Showing posts with label RPG. Show all posts
Showing posts with label RPG. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Burlesque House Siege Pre-Release


Dungeons & Donuts blogger Kiel Chenier is looking to recoup his Gen Con 2016 expenses. Chenier is selling a pre-release version of the adventure Burlesque House Siege (the adventure that he ran at the con) to make up the money that he spent on badge and housing.
On the outskirts of town is the Maison Derriere, a bawdy burlesque house that's been providing entertainment and thrills to people for decades. You spent the night and had an amazing time...
...only to wake up in the morning to find the building is about to be attacked by a bandit army.
Join a group of dancers and performers in defending their home from waves of bandits and thugs in this LGBT-friendly adventure for tabletop roleplaying games. Compatible with D&D (all editions), Pathfinder, Dungeon World, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Dungeon Crawl Classics, and more.
Kiel's details about the adventure:
This is a "Buystarter Release"
The adventure text and design is complete, but the layout and final art have not been completed. Buying the adventure now gets you the current version of the adventure, and the updated final version when it's released in September, 2016.
The final version will cost $8.99, meaning you save $3.00 by purchasing Burlesque House Siege! early.
Help out a fellow designer and GM.



Tuesday, August 09, 2016

The Strange Approach For Fate Accelerated


This is another rough sketch of a Fate Accelerated rule addition, this time a new Strange approach. Most people who know me know that I am a huge fan of early/pre DC/Vertigo comics like Peter Milligan's Shade The Changing Man and Grant Morrison's  Doom Patrol. I like them for their unadulterated strangeness and how they challenged the preconceived notions of what comic book stories could do. As a gamer they could be frustrating to try to bring over into a tabletop RPG because of their very openendedness. (Yes, probably not a word.) This post is basically a slight polish on some notes that I made recently.


After reading the second volume of the COPRA trades over the weekend, getting at characters with this openness starting running through my head again. I've been in a Fate Accelerated headspace lately, because of some professional projects, and that it is my favored version of the rules. What I came up with is a new approach to handle strange and surreal instances.

A big part of the reason why I like Fate Accelerated so much is because of the approaches. Because Fate gets away from the standardized idea of using attributes in role-playing games, and Fate Accelerated takes that a step further with approaches getting rid of skills, it frees you up as a player and GM to focus on the end result of what you what characters to do, rather than the mechanics of how that happens. For me, that is a great thing, and why I lean so heavily on the Accelerated rules.

This isn't freeform, because you still have a mechanical justification to hang things on within the game, the parameters of those mechanics are just loose. That looseness allows some of the more surreal bits to leak into your games. This can lead to a bit more work on the part of both the player and the GM. The player has to be more descriptive in what they are doing. Where "I forcefully overcome the steel door and break it down" is fine in a "mundane" occurrence during a game, it doesn't fit as well for the types of games that we're talking about here. For example: "I strangely overcome the steel door by bypassing its reality through sidestepping it by passing into Grey Plane of Despair and reimagining myself on the other side of it."

Easy, yes? Well, with some practice it can be.


So, let's outline the new approach:
Strange: A strange action is something out of the ordinary, even in worlds with magic and people with super-powers. It is about doing something that side-steps reality, or the basic laws of nature. Tears of blood from statues, rains of fish and other inexplicable happenings can be the result of strange actions.
Not every game will allow strange actions, and those that do should use them in dramatically important ways. A strange action is something that provokes hindbrain reactions in those who witness them, because it is rewriting primal and fundamental rules of the universe. A strange action is causing something that should not happen to happen.

Whenever you take a strange action, the outcome should never be mundane. When you attempt to strangely overcome a reinforced metal door you don't just "phase" through it, you open a portal into the Realm of Metal Hungry Spirits, allowing a stream of starving Necrosprites through to devour the metals of the door. When you strangely attack, you shunt opponents through a tear in your sleeve that transports them to a demiplane of Misery that erodes their will and destroys their mind.

Strange actions aren't going to be for all players, so don't require that a rank be put in that approach. Do not let a player get away with using a strange action mundanely. Put a situational modifier of -2 on attempts to take a strange action without doing something strange (and do not allow a Fate point to offset that modifier). There should be consequences of failure to try to take a strange action without doing something strange. Trying to create a "normal" energy blast as a strange attack would instead manifest as a stream of fiery dolls hitting the target. Part of the challenge of this approach is that, regardless of what the character intends to do, the outcome is something weird.

There should be an aspect, preferably the character's high concept, that gives the permission for strange actions. Otherwise a character's strange approach can never be more than +0. Your character can attempt strange actions, but they have no innate ability to do so.

This post is just a starting point on suggesting how you can bring strange actions into your Fate Accelerated games. The destination is up to you.



Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Pathfinder Worldscape: A Fantasy Crossover of Epic Proportions


Here's the important piece of news for Paizo Pathfinder fans:

Bonus Content Includes Official Game Statistics, Allowing Fan-Favorite Characters Red Sonja, John Carter, and More to Join the Pathfinder RPG Experience

Here's what the press release has to say:
"Pathfinder: Worldscape teams up the Pathfinder heroes with the adventure fiction legends that inspired fantasy roleplaying games in the first place," says series writer and Pathfinder publisher/co-creator Erik Mona. "From Robert E. Howard's Red Sonja to Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter, Tars Tarkas, and Tarzan, to Frank Frazetta's lost-world hero Thun'da, Pathfinder: Worldscape presents a sword-and-sorcery super-team unlike anything we've seen before. The series brings all of these heroes - and many of their darkest villains - to a mysterious dimension of warriors and wizards that allows us to explore the origins and impact of some of fantasy's most influential characters."
"Erik Mona is the perfect choice to combine these worlds, as not only is he a Pathfinder expert, but he's a pulp and comic book fan of the highest order. Add in Jonathan Lau - one of our very best - and you've got a cross-over that's going defy all expectations," says Joseph Rybandt, Executive Editor.
"Dynamite's ongoing partnership with Erik Mona and the team at Paizo Publishing has produced epic fantasy stories for comics fans and gamers alike," says Dynamite CEO and publisher, Nick Barrucci. "Comics fans have come to expect the best in crossovers from us, and with Erik's help, we are going to tell a tale of swords-and-sorcery unlike anything on stands today!"
The Worldscape beckons in a tale written by Erik Mona and illustrated by Jonathan Lau (Kevin Smith's Bionic Man). The first issue features covers by Reilly Brown and Ben Caldwell, with a special subscription variant by Sean Izaakse that serves as a homage to the fan-favorite cover of Crisis on Infinite Earths #7. An Ultra-Limited variant edition by Tom Mandrake will also be available.
"If the first issue's swordfight extravaganza is an indication of the visuals we should expect from the entire series, then Pathfinder: Worldscape will more than prove to be the ambitious action fantasy that I'd craved drawing for a long, long time," says artist Jonathan Lau. "Without dragging pages of talking heads, Erik moves the narrative along based on the action, truly showing how dynamic combat comics should be written. With so many different and illustrious characters (like Tarzan and Red Sonja) in one storyline, the work itself motivates me better than any late night energy drink on the drawing table!"





Tuesday, May 31, 2016

More Copyright Protection For Game Mechanics?


I've seen a blog post from an Intellectual Property lawyer who specializes in video and board games being passed around my social media circles recently, and I think that it is something that needs to be looked at.

Keep in mind that I am not a lawyer, so don't take anything that I talk about as any sort of legal advice. Find someone who specializes in intellectual property law and get their two cents first.

The way that copyright and game rules intersected in the past was basically along these lines: you can copyright the exact expression of the rules, but not the underlying ideas of the rules. If you re-expressed the rules with your own wording, you were free of infringement. There were a few restrictions on that, like saying that mathematical expressions used to determine parts of your rules could be copyrighted, which lead people to finding new math that was close enough to the old math for government work.

This is what lead us to games like Mongoose's version of the Runequest game, and large swaths of Old School Renaissance clones of early editions of Dungeons & Dragons.

The case that looks to have changed this was between two board games, one of which effectively cloned parts of the mechanics of the other game (you can find more detail at the link in the first paragraph, I'll let the expert do the real explaining of this issue). The first game's publisher sued the second game's publisher for infringement and eventually won.

According to Zachary Strebeck, the lawyer who originally blogged about this, the suing publisher's case was based on an earlier precedence that "the plot and gameplay progression of something like The Legend of Zelda would most likely be protectable." However the court did not feel that the allegedly infringing game fit that definition.
The court points out that “Unlike a book or movie plot, the rules and procedures, including the winning conditions, that make up a card-game system of play do not themselves produce the artistic or literary content that is the hallmark of protectable expression.” They note that past game copyright victories were won by parties based on infringement of visual appearance or other protectable elements. Pac-man’s gameplay, they recall, was not considered protectable back in 1982.
Given these rules and precedent, the court looked at the issue in the case – that of the similarity between “the roles and characters and their interactions” in the two games. Ziko argued that these roles and interactions were no different than other rules and mechanics in the game, and therefore were unprotectable. DaVinci, on the other hand, argued that those roles and interactions were protected, using precedent from the Triple Town case.
 The court distinguished this case from the Triple Town case, though. In Triple Town, that court analogized the gameplay hierarchy in Triple Town to the plot of a movie. In doing so, they imbued it with copyright protection.
The "Triple Town Case" refers to a 2012 case between EA and Zynga overly game apps Triple Town and Yeti Town. One of the stipulations in that case made by the court was that "the object hierarchy coupled with the depiction of the field of play comprise a setting and theme that is similar to Triple Town’s. A snowfield is not so different from a meadow, bears and yetis are both wild creatures, and the construction of a 'plain' is not plausibly similar to the construction of a 'patch.'"

Where things get interesting for the cloning communities in tabletop RPGs is in this analysis of the case:
The assessment of each game’s UI gets to the heart of the EA-Zynga dispute.  Like Yeti Town, Zynga allegedly copied the basic gameplay from EA and then put its own lightly modified UI elements on top of that gameplay.  Indeed, as alleged by EA, Zynga probably did less to modify its UI than Yeti Town did.  The Triple Town ruling suggests that Zynga probably can’t score a quick win.
The two ended up settling because a precedence setting win would have ended up having long term ramifications in a business where "borrowing" from other games is such a fundamental part of game design.

Like I said at the beginning, I'm not a lawyer and I'm not going to attempt to try to explain this complicated material. I suggest looking at the information and thinking what would happen if there were a change of the people in power at Wizards of the Coast, and they decided that they didn't like the cloning of their systems.

Material used directly from the OGLs would still be usable, but what about the "extrapolations" to make the OGL material play more like older systems? What about designers who make "diceless" RPGs by re-expressing the old rules with their new language? In what ways could the assumptions of copyright law change for them dramatically?


Monday, May 23, 2016

The Trouble With Tabletop Gaming Is...


We have trolls. Horrible, terrible amounts of sad little people who are looking for the validation of their sad and tired little squeaks of anger and outrage. They're "fighting" against a world that has moved and left them behind in the dust. The think that their only hope now is to shout long and loud enough to drown out other voices, those voices that truly represent the world of today, and of tomorrow.

These trolls spout racist, sexist and homophobic diatribes under the the auspice of free speech. Which is fine, they are absolutely right that they have the right to say what they want. The problem is that having the right to say whatever you want, and being protected from the consequences of what you say, are two entirely different things. Freedom to speak your mind also doesn't mean that the rest of the world is required to listen to your tiny, squeaking voices.

We need to stop giving up the public spaces of the internet, because that is exactly what those trolls want. They want people on the outside, people who might be interested in the various hobbies that fall under the umbrella of Tabletop Gaming, to think that they are the only voices, the ones who are in charge. This is a lie that is perpetuated by good people keeping quiet, so only the sour grapes, the squeaking voices of those choking on the dust of the Modern World are the voices that are being heard.

This needs to stop.

Don't Feed The Trolls. In a way, this is right. Engaging with the trolls, the tiny-armed dinosaurs with arms waving to protect themselves from the approaching comet, does no good. They aren't interested in discussion, they want to derail and make sure that the conversations are about them rather than the topics that they don't want discussion about. Make sure that in places like Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other social media sites you talk about the harassment of anyone being wrong. Don't talk to the trolls, but let everyone else know that there are other voices, rational voices that aren't coming from places of fear and anger.

Of course, this will mean that harassment and the squeaking voices of the trolls will be directed at you, as they attempt to use their techniques to shout down opposition. Block or mute and move on. Trying to talk to them is pointless, because they aren't interested in conversation, just hearing their shrill, squeaky voices.

These people are all big, bad and tough online, with their fear-based bullying, but they really don't have any power over any of us. They don't even seem to think that they have any power over their own gaming tables, since they insist upon the narrative that someone is trying to take away their games. If they don't have power over themselves, why should we assume that they have power over others?

The squeaky-voiced trolls can't even win initiative in a combat. All that they can do is react to what others are saying and doing. These are not powerful people, these are sad and fearful people who don't know how to handle a world that will no longer excuse their hatreds.

Don't Read The Comments. This is what has allowed the squeaky-voiced trolls to take over so many websites and forums. Just like above, the point isn't to engage the squeaky but to point out to others that their voices, their hate and fear is not what defines our hobbies.

We Need To Look At Both Sides Of This. No, we actually don't. There aren't two sides to these discussions. Supporting racism is not a side. Supporting homophobia is not a side. Supporting sexism is not a side. Supporting transgender harassment is not a side. These are not sides, they are bigotry pure and simple. If being against bigotry is wrong, I don't ever want to be right.

We need to stand with the victims of these fear-based harassments and let the ineffectual attacks of the squeaky-voiced trolls bounce off of us. Together, we have the power. All that they have is fear and ineffectual anger.

Update 5/23/2016: Kudos to Chaosium Publishing (publishers of fine games like Runequest and Call of Cthulhu), who have published an anti-harassment policy and Code of Conduct for their organized play. They site my EN World piece on the harassment of women in gaming as a reason for the policy.

Written while eating Jelly Belly Superfruit jelly beans, because pipes are gross.


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Angry Robot Books To Publish Numenera And Strange Novels In Conjunction With Monte Cook Games

This is some pretty good news for fans of Monte Cook Games' Numenera and The Strange game lines. MCG has announced a deal with Angry Robot Books to publish and distribute fiction based on their games, including the previously announce Numenera novel The Poison Eater by Shanna Germain and further novels from Monte Cook and Bruce Cordell.

If you aren't familiar with Angry Robot Books, you should check them out. They have published novels from authors with gaming credentials like Matt Forbeck (A-Mortals [no longer in print at Angry Robot Books but worth finding a copy of]), Chuck Wendig (Blackbirds) and Dan Abnett (too many things to list). They are top flight publishers of great genre fiction.

Hopefully this will also end in better representation of games from Monte Cook Games in places like Barnes & Noble, where Angry Robot Books already has a strong shelf presence.



Friday, February 05, 2016

Steve Perrin Joins RuneQuest Development Team




In the spirit of bringing the band back together, Chaosium is delighted to announce that Steve Perrin is joining the design team for Chaosium's new edition of RuneQuest. "We knew that Steve Perrin’s place at the table, as both the creator and lead author of the original groundbreaking ‘78 and ‘79 editions of game, was a natural fit that harkens back to the genius and originality of RuneQuest", said Rick Meints, President of Chaosium.

In late 2015 Moon Design Publications and Chaosium successfully Kickstarted the RuneQuest Classic Edition campaign, a triumphant reissue of the iconic 2nd Edition of the RuneQuest rules and the supplements produced for it: Cults of Prax, Pavis, Big Rubble, Griffin Mountain, TrollPak and many others.

"We want to usher in the newest exploration of Glorantha with a tribute to the masterpiece opus of work that has come before. Part of Steve's role is to help insure that this edition contains the best possible game mechanics while maintaining backwards compatibility with RuneQuest 2", said Jeff Richard, creative director at Chaosium.

The new version of RuneQuest maintains backwards compatibility with earlier editions, while also containing a number of unique innovations that resonate with Glorantha, Greg Stafford's mythical campaign setting where RuneQuest started and to which it returns. This new edition incorporates Runes directly into both your character and the magic system you use, including their passions and motivations.

"The rules reinforce immersion in the setting even more than the original RuneQuest rules did, and ideas experimentally brought forth in Griffin Mountain reach their fruition", said Richard.

Seizing this unique chance to get this right, Chaosium has brought in a team of notable game designers to support Chaosium's rebirth of RuneQuest, including Sandy Petersen (Call of Cthulhu), Ken Rolston (Paranoia, Elder Scrolls, RQ3),  Chris Klug (James Bond 007 RPG, DragonQuest) and Jason Durall (BRP, Conan).

A special pre-release version of the new rules will be revealed at Gen Con later this year, along with introductory scenario sessions. A wealth of all-new campaign material and supplements for the new edition will follow.



Wednesday, January 27, 2016

One Million Moms Goes After Olive Garden Over Fox's Lucifer Show


This has been all over much of the comics-related geek media, but the organization known as One Million Moms has targeted restaurant chain The Olive Garden over its sponsorship of the new Fox TV show Lucifer. Lucifer the TV show is in turn based upon the successful Vertigo Comics comic that itself spun out of the even more successful Sandman comic by Neil Gaiman and a variety of artists.

This organization has previously attempted boycotts against the 21st century when they fought against a gay male character in Archie Comics, railed against both Marvel and DC Comics for including gay characters in their children's entertainment and an "adult" version of The Muppets.

One thing that you will note that is in common with all of this organization's "campaigns" would be a lack of success. I think that is is interesting that they target The Olive Garden, while leaving both Fox and DC Comics (parent company of publisher Vertigo Comics alone). Part of this is because Fox was targeted when the show was announced...to a resounding lack of success...and DC Comics have been target any number of times by anti-diversity groups (also to a resounding lack of success).

The thing is that inside of the geek communities, we have similar regressive elements to deal with. We have to deal with misogyny from within our communities, most particularly those people who think that they are being helpful to "lady gamers." Every community has its share of stupid, but perhaps because of social fallacies, they get a gimme because "he's a nice guy" or "you just don't know him" or any other number of reasons. As a middle-aged white guy, it is particularly dismaying to see so much of this coming from my particular demographic. I will admit that I have not always been the most enlightened of people, and that I have made mistakes, but it would scare me if I still held beliefs now that I held in my childhood, or even 20 or 30 years ago.

The slurs against gays that were once considered okay, are not okay. Treating woman as if they need guidance from men is not okay. Being an ass to someone because of the color of their skin, or because of their belief system is not okay. More and more anymore, I wonder why it seems that so many people are still struggling with the idea that people are just people. Yes, it is easier to hold onto old views, old ideas, but fighting against the changes in the world, or better saying that people who are against your archaic views are the actual problems, isn't going to magically roll things back and make it 1972 again.

Fanaticism, regardless of the group that it comes from, is not pleasant. We need to do better, we need to treat people better than this.



Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Dennis Detwiller To Join Monte Cook Games


Illustrator, writer, editor and designer Dennis Detwiller will be joining the team at Monte Cook Games as a Managing Editor. Detwiller and Monte Cook first worked together on the Call of Cthulhu d20 adaptation at Wizards of the Coast. Detwiller leaves the video game design studio of Harebrained Studios to take this new position with Monte Cook Games. Detwiller has worked on Magic: The Gathering, the [PROTOTYPE] series for Activision, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for Nickelodeon, and Delta Green, GODLIKE, and Wild Talents for Arc Dream Publishing. Detwiller is also a multiple Origins and ENnies awards winner.


Detwiller responded, in true editorial fashion, to my "tense" issue on Twitter:
Monte Cook Games already has one of the strongest teams in tabletop role-playing, and the addition of Detwiller only makes that team stronger.



Friday, December 18, 2015

Martin Ericsson On World Of Darkness -- "My Goal Is Getting Adults To Play"


We know that the World of Darkness is coming back, after having been purchased by Paradox Interactive. This is old news.

I think that some are going to purposefully misinterpret the quote that I used in the headline. Yes, adults are already playing role-playing games. That isn't the point of that quote, although I could be putting words into Ericsson's mouth, but I see it as the company wanting to bring more adults into the fold of tabletop RPGs. Expanding the number of people playing games is a good thing across the board...whether you play World of Darkness games, or whether you play D&D or Pathfinder. Or if you play Fiasco or Sorcerer.

You can watch the presentation made by Ericsson and Tobias Sjögren recent World of Darkness fan convention in Cologne. I think it is worth watching if you are interesting in seeing where the World of Darkness is going, or if you have been on the fence about the game in light of all of the recent announcements and purchases.


One of the best quotes from the presentation is probably this one from Ericsson: "The best way to save the fucking planet is to get people to walk a mile in someone else's shoes and empathize through the power of play."

Now, I'm not the most kid-friendly gamer on the planet. I respect those who play with kids, and who want games for their kids, but it always makes me happy when I see games that are being promised for a grownup audience. Nothing against "all ages" entertainment, but there has to be a place for people who want more "adult" forms of entertainment, too. Variety is the spice of life.

Sjögren mentions an emphasis on "mature entertainment," and Ericsson goes even farther saying, "while we might approach really difficult subjects, I think it is important for us to not just flash [I think I heard him right on the video, but the sound quality isn't always the best]them as gratuitous images, but actually go deep and finish the conversation about really, really hard stuff." Ericsson goes on to add that this "requires time and depth, and a high level of intellectual discourse around it."

As someone who isn't invested in the World of Darkness, or White Wolf games in general, this is a selling point for me. I played in my first World of Darkness game back earlier this summer, a Werewolf 20 game run by +Stacy Dellorfano. In January, we're going to turn this into an ongoing game, so I am excited for that. We aren't playing in the World of Darkness per se, but drawing on more contemporary urban fantasy and paranormal romance influences for the game. However, it is still very much a game for grownups that we're playing.

Where the previous incarnations of the World of Darkness always intrigued me, they never drew me into their "embrace" quite like the talk around this relaunch has. I will probably wait until they get to Werewolf, because that interests me more than Vampire does, but I will be watching to see what is next from White Wolf Publishing, and I urge fans of horror and dark fantasy gaming to do the same.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Roleplaying Kickstarter Coverage


Here is a change in policy for the blog. Effective immediately, this blog will no longer promote Kickstarters. I hope that you'll read the reasoning behind this post, but I will understand if you don't.

Now that a lot of people have gone, I'm going to discuss the whys of this decision. This is something that has been peculating in my head for a while, and I think that I've reached the point where it is time to make a change.


Tuesday, November 03, 2015

John Wick Presents Purchases Publication Rights To 7th Sea From AEG


There was a not unsizeable gaming announcement made today:
AEG is excited to announce that we have entered into a deal with John Wick Presents to sell back the publication rights for the 7th Sea game line. AEG will still retain rights to publish a number of products within that line over the next few years and we are negotiating and planning what that will be but have no announcements at this time.
 +John Wick also announced this on his YouTube channel:


Wick originally codesigned 7th Sea with Jennifer Wick and Kevin Wilson.

At the end of his YouTube video, Wick announced that he would be doing a new edition of the game in 2016.

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.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Necronomicon FL Schedule


Amidst all of the hustle and buzz of the moving and the house selling, I am emerging from my cave for a few days to attend Necronomicon in Tampa on October 9th & 10th. My availability will be limited, so if you want to meet up, or play a game, contact me in advance so that we can work something out.

Here's my schedule for the con:

DAY
TIME
ROOM
EVENT NAME
Friday
2:00:00 PM
White Ibis South
High SF
Saturday
10:00:00 AM
SHC South
How to Get Started Publishing Games
Saturday
11:00:00 AM
SHC South
What Makes a Game Fun
Saturday
12:00:00 PM
SHC South
What's New in Gaming
Saturday
5:00:00 PM
Audubon C
Space Opera Then/Military SF Now

I'll be hosting the Space Opera Then/Military SF Now panel, so my expertise isn't as important to that. The block of gaming panels will likely be entertaining, as least I hope so. If anyone wants to meet for a late lunch or some gaming midday on Saturday, get in touch.

The convention will be at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, on Bayport Drive.

Hopefully I will see some familiar faces.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Vornheim Returns

Lamentations of the Flame Princess publisher James Raggi and a copy of the new print run of Vornheim.

The blog has been quiet for a while since Gen Con. Who knew that getting a house ready for going to market was so much work? I certainly didn't. I also didn't expect to haul as many bags of rock as I have the last couple of months. Regardless, "real life" work has eaten up all of my free time of late, and cut into my ability to write both here, and over at Bleeding Cool. Being a grown up sucks.

So, this post isn't about my talking about the fun of landscaping and painting. No, it is to talk about the eminent return of Zak Smith's Vornheim supplement. Today, Lamentations of the Flame Princess publisher James Raggi informally announced that the new print run of Vornheim was done, and ready to be flung out into the world again. The second print run is double what the first was, with 4000 copies this time. Considering that Smith's latest A Red & Pleasant Land has just about gone through its print run in 9 months, I expect the second printing of Vornheim to move just as quickly (if not faster).

For those who do not have a copy, you might be asking "What is this Vornheim of which you speak?" Ostensibly an OSR product, I see Vornheim's place now as being more the opening shot of the OSR offshoot that has been named "DIY D&D." Where the OSR would be philosophical and exploratory about discovering the play styles of older games, and revisiting the older rulesets in a way that would make them available again in ways that wouldn't require spending hundreds of dollars on eBay, the DIY D&D movement focuses on play that is happening now, with or without older rulesets, and how you can create material that grows organically from play. In a way, DIY D&D is very much a return to the idea of the early days of the hobby, the idea that groups generated the material that they needed for their table themselves, using their chosen ruleset as their foundation.

When gaming became big business in the 90s, there was a move away from this idea, mostly because gaming companies wanted to make money from campaign settings, character option supplements and many other things that groups had previously made mostly for themselves. Yes, some of these things would eventually be published, like the Arduin Grimoires or any of the Judges Guild material, but that consumerism wasn't the focus of gaming groups.

With the release of Vornheim, Smith triggered a return to that Do-It-Yourself mentality. Yes, Vornheim was published in book form, and pieces of it appeared over time on Smith's blog, but the primary idea of Vornheim isn't to sell you something that you drop into your game world and play until you kill all of the monsters in it. No, the idea of Vornheim is to teach how to do it yourself, how to build a city that will engage and intrigue your players and get them to want to have their characters explore it. This is why Vornheim's subtitle is The Complete City Kit.


The idea of Vornheim the book is to give to GMs a set of tools that will allow them to create their own interesting and unique fantasy cities. There have been a lot of fantasy city settings over the time of gaming as a hobby, and a business. What makes Vornheim so different, and much more useful in the long run, is how it shows GMs and players how to make their own worlds, their own cities. The setting of Vornheim is an example of how you can use the tools in the book Vornheim to make a city. It is a worked example, and not just a bunch of stuff thrown together to fill out a book, because the setting of Vornheim was developed over years of play. This is the two big things for DIY D&D from my viewpoint: make things that are useful for your game and use your game as the basis for what you make.

There is a huge amount of different between the feel, and utility, of gaming material that is written for the sake of filling a book, and material that is written to fill in the gaps in a campaign. While our hobby was built on the idea of the latter, it has evolved into being about the former. Big books are written to fill spots on supplement treadmills, because gamers have been conditioned to let game designers do their thinking, do their working for them, instead of realizing the simple reality of tabletop gaming: the best stuff is that which grows out of play, at the table. Getting back to this mindset is what makes DIY D&D so important, probably in some ways more important than the OSR out of which it grew.

The reason that Vornheim and Red & Pleasant Land have sold so well isn't just that they are so much more creative than a lot of what is being made in the D&D space,  but because of the idea that they give permission again to GMs and players to do more than just engage with material as it it, but to make it their own. Our group ran Red & Pleasant Land as a classic Marvel Super-Heroes game set in 1970s NYC. Would we have done this without the idea of DIY D&D? Probably, but we're probably also not the most representative of gaming groups either.

Outside of all of this, Vornheim is a great toolbox for a fantasy GM to have. It ranks with the Midkemia Press book Cities for usefulness in creating and filling out a fantasy city. One of the things that makes Vornheim useful is the fact that most of the tools are designed to be used on the fly. I don't think that I have gotten as much use out of a random chart as I have the "I Search The Body" chart in Vornheim. The Urbancrawling rules let you make sections for your city on the fly. The front and back cover drop tables speed up combat and creating adversaries for the PCs. There are a lot of useful things to be found in this book.

Not only that, but there is going to be a renaissance of use of this book. People will be using it at their tables, and bloggers will be talking about how great it has been to use it in their games. Those 4000 copies are going to go a lot more quickly than anyone thinks, and then they will be gone for a while again. Does anyone really want to be one of the people who has to watch everyone else talk about how cool this book is, and how much they've enjoyed it in their games? Don't be that person.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Gen Con Happened And I Met Jeff Grubb

It is Saturday of Gen Con, and tomorrow I go home. It was a busy con, and a weird con.

Zak won some ENnie awards for Red And Pleasant Land, and Contessa won one for best blog. Good goings for good people.

More importantly, however, I got to meet Jeff Grubb at the Monte Cook Games launch party for the Cypher System Core Rulebook. Jeff Grubb, as anyone who reads this blog really should know, was the creator of the original Marvel Super-Heroes RPG.

Now for me, there are really two seminal games for my gaming: Call of Cthulhu and Marvel Super-Heroes. These games showed me that there were things besides fantasy to gaming. I might not have continued on with my gaming if I hadn't have found these games.

Regardless, Marvel Super-Heroes has remained one of my favorite games. I still play the game periodically (in fact we played a game of it a few months ago), and still have fun with it. It is a fairly simple game, and it may not be the most modern of games, but I like it.

So, I walked up to Jeff Grub to introduce myself and a stream of nonsense that might have come forth from my mouth.

The long and short of all of this was that people should get over themselves and follow do things like talk to our idols, even if we sound stupid when we do it. If I hadn't have approached him I would have regretted it. Eventually (sort of) I calmed down enough to talk semi-coherently with him. It was pretty cool to get to talk with him. I'm not going to forget it.

This is what makes going to Gen Con so cool. It is always nice to be able to meet the person who helped give you so many hours of entertainment. It is also cool to be able to tell them this.

This is still posting from the phone, so excuse the ugliness.

More to come once I get home and rest up.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Harebrained Schemes Returns To Kickstarter...With Battletech

I'm not even at the airport to head to Gen Con yet, and this news happened (I'm blogging on my phone from the shuttle):

TACTICAL ‘MECH COMBAT RETURNS TO THE PC. Harebrained Schemes is pleased to announce their return to Kickstarter this Fall to partner with backers in co-funding the creation of BATTLETECH. Jordan Weisman, the creator of BattleTech and MechWarrior, is back with the first turn-based BattleTech game for PC in over two decades. Steeped in the feudal political intrigue of the BattleTech universe, the game will feature an open-ended Mercenaries-style campaign that blends RPG ‘Mech and MechWarrior management with modern turn-based tactics.

Sorry that the presentation is ugly, there aren't a lot of frills from the phone version,  but I wanted to get the basics out. I'll pretty this up, and get more details to you when I'm at an actual computer.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

I Hear You Like Maps, So I Put Maps In Your Maps


Okay, so it turns out that I lied...I do have another post. As gamers, I know that all of you have maps...so here are some maps related to Gen Con. Save them to your phones and/or mobile devices and make sure that you don't get lost on your adventure this upcoming week.

You can also find a PDF of the Exhibition Hall here.

These are all .PNG files, so you should be able to blow them up without them getting fuzzy.

Downtown Indianapolis (Around The Convention Center)


Indiana Convention Center (1st and 2nd Floors)


The Nearby Hotels Where Con Events Are Scheduled





Remember to assign a mapper to your adventuring group while and Gen Con, and may the Odds Always Be In Your Favor!

Quick Looks At Whitehack And The Complete Vivimancer

After today, the blog will go radio silent for a couple of days while I deal with the last minute stuff that comes with Gen Con happening on Wednesday. Be sure to follow my Twitter for up to date information and scintillating pictures of airports while I travel from Tampa to Indianapolis on Wednesday. Also, +Ethel B will be posting to the blog during Gen Con as well, so watch for what she will have to say.

So, before the radio silence I wanted to get a couple of short, capsule reviews out of the way while they were still on my mind. Neither of these are really new books, but they are new to me.

I am thinking of giving Labyrinth Lord a try for the next fantasy game. The group has played a lot of Swords & Wizardry, and I have nothing against that game however sometimes you need a palate cleanser. I ordered a couple of books from various sources to use as resource for when such a game  arises. The first book to arrive was Gavin Norman's The Complete Vivimancer. I had heard good things for a while about this book, and I have the PDF of Norman's earlier Theorems & Thaumaturgy, which had a lot of interesting ideas in it.

I love weird fantasy stuff, and I love spell books for fantasy games (they are my favorite types of supplements for fantasy RPGs), so this should have been a big hit for me. Guess what? It was.

This slim A5 books is basically a "splatbook" for the Vivimancer class created by Norman. They are a spell-casting class that focuses on "bio-sorcery," which is, for all intents and purposes, magic that impacts the body. Whether via sorcerous genetic alterations to people, animals and plants or through physical or mental alterations to the Vivimancer or their targets, there is a lot to add to games in this book.

Campaigns with the Vivimancer will probably quickly move to horror, and even body horror, genre explorations, so if you don't want these elements in your campaigns then this might not be the book for you. However, even if you just use this book to plunder for new spells for the Magic-Users in your campaigns, instead of using the Vivimancer wholesale, there is still a lot to get out of this book. The Complete Vivimancer contains a write up of the new class, 130 new spells (and complete "Basic" and "Advanced" spell lists for the class), a sampling of squicky new magical items and some rules for the use of magical laboratories in your games.

Obviously, with the basic similarity of many OSR systems, this book can be used not just with Labyrinth Lord, but with Swords & Wizardry and Lamentations of the Flame Princess as well. In fact the Vivimancer would probably be at home in most Lamentations games. I would let parents be the judge, but this book probably wouldn't be suitable for most games with younger players involved in them. You can even use this book with your Basic and Expert D&D books to bring a weird fantasy edge to your games.

I can't wait to use this in my next fantasy game. The fact that flipping through the pages have given me many ideas, not all of which are player-character friendly, is a good thing. I thoroughly recommend this book and suggest that everyone who runs an old school game grab a copy of it.

Next up is Whitehack. I have to give a shoutout to +Brian Isikoff for this book, because he had a copy of it sent to me a couple of months ago now. Based off of the Swords & Wizardry Whitebox rules, Whitehack does the unthinkable...it streamlines those rules. Whitehack is available in two versions the "Standard" edition (which I have), which contains all of the Whitehack rules, and the "Notebook" edition, which contains all of the rules and 192 pages of "notebook" space that you can use to fill in with notes for your campaign, characters or anything else that you might want to use the notebook space for. The notebook edition is a pretty cool idea.

I think that our regular group would enjoy the Whitehack rules, but since we are an online only group, the lack of a PDF version of the rules makes this a hard sell. $28 might not be a lot, but it is a lot to spend on something that we might end up only playing for a few sessions. Honestly, this lack of a PDF was about the only thing that I didn't like about Whitehack.

One thing that others might not like about Whitehack is the fact that there is no art in the book. Just rules. This would be a deal breaker for many, but wasn't as big of a deal for me. The design and layout of the book reminded me of a textbook almost. Keep in mind before making a snap decision that the book is only 64 6x9 pages. There is a lot packed into those pages, however.

Everything that you need to play is in the book. Instead of the standard D&D classes, this game goes with more abstract character classes: The Wise, The Stong and the Deft. These classes are much more archetypal than your standard D&D classes, which means that you can build a lot of concepts that might not easily fit into the standard classes with Whitehack classes. Another concept, which I think was inspired by video games, that was interesting was the idea "rare" character classes. The idea of rare classes is that they aren't available as starting characters, but are "unlocked" if a character dies during a campaign, in case a player would be interested in creating a different sort of character.

Spell effects are similarly abstract, and instead of traditional spell lists you instead create your characters spells on the fly, using their class and descriptors as guides to what the character might be capable of doing.

I like the abstraction in this game. Old D&D was already a fairly abstract game, so you don't loss much in translation when you abstract it further. Whitehack would be a good game for people who are looking for some more modern approaches to the workings of games, while keeping the simplicity and abstraction of old school D&D.

If is definitely worth checking out, along with The Complete Vivimancer. These two books are examples of why we are in such a golden age of gaming right now.

Well, there probably won't be any posts until I arrive at Gen Con (you never know if this would change), and if you are a reader of the blog and attending Gen Con please try to track me down and say hello. Check the link to my Twitter feed at the beginning of this post, and my post about Gen Con from the other day, for the most up to date information about where I may be while at the convention.