What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
C&C Mythos Books

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Weekend R&R: Torchbearer RPG

While I have known about Burning Wheel for some time, it's not something I ever really looked into.  Same goes for Mouse Guard and even Torchbearer.  Honestly, I wish I had sooner.  It was a favor for a friend that took me to Burning Wheel HQ looking for something very specific at this year's GenCon.  Despite hitting their booth on the first day, my efforts were for naught.  Since I got there, there was a couple books I noticed and, I took the time to talk to them about Burning Wheel knowing little of it.  It seemed to be a light enough game while still providing a lot of detail and, perhaps more importantly, promoted a shared narrative experience with an emphasis on role playing.  That got my attention, and a combined 'gold volume' of the Burning Wheel game in hardback for $25 seemed like a great deal so I picked it up.

What caught my attention though was this full-sized hardcover that was proudly displayed.  It screamed of old-school FRPG aesthetics and flipping through the book instantly reminded me of some of the older 1st Edition AD&D tomes and other FRPG books of the day.  This was the Torchbearer RPG book and looking at its pages made it evident that this work was a love-letter to those games of old both in look and spirit.

There is an emphasis on resource management in this game.  Notably, the importance of inventory, time, and light and how these are managed will make or break the party of poor souls during their planned expedition.

Tracking inventory and knowing what you can and can't carry is key to the game.  You can only take in what you can carry and the same goes for what you take out.  If you are loaded up with gear and you want to take out an artifact, you may need to leave something behind.  Worse yet, you may even juggle the necessity of equipment and the amount of food you are taking with you!  Tracking is made easy in the game... much like some computer RPGs, it's based on slots.

As far as time goes... everything you do counts against you.  As time goes on, you may get hungry, or, if particularly unlucky other conditions suffered may worsen as time progresses.  The passage of time was very important in the earlier days of dungeon exploration and adventuring.  It is something a lot of modern games tend to gloss over nowadays.  However, in the earliest versions of the world's most popular roleplaying game, this was of paramount importance.

However, it is the importance of light that makes the game interesting.  A lack of lighting will most definitely play into the challenge of trying to successfully accomplish a variety of tasks.  The thing is, light is also a resource and it can, and will eventually, go out.

Naturally, these things and their relative importance can be stressed and put into practice in any RPG so, these alone wouldn't be enough to 'sell' the game.  But the relative detail vs ease of play is a strong reason to at least take a look at the game.  For those familiar with both Burning Wheel and Mouse Guard, this falls somewhere in between.  It isn't near as complicated as Burning Wheel but has more than Mouse Guard.  The creators' themselves consider Torchbearer to be something like an 'advanced Mouse Guard'.

A big turn-off for the game for many is that, while simple enough in principal, it plays vastly differently from a typical game.  This become readily apparent when it comes to combat (referred to in Torchbearer as conflict.  The biggest difference is that the party determines at the start of the conflict, their 'disposition'.  This is effectively a hitpoint pool which is divided up among the party.  The GM does the thing for his side.  The player's side of the conflict is managed by the 'Conflict Captain' who, effectively manages the party for that conflict.  Each side gets three actions  and each action can either be Attack, Defend, Feint, or Maneuver.  The GM selects his in secret and the Conflict Captain, after consulting with his team determines their three actions and who will take them. Each action (or phase) compares one side with the other in what could best be described as something like 'rock, paper, scissor'.  Depending on the action, rolls and/or opposed rolls are called for and disposition may be lost.  When either side reaches zero disposition, they lose.  What happens when the lose will depend on the original intent.  Was it to drive them away?  Capture them?  Kill them?  etc...

It *is* simple but it's also a bit granular and not what most gamers will be used to when they come to this game.  It's probably something that will appeal to some and turn off others.  What it does do is challenge they way we play and Torchbearer is well positioned to shake off a sort of complacency of how we approach our RPGs.

As for the rest of the system, there is much elegance to it.  It is a dice pool system with skills and traits, and abilities (stats) and some expertise (called 'wises').  The numbers determine the dice you roll and aspects of the character and given situation will add or subtract from that pool.  One person who is well-versed in the mechanics can easily guide a group of new players through the game and can easily teach them to play while running through a scenario.  While easy to learn (and easier if you are taught it), it will take some time before the players really get the hang of it (or master it, if you will).  The game itself will force the players to work together as a team and talk to each other instead of taking a 'everyone for themselves' mentality to playing.  It certainly will cause people to change how they play and react compared to other games.

Torchbearer is *not* designed to be a sweeping saga across some fantasy realm filled with political intrigue or murderous plots.  It's for dungeon crawling and the importance of tracking movement, time, provisions, and the state of the party is paramount.  You start off in an inn, you organize expeditions and leave from the town to the dungeon, and try your best to earn a living without getting yourself killed while working for your big score.

If this still interests you, the PDF is available over at RPG Now over HERE for just $15.  Physical copies of the book are still available, and you should be able to find or order it at most reputable game stores.  Noble Knight has it new for $29.95.

Happy Gaming!


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Time To Drop The Hammer on Mythos!

The Castles & Crusades Mythos Kicktarter is well under way, and with only 10 days left, it's time to drop the hammer on this one.  The goal of this campaign is to bring to print three hardcover books which is a blend of historical, mythological, setting material for your game -- be it C&C or other compatible FRPGs.  To date, they have brought two of this to print.  The first of these was the Codex Celtarum, and the second, the Codex Nordica.  Both books were very well received and I've reviewed both in the past.  These can be found HERE and HERE.  This crowdfunding campaign brings three more books to the fold.  These are the Codex Germania, the Codex Slavorum, and the Codex Classicum.

The Codex Germania focuses on the myths of the ancient Germanic peoples and their worldview during the age of the Roman Empire.  It is an excellent companion book to the first two books already released. The Codex Slavorum presents a change of focus and brings to light the diversity found in eastern and southern Europe.  Finally, the Codex Classicum are the ancient Greeks, their mythology, and contextualizes them with the Romans and Etruscans.

Of course, the great news is that these have already been funded and pretty much funded the first day.  We're looking for stretch goals and some of those involve expanding the available material further.

At the $99 level, you get all three books (PDF and in print) plus a bunch of stretch goals as they are unlocked.  These already include expanded content for the fist book, a stand alone adventure, and some bookmarks.  There was another stretchgoal for early birds and another bonus goal if 201 backers support the project before Sunday evening (the 9th of August) at midnight.

If $99 is too steep or you are just not interested in all three books, you can always pledge at the $1 level and add-on which ever book(s) you want but doing so will mean ineligibility for the some of the bonus swag.

In any event, I strongly urge you to check it out.  If it's anything like the previous two books in the series, this books will be a great addition to your gaming library.


A GenCon Honeymoon!

This year's GenCon was a special one for me.  It was my second GenCon that I attended but this year's convention was also my honeymoon.  On July 25th, I married my significant other; we had already been together for about 12 years.  The marriage itself seemed more of a formality but the reception (read party) afterwards was fantastic.  It was great to see family and friends celebrating this milestone with us and, after a couple days rest, we embarked on a road trip to Indianapolis.

My wife is a geek and, while not certainly a big gamer, she loved her experience at GenCon the previous year and wanted to go back.  She loved the idea of GenCon being our honeymoon destination so we planned the wedding accordingly.  The past few months have really been busy though but everything ended up being very successful. Being our second time at GenCon, we avoided some of the pitfalls the first time around and made sure our experience was a far better one than our first.

One of the decisions we made, since we were doing this as a road trip, was to do the journey in two days as opposed to a continuous marathon.  We opted to do a stop off at a stereotypical honeymoon destination -- Niagara Falls.  We left early (VERY EARLY) on Tuesday morning and made good time from Montreal to Niagara.  Arriving early afternoon, it gave us a chance to visit the falls, take the iconic boat ride (and get soaked) by the falls, as well as visit the town.  The town was very 'kitsch' but appealing nonetheless.  Probably because we were on our way to GenCon.  We had a nice dinner and enjoyed a good soak in the pool and hot tub.

The following morning was another early as we left from Niagara and crossed into the US to complete our road trek to our ultimate destination.  It was a longer drive and we arrived very late afternoon.  We took the time to check in and then go to the Indiana Convention Center to pick up our badges.  That proved to be the only hiccup of our trip but one that couldn't be avoided.  As residents outside the US, there is only the 'Will Call' option to pick up the badges; they just won't do any mailings outside the US and that's a shame.  The line up when we came to it in the evening was entirely too long.  Coupled with the fact that many residents of the US prefer to save the $10 instead of having badges and tickets mailed out to them, waiting over an hour in line just goes to show how somethings still need to be improved.  We opted to go out to supper and come back later.  When we did (it was well past 9pm by that point), the line was just as long but seemed to be moving quickly.  We waited only about 45 minutes.

The next few days were a blast though and, instead of trying to book every hour of my day (like I did last time), I spaced out my events and made sure my evenings were free.  I mean, it *was* my honeymoon after all.  I got into three games... two were Amazing Adventures games and one was a Castles & Crusades game.  The Amazing Adventures ones I played were both run by Jason Vey, writer of the game, and I had a blast with it.  It was the first chance I actually had to play the system despite owning it for a couple of years now.  The Castles & Crusades adventure was particularly fun though.  We had something like 20 players and it was, as expected, totally a meat grinder.  I had a  glorious death as threats came in at us from all sides.  Stephen Chenault from Troll Lord Games ran us through that one and my character had a glorious death!

I also sat through a couple of demos, did a couple of workshops, and the wife and I did some tourist type things like the Indy Brew Tour.  Indianapolis has a lot of microbreweries and, it's not everyday one gets to tour one.  In this case, the tour takes us to four but, in all honesty, the tour consists of going to brewery to brewery and sampling many types of beer as well as buying and drinking even more.  It was FANTASTIC and we'd happily do the tour again.  :)

One of the highlights during the trip is seeing some friends again.  We were fortunate that we shared our road trip with a couple of friends who were also part of our wedding party.  However, we made some friends last year at GenCon -- namely the gang at Troll Lord Games.  We were invited out to go drinking with them last year and this year was very much the same thing.  The guys there are a great bunch to hang out with and we were constantly popping in to say hi to them while they were working the floor in the exhibit (vendor) hall.  They really are a great bunch of people and seeing them again, sharing a few drinks, really helped make the trip worthwhile.

Between Wednesday evening and Monday morning, we enjoyed the hospitality of Indianapolis and our departure on the morning of the last day was a bittersweet.  It was nice to know that we would soon be home but we were also sorry to see this year's GenCon come to an end.  We decided to end the trip on a high note though and detoured through Cleveland to take in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  While in Cleveland, I also got a chance to get together with a friend I met a few months earlier on Facebook.  It was a pleasant stop and a nice break from the road.

We continued on that evening till we hit the outskirts of NY state for an inexpensive motel for the night only to continue and complete our trip the following day.  We were greeted with Montreal rush hour traffic -- a sobering reminder that we have come home.

The trip wasn't without its costs though.  A crippled Canadian dollar made the exchange rate even less favorable than we had initially planned upon.  I started the trip with a 'shopping list' of sorts and managed to come back with more than I had planned.  Thankfully, nothing really excessive save a pricey Iwata air compressor but buying it there meant I save close to $200 Canadian otherwise.  It was a great buy and I've already put it to good use.

It was a great trip overall and between the Falls, GenCon, and the Rock Hall, a trip whose memories I will treasure.  The wife and I as well as my traveling companions have already begun discussing the possibility of a trip back next year.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Economics of Bones III for Canada & ROW

Busy times all around.  It has been just over a weeks since my last post and it's just over a week till Gen Con 2015.  For fans of miniatures, there is exactly a week left to the end of Reaper Miniatures' Kickstarter Camapaign for Bones III which just happens to fall on the day of my wedding.

Ugh.  Between Gen Con, a wedding, and this Kickstarter any discretionary funds I had will quickly disappear and being in Canada, that Kickstarter will be financially painful judging by the current rates of our dollar compared to the US.  Add to that shipping and the eventual customs.  Bones III is nowhere near the deal it appears to be.  It doesn't get much better for ROW either.

However, if you are a fan of Reaper and enjoyed their previous Bones Kickstarters, it is likely that you don't want to miss out on this one.  That doesn't mean you have to sell a kidney or trade your first born to get in on this -- even if you are in Canada or in the rest of the world.  It's about choices and some might be harder choices to make than others.

With Bones II, I had to be a bit more restrained than I was with Bones I.  With Bones I, I got a couple of Vampire pledges and one of every single add-on.  It added up quickly but the value of Bones I was greater than that of Bones II.  I wrote about this in a previous post (can be read in full HERE) but the most relevant points I made were:

The core set features just over 150 miniatures (158 by my count) and, aside from a variety of add-ons, the also had expansion set add-ons which also held a number of miniatures at $50 each.  The first of these contains 39 by my count and the second 22.  So, for $200 you got about 220 miniatures and given that for two vampire pledge levels in the first Kickstarter in yielded more than twice that, it might give someone pause.

As it stands, this one is looking promising and will likely yield comparable amounts of miniatures to Bones II by the time this is done.  Frankly, the best bang for your buck, regardless of destination resulting in elevated shipping charges are the core set and expansion.  Beyond that, grab a couple of the MUST HAVE items like the big show-stoppers.  Bones II had Khanjira and Dragons Don't Share and both of these were half of what they are priced at retail.

This is what I did with Bones II and it helped though my final tally if you included shipping, the exchange rate, and customs was higher than I would have liked.  You see, Bones I gave free shipping to Canada which is actually their policy with their regular online store for orders of $35 or above.  Other ROW destinations had a much more reasonable shipping options but customs still happen and this wasn't necessarily cheap.  It is interesting to note that the Reaper Online Store also has free shipping beyond a certain amount but that's closer to $100 (60 pounds for the UK, 70 euros for the rest of europe, etc).  The point is they give free shipping if you shop at their store, and it isn't hard to have a shopping cart that will meet this requirement.  But you will be paying retail prices.

Why do I bring this up?  Well, some of those models (add-ons) that you want could really screw with the shipping totals now given that, since Bones II, they attempt to charge 'actual shipping costs'.  The shipping costs from the US to international destinations are frankly crazy -- especially if you live just north of the border.  One of those $10 add-ons will translate into a $20 model in their online store once they have the models in stock and available for purchase.  At the same time, those add-ons could mean a large bump in terms of what your shipping cost could be.  If you factor customs, the shipping charges, that add-on or two won't necessarily translate into as much of a deal.

Since Bones II miniatures have started showing up in stores, I've been buying a couple of the models I chose to pass on during the Kickstarter.  I wanted them then but I knew that, even at twice to Kickstarter price, I could still save money in the long run due to racking up enough in my shopping cart to get free shipping.  In my case, due to the nature of the items and the low value of the package (I tend to order just enough to qualify for free shipping and that number is low for Canada compared to ROW), these don't always get stopped at customs.  Granted, I've been lucky in that regard but I've learned that a lot of this is also dependent on the postal carrier used.

But that is Canada.  The rest of the world has a much higher threshold as far as attaining free shipping from their online store but I suspect that the additional shipping from a lot of add-ons might make it worthwhile to wait on some of those $10-$15 items in order to benefit from free shipping on some of these after the fact.  There will always be customs to worry about and the customs would be calculated on the retail prices but it might be worth playing with the numbers.  At worse, you won't really be any worse off by buying them at a later point in time.  It might also help justify participating in this Kickstarter at a scaled back level.

At least, that is what I'm trying to do.  ;)

The Kickstarter can be found HERE and ends in a week.

Happy Gaming!


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Modular Underground Project... Canceled!

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.  The reasons for some projects not quite working out can be numerous but credit has to be given to those who toss in the towel when required.

A few days ago, I wrote about 3D Dungeon Terrain and talked about what was an ongoing project at the time called the 'Modular Underground Project'.  You can find that article HERE.  Honesty, I was really excited to see what was to come out of this project had it funded.  Unfortunately, after a nice and successful launch, funding completely stalled.  There were a few reasons for this and once of them is simply the fact that, for this kind of product for a niche hobby, it has some pretty stiff competition.  Many fans of other products were taking notice but not seeing exactly what they were hoping for.  In short, the project as outlined, wasn't perfect.  Some of the features mentioned, and even shown, weren't available yet but they would have been in some undisclosed stretch goals.

Stuff like that is what keeps people from immediately pledging and they end up waiting and watching.

Add to that, a mammoth Kickstarter just launched today with a rather shortened window as to how long it was running.  Reaper's newest Bones Kickstarter was only 18 days and would have ended a mere 5 days after this one.  There were more than a few backers that were also looking to back the new Bones and many can only spend so much in a short time.  Let's just say that the timing didn't help.

The plug was pulled yesterday but that doesn't mean it's gone for good.  The creators of the project are now looking through things, re-reading backer comments, and that sort of thing as many hope that there will be a re-launch of this project in the near future.

Who knows, with just a couple of minor tweaks, a revised attempt at this project could become a run away success.

Happy Gaming.