Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zombie

"Zombies are the new Vampires." - True Blood

Funny quote and mostly true.  Thanks to the various "Dead" and "Resident Evil" movies, not to mention new TV shows, Zombies have never been more popular.

Actually I have never cared for Zombies.  Sure I enjoy them as much as the next horror guy, but I'd rather read about ghosts, vampires or almost anything else really.

Same is true for games.  But I have to admit that one of my favorite games is All Flesh Must Be Eaten.

WotC may have D&D and White Wolf has the vampires, but when it comes to wipping out hordes of the walking dead then you need this book and Eden has it.

All Flesh Must Be Eaten (AFMBE) is THE premire Zombie roleplaying game. Everything you need to know is here and it uses the fantastic Unisystem game system so beginners can play it fast and pros still enjoy it. Plus it is 100% compatible with all of Eden's games like "WitchCraft", "Armageddon", "Ghosts of Albion" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". With the d20 conversion guide in back, it is also compatible with tons of d20 games.
I enjoy it because it is so flexible.  The power rating can be altered to suit your mood. So street level normals armed with baseball bats to gods walking the earth again.

What makes AFMBE so nice is the collection of Dead Worlds that Eden publishes for it.  And like the core book, these are also compatible with other Eden games.

All Tomorrow's Zombies takes AFMBE and makes it Zombies...IN SPACE!! And in Cyberspace and all sorts of "SF" tropes with zombies thrown in. An excellent "Zombie World" book from Jason Vey and Eden. If you like AFMBE and are a fan of Sci-Fi then this is a must buy.  Even if you don't then there are plenty of high tech devices to use in other games, such as Conspiracy X.

Pulp Zombies is a collection of Pulp Era Deadworlds. This one focuses on the two-fisted action adventures of the 1930s.  A special emphasis is given on the mystical side of the pulps and of course Nazi Zombies.

Enter the Zombie is Kung Fu action theatre at's its best.  Emulate the action from Enter to Dragon to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to the latest John Wu film to Big Trouble in Little China.  There is more though too.  Expanded Chi powers, role-playing in mytho-historical Japan and China or the streets of Hong Kong and San Francisco.  Plenty of options for characters, players and Zombie Masters.

Fistful o' Zombies where the Quick and the Dead are often the same thing.  Plenty of new character archetypes for a wild west game. Whether the wild west of Clint Eastwood or Gene Autry. New qualities and drawbacks and plenty of weapons from the time.  I use this along with other Victorian era games.  The gem though in this one is the conversion notes between the original Deadlands game and AFMBE.

Zombie Smackdown. I was not sure what to think about this one.  But I am glad I got it.  I am not a fan of Professional Wrestling, but the mix of wrestling and zombies is too cool to pass up.  Plus there are plenty of good rules for matches and even Luchador wrestlers. You can do your Santo-inspired character justice.

Dungeons and Zombies brings D&D to the Classic Unisystem fold.  There are rules for using more WitchCraft like magic in your AFMBE game.  This book covers all the tropes including many new races such as elves, dwarves, halflings and orcs.  High Fantast, Low Fantasy. King Arthur and Lord of the Rings-style play.  Combine it with WitchCraft to get a full range of magical abilities.  Combine with Terra Primate for tons of new adventure ideas and races.  And of course use the AFMBE-Revised appendix to converst any d20 information you need.  Far more flexible than most d20 based fantasy games.  Really well written and one of my favorite Dead World books from Eden.

ARRGH! Thar Be Zombies! I'll admit I am not a fan of pirates.  I enjoy the recent round of pirate movies, but that is the exception rather than the rule.  What makes this book so good is that pirates and zombie just seem to go together well.  And while I may not be a fan of pirates I am a fan of ghost ships crewed by zombies.  So I use this in a modern WitchCraft game instead.  The ship to ship battle rules are great and provide an extra layer when using them with All Tomorrow's Zombies.  The voodoo in this book is a short hand version of the Vodun from WitchCraft, but still nice to have.

One of the Living is something akin to a "Players Handbook" for AFMBE.  The focus is more on new skills, qualities and drawbacks for the characters; not so much for the zombies.  Though there is plenty of Zombie Master only information.  In particular is how to run long campaigns instead of the one shots that AFMBE are really good at.

Worlds of the Dead: A Collection of Deadworlds is a collection of smaller "Dead Worlds" that don't have enough material for their own books.  Great for a starting idea, fleshing out an game of your own or adding to one of the other Dead Worlds from the other books.  Since it is also 100% compatible with Eden's other games, they can be added to those as well.

Atlas of the Walking Dead. Part Monster Manual, part scholarly overview of the myths of the world.  Full of creatures including some I had never heard of (and that is saying something!)   A must have for any of the Dead Worlds or any of Eden's other games.  If you are a Zombie Master then you need this book.  If you play horror games then is one of the best works on various zombies you can buy.

Book of Archetypes, Book 1 and Book 2.  Pre-generated archetypes for AFMBE, but usable in any Eden Unisystem game.  Players can use these as starting points for characters.  Zombie/Game Masters can use them as pre-gens, NPCs or anything they set their mind too.  Over 30 archetypes in each book plus new qualities and drawbacks.

With these you will be ready for the upcoming Zombie Apocalypse.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

New Podcast Interview

I recently gave an interview over at Penny Red, website of Victoria author Daniel Hodges.

You can hear it here:

We talk about Victoria RPG, Ghosts of Albion and why Lex Luthor is really the hero of the Superman world.


ETA: Looks like the file is not working yet.
ETA2: File is working fine now!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Zatannurday: Y is for Young Justice Zatanna

As Zatanna fans we have been living is some really great times of late.  We had a great Zatanna comic from Paul Dini.  Now we have Justice League Dark and best of all, teen Zatanna in Young Justice.

Of course according to Action Figure Insider we are not going to be getting a Young Justice Zatanna figure.
Though the Wal-Mart exclusive Zatanna looks pretty close.

We do still have Green Ronin's DC Adventures game.
The official game has Zee's stats, but these are closer to what she was when she had her own title.  Zatanna from Young Justice is just getting into her powers.

Here is the Young Justice version of Zatanna.  I did this from my memory of what she could do in the episodes.
Zatanna (YJ)

Zatanna (YJ) - PL 7 (104 points)

Strength 0, Stamina 1, Agility 2, Dexterity 3, Fighting 1, Intellect 3, Awareness 3, Presence 3

Artificer, Attractive, Benefit, Wealth (well-off), Connected, Fascinate (Deception), Languages 3, Luck, Ritualist, Teamwork

Acrobatics 2 (+4), Athletics 2 (+2), Deception 4 (+7), Expertise: Magic 8 (+11), Insight 4 (+7), Perception 4 (+7), Persuasion 2 (+5), Ranged Combat: tsalB: Blast 8 6 (+9), Sleight of Hand 8 (+11)

   !ediH: Concealment 0
   dleihS: Force Field 8 (+8 Toughness)
   sehtolC egnahC: Transform 4 (Affects: 1 Thing > 1 Thing, Transforms: 12 lbs., DC 14)
   sthguohT yM raeH: Mental Communication 4
   tegroF: Affliction 2 (mind, 1st degree: Impaired, 2nd degree: Exhausted, 3rd degree: Unaware, Resisted by: Will, DC 12)
   tropeleT: Teleport 4 (500 feet in a move action, carrying 50 lbs.)
   tsalB: Blast 8 (DC 22)
Mystic Senses: Senses 5 (Acute: Mystic, Analytical: Mystic, Detect: Mystic 2: ranged, Ranged: Mystic)

Initiative +2
Grab, +1 (DC Spec 10)
sehtolC egnahC: Transform 4, +1 (DC Dog 14)
tegroF: Affliction 2, +1 (DC Will 12)
Throw, +3 (DC 15)
tsalB: Blast 8, +7 (DC 22)
Unarmed, +1 (DC 15)

Motivation: Responsibility: Zatanna feels responsible for her father's current state as Dr. Fate.
Power Loss: Needs to say spells/powers backwards to use them.

English, Greek, Italian, Latin

Dodge 6, Parry 4, Fortitude 4, Toughness 1, Will 7

Power Points
Abilities 32 + Powers 27 + Advantages 11 + Skills 20 (40 ranks) + Defenses 14 = 104

Not quite yet the powerhouse she will grow up to be.

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for Conspiracy X

(and X-files too!)

One of my all time favorite shows is the X-Files.  It was a fantastic myth of everything that made for good TV in the 90s.  Sure it went on a little too long, but when it was good it was the best thing on TV.

So it should be no surprise that I enjoy similar themed games.  I like Alternity Dark Matter and I mentioned the Unexplained earlier.  But my favorite has been Eden Studios'  Conspiracy X.
So today X is for Conspiracy X.

ConX (as it is called) comes in three different editions.  There is the original rules, a GURPS version and the newest Unisystem version which makes system-wise compatible with WitchCraft RPG (but still not thematically compatible).  I have all three, but I prefer the newest Unisystem version, not just for the system, but it brings ConX out of the paranoid 90s and into the post millennial, post-9/11 world.

So what is ConX about?  Well  the basic system is Classic Unisystem so I won't detail that all here.
The premise is that the U.S. Government has been in contact with three different alien races over the last few decades and how they have all these various plans for the world.  In addition to all of this there are rival government agencies and all sorts of unrelated (or related) weirdness going on.  The focus is much more psychic powers and MKULTRA than the magic and covens of WitchCraft.

Con X 2.0 also has rules for more equipment, weapons, and governmental agencies.  The coolest mechanic in the game though has to be the Pulling Strings one.  Very useful when working through the myriad of governmental bodies you will need to deal with.  These alone make it worth the price if you play any other Classic Unisystem game.

Ok, so my love for the WitchCraft RPG is well known and well documented. Creating a WitchCraft world of adventures, situations or even meta-plots of my own are nearly second nature to me.

But I also like Conspiracy X. A lot.  The games are not really thematically compatible and both have very different points of view on magic, gods, monsters and the like.

If you like conspiracies and the X-Files, Con X is your game.  If you want to run a paranormal game, but don't want to get bogged down in myths, legends and want your magic to be somewhat more controlled then Con X is your game.

Here is another way to look at it.  You are a character in a Modern Paranormal game.  Suddenly a glowing figure appears before you.  What is this creature?  If you say Alien, then play ConX.  If you say Demon, then play WitchCraft.  Both games can be used for horror, ConX is dark sci-fi, WitchCraft is dark fantasy.

Plus it will be a feature of this years Free RPG Day! So stop into your local game store and pick a free game.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Question for you all

I was digging through the depths of my hard drive tonight and I found the remains of one of my oldest documents.

"The Urban Survival Guide" was going to be a guide book for living in and running adventures in cities.

I never finished it but it got me thinking.
Have you all ever used cities as a main adventure area?  In a D&D like game?

I have Vornheim and it is awesome, but any city is fine for this discussion.

W is for What Next?

(Apologies to all coming here for the A to Z challenge, you might not be all that familiar with the back story of today's rant.)

I wanted to talk about World of Darkness today. But instead I am going to rant.  Well not rant so much as complain about gamer privilege. I know in the scope of things this is so minor as to be non-existent. But yet here I am...

W is for What Next?

So unless you were away from the internet like was all day yesterday you probably missed the "Big news" that Monte Cook packed up books and told WotC, "Screw you guys I'm going home."

Ok, not exactly like that.  Lots of times people leave projects on properties they love due to disagreements.
I have left playtests in "protest" before over a direction the author wanted to take that I felt was a bad idea.  I won't name names either, but it was a property I really liked and was honored to be a part of.  The game in my mind still sucked, but plenty others still liked it so maybe I was the one in the wrong (I don't think so).

So Monte Cook has left Wizards and his work on D&D Next; the nom-de-net for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition.

I am a D&D fan. I am a D&D loyalist in fact.  I have every single edition and played them all.  I have nearly every retro clone.  I bought into the D&D 4 hype and bought a ton of books for it. I loved moving the minis on the maps with my kids, I loved the fact that the classes were balanced and I loved that 1st level characters all had something to do.  I disliked how long combats took. I disliked all the meta-gaming that had to go on with feats and surges and actions and markings.  But it was D&D and I still was able to do the sorts of things that worked for me.

Now we are going into the next version, and I have barely played the last version.  My kid's group, The Dragon Slayers, are wrapping up their 3.x game.  We have gone through many of the "Classic" adventures and as much as I love 1st Edition, I really don't want to go back to it.

I know.  I am complaining about having too many games to play. Woe is me...

I guess I'll wait for the playtest like everyone else.  But I have to say that at the moment, D&D 5/D&D Next is not filling me with a lot of excitement.

Meybe I'll just back to D&D Basic and house rule the hell out of it.  Start characters at a higher level (really, wizards should have more spells than 1) and use some of the rules I like from 4e (bloodied) and 3e (multiclass).

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Victoria RPG

Continuing my exploration of Victorian era RPGS I can't help but mention the the game that uses the eponymous Queen herself.

Today, V is Victoria.

Victoria is the premier game from Daniel Hodges and Hazard Gaming.  Unlike most of the games I have reveiwed, Victoria is focused on running a game in the historical Victorian Era.  So focus on class, station and no magic (well...mostly).

Victoria is heavy on atmosphere and history.  In fact among the Victorian games, Victoria stresses the history the most.  It is trying to go for an authentic feel of the era sans monsters, magic.

So what does Victoria have? Well for starters character concept is king here.  You should have a good grip what sort of character you want to play.  The book suggests thinking about characters from literature or history.    One of the things things you are going to want to do is decide on your class.  Not how it is typically used in games, but social class.  Social class is everything in this game and there are plenty of examples of of how to use it in play.   The game is really targeted to the newer player with plenty of examples of game play and how to use skills.

Speaking of which, looking at the character sheet you might be surprised to see that everything is a skill.  The first three group are grouped by Social Class.  So there are Upper Class skills (High Society, Linguistics, etc.), Middle Class (Adventure, Law, etc.) and Working Class (Stealth, Street,etc.).  Depending on your class you have more points to allocate to one of the groups and then secondary and tertiary.   You can move points between skill groups (at a cost of course).  There is a fourth group, Personal, which are closer to "Attributes" but are treated just like skills.

The mechanic is a very interesting one and one I have not encountered before to be honest.  The skills are ranked 2 to 12, but you start around 7 and work your way out.    You roll a 2d6 and when you roll the number of your "Main" (a spread of scores) you make it, if you roll outside you don't.  Pretty easy really.
Double "1"s are a critical failure and double "6"s are always a distinctive success.  In either case you can be granted Plot Points.

Plot Points play like Drama Points or Hero Points in other games.  In Victoria the Point economy is bit freer with points being spent and gained quicker.  So if your Main is 5-9 and you roll an 11 then you can spend 2 Plot Points to extend your range and make it.  I mentioned before that critical rolls can grant you Plot Points.   If you fail, if you can describe your failure well then that is worth some plot points to be used at a later challenge.

Half the book is for the players and the other half for the Gamemaster.  The Gamemastering section is not to be missed really, especially if you are a new Gamemaster or starting one.  There is great advice here.  There is also good game-based advice for the giving out the Plot Points and how to reward play based on Social Class.

Chapter 10 is an interesting one since it deals with the Supernatural.  The "paradigm" of Victoria is the "Sherlock Holmes" one.  That is there is no magic, but many people that believe in it.  I think that is where this game works the best.  Some background (but not stats) are given for many creatures.  Chapter 11 similarly deals with alternate settings.  Chapter 12 is an example adventure that stretches science to near Frankenstein levels.

Victoria works best as "Charles Dickens" or "Sherlock Holmes" the Game.  Realism with real problems.
If you want a game with more magic, then we have those as well.  Take advantage of this game's strengths.

I would use this as an expansion is most any Victorian game to add another level of realism to the play. There is quite a bit of history and even a handy guide for how much various professions make in a year.
The character creation section is fantastic for any Victorian era game since it does require you to think about your character not as a collection of stats and numbers, but rather as a concept and as a person within society.

The book itself is fantastic to look at.  The layout is clean and easy to read. The art is the similar PD art found in Ghosts of Albion, Gaslight and Victoriana, but to me that is a good thing.  That is what a Victorian game should look like.

If you like historical games and like your games with a bit more realism in it, then Victoria is a great choice.

You can also go to Daniel's webpage to hear his weekly Podcasts.   In fact next week I am going to be in Episode 11.

Dirty Nellie
Dirty Nel

So, the one thing about Victoria is it lacks a proper magic system and supernatural creatures are non-existent.
That all being said, that doesn't mean I can't try to emulate my street faerie prostitute Dirty Nel.
You can see her in her Ghosts of Albion, Rippers, and Victoriana aspects. Here she is as a normal human.  She is still a prostitute working for the elite upper class. Her clientele are not just the upper class, but the upper-class spiritualist and occultist of the age.

Name: Dirty Nel
Class: Working
Occupation: Prostitute/Informant
Backstory: Nel is a young elfin-looking woman. She claims she fell on hard times, but Nel didn't have far to fall.
Flaw: Fallen Woman, Greedy

Upper Class

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
High Society X X X X
Linguistics X X X
Medicinal X X
Research X X

Middle Class
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Adventure X X X X
Law & Inv X X X X X
Martial X X X
Tactics & Org. X X X X

Working class

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Chameleon X X X X X X
Stealth X X X X X X
Street* X X X X X X X
Trade & Source X X X X
*extra skill speciality: Dark Secrets

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Atheltics X X X
Machines X X
People X X X X X
Wits X X X X
Possessions: clothes, boots, purse, couple of knives.
Ht: 5'0" Wt: 6.7 stone Age: 16
PP: 4
Money: what she made the night before.

White Dwarf Wednesday #13

Wow.  I am not doing so well on this one am I. I missed last week and didn't catch it till almost Saturday.
So we move on to Issue 13.
For starters the Editorial page has gotten a facelift. In it Ian Livingstone wants to know about your gaming group to start building a list of contacts.

In what is the big feature of this issue are the new AD&D Combat Tables. 4 tables that will be in new PHB.
The Fiend Factory is back with some faves like Doombat and Shadow Demon.  We also get the Imps, which look like they were changed into the mephits.  Don't have my Fiend Folio handy to be sure, but they look the same.

We some additions to the Traveler rules.  Part 1 includes Skills and their uses as Poisons and chemical warfare.
Open Box hits another high point with reviews of B1 In Search of the Unknown and S1 Tomb of Horrors. Don Turnbull gives them 9 and 10 respectively.   Equally as impressive is the 9-point review given to Games Workshop Dungeon Floor Plans.

The issue keeps on giving with Brian Asbury's Houri character class. This class has become a bit infamous in the last few years. I have even posted about it in a past, here and here.

More from the Valley of the Four Winds.
Some new spells. Most are good, though I dislike "Laser", not really a fantasy type spell.  
Some more letters.  Most are about the monsters in FF.  First a letter about how the monsters are already going downhill in quality.  Interestingly one of the letters is from Don Turnbull himself about how Monster Mark is dead with the advent of the new AD&D system.
Some news and some ads.

Quite a bit of quality work in this episode.  While the amount of content hasn't changed (just yet) the quality is up.  Despite the letters, I still think the monsters of FF are still good.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for The Unexplained

The Unexplained is a game I have known about for years and have wanted to pick up, but something else always pushed it's way to the front of the line.  So when it appeared on DriveThruRPG a couple of weeks ago I knew I had to get it.  I also knew it would make for a great post for the Blogfest.

So today U is for The Unexplained.

I had reviewed the Unexplained's sister game, Now Playing, a while back.  TU uses pretty much the same rule system, Fudge, though the focus is less on emulating a TV show (though there is that there) and instead emulating a real world full of cryptids, ghosts and UFOs.  In many ways The Unexplained is very much like a 70's monster hunter documentary or even a 90s conspiracy show.  Given it's ties, systemwise, to Now Playing it is easy to guess that the author, Bradford Younie, is a big fan of shows like Dark Skies, the X-Files and certainly Kolchak the Night Stalker.  If Now Playing is the TV version, then The Unexplained is the reality they are based on.
Chapter 1 of the book covers a bit of the background of the game with Paranormal Societies, including the FPI (detailed later).

Character creation begins in Chapter 2.
Like many games you have 6 attributes (Brawn, Agility, Stamina, Reasoning, Perception, Will) and these are give levels in words, not numbers.  So "Fair" "Good" and the like.  This is a Fudge game so the levels of everything are words.  Like all Fudge games character creation is a fast affair where where you start with a concept and work from there.  Authors (not game authors or players) might find this exercise interesting for their own characters since there is no/less number crunching than with other games.
The next chapters cover all the other things that can define your character.
TU has a bunch of skills (Chapter 3), Traits and Faults (Chapter 4) and various other means of describing your character (Chapter 6).
If you have ever played Fudge before then you will get this game in a flash.  If you have never played Fudge, then it is simple to understand and the mechanics are not at all difficult. Chapter 6 covers all the gear your character might need.  Enough to make Stanzt, Spengler and Venkman happy or Thelma to go "Jinkies".

Chapters 7 and 8 cover the rules of the game and Storytelling (Game Mastering) respectively.   Chapter 7 is your Fudge basic information as it is applied to this game.  Chapter 8 though is a very good chapter on running any sort of paranormal type game.  I have read dozens of chapters like this and this one still had some good advice for me.

While most people go to Fudge games because of the ease of character creation and game play, what I like most about this game is how well researched it is.  I play plenty of paranormal/horror/conspiracy type games.  After a while one begins to look like the other and I tend to compare them favorably to unfavorably to games like WitchCraft, Conspiracy X and DarkMatter.
The Unexplained stands up to these game rather well.  Characters are assumed to belong to the Foundation of Paranormal Investigations (FPI), which plot wise and thematically puts it between ConX and DarkMatter. They even have their own website,    The FPI is a game conceit, but that doesn't mean you have to use it.  You can go rogue if you like. Make your game more "Supernatural" than "X-Files".

The rest of the book breaks down this research into major game-playing areas.
Chapter 9 covers Ghost Hunting, with Chapter 10 on Ghost Ships in particular.  Given some the material on Carnivore Games website, I would say Ghost Ships hold a particular interest to the author.  The chapter is nicely done and very in depth.  If you need to know something about Ghost Ships for an RPG then this is a good place to start.  Chapter 11 cover Cryptozoology, so bigfoots, lake monsters and the like.  Chapter 12 Parapsychology and psychic phenomena. Chapter 13 is all about UFOlogy including the various alien races  that have come to Earth, the Greys, the Reptoids, the Nordics.  Exactly what you would expect.  Crop circles are also detailed.  Chapter 14 covers magic.  Again this is a modern view on real world magical practices, as if they were really magical.  So a nice overview here.  But I will admit, I have a hard time mixing UFOs and Magic.  This is not a fault of the game, but rather one with me I think.  This chapter though is a good overview of many magical traditions and ritual magic.

There is also a sample adventure/investigation at the end.  Appropriately enough it is about Bigfoot.
The character sheet is similar to the one found in Now Playing, and there is a nice touch of a Character Creation Questionnaire that should really work with every paranormal like game.

I mentioned the research, the game is full of interesting tidbits such as eye-witness accounts, photos and case notes from dozens of "real" reported cases of the supernatural and the paranormal. Everything from cryptids, to ghosts, to UFOs. Thematically this places it closer to ConX than say WitchCraft, though without all the baggage of the government. One gets the feeling that Younie spent many, many hours doing nothing but reading up on conspiracies and everything outside the regular media to give us this information.

A nice treat in the end is the OGL (Fudge is now released under the OGL) AND a plain language declaration what is open and what isn't.  Plus, for lack of a better word, an "openness" about publishing your adventures or supplements that can be used with Now Playing or The Unexplained.

I really liked Now Playing, but I like The Unexplained even more.
The Unexplained has a nice charm about it that I find very attractive.  Now Playing changed my mind about playing Fudge based games, and this might change my mind about running them.

Who should buy this game?
If you have ever been curious about Fudge then this is a good game to pick up.
If you enjoy supernatural/paranormal games then get this.
If you are a fan of Now Playing, then absolutely get this.


Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Tunnels & Trolls

Tunnels & Trolls is another good game that I rarely got the chance to play.

It has spent it's entire life being unfavorably compared to D&D which, while somewhat merited, is disappointing all the same.   T&T was the SECOND RPG ever created.  It came right on the heels of D&D, written by amateur game designer Ken St. Andre. Ken saw D&D and decided that it was poorly done, so he went home and wrote his own rules.
You can read about his recollections here, but what I want to do is talk about mine.
I have talked about Tunnels and Trolls in the past, mostly dealing with the whole Outlaw Press affair.

I think one of the reasons my group avoided Tunnels & Trolls, other than the appearance that it was "D&D Little Kids" was the humor.  T&T had a humor about it absent in D&D.  Today I can look at it and appreciate it for what it is, but then that was too high a mountain to climb.  This roleplaying stuff was serious business to my 12-13 year old mind.  And there was the whole status deal.  I learned early that if you were not playing "The Right Game" you could get shunned.  Yes social elitism from a group of social outcasts (read: nerds) but it happened.  So even if I was so inclined to try T&T, I doubt if I could have gotten anyone to play it with me.

Looking back today I can say while I am disappointed that didn't give T&T the chance it deserved back then, I can certainly make up for lost time now.  I make an effort to go to the Flying Buffalo booth each Gen Con and buy something, even if it is something small. The T&T fan communities, Trollhala and Trollbridge are the two largest I know of, are very active.  Truth be told, maybe even more active these days thanks to the OSR.

Anyone familiar with D&D will recognize a lot in T&T.  Same sorts of creatures, same sorts of adventures. Players have levels, races and classes.  Plenty of weapons, spells that go 20th level and magic.
I would love to play this a couple of times with my kids, or even sit in on a Convention game.

You can still get official Tunnels & Trolls products from the Flying Buffalo website.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Play? Ghosts? Me?

My wife just pointed out to me that I have never actually played Ghosts of Albion (not Angel, not Buffy) as a player.   I have played the rules before. But never as an honest to goodness, made in 1839 player.

How in the heck did I manage that???

A to Z Blogfest So Far .

We are in the home stretch of hte A to Z blogfest for this April.

I have now visited EVERY SITE on the on the list.
There are a lot of cool sites out there and I want to go back to a lot of them.

If there is something you want me to see or if I have not posted to your blog yet, let me know!
Leave me a link in the replies below.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for Spellcraft & Swordplay

Continuing on with some of the games of the Old School Renascence I want to talk about my favorite game.
Spellcraft & Swordplay by Jason Vey.

Now, just I get this out of the way first.  Jason is a friend of mine and we worked on a lot of Unisystem games together.   Also I worked on a supplement for S&S called Eldritch Witchery that is due out soon.  That all being said I developed my opinion of this game long before EW ever was thought of.

 Spellcraft & Swordplay is not a retro-clone exactly.  It is more of a "near-clone" or as I often think of it as an alternate reality version of OD&D.

When D&D was starting out it grew out of the rules in Chainmail.  Using a d20 (twenty-sided die) was the "alternate" combat method that became the norm.  But the original combat method involved 2d6 (two six-sided dice), S&S (among other changes) explores that further.

There are other changes such as saving throws are made against the appropriate ability (which is not to far off to how 3rd or 4th ed does it) and there are no skills, but ability rolls.

So in many respects it is a much simpler game than the other clones.
I have written a rather long review here for the core book:

I wrote that before I got the gig to write EW.  In fact I got the book, read it, reviewed and then convinced Jason to let me write EW.

If you are new to this sort of game or want to check it out then PLEASE give this a shot.  All you are two normal 6 sided dice, just like the ones in your Monopoly game to get started.

There is the core book, Spellcraft & Swordplay and a supplement, Monstrous Mayhem.
Both PDFs and print copies are on sale now. Plus if you buy the print copies you can get the PDFs for free.

I really can't say enough about this game. In fact here are my old posts about it.

Get it.  You can thank me later.

Zatannurday: My God It's Full of Stars!

It's "S" day for April, so for this morning's Zatannurday post I thought some stars would be nice.

Zee and her assistant Mikey going to a formal party.

BTW here is the before shot:

Good trick to have I say.

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Ravenloft: Masque of the Red Death

One of my first exposures to Victorian era gaming was through the Ravenloft: Masque of the Red Death.

Last year I did Ravenloft, and this year given all the Victorian games I am talking about this seems a natural.

Masque of the Red Death was a Ravenloft branded supplement for both AD&D 2nd Ed and for D&D 3.  Both dealt with a familiar; Earth, but one that was darker and magic was real.  It's almost a cliche with me anymore.  What made the first MotRD special was that for the first time you could play "D&D on Earth", in particular Victorian Age Earth that they called "Gothic Earth".

There were a lot of classes (kits too for AD&D 2nd Ed) and I always thought it was some what overkill. Magic was much more limited than your typical D&D game and a lot of the rules (Horror, Fear and Dread) were ported over from the Ravenloft line proper.

I SOOOO wanted to run this game, but it came at a bad time in my gaming career.  I was just about ready to give up on D&D altogether and this was the only thing I was excited about anymore.  Some of my first writing gigs was for the official Ravenloft Netbooks from the Kargatane. A lot of that I have been able to re-use here in fact (Haunted Illinois and the Piasa Bird).

There was such a cool, dark vibe to the game but it did do somethings that irked me.  To many of the bad guys were in fact monsters that looked human; Moriarty was a Rakshasa for example.  Sometimes I like my monsters to be human.  Also there were just too many classes.

I'd love to revisit Gothic Earth.  Maybe under one of the game systems I have reviewed already or even as something for Ghosts of Albion.

Sadly, Masque of the Red Death is long out of print.  You can still find copies though on ebay and at Nobel Knight.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for QAGS

QAGS is an interesting little game and my post today for Q.

It is the acronym for Quick Ass Game System, and that is pretty accurate. What is QAGS or more to the point why is there a QAGS?

A bit of history. Back when RPGs were becoming popular it was quickly obvious that people liked to play multiple games, but not always play with multiple rules.  D&D had one ruleset, Boot Hill another, Star Frontiers another and so on, and this was all in the same company.  The need then for a "Generic" system arose.  Something you could learn once and use anywhere.  This was the birth of GURPS and many other games such Fudge, FATE, Fuzion, QWERPS and eventually QAGS and even d20.

QAGS though is a little looser than GURPS, but not quite as loose and Fudge or FATE.
QAGS is nice because it works well as an entry to Role-playing that is not a kids game (by no means is this one for kids!) and it can be used by the old pros out there.  Yums-Yums aside of course!

Chapter 1 then is all about Character Creation. What I like about QAGS are such things as the descriptors of your character. In fact they are not even called abilities but "Words".  So there is much more of a author feel to this than say character creation.  You describe your character in terms of these Words, such as Body, Brain, and Nerve as the base ones, and others like Job, Gimmick and Weakness.  I also like the tacit nod to "Who Will Play the Character in the Movie" which is something everyone does anyway.  I snarkily always say "Gary Oldman" cause he can play anything and anyone. Like with other games I have played, there is something to learn here.  This chapter could help you define who your character is regardless of what game you play.

Chapter 2 is Doing Stuff or how to play. The system is pretty simple really.  Words are given a value of 6 to 16 and skills can add up to 5 to these.  These numbers then become the target numbers.
Chapter 3 expands on this with Combat.

Chapter 4 is the most entertaining, Yum-Yums.  What are Yum-Yums?  They are pieces of candy that are character rewards. They are points on your sheet, but they are also a pile of M&Ms or other candy in front of you. They are used like Drama or Hero points in other games, but if you eat them all well then your are literally out of luck.

Chapter 5 is a bit about role-playing your character. Making them more than a concept and stats on a page of paper.

After this we have the GM (Game Master's) section.   Chapter 6 covers the basics of being a GM along with the rules and what you can do with your new found power over life and death.  Chapter 8 goes into the Fine Art of GMing.

Chapter 7 deals with the story you are trying to create.

The Appendices are rather nice.  The first one is a Big List of Words used to describe your character.  Which seems to me would have utility in a Fate or Fudge game as well.

Appendix 2 is the quick start rules.  1/2 a page.  They got the Quick part right.  So quick in fact it is "Qik" start.
Appendix 3 is the section of Genres.  Each one gets a page and covers the basics.
Appendix 4 is a collection of sample characters.
Appendix 5 is a list of creatures
Appendix 6 includes some equipment
Appendices 7 & 8 are sample adventures
Appendices 9 & 10 are dumb maps and dumb tables respectively
And 11 is a conversion from QAGS 1st Ed.
Finally ending with a character sheet.  The first I have seen that lists Social Security Number.

QAGS is fun, but it might be too silly for groups.  Or it might be perfect if the GM opts to play it straight.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Passages

I love Victorian Era games.   There is so much going on in the Victorian age, both in history and literature (esp Horror) that it is ripe for all sorts of gaming opportunities.  I also love being mix it all up; having Jules Verne and Capt. Nemo in the same world as Bram Stoker and Dracula.   So when I find a game that will let me do that (and do it in a cool way) then I am happy.

So today P is for Passages.

Passages is a rather interesting game.  First the premise is one that all the literature of the Victorian age is true...somewhere.  These stories exist in multiple parallel worlds that can be accessed via the Passages.  So in some ways it is like Victorian Age Sliders, or Stargate.  The mechanism for trans-versing these worlds is one of the more clever ones and wholly compatible with Victorian Age ideas.  This is my favorite part of the game; the magic of the Passages and the very clever means of how they can be employed.

The game itself is a Victorian Age one with the aforementioned twist.  It covers the time between 1837 to 1901, so a full Victorian time line is presented.  Though what it has in breadth it lacks in depth as compared to games that only focus on a few years or a decade of the Victorian era.  That being said though, that information is easily found anywhere.  Game Masters should instead focus on which tale they want to interact with.  Is this an Alice in Wonderland game?  Well then that is all you need plus this book.  Dracula? Likewise.
Passages does spend some time on character creation in a Victorian Age and that is a very nice touch.  In fact I found the character creation portion of this book my second favorite part.

The game system itself is a simple version of the d20 system, somewhere between d20 proper and True20.  I think I might have liked it more as a True20 system, but this is a nice middle ground.  The system does add Advantages and Disadvantages to the d20 character creation, but most everything else is skill based.  There are no classes, but there is HP.

There is a great section on the known world and again is a bit broader than other Victorian era games.  This is a game obviously about adventurers, since so many options of places to go and things to do are given.

I love the Sherlock Holmes and Prof. Moriarty sidebars.  Gives the game a really nice touch.

This is great game all by itself and one I am happy to own both the PDF and Print versions of.  Where I get the most use out of it though is as a means of going between different Victorian games.  Create characters and use the rules outlined here so they can move from game to game.

The layout is clean and easy to read.  The art is a nice mix of original work and select PD images from the time.

In truth the only way I would like this more is if it had been created for True20.  The "feel" of the book screams True20 to me and I think it would be a fantastic choice of a system.  Not that there is anything wrong with the system it is using now. This is just a personal thing.

I will probably not play Passages straight, but I will use just about everything in the book for my Victorian games.  It has the mechanics to allow me to cross-over Ghosts of Albion to Cthulhu by Gaslight to Gaslight to Rippers to Victoriana and Victoria.

DriveThru RPG link
Noble Knight Games

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for Open Core and Open Anime

O is for two games that are related. Open Core and Open Anime.
Both games are from Battlefield Press and both use quite a bit of the SRD, but they are not d20 or D&D.

Both are designed to allow the GM to create his/her own game with the tools provided.  Both also use the same basic roll system; 3d6 + Attribute + Skill. (or even 1d20 + Attribute + skill).   The system is modular, so you can take or leave what you like.

Open Core is based on the OGL but differs quite a bit from it.  Like a number of game, OC uses a point buy system for attributes and skills.  The number of points granted is based on the game's power level.  You have six attributes, three physical and three mental, that map nicely to d20 or even Unisystem.  These abilities then can be used for derived abilities, like initiative or health or even variant ones like SAN.

Skills are covered and use the same point buy system. And there are a lot of skills, though given the modular nature of the game and maybe the your own games focus, you might need to use all of them.

There are also a number of effects-based abilities which look very similar to BESM d20/SAS d20 or other open Super's games.  Though the "hows" of these effects may not be defined.  For example a "Fire" effect could be magic (fireball), tech (flame thrower), advanced science (heat ray) or anything really.   The aim is to describe what is happening and then GM/Players decide how it happened.

Also included are a list of Disabilities, things that can affect your character.  This is very similar to other games, in particular GURPS.  These grant a certain level of Character Points back to you.  Finally we also get Action Points, which work like Drama Points in Unisystem.

The next part of the book are the rules of play, which is heavy on the combat and things like chases and mental battles. The rules are simple really, using the same basic rolls, just applied in different situations.
There is a section on adventures and a quick overview of character creation.

The Appendices cover different play modes.  So for example Sorcery which adds "D&D/d20 Arcana" like spells to your game.  Another is an expanded wealth system.

Open Anime is a little different.  It is very, very similar to Open Core, but with more of an anime overlook.  What does that mean?  Well, for starters we start with the various Anime sub-genres and how these change how you view and how you play your character.  If Open Core is the Marvel Universe then Open Anime is the Marvel Manga Universe.

Open Anime is actually a game I have wanted to write.  When BESM disappeared there was a vacuum for a good Anime RPG.  With all the Open systems out there and the BESM-d20 system open, all the elements needed are out there.  Open Anime combines all of these using Open Core as their guide.  While I don't think it quite reaches the heights that BESM does/did, it is a rather good effort.  Good enough that I don't have any desire to write my own Anime game anymore, I'll just tweak this one.  There is a heavier emphasis on Magic and Magical Girls than say other types of Anime Genres.  Which I think is a little disappointing.
What gets me the most about this one is there seems to be a lack of what makes an Anime RPG an Anime RPG.  I think in the attempt to make this game more open and more flexible they lost a little of what makes Anime different than some other games.

Both games are fun and I'd like to see more from them.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Please help support NCMEC

Still not feeling so good, but I woke from a nap to read my emails and found this.

DriveThruRPG is hosting another charity drive.  This time for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Here is the information from their site.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and DriveThruRPG has partnered with several publishers to raise funds for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Click here to make a donation to this cause and get rewarded with a bundle of products from DriveThruRPG and our publishers

For more information about National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, visit

This is a more than worthy cause and for 25 bucks you also get some great games.

Not feeling well and vote for me!

Hey all.

So I am not feeling so hot today.

But if you can, please vote for me for the RPG Site of The Year over at Surf

For the Poll

Vote for "The Other Side"!

N is for Not Feeling So Well

Not feeling well today.

If there is an N post it will be later today.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for Mutant future

Yesterday I talked about Labyrinth Lord.  Today I want to talk it's sister game Mutant Future.

Mutant Future is not really a Retro-clone, near clone or anything like that.  The closest game game it is like is Gamma World.  Set in a post apocalyptic world, Gamma World has it roots in the dawn of the RPG age and D&D in particular. Filled with mutant animals, plants and humans of all sorts.
Gamma World was fun but it was not a game I played.  One of the reasons was it was close enough to D&D but far enough removed that my teenage self dismissed it as a lesser product.  Stupid I know.

Mutant Future not only doesn't have that issue (it is the exact same rules as Labyrinth Lord) but *I* don't have the same issues.  So Mutant Future then is a new game that feels like an old game that never really existed.

Mutant Future does have some differences from LL. The game is set in a post apocalyptic Earth like Gamma World. Characters can be an Android, synthetic, mutant animals, mutant plant, mutant human or the rare pure human, also like Gamma World. Abilities can go as high as 21 and there are a different set of saving throws, but the basic rules are the same.

So think Mad Max or better yet Adventure Time!
As I mentioned yesterday Labyrinth Lord + Mutant Future = Adventure Time!

Finn is a Pure Human, but everyone else is a mutant of some sort.  Including his magical shape sifting dog Jake.

Jake (for Mutant Future)

8th level Mutant Dog
Age: 26

STR: 15Energy Attacks: 9
DEX: 16Poison or Death: 8
CON: 15Stun: 10
INT: 12Radiation: 9
WIS: 13*Saves are very similar to LL
CHA: 15

AC: 6
HP: 52

Mutations:  Stretchy, Growth, Body Adjustment
Increased Intelligence (all dogs have this)

To Hit AC

Equipment: Viol,  picture of his girlfriend Lady Rainicorn

Well the game looks like it is a lot of fun, gotta try it with the boys now!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Happy Friday the 13th!

Picked up Cthulhu by Gaslight in dead tree version today.

As you all know I love Victorian horror.

This is going to sit on my shelves very nicely.  It is going to sit at my table when I play Ghosts of Albion even better.

Sitting on my table next to me in fact is Ghosts of Albion, Cthulhu by Gaslight, Gaslight (OGL), Victoriana (2nd ed) and Victoria.

All are great fun.

L is for Labyrinth Lord

Last Monday I talked about Basic Clones.

Today I want to focus on one of them since it will tie well into tomorrow's M post.

Today L is for Labyrinth Lord.

Again, what is a basic clone?  Well a basic clone is a new game, using new rules to emulate an older game.  In this case the rules are D&D from 2001-ish (called 3.0 or 3.5) to emulate "Basic" D&D from 1980-82.

Why would someone want to play a game that is 20 years old?
Well D&D Basic is long out of print.  D&D 3.x (the 2000s version) is a great game, but the complexity is also much greater.  D&D Basic is easier to learn, faster to play and perfect if you are teaching younger kids how to play.  But I can't buy copies of D&D Basic anymore.

I can buy Labyrinth Lord.

Goblinoid Games is the publisher of LL and in many respects could be considered one of the pioneers of the both the Retro-Clone game (their game GORE simulated Call of Cthulhu) and OSR (Old School Renascence).

Labyrinth Lord specifically is most like the B/X version of Basic, or the Moldvay, Cook/Marsh edited versions.  Which is great because that is the version I enjoyed the most and talked about last year.

You can get Labyrinth Lord in three different "Editions", though all work roughly similar.
Labyrinth Lord - the original.
LL: Advanced Companion - which sets out to emulate AD&D 1st Edition
LL: Original Edition Characters - which emulates the original D&D from 1974

All are compatible with each other, maybe more so than the games they try to emulate.

There is another game, Mutant Future, which uses the LL rules and is the subject of tomorrow's post.

But the one thing that occurs to me is this.  Since LL and Mutant Future do use the same rules, it gives you a chance to do some really weird things.  Actually the first thought I had was this "Labyrinth Lord + Mutant Future = Adventure Time!"

Adventure Time is a cartoon about a human boy named Finn and his magical dog Jake.  It takes place in the land of Ooo which seems to be a post-apocalyptic Earth.   The Dungeons and Dragons elements are all over the place including liches, gelatinous cubes, displacer beasts, dungeons, magic swords, Finn even calls himself a Paladin.   If that is not enough then check this out from Wizards of the Coast,

The world of Finn and Jake is totally D&D...and Gama World.  So if we want one system to do it all it needs to be LL + MF!

Finn  (for Labyrinth Lord)
7th level Human Paladin (Fighter)
Age: 14

STR: 13 Breath Attacks: 9
DEX: 16 Poison or Death: 8
CON: 15 Petrify or Paralyze: 10
INT: 13 Wands: 9
WIS: 12 Spells: 12
CHA: 13

AC: 7
HP: 50

To Hit AC
-6 -5 -4 -3 -2 -1 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5

Sword +1, Backpack, Awesome Hat!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for Kids' Games

Last week I talked about Faery's Tale and I have talked about Witch Girls Adventures in the past.
This week I have more games for the younger crowd.

Kids, Castles & Caves

KCC is a very cute game.  It is an interesting one since it is t touch higher on the complexity scale than other "Kids" games.  That is not a complaint, but rather a nice little change.
Anyone familiar enough with any other RPG will pick this one up in about a minute.   Less than that if you eve played Basic D&D.
Classes and Races are the same thing, so you have "Wizard" "Knight" "Dwarf" and the cast of regulars, but also "Fairy" which is nice.
The classes have 3 levels each, which is plenty really since by the time the kids get to level 3 they will be ready for some more grown up games.
Everyone has something they can do every round so that is also good.
The game is simple, easy to learn and use and makes good on it's promise is something you can do with your kids in an afternoon with little to no prep time. At 28 pages it is the perfect length.

If you are a gamer and you have little ones, then this is a great way to introduce to our hobby!

An absolute steal at this price.
For under 3 bucks you get 3 complete games for kids.  
Tales from the Wood where you play creatures from The Wood.  Think Watership Down.
Lashings of Ginger Beer is about playing a kid in Idyllic England, so it might actually work best for adults.  Most similar to kids adventure tales. 
It's a Dog's LIfe is the best of the three where you play a Prairie Dog out on the American Plains with heavy American Indian/Native American influences.

All three games are simple to learn and easy to play.
These games require a bit more abstraction to play than some other kid games, but nothing a little kid with a great imagination couldn't handle.

So what is Meddling Kids? Well it is an introductory RPG for "kids of all ages" but recomended for ages 7 and up. The writing is very clear and concise and frankly one of the better "intro" games I have seen. It is designed as an intro game and is listed as "Stage 1 of the Starter System". I don't know if other stages were produced or not, but the feel here is one of "this is your first game so have some fun, and when you are ready we will have more for you". As with most starter sets there is lot the seasoned (or grizzled in my case) player can ignore, but it was still a very fun, light and fluffy read. 
The premise is simple. You create a teenage mystery-solver who belongs to a clique of other liked minded teens. Like in the TV show that this is so obviously taken from, different teens of various social standing and family incomes mix together well in a group united by their love of solving a mystery. Or maybe it's the talking dog. Or dune buggy. Or chimp. Or genie. get the idea. If you grew up in the 70s-80s then you know what I mean.

Character creation is simple. You create a background for your character, then are given points for Stats and Abilities. Pretty simple. Since we are talking about cartoons your Teen is put into an Archetype. So think Jock, Brain, Fluff, Goof and so on. 
The system is a simple one of Stat plus a roll based on Abilities plus a d6. Compare to a Target Number or resist the roll of something else.

What sets MK apart though is the use of the "Wild Card" character. This is a character, usually an animal, that hangs with the clique and is run by the GM. Not an NPC or even GMPC (though very close). The Wild Card is the one that helps in the adventure/mystery. So yeah, think Scooby Doo, or even Jabber Jaw or Captain Caveman. It is a fairly clever idea really and one of the only games I have read that encourages a GMPC like character. 

The book is small, less than 100 pages with pretty clear large fonts, so this is not a hefty tome to learn, it is a simple game that does exactly what it sets out to do and it does it rather well.

It is a great game to teach the little guys how to play using something that both parents and kids will know all about.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Jorune

Jorune, or rather The Skyrealms of Jorune, was a classic Science Fantasy RPG of the early-mid 80s till the 90s and it is today's J post.

Jorune was not like anything I had ever seen before.  By the mid 80s I considered myself knowledgeable, but not yet worldly in my RPG knowledge.  I knew the big players, could ID the smaller ones and knew enough to know more existed.  But Jorune was new. It was weird and different.  And the art blew me away.

Have a look at the cover.

Look at the creature lying prone, he is obviously a great person and he is passing on his knowledge/magic/Isho to the older male.  The female is caring for him and the large reptile man. Well while he could be seen as scary, he is obviously here giving comfort to the grieving.

Jorune was a planetary romance.  Humans had inhabited the planet of Jorune and then lost contact with Earth.  Add some advanced genetic engineering, local wildlife and a heavy dose of magic and you get islands floating in the sky 20 years before Avatar hit the screens.

I do not have many regrets in my RPG career.  I have played some epic games. Worked on some fantastic games. But one thing I do regret is I never got a chance to play this game.  Though to be fair on myself, I never knew anyone that had played this either.

Jorune was published in 3 editions by two different companies till 1992, sadly none of the copies are still in print.  You have to find them on eBay or sellers like Nobel Knight Games.

Nothing represented the Silver Age of the RPGs better in terms of really cool, lets get as far away from D&D as we can sort of game.


White Dwarf Wednesday #12

April 1979 I was buried in one of the worst snow/ice storms that the midwest had ever seen. So much so that even after the Snowpocylspe of 2011 people still talk about it.
At the same time White Dwarf jumps from 28 pages to 32.

In addition to that, Issue 12 ups the quality of the cover art too.

This issue's editorial lambasts the people that photocopy games to give (or worse sell) to others.  I know my first character sheet was a bad photocopy as was my first copy of White Dwarf.  Sorry. I was kid.  Again this could run today, just replace "photocopiers" with "scanners".

We start the issue with and expanded Fiend Factory.  Future Fiend Folio alumni include, the Assassin Bug, Grell, Hook Horror, Giant Worm, and the Githyanki.  We also get an Iron Pig and Desert Raider which seems to be a combination of Sand People and Freeman from Dune.  Easier to see why these were not included.  The stats still include the Monstermark numbers.

Lew Pulsipher gives us an article on Dungeon Equipment.  Many of these should be included in any standard equipment lists to be honest.  Love the idea of silver smiths silvering weapons as part of the economy and I never thought about nose plugs.

Open box gives us two classics, the Arduin Grimorie and Pellic Quest.  In the big surprise of the day the Arduin Grimorie only gets a 4 out of 10 from Don Turnbull. But looking back at these I think the OSR tends look at anything from the time with rose colored glasses. I think Turnbull was more likely correct.

Bill Howard gives us a mid-level adventure for D&D in the form of "The Pool of Standing Stones".  I liked the White Dwarf adventures, they seemed to be different enough from the ones in Dragon that I could ascribe a quality to them, a "White Dwarfiness" if you will.

We get some new magic items like the Sword of Thieves and Earnings of Control.  We also get some corrections to the Barbarian class.

Don Turnbull looks into the new Player's Handbook for AD&D. Interestingly enough he can't find "Hobbits" in the book and never mentions Halflings.

The rest of the magazine is ads with the Gamma World ad in the back again.

White Dwarf is certainly maturing.  It is more on par with the early Dragon magazines, maybe not Dragon of 1979, but certainly 1977 or 78.   The amount of ads have increased to about 12-13 pages per issue.  I do not know how that compares to Dragon from the time.

Reminder, A to Z post will be later today.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for the Imperial Age

The Imperial Age from Adamant Entertainment  (who also gave me last year's I for Icons) is a great collection of Victorian Age source books.  Designed to support D20 Modern, they can be used with just about any Victorian RPG.

They are "out of the box" compatible with OGL Gaslight for example and there is even a True20 source book that combines the materails of many of the books listed below.
I have been using them with Ghosts of Albion, mostly the background information and some of the game-specific material.  But I find that stylistically they tend to support games like Victoriana a little bit more.

I bought a lot of these books when they first came out, but "sat" on them while I was promoting Ghosts of Albion.  I didn't want to get distracted.
Now Ghosts is out there doing it's own thing so I can talk more about the Victorian games I really enjoy.

All the Imperial Age books are all well written and features art from the age, either public domain art and paintings as well as some original art.  In all cases the art is very evocative of the time and very well done.
The books are all easy to read, with clean layout and font sizes.  They can be printed with ease without killing your printer cartridge.

The GameMaster's Guidebook to Victorian Adventure (31 pages with cover and OGL page)

A fantastic guide for running a Victorian Age game.  Plenty of background is given about societies, countries and people of the time.  Quick overviews of  Victorian thoughts on sex, the occult, and other countries  can add plenty of flavor to any game. As well as Alternate-versions of the Victorian setting such as Steam-Punk, Horror, Supers and Alt-Reality.
On the d20 specific side of things, a number of feats are given to be used (but can easily become backgrounds or qualities, depending on what your game needs) and even some advise on converting "Thrilling Tales" Advanced Classes over to Imperial Age.
The advice given is quite good, but the book almost pays for itself in terms of the near complete list of weapons (in d20 format) used.   There is a brief timeline and some references.
If you enjoy Victorian games like I do then this is a great product whether you play The Imperial Age, another d20 product or something else all-together.

Imperial Age Magick (36 pages with cover and OGL page)

I love Victorian era games and I love games with magic in them.  So this book was a no brainer for me to pick up.  Using the vernacular "magick" this book present magick as seen through the eyes of the Victorian.  There are rules to magick and there is heavy reliance of the lieks of Dee and Crowley.  But that is what makes this book cool.
Magick is presented in three different styles; the common d20 magic, a skill based magick, and a school based magick where there are many different types of magick being used at the same time.  The GM needs to decide how magick works and what level of magick is the game; everything from High (D&D like) Magic to Low or No magic at all.
Plenty of background is given for the various types of magic and the authors really did their homework in terms of reading Dee, Levi and Crowley (among others).
d20-wise there are new feats and new uses for skills.  All easily adaptable.
There is a section on magickal gear which I would have liked to see more of to be honest.
The chapter on "Running a Magickal Campaign" bears special mention since it is above and beyong the Imperial Age normal game, but it also has plenty of ideas for all Victorian RPGS.
There are some very useful Appendices, including a Hermitic Scholar class (why it wasn't in the main text I am not sure).
This book is not the end-all be-all of magick in the Victorian age or games, but it is a solid resource full of great advice, ideas and tips.  My only gripe is there could have been so much more added.  But this is balanced with the cover price I guess.

The Imperial Age: Advanced Class - Alienist (12 pages with cover and OGL page)

An Alienist is what we would call a psychiatrist today.  But in the terms of the Imperial Age game, he is a psionic parapyschologist.
The archetypical Alienist would be Dr. Seward from Dracula (sans psionic powers) or maybe even Hannibal Lector for an evil one.
This book also deals with the psychologically disturbed and how some of them can manifest wild psionic powers.  So not quite the crazy one sees in Cthulhu by Gaslight, but more so than Masque of the Red Death.
I give this book credit for coming up for something very original.  I think it is more closely tied the to campaign than say some other Advanced Classes like the Monster Hunter, but I can see this working quite well in say a Rippers game.

The Imperial Age: Advanced Class - Monster Hunter (6 pages with cover and OGL page)

A new advanced class for bumping back the things that go bump in the night.  The monster hunter here is a combination of Van Helsing and Alan Quatermain.
There are some good ideas here, but nothing new or earth shaking.  The class itself is solid and something any d20 character would take a level or two in.
I would have liked to see some monster hunting societies, but I am not complaining for the price.

The Imperial Age: Advanced Class - Scientific Detective (7 pages with cover and OGL page)

Playing Sherlock Holmes.
Having been re-reading a lot of Holmes lately I find this class spot-on.  If the Monster Hunter class is for fighting monsters, then this class is designed to stop crime.  The two work well together since they cover such different grounds.
There is a new feat and a repeated one from Monster Hunter (Gentry).
Again, great value for the price.

The Imperial Age: Advanced Class - Gentleman Scientist (13 pages with cover and OGL page)

If the Scientific Detective book allows you make Holmes, and Monster Hunter make (a younger) Van Helsing, then this book allows you to make a Victorian fantasy Tesla.
If you are looking to turn The Imperial Age into a more Steam Punk style game, then you need to start with this book.
Plenty of new feats are included to allow your Victorian Weird Scientist to make their inventions.
Outside of the d20 realm this book is also a great guide for any sort of weird/super science for the Victorian Age.  While specifically that, it is a great start.

The Imperial Age: Anarchism (11 pages with cover and OGL page)

A little history is helpful here.  Anarchism was a big deal to the Victorians.  Not just in terms of a political movement, but in terms of what it meant.  Society was everything to the Victorians, Anarchy was the opposite of that.
So first off, major kudos for the authors for recognizing this.  It is an edited and thumbnail version, but this is a game book, not a textbook.
While this book is about anarchism, it is also full of things those other misfits of society might need: namely the adventurer.
The book has plot hooks, points of view and what anarchism means in a game world.  So all of this (the first 3/4s of the book) can be used in any game.
The Anarchist Advanced class is pure d20. The new feats are a good, useful bunch that other character might want to take.

The Imperial Age: British India (67 pages with cover and OGL page)

Most Victorian Age games give a paragraph or two about India, which is too bad really.  Victoria herself was known as the "Empress of India".
A good overview of the British involvement in India is given.  Again, this is not a textbook, but a game book.  There are plenty of places to get more detail, but I think what is here is a great start.
Since so much of the British involvement in India was political and military, overviews of the Government and Military, both in England and India is also given.
I like the authentic maps.
In an interesting addition, several Esoteric Societies are included. Obviously due to their ties with anything "Oriental".
A GM's section on running a campaign in India is presented covering Fantasy, Horror, Occult and Engine based game.
We don't get into any d20 specific information till about 46 pages into the book (almost 3/4ths through the book).
d20 specific info includes a section on creatures (wish there more, but this is good), weapons and feats.
The book ends with a set of reference books and films.
All in all I thought this was a great book for any Victorian-era game.  I would love to see more, but I think the book did what is set out to do.
What I can't get from this book I can get from here:

The Imperial Age: Engines (67 pages with cover and OGL page)

Rules and ideas to turn your Imperial Age game into a Steampunk or Gearpunk game.  This book goes beyond what is presented in Gentleman Scientist and presents a new campaign model.
More so than the other books in the Imperial Age line this one has more d20 information.  There is also less "history" than the other books.
Despite all of that, this is a good supplement to add all sorts of things to your game.  If you are a fan of Steampunk/Gearpunk and your current Victorian Game of choice does not support it, then this is a good choice.  If it does then this is a great source for more ideas.

The Imperial Age: Faeries (78 pages with cover and OGL page)

The Victorians loved faeries.  Even the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle loved them a believed they were real.  This book help you do that for your game as well.
Plenty of faerie races are given along with their d20 stats for playing them as characters.  These will work well in any d20 game regardless of the time period.
A new mechanic is introduced, Traits, but familiar if anyone has played Unisystem or GURPS.  In fact it is because of this that makes this book more easily ported over to games like Ghosts of Albion or Victoriana.
Traits and Drawbacks can be bought to customize characters.
Rules for Fey-Touched characters are also given.
There are some monsters stated, mostly these are fey creature that would not work well as characters.  Plenty of new feats and an advanced classes.
Advice is given on the Faerie lands and how to run games that involve the fey.

This might be my favorite of the Imperial Age books just in terms of material to be used.  The organization of the material is kind of all over the place and the art is not quite a good as the other books, but that didn't matter to me since I was most interested in the words on the page.

The Imperial Age: Fantastical Races (70 pages with cover and OGL page)

D&D style races in your Imperial Age game.
This book is a nice companion to Faeries in terms of expanding the fantastical elements of your game.  Also with a little bit of work they could also expand it more into horror.
In addition to the expected Dwarf, Elf and halfling, we also get Beastfolk (similar to the ones found in Victoriana and Gaslight), Celestial Blooded, Demon Blooded, Dragon Blooded, and Lizard Folk.
There are plenty of Paragon Classes for each race as well as feats.
Some campaign ideas are presented, but I feel some of them are getting farther and farther away from the Victorian norm.
Though it is a very fun book and has some great ideas.

The Imperial Age: Fisticuffs & Swordplay (25 pages with cover and OGL page)

Fightclub for Imperial Age.
Information on Fisticuffs, Bartitsu, and swordplay.  Plenty of background and history and bunch of new feats.
Very useful in a game where guns might be rare.

The Imperial Age: Grimoire (75 pages with cover and OGL page)

This book picks up where Imperial Age Magick left off.
The Imperial Age: Grimoire covers grimoires, or magickal texts.
Included is information on how to find these books, how to read and use them and what must be done to unlock their secrets.
There are some sample grimoires detailed, with their spells and some secret societies.  A lot of information is included here and could easily be adapted to any game.  I am thinking of Cthulhu by Gaslight in particular.
Some new and many old OGC spells are also included.  They are all by design d20, but can be converted.  This makes up a lot of the book, but it is needed.

All in all a great book.

The Imperial Age: Hell Hath No Fury (35 pages with cover and OGL page)

Hell Hath No Fury is a "Penny Dreadful", an adventure for the Imperial Age Game.  Designed for newer characters (2 to 4 1st level).
The author takes care to let you know that while the Imperial Age can cover a variety of Victorian game types, he had to make some assumptions to have a pre-written adventure work out, so this one is described as Occult Steam.  I like that.
The adventure is presented in Three Acts and moves at a brisk pace.
The mystery reads like a "Penny Dreadful" and has the feel and atmosphere of a Victorian mystery.   I don't want to spoil things, but this is a fun adventure for the first time players.

The Imperial Age: London (82 pages with cover and OGL page)

A history and overview of the greatest city of the British Empire.  What I liked were the inclusion of the real maps from the time, but improved over how they were presented in the India book.
There is even a brief description of some of the neighborhoods, Gentlemen's Clubs and important sites.  Background on the Peelers is also included.
The book is an overview and doesn't go into great detail in any subject.  Though it is not supposed to be a textbook or a history book, a little more would have been nice.
All in all though it is a fine book.  Perfect for any Victorian game since the d20 content is minimal.

The Imperial Age: Spiritualism (17 pages with cover and OGL page)

Spiritualism was a big part of the late Victorian age.  Not simply Occult, Spiritualism dealt specifically with the communication with those beyond death.
The first part of this book details this well.  The second part discusses how all of this plays out in the Imperial Age game, including the different sorts of campaign modes one might choose.
We are also given a new Advanced Class, the Medium and plenty of new feats, magic.
Again, most of this book is "system free" so it can be used in any game.  The d20 specific stuff is still quite useful.

The Imperial Age: The Price of Immortality (34 pages with cover and OGL page)

Another Penny Dreadful for The Imperial Age.
This one takes advantage of the material found in the London book, so having that on hand is helpful.
It is obvious that the author(s) have learned more about adventure design since "Hell Hath No Fury" since this is a more complex plot and a more detailed adventure (despite being the same size).
A very entertaining adventure that plays to "The Imperial Age's" strengths well.

The Imperial Age: Victorian Monstrosities (89 pages with cover and OGL page)

A monster book with more.  Many of the most frightening creatures we know today have their roots in Victorian literature and history.  Dracula, Carmilla, Jack the Ripper, Half-human mutants, cults.  All can be found in the pages of Victorian origin.
More than just a monster book (though it is that as well), this presents some "history" behind the monster.  I am reminded of some the more detailed Monster Hunter guides I have seen for other games.
There is so much here that it is difficult to quantify it all.  But there is a lot and a lot of it is very, very good.
The stats are all d20, but the backgrounds work for any game.

The Imperial Age: Victorian Occupations (16 pages with cover and OGL page)

This book has the distinction of being the first Imperial Age book I bought.
These are optional, alternate occupations for d20 Modern characters.  Though the background works for any game.
Not a lot of detailed material, but a lot of material all the same.
If you need a list of professions then this a good place to go.

The Imperial Age: True20 Edition (271 pages with cover and OGL page)

True 20 is a perfect solution for all sorts of Modern d20 based games for me and Imperial Age shows why. The rules are adapted from the Imperial Age supplements for d20, so a lot here has been seen before, but all of it looks new through the lens of True 20.

All the Imperial Age products ooze style and this one is no different. There may be better Victorian Age games out there, but one can't deny that this is a great product and a welcome addition to any Victorian gaming library.