Saturday 29 August 2015

An RPG on a Post-it: Stickynote Quest

I like weird projects so I sat down and created an RPG that can fit entirely on two sides of a sticky note. I've also included an equipment list, bestiary, setting information and a super tiny adventure.

I've tried, and I can fit all this on a regular sticky note.

I'm not saying it's particularly great - but I fancied a little challenge.

I can see myself writing adventures and setting material on sticky notes in the future.

Friday 28 August 2015

Somnium Void status update (and a chat)

It's been a while since I posted anything about Somnium Void, so I thought I'd share an update with you. Because only I solely work on my books, and I don't really have a set schedule like a fancy pants publisher, some books can take a while to get off the ground and change many, many times during the writing process. Also, I'm prone to having an idea and running with it straight away, so I'm always bouncing between projects. However, pretty much all projects I talk about get made in some form or another - whether it's Gauntlets and Goblins becoming Halberd Fantasy Roleplaying, or Slackers becoming a USR hack blog post.

That said, Somnium Void is almost finished. It looks like it's going to be between 40 and 50 pages, and while that isn't exactly a big book, for a micro-press like me it's a lot of time and effort.

Confession: when White Star was released I almost decided to completely can Somnium Void. Here was a simple game that did space opera effortlessly. How was I going to compete with that? The more I thought about it, the more I realised that it was ridiculous of me to think about these things in terms of competition. As I say, I'm not a business - I'm a one-man operation who loves creating roleplaying games. I make things because I love making. Besides, Somnium Void has a tonne of differences to White Star. The premise, for one, is unique and nothing like I've seen in games in the past. Plus, it runs on USR, which is a system that some people really, really dig, which is amazing. So, really, Void is absolutely for those people - for the fans who make new USR rules and run games every week with their friends.

Oh, and, take a look at the final cover.

The way that I work and my complete crippling worry that I'm going to produce something that people are going to dislike has given me pause about my Patreon. I've not yet taken any money for anything yet, and I honestly don't feel like doing it when Void lands. I don't know what it is exactly, but I just feel weird about it. It's the reason that I will never do a Kickstarter.

Maybe I'm being silly.

Anyway, this has been your Somnium Void update. As for a launch date, let's say it's going to be this side of Christmas. I'd love to use the buzz around Star Wars to launch it (ever the PR guy that I am), so it could be next month, or it could be December.

But expect new games, adventures and whatever else to pop up before then. I'd like to release a new Canary Overdrive mission in the next couple of months. I also want to completely revamp Halberd into something a lot more bad-ass, as well as get a Deluxe T&T adventure out of the door before 2016.

I'll also be releasing my Game Chef entry Dreams in Stasis on DriveThru soon and I'm toying with an arboreal-based freeform game.

Tuesday 25 August 2015

Comics I'm reading right now

Oh comics, you never cease to entertain me. It's that time where I talk about stuff I'm reading as to help you determine what you might want to read. Kapeesh?

Wild's End (Boom! Studios)

What happens when you cross superstar Guardians of the Galaxy scribe Dan Abnett with anthropomorphic Yorkshirefolk and alien invasions? Well, you obviously get Wild's End, because you read the title. Wild's End is essentially War of the Worlds but in rural England with foxes, badgers, pigs and other jolly animals of our lovely English countryside. Arted by the wonderful N. J. Culbard, who you may know from the fantastic At the Mountains of Madness GN adaptation, Wild's End is just a damned fine book that really resonates with me, being a Yorkshireman and all. Clever, witty and sweet.

Red Sonja (Dynamite)

Yeah, yeah, I know this is old news, but I've finally got around to reading the first volume of Gail Simone's Red Sonja run - you know, the one everyone keeps yammering on about? I can tell you now that it's for bloody good reason too - Red Sonja is an amazing book. I don't think I've read an opening issue quite like this and the first story arc never lets up. Sonja herself is a fantastic character and I can't wait to dive into volume two to see what happens.

Shadowman (Valiant Entertainment)

I can't tell you how obsessed I am with everything that Valiant does. I've been making through all titles since the 2012 re-launch and now I've found myself reading Shadowman, a series about a paranormal hero who kicks the crap out of demons and suchlike. It's a really good read, but I think I've probably spoiled myself after reading the likes of Harbinger and X-O Manowar, which are masterpieces in my eyes.

Mystery Society (IDW)

I read this on a whim because it sounded bat-shit insane and that's the kind of thing I love. I wasn't disappointed. Mystery Society, written by Steve Niles with art by (be still my beating heart) Fiona Staples, is a story about an underground society dedicated to tracking down the weird and terrible, righting wrongs and kicking arse. When you have Jules Verne's brain inside a steampunk robot who wears a scarf, you know you're onto a winner.

I'm also reading the following, but it's been a while and I can't remember everything that's happening in them. They're all great though:

  • Elektra
  • Black Widow
  • Ms Marvel
  • Batman
  • Saga
  • Silver Surfer

Sunday 23 August 2015

Why I love Campaign Coins

I've never been one for using props in my games, mostly because I'm terrible at making things craft-wise and store-bought props can be expensive. But I've had a bag of Campaign Coins sitting in my sock drawer for a while now (what? Where else would I keep them?) so I decided to give them a whirl the other night. It's now safe to say that I'll always be using these guys from now on.

A note for the uninitiated. Campaign Coins is a brand of metallic fantasy coins for use with your fantasy RPG. They come in all shapes and sizes, colours and designs - and they're nicely crafted too. They feel weighty, like real coins, so giving your players a small pouch of these during a game when their character receives some coin will really add to the immersion.

I've found a really cool way of giving coin-based treasure to the party is by sticking my hand in the bag, grabbing a bunch of the clinky suckers and throwing them on the table in front of them. Since each has a different denomination, you're essentially rolling for random treasure with this action. The added bonus is that the players will scramble to count their horde in real life, which is so much better than just being told how much they gained. You can do this randomly, but this can lead to them getting a tonne more or less money than they should, or you can split the denominations and do it semi-randomly, picking a handful from the small, mid or high denominations.

But you don't have to use them for money. I started giving them out as tokens if they players did something particularly awesome. Different coins can mean different bonuses that they can use in an encounter, per day or whenever you feel like. For instance, a small copper denomination could mean a +2 encounter boost, while a big fat 1000 gold coin may mean an extra action or an extra roll per day.

Also, if you need something to represent an item or chest in a room, plop one of these down on your map. How about using one of the bigger and more impressive coins as a magic item or a quest item? The 5000 piece I have with a dragon on it could easily be something given to the characters if they need to infiltrate a dragon cult.

Campaign Coins are a great addition to your game, and from looking at the site you can also cutomise your own, which is pretty sweet.

Oh, by the way, this post is no way endorsed by Campaign Coins. As part of Trollish Delver's #positivegeekery initiative, I think it's important to highlight the businesses who help make our hobby better, no matter what their size. If I like your stuff, I'll probably write about it.

Saturday 22 August 2015

Want to improve your game mastering? Get up off the chair

When you're GMing a game, you're likely going to be sitting in one place for at least a few hours. This leads to a few things that I'd say weren't  great. Sitting down is super bad for your health - it's not the natural position that we as humans are supposed to be in, so whenever we're  sitting we're supposedly knocking hours off our life. Secondly, if you're using a screen you're creating a physical barrier between you and the players. Psychologically, I think, this creates a divide and in effect excludes you from the group. You might feel that to different degrees, but I definitely feel like that.

I believe that standing can be a literal game-changer for a GM and for the players. Standing can really enhance a game for everyone taking part, as well as keeping you active for a good few hours.

You're more included in the group

Standing removes the barrier the screen puts between you and the players. You're part of the gang again and they will see that too. You're putting yourself in a more approachable position to the players and vice-versa.

You have more energy

When you're sitting, you don't have as much energy and as a result you can start to get tired, which affects your game. Nobody wants a tired GM at their table. Standing, on the other hand lets the blood flow and keeps you animated. I find that when I stand I'm much more kinetic - I'm more inclined to act things out and gesticulate. What this means is that I'm putting more into my performances, which goes a long way to enhancing my game.

You have freedom of movement

When you're sitting, it takes that extra bit of effort to get out of your chair and move around. But when you stand up, you're free to move around the table, to pass things around, to whisper a secret in a player's ear and just get up in their grills. Talk about improving immersion!

You enhance your creativity

Research has found that standing up in meetings can help improve creativity which can only be a good thing for GMs. As tabletop overlords, we have to keep our brains in gear for when something unexpected happens, often having to improvise on the spot (personally, I love improvising, but that's a story for another post). So to get that creative boost, it could help to get up off the chair.

So next time you're GMing, consider getting off your arse and doing a standing session and see how much of a difference it makes. Plus, you'll be keeping active, which is never a bad thing.

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Let's talk about REAL dungeons

Today I want to talk about dungeons. Yes, actual dungeons as they existed in history - the ones without the floating lava platforms and the arcane eyes dotted all over the place.

It's a bit of a misnomer that medieval castles housed areas for prisoners. In fact, the French don-jon was the name used for the Great Keep where nobles lived and contemplated this most secure of places. But as time went by, the nobles sought more luxurious abodes while priceless items and important prisoners were kept in the Great Keep on the count of its security.

Eventually, in the late medieval period, new prisons were built for political prisoners, which were called dungeons - reminiscent of the don-jons before them. Because people didn't really want prisoners near them in the castle, the dungeons were located in basements and dank places that, frankly, were pretty rotten.

Dungeons tended to be little more than a room with a trapdoor - nothing like the places we're used to in our fantasy roleplaying games. They were certainly claustrophobic - but they have nothing on the oubliette.

French for 'the forgotten place', the oubliette is one of the most unthinkably terrifying places you could imagine. The prisoner would be lowered into a space in which they could only stand - there was no room to crouch or move. There they were left, sometimes fed scraps, until they were let out - if they ever were. Surely this is one of the worst fates anyone could experience. I can imagine that if someone's character were put in there, the player would be affected somewhat.

One of the most infamous examples of the dungeon was the one located in Pontefract Castle, 35ft below the surface. It had a network of prison cells deep underground where prisoners were left to rot - a harrowing and unbelievable experience by today's standards.

So, dungeons in real life weren't exactly like the ones full of treasure and magic that we're used to at the gaming table, but if you want to really terrify your players - lock their characters in a real dungeon, in the dark, for the rest of their lives.

Sleep tight.

Thursday 13 August 2015

Ördög for Swords & Wizardry Whitebox

Armor Class: 5 [14]
Hit Dice: 7
Attacks: Pitchfork [1d6]
Special: Shapeshifting, Magic Use, Immune to Charm
Move: 12
XP: 600

The Ördög is a black faun who carries the foul stench of brimstone wherever it goes. They are tricksters who make wagers with mortals - encouraging them to bet their souls on games of chance. Of course, the Ördög always cheats.

The Ördög is a shapeshifter who appears in the guise of of a fox or a shepherd. Once per day it may transform into one of these for 12 hours, with the ability to show its true form whenever it likes. A character with Intelligence 16 or higher notices that, in its shapeshifted guise, the creature has bright yellow rings for pupils.

The Ördög, a being from the hell dimensions, is innately magical and can cast Dimension Portal (which is often used to travel back to hell), Confusion and Charm Person.

When in combat, the Ördög will begin by casting Confusion on its enemies, attempting to force them to attack each other. As a last resort it will use its pitchfork in melee against its enemies, targeting magic-users before anyone else. If it finds that it is losing a battle, it will cast Dimension Portal and travel back to the hell dimensions.

The Ördög will not usually attack if unprovoked. It would rather use Charm Person to gain the trust of the unwitting soul, often under the guise of playing a game with them. They will then use Dimensional Portal to transport them into a massive cauldron in hell.

Friday 7 August 2015

Get Canary Overdrive: Missions - MindMush for free

The first in the series of Canary Overdrive: Missions has arrived. MindMush is a free adventure for your Canary Overdrive game, designed to be played in one session.

A mole has leaked a formula for an experimental drug called MindMush to a competitor corporation. The Canaries are hired to find out where the leak came from and to infiltrate the HQ of Zanwing to destroy the data.

Remember that the Canary Overdrive rules are pay what you want, with all proceeds going to Refuge, a charity helping victims of domestic abuse.

Sunday 2 August 2015

Small press makes a big impact at ENnie awards

The ENnies are arguably the most popular RPG awards of the year and everyone was eagerly awaiting to see who came out on top in 2015. Well the winners are in, and it looks like a decided victory for small press DIY, with +Zak Smith taking home four ENnies for A Red & Pleasant Land, a setting for Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

As usual, there were a tonne of big players in the awards this year, with the likes of D&D 5e receiving a flood of nominations. Wizards of the Coast still won big at the event, raking in awards for best accessory with the DM's screen, best interior art for the Monster Manual, best electronic book for the Basic Rules, best game with the Player's Handbook and more.

But on the other side of the spectrum was A Red & Pleasant Land, which made away with silver for best adventure, gold for best setting, gold for best writing and silver for best product. This is a fantastic win for the indie designer and a testament to what a labour of love can get you.

You can see all the awards below. Well done to everyone who won, and especially great work +Stacy Dellorfano who won best blog and has done a great amount of good with ConTessa, which promotes women in gaming.

Best Adventure
Silver: A Red & Pleasant Land (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)
Gold: Horror on the Orient Express (Chaosium)

Best Aid/Accessory
Silver: Black Green Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition RPG Dice Set (Q-Workshop)
Gold: Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Masters Screen (Wizards of the Coast)

Best Cover Art
Silver: Achtung! Cthulhu: Terrors of the Secret War (Modiphius Entertainment Ltd)
Gold: Rise of Tiamat (Wizards of the Coast)

Best Interior Art
Silver: The Strange (Monte Cook Games, LLC)
Gold: Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual (Wizards of the Coast)

Best Blog
Silver: Gnome Stew
Gold: ConTessa Tabletop Gaming by Women for Everyone

Best Cartography
Silver: The Guide to Glorantha (Moon Design Publications)
Gold: Ninth World Guidebook (Monte Cook Games, LLC)

Best Electronic Book
Silver: Ken Writes About Stuff Volume 2 (Pelgrane Press)
Gold: Basic Rules for Dungeons & Dragons (Wizards of the Coast)

Best Family Game
Silver: Atomic Robo The Roleplaying Game (Evil Hat Productions)
Gold: Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set (Wizards of the Coast)

Best Free Product
Silver: 13th Age The Archmages Orrery (Pelgrane Press)
Gold: Basic Rules for Dungeons & Dragons (Wizards of the Coast)

Best Game
Silver: The Strange (Monte Cook Games, LLC)
Gold: Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook (Wizards of the Coast)

Best Miniatures Product
Silver: Pathfinder Pawns Inner Sea Pawn Box (Paizo Inc.)
Gold: Dungeons & Dragons Icons of the Realms Elemental Evil Boosters (WizKids)

Best Monster/Adversary
Silver: Achtung! Cthulhu: Terrors of the Secret War (Modiphius Entertainment Ltd)
Gold: Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual (Wizards of the Coast)

Best Podcast
Silver: Miskatonic University Podcast
Gold: Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff

Best Production Values
Silver: Horror on the Orient Express (Chaosium)
Gold: Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set (Wizards of the Coast)

Best RPG Related Product
Silver: Temple of Elemental Evil (WizKids)
Gold: Designers & Dragons: A History of the Roleplaying Game Industry (Evil Hat Productions)

Best Rules
Silver: MUTANT Year Zero The Roleplaying Game (Modiphius Entertainment Ltd)
Gold: Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook (Wizards of the Coast)

Best Setting
Silver: The Strange (Monte Cook Games, LLC)
Gold: A Red & Pleasant Land (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)

Best Software
Silver: HeroLab (Lone Wolf Development)
Gold: Roll20 (Roll 20)

Best Supplement
Silver: Pathfinder RPG: Pathfinder Unchained (Paizo Inc.)
Gold: Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Masters Guide (Wizards of the Coast)

Best Website
Silver: Tabletop Audio
Gold: The Escapist

Best Writing
Silver: D&D Player’s Handbook by Jeremy Crawford, James Wyatt, Robert J. Schwalb, Bruce R. Cordell (Wizards of the Coast)
Gold: A Red & Pleasant Land by Zak S (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)

Fan’s Choice for Best Publisher
Silver: Paizo Inc
Gold: Wizards of the Coast.

Product Of The Year
Silver: A Red & Pleasant Land (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)
Gold: Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook (Wizards of the Coast)

Buy Canary Overdrive and help domestic abuse victims

Canary Overdrive is now live on DriveThruRPG to download as a PDF. The game is also the first to be launched in conjunction with The Delver Fund, where 100% of the money you pay goes to charity.

When you pay for Canary Overdrive, your money will be going to Refuge, a charity set up to help victims of domestic abuse. Every week, two women are killed by a current or former partner and three women take their own lives as a result of domestic violence. Any money you can pay for Canary Overdrive will go a long way towards helping women, men and children who are victims of domestic abuse.

Canary Overdrive is a fast-paced cyberpunk roleplaying game set in future London. Canaries are on the front line of corporate espionage - cybernetically enhanced warriors who are hired by corporations for theft, sabotage and assassination of competitors.

Canary Overdrive is a game supported by The Delver Fund. Every month, The Delver Fund pays proceeds to charity - with a new charity chosen every quarter by readers of The Trollish Delver. Look out for the quarterly poll asking which cause should be supported for the next three months.

Saturday 1 August 2015

Book review: Crown of Midnight

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J Maas
Buy: UK/US

Ah, now this is more like it. After what I thought was a solid by relatively lackluster first entry into her Throne of Glass series, Sarah J Maas returns with a much more action-packed, polished and exciting book in Crown of Midnight.

Taking place months after the events of Throne of Glass, the book opens with Celaena undertaking an assassination. Finally! One thing that the previous book was missing was a good old fashioned assassination - considering the story follows the greatest assassin in the land. Now we're seeing our favourite assassin creeping in the shadows, sneaking into a bedroom, lifting her blade and...not killing anyone at all. You see, the main plot revolves around the King of Adarlan sending Celaena, who is now his champion, to kill a group of rebels who are apparently plotting an uprising against him. But Celaena, not being entirely sympathetic towards the tyrant, gives each of her marks a way out - go off and start a new life in a different land and never return.

Celaena's character is given more room to grow in Crown of Midnight and we see her go through some scary changes, especially when she goes into full warrior mode. She's by far the most captivating and rounded character in the book - intelligent, caring, strong and vulnerable - you can't help but root for her, even when she's balancing on a moral tightrope.

Her relationship with Chaol is brought to the fore in this book, who also becomes much more fleshed out over the narrative. He's strong but sensitive, a supporter of Celaena but also a staunch proponent of the king - putting him in an interesting situation. Prince Dorian also returns after being rebuked in the previous book but still harbouring feelings for Celaena. Maas gives Dorian a bigger role than just being eye-candy for Celaena in Crown of Midnight, as he goes through changes of his own and tries to get to the bottom of what's causing them.

While I found the pacing in Throne of Glass to be off, Maas has really picked things up in Crown of Midnight. The plot is tight and multifaceted, bringing together storylines of betrayal, magic, mystery, history, politics and romance. So much happens in this book that I was excited to get home every evening and get stuck into it. We also get much more of a glimpse into the world of Erilea, with information about the different kingdoms, alliances and creatures of the world. I particularly liked the story behind the Ironteeth Witches - one of whom makes an appearance in book.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, though it's not without its faults. I found the climax of the third act drawn out and the 'big bad' was a bit left of field, but this wasn't exactly a sticking point.

Overall, Crown of Midnight is a fantastic read and a great improvement on Throne of Glass.

Verdict: Read it