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.

Bonuses
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.

Exasperation
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.

Powers
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.