commitments already to the convention I'm unsure if I could give the game proper support it deserves. Hopefully I'll have the chance one way or another to try this game out.

    • Star Wars d6 - Despite being such a huge fan of both Star Wars and RPGs, you'd have think I would've played this one, but no. It wasn't until recently I came across a used-copy of the Second Edition Revised corebook that I ever had the chance to purchase this game. Though I'm sure the current SWRPG line has me cemented when it comes to roleplaying in a galaxy far, far away, I'm curious to experience the WEG version that still has diehard fans.

    • The Shab Al-Hiri Roach by +Jason Morningstar - My buddy +Larry Spiel lent me his copy and once I finished reading through it I was determined to play it at least once. It sounds like a delightful romp.

    Cheers to all! May your 2015 be filled with fun and gaming! ;{١