Thursday, 27 April 2017

Within the Rose Cavern

The Rose Cavern is bored into the crags on the plains of Mondath, where the birds are silent and the mushrooms sing laments of days gone by. 
Even the Savage Elves do not venture close to the Rose Cavern, where the scent of honey is ever present. They speak of a creature within called Pux, a large hare-like beast whose spittle burns and claws rend. 

Lv. 7
Type: Monster
Action d10, Wits d8, Ego d6
Hits: 7d8
Attack: d10+3 (Bite d8)
Defence: d10+3
Specialisms: Hide (Action 4), Fear (Ego 3)
Special rule: If Pux deals damage with a bite attack, the target must test Action (hard) or suffer 1d6 extra acid damage.
Treasure: 1500 shards worth of ancient pottery

Beyond the Pux lies darkness punctuated with the yellow glow of  spindly finger shrooms reaching out of the walls. The sound of a plucking harp can be heard as one delves further into the twisting tunnels, but no matter where one looks there is no player. 

Venturing far is not wise. Old bones are scattered on the ground, those who died here when they were unable to escape. From the cavern ceilings, disguised as stalactites, writhing tentacles grab the unaware, wrapping around their next and leading them to an early grave.

If one reaches the mirror room, they should be relieved. What looks to be an ornate mirror crafted by Yannese artisans is actually a portal to a random location in Tequendria. This is occasionally the ocean.

The mirror itself is worth untold riches, beyond 50,000 shards. Wars would break out over it's ownership (being a treasure of Mondath, but a creation of a Yannese Long Wizard). 

Sunday, 23 April 2017

DriveThruRPG analytics I wish existed

The OneBookshelf platform is a huge boon to creators like myself, but as someone who markets things professionally I find their sales analytics to be, erm, real bad. So I wanted to talk about the tools that I wish DriveThruRPG and RPGNow would add to help us sell our products more effectively.

Audience segmentation
Proper audience demographics are immensely important in marketing. Sure, because roleplaying is a niche hobby you might think that this data will be largely the same, but it's not the case. Even knowing your audience's age and gender is important, especially if you know this per game.

DriveThruRPG does have what amounts to brand affinity, showing the top publishers you share sales with, which isn't amazing but it's a start.

Converting keywords
Want to be discovered through organic search? You better have your pages optimised for keywords people are searching for. It would be useful to know exactly what keywords people are both finding your sales pages with and also converting with (selling). If people are converting through 'solo roleplaying' and 'rpg with skeletons' then you know these terms are important to people and you should be optimizing relevant content for these terms.

Email CTR
Since DriveThruRPG offers the ability to send out emails to your customers, I would have expected some email analytics. Sure, you get a page on where traffic is coming from, but this is mostly pointless. Simply by knowing the CTR (click through rate) of customers who come through your emails and convert you will be know how to better optimise that email for the future. Throw in some time of day data and this could be an indispensable marketing tool. Finding more of your newsletters with above the fold images, subheads and a few paragraphs are having a higher CTR? You know to shape your future emails this way.

Bounce rates
If your new product page isn't laid out correctly, doesn't have an effective call to action and doesn't contain the right information your potential customers might be bouncing. Simply put, this means they're visiting your page and leaving before converting. Knowing the percentage bounce rate is crucial to knowing how effective your product page is in the customer journey.

Get rid of useless analytics
For some reason the platform decides that you need to know a bunch of superfluous information that I would deem as vanity analytics. Knowing you're in the top 15% of publishers actually isn't useful unless you know how to increase that ranking. Page visit averages are also entirely devoid of meaning. I would rather know my actual daily visits and conversions for a certain product. Sure, you can get a daily sales report, but this only lists conversions.

Also, just do away with the 'top customers per month's in the ranking and trends report. It's a waste of space because it contains no useful data.

The above are some of the smaller analytics that would do sellers a world of good and I appreciate implementing analytics can tough. If anything, I'd suggest they charge a small percentage for access to higher analytics toolkit if they were worried about recouping their losses.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Tequendria D&D conversion

I'm really happy with how Tequendria has been received​. However, I do understand that some people might want to use the Dunsanian setting in their current D&D game.

Luckily for those people the ever wonderful and supportive Kyrinn S Eis has created a genius conversation document for using USR with D&D (and vice versa).

You can view the document here.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Tequendria: running Gibbelins

Perhaps the most famous creatures Dunsany created were the flesh-devouring Gibbelins. These squat creatures hoard great treasures as a way to trap naive adventurers, murdering the poor soul before he could retrieve the gold and glory.

In Tequendria Gibbelins are good encounters for low-level characters, with their +1 attack and d6-1 bite damage. Clearly a single Gibbelin isn't going to be much of a problem - but these are not solitary creatures - they live with many others. It's more likely that adventurers will come upon a horde of the blighters, which can offer them advantages. Having three or more ganging up on a character will give them a bonus +1 attack each. This is even better if they get the high ground (make use of wide stairs) as they will get another +1. This means your swarm of Gibbelins could get a +3 attack total, which is not insignificant.

It's unlikely that Gibbelins will be the only occupiers of an abandoned fortress. They may have struck up a deal with other humanoids to help them lure adventurers in exchange for some trinkets. Teaming up with a single Grey Giant would offer them some protection from stronger monsters and potentially help to feed the giant. Some Gibbelins may even begin to revere such a creature. Of course, bringing a Grey Giant into the mix increases the difficulty of an encounter, as their club can pack a wallop.

You can download a copy of Tequendria from Drivethrurpg.

Tequendria is here

Tequendria has arrived. Pay what you want for Dunsanian fantasy roleplaying.

TEQUENDRIA is a fantastical roleplaying game inspired by the works of Lord Dunsany, the grandfather of modern fantasy. In this game you may become a grim Gravekeeper of Zum, a soul-weilding Icur sorceror or even an artificial Doomgaunt. Travel the wilds of Yann where the winter will bite as fiercly as the wolves, or delve in to the ancient Pits of Snood and face the demons within. Magic coarses through the veins of Tequendria, meaning every creature is somewhat capable of casting spells. Above the clouds of the world adventurers can take to their aether in mighty vessels, visiting strange alien worlds like Dim Carcosa and the Snurk Pits of the Bounds of Leng. 
  • Play as 20 different weird and wonderful archetypes (roll them randomly if you like)
  • Everyone can cast spells 
  • Setting information for the world of Tequendria
  • A bestiary of deadly creatures
  • A selection of fiction by Lord Dunsany
TEQUENDRIA uses the Unbelievably Simple Roleplaying system, whose mechanics are streamlined and beginner-friendly, but a

Download today and have fun.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Why it's a good idea to create a style guide for your game

So my players aren't super enjoying the current 5e campaign. I'm running Storm King's Thunder, the first time I've run a full pre-written campaign and my group has made it clear that they're not getting a tonne out of it.

My first reaction was to be downbeat about it. I'm my own worst critic and I just felt deflated. Was I not being a good DM? Should I have already known my group wasn't enjoying it? Mopey Scott came out to play.

Eventually I got over it and reasoned that they missed my homebrew campaigns, so actually this wasn't a big a deal as I was making out. Plus, I could see where they were coming from. I hadn't really stopped to consider what kinds of games the group likes. I'm aware of how each of them likes to play in a game (one is a big roleplay fan while another much prefers problem solving and combat). But I didn't think that they would be against a sandbox game - it's just simply out of their comfort zone.

This brings me to the style guide. One of my players suggested it and it's a great idea. We have a Google Doc that we've all fed into that goes through the kinds of games, campaigns, encounters and pacing we all like. It's a live document that we can all refer to when running a game and I know it's going to be super helpful. Now I know my players don't want to have to roleplay travelling, and they love meaningful quests tied to their characters. This is all good stuff to know when I'm prepping, so I'd highly recommend you and your group creates your own style guide.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Tequendria update

Oh god, I'm tired. But we must press on for the work we love. Tequendria is nearly complete and it's turning out to be the biggest book I've created so far.

I wanted to share some further details about the game as I edge closer to the finish line.

Tequendria started off as Halberd Second edition. I've never really been happy with Halberd and there was a lot I wanted to change with a new edition. But as I was creating it I found that the game I was writing was entirely different. At the beginning I had some light Dunsanian elements, but that evolved into a pretty Dunsany-heavy game.

I didn't want to have the standard archetypes that Halberd had so I borrowed from Troika! - having a list of 20 that players can just roll randomly if they choose. So rather than having human, elf, dwarf etc, you can be a construct created from the bones of a god, a desert- dwelling griot, a warrior born of the moon and plenty more. It's fantastical, the way Dunsany liked his worlds, but with my own stamp on it.

The USR combat system has been overhauled. I had a comment saying that this might remove the 'USR-ness' of the system, but I don't think that's the case. What the updated system brings is balance and gives the GM an easier job of making encounters. What I was finding is that a high level warrior with weapon specialisms and someone who essentially could barely hold a club could be at the same level. This didn't sit well with me and made balancing a nightmare. After all, a big bad monster tough enough to challenge a high level warrior would make mincemeat out of someone with a lower Action and no weapon specialisms at the same level. I didn't think that was fun, so a slight tweak has meant that even if you're not a combat orientated character you can still hold your own.

There's setting material also in the book. Actually, everything is setting material really. There are 25 locations detailed (though fairly briefly - with enough information to fire the imagination). All of this has been taken from Dunsany in some way. There is a city that is actually alive and in mourning, another that is constantly besieged by centaurs, and one full or greedy oligarchs who are under the threat of a god emerging from the sea and destroying it. Gibbelins make their home in desolate places, the Tower Unvanquishable is in there, and there's a city full of 8ft tall wizards. I wanted to spread flavour throughout the book, through archetypes, magic items, monsters and locations.

One thing that has remained from Halberd and might seem a little weird to traditionalists is that everyone can cast spells. Some are better at it than others, of course, but because this is a fantastical game I wanted magic to run through everything. Magic is also a risk. Generally, of you're not a particularly intelligent character you're more likely to screw up and also less able to cast harder spells in general, so some characters will dabble in some spells but it's less likely they will focus on it. But if times get desperate a magic novice could pull it out of the bag.

I'm hoping to get everything completed for mid April. I'm excited about the project and it's taken over everything else I've been working on. I hope you like it.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Kickstart You Are The Hero Part 2

A double dose of Fighting Fantasy today. I've been lax with shouting about this project, but I'm rectifying that right now. Currently Jonathan Green is Kickstarting the second part of his massive Fighting Fantasy restrospective book You Are The Hero and I'd highly recommend pitching in. The first book is a must have for any fan.

The project has smashed it's goal, but stretch goals await. So get on it!

Scholastic to publish new (and old) Fighting Fantasy books

Fighting Fantasy loves jumping publishers, but this is one to that fans can be particularly excited about. Scholastic UK has announced that it will be publishing  Fighting Fantasy for a new generation, a series now in its 35th year.

But that's not the main news. Somewhat buried in the press release was the announcement of a new gamebook by Ian Livingstone called The Port of Peril, which is SO bloody Fighting Fantasy and I love it. Not only that, but there are already more titles planned. Yay!

It's been years since Blood of the Zombies and at the time Livingstone said he was on with another book - which I assume is Port of Peril.

Looks like the book will be released on August 2017.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Tequendria - Dunsanian fantasy roleplaying coming April

The world is wide. From the simmering sands of Khartoov, where the Cult of Hlo-Hlo worship their Spider God in their underground metropolis, to the frozen Yann where the threat of an ancient titan looms over the land, Tequendria is a place of fantastical adventure.

Become an undead-fighting Gravekeeper of Zum, a daredevil aethership pilot or a treasure hunting Hand of the Blue Court. There are 20 archetypes to choose from, with the option to roll randomly.

Tequendria is an upcoming USR- powered game heavily influenced by the works of Lord Dunsany. I've tweaked the system to ensure a better balance in combat and to make it easier for GMs to create their own creatures at appropriate levels. Combat is more advanced, with tactical rules, but also really simple to get your head around.

The game contains everything you need to play, including a bestiary, setting material and even some Dunsanian fiction.

Tequendria will be available in April (all being well) as a pay what you want PDF.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

My gaming story (or how i became a massive nerd)

It was back in the halcyon days of 1998 that the bug of tabletop gaming bit me, leaving a red mark that would last a lifetime. Back then I was part of a local youth club connected to my school where kids would get offloaded for an evening to play games and dance to innapropriate music (Sex on the Beach was a perennial favourite back then for obvious reasons).

One night I got talking to one of my friends, who was prostletyzing about this game involving space marines, weird aliens and jetbikes. Jetbikes! This was my introduction to Warhammer 40,000 and the world of tabletop gaming. It sounded incredible.

Some years earlier I was bequeathed a pile of yellowing second hand Fighting Fantasy books by my step dad, who got them from a local university book shop. Looking at the Russ Nicholson and Iain McCaig art boggled my tiny mind and set all the right neurons firing. These books planted the roleplaying seed early on, but back then I had no idea it would grow into a lifelong hobby and a small business for me.

The smell of the cookie shop in the shopping centre wafted over me as I set foot for the first time in a Games Workshop. The shelves were packed with colourful boxes of minis - so many I found it difficult to comprehend where I should start. A nice employee told me I should grab a paint set because it came with five Space Marines. It was also a fiver, so this seemed like a good deal (hard to believe now), so I bought it, went home and painted my first Ultramarines.

Soon I would be playing in Saturday morning games in the store, matching my pathetically painted marines against whatever new nonsense was pitted against me that week. I would buy White Dwarf every month to marvel at all the things I couldn't afford, but I loved the play reports. Issue 233 was my first and I still think it's my favourite issue, although I stopped buying them over a decade ago.

At around this time a certain craze was taking off. Pokémon was all the rage and the cards by Wizards of the Coast were a hot commodity in schoolyards across the world. I was perhaps the first to bring in a deck, having spotted it in a toy store and thinking it looked like a fun game. But it blew up and I realised that people didn't even want to play the game, or if they did they butchered the rules something terrible.
To get a good game, I had to play with my best friend, who had also caught the Warhammer bug. Through Pokémon I realised that I loved card games - but if only there were more.

Not long later I was on a caravan holiday and I was allowed to peruse Game (the holiday was boring, so this was my moment of fun). There something caught my eye. It was the Portal starter set for Magic the Gathering.

Now THIS was right up my alley. The art blew me away and I loved the intricate strategies around the game. It began a hobby that continues to this day, though admittedly I have stopped buying the cards and just use my vast collection.

Now I was deep into a new world. Whereas I knew a lot of kids who played Warhammer and Pokémon, nobody knew about Magic. I felt like a member of an exclusive club. I became a fully fledged nerd.

A couple of years later I was talking with my best friend about a board game I was given a while back about warriors and sorceries. I couldn't actually remember what it was called (I still can't, but I remember there was a tower in the centre that was interactive in some way), but I assumed it was Dungeons and Dragons. Unfortunately I couldn't find the game at home - I have no idea where it went, but this led me to my FLGS where I asked about Dungeons and Dragons. What I was presented with wasn't the board game I remember - it looked way better. This was the year 2000, when 3rd edition was fresh from the publisher and everyone seemed really excited about it. There were still shelves stacked with 2e, but I went with 3e because the previous version was 'Advanced', so I assumed you had to work up to that. What an idiot. I picked up the Starter Set, you know, this one:

Oh the joy that came from this box. The contents were actually really good - lots of tokens and a big old dungeon map, along with a book of adventures. This is where everything clicked into place. The lite roleplaying of Fighting Fantasy, the tactical minis of Warhammer and the art and, well, the magic of Magic: The Gathering. Everything in D&D conspired to hook me in and enrich my life, and dammit that's exactly what it did.

So that's the story of how I found gaming, or as I like to think of it, how gaming found me.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Necrowyrm for USR

Type: Undead
Typical number: 1
Disposition: Aggressive
Action: d10
Wits: d8
Ego: d6
Hits: 20
Armour: 3
Weapon: Rotbreath +3*
Specialisms: Flight +4 (A), Stealth +3 (A)
Treasure: Spoils of the dead (2d10 x 100 shards)
Special: Exhaling Putrescence - when using its rot breath, the Necrowyrm can hit 1d6 targets within 60ft. Those hit must make an Action test or vomit bile for 1d3 rounds, reducing any rolls they make by half. 

Rising from the fetid air above a coagulation of corpses, the Necrowyrm (also known colloquially as a grave bastard) is often found at sites of mass killings. The faces and limbs of the dead cover it's tattered flesh and it's call is the scream of the damned. When it uses its breath weapon it exhales gore into its enemy.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Pale Rider for USR

Pale Rider
Typical number: 1-3
Disposition: Aggressive
Action: d8
Wits: d6
Ego: d6
Hits: 8
Armour: 1
Weapon: Marrowblade +2
Specialisms: Riding +2 (A)
Treasure: Pale skull (20 shards)
Special: When mounted the Pale Rider gets a +1 to attacks against unmounted foes.

From the dark moors of the Blightland to the Dripping Cliffs, the Pale Rider makes its gloomy home. Raised a thousand years ago by the Yellow Necrocaster Ildiun Doomslake, the Pale Riders are cursed to guard the treasure sites Ildiun deemed sacred.

The lead rider is known as the Chained One - it's torso wrapped in silver chains. A Chained One has armour 2 and Action d10.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Review: Troika!

If you know me, you will likely know that I have a major soft spot for Fighting Fantasy. This tremendously popular gamebook series was really my gateway into roleplaying, alongside Warhammer - two British institutions in gaming.

So when Troika! cropped up, a game that is heavily influenced by Fighting Fantasy, I had to take a look.

Troika!, created by Daniel Sell and Jeremy Duncan, is the British equivalent to an OSR game. Whereas the likes of Swords and Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord and indeed my own Romance of the Perilous Land are influenced by the original Dungeons and Dragons rules, Troika was created to harken back to that gritty, weird stable of games that originated in the UK. It doesn't use the polyhedral d20 system, instead opting for something more akin to Advanced Fighting Fantasy, a game that has seen a decent rejuvenation through Arion Games and bloggers like Stuart Lloyd who are taking a keen interest in the system.

Being of Fighting Fantasy stock, the ruleset is on the light side of the spectrum, which suits me to a tee, but will automatically put crunchers off. Oh, and the baked in setting is deliciously bizarre.

I say baked in because the setting is implied through character creation, spells, items and enemies. There isn't a 'setting' section - so it pays to read absolutely everything to pick out plot hooks and nuggets that will help realise the world of Troika. Readers who pay attention will gather that great golden airships sail the skies and aether, fuelled by plasmic cores that are sometimes huffed by wizards. They will discover that monkeys are often sold as snacks, and that witches shun the rain as their skin is made of literal paper.

The richest vein of setting in this short book is certainly through character backgrounds, which are essentially classes. Many of these are just wonderfully evocative - the Befouler of Ponds who pisses in ponds for their toad god, the Caliviger who is obsessed with opening locks, and the Fellowship of Knidos - mathmologists who seek to open the door to the universe with numbers. Each background has a list of skills, some starting equipment and some also have a special ability. For instance, the aforementioned Befouler of Ponds is able to drink stagnant water with no ill effects. Quite the niche ability but, as I say, entirely evocative.

Character creation is supposed to be random. Roll 2d6 and find your background. There doesn't seem to be much in the way of balance, but this feels absolutely intentional. Like in Fighting Fantasy, you get Skill, Stamina and Luck, which are added to a 2d6 roll along with any skill. If it's a contested roll, like in combat, you have to roll higher than the opponent. Otherwise, it's a roll under system. Being a Fighting​ Fantasy system whoever gets the highest roll on combat wins and does damage, which is dependent on the weapon used. Roll a d6 and consult the damage chart for the weapon. All very simple, although it's not immediately apparent how ranged combat works. Presumably if you miss with a ranged attack the opponent doesn't get to hit you, but this isn't spelled out.

Spells cost points, which are taken from stamina - so if you want to use magic you have to hurt yourself. This penalty exists because spell users have access to all spells from the beginning. To cast, it's a roll under, with a double 1 always succeeding but a double 6 being an Oops!. Yep, you get to roll to see how you fucked up your spell, something I love. This could be as innocuous as growing a tail to all money you're holding turning into butterflies and flying off. All of these consequences are inventive and super fun (probably not for the player in question). However, many of them are indefinite, meaning that you could end up turning into a pig forever, which is slightly irksome, so it's likely that GMs will build in a cure quest into the game.

Troika captured my imagination as soon as I read through it. Coupled with a simple system, this is a fun one shot or short campaign game. However, with no advancement it's unlikely that players will get a tonne from a prolonged campaign.

Official 5e digital toolkit is coming with D&D Beyond

Wizards of the Coast has launched a new site allowing users to apply to become a beta tester for D&D Beyond, a digital toolkit for 5e.

From the looks of things, the application will have pretty much everything on it - character builder, glossary, bestiary, character management and, reading between the lines, a digital tabletop - but I'm not too sure on this last part.

"D&D Beyond speaks to the way gamers are able to blend digital tools with the fun of storytelling around the table with your friends,” said Nathan Stewart, Senior Director of Dungeons & Dragons. "These tools represent a way forward for D&D, and we’re excited to get them into the hands of players soon!"

Wizards has previously attempted to dive into a toolkit for 5e, but this ultimately didn't take off. Since then the company has offered their licence to both Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds, two of the most popular virtual tabletops out there. If Beyond does indeed facilitate a virtual tabletops then it remains to be seen what happens to these licenses.

I've signed up for beta, so if I get to play around with Beyond I'll give you a preview of what it's all about.

Preview: Champion of Earth

Monsters - I love 'em. Few things happening make me happier than kicking back with a creature feature and a load of chocolate. Unfortunately, today I don't have any chocolate, but I do have a game about monsters to look at.

Champion of Earth is a card game that's just launched on Kickstarter and already has hit its £1000 goal (not a particularly large sum for a card game, it has to be said). The brains behind the game, Shades of Vengeance, sent along some preview material for me to wrap my eyeballs around.

From the outset, the game seems pretty simple. Each player controls characters - monster hunters, who battle against a row of bad guys set out in the centre of the board, nicely referred to as the oncoming horde. Players pick equipment, fight monsters and win corpses. The winner is the player with the most corpses. Pretty simple, right?

Monsters are split into undead, aliens and creature, so there's a mix of zombies, wererabbits, alien babies, mummies and more. It's like every b-movie has been thrown into a blender.

Equipment cards are equally weird, with ultraviolet light for taking down undead, toasters, segways and teleportation packs, making Champion of Earth feel like a bizarre 80s flick with modern day toys. I particularly like the Martian Pants, which allows you to trade for another piece of equipment - delightfully strange.

In terms of mechanics, it's all kept very simple, presumably in order to keep it quick paced. All you have to do is make sure your equipment score is equal to or above the monster's score. Of course, monsters and equipment have different abilities, so it's never going to be that cut and dry.

Also, good news for those who like to play solo, as you don't need anyone else to play - just see how you survive against the deck.

If Champion of Earth feels like something you would enjoy, support the game on Kickstarter.

Review: The Order - Die Mensch Maschine

Sometimes you come across a premise that is so beautifully bat-shit insane that you can't help but take a pause and just let it all sink in. The Order is that premise.

Die Mensch Maschine is the first trade collection from The Order, a story ripped from the pages of 2000 AD by scribe Kek- W, letterer Annie Parkhouse and art droid John Burns, the latter of who is still producing incredible work even his advanced age. 

How to describe The Order. It's about Teutonic robot knights, time travel, steam punk, giant invading alien worms and romance. I wasn't kidding about the bat-shit part, but I'll be damned if it isn't a solid, fun read. 

Die Mensch Maschine contains two stories, each set in different time periods. We begin in medieval Europe as the tale of the German knight Kohl is being told as he stood against the Wolf Nation (a literal army of werewolves) and ultimately fell. The storyteller quickly discovers that the lady in his presence is Anna Kohl, the knight's daughter, who is looking for information on how her father met his demise. We soon find out that the storyteller isn't all he seems as he transforms into a wolf and dukes it out with Anna - this scene being one of the most grounded in the book. Anna is told her father was a member of the Order, a secret society of warriors and great minds who banded together to destroy wurms - an alien race who are invading reality through different time streams. Oh, and that's after Ritterstahl comes to the fore - a mechanical German knight who exists only as a head when he's found.

What follows is a dive into a supremely weird adventure, filled with action (Medieval rocket launchers, anyone?) and historical nonsense, but it a good way. Burns excels with historical art and it's clear here that it's something he's incredibly comfortable with. Nothing seems static, everything flows, which makes for some great action sequences. His characterisation is top notch and on the whole this is a brilliant book to just look at. 

The second story, The Court of the Wyrm Queen, is set in the late 16th century, but i feel like saying any more would spoil the book. It's safe to say that this second part is even better, upping the story ante and taking the weirdness to a whole new level. 

If you love history and science fiction, The Order is tailor made for you. Highly recommended. 

Disclaimer: a copy of this book was sent to me for review. 

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

2000 AD revives British comic history

Lost classic children’s British comics from the 1970s and ’80s are to be brought back to life by 2000 AD, following its acquisition of the Fleetway and IPC Youth group archive from Egmont UK last year.

Ben Smith, head of books and comic books at Rebellion Publishing, which owns 2000 AD, described it as a chance to restore “a vital but largely overlooked piece of British cultural history”.

The new Treasury of British Comics line will launch in June this year with John Wagner and John Cooper’s “part Dirty Harry, part Judge Dredd” One-Eyed Jack, first published in 1975.

This will be followed in July by the first collection of Mike Western and Eric Bradbury’s “British Spider-man” series The Leopard from Lime Street.

The Watership Down-style tale of a lone fox’s desperate struggle to survive against wicked humans, Marney the Fox, by writer M Scott Goodall and illustrator John Stokes, will be published in hardcover in September, followed by Gerry Finley-Day and Eric Bradbury’s Dracula Files from the pages of Scream!, which saw ‘red peril’ meet gothic horror as Dracula stalked 1980s Britain in one of the 1980s’ most popular comics.

November will see the second volume of the classic 1980s ‘horror comic for girls’ Misty, featuring two stories: “The Sentinels” and “End of the Line”.

And in December, a collection of Ken Reid’s legendary Faceache from Jet and Buster will be published in hardcover. One of the all-too-forgotten greats of British comics, Reid’s work has been cited by Alan Moore and Pat Mills as a major influence.

All titles will be distributed through Simon & Schuster, which already distributes 2000 AD’s bestselling imprint of graphic novels in the UK and North America.

Ben Smith said: “The wealth of story and art from past decades is woefully unexplored and our experience with the 40-year history of 2000 AD was that, if curated in the right way, this material has a large mainstream audience and that classic comics represent extraordinary opportunity not only to satisfy contemporary readers but also save and reinstate a vital but largely overlooked piece of British cultural history.

“It’s an incredible way for parents and grandparents to pass on their own childhood to new generations in the same way that sharing The Wind in the Willows or The Hobbit with children and young people forges and reinforces bonds across families.

“The reprographic work is extraordinarily involved. Most pages have to be sourced from the original printed comics, as the film and artwork has been lost long ago. We have over a decade’s experience with a full time reprographics team, and we expanded the head count to take on the extra workload.

“We’re balancing material we have found to be of exceptional quality, with stories that readers have begun clamouring for as lost classics and little known gems.”

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Initial sketches for Chronic Planet

Today I've spent a lot of time working on Chronic Planet, both on the art side and the words. I just wanted to share some sketches from the book to give you an idea of the art style.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Announcing Chronic Planet

I'm excited about a new roleplaying project I've just started work on called Chronic Planet. 

What is Chronic Planet?

Think A Princess of Mars meets stoner metal with a heap of 2000 AD. Chronic Planet is John Carter's acid trip to the sound of Orange Goblin. 

What's the system?

The game uses the rules from Romance of the Perilous Land, a spin on OSR. This is simple and can be used with existing OSR modules. 

Who's doing the art?

This is the most daunting part. I want a very specific style for Chronic Planet and I can't afford to pay anyone, so I'm doing it myself. I enjoy doing art but I've never really thought about doing it for a product. This Space Riders cover will give you an idea of the kind of look I'm going for.

Image: Black Mask

When is it out?

Erm, ask me in a few months. Because I'll be doing all of the art, writing and layout I can't imagine it will be anytime soon. 

Games of interest this week (18-25th February)

Welcome to Games of Interest - a weekly summary post of games and supplements that have caught my eye this week. 

Stranger Chrome
Published by John Banner
Price $2.50
Stranger Chrome is a short and simple story game inspired by the coming-of-age struggles from the characters in the TV show Stranger Things married to the near-future dystopia of cyberpunk stories like Burning Chrome. 
We play to answer questions about the world and our character's place in it, and explore how the setting makes our character's lives both easier and harder. It's suitable for 3-5 players and about an evening of play, and can use dice, tokens, or any kind of conflict-resolution system you like.

Published by Shield of Faith Studios
Price $1.99
Welcome to the 18th issue of Crawling Under A Broken Moon, a fanzine dedicated to bringing gonzo post apocalyptic content for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG from Goodman Games.

This issue contains: 

A new Interesting Place to Die: The Menfish Pyramid of the Bass Masters! 
The Hybird, A new alluring character class
New rules for underwater combat
New rules for watercraft creation and combat
And a passel of new anphibious (sic) beasties to encounter

Published by Lost Pages
Price $9.99
An historical supplement on pilgrimages, relics and religion in the European Middle Ages.
The Poor Pilgrim's Almanack is filled with painstakingly researched essays on religious life (and death) in the middle ages, it lets you use relics and pilgrimage as the basis of an alternative conception of clerical magic. Also included are details on travel, burial customs, catacombs, and the business of relic theft. A travelogue of shrines and other pilgrimage sites, detailed rules for relics and reliquaries, and a listing of historical miracles (corresponding to familiar clerical spells) make this 128 page sourcebook a treasure trove of inspiration. Dozens of adventure seeds and tables for generating encounters on the road, graves and grave goods, and randomized catacomb generation and stocking round out the contents. A new class, the Palmer, provides a novel take on religious adventurers.

Published by Trollish Delver Games (me)
Price PWYW
It's rayguns, aliens and swashbuckling amongst the stars! Astounding Interplanetary Adventures is a minimalist game of pulp sci-fi inspired by serials like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. Using the rules-lite system introduced in In Darkest Warrens, these few pages have everything you need to play a fun romp through space, including aliens, rocket ships and setting information. 
All you need is some friends, some six-sides dice and an imagination to begin your life of heroism. Perhaps you want to be a daring pilot, a brave soldier or even a scientist who can build robots to help you out! With AIA it's quick and easy to get to the table and start playing. 
What's included:
5 classes: soldier, noble, pilot, scientist, and athlete Alien bestiary Roll random planets Factions Planets Thrills and spills!

Disclaimer: this is my latest game. Plug plug plug.

Herne the Hunter for Romance of the Perilous Land

Herne the Hunter
HD: 7(17)
HP: 7d6 (21hp)
Attack: Chain (d6+7)
Armour: 3

Special: Herne can blow his horn as an action. Anyone Near must make a Mind save or stop petrified. During this time they are unable to move, but they may take other actions. They can make a Mind save at the end of their turn to see if the effect wears off. In addition, normal weapons do half damage against Herne, while magical weapons and effects do double damage.

Herne the Hunter is a malevolent spirit who wears stag antlers on his head and rides a ghostly mare. The rattle of chains can be heard as he approaches, his eyes burn like hot coals. When he blows his horn a nightmarish wail echoes through the air, terrifying all who hear it. 

Herne has several ghostly followers collectively known as the Dark Hunters (use the stats for ghosts for these).

Friday, 24 February 2017

Random thieves guild generator

Want a thieves guild on the fly? Roll below to discover it's name, leader and guild symbol.

First part of the name 1d10

1. Red
2. Broken
3. Night
4. Damned
5. Deadly
6. Shadow
7. Skulking
8. Dread
9. Black
10. Hell's

Second part of the name 1d10

1. Queens
2. Knives
3. Rats
4. Bones
5. Snakes
6. Chalice
7. Scourge
8. Crowns
9. Coin
10. Dogs

Guild leader first name 1d10

1. Tarvus
2. Aleena
3. Patch
4. Blades
5. Goja
6. Rita
7. Hungar
8. Sticks
9. Fingers
10. Olissia

Guild leader second name 1d10

1. Nightlord
2. Undercroft
3. The Reckless
4. Weaselway
5. Half-moon
6. The Demented
7. Winterwatch
8. Rotten
9. The Daring
10. Two-swords

Guild symbol 1d10

1. Black rose
2. Broken key
3. Grinning skull
4. Crossed daggers
5. Stabbed rat
6. Snake coiled around a sword
7. Two headed dragon
8. Hand with half a finger missing
9. Devil's head
10. Sole of a boot

Thursday, 23 February 2017

The Druid class for Romance of the Perilous Land

The druid is among the highest ranked religious figure in society and as such are held in great regard. They are born leaders, physicians, diplomats and lorekeepers. They are masters of divination and lead important ceremonies, including sacrifices. 

HD: 1d6+2
Primary attribute requisite: Mind 12 Weapon Proficiency: Light ranged, light melee. 
Armour Proficiency: Light   
Skills: Religious Knowledge (Mind), Natural Medicine (Mind), Diplomacy (Charisma)

Class Features

Lvl 1: Druidic Magic - druids gain access to the following spells at first level: A Heavenly Light, The Voice of a Hound, Cause the Alert to Slumber, Replenish the Weary and Worn and On Calming the Raging Beast. 

Lvl 3: Sacrifice Evil - once per day a druid may use a sacrificial dagger (which they begin with) to kill an enemy. If they do this, all allies within 100ft gains advantage on their next attack roll. 

Lvl 5: Destroy Evil - once per combat a druid may do +1d6 damage to a malevolent spirit creature. 

Lvl 7: Stand with Me - allies within 20ft of the druid gain 2 extra points of armour. 

Lvl 9: Armour of the Gods - Once per day a druid may pray to the gods to bless them with radiant armour. Attacks against the druid have disadvantage for 10 minutes. The druid also gains 4 extra points of armour until the feature wears off. 

Converting B/X Vancian magic to Romance of the Perilous Land points system

One of the things that differentiates Romance of the Perilous Land from many other OSR games is that it doesn't use the Vancian magic system. Instead, it uses a points based system like in Tunnels and Trolls.

In order to convert Vancian to points based as a rule of thumb double the spell's level to get its points value. Everything else behaves in the same way. So a 7th level spell would cost 14 points unless the DM decides it should be a couple of points higher or lower.

That's it really - nice and simple. This makes it easier to run a wide range of OSR adventures with the RotPL ruleset.

Someone is Kickstarting a map-making storygame

I'm always intrigued when someone does something completely different in the tabletop space, which is why Companions' Tale caught my eye.

The premise is that players join together to create a map of a place, building it's lore, history and architecture through storytelling. Here's what the Kickstarter page says:

Companions’ Tale is a map-making storytelling game where you tell the tale of an epic hero, righting wrongs and saving kingdoms. The hero acts, and leaves others to tell the tale. You are those others: the hero's closest companions. Whose version of the heroic tale will become canon, and whose will be a footnote to history?

Companions’ Tale is a game is for 4 players and takes approximately 2 ½ hours to play. It uses evocative world-building rules, a deck of inspirational themes and art, and a series of rotating roles for shared storytelling. Together, you’ll build the history and culture of the realm, fill in a rich and changing map, and reveal your companions’ tales.

A map making game is something I've been tinkering around with in my head for a while, but this sounds better than what I was imagining. 

If this sounds like something you'd like to support, head over to the Kickstarter page

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

2000 AD: Celebrating 40 years of zarjaz comics

2000 AD is one of the most influential and important comic books of all time. Not only did it give birth to such iconic characters like Rogue Trooper, Halo Jones and, of course, the law himself Judge Dredd, it became the crucible that produced some of the best writers and artists in the business.

This week 2000 AD celebrates its 40th birthday with a special anniversary issue. First published in February 1977, 2000 AD is a unique British success story – one of the most influential comic books of all time. Millions of youngsters have grown up on its diet of science-fiction action, punk-inspired irreverence, subversive comedy, ultra violence, and disturbingly prescient dark satire.

Giving some of the biggest names in the industry their first break, including Alan Moore, Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons, Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, and Simon Bisley, these talents have gone on to not only forge geekdom in their own image, from DC Comics’ influential Vertigo imprint and the current storytelling revolution at Image Comics to Marvel’s billion-dollar movie franchise.

The comic has meant a lot to me personally for a long time now and I want to thank all the creators, editors and all involved for making such an amazing experience every week of the year. 

So here's to another 40 years.

Monsters using magic - Romance of the Perilous Land rules clarification

I've just realised that the rules for how creatures use magic isn't super clear in RotPL, so I just wanted to make a post to clarify. 

It's super simple, actually. Like a PC has to roll on Mind, the creature rolls on their Target Number and reduces that number by the spell level. Magic points are reduced as normal (remember, HD+10 equals magic points). Creatures do not have to reduce their TN by the PC's level as they would with a regular attack. 

I hope that helps with your game. If you're unfamiliar with Romance of the Perilous Land, you can pay what you want for the download.

Unearthed Arcana releases mass combat rules

IWhile many of us thought we'd get another class in this week's Unearthed Arcana, Wizards have produced some rules for mass combat.

Yup, bringing large battles into an RPG is often a contentious issue - much of the time it takes you right out of the game and can turn into a bit of a mess. So how does it work in 5e?

It's pretty damned simple, really. Creature CR is converted to a Battle Rating and a unit consists of 400 creatures. Morale is determined by the DM and the commander's charisma. Commanders must be in each of your units.

Attacking is as simple as rolling a d20 and adding a unit's battle rating, with the defender doing the same. Damage is done depending on the difference between these values. Terrain etc can provide advantage and disadvantage on these rolls. It's pretty bloody simple. Morale checks are rolled if a unit gets to half its original population.

There's a bit on bringing characters into it, with some advice working better than others. The rules say that you can resolve special character effects such as spells and kind of judge how that plays out on the battlefield. I prefer the tried and tested 'zooming in' method where we use a regular combat to resolve a specific event or objective. The rules list a few examples of these.

Overall, I think these mass combat rules are fine, but I probably won't use them. You're better off just cracking out some minis and playing a wargame with a bit more crunch.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Mutant: Mechatron live on Kickstarter

That cheeky lot at Modiphius are Kick-starting again, aren't they? This time it's Mutant: Mechatron, an expansion chock full of robots. 

From the Kickstarter page:

From the devious minds that brought you Mutant: Year Zero, Mutant: Gen Lab Alpha, and Coriolis, comes the latest addition to the Mutant universe - Mutant: Mechatron.
Played either as a standalone or as an expansion to the other games in the Mutant: Year Zero franchise, Mechatron tells the origin story of the robots, and introduces them into the dawnworld of the apocalpse.

Features include:
  • New rules for creating and playing robots. A unique system lets you build your machine character part by part. The book includes all the rules you need to play!
  • A detailed description of Mechatron-7, the huge underground robot hive, including a beautiful full-color map.
  • The complete campaign Ghost in the Machine, putting the player characters in the middle of a conflict threatening the future of the entire robot hive.
  • An overview of how the robots can adapt to life in the Zone, and join the human mutants of Mutant: Year Zero.

Blast off with Astounding Interplanetary Adventures

I'm excited to announce the release of Astounding Interplanetary Adventures, a minimalist ruleset for pulp science fiction.

Using the In Darkest Warrens system, AIA is a quick and easy game that has everything you need to get started playing swashbuckling adventures chock full of rockets, aliens and thrills.

AIA is perfect for those wanting to capture the feel of the Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers serials. I've even included a short setting introduction containing the main factions and planets in the game.

Download and pay what you want.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Checking out Plane Shift Kaladesh for D&D

Wizards of the Coast has continued its series of Magic: The Gathering settings for D&D 5e with the new release of Plane Shift: Kaladesh, bringing an Eberron-esque dungeonpunkishness to the tabletop game.

Like previous entries in the series, like Zendikar and Innistrad, Kaladesh is a free supplement available to download from the Wizards website as a pdf.

Kaladesh is probably the most interesting and complete download we've had from Plane Shift, mainly because of the setting's technological concept of aether-powered devices. Essentially, after discovering a way to refine aether the world of Kaladesh has entered a golden age of automatons, air travel and warfare, where aether is a replacement for electricity. This is where the most intriguing part of the book comes in - rules for crafting aether-powered tech, which combines the rules for magic item crafting in the DMG and Kaladesh-centric rules requiring obtaining or creating a schematic for whatever piece of technology you're wanting to create. It's all pretty simple, requiring daily DC checks where the target number is informed by how uncommon the tech is. A group of players can come together to roll Arcana checks to make things a bit easier for them.

This crafting element is taken further with the introduction of special feats like Quicksmithing and Servo Crafting, both of which hone your character's ability to craft aether tech. The latter allows you to create tiny telepathic automatons that act as personal assistants - perfect for a tinkerer-style character to use around their workshop.

On top of that, we get five races - two of which are brand spanking new ones: Aetherborn and Vedalken, whereas the others are variations on Human, Elf and Dwarf. Aetherborn are sentient byproducts of the aether refinement process, popping into being through a mixture of alchemical wizardry and latent psychic impressions cooked up from those working on refining the material. They have the option, as long as the DM allows it, to harvest the life force from other beings in order to supplement their short lives. Whereas the Vedalken are the studious engineers - scientists who only really care about the big questions and tend not to get involved in politics. Basically, these guys make great Wizards.

At the end of the book we're treated to some new monsters, like the gargantuan Sky Leviathan that will swallow a poor bugger whole, and aether siphoning Gremlins. The rest, unfortunately, are just re-skinned giants, dragons, angels etc, with a bit of flavour and nothing else.

Kaladesh is a cracking little supplement chock full of absolutely stunning artwork (seriously worth the download just for the art) and some neat concepts. If you're thinking about getting a MTG style campaign brewing, this would seem like an excellent place to start.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Solo campaign session one: into cornfields

Every now and again I like to run a solo adventure with a lite ruleset, so I thought I'd do a campaign report here on my new In Darkest Warrens solo game.

First off, here's what I'm using: Mythic GME, 9Qs and story dice. 9Qs creates the structure, while Mythic answers questions and the dice flesh out the world. It works quite well.

Introducing Thurngast Goldscale, a dragonkin assassin out to redeem himself from a villainous past. He has a rapier, cloak and rope to begin with, with some money left over for lodgings and food.

He's knocking around the town of Aynor, after having fled his murderous past as an assassin for the Shivering Serpent. He has heard ravings that a farmer's head has been found on a pike on the north road and Red Orcs have been seen entering the farmstead. Thurngast saw this as an opportunity to help redeem himself, so went to meet with the mayor to see whether he could be of assistance (I figured this was due process and would keep Thurngast accountable). However, the mayor dismissed him, telling him there was no need to get involved. When asked if a retinue of guards would be sent to help the mayor said no. This was indeed incredibly odd.

Knowing lives were at stake, Thurngast went anyway, along an eerily silent path to the farmstead, not finding any traps along the way. He cut through the cornfield, rapier in hand, brimmed with a venom he had concocted from a Gung snake's glands. Emerging from the field he saw the farmhouse with one lone orc standing guard. He had to deal with the wretch swiftly. After a flurry of blows, Thurngast came out unscathed, while the orc's body was sliced asunder.

That was the end of the first session. There are a couple of questions that remain: what do the orcs want with a farmstead? And why was the mayor reticent to send any help? There is something not quite right in Aynor and Thurngast is going to get to the bottom of it.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Building Estagor - new campaign setting for In Darkest Warrens

I'm starting a new blog series where I create Estagor, a campaign setting for In Darkest Warrens, my minimalist fantasy system.

This is going to be kind of a mind dump area, where I brainstorm ideas and, with any luck, you guys can help me mould the setting. First I need to figure out what 'feel' I want the campaign to have. As this is coming from the British RPG scene, I would like to evoke that early 80s crust punk feel that art in games like Warhammer and Fighting Fantasy tended to have. A bit gritty, a bit dark and laced with black humour. I reckon if it were a soundtrack it would be later Darkthrone albums like Circle the Wagons and FOAD.

Image result for 80s warhammer art

Gary Chalk is a great example of an artist who creates this style of fantasy. Here's an example of Chalk's work (but do go and view all his work on his website). He's a bit of a favourite of mine, along with Russ Nicholson, for their incredible line illustrations that evoke this darkly funny fantasy world. 

                                                    Related image

So I suppose what I'm getting at is that Estagor is going to be a crust punk fantasy setting replete with dark humour. I don't want to go the Tunnels & Trolls route and make it obviously tongue-in-cheek, but perhaps a bit subversive. I'm thinking female rogues with mohawks and dirty cigarettes - very street level stuff. 

Next time I'll be looking at building the hook of Estagor. Hope you'll join me.

By the way - don't forget to pick up In Darkest Warrens and share your own creations. 

Friday, 6 January 2017

New D&D book taps into the old school

Wizards has just announced a new 5e book for April 2017 and, guys, it's a bit of a curve ball.

Tales from the Yawning Portal isn't the usual single module we're used to, but a mashup of several adventures from first and second edition D&D. So what have we got?

  • Against the Giants
  • Dead in Thay
  • Forge of Fury
  • Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
  • Sunless Citadel
  • Tomb of Horrors
  • White Plume Mountain
I have to admit that being a player who started around 3e, I've not been through any of these, but it does seem like Wizards is trying to take a slice of that OSR pie. Who can blame them? They did release a 4e version of Tomb of Horrors some years back but I can't remember how well received that was. I do remember that it was a bit more 'Fouthcore' than all those other frankly woeful modules for the edition.

My first thoughts are whether it would be cheaper to buy the modules separately and just re-stat yourself, but I suppose this does save time having everything done for you. 

The book will take players from levels 1-15.