Showing posts with label BRP. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BRP. Show all posts

Monday, October 05, 2015

The Delta Green #RPG Now On Kickstarter

I'll be honest. I have a definite bias in favor of Delta Green. And, if for the only reason that the timeline of the setting will finally be pushed past 9/11 and into the new century, I support a new iteration of Delta Green.

Many, many years ago, when I was still living in Cleveland, I went one day into a newsstand/magazine shop (something that you don't see very much of anymore) and I found something peculiar. I found a gaming zine. A. Gaming. Zine. I had heard of this zine in passing because it actually shared a printer with another zine that I bought when I could, the official Cyberpunk RPG fan magazine called Interface.

I could go on about Interface, but it is only tangentially connected to the story at hand. The other zine was one that focused on Lovecraftian material, and had quite a bit of support for the Call of Cthulhu RPG. This magazine was called The Unspeakable Oath, and it was published by some people who called themselves Pagan Publishing. This particular issue of The Unspeakable Oath was interesting because it was a sort of cross over between it and Interface. There weren't any articles or characters that crossed over, just concepts.

See, as I said these people all shared a printer. While working out having their respective zines printed, the creatives from both of them met. This lead to talks about the thematic similarities between Cyberpunk fiction, and the Chtulhu Mythos fiction that H.P. Lovecraft and his circle of writers spawned. So, they decided that they should cross pollinate in their zines.

Interface had an issue that brought the Mythos into the realms of the Cyberpunk RPG. It was an interesting piece, and I won't lie...I used material from it in a Cyberpunk campaign of mine once. It was well written material. The Interface issue is currently in a box in storage, and I hope to see it again one day soon.

The issue of The Unspeakable Oath had something pretty cool in it too. It had a modern day (modern day to when the issue came out) Call of Cthulhu adventure featuring government agents investigating a UFO siting that, unfortunately for the investigators, turns out to really have to do with the Mythos. This adventure was the first time that Delta Green made a public appearance. It was an awesome adventure, and for someone who enjoyed Cthulhu, conspiracy and weird alien shit in my gaming it was as if doorways opened up in my mind. I wanted...I needed more.

Keep in mind that The X-Files hadn't aired yet at this point.

I'm not sure how much later it was but the people at Pagan Publishing put out an immense setting supplement for the Call of Cthulhu RPG called (you guessed it) Delta Green. It had all sorts of options for running a Call of Cthulhu game in the modern era (a time period that Chaosium mostly stayed away from in favor of the eras of Lovecraft's fiction). It was great. Then, a bit later, they put out a supplement for their supplement that was bigger than the initial book. Delta Green: Countdown expanded the world and the conspiracies in it. The writers expanded the role of the Mythos god Hastur, and talked more about Robert Chambers' eerie King In Yellow. These books were some of the best things ever written for the Call of Cthulhu RPG.

Now, it isn't a secret that the once and former Chaosium wasn't a paragon of professionalism. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that when we fast forward to today that the people who have been publishing Delta Green material all these years might want to be able to have more control over their game and what they publish, and not be at the whims of Chaosium's nature. Note that this is just conjecture, and not based on anything that the people at Pagan Publishing/Arc Dream Publishing have ever said, but knowing the hole that the previous Chaosium had dug for itself, it honestly wouldn't surprise me.

This isn't the first crowdfunded Delta Green book (I have two books that they put out before Kickstarter existed), and I doubt that it will be the last. However, if you are a fan of any of the things that I have talked about in this post, you really should get out there and support the Delta Green Kickstarter. These people have consistently done some of the best Lovecraftian RPG material on the market, and with your help they will keep on doing it.

Talking Stormbringer

Recently I came into some stuff for the early editions of Chaosium's Stormbringer game. This fills a hole in what I actually do collect in gaming because, even though Michael Moorcock is one of the few fantasy writers whose work I enjoy, because I never really liked the early editions of the game. What I wish that I could tell my younger self is that a game can still be good, even if it doesn't fulfill what it is trying to do.

I'm sure that's a confusing sentiment. Hopefully, I will make it clearer as I put this post together.

I picked up on the second edition of Stormbringer, and the supplement/stand alone game (don't ask, it was the 80s) Hawkmoon, both adapted from the works of British fantasist Michael Moorcock, when a friend brought them to college with him. I was already familiar with Chaosium's horror game Call of Cthulhu, because I had picked up one of the boxed sets while I was in college, and I had a passing familiarity with Runequest at this point, but Stormbringer was new to me. I borrowed the two boxed sets that he had in his dorm room and read them (each game is probably less than 100 pages of text, so this wasn't that hard). My diagnosis? I hated the game. I felt that, despite being a well made game, it did a bad job of simulating Moorcock's works, and because of that I wasn't interested in the game. I wouldn't come back to the game until the Elric! edition (probably closest to being a 4.5 edition of the rules) a number of years later.

While I still think that the first few editions of the game aren't very good at simulating Moorcock's works, I do think that Stormbringer (talking the first through third editions) is probably one of the best dark fantasy games, perhaps second only to first edition Warhammer) that the RPG "business" has managed to produce.

I admit that I have never really been a huge fan of the Dungeons & Dragons stream of fantasy role-playing games. Class and level based games just don't get me as interested, which is why I am more interested in the games that Chaosium has produced over the years. I love dark fantasy. Whether we're talking about Moorcock or Smith or Howard or any number of other writers in the genre, that kind of fantasy gets me a lot more interested than the works of Tolkien or his imitators. This is why I regret missing out on Stormbringer for so many years.

Really, we have two "streams" of Stormbringer. I don't want to call them editions (since there were in fact five or so editions of the game), but there was definitely a philosophical shift in the game between the third edition (produced by Chaosium in conjunction with Games Workshop...which would inspire the creation of their house game Warhammer) and the fourth edition. While the game did move closer to the source material with the fourth edition, it also managed to somehow become more generic at the same time. I'm not really sure how that happened. For the rest of this post, I'll refer to the first three editions as Early Stormbringer and 4th, Elric! and 5th edition as Later Stormbringer. There's no real judgment in this split, it just seems the best way to break up the conversation.

Why do I think that Early Stormbringer is such a great dark fantasy game? Where other RPGs had magic-users who could throw fireballs, Early Stormbringer would have your sorcerer character summon and bind a fire elemental to their will and then compel it to throw fire at your opponents (or perhaps you could even throw an elemental at people, even though this would be a wasteful use of an elemental). This flavor difference alone makes for a whole new gaming "ballgame." In the Later Stormbringer, this was diluted by the addition of spells with more traditional effects.

"Classes" in the game aren't really classes in the sense of D&D, and they aren't yet quite the Professions or Occupations that we will find later in other Basic Roleplaying Games, either. They are a cluster of skills and bonuses to skills that make character generation go quicker. When you have a class-based game and you want a "Fighter," you just pick the appropriate class, roll up some attributes and go. In games like Runequest this process can take longer because you have to pick out all of the relevant skills and everything else. Stormbringer shortened this process with their classes. Combined with random determination, it might actually make Early Stormbringer characters as fast to make as an early edition D&D character. And considering how fragile characters could be in either game, fast character generation could be important.

As often as not in the early days of gaming, I think that Ken St. Andre and Steve Perrin accidentally created a game that was so much better than the one that they intended to create. For example, Stormbringer characters were much more "heroic" than early edition D&D characters, without being the "super-heroes" that a lot of old school gamers disdain. I like a "heroic" character much more than I like the zero-to-hero approach. I want to play Conan or Elric. I don't want to play the guy who is going to be Conan or Elric.

I think that much of the stripped down and quicker approach of the rules owes itself to the design sensibilities of St. Andre. His Tunnels & Trolls rules were the definition of stripped down, in an era when even D&D didn't have a lot of rules. His approach to gaming is to keep things simple. Combined with the sensibilities that would bridge between how D&D was played and how Runequest would be formulated (Perrin came up with the highly influential and widely adopted D&D house rules known as the Perrin Conventions that would inform the creation of the Runequest rules), Stormbringer is a tight little example of how a game can be simple while still being a highly robust engine.

If I had to state a preference between Early Stormbringer and Later Stormbringer, it would probably have to be for Early Stormbringer. The simplicity, the ingenuity and the robustness of the design all combine in a game that hits a sweet spot for me. The best part is that the fact that, for me, it didn't do a good job at simulating Moorcock's work just means that it all that much better of a game to use for a variety of campaigns that I would like. I wish that I could go back and tell my younger self to get over it and play the damn game. This way I would have decades of fun with this game behind me, and I probably would have spent a lot less time looking for "the right game" for my fantasy needs. Luckily, that isn't a worry anymore.

I think that I want to add a Red Sonja game using Early Stormbringer to my gaming bucket list now.

If you're interested in a "clone" of Later Stormbringer (the Elric! version and 5th edition), be sure to check out Chaosium's excellent Magic World game. This is (basically) Stormbringer 5e with the specific Moorock-related IP stripped out, leaving behind a really good set of fantasy rules. Unfortunately no "clone" of the earlier, more rollicking, editions of Stormbringer yet exists. Stormbringer also still exerts an influence on contemporary role-playing games. The seminal indie game Sorcerer by Ron Edwards shows an influence of the demon summoning from Stormbringer in its own demon summoning rules.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas: Call of Cthulhu Style

Last week +Helen Yanolatos and I spent an almost week in Las Vegas, enjoying our birthdays (and her first time in the city). It was a fun time and the bar was set high when we started the week off with a game of Call of Cthulhu with some locals and others.

This was the view from our hotel, it turns out that, not to be outdone by London, Vegas is going to get a Ferris wheel...a party Ferris wheel. But you guys don't want to hear about that stuff, do you? No, you want to hear the gory details of our game of Call of Cthulhu! Let me preface this by saying that I spent the better part of a day in airports, in three different time zones around the country. I started in Tampa. Then I flew to Charlotte, North Carolina. Then I flew to Phoenix, Arizona. And then finally I ended up in Las Vegas. My day started at 5am EST and I arrived in Vegas at 3pm PST. That was a crazy day, and I topped it off with running a game of Call of Cthulhu.

But before gaming came dinner, and I had this:

That's a tiramisu milkshake, by the way.

Yes, now I'm just taunting you. If you like burgers, and find yourself in sure to check out Holsteins Shakes and Buns. You won't be disappointed. Helen recommended it, after her sister had been there on a previous trip. It was some great food. I've always found that Las Vegas is a really good place to find some really good food.

And then, of course, came gaming. This group slowly gathered at the hotel:

Pictured, from left to right: Larry Dixon, +Helen Yanolatos+Trentin Bergeron and +Caroline Pierce. If it turns out that Larry's on the Plus, I'll be sure to tag him in this.

After snacking and character generation, we got down to the brass tacks of gaming. For a while now, Caroline and I have talked over Twitter about a game of Atomic Age Cthulhu. It almost happened when she was down in Tampa last fall for Fetish Con, but it fell apart a week or so before hand (totally my fault on that). But I swore that I would run a game, and when this trip with Helen came through...I put the plans into motion. Luckily I have a girlfriend who thinks that meeting strangers for a game of Call of Cthulhu makes an for an excellent vacation plan.

In case you're not familiar, Atomic Age Cthulhu is part supplement and part adventure collection, dealing with the 1950s. There is some good information on the decade, for those who might not know a lot about the time, and the adventures are top notch.

I should probably review it sometime, formally, but I will say that the adventures in the book are pretty good. I ran the scenario based in pre-Union Hawaii (which I have run partially before via G+ Hangout). It is a really solid scenario, and it is easy to hook characters into it. I let them make up their own characters, and gave them a pretty free range on what they could do. Larry played a Navy mechanic who was also a car buff, Caroline played a lounge singer hoping that the movie being filmed would let her break into the big time, Trent played a Navy Captain (his rank fluctuated a few times during play), and Helen played a travel writer. Rather than try to shoe-horn them into the scenario, since a couple of them had very loose reasons for getting involved in a Cthulhu investigation, I told them that they were all there at the hotel where the movie's star (Hoyt "The Hips" Oakes) was staying and then had a planned riot draw them into the story.

This is right after Trent's character was throat punched by a female cultist that he tried to ask questions.

This is Larry during the character creation part of the evening.

The characters survived the night, through the judicious application of Marines to the end of the adventure. Which demonstrates that sometimes it is best to let the guys with the big guns deal with irradiated Deep Ones. Everyone had a lot of fun, and it was a great way for Helen and I to start our (too short) time in the city.

This is my new Greyed Out dice bag, among the growing gaming debris.. It made it through TSA and airport travel like a Boss, plus everyone commented on how lovely it was, as well. And then after we finished at 3ish am....we collapsed for the night.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

The Flying Man: Call of Cthulhu With Super-Heroes

Special effects artist Marcus Alqueres has done effects work on the movies 300 and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Now he has done a short film that features a horror-take on the idea of super-heroes called The Flying Man.

This seems like it would make for an interesting Call of Cthulhu scenario to me where instead of dealing with Mythos horrors, the characters would have to deal with enigmatic and inhuman superbeings seeking to rid the world (or their city) of crime. The characters could be criminals, normal citizens, or just people who live on the fringes of society. Wouldn't this make a cool idea?

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The Perrin Conventions

The place where OD&D and Runequest merge and overlap are in the Perrin Conventions. Originally a set of house rules for the play of D&D in his games, Steve Perrin wrote up what became known as the Perrin Conventions. The house rules became popular in many California-based campaigns and also lead to inspire the creation of the Runequest system (of which Perrin was also an original designer). You can also see how these inspired the Holmes revision of D&D as well.

It is interesting, also, to see an era thought of as preferring rulings over rules as generating house rules that add quite a bit of complexity to the D&D system. Like anything, there was a lot of variance among gamers and no real standard of play. While some have always liked lighter approaches to the rules, there have also always been those who are interested in heavier, more detailed rules for play. A part of the reason that I decided to post these houserules is because I periodically think about the use of them (or more likely portions of them) in my own Demon Codex game, or at least rules inspired by them. I really like the idea of Perrin's Dexterity roll, but that is probably because I have liked the idea of it in various BRP games over the years as well.

Anyway, posting them can start discussion, so perhaps something will shake loose that will inspire me and my design.

After this point are the Conventions, enjoy!

Per the introduction to Chaosium's All the World's Monsters, vol. II: "Steve Perrin's CONVENTIONS have been used entirely or in part by fantasy role-players in the San Francisco bay area and beyond since they debuted at DUNDRACON I in March 1976. They are revised and expanded here for all those who want to know how people fight these monsters. While the ideas start from D&D, much of the material can be used with any system."

Many thanks to Steve Henderson. Clint Bigglestone, Nioolai Shapero, Jerry Jacks, Michael McNeil, Owen and Hilda Hannifen, Dave Harqrave, Dan Pierson, and the many contributors to Alarum & Excursions: may your characters have close shaves and your dungeons be hairy.

In a melee round, (which takes up 10 seconds), each character can perform one or more of the functions below, unless he is busy bleeding his life away and is no longer interested. The functions below are listed in the order to be followed, even if some of them can be thought to be simultaneous. For those wishing to subdivide movement into seconds, the approximate seconds within the round during which the action may occur are shown in italics after the description of the action.

Anyone attempting to use missile or spell when melee cannot use them, and will strike last in that melee round (see the description of combat for the usual strike order) if he manages (via a dexterity roll) to get a hand weapon free. Otherwise, he will have no strike at all for that round, and must take the punishment if his armor fails.

(1). Monster Motivation. The DM determines what his monster will do in the coming round. No melee time (MT) spent

(2). Declaration of Intent. Players declare their character(s)'s intentions for the coming round, including specific target and the nature of missile or spell. Target can be ''first one to come through the door," "the last one in line," etc. Once declared, the character may follow through or abort, but not change his target or objective. But alternate targets can be chosen as a contingency plan. No melee time (MT) spent

(3). Preparation. The undertaking of something to be completed by the next round or of the end of the current one. Involves complicated procedures such as finding a special item in a full pack, changing dissimilar weapons, pouring oil in front of the character to make a barricade, etc. It should be an activity which will last the whole turn. A DM can vary the speed of completion because of various characteristics. MT: 10 seconds base.

(4). Missile Fire from Prepared Weapons. This refers to crossbows, guns, bows, wands, spells, etc., which already have been aimed. Missile weapons can be fire at this time only if the same target was fired at previously or if the character has prepared (see 3. above) opportunity fire for a specific area, such as a doorway or corner. MT: 2nd second

(5). Movement Up To 30'. If characters meet within this space, missile fire or spells at one of them after this phase may hit the other, unless their sizes are disparate. MT: 2nd-5th second.

(6). "At Hand" Missile Fire. At-hand missile weapons which were not already aimed may be fired at an obvious target. The intention to fire at an obvious target must have been declared during the Declaration of Intent. MT: 6th second.

(7). Movement Up To 30'. More movement available for those not already engaged in melee. MT: 6th-9th seconds

(8). Melee Resolution. Fought out for all who came next to an enemy after the first movement (see 5.). Those who came next to an enemy during the second movement (see 7.) do not have time to strike a blow for this turn, must take any fire from at-hand missiles (see 6.), but prevent even a prepared missile (see 4.) from being used on them next turn. MT: 4th-9th seconds.

(9.) Spells and New Missile Fire. This can be done by unengaged characters who have not moved more than one 30' movement phase. MT: 7th-10th seconds.

(10). Bookkeeping. Take this time to add points regenerated, subtract spell points, updating the cheracter for the next round.

MOVEMENT - from the basic ''armored man moves 60 feet." The phases of a character who can move 120' (12") can be done as two movement phases of 60' (6") each. The derivations and possibilities are obvious.

PREPARATION TIME - time required for complex tasks can be based on a dexterity roll. For every 10% of a roll better than the needed dexterity, a character completes the task one second earlier. Example: a character with a dexterity of 12 rolls a 23. He needed 60, bettering the roll be 37%, or three increments of 10%. His task could be done within 7 seconds instead of 10, leaving him free to meet an attack. If he was spreading oil of Slipperiness in front of himself and an enemy came next to him on the second move phase, that's one enemy down. The dexterity roll would not work on anything which takes a set period of time, like gathering energies for a spell. If the character had rolled an 83, that would put him 2 increments of 10% over what he needed The task goes 2 seconds into the next round.

MISSILE FIRE - a wand or stave takes a certain time to be ready for another burst, so only one charga could be expended a melee round. Missile weapons have other limits, which follow.

Heavy Crossbow: one shot per two melee rounds, always to be fired in the same missile phase the first one was, unless purposefully delayed. Cannot move.

Longbow, Composite Bow, Light Crossbow: two shots per melee round. First either at Prepared or Ready phase (assuming either applies), and then at the New Missile Fire phase. If moving, forsake one shot for every 30' or fraction thereof moved.

Short Bow, Modern Guns: three shots per melee round if Prepared for the first one and there is no movement. Lose one shot per round for every 30' or fraction thereof moved. Thus a user of such a weapon could fire a Prepared shot, then run 60' in that round. The same applies to the user of a wand or staff or a Prepared spell or device.

Early Gunpowder Gun: one shot per three to six melee rounds, depending on just how ancient the piece is. No movement allowed by firer in a round in which the piece fires.

DEXTERITY - the term "dexterity roll" appears throughout these conventions. The ability to do many things, especially combat and magic, as well as complex actions such as changing weapons, turning and firing, opening a box and jumping back, closing a door quickly, etc., depends on a combination of dexterity and experience. Success in the percentile dice roll depends on the following: the basic dexterity roll is a simple roll of 5% per point of dexterity, A dexterity of 3 always has a 15% chance of succeeding; a dexterity of 18 always has a 10% chance (91-00) of muffing it.

The type of armor worn can decrease the effectiveness of dexterity. For plate, subtract 2 from the dexterity bonus; for mail, subtract 1 from the dexterity bonus; for bare skin, add 1 to the dexterity bonus. This could be offset by experience.

(1). First strike in any sltuation, whether melee combat, spell casting, or whatever depends on who has the highest dexterity. This does not apply to surprise situations, unless it is mutual surprise. Hasted or sped conditions do count. Haste doubles dexterity in this connection. (Wayne Shaw Option: once the first strike dexterity is determined, all haste bonuses, etc., are figured, roll 2D6 for each character and add the result to the dexterity. This will give a little variety to just who gets to strike first.) (Further Modification: a character with a long weapon or a long reach and a dexterity of at least half of his opponent's will have first strike.

(2). When a character takes more than 10% damage, and each time he takes damage thereafter, the percentage of hit points he has left shall be found and precentile dice rolled. If the percentage or less is not rolled, the character is knocked back(if less than 50% down) or knocked down (if 50% or more damaged). If not knocked down, roll again to see if the character is knocked back.

Knocked Back: a character must make his dexterity roll in order to get in a blow if he has the lesser dexterity and therefore must strike after being hit, or retain his place of first strike on the next round if he has the higher dexterity.

Knocked Down: a character gets no strike on that turn (if he has the lesser dexterity) and must make his percentage to get a strike on the next turn. If he does get a strike, it will be the last one of the turn. If left alone, he can regain his feet on making a percentage roll, but if pressed he will stay down, defending himself as best he can, continuing to get in the last shot.

Remember: a character must make his percentage every time he takes damage, after the initial 10% damage is taken.

(3). One-to-one combat cannot be broken off unless an opponent has been knocked back or down, or the higher dexterity fighter makes a dexterity roll. If the higher dexterity fighter makes his roll, the lower dexterity fighter may pursue, getting first shot, if he makes his own dexterity roll.

(4). A combined strength, dexterity, end level score of 30 is necessary to allow a character the use of two weapons in melee combat (and strength and dexterity must each at least be 11). Anyone useing two weapons without the necessary total will add the difference between the necessary total and his total to the number needed to hit his opponent. A dexterity roll must be achieved to use the second weapon in any melee round.

(5). When using two weapons, the first weapon strikes according to the wielder's dexterity, and the second weapon as if his dexterity were halved. EXAMPLE: a character with a dexterity of 16 is fighting someone with dexterity 12. The 16-man will get his first weapon in first, then the 12-man will strike with his, and then the 16-man will get in with his second weapon as if his dexterity were 8.

(6). A two-weapon man may up his armor class by one by using one weapon as a shield in man-to-man combat. Despite any pluses on the waapon, it acts as a simple shield. Of course, if used as a shield, the second weapon cannot be used to strike.

- Steve Perrin
Oakland, California

November, 1977

Musings On Chaosium's Magic World, Part 1

Magic World is a fantasy game from one of tabletop gaming's longest existing publishers, Chaosium Games. Once upon a time there was a role-playing game that thought that fantasy games could be more than the high fantasy tropes used and reused by D&D. This game was called Runequest, and you have probably heard about it before. Runequest was interesting in that it dealt with some things that RPGs really didn't deal with otherwise: the impact of religion and culture on the game's world and the player characters was probably the biggest things. These ideas from Runequest spawned a lot of interesting concepts and games over the years, from King Arthur Pendragon to Hero Wars/Heroquest to hundreds of non-Chaosium games big and small.

For Chaosium Games, Runequest became a cornerstone of their publishing. Their tabletop RPGs took ideas or the system from Runequest and adapted it to things like Lovecraftian horror and Occult Fantasy (if you've never seen Chaosium's translation of the French RPG Nephlim, you need to find a copy of it). Along the way Chaosium acquired the license to Michael Moorcock's Elric Saga and published boardgames and a series of role-playing games based on Moorcock's characters and worlds. This lead to one of the earliest dark fantasy games, based on Moorcock's Elric called Stormbringer (with a brief sidetrack into the Elric! game for its 4th edition). Stormbringer spawned five editions and a wide variety of supplements over the course of its history.

Flash forward to today (or a few months ago when this book came out) and Chaosium found itself in a hobby where fantasy is king, and they were no longer able to publish either of their fantasy properties. No more Stormbringer because the license to Moorcock's stuff is with another publisher, and no more Runequest name because, well, a lot of stuff happened. What's a publisher to do when they have the system and no name to go with it? Simple, they dig around in their history for a name that they do own (Magic World from the old Worlds of Wonder boxed set) and build a new game around it.

Magic World is literally built upon the shoulders of giants. Editor Ben Monroe went through years worth of Stormbringer material and carefully weeded through it to take out the references to Moorcock's work but kept all of the flavor and assumptions of the underlying system's approach to fantasy gaming.

The system eschews the standards of class and level for a skill-based approach that puts more importance on what a character knows and is capable of doing, and letting that define the character. While using the same Basic Roleplaying System that was originally developed for Runequest, it is a standalone game and does not require anything else to play. You could use the big gold book, Basic Roleplaying, from Chaosium to give your Magic World game more options, but it is not a requirement. And if you're looking for creatures to populate your world, everything from old Runequest supplements to the Malleus Monsromo (one of the best monster manuals ever made) for Call of Cthulhu to the old Stormbringer stuff will be compatible. Some material, like the Call of Cthulhu monsters, may require a minimal bit of adaptation, but ultimately it will all fit. By its nature and ancestry, Magic World has a lustier approach to fantasy than with many other fantasy RPGs. For me, this is a good thing because I think that Magic World has less of a high fantasy feel to it (as typified by Tolkien and his many, many imitators) and more of (what I hate to call) "low fantasy" approach. I would use the label Swords & Sorcery, but I think that this would pigeonhole the game and make people think that it is capable only of characters like Elric or Conan or the Grey Mouser.

Magic World is available in PDF and print, either directly from Chaosium Games, or via traditional distribution through your local gaming store. If you want fantasy, but you are looking for something that is different from many of the fantasy games that are out there, you would not do wrong to check out Magic World.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Chaosium Q&A For The Call of Cthulhu 7e Kickstarter

In light of the Kickstarter campaign for the new edition of Call of Cthulhu from Chaosium Games, I sent the company an email with some questions about the campaign and the changes to the game. These are the answers that I received from Chaosium's Charlie Krank:

Chaosium seems to have jumped into the Kickstarter paradigm pretty wholeheartedly. For an established company like Chaosium, does that come with any risks to the established distribution channels and do the benefits outnumber the risks?
We have not jumped in wholeheartedly at all. Our current Kickstarter is only our second campaign and we have a third planned for the future, but Kickstarter is another way for us to publish our books. Usually we must print a book, convince a distributor to carry it, who then convinces a retail store to buy it, who sells it to our fans. With Kickstarter we reverse the flow of interest; we directly interact with our customers who end up with a book they want. Their energy and excitement then flows to the store owner and up to the distributor.

Do you worry that you might be taking some of the audience from gaming stores with a successful Kickstarter? If enough of your existing audience is buying the game directly from Chaosium, where does that leave the stores?
Of course. There have been similar worries throughout the history of roleplaying and in many other industries. After MAGIC was released, many distributors worried that WOTC would go direct to the retailers. Similar worries accompany the proliferation of downloadable books vs. print books. Wise stores do what successful stores have always done: focus on customer service and product knowledge.

Also, the potential market for a product is not defined by the whole of the Kickstarter audience. In the end, both we and the customers build a better product that will eventually hit the "normal" distribution chain, and should be more attractive to all customers.

What sorts of changes to their approaches to publishing does a company like Chaosium face when dealing with something like Kickstarter? Have there been speedbumps in the process for you guys, and if so what have they been?

Kickstarter result in changes and improvements to a project. Having published roleplaying games and supplements for many years, we understand that these are complex projects. For example, our BEYOND THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS campaign was the result of ten years of effort.

There always are speed bumps, and I think that is where your skill comes into play--mitigating the delaying effects of such bumps.

Call of Cthulhu is one of the oldest tabletop RPGs that have been in continuous publication. Most of the contemporaries in RPG publishing for Chaosium have either faded away, changed hands or disappeared completely. A lot of people are asking why a game like this has to change. What do you say to those questions?
For a product such as a roleplaying game to survive for more than 30 years in this marketplace it needs to be refreshed occasionally. It has been almost 12 years since the last edition of Call of Cthulhu was published. The new edition streamlines some of the combat rules and opposition rolls.

What are some of the changes that have been made to the game for this new edition? Can you also explain some of the reasons behind why these changes have been made?

As always, our primary consideration is telling a good story and having fun. We try to keep our rules intuitive and out-of-the-way of the Keeper's narrative. We noticed that the system occasionally results in "no-effect" combat rounds; so we tried to smooth combat just a bit. We extended the use of some mechanics already used in the game, making them more consistently-applied.

Besides a successful Kickstarer, what would make a game like Call of Cthulhu of interest to newer gamers? When the game first came out, there wasn't much in the way of horror gaming but now there is a lot more competition in the market. What sets this new edition apart from other games out there?

Call of Cthulhu is, first and foremost, a game in which ordinary people are thrust into extraordinary, and sanity-threatening, situations. The thrill comes from seeing if your character, lacking the powers, magic, and armor of (essentially) super-hero knights and wizards, can prevail against superhuman enemies. Lacking the accoutrements of the high-powered roleplaying systems, your sense of achievement is the greater should your characters prevail. I think this results in a more memorable, and satisfying, roleplaying experience.

You have set a tight window for publishing the new edition. Do you have any worries that you will be late?

Yeah, it is tight. I had hoped to begin it a month or two ago but life events intervened. I always worry that books will be late, but the rules have been written and in revision for more than a year, so we have been working up to this point. What we need to know is the final shape of the books. It is fun to work with the fans, to learn what is important and fun for them, and to try to surprise them in the end.

Besides, what would be a better release day than Halloween?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Magic World Cover

Magic World from Chaosium games is coming. Built from their historic and influential line of fantasy role-playing games comes a new edition of Magic World. This is a "generic" fantasy RPG that isn't tied to any one world or setting and is built from the foundation of Chaosium's Basic Role-Playing system that haw powered such games as Call of Cthulhu, Runequest, SuperWorld and Larry Niven's Ringworld. Here is a first look at the cover to come:

There is also further support for Magic World past this core book planned, so stay tuned for more to come.

Item # CHA2028
220 Pages (estimated)
SRP $26.95 (estimated)
ISBN10: 1568823657
by Lynn Willis, Ben Monroe & Friends

You can find out more about the upcoming Magic World at: and

Between this book and the new edition of OpenQuest coming, I am very excited for percentile-based gaming.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Talking About The Clockwork & Chivalry 2e Role-Playing Game

Building on the streamlined OpenQuest rules (which were in turn derived from the MRQ1 SRD), the second edition of Clockwork and Chivalry comes storming out of the gate and into a growing pack of games building on the foundation of either Mongoose's Legend/RuneQuest rules or Chaosium's BRP system. For those who do not know, OpenQuest is a fantasy game, a retro clone of earlier editions made possible by the OGL, much like the many Old School Renaissance games were made possible by the d20 SRD material.

One "fault" that I had with the OpenQuest rules were fixed in Clockwork and Chivalry was the lack of Professions. I like Professions because it is a way for players to customize their characters, without adding a lot of detail. Professions can emulate the best parts of class-based RPGs, without some of the drawbacks that go with class-based gaming. Clockwork and Chivalry also crank up the Faction/Cults rules, by giving them a bit more mechanical strength. The addition of the idea of Righteousness Points is a little complicated at first, but they give a reason to have a Faction/Cult on your character sheet, besides just because of the fact that you can get some extra skills. For a game set in the 17th century, I think that this particularly helps to make your characters more of a part of the world of the game.

Some faults that I had with this present game:

I'm not particularly a fan of the naming conventions for spells. I understand that they are intended to give spells a more "authentic" feel, but the grammar of the spells' names just come across as forced to me. And while I like the idea of Satanists and Satanic Witches in the game, I'm not as happy with making the Satanic Witch more powerful than other forms. I understand why the authors choose this route, but I don't particularly agree and that is something that would more than likely get house ruled into a change for me. I do like the effort that the authors put into making a justification for an adventuring group, and in putting some effort into making these groups fit together. That is something that can be a hurdle for many group, trying to justify why their characters are together, and it is particularly helpful in a historical game such as this one.

A starting character in this game is not only flavorful, and starting with story ideas that can be developed from the first session, but they are not handicapped. This is definitely a game that is about capable characters doing big things in their world. It is also nice that the Professions are set up with historical fidelity, as well as ways around those "restrictions," if the group wants to play the game more ahistorically.

This game does not scrimp on background or or setting material, so the group that wants to run a fantasy game outside of the box of the usual standards of fantasy gaming, or the group that wants to run historical settings but may not as expert on the time period as they feel that they should be are both supported by the setting material in this. There is more than enough background material for England and the important personages of the time and place to get even the most historically undereducated of people up and running for campaigning in this world. There are also a couple of very good starting adventures (complete with premade characters) to get games rolling.

In short, Clockwork and Chivarly is a very solid game, one that builds on the strong foundation of d100 gaming. If you are looking for a fantasy game that is well-designed and that goes outside of the boundaries of what you will traditionally find in a fantasy RPG, this is the game for you. I am looking forward to seeing what comes next with this line, and the supplements that are forthcoming look exciting and will greatly expand the game and the world.

The PDF version, while a bit pricy in my opinion is available from DriveThruRPG. As usual, there is an affiliate code attached that will help me pick up future releases to talk about here on my blog.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Talking About Mongoose's Legend Role-Playing Game

Mongoose's Legend is the spiritual successor to the RuneQuest game originally developed and released by Chaosim Games and Avalon Hill, back in the 70s and 80s. Mongoose's Legend is the actual successor to their own RuneQuest game, rebranded and given a life extension after Mongoose gave up the license on the RuneQuest name. Much like the earlier incarnations of the RuneQuest game, Legend does one thing very well: it gives gamers a grittier alternative to the 800lb. gorilla of fantasy role-playing...Dungeons & Dragons.

Inspired by, and derived from, the Basic Role-Playing System that has powered games such as RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu, Legend is a fantasy game that relies on character attributes and skills, rather than classes and levels, to define the capabilities of a character. This might not be for everyone, and Legend would take some stretching to reach some of the power levels of that other fantasy role-playing game, but what Legend does well.

Character generation in Legend is a snap. Legend offers two manners with which to create characters: the tried and true random method as well as a point buy method. Either of these are capable of creating well-rounded and interesting characters. Coupled with guidelines for Veteran characters, you can make characters that run the gamut from starting adventurers to seasoned pros, in no time at all. Cultural Backgrounds and Professions let you decide who your character was before becoming an adventurer, leaving it up to you to determine what your character is going to be through play. Having the option of both random determination and focused point buy should make a spectrum of gamers happy. Heroic abilities give your character the sort of "legend"ary capabilities to grow into that will make them the match of any fictional creation.

Task resolution is simple and everything is based off of the percentile dice, giving an intuitive way to explain what characters are capable of doing to both non-gamers, and gamers who may not be experienced with percentile-based game systems.

Legend postulates a world filled with magic, more so that many other fantasy games available on the market. One of the things that sets this game apart from many other fantasy games is the concept of Common Magic. Common Magic, simply enough, is the inherent magic of the universe, those magical effects that anyone can use without having to go through the training and experience of most magic-using characters in other games. This helps to create a richer fantasy world where magic is a part of the every day. This might not be fancy or powerful magic, but it can be life (and game) changing. This is one element that has been with RuneQuest since the very beginning, and it surprises me that has not been adopted by more fantasy games. Having common, everyday magic within the reach of everyone makes for a fantasy that is so much more fantastic that what you find in a lot of role-playing games.

The graphic design of Legend isn't fancy, but that isn't a problem. The black and white design is clean and easy to read. The illustrations, also in black and white, do a very good job of setting the tone for the game, and its implied world. Legend may not have a default setting, like when Mongoose published it originally under the RuneQuest brand, but the implied world that comes across through the text, the art work, and through design choices like Common Magic, makes for a rich implied world that is just waiting for you and your gaming group to fill in with the exploits of your characters. If Legend is not in your gamer's toolbox of fantasy games, you should fix that with this PDF. Even if you do not play Legend, the ideas presented in this game can be brought across to any fantasy game and enrich it with its different approaches to the genre.

Another nice thing about this game is that it is 100% OGL-released open gaming content. Obviously the illustrations and such are not a part of this, but there is still plenty of meat on this game's bones. What exactly does this mean for you? Basically, one of two things:
  1. You can publish your own expansion material, settings, new rules options and the like for the game (you can find a compatibility logo over here on Mongoose's website). Your Legend games can then inspire and create games for others.
  2. You can create a completely new game based on the Legend system. This is what D101 Games did with the earlier RuneQuest SRD to create their great OpenQuest game. I talked about OpenQuest in a previous blog post here, if Legend sounds interesting to you, you should check it out as well.
Legend is a solid game, a game that is well worth your time and effort to check out. I have a link to buy the PDF just below (which is selling for only $1 at the time this was written). If you have questions or comments about this review, you can find me over at Google+ or Twitter. If you follow me at Google+ and it isn't readily apparent for me why you are doing it, just drop me a mesage via my profile and let me know.

You can purchase the PDF of Legend from RPGNow/DriveThruRPG. Yes, that is an affiliate code, but it helps me to be able to pick up new material to be able to talk about with you. I have a couple of the other Legend PDFs, and if there is enough interest in this I will talk about some of them as well. Let me know in the comments here and either of the places I mentioned above, if you would like to see further material talked about on this blog.

And designers/ can reach me at either of the above links if you would like reviews done of your material as well.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Talking About D101 Games' OpenQuest

OpenQuest is a game that readily admits to standing on the shoulders of giants. Much of the foundation of it, as a game, were laid by the multitude of designers from Chaosium and Mongoose working on Basic Roleplaying and the games that it inspired. That does not, however, make this a knock off by any stretch of the imagination. Like many games being put out today, particularly those among the retro-gaming and Old School Renaissance movements, OpenQuest is first and foremost a labor of love by its creator Newt Newport.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Let's Talk About The Black Seal #3

Back when I was studying Journalism in high school and college I did a lot of what was called Opinion writing, and of that writing much of it was taken up with writing reviews. While I still have no shortage of opinions, I don't do much reviewing anymore.

Well, that's something I want to change.

In the spirit of disclosure, I received my copy of the PDF of Black Seal #3 as a complimentary PDF from the publisher. You can get your own copy of the PDF from here (yes, I have an affiliate code on that so I'll make something if you buy it with my code. It keeps me in games).

Let's start with the easy stuff. In this 100 page PDF you get about 98~ pages of Call of Chthulhu support material. The art and graphics are ok, about what you would expect from RPG publishing  of this level, and the layout is clean if a little cramped.

There is a good deal of British-centric material in this issue (which makes sense since the publishers are British) and I think it would be of good use to someone using Cubicle 7's Laundry RPG. Obviously the tone of this material is more serious than the base tone of the Laundry RPG, but since both use the underlying Call of Cthulhu mechanics, fitting one into the other wouldn't take a lot of effort on the part of a Keeper/Game Master.