What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
Abyss Walker: The Hallowed Oracle (C&C)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Weekend R&R: The Doom That Came To Atlantic City

Normally, the focus of my Weekend R&R are to review a single RPG product -- be it old or new. But we all have different ways to unwind and I recently decided to shift towards the Call of Cthulhu RPG and, given that the time I can actually get a game together is surprisingly challenging due to either time restraints and scheduling, I will find other ways to occupy my leisure hours. I love a good board game and, with my current frame of mind, The Doom That Came To Atlantic City had a lot of the trappings I am currently immersing myself with as far as theme is concerned.

If you are someone who has followed various projects or gone as far as back some on Kickstarter, the title of the game may sound familiar. A Lovecraftian themed boardgame which took many cues from the classic game of Monopoly which raised over $120,000 in 2012 only to have the project cancelled and the money disappear.

Never underestimate the power of the great old ones though.  Another company stepped in, secured the rights, and produced the game. They even went so far as to get backers of the original project copies of the game -- something they were not required to do but awesome nonetheless.  I was never a backer though.  I missed the campaign when it ran and stumbled upon it after it had already ended. With the delays and problems, I eventually secured my own copy of the game only just recently.  Part of the reason I waited on it was because it's a pricey game but the components of the game and high quality and the game proved to be a light-hearted distraction.

In many ways, the game plays in a very familiar way but, it is very much 'anti-monopoly'.  Your goal, as one of the elder gods, isn't to build, but rather destroy.  Power (through destruction) and cultists are the currency of the game and when you have accumulated enough of both and succeed in opening the requisite amount of gates, you can bring about the end of the world and win the game.

It's a simple game and, unlock Monopoly, it will not last you hours.  It is entirely possible to play a game under an hour though, I've had a couple which went on to about an hour and a half.  Luck is very much a factor here too and the dice can be fickle.  However, you aren't just constrained to moving around the board.  You can use gates to travel to other gates and bypass sections of the board.  You also can attack your opponents and steal cultists away from him as well as rain destruction and destroy homes.  Each elder god also has abilities which can be swapped out with other ones with Providence Cards and then are are 'Chant' cards to assist you as well.  And, because of this added dynamic, there is a bit of strategy to go along with the random luck factor of the dice.

The game is good in the sense that the style and theme of the game is actually well-thought out in a cute kind of way and doesn't feel like it's just been tacked on.  But the game also manages to remain accessible.  So, between that and the visuals, the game just works and will be one that will get pulled out from time to time -- especially if I'm waiting on the late arrival of a player before we can start up a Call of Cthulhu game.

Now, I was lucky as the normal retail price goes for around $75 from what I have seen.  I basically was able to get it for a little more than half that price.  Given the quality of the components, and the beautiful sculpts of the miniatures included in the box, it is well worth the full price of the game.  Just shop around first.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Kickstart This: The Hallowed Oracle (C&C)

To date, Troll Lord Games have done many successful Kickstarter campaigns.  Of course, being who they are, the products always come out even if they might be a bit late.  The various campaigns always do well and some do better than one might expect and others seem to fall short of what could have been.  Arguably, the biggest hurdle with the recent campaigns has been the nature of the material.

If we look at the last 10 campaigns, half of them have been reprints of sorts.  Going back a couple of years now, we have the latest and full colour reprints of the core set of books.  That is to say, the Players Handbook, the Monster & Treasure book, and the Castle Keepers Guide.  They are a fantastic set of books and, by far, their biggest Kickstarter.  It is also a campaign that took a while to completely fulfil.  While most of the rewards (the core books and subsequent swag) where delivered promptly enough, another massive stretch goal has just wrapped up which effectively completes the project.  With continued updates and news, fans were not worried and everybody seemed happy and other successful campaigns followed.

Amazing Adventures was a new line that went from a single softcover rulebook and got expanded into three books and TLG kept on doing a few MAJOR fundraising campaigns.  But recently, we have seen more reprints than not.  Always improved in some way which is nice but nothing really 'new' lately.  Classic Monsters, the Monsters & Treasure of Aihrde, and the Book of Familiars (both for 5th Edition and C&C) all got some attention.  But the last major Kickstarter of import was probably for the Mythos books done launched last summer (no physical products delivered yet but coming soon).

Clearly, something new is needed beyond some reprints and aside from the failed Brimstone & The Borderlands campaign, we have not seen anything new this year!

That is thankfully changing.  As TLG is wrapping up delivery on past Kickstarters, they have launched a new one and this one looks a bit different.

It's an adventure path set in the Abyss Walker universe.  The Abyss Walker is a series penned by Shane Moore -- which, for this project, means a new fantasy setting for us to explore!  The Hallowed Oracle is looking to be 200+ pages with a smaller Player Guide to go along with it.  New classes... variant rules... spells... and critters to be found as expected but what is nice about this project is that the base rules are included with the game.  In other words, if you don't have the C&C PHB, you can still play the game with just the Hallowed Oracle.

At this point, the project is already funded (it did so the first day) and it's now just a question of what stretch goals can be unlocked.  At this stage, it is already over $7,000 with almost 4 weeks left to go and the next goal is at $8,000 which means the main book is upgraded to hardcover.  Pledge levels are varied depending on what you are looking at.  You can pledge as low as $1 and then add-on stuff (if you want digital, this is your best option) but at $40, you get the physical books.  There is an interested pledge level at $150 which gets you the Hallowed Oracle, as well as a copy of the three core books!  Now these rulebooks alone would retail at $110 but there are a few other things at this pledge level which might be worth considering if you don't already have the C&C books.

Ultimately, the project looks promising and it's something new for this year which is already more than halfway done.  Now, I'm keeping things simple myself and sticking with a lower pledge tier but I'm a huge supporter of Troll Lord Games and Castles & Crusades!  I think it might be worth checking out.

To do so, you can find the project HERE.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Weekend R&R: Under The Blood Red Moon (Free RPG Day)

In past years, where I get asked to demo stuff from Troll Lord Games for Free RPG Day, there is an attempt to get a hold of me a bit earlier.  That way, I can check out and better prepare to run the current years adventure they put out to promote Castles & Crusades.  This year was a bit different for two reasons.

1) Communication with the store was terrible and badly organised this year.  I did not get a copy a day or two in advance.  Despite my efforts, the information and confirmation on how the store was running events this year just came too late.  I was only able to confirm that I would participate about 16 hours ahead of time and there was no opportunity to pick up the adventure early.

2) This years release was showcasing both Castles & Crusades and Amazing Adventures.

A release showcasing both systems with one adventure sounds cool and I knew this is what they were doing for this year.  But I just didn't know HOW exactly this would take form.  This is best described as an 'Open & Play' or 'Fast Play' module.  A very short info blurb on the general mechanics of the game, some pre-gens, and the module basically explains how to play the game as you are basically going through it.  It is a pretty good approach and a great way to start and learn to play a role-playing game -- especially if you are new to RPGs altogether.  

There is something to be said about the brevity of some of these Free releases.  Most are quite short though, thankfully, there tends to be enough in them to make it worthwhile.  On occasion, you will get a release that is quite large for something being released for free.  Depending on the level of support for Free RPG Day, this could amount to quite a bit of money in free product being given away so you won't always see smaller game publishers doing this.  If you get something 'more', than the publisher has something to prove or they are really trying to make an impression and gain a lot of exposure.  Troll Lord Games has been participating since the very first year and their releases have always been decent.  However, I do feel that the ones from the past couple of years really stand out.  While they were a shorter page count than a standard module release, it had enough content to make it an interesting item to pick up.

With that in mind, I was a bit disappointed with this years offering.  Don't get me wrong, it is well written and a fun little romp with the same sort of page count as previous years.  The problem is that this isn't a single adventure but rather two adventures that are basically the same.  It is highly doubtful that you will run this thing back to back with the same group of players to play both C&C and AA.  As a result, some may just view this as a missed opportunity.

Under the Blood Red Moon is an adventure that takes place 'Across the Gulf of Space & Time' and while there are elements of that are, the adventure itself really isn't.  Essentially, an old man hires a party of adventurers to bury a scroll as an offering to a god and, the other adventure has the reincarnation of this man hire a party of adventures to retrieve it.  Same temple with four keyed locations.  Because of the similarities of the systems, both will play about the same mechanically speaking though there are a few differences between the two systems.

Honestly, what I would have like to see is a bit of 'back and forth'.  Actions in one affecting things in the other and actions in the other having effects felt in the former.  Each critical to the success of the other and critical for the ultimate goal and final objective.  That would have been cool and a bit confusing maybe.

It would also be beyond the scope of a short release.  I think the only other way to do this is if you happen to be playing both games at one point or another with the same group of people.  It might be interesting to do one of them only to revisit months later and play the other one in the other system.

Quibbles aside, it's nice to see that Troll Lord Games continues to support Free RPG Day and that both major games they publish is getting some support.  Amazing Adventures is a great resource even if a pulp type game isn't your thing and I look forward to seeing more of it in the future.  I still think this year's free offering was worth picking up but a bit more variation between the two would have been nice.


Monday, June 20, 2016

Weekend R&R: SLUGS!

For the past few years, there has been one release that I have always looked forward to and sought out if possible -- the one from Lamentations of the Flame Princess, courtesy of James Edward Raggi. While not intended for children, the LotFP offerings have always been a bit darker, twisted, and imaginative. They are always presented in an evocative style and, at times, a bit perverse. As a small publisher, the publications for the past few years measure up very well and often surpass the quality of some of the larger and more mainstream companies putting out quality gaming material.  The first two years to see free LotFP products were a couple of wicked adventures titled 'Better Than Any Man' and 'The Doom-Cave of the Crystal-Headed Children'.  In 2015, there was no release for the event but, this year's release made up for it.

Not everyone likes James Raggi and the stuff he publishes.  Some go as far as consider him and his line successful only because of the 'shock value'.  Ignore those people.  A considerable amount of consideration and care goes into putting out every title and some titles to vary quite a bit in terms of tone.  Slugs! takes things a step further as a free-product though and, instead of a quick set of rules and a couple of dressed up encounters, Slugs! is a bestiary of sorts.  Not counting the the couple pages in the back dedicated to the LotFP catalogue, the accessory clocks in at 34 pages (albeit digest-sized).

And, with tongue thoroughly implanted in cheek, James decides to had fun with it and take the piss out of a few things.

If you are looking for some dark and twisted work with critters to devastate your group's characters, this might not be what you are looking for.  If you want something a bit off the wall and something that might provoke a few chuckles... read on.

The introduction itself really sets the tone for the rest of the book.  At first it almost sounds like a manifesto with a criticism of the Washington gaming establishment.  It didn't take me long to figure out what he was doing.  Part way through the introduction you have a paragraph that starts thusly:

And we're going to win. Believe me, we are going to win so much it's going to make their heads spin. It's going to be like we've build a wall to keep all the bad gaming out, and it's people like Fred Hicks that will end up paying, believe me. We can make gaming great again.

Frankly, this material is GOLD and we're just at the introduction. The entire bestiary is basically about having fun the way that gaming should be. If you read between the lines when you read the introduction, there is something of a critique as well and he makes a valid point. As a free product, the LotFP ones have always been incredibly impressive and useful -- not at all disposable.

So, the meat of the book itself are write-ups and illustrations of 16 different and weird giant slugs. If you never use the material for gaming, it should nonetheless be able to crack a smile on your face.  At the very least, some of the stuff will give you ideas. Other things might just make you groan.

The illustrations are black and white line art which works for the book and the cover looks great and, almost festive!  But I have one MAJOR issue with the book and many others will probably agree with me here.

With the first two LotFP releases, there is an Explicit Content warning on the cover (Ages 18+).  I'm not offended by the content and, for those that know me, my language is often colourfully-laced.  I love the illustrations and the illustration on the front inside cover was fantastic!  However, the image on the back inside cover alone should have should have warranted an Explicit Content warning on the cover.  There are a couple of other things that could similarly warrant such a warning as well.  So, unless there was a warning in the shrink packaging about the nature of this content and the game store was irresponsible with the access of this particular title, I just don't know why this cover didn't get the same treatment the last two from previous years did.

Honestly, that's my only complaint over this book.  It's fantastic and I'm personally not offended by any of it. I don't know if I'll ever use something like 'Slugatron' but the 'Ocular Slug' and the 'Rock Slug' are pretty awesome.  'Acid Slug' just rocks.

If you managed to score a copy of Slugs! then, rejoice!  There were 3750 copies printed for this year's Free RPG Day.  If you missed out, than I assume it's only a matter of time before it's made available online in PDF form as well and you can grab it then.  It is worth it and a nice little supplement that manages to remain distinct from the rest of the event's offerings this year.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Gaming Triple Threat!

Or rather.... a gaming triple treat!  :)

I have seen more gaming in the past 24 hours than I have seen in a long time -- with the exception of maybe my GenCon experience last year of course.  That said, aside from the two last Free RPG Days, I haven't even run much else.  Those reasons have varied between too busy, schedule changes, and even disinterest.

However, last Friday at the invitation and general encouragement of a friend, I got roped in to playing a character in a D&D Fifth Edition campaign.  It's been fun and I played again last night.  I also was requested to run a demo or two at my local game store for Free RPG day.  It was VERY last minute but I did some prep and got everything together to do just that earlier this morning.  Things don't always work as planned though and, despite completely setting up, I and about 3 other GMs were all waiting for players to show up. This year, there just wasn't that big a turnout at the store and most likely this is because of the store undergoing major changes with a major renovation and a move as they prepare to open a second larger location.  So, instead I got to play in a Call of Cthulhu game (newest edition).

I had a blast, lost some sanity, but survived to fight another day!

It also helped me to understand a couple of the newer features in this new version of the game because, as luck would have it, I was kicking off my own Call of Cthulhu game this evening.  The adventure we played was a scenario by the name of 'Deadlight' -- a great, short scenario.  As a player, it impressed me enough that I opted to run this instead of the original adventure I had planned to run.  Great fun all around!  The stars were truly right for me this weekend!

Now, while I didn't end up running a game due to lack of players, I was still able to introduce a few people to Castles & Crusades and answer a variety of questions about the game, as well as Amazing Adventures. There were no more Free RPG Day offerings from Troll Lord Games this year after I talked up the system.  There were other free products getting some love... the offering from LotFP was another favourite but interestingly, Paizo's Pathfinder didn't get the same sort of love this year at my game store compared to previous years.  This year, highlights of what was being played was 5th Edition, Fantasy Flight Game's Edge of the Empire (Star Wars), and Call of Cthulhu.  At least C&C and AA got an honourable mention.  ;)

I picked up some swag but not much of it.  I've grown a bit more particular with what I grab.  There were some great looking products but ultimately there was only three items I truly wanted.  I got two of them but only because Chaosium included only one product per box as opposed to multiples.  Generally, the store raffles other single and special items off to those who actively participate (running or playing in games run on this day).  I was lucky enough to get a dice tower, though, I find a meeple shaped dice tower to be mildly disturbing.

I'll be sure to review and post my thoughts on what I did grab in the next day or so.

Happy gaming!