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.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Steamscapes: Asia Kickstarter

Steamscapes: Asia is the "historical Asian steampunk" setting book for the Steamscapes RPG setting (which uses Savage Worlds). This particular setting book focuses largely on "China, Japan and the Indian subcontinent" with smaller sections providing some insight on other Asian nations. Some of the new rules and content include a new profession (the Apothecary), a new racial template (the Oni), and lots of other cool things like elephant cavalry. Who doesn't want to ride an elephant into battle?

Steamscapes: Asia is currently at the tail end of its Kickstarter project with just a couple days left to go, as of this writing, and is close to meeting its funding goal.

If you would like to learn more about the project or support its funding be sure to check out its Kickstarter page.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Mecha: Kaiju RPG Kickstarter

Heroic Journey Publishing's Kickstarter for Mecha: Kaiju is over half-way through its funding period and in sight of its funding goal. The giant monster themed supplement for Mecha includes all the stompiness that you will likely want from the genre, with plenty of art to show various types of kaiju.

The Mecha RPG works off a d6 dice pool with a roll-under mechanic and features players piloting mecha (giant robots). Mecha: Kaiju follows in this style, but introduces another staple of the genre -- the kaiju (giant monsters) that players can play as, with or against.

Hopping onto the Kickstarter is pretty easy, with the PDF of Mecha: Kaiju sitting at US$5. For US$10 you can get the Mecha Core PDF as well as the Mecha: Kaiju PDF. The US$25 tier(s) see the softcover copy of Mecha: Kaiju (along with the PDF) or an all PDF tier that also includes two other Mecha supplements.

For some critiques on the Kickstarter page -- the funding price point seems fine. There is a video that has an appropriate length (though could be a bit shorter) and gives a bit of flavor, but the text can be a bit hard to read in some shots. Both the video and the page could stand to give a bit more information on the game, especially for those who have no idea what it is. Plenty of artwork, though, which was very nice. Having some additional imagery for tier rewards would be nice.

If you want to get your stompy, giant creature and mecha-ness on, be sure to check out Mecha: Kaiju's Kickstarter page or Heroic Journey Publishing's website.

Valiant Next - The Next Wave From Valiant Comics

In 2015…the story starts here!

Valiant Entertainment is proud to announce VALIANT NEXT – an all-new wave of ongoing series and prestige format projects from some of the premier creative talents in comics today. Beginning in December with THE VALIANT #1 (of 4) by Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt, and Paolo Rivera, VALIANT NEXT continues with five blockbuster new series in 2015:

  • IVAR, TIMEWALKER #1 by Fred Van Lente and Clayton Henry in January
  • DIVINITY #1 (of 4) by Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine in February
  • IMPERIUM #1 by Joshua Dysart and Doug Braithwaite in February
  • NINJAK #1 by Matt Kindt and Clay Mann in March
  • BLOODSHOT REBORN #1 by Jeff Lemire and Mico Suayan in April

Following the critically acclaimed, smash-hit success of VALIANT FIRST in 2014, VALIANT NEXT will present six new starting points perfect for readers new and old. Featuring an exciting selection of new series starring Valiant’s biggest, most-demanded heroes alongside all-new, never before seen characters, VALIANT NEXT is the next epic evolution of Valiant's best-selling, fan-favorite publishing line.

"We've spent two years building an award-winning publishing line, pouring our hearts into re-imagining X-O MANOWAR, HARBINGER and the rest of the Valiant Universe for the modern day. Now it’s time to take it to the next level,” said Valiant CEO and Chief Creative Officer Dinesh Shamdasani. “VALIANT NEXT taps into the same creative energy that made Valiant one of the most legendary comic book companies of all time. When I was a kid, one of the best things about Valiant was picking up an issue with a brand new character, like X-O MANOWAR or NINJAK. I’m excited that we’re doing that again now with series like DIVINITY and IMPERIUM. And that’s only a fraction of what we have coming next.”

"Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt and Paolo Rivera are delivering an absolute monster of a book with THE VALIANT and it’s the perfect title to lead off VALIANT NEXT," said Valiant Editor-In-Chief Warren Simons. "This is our most ambitious initiative yet, and everyone’s bringing their A-game. The creative team of ARCHER & ARMSTRONG reuniting to launch IVAR, TIMEWALKER. Clay Mann on NINJAK – his first ongoing series at Valiant. Mico Suayan tearing it up with Jeff Lemire on BLOODSHOT REBORN. Joshua Dysart and Doug Braithwaite together for the first time for the devastating events of IMPERIUM. Not to mention the introduction of an all-new, all-powerful force in DIVINITY from the minds of Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine. It’s a kick-ass time to be a Valiant fan."

THE VALIANT #1 (of 4)

A battle ten millennia in the making…

The Eternal Warrior has protected the Earth for more than 10,000 years. A master of countless weapons and long forgotten martial arts, he is guided by the Geomancers – those who speak for the Earth. During his long watch, the Eternal Warrior has failed three times. Each time, the Geomancer was killed…and a new dark age for humanity began. Each time, he was unable to stop The Immortal Enemy – a monstrous force of nature. A civilization killer. A horror that appears differently each time it arrives…and whose seemingly only purpose is to bring disorder and darkness to the world. Now, the time has come for The Immortal Enemy to return once more. But, this time, the Eternal Warrior will be ready. This time, he has a force greater than any single warrior. This time, he has…THE VALIANT.


From the award-winning team that brought you ARCHER & ARMSTRONG, New York Times best-selling creators Fred Van Lente and Clayton Henry present a centuries-spanning race against the clock!

At this very moment in Geneva, Switzerland, history is being made. A thousand meters underground inside the Large Hadron Collider, researcher Neela Sethi is about to discover time travel – and jeopardize her life in the process.  But she doesn't know that yet. Ten minutes from now, every deadbeat chrononaut, wannabe conqueror, and misguided protector of the timestream will be banging down her door. Good thing that the legendary Ivar, Timewalker, got there first…right?  Now it's down to history's most jaded, most tempestuous time traveler to stop the worst of everything that is, was, and will be...before time runs out!

DIVINITY #1 (of 4)
Written by MATT KINDT

At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union – determined to win the Space Race at any cost – green lit a dangerously advanced mission. They sent a man farther into the cosmos than anyone has gone before or since. Lost in the stars, he encountered something unknown. Something that...changed him.

Long thought lost and erased from the history books, he has suddenly returned, crash-landing in the Australian Outback. The few that have been able to reach him believe him to be a deity -– one who turned the scorched desert into a lush oasis. They say he can bend matter, space, and even time to his will. Earth is about to meet a new god. And he's a communist.

How long can it be before the first confrontation between mankind and DIVINITY begins?

From New York Times best-selling writer Matt Kindt and blockbuster artist Trevor Hairsine comes a shocking new vision of 21st century science fiction in an all-new prestige format limited series.


A daring new superhero saga from New York Times best-selling creator Joshua Dysart – writer of of the Harvey-Award nominated series Harbinger – and superstar artist Doug Braithwaite!

Toyo Harada is the most dangerous human being on the planet. Imbued with incredible powers of the mind, he has spent his life guiding humanity from the shadows. But today he is a wanted man.  His powers are public knowledge, his allies have turned to enemies, and he is hunted by every government on the planet.

Instead of surrendering, Harada has one last unthinkable gambit to play: to achieve more, faster, and with less, he will build a coalition of the powerful, the unscrupulous and the insane. No longer content to demand a better future, he will recruit a violent legion from the darkest corners of the Earth to fight for it. The battle for utopia begins now.

Written by MATT KINDT

Then: Meet inexperienced MI-6 recruit Colin King on his first mission in the field as he learns the basics of spycraft and counterintelligence, and develops a volatile relationship with his first handler.  
Now: Colin King is Ninjak, the world's foremost intelligence operative, weapons expert, and master assassin.  And he's hunting the Shadow Seven – a secret cabal of shinobi masters with mysterious ties to his training and tragic past.  

For the first time, Ninjak's past and future collide in the pages of an all-new ongoing series from New York Times bestselling writer Matt Kindt and superstar artist Clay Mann!

Written by JEFF LEMIRE

From New York Times best-selling writer Jeff Lemire and red-hot rising star Mico Suayan, Valiant delivers an all-new ongoing series for Valiant's most unrelenting hero!

Bloodshot's nanites made him a nearly unstoppable killing machine. His enhanced strength, speed, endurance, and healing made him the perfect weapon, and he served his masters at Project Rising Spirit – a private contractor trafficking in violence – very well. 

Now, Bloodshot is a shadow of his former self. He lives in self-imposed exile, reeling from the consequences of his past life and the recent events that nearly drove him mad. But when a rash of shootings by gunmen who appear to look just like Bloodshot begin, his guilt will send him on a mission to stop the killers, even if it means diving headlong into the violence that nearly destroyed him.

For more information on VALIANT NEXT, join Valiant this week at New York Comic Con 2014 for the VALIANT COMICS: THE VALIANT, RAI, X-O MANOWAR, AND BEYOND panel presentation on Friday, October 10th at 12:15 pm. Featuring Matt Kindt (THE VALIANTNINJAK, DIVINITY), Jeff Lemire (THE VALIANTBLOODSHOT REBORN), Paolo Rivera (THE VALIANT), Fred Van Lente (IVAR, TIMEWALKER), Robert Venditti (X-O MANOWAR), Editor-in-Chief Warren Simons, and Chief Creative Officer Dinesh Shamdasani, get your first look inside each VALIANT NEXT release right here, only at New York Comic Con!

Friday, October 03, 2014

Mini Reviews of Two Fate Accelerated Mini Products

I like Fate Accelerated. It is a quick, easy and streamlined game that has a deceptive depth of play options in proportion to the lightness of the rules. While I do like Fate Core, I think that Accelerated and its adaptability fits my interests and style of play much more closely. I picked up a couple of PDF mini supplements for the game over at RPGNow. They both definitely have some meat to them and have utility in your own Fate Accelerated games.

First up is the Accelerated Book of Approaches from Dice Monkey Productions. This 19 page PDF contains a cover (seen at left) and three pages of OGL. There is some good stuff to this PDF, but I really see it more as a starting point than anything else.

The best part of this book is the in-depth explanation of the Fate Accelerated approaches. One place where people new to Accelerated trip up is thinking that approaches work like stats in other games, or even like skills in Fate Core or other games. How these things work is right there on the tin: approaches. Keeping in mind that approaches are how a character approaches a game situation can make them much less frustrating, and unlock the key to their simplicity and flexibility. It is the approaches where Fate Accelerated really sings, and where a lot of the game's streamlining is happening. A lot is packed into a little space with approaches.

For those who might be new to Fate Accelerated, the Accelerated Book of Approaches also offers some new approaches inspired by the attributes from various open gaming licence systems like D6, D20 and Mongoose's Traveller rules. This highlights the flexibility and hackability of Fate Accelerated by introducing new approaches that can help familiarize a new game by introducing elements that players may already understand from other games. For me, this is a strength of the Open Gaming License, and I would like to see more publishers bring bits and pieces back and forth from various licensed systems to make new things.

However, to be honest, the adaptations in this book are not as interesting as they could be. I think that sample characters could have better demonstrated these adapted approaches. That isn't to say that these approaches wouldn't work, just that they aren't as flavorful and as interesting as they could be.

Before you give up on the Accelerated Book of Approaches we haven't actually gotten to the best part: the sets of brand new approaches. There are three sets of original approaches for "Action"-oriented games, games set in "wizarding schools" and also for "space knight" campaigns. The Action approaches are interesting, and could work well for a pulp-based Fate Accelerated game, or one inspired by the television show Leverage. The Wizarding School approaches are obviously inspired by the Harry Potter books/movies, however these approaches could be used for any sort of wizard-oriented campaign where everyone is a spell-caster of some sort. A creative GM could build an Ars Magica Acclerated hack off of these approaches. The Space Knights approaches look like they are inspired by the "force powers" from the original West End Games Star Wars RPG, which is an interesting...approach.

Like I said, this book is a starting point for people using Fate Accelerated in their games. There is still going to have to be some lifting on the part of the GM to explain these approaches in a game, and to figure out the situational applications of some of them. People interested in a D&D Accelerated game should also look at the Freeport Companion that Evil Hat and Green Ronin put out. While that is a supplement for Fate Core, it could easily be hacked for use with Fate Accelerated. It also has some interesting stuff for anyone looking to do D&Dish gaming using any version of the Fate rules.

Next is a smaller PDF than the previous. Interstellar Patrol is an 8 page supplement for Fate Accelerated that gives you the basics to start a Star Trek inspired game. No new approaches, although it would be interesting to mix this with the Mongoose Traveller approaches from the Accelerated Book of Approaches to come up with a Traveller-inspired game.

This PDF is all starting point. The GM of an Interstellar Patrol game is going to have to understand the genre of Star Trek and how it is different from other types of science fiction. However, as a Pay What You Want PDF you can pick it up for free. I do think it is worth a dollar (at the least) for giving GMs a starting point. The cover is pretty cool as well.

With this PDF and the Fate Accelerated rules you can pick up and play a fast game on one of those nights when not everyone is able to show up for game night but you still want to play a game. That quickness and simplicity of Fate Accelerated is another one of the many strengths of the system.

I recommend both, or either of these two supplements for Fate Accelerated. Hopefully they will be successful enough to encourage more simple and low cost plug-ins for the game.