Saturday, 29 June 2013

Kickstarter of Cthulhu

I just wanted to say in the final 15 minutes I backed this sucker. I nearly missed my chance!


Yay Chaosium for their 1000% backed kickstarter! Now send me my damn copy of Horror on the Orient Express!

To celebrate, I'm going to play this indie free-to-play, point-and-click horror game called The Last Door. It looks awesome!

Iä! Iä! Cthulhu Fhtagn! ;{١

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Role-Player Mastery-ing

Howdy All,

I've taken a bit of time off work this weekend before the vacation blackout period; my grandpa came over to visit, and we headed up island to meet up with the Missus' family. So far its been awesome, and I had the chance not only to see family, but also actually get my grandpa and in-law dad together for some fishing. I'm just learning to handle a fly rod, but practice makes perfect. I had a tiny bit of luck Friday out on Spider Lake (caught a little 3 incher), but no luck on Englishman River yesterday. 

With the free time I had available, I thought I'd do a short post on a few things of interest:

  • I've finally got around to reading through a copy of the 1987 book: Role-Playing Mastery by the co-creator of D&D, Gary Gygax. I was planning on doing a full review of it, but I discovered that James Raggi, creator of Lamentations of the Flame Princess, did fairly comprehensive objective review on the LotFP blog. Those interested can find the posts covering it here. I'll be posting my own thoughts once I've finished reading it.

  • This well-written article is starting to make its way around my gamer circles: 11 Ways to Be Better RoleplayerI highly suggest checking it out if you haven't, they're all really good points. Seriously, I'd love to have this list as a poster on my gameroom wall and/or as a laminated printout to keep with my RPG books (along with GM Chris's Three Questions for character design, and The List for encounter design in EotE.), because sometimes we could do with a reminder. It also reaffirms my feelings on Kender as a player race. (In short, I think kleptomania is a very weak and unoriginal character trait, and a whole race that uses it as its shtick is just lousy design. A variety of comic relief is best suited to disposable NPCs. No Kenders in my games; develop something actually interesting for your character.)

  • It came to my attention from following Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, of a small, indie, print-only OSR zine called AFS Magazine. In the editor/publisher's own words "includes old school gaming modules, adventures, tables, and articles with a nod to the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, Jack Vance, Robert E Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith. This is old school grass roots publishing produced in the spider filled ruins of my basement, ring bound in the style of Chainmail." I like hearing about this self-published old school material, and if get more into OSR-style games I'd consider ordering it. 

That's all for now folks! I gotta go fishing!

Cheers! ;{

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Music To Roleplay To: Deadlands

Today on Music To Roleplay To we saddle up, hit the ol' dusty trail, and see if our grit is true against the horrors that make the West weird in Deadlands!

First off, Deadlands publisher, Pinnacle Entertainment, has released not one but several soundtracks dedicated to their weird west line:
  1. Deadlands Weird Wailin's by Michael Urich
  2. Deadlands: Aces & Eights by Medwyn Goodall
  3. Deadlands: Toxic Tunes by Gary Everett and Enoch Hain (a post-apocalyptic vibe)
  4. Deadlands Noir Original Soundtrack by Harry Mack (a 30's noir vibe.) 
As of this posting, a couple of these soundtracks are on sale for cheap: $2.50 to $5.00 from $15.00. Get em while they're hot!

That said, I'm not going to beat around the bush here and come right out an' say it: I think, hands down in my opinion, some of the best music to play whilst rolling the bones in this RPG is the horrorpunk/gothabilly (hellbilly?) band Ghoultown. They sound awesome and the yarns they sing sound like they're right out of the Deadlands itself! I highly suggest you check them out.

But, if Ghoultown's not your shot of whiskey, I've still got plenty other suggestions:

Artists & Composers
  • Ennio Morricone (His Spaghetti Western scores like A Fistful of Dollars; The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly; etc.)
  • Johnny Cash (Select tracks such as Desperado, Ghost Riders in the Sky, God's Gonna Cut You Down, Ring of Fire.)
  • Motörhead (Select tracks such as Ace of Spades, Bite The Bullet, Lawman, Shoot You In The Back.)
  • Scott Joplin (Ragtime makes great saloon music)

Original Soundtracks
  • 3:10 to Yuma by Marco Beltrami
  • The Assassinaion of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis
  • Cowboys & Aliens by Harry Gregson-Williams
  • Darkwatch by Mike Reagan
  • Dead Man by Neil Young
  • Deadwood (series) by various artists
  • Django Unchained by various artists
  • Fallout: New Vegas by various artists
  • Ghostrider by Christopher Young
  • Jonah Hex - Revenge Gets Ugly by Mastodon
  • The Mask of Zorro, and The Legend of Zorro by James Horner
  • Outlaws by Clint Bajakian
  • Red Dead Redemption and Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare by Bill Elm & Woody Jackson
  • True Grit (2010) by Carter Burwell

Other RPGs these tunes could work well in: This collection is pretty specific to Deadlands, though it should work well in Weird West or Werewolf: The Wild West. Drop the 'Weird' selections from the list and you have the makings of a decent Western playlist for Aces & Eights, or Boot Hill.

Leave a comment if you have any suggestions for additional listening!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Free RPG Day - Finds & Read Impressions

Howdy everyone, I hope you all are doing well and perhaps had chance to visit your FLGS and pick up one of the many Free RPG items that were available. I, myself, went out on the pleasant yesterday and came back with 3 items for Cosmic Patrol, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and Star Wars Edge of the Empire, plus a small steampunk'ish d6. Without further ado:

Cosmic Patrol - Quick-Start Rules: The Eiger Agenda 

Cosmic Patrol - The Eiger Agenda
For those unfamiliar, Cosmic Patrol is a retro-futuristic pulp science fiction RPG (Think fishbowl space-helmets, rayguns, and rocketships.) 

Weighing in a 24 pages, Catalyst Game Labs' Cosmic Patrol Quick-Start Rules: The Eiger Agenda booklet is a nice little package. Complete with quick-start rules, a few pregens (only 3 which including the GM/LN makes it for a pretty small group), and a bunch of missions. I think this is a great pickup for Free RPG Day as it gives you everything you pretty much need to run a one-off with a couple of your friends. (Except dice of course.)

Here's a brief overview of the meat of the game:

  • Statistics are die-based a la Savage Worlds
  • The group has no steady GM, but a rotating role of "Lead Narrator"
  • Plot Points are used interrupt or alter narration, create plot twists, change player turn order, alter a die result, and gain back points of health. Players each begin with 3, can have a maximum of 5, and may be awarded more by the current LN. They also receive 1 at the beginning of their turn if they have none. The LN has a pool of plot points that grow every time the players spend one. This pool transfers between scenes, and if ever empty at the beginning of a scene it gets 1 plot point.
  • The core mechanic for challenges and tests is a d12 Base Die + your Stat Die + any Modifiers vs. a d20 opposition roll.
  • Combat Mechanics: Combat Stat Die + Modifiers vs. Combat Stat Die + Modifiers
  • Luck Stat: a static number if ever rolled on a Stat or Combat die will always count as a success

Cosmic Patrol's previous year entry for Free RPG Day is available online; 'The Kahn Protocols' in PDF format. For that, blank NPC dossiers, and the books on electronic check out Battlecorps or Drive Thru RPG. As of this posting Drive Thru RPG also has the Core Rulebook and Into the Cosmos on Sale! I might totally jump on this opportunity.

Cosmic Patrol - The Eiger Agenda Back
Final thoughts: Although the lack of art in the booklet may put some people off from picking it up, having read through it has made me glad I had. It's a nice, self-contained game that'd be perfect to play on a rainy day or when you need something to play last minute. It also does a good job of making me interested in acquiring the full version.

(Related Note: My post on Thrilling TalesTitle-O-Tron & Pulp-O-Mizer would also be an excellent gametool for this game given it's bent toward retro-futuristic pulp.)

Star Wars - Edge of the Empire: Shadows of a Black Sun

EotE: Shadows of a Black Sun Cover
This was my must get for Free RPG Day. The first couple pages of this 38 page booklet are rules summery, with abridged versions of the Spending Advantage, Triumph, Threat, and Despair in Combat; and Critical Injury Result tables from the upcoming Core Rulebook, nothing new to those who've played the Beginner Game. After that you have a single-page galactic-gazetteer on Coruscant, and the pregenerated characters follow.

You get four, highly-detailed, well-equipped pregen character sheets, which FFG has also made available for download here along with two bonus characters. (I think its great that when publishers provide PDFs of pregens, but throwing in bonuses is awesome.) The layout of pregen sheets looks even better than the ones from the Beginner's Game (which is understandable given that was for introductory purposes and this is getting closer to the Core product.) They did a good job tying in the characters' backstories with their Obligation, which is something they didn't include in the Beginner Game. Although Obligation is going to have a larger mechanical and narrative role in the Core Rulebook, they were able to include a simplified version for this adventure that illustrates the balance of taking on additional Obligation to gain more talents and/or equipment now at the risk of it getting themselves into trouble later.

Shadows of a Black Sun pregens

The other half of the book is the eponymous adventure in three parts. The brief summary is a group had been hired to infiltrate a Black Sun facility on Coruscant retrieve vital data on a bounty hunter, and had just downloaded the data when an alarm had been tripped. They need to escape, and track down their target before they end up with a bounty on their heads.

The adventure itself is pretty well written and good at keeping things interesting. If I have one gripe, it's that they altered the stat block layout for NPCs: you're forced to either double check or know off hand which characteristics relate to which skills because it doesn't tell you; this slows things down when you need to construct a dice pool. I prefer the stat blocks presented in Escape From Mos Shuuta and The Long Arm Of The Hutt, where the coloured dice glyphs where presented for ease of constructing a dice pool. The rest of the booklet still uses the coloured dice glyphs for other things; and IMHO when you compare the stat blocks from those two adventures to this one, its not like these new stat blocks are saving that much more space on the page. That's just my 2 decicreds.

Shadows of a Black Sun back
On thing I do really like about this adventure is that they put in rules for playing Sabacc that makes it more interesting than your average task roll. Clever.

Final Thoughts: A solid EotE adventure that I'm glad to put on my shelf with the other two until I can take it for a whirl. And how can you beat that price? ;) I've heard tell that FFG is going to eventually release it on PDF (probably around the beginning of July) for those who couldn't grab a copy on Free RPG Day.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Better Than Any Man

Better Than Any Man cover
If Shadows of a Black Sun was my must get, than the minute I flipped through Better Than Any Man I knew this would be a close second.

LotFP is a weird fantasy OSR RPG that has been a "controversial" game during it's run. It has some very adult themes (note the Ages 18+ Explicit Content on the cover), and some graphic art that goes for shock value with gory/brutal/hardcore depictions. Apparently Better Than Any Man was 'sold' behind the counter in some shops or even in one case banned.

If one can liken RPGs to genres of music, then LotFP is the more aggressive spectrum of heavy metal; which fine by me cause I love metal. \\m//

That addressed, let's discuss this. First of all, for those who are unaware, LotFP's entry for Free RPG Day was the result of a very successfully funded kickstarter, which reflects it's production values and near 100 page count.

First off, the gorgeous front and back cover of the adventure are separate from the booklet, and unfold into a great colour map of the area of Lower Franconia.

The first couple pages of the booklet itself are a Table of Contents, a list of OSR internet resources, the Author James Edward Raggi IV's Notes, and Using This Adventure. Right of the bat the author address that there are no quickstarter rules and why they choice not to include them.

That being said, Better Than Any Man doesn't necessarily require LotFP to run; it can easily be adapted in any old school (OSR) system with a few changes. (I'd suggest downloading the art-free PDF copy of the LotFP rulebook freely from RPGNow)

An example of the author's approach to his writing. Gotta love it.

On to the adventure itself, which fills up the remaining entirety of the booklet. Now, as I want to get this review up today, I haven't had time to read all ~93 pages of the adventure, so my impressions are just from flipping through it and reading here and there. The adventure takes place in October 1631 in and around Karlstadt, a small town outside of Würzburg; as a blend of historical truth, anachronistic history, myth, and pure fiction. The two main concepts are that Karlstadt was recently taken over by a group of sorcerers, and the Swedish army is slowly approaching from the north where the bleak situation will rapidly degrade upon their arrival. The PC's must try to survive and hopefully profit from this environment.

Better Than Any Man has a great collection of evocative artwork in it. Most of the creatures have a positively lovecraftian bent to them, and are pretty brutal. The adventure itself is more presented as a open-world sandbox than a linear series of plot points or encounters. There is an ongoing, overarching series of timed events in the world, but these could have little effect on the PCs depending on the situation. There's so much material in here, I doubt even a quarter to a fifth of it would be even touched upon if one decided to run this as a one-shot session. Its much better suited to be played in series of sessions or a short campaign.

Final Thoughts: Definitely one of the booklets worth its weight in money, if it wasn't already free. If you're a fan of OSR games and not too squeamish on dark subject matter, I'd recommend this. Eventually this may become available on PDF.

The Stuff I Didn't Get But Flipped Through

As I only had a limited selection for these free booklets that I could take, I spent a bit of time leafing through the rest, and here are my brief impressions:

  1. Swords & Wizardry Adventure “Hall of Bones” - An OSR dungeon crawl adventure with less than par production values. Worth a better look.
  2. Pathfinder RPG Adventure “We Be Goblins Too!” - An entertaining if short adventure sequel to Paizo's "We Be Goblins". PDF will be available July 1st.
  3. BattleTech/Shadowrun Quickstart Flipbook - Seemed pretty decently put together, though the page background art is a little distracting.
  4. Dungeon Crawl Classics/Xcrawl RPG Adventure - I've heard good things about DCC, but I was disappointed they split the booklet with XCrawl, which seems to be a modern satire of dungeon crawls.
  5. Adventure & Quickstart for Vampire: The Requiem - If I had been able, this would have be my fourth thing to grab. It was quite weighty in page count and I was curious to see if any changes had been made now that Onyx Path Publishing owns White Wolf.
  6. “Fire Dwarves of Zorr”, Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls RPG Adventure - This really didn't grab my interest, seemed like a generic dungeon crawl. Nothing special.
  7. NeoExodus Pathfinder Adv. “Temple of the Forbidden God” - Must not have been memorable, because don't remember this one that much.
  8. Castles & Crusades Adventure “A Pot of Broken Bones & Halfling Broth” - Again, a not very seemingly interesting adventure.
  9. Tunse'al Quick Starts and Side Tracks (Savage Worlds Licensed) - This also had it's own successful kickstarter, alas the production values were quite low: Poorly printed and bound on cheap paper. For those interested, they'll apparently be releasing it on PDF the beginning of July.

Whew, I am spent. I hope this has been informative. Now I need to clean and organized the house, and maybe get started on the secret project I'm going to be posting soon.

I'm interested to hear your opinions on this years Free RPG Day products! Comment below or message me!

Cheers! ;{١

Sunday, 9 June 2013

VSE and Beyond

It has been one crazy-fun-busy week let me tell you! Get comfy because this is gonna be a long one.

Last weekend was the 4th Victoria Steam Exposition, and despite my low level of interest and lack of motivation to volunteer the time leading up to it, the Missus and I spent the near entirety of the weekend at the event. It was a blast, and volunteering this year was a breeze despite us being nearly half of the entire volunteer force. The venue was smaller this year, so its size probably helped. We had an awesome, truly epic time.

Here's a day-by-day of what we did:
  • Friday night we attended the Reception party at the Bard & Banker Pub, held in the Sam McGee room. There we mingled with other steampunks when we weren't attending to our fare or enraptured by the terrific history and ghost stories told to us by master raconteur Chris Adams of the local tour group Ghostly Walks. Quite a pleasant evening.
  • We got up relatively early Saturday morning, changed into our outfits (I went as my Victorian Sawbones and Plauge Empiric, Doktor Corvus) and headed down to the Victoria Event Centre to setup the Expo. The two of us handled registration for most of the day, with m'lady running errands when needed. From where we were stationed we were able to see the events that were on stage, which was a nice advantage to volunteering. I think this year I saw more new faces than old, but some of my good steampunks did show up like VSE veteran vendor Rad Juli, local featured artist Randie Feil, and the master fabricator behind Aether Anvil (below is a photo of the Doktor posing with a wicked cleaver of his creation), along with several other wonderful people.

Doktor Corvus trying out a new surgical tool

Here's a brief interview with Aether Anvil by VSE attendee Samantha:

  • Although I missed most of historian and author James H. Carrott's talk, I did have a nice chat about steampunk and maker culture with him later and he gave me a free signed copy of the book he co-wrote: Vintage Tomorrows. I can't wait to read through it!
  • Another one of the highlights of the day was the Bartitsu Demonstration given by David McCormick of Academie Duello. I remember the Bartitsu demonstration fell through at a previous VSE so I was glad to see it this year. The event definitely filled the room.
  • Near the end of the day events, the Missus and I got the chance to pop out behind the venue where local photographic artist Ken Miner had set up a portable tintype photography studio and darkroom. We each got a tintype photograph taken and developed before our very eyes. The whole process was incredible; this testimony pretty much sums up the experience. And what's more our hard work volunteering bagged us a gift certificate for 3 more tintype plates!

Doktor Corvus on Tintype

Here's another brief interview video by Samantha showing a bit of the process used for tintype:

  • We then had a brief break where we had some grub and changed into our evening wear for the Cabaret Burlesque that night. Nanaimo's Longwood Brewery unveiled their latest brew; SteamPunk beer. Everyone I talked to enjoyed it, including my gaming group last Friday. The show itself was quite good, with Miss Lydia DeCarllo titillating us with her burlesque, and Bučan Bučan rocking us with their high-energy Folk-Glam-Gypsy sound. We danced our asses off, and although we didn't win the coveted jar of pickles awarded to the best dancer(s) of the evening this year, they did acknowledge m'lady and myself as the returning champions. :) 

  • Sunday started off a little slow, as I'm sure everyone was tired after a night like that. By the time two o'clock rolled around the Missus and I had to duck out for our appointment: A few weeks ago we had decided for our 6th anniversary to get matching tattoos; and so we headed over to Urge Tattoos and got ourselves inked by Hansom Jeff. This was her third tattoo and my first; I'd been wanting to get one for years, but couldn't decide on what. It went rather well, aside from my naturally low blood pressure/sugar causing me to blackout for a time. It's been about a week and it's healed quite nicely. I might post a photo once its all healed up. For those curious its a stylized '<3' / heart. Some people have also pointed out it also resembles as moustache, which I'm fine with. ;{p
  • We returned to the Expo just as it was wrapping up. We said our fond farewells, helped with tear down, and made our back home, exhausted.
And that was our busy weekend at VSE. And yet it seems June doesn't want to slow down when it comes for things to do: 

Tuesday I joined a gaming group set to play Deadlands come the 18th, and am quite excited to finally play this setting. Back in VSE III I was considering running a session or two of steampunk-themed RPGs for the Expo. Deadlands was one of my choices, along with Airship Pirates, Space: 1889, and Unhallowed Metropolis. One vendor we had at VSE this year was a gaming restaurant from nearby Saltspring Island called The Gathering; though they had no food with them they brought a whole bunch of boardgames to sell and demo. Though I didn't get a chance to play, I like that they were appealing to the gamer side of our local steampunk scene, and I'm considering doing something similar with RPGs next VSE. Anyway, as far as my character for Deadlands, I'm leaning toward a spell-slinging Huckster (essentially a gambling-powered spellcaster), although recent steampunk-influences also make me inclined to play a Mad Scientist. We shall see what the rest of the group rolls up for their PCs.

Speaking of gaming, yesterday I swung by CAVITY Curiosity Shop to grab some tickets to see the heavy metal band Skeletonwitch this Tuesday when I happened upon a copy of West End Game's Star Wars Roleplaying Game (2nd Ed Revised). Being a fanboy I had to pick it up. I've never had the chance to play WEG's d6 Star Wars RPG, as this was probably the first physical copy I've seen up close, because I'm pretty sure I would've leapt at the opportunity to grab it when I was younger. Although I don't know if I'll ever play/run WEG Star Wars, (given how smitten I am with EotE.) I'm glad to have it apart of my collection. And on the related note of Edge of the Empire, if you haven't seen it yet FFG has released details on the first full-length adventure they're going to release for their Star Wars RPG line. Read more about Beyond The Rim here.

The month's not over yet! Don't forget next Saturday is Free RPG Day! And the day after that is a steampunk cosplay event at a local pizza restaurant. And finally the following weekend I've booked sometime off work to visit with my grandpa and hopefully get some fishing in. Gotta practice my fly casting!

June's shaping up quite well if I do say so myself. 

Cheers! ;{١