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Friday, January 23, 2015

Nefertiti Overdrive Kickstarter -- Take Two

No, you aren't having deja vu (or, it's totally unrelated to this), Nefertiti Overdrive -- the wuxia-style RPG set in ancient egypt by Fraser Ronald over at Swords Edge Publishing -- is back on the Kickstarters. I talked about its previous Kickstarter attempt in March of last year and, while it didn't fund then, it is (as of this writing) on the verge of funding, with a little over two weeks left.

I talked about the project some in the previous article and, while I can't tell what might have changed, if anything, with the game since, the Kickstarter project has certainly received a nice face-lift, among other things.

First up, the information presented on the project page is more concise and streamlined -- there's less "wall of text" for the important gaming bits. The video is basic, but provides all the information you need. And there are some nice images that really help convey what the book is about.

The pledge tiers haven't really changed all that much, which is fine -- they are reasonably priced and should have something for everyone interested. The big change was a drop in the funding goal -- from CAD$5,000 to CAD$3,000. That change, along with the improved project page (and likely plenty of other things "behind the scenes") have really put this project on the right track for funding.

Enough waxing on the Kickstarter page's elements, is this Kickstarter for you? If you like tabletop gaming, Ancient Egypt as a setting, and old martial arts films -- then it's quite possible this Kickstarter is for you. The best way to truly find out is by downloading the quick start rules (that are free) from one of the links in the "About this project" section of the Kickstart page. [At the time of posting, the project was 90% funded.]

Apart from the Kickstarter page, you can also find more information on Nefertiti Overdrive over on Swords Edge Publishing's website.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Player-Defined Powers In Classic Marvel Super-Heroes RPG

One of the more forward thinking ideas of the Classic Marvel Super-Heroes RPG from TSR was the idea of player/GM-defined powers and talents. Ostensibly an aid for adapting characters from the comics into the game, there's nothing saying that you can't have this as a regular option for your games, if you so desire.

We will be using the little known Revised Basic Rules as the basic for our upcoming Classic Marvel campaign, so any page references that I make will be to that book.

In the character creation section (pg. 47) there is a Power Categories Table that is used to determine the types of powers that your character can have. Instead of using that table, substitute this one instead:

Dice Roll
Power Category
Sensory Powers
Movement Powers
Matter Control Powers
Energy Control Powers
Body Control Powers
Ranged Attack Powers
Mental Powers
Body Alterations/Offense
Body Alterations/Defense

The change is fairly minor (adding one line at the end for Player-Defined Powers. The idea is that this is for the rare and exotic powers in your world, the ones that aren't as "generic" as some of the other powers may be. Obviously this will entail an added level of oversight because you will end up with players who want to create an "I DESTROY EVERYONE" power, or something similar.

One of the built-in controls for these player-defined powers is that fact that all powers in the Classic Marvel game have a ranking that controls what they can do. Even if you allow the I DESTROY EVERYONE power in a game, when the character's rank in it is only Good that will act as its own limitation on the power.

However, for those who want to think outside of the box, player-defined powers can help with that. Imagine wanting a character like Kay Challis, Crazy Jane of DC Comic's Doom Patrol revamp of the 80s. Mapping out 64 power sets would be a lot of work, and it would probably be beyond the scope of the Marvel game's character creation rules. She is, however, obviously a starting character. Really, we never see her entire power set demonstrated during the run of the comic...and we don't actually see many of the powers manifest in the beginning. Would a player-defined power be a way to go with this character? Maybe.

With apologies to Jay Z, you could name this power "I Have 64 Personalities And All Of Them Have Powers." Yes, there will be a little book keeping involved in this.

One thing that we can build into a player-defined power now is the idea of spending Karma, one of the game's character resources, for player-defined powers. While this is a common idea nowadays in systems like Fate or Icons, the idea wasn't as commonplace back when this system was created.

The idea being that, particularly with a power like that of Crazy Jane's Crazy-Janeness, having less defined up front costs you a little bit more when you go to actually utilize a power. This idea does fit in with the idea of "pay now or pay later" with the Karma system for the Classic Marvel game. As a GM, if someone in our campaign were to suggest creating this character using a player-defined power, this is a way that we could do it.

I would suggest an activation cost to the power. If you look back at the comics (which I did recently, when I got the Doom Patrol Omnibus for Christmas), you'll see that the character's powers are unreliable and can cut out at times. It would probably cost 10 or 20 Karma to activate the power. It is important to make the cost enough to have some weight (i.e. charging 1 or 5 points really isn't going to give much difficulty to the power), but not so much of a charge that the power becomes useless. The idea is to turn the power into a resource that has an impact on the play of the game. When the player uses Crazy Jane's powers, big stuff happens and bad guys can get taken out. You don't want to make this something that happens to easily, or that can't happen enough. An expenditure of 20 Karma can make a big deal, if it means that those 20 Karma cannot be used later in a game for influencing a dice roll.

Randomness can be your friend. Another option for making a power like that of Crazy Jane's would be to add a random element to it. Using powers that the character has previously used is no problem, and just has the activation cost, but when you go to use a new power you roll for it randomly. Once the power is rolled, it is fixed. This gives you 64 "slots" for Crazy Jane to fill up through play, and each time the player decides that it is time for a new personality with a new power to surface they roll on the Power Categories Table and roll through the sub-tables to determine the power. This roll uses the Power Categories Table from the book, however, because nesting player-defined powers could turn into a headache for everyone involved.

Yes, this does make for a bit of work on the part of the player who wanted this power for their character, but this extra work can be considered to be a part of the checks and balances of the system. Rolling on a couple of tables won't take up that much table time, and it gives an opportunity for group-wide fun as you get to mock the "Matter-Eater Lad" rolls.

Now, creating a character like Crazy Jane is obviously extreme, but it is always a possibility in a super-hero game. Super-hero games are often, by their nature, very gonzo and player-defined powers can feed into that gonzo-ness. You can also have less extreme versions of this power. My Matter-Eater Lad example in the previous paragraph could be a player-defined power. Write it like "Alien Physiology Allows Him To Eat And Digest Anything." The ranking for the power could determine how long it takes the character to digest things, or to chew them. It can be as simple as that.

Yes, Matter-Eater Lad was a real super-hero.

Another good use for player-defined powers can also be in the use of creating alien/extradimensional species. When alien species have powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal beings, like a Kryptonian, you can turn those into a super-power. Does your Kryptonian have a low rank in their "nature"? Perhaps this means that there is some interspecies breeding in their past ("Oh, your grandmother was from Earth?") which means that the powers aren't quite as potent in your character. When doing this you have to predetermine what exactly the "power set" for the alien species would be. Are they tougher than usual? The power rank can be used as an armor against damage. Are they smarter than usual? Substitute the power rank for their Reason in certain situations. There are a lot of ways that you can use this as a power for your character, it just requires thinking creatively.

Player-defined Talents can be even simpler. There are always "talents" that characters can have that are outside of those listed. Computers, Technology and Media have changed dramatically since the Classic Marvel RPG was published. Now, talents like "Twitter Muck-Raker," "Blogger" and "Social Media Guru" are just as viable media talents as Journalist was in the original game. Try to not think of the list of talents available in the original game as the be all of what is available to your character. There are always skills and occupations that game designers won't think about when making a game.

Any of these player-defined parts to a character can have an impact upon both the viability of the character, and their impact upon a campaign. You really want to try to curtail characters that take too much of the spotlight away from other characters. GMs shouldn't just say no to an element that a player wants to add to a campaign through their powers, but everyone should talk it out in order to come to a player-defined power that does what the player wants without bending things for the rest of the group.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Here Comes The Twister -- Detail In Setting Up Your New Campaign

There is a fine line to walk when starting up a new campaign. You want to give the players the idea of the world to come, without overloading on the details in such a way that you don't take all of the potential fun out of the game. Much like with players who come up with overly detailed backstories for their characters that have more awesomenss than the combination of five action movies, putting too much detail into your campaign world before you play can kill the world just as dead.

With the new year, our group is starting a new game. This is all my fault, I didn't really have fun with the last game. At the heart of things, I am probably a bad gamer because I really don't like playing D&D. So, that means that we needed something that would be as much fun for me as the GM as it was for the players (hopefully). This means that we going to stretch back to a different kind of old school for our next game: classic Marvel Super-Heroes (the original TSR game).

We aren't playing in any version of the Marvel Universe, however. All new, all original, all fun. I am taking a page from +Ross Payton's excellent Fate-based Base Raiders RPG and wiping the slate clean on the setting. You know those big events that plague comics? The last time one of those things happened in our world almost all of the heroes and villains disappeared. Poof. I also like the idea of hidden bases of the disappeared heroes and villains being left behind as a spark for new generations of heroes and villains. A super-hero dungeon crawl RPG. Who would have thought? Even if you don't use Fate in your games, there is plenty of good stuff to find in Payton's game. It sparked the basic ideas for our game in my head, so it should be able to give you plenty of good ideas too. It is good to look beyond the same old when looking for inspirations.

The other inspiration would be +Zak Smith's A Red & Pleasant Land. Yes, the D&D supplement/setting. If you haven't heard about this yet, well...I don't know what to tell you. I've already talked about this a little bit in my previous post converting Smith's Alice class from that book into a new Marvel Super-Heroes origin called The Fool. I know that +solange simondsen, one of the players in our group, is already excited about the opportunity to play Alice as a super-hero. So many other fictional characters have become super-heroes or villains, so it is probably Alice's turn.

Unintentionally, both of these posts about our upcoming campaign have referenced Talking Heads songs in their titles. Hopefully I will remember that for future posts.

Now, you're probably wondering why I would be referencing tornadoes in the name of a post about a game set in a alternate version of Wonderland. As I have said over on G+, as much as I have been a fan of Carrol's Alice stories, I was always a much bigger fan of L. Frank Baum's Oz stuff. So, because of that I want to bring an Oz into our world. Much like Smith's Voivodja is a twisted version of Wonderland, our Oz will be twisted like taffy in a cyclone.

Where Voivodja is in the thrall of vampires, Oz finds itself under the domination of the witches. Whether you're a good witch or a bad one, ultimately the seductive pull of dark magic get to you and warp you in chaotic ways. No matter how much you think that you are using magic, it will ultimately use you instead. There are great shadows that reach across the worlds, a conflict that grinds everything beneath its heel.

These worlds were once much more innocent, even in their evils, but now the lights are a little less bright, and the shadows seem to be even heavier.

If you've never seen Susperia you should be ashamed of yourself. Luckily, someone has solved that on YouTube for you.

From the Susperia Wikipedia page:
Suspiria (Latin for "sighs") is a 1977 Italian horror film directed by Dario Argento, co-written by Argento and Daria Nicolodi, and co-produced by Claudio and Salvatore Argento. The film stars Jessica Harper as an American ballet student who transfers to a prestigious dance academy in Germany. Later, she would realize that the academy is a front for something far more sinister and supernatural amidst a series of murders. The film also features Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci, Miguel Bosè, Alida Valli, Udo Kier, and Joan Bennett in her final film role. 

I like the classic Italian horror movies of the 70s because of the psychedelic, hallucinatory way in which they were made. I think that the tone of Satanic witchcraft would fit well into the outlines of the world that I am envisioning.

I really wanted to embed a link to Jess Franco's psychedelic vampire movie, Vampyros Lesbos, because I want to use that to inform my take on the vampires in our campaign. Based (very loosely) on the Bram Stoker short story "Dracula's Guest," this movie does for vampires what Suspiria does for witches. However, the one thing that sets Vampyros Lesbos apart really is the incredible soundtrack.

It should probably go without saying that neither or these videos are work safe.

None of this is sounding like your standard super-hero game, is it? That's intentional. Magic and the supernatural have been part of comic book super-heroes since the beginning. In fact, historically, the first costumed hero was Siegel and Shuster's Doctor Occult (breaking from trenchcoat to ritual garb just a couple of months before Superman would debut). With the heroes and villains gone, this means that older, darker menaces are rising up again. The old safeguards have deteriorated with the disappearance of all the heroes and the veils between the dimensions have thinned. The tornadoes which once abducted children from Earth have been popping up again and the vampires from Voivodja have been slowly sliding into our world, with their intrigues and wars.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

More Aihrde Kickstarter From Troll Lord Games

Now in the last few days, Troll Lord Games is having a Kickstarter for their Codex of Aihrde, the long running setting that has appeared in many of the Troll Lord Games supplements and modules over the years. I spoke with Stephen Chenault about the book and what people can expect from it.

Dorkland: Congratulations on the success of another Kickstarter. To what is the secret to success for Troll Lord Games and their Kickstarters?

Stephen Chenault: There are two sides to this coin. First, and foremost, we owe it to the community. It’s quite extraordinary. I think many people have played Castles & Crusades for years and enjoyed the game, but also they’ve enjoyed watching it grow, expand and become ever better. The other side is our online presence. Troll Lord Games has a very large online presence, from Instagram to Facebook, from a our Troll Dens Blog to Twitter; even our homepage is a portal where you can go and watch movie clips, view funny memes, heck you can even find out what movie’s are playing in your neighborhood…and also find out what Troll Lord Games is up to. These two together make it possible to get the word out to a large number of people about the game and what is coming. Throw in a nice helping of boons and stretch rewards and we have a remarkable record.

DL: What is it about Kickstarter that works for you as a publisher, and as a creator?

SC: At its heart Kickstarter is a funding program, and that’s where it gives TLG the real edge. It essentially allows us to test products, to see if they are well received or will be well received. That in turn allows us prioritize projects we are working on, or would like to.

DL: What are the origins of the setting of Aihrde? Is this the world that you have gamed in yourself, and others can now journey through themselves?

SC: Yeah, we started gaming along time ago and in the midst of all that there was one adventuring party we kept returning to. Level progression was very, very slow, and this allowed us to really explore the setting that slowly evolved around it: Aihrde. Back in 2000 when we launched the company we needed a fourth book to get a discount from the printer, having nothing readily on hand, I compiled all my notes on Aihrde, hashed em out, finalized the map of the central areas (the Lands of Ursal), and before long I had a 24 page setting book, The After Winter’s Dark Fantasy Campaign Setting. From there it just kept expanding.

DL: What has inspired the creation and development of Aihrde? What would be the “Appendix N” for the setting?

SC: J.R.R. Tokien’s The Silmarillian. I always loved this work, the Lord of the Rings is an epic tale, but the Silmarillian is more so. It relates the story of all things in Middle Earth, the tale behind the tale. That’s what I always thought made the Lord of the Rings so tangible. It was a story in a world that was complete…not just some names and places…but tales and stories that stretched from the beginning to the end. The first 120,000 words of the Codex of Aihrde follows a similar track. It is actually a stand alone book called the Andanuth. The Andanuth is the creation mythos from the beginning of Aihrde to the present.

DL: What sets Aihrde apart from other fantasy worlds and fantasy game settings? Why should people pick up The Codex of Aihrde and support the Kickstarter in its last days?
Aihrde offers the best of all worlds, so to speak.

SC: As mentioned above it has an extraordinary amount of depth to the setting, the mythos are covered from the beginning to the present, allowing both player and game master to really dig into the setting and its characters. In Aihrde there is true context. An ancient artifact can be placed in “time” so that what they are and were weaves with any ongoing adventure or story. The background is loaded with adventure hooks, an almost limitless supply of them.

Also, the peoples that occupy the setting aren’t unusual, they are giants and trolls, dwarves, humans and elves . . . creatures we are all very comfortable with. This allows one to pick up the setting, move any game they want to it and keep playing. No need to worry over shoe-horning a strange fantasy element to it.

The setting itself is placed 90 years after the world was conquered and controlled by the Winter Dark and the dark god Unklar. It is a world reborn on the foundations of the old. This allows anyone playing in Aihrde to guide the direction of the setting as best fits them. It is very open, much like Castles & Crusades.

But in the end, I think Aihrde offers a world rich in texture, one you can enter and become lost in. The stories range from the epic to the mundane, from the Red God’s war with the Val Eahrakun, to the dwarf maid Mette’s rage at her husband’s death (and the magic of his blue hat).

Plus, did I mention those giant, spring-roller mounted maps?

DL: For you, what is the coolest element to this Kickstarter? What are you most looking forward to getting so that you can play with it?

SC: Me personally?, it has to be the giant spring roller mounted map. This is something you can mount to the ceiling or wall, or place in a tripod and set up while you are gaming. This map will be one giant,  39 inch wide and some 30 inches tall map that you can raise or lower from the mounting assembly (like the  ones you see in schools). That’s a must have for my game room.

DL: What is on the Troll Lord Games Agenda for the upcoming year?

We have a very exciting year. We will fulfill the last few Kickstarters in the first quarter, then launch the Victorious RPG, work with Brimstone Comics to adapt their comics to the Castles & Crusades Siege Engine, as well as work with the folks over at Abyss Walker to explore his fantastic fiction in a C&C environment, and we’ll wrap up the year with the long awaited Adventurers Backpack, a kind of Unearthed Arcana for C&C and of course Gods and Monsters of Aihrde. It is going to be a great year.

Thank you to Stephen for talking with us today. The Codex of Aihrde Kickstarter ends on January 5th, 2015.

This Just In... Precis Intermedia Acquires Mystic Ages Publishing Properties

Precis Intermedia (publishers of Shatterzone and  Masterbook, as well as the GenreDiversions games among others) has acquired the rights to the Eldritch Ass Kicking, Barbarians Versus and Foreign Element games written by Nathan Hill and published by his Mystic Ages Publishing imprint.

The PDF of the science fiction game Foreign Element is already available through the Precis Intermedia webstore.

The description of Foreign Element from the Precis Intermedia page:
Humanity's ambush push into the stars is halted with a mysterious event known as the Great Blackout. Thousands of colonies, space stations, and space craft go silent in a matter of days and weeks. Now, the Interplanetary Union is scrambling to discover what happened, sending out RX teams to diagnose the rot spread through known space. Infiltrate remote outposts, hack into corporate secrets, and blast your way through enemy hordes as you unlock this mystery and your hero's destiny.
  • Fast-paced, rules light system utilizes six-sided dice.
  • Six archetype characters, ready to play -- or create your own desperate or courageous citizen.
  • Heroes don't die -- nano robotic technology in the distant future regenerates a dead comrade in days.
  • No equipment lists to maintain -- a dice pool mechanic increases as you scavenge ruined tech and decreases as you use it to do cool things.
  • Some battles and tasks have deadlines -- face consequences if you can't hack the mainframe in time!
  • Missions within missions -- earn extra credits working for shadowy sources, and spend them upgrading your hero with self-help services in space!
  • The mystery is left up to you -- you decide what caused the Great Blackout and whether it might happen again.
I'm sure that we'll see other former Mystic Ages games making their way up on the Precis Intermedia website, and eventually on the OneBookShelf sites.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Aihrde Kickstarter From Troll Lord Games

The folks at Troll Lord Games have another Kickstarter running, this time to get out their Aihrde setting out. For those who have followed the work of the Troll Lords, this setting has been a part of their games (d20 and Castles & Crusades) for a number of years.

From their Kickstarter page:
Aihrde is a complete campaign and world setting for your favorite RPG. Whether your playing Castles & Crusades, Dungeon Crawl Classics or any other RPG, you can find a home in Aihrde.  There is an in-depth history, mythology, descriptions of all the races of the world, from dwarves to giants and elves to orcs, a case by case study of all the relevant kingdoms and peoples and the geographical regions they live. It also includes deities and all the relevant info needed to run them: guilds, orders, significant terrain features and so very much more.  Aihrde is the most complete campaign setting on the market today.
 Now, at this point the book is funded, and that is left in the last couple of weeks is to reach a few of the stretch goals. Troll Lord Games is really good about getting their Kickstartered stuff together and out the door. Even if you don't play Castles & Crusades, you should be able to find plenty of interesting material for your fantasy campaigns, old or new school. If you haven't already, you should check this project out.

Why do I think that you should do this? Well, if having a world built for you isn't enough, I'll boil it down to one simple word: maps. The maps for this are just incredible looking and are suitable for framing as well. As a GM who can be lazy at times, I can say that it does always help to have premade worlds and cities and locations at your fingertips.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

OneBookShelf And That Voldemort Card Game

So, OneBookShelf (the owners of DriveThruRPG and RPGNow), sellers of tabletop gaming material in PDF and POD took a stand today against Postmortem Studio's GamerGate card game:

People are coming down on either side of this issue, calling it censorship or the "workings of a free market."

Over on Twitter, I did state my opinion on the matter and the game:

I think that there are a lot of people, including the creator of the game, who are using controversy and bad things happening to people in order to build a higher internet profile for themselves. How is that working out? I'm never going to think that profiteering off of the anguish of others is a good thing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

This Ain't No Fooling Around -- An RPL Fool In Classic Marvel Super-Heroes

If you haven't heard of Red & Pleasant Land by +Zak Smith at this point, I will be a bit surprised. Then I will point you towards the interview that I did with Zak for Bleeding Cool.

A Red & Pleasant Land is an adventure/campaign/setting supplement for pretty much any edition of D&D ever. It is a rich and intriguing setting (a more in depth review will come along later) that treads new ground in gaming and moves thoughts about what you can do in a game setting at right angles to what is ordinary and accepted. The link at the top of this paragraph takes you to RPGNow and the PDF of the book.

Our group is listed among the playtesters for the book, so we saw a very early version of some of the material. We had fun with it and the strangeness of the world.

But, what if you aren't playing a D&D game? What if you still want to use this material with your game, when that game is (for example) the Classic Marvel Super-Heroes game that TSR published back in the 80s? Well, in that case you do what gamers always do...make some stuff up.

We're not going to jump immediately into the world of RPL. That would be silly, and besides then the players would be expecting what would happen. And a GM has to mix thing up when their players are cheating bastards who read the game books in advance in order to game a benefit during play.

In the book, there is a new character class called The Alice (the illustration for the class from the book and linked above used Connie, a member of Zak's home group). In the book they also call it The Alistair or The Fool, for those who would prefer non-gendered or male-gendered versions. The class itself remains the same. For our Marvel game, I'm coming up with a new Origin called The Fool. If you've never played the classic Marvel game there is a link above to a website that hosts a lot of material for it, including the long out of print rules. Origins in the game are sort of like archetypes, and they help guide the character creation rules of the game.

Converting between two games that have substantially different mechanical approaches, not to mention very different rules systems, can be tricky. Really, the best thing to do is to go for the intent of the original in the new system. Trying to make an exact conversion will lead to madness.

Much like with all super-heroes, The Fool doesn't seek out adventure as much as the universe throws it at them. Some call them "weirdness magnets," because strange things happen when they are around, things that the so-called "normal" super-heroes never have to deal with. Where other heroes deal with bank robbers and world conquerors, The Fool finds themselves dealing with parasite realities and hungry realities. Some say that there is a Doom that follows The Fool where they Patrol.

Those who embody The Fool get a +1CS bonus to their Intuition and Psyche, because of their stubbornness and fierce independence. They know what is going on around them, and are watching carefully what is unfolding around them, even if it doesn't look like they are watching.

The Fool is often the chosen of fate, and as such can often draw its attention in stressful situations. During these times, make a Psyche FEAT roll, the result of which determines how they get to roll on the Exasperation table on pg. 31 of Red & Pleasant Land. On a White FEAT, the GM rolls a d4 on the Exasperation table. On a Green FEAT, the GM rolls a d6 on the Exasperation table. On a Yellow FEAT, the GM rolls a d8 on the Exasperation table. On a Red FEAT, the GM rolls a d12.

The results of the Exasperation table in the book are fairly generic, so converting them to the Marvel game's rules should be fairly easy. I'm not going to quote the table, or convert it here...mostly because I want you to get the book or PDF for yourself. Honestly, it is worth your money. I plan on just doing conversions on the fly.

In the book, this ability is used once per game hour, but I think for the Marvel game I will make it into a once per session ability instead.

Fate's Champion
The Fool is chosen by Fate to lead the life of strangeness and adventure that they lead. Because of this relationship to the Cosmic Forces of Destiny, twice per game session you can take an advantage with rolls made. To take advantage you roll twice for the die roll attempted and take the higher of the two results. However because Fate is stepping in more directly, you cannot spend Karma on these rolls. Likewise, once per session you can cause someone acting against the character to take a disadvantage on a roll. This means that (typically) the GM will roll twice and take the lower of the two rolls as the result. Like with taking an advantage, Karma cannot be spent on this roll.

Rather than the standard powers in the Marvel game, use the D100 Level Up Table from Red & Pleasant Land instead. Change ability score increases to ability increases of the relevant equivalent ability in the Marvel game. Dexterity increases can be either Fighting or Agility increases, with the approval of the GM. If you should need a rank for the power, use the standard random rank tables. If you're playing the Advanced version of the game, The Fool rolls on the same table as Altered Humans.

Starting characters get two rolls on this table and can purchase further rolls for 500 Karma. That seems a reasonable number for now, but once we get to use this Origin in actual play we will see how that shakes out and change it appropriately. One of the things that I have always liked about the Classic Marvel game is that when you use your character's Karma you have to weigh present benefits against future advances. That is a very super-hero-y sort of thing in my mind.

Those are the basics for creating a Fool in a Marvel Super-Heroes game. There will probably be more to come once we start with play. Any questions or comments can be asked on G+ or Twitter.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The Slumbering Ursine Dunes

Are you one of the people who didn't back +Chris Kutalik's Slumbering Ursine Dunes on Kickstarter who is on the lookout for a good module for your old school D&Dish games? Well, you are in luck because the PDF is now available via fine purveyors of RPG materials online.

This is not your cookie cutter adventure. I really liked the weirdness of the adventure (War bear soldiers? Yes, please.) and Kutalik's use of a Moorcockian influence that wasn't Elric. I am not hating on Elric, it is just that there is a lot of good stories by Moorcock that didn't feature everyone's favorite albino sorcerer. It is good to see some of them making it into the inspirations for a role-playing adventure.

Written for Goblinoid Games' Labyrinth Lord retroclone, you can easily fit this into a campaign for any game build around similar mechanics to those of the early editions of D&D. With a little effort you could probably even run this with D&D 5e.

There are also a couple of new race-as-class Classes for Labyrinth Lord, and a couple of interesting new spells as well. The adventure is interesting and flavorful, and the book has some great art to it. I particularly like the back cover piece (at right). The weirdness of the module is enough to make it stand out from other adventures, without turning into a kitchy weird for weird's sake that can happen in the hands of a less skilled writer than Kutalik.

You also get a selection of interesting new monsters, pulled from Slavic mythology (according to the author) and filtered through the setting, these are more than just reskinned creatures or knock offs of older monsters. They are well thought out and not over powered for the character level of the adventure.

I recommend that anyone interested in modules that are outside of the same old, but who aren't looking for anything that is too out there and that can easily be slotted into an ongoing campaign. Whether you want to use the Slumbering Ursine Dunes as the start for a campaign, or as a sidetrack for characters  looking for new excitements, there are things for you in this module. Reasonably priced at $9 for an adventure with new creatures, classes and spells, there is a little bit for everyone in Slumbering Ursine Dunes.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Magic Monday: Valiant's Punk Mambo

Magic Monday is going to be a blog feature that probably won't be as frequent as I want it to be, but it is what it is. In this feature I'll talk about new and old comics that deal with magical themes, whether horror, monsters, paranormal romance, spell casters or any other sort of magical features.

Punk Mambo is a one shot special from Valiant Comics that features a "punk" voodoo hougan, that apparently spun out of Valiant's Shadowman comic. I haven't kept up with Shadowman, so this issue is really all that I know about the character.

Written by Peter Milligan (Shade The Changing Man, Justice League Dark, Stormwatch, HellblazerEnigma and many, many other comics), with art by Robert Gill (Eternal Warrior, Armor Hunters: Harbinger and Grimm Fairy Tales: Alice In Wonderland), my first impression of the book was that it was the 90s again and I was reading one of the books from that early, wonderful burst of creativity that us Vertigo Comics. Punk Mambo could have easily been a Vertigo comic along side Shade or Animal Man or Swamp Thing. Peter Milligan writes an engaging story that doesn't need the character's previous appearances to explain it.

The art by Gill is evocative and draws you into the story, creating the character's world and breathing life into it. As good as the writing is, I don't think that this story would be as interesting without Gill's art. He makes you feel as if you are in a swamp and if you are in London, making each a vivid place and as unique as they should be.

While we don't really get an explanation of how a British punk ends up in the swamps of Louisiana, we do get a look at the character's voyage from Victoria, a rich kid in a private affluent to a gutterpunk on the streets of 70s London to her becoming the Voodooista Punk Mambo. I may not be the only one who saw a swipe at John Constantine in "Joe Mayhem," the punk voodoo guy who sets Victoria along her voodoo path.

Fans of magic and the supernatural in comics should enjoy this comic. The biggest "flaw" for me was the fact that by the time I reached the end of the 22 pages I was sad that this was not the first issue of an ongoing series. Spoiler alert: It should be!

I am glad to see that Valiant isn't just living in the past and spinning out past glories into new franchises. Creating new characters like this and expanding the corners of a vibrant and exciting comic universe means that the setting will not stagnant and we will see many more new stories and characters to come.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

We Aren't Going To Take This Anymore

If you're "tired" of hearing about things that aren't geeky, you should probably skip this post. In fact you should probably just start skipping this blog altogether. We are who we are, and we aren't one-sided caricatures who only think and talk about certain things.

It just feels like things are on a downward slope here in the world, and it makes me sad. Bad things happened yesterday, and people of color were shown that they weren't important. It is weird that protests happened around the country, and yet the media decided to only cover the violence in Ferguson, as if that were the only thing happening.

This post is to archive some tweets that I made this morning, forgive the typo in one of them. I was typing on my phone.

 Some really horrible, terrible things were said last night by some hateful people online, and people like Wil Wheaton and Chris Kluwe were retweeting the things said to them by some of these people. Why, because we have to shine a spotlight on to this hate if we are ever going to make it go away. I have doubts about that sometimes, but it was even more disheartening that people were saying that they didn't want these things to be retweeted because they didn't want hate in their timelines.

We can't look away and we have to face these things. It is the only way that any sort of change will happen. It is easy to say that you don't want to see these things when they aren't directed at you, aren't part and parcel of your everyday life. But that doesn't take those things away, and that doesn't mean that we don't stare down these things in order to make a change in our world.

Then I tied it in with some geeky stuff, in a way, from my childhood, and a really good friend of mine from when I was growing up. His name was Marc Thomas, and in a lot of ways being his friend back then helped to make me into the adult that I am now. I don't often talk about these sorts of things because, well, mostly I think it isn't my job to justify who I am or where I have come from. All of us are on a journey through our lives, hopefully to get to a better place than where we used to be.
The thing is, that I guess that I'm not really done. Not by a long shot.

This stuff in Ferguson is just another piece of an enormous iceberg of hate that is trying so hard to break through the surface of the world. Just like GamerGate is another one.

We are at a crossroads culturally in our world right now. We are looking back into the past, at a world where casual and institutional hate of people because of the color of their skin, or their sexual preference, or their gender identity were a accepted as the norm. We are looking forward into a future where we can all treat each other as humans and not worry about labels or descriptors. We are seeing that there are a lot of people who are all of a sudden surprised that they are in the future, and that their hate is not okay. Not by any stretch of the imagination. They are angry at the world because they have been left behind. This is not the fault of the world.

We really should be better than this, but because we aren't we need to keep up the fight. We need to not casually mock people of color or gays or the transgendered or those with any of the multitude of disabilities. It isn't easy, and so many things are culturalized that it doesn't make it any easier. But it isn't supposed to be easy. Being better people isn't supposed to be an easy thing, but it is supposed to be the right thing.

So many of us were brought up on a steady stream of comics, science fiction, movies and other media where the moralities were clear cut. We should know better than this, and we need to stop being silent. When someone says something hateful about the LGBT we need to shout them down. Not because of our friends who are LGBT, who can fight their own fights, but because it is the right thing to do. The same when people say hateful things about people of color. The same when people say hateful things about the mentally or physically handicapped. Things aren't going to change until we let the world know that hate is unacceptable.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

BRUTES -- A Fantasy Masterbook Game From Precis Intermedia

So, this filtered through my inbox:

Brett Bernstein is working on a new RPG, a fantasy game based on the Masterbook System and based upon the setting of his Brutes miniatures game. I'm sure that a dedicated Masterbook fantasy game will interest a lot of people. Click here for information as it develops.

20 Years of Daily Illumination -- Steve Jackson Games' Daily Illuminator

I've blogged here at the Dorkland! blog for just over ten years now. That's an accomplishment for sure. However, there's a blog that has been posting every day for twenty years now...and that blog is the Daily Illuminator from Steve Jackson Games. For twenty years the people over at Steve Jackson Games have been posting to the Daily Illuminator every day.

That is phenomenal and deserves some serious kudos from the folks at Steve Jackson Games.

If you haven't ever read the page you should do so now. They also have a convenient mailable version that will be delivered daily into your inbox as well.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Fantasy Gaming On The British Side: Pelinore

I meant to go live with this a week ago, and got wrapped up in some other things. Better late than never.

I've always been interested in the "British Arm" of the early days of British role-playing. Much like with the "US West Coast" style, they brought a different energy and style to that particularly Midwestern mode of fantasy role-playing and Dungeons & Dragons. The British, after all, are the ones who brought us The Fiend Folio and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying. Of course, they also brought us the Monstermark, so I guess that you take the bad with the good.

What has recently surfaced on the web is a netbook compiling the Pelinore campaign and adventures that were published in Imagine magazine. Imagine was started by Don Turnbull, who had written for White Dwarf (including creating the Monstermark system) and Games Workshop before working for TSR UK.

What makes this document so interesting is that it is a snapshot of an approach to fantasy RPGs that really doesn't exist any more. Some of it still exists in some forms in places like Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying, but what you get in its current form is different from what you got as a game back then.

If I were starting a new game right now, I would probably dig into The Collected Pelinore as my setting. It is a realized world with interesting NPCs, maps, and some interesting rules variants for your old school D&D-ish fantasy games. One of the things that I found interesting was the section on capturing monsters (instead of killing them) for use in an arena, and how to calculate XP rewards for that. "The Arena doesn't want unfettered aerial monsters - who is going to pay to watch a harpie fly away?" That's just a great quote.

Ultimately the reason that I am spreading this around is because I think that we could use more diversity in our old school conversations. What people like Gygax and Arneson did to give us our hobby was a great thing, but getting to see the weird and wild directions that people take this hobby into is a great thing, too.

Update: Thanks to +Tim Huntley (in the comments), here is a link to a site that has scanned and compiled the original Pelinore into a PDF. I haven't read through this PDF yet, so I don't know how complete it is. The truth may lay somewhere in between this PDF and The Collected Pelinore. This is useful as much as an historical document, much like the Fiend Factory file below.

Update 2: +B. Scot Hoover, the architect of The Collected Pelinore is also archiving the Pelinore modules. Right now you can find two of them (In Search of the New Gods and The Awakening) on his Google drive. In Search of the New Gods is for characters 4-7th level, and The Awakening is for characters of 7-8th level. I'll leave this here for right now, but I will probably break these modules out into their own blog post once a few more of them come out.

A big thanks to +B. Scot Hoover for all of this hard work in preserving a piece of gaming history.

As an added bonus, I give you a compilation of the old Fiend Factory monster articles from the old days of White Dwarf. You may recognize many of these from when they ended up in the Fiend Folio, but these are the original versions of these monsters, as they were first published. Some are for D&D and some are for AD&D (the emphasis changed in the magazine when the new edition of the rules came out). This PDF is old and shop worn, and has been circulating the internet for a long, long time. I'm sure that most of you have seen it by now, but it is still a good artifact and for those few of you who haven't seen it is.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Goblinoid Games' Cryptworld Hits Distribution

This is excellent news from the Goblinoid Games website:
I am proud to announce that CRYPTWORLD is the first Pacesetter title to be in distribution in 30 years! Now Pacesetter horror is available to you at your local game store, so if you have been waiting to support your local retailer pay them a visit and if they aren't stocking it yet place an order. The book is available through the usual channels, such as Alliance or ACD.
Goblinoid Games' Cryptworld is the spiritual successor to the old Pacesetter tabletop role-playing game Chill. Currently, you can get it in PDF or print from the RPGNow website, but being able to order it from your local gaming/comic store is very good new for the game, and for fans.

Classic Elric Comics Return From Titan Comics

Some of you may remember when the now sadly defunct comic company Eclipse Comics had the rights to do Elric in comic form. If you don't remember this, then you are lucky because you are going to get to experience them for the first time through an upcoming reprint series from Titan Comics.

"Unforgettable action and intrigue...a must-read for any fans of science fiction, sorcery or sword-and-sorcery epics!" - Comics Bulletin

"Richly deserves to be back in print...Can’t wait to return to the Dreaming City!" - SFX

"A terrific book." - Jeff Vaughn, Scoop

Collecting the first volume of the classic adaptation of Michael Moorcock’s bestselling fantasy saga, Elric of Melniboné marks the perfect introduction to the series’ iconic antihero, his fabled blade, Stormbringer, and his harrowing adventures across the Dragon Isle.

Adapted by former Marvel Comics editor, Roy Thomas, and beautifully rendered by longtime comics illustrator,Michael T. Gilbert, and the multiple Harvey and Eisner award-winning P. Craig Russell, this definitive collection marks an essential read for all fans of sword and sorcery and brings the Moorcock’s epic tales to life with luxuriant imagination.

The Michael Moorcock Library - Volume 1: Elric Of Melnibone hits comic stores February 18, 2015 and is available to order now from your local comic store using Diamond code NOV141648.

Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: P. Craig Russell, Michael T. Gilbert
Format: 176pp – HC - FC
Volumes In Series: 1 (of 15)
Publisher: Titan Comics
Price: $22.99/$25.95 CAN /£18.99 UK
ISBN: 9781782762881
Release Date: February 18, 2015
Diamond Order Code: NOV141648

To pre-order via Amazon visit:

For more information visit:

Connect with Titan Comics

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Delta Green RPG Beta Playtest Files

Since I've been asked a couple of times for information about this (and since it seems a playtest announcement kind of day), Arc Dream Publishing announced a couple of weeks ago that they were doing open beta playtesting for the upcoming, standalone Delta Green Roleplaying Game. I have looked (briefly) over the playtest files, and I like what I see. The game (at this point) is still backwards compatible with the previous Delta Green material, as well as with other Call of Cthulhu material.

The file does mention that the final product will have open gaming content, so that looks promising as well.

Interested parties should check out the Dropbox folder that Arc Dream Publishing has set up, play some games, and check in with them about your feedback.

As a long, long time Delta Green fan, I am looking forward to this game now a lot more than I was a year or so ago, when it was first announced.

Paizo Announces Occult Adventures Open Playtest

Today Paizo announced the launch of an open playtest of their new Occult Adventures book:
Occult Adventures will feature six new classes for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and an entirely new system for psychic magic. The 256-page hardcover book will have details on occult concepts, such as séances, aura-reading, and occult rituals, as well as tons of new spells, magic items drawn from occult legends, and ways to add psychic and occult elements to existing Pathfinder classes. The new 20-level base classes included in Occult Adventures are the reality-warping kineticist, the spirit-infused medium, the manipulative mesmerist, the relic-wielding occultist, the mind-master psychic, and the phantom-bonded spiritualist.
If you are a member of the Paizo forums, you can go over there and pick up the playtest file and check it out.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Cultural Wars And Baggage

I wouldn't think it necessary, but just in case...what follows is a piece of opinion writing. Also, since I know that some will comment without reading this piece in its entirety I will say right now that the Thumper rule is in effect. There's plenty of places that will allow you to spread hate on the internet, this blog is not one of them. Hateful things will be removed, and I get to be the arbitrator of what is hateful.

Some would say that the "geeky past times" are embroiled in a cultural war. I would say they are actually engaging in a cultural catch up, fighting fights or trying to stave off perceived threats that have been hard fought for (and against) for decades now in the larger cultural world and that are making their way into the various sub-cultures orbiting the world.

Whether you talk about fake geek girls or someone not being a hardcore gamer or sex workers shouldn't game or gays being perverts or even just the umbrella not a true geek, you're missing out on an important truth: the world has changed, and if you aren't changing with it you will be left behind. This isn't a threat, it is a fact of life. The world has changed since the 1970s and 1980s and the idea that women should play or run games isn't something that we should think about considering, it is something that is here.

While there's a lot of volatility in video games right now, with plenty of good examples that we can use for how people are getting it wrong, I want to focus on tabletop gaming (and focus even more on RPGs) because that is what I play. I don't think that I've played a video game since the Playstation One was just called the Playstation.

I know that anecdotal isn't data, but I'm going to talk about some of the things that I know.

People talk about women in their gaming groups as if it were some sort of novelty. Back in the late 70s, when I started playing D&D, our group was more than half women. Every group that I have had since then has had women. It seems strange to me to have a gaming group without women. So, when a friend started organizing an online gaming convention where women had the leadership positions of running panels and games, I thought that this was a great thing. Some corners of the internet thought otherwise, saying that it was anti-male or misandry to make it so that men couldn't "be in charge" of things.

It would almost be as if they didn't know that there are conferences and seminars led by women out in the big, bad "real world," where women can help each other into leadership positions or something. No, it is a conspiracy to take away their games, or their game mastering.

We've all heard it being used: fake geek girls, because they're obviously not true geeks. They're in it to "trap" some man or "take over the hobby" or some other nonsense. I find it hard to wrap my head around the idea that someone would actually fake wanting to be seen as a geek. The idea that someone could think that someone would want to demonstrates how mainstream many "geek past times" have become. Super-hero movies are box office blockbusters. Video games are making millions of dollars.

Obviously someone would now want to co-opt the hard work of all the men who helped to make this popular. Yeah, I thought that was funny too.

Gatekeeping, whether you think that you're doing it for good reasons or not, is a bad thing. There is no canon of geekiness. There is no list of things that you like or do in order to be a geek. Playing games makes you a gamer. Reading comics makes you a comic fan. Being of fan of paranormal romance and sexier geeky things is fine too.


Sex work is a hot button issue, even in the most mainstream of discussions. To quote George Michael, who really should be an important part of "cultural discussion," "sex is natural, sex is good..." I'm not going to use the typical buzzwords to talk about the people are against sex workers being involved, or somehow representative, of geeky things.It is reductionist and also fairly stupid. I will say that there is a lot of ignorance about the hows and whys of people who are sex workers, or who make porn. Why do we see so many porn parodies of super-heroes? Well, yes the movies are popular, and that does help with sales, but also because so many of them are geeky people

A lot of this ties into something that I've talked against more than once, both here on the blog and via various social media...and even out in that big, bad scary thing we call real life. I place a lot of these problems at the feet of so-called GEEK CULTURE. This is the idea that there is somewhere a list of things that all geeks like, and that the things not on that list make you less geeky or a fake geek girl or someone who isn't a hardcore gamer. At its simplest, the idea of geek culture is an attempt at gatekeeping (these people get to be part of "the tribe" and those people get to be outcast), but it can also be a bit more complicated than that at the same time.

Geeks have been proud of their "outsider cred" because it helped to define them an their identities. There comes a time when you put aside letting outside influences identify you, and start figuring out who you are for yourself. If you spend all your time being a jerk to other people online, it just might not be the "geek" thing that identifies you.

However, any time you try to take divergent and varied sub-cultures (whether it be Star Trek fans, Star Wars fans, video gamers, board gamers, RPG players) and try to smash them together into one set of rules and guidelines you are going to have troubles. The things that make each of these groups fun and interesting get lost when you try to make them into a monoculture. We need to stop doing that. It is perfectly okay to not like Battlestar Galactica or Firefly or Supernatural, and you shouldn't need to permission of anyone in order to think that. It is okay to like the OSR and not storygames, and the other way around. It is also okay to like storygames and the OSR. No one is going to take away your geek card, even if we had such things.

This is why diversity is, and always will be, a good thing. Monocultures are bad and boring, and monocultures that lead to things like the misogyny of "movements" like Gamergate are terrible things. We aren't fighting a cultural war to "save geeky past times." You don't get it. The women and people of color and gays and lesbians and transgender people are already here. They're making the cultural artifacts that you enjoy, sometimes without your even realizing that are involved. I hate to break it to you, but while you were nose down in your "geeky past times," the world became a lot more diverse than you seem to have realized.

There have been a number of essays and opinion pieces lately talking about the death of the gamer. What I think these are talking about is really the death of the monocultures that so many took comfort from as once outsider past times are moving into the mainstream. People in tabletop RPGs have said for years that tabletop gaming is dying and if only more people would be interested in gaming again. Guess what? There are more people who are interested in gaming, or geekiness, but you don't get to vote them off of the island. Gamers who are afraid of woman or gay people "invading" their hobby are more than welcome to stay in the darkness of their basements and hide away from these people. You, however, don't get to speak for me. Speaking from a position of fear or hate is never a good thing, and it is time that we stopped listening to those people regardless of where they are on the political spectrum or if we think they will like us for agreeing with them.

The cultural war has ended. Women and gays and people of color and transgendered people are here. They are geeky and they are proud. I wouldn't have it any other way.