What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
After Winter Dark Campaign Setting

Monday, September 24, 2012

Kicking it 'Old School'

This past weekend, I went to the Montreal ComicCon and I managed to pick up two 7-piece sets of Gamescience Dice.  I've always loved Gamescience though, I only had one set of 'hand-me-downs' which I seldom used but I've borrowed sets for use from time to time over the years.  I had looked at the possibility of ordering some in the past since I could never find them local to me.  Sadly, I felt that the shipping was always too high to be worth pursuing given that I had tons of dice already.  However, between finally being able to purchase some shiny Gamescience which I can call my own and other things that has been happening, I believe the stars are aligning for a fantastic old school experience in the months ahead!

For example... Like those particular dice, in the past twenty five years, I have used mini's at my gaming table, though more so in recent years for the visual aids for some of the lesser experienced gamers in the group.  These were pre-painted though.

While some in the gaming community disliked the WOTC offerings in the past, they suited me just fine for my games having been pre-painted and ready to go.  The biggest complaint towards those were the fact that these were random and one was never sure what you were going to get.  Since any given miniature in a line was common, uncommon, or rare (and ultra-rare), a good selection of miniatures meant a hefty investment.  On the flip side, they were ready to be used outside the box and even had a mini's based game attached to it.  It was eventually discontinued but it now looks like Paizo is doing something similar.

With the Kickstarter that Reaper recently did for their Bones line, I will be getting a whole whack-load of plastic miniatures coming in and they are all unpainted.  I've just inked my Gamescience dice and now I'm looking at doing a lot of painting in the months ahead.  I have a small selection of metal miniatures to start practicing and will probably start getting some gear towards the end of this week.

To top all of that, with the Sword & Wizardry KS which recently came to a close as well as other similar funding efforts, such as Rappan Athuk, Barrowmaze II, and the Dwimmermount -- I'm looking to starting a regular and long term mega-dungeon campaign.  Given that I already have Rappan Athuk in digital form and that I'll likely be receiving my physical copies for that first, it remains as the strongest candidate thus far to use as the basis of my campaign.  In all my years, I have never bothered to try and run a persistent and ongoing mega-dungeon campaign and I suppose there are a few reasons for that.  However, given that I have two campaigns on hiatus due to player availability due to the nature of the story and roles the character plays, I wanted to start doing a game where people can possibly pop in and out from session to session and I figured that this sort of campaign may be the best way to do it once I make a couple of tweaks.  I figure the party will have to return to and from the dungeon on a regular basis and this will make things simpler for character transitions from session to session.  I do expect more than a few deaths in this campaign.

One of the things I will also do is buy a nice (though inexpensive) journal for the players / characters to write in as an ongoing chronicle.  That in itself will be neat to see.  As the campaign progresses, I'm sure to start using some newly painted Reaper miniatures and have a lot of fun rolling those inked Gamescience Dice!

In any event, I'm anxious to get this started up and, who knows, if I get on a roll, maybe I'll also do some online sessions for the campaign.  At the very least, I'll be sure to post some session notes.



Monday, September 17, 2012

Post Comic Con and Fandom

Well, I had a blast at this year's Comic Con in Montreal and got to see a bunch of great things, meet a few icons, and have some fun and squeeze in a bit of board gaming as well!  Aside from the occasional lines and the packed areas on the weekend, it gave me a chance to indulge in a bit of everything that Comic Con had to offer. My love for Science Fiction, Comic Books, Gaming, and Horror all were satisfied in one way or another.  The cosplay was also pretty awesome!

Highlights included meeting William Shatner and Patrick Stewart though these were brief encounters.  I also made a point to get Shatner to sign something but that was also very brief.  On the other hand, Wil Wheaton was pretty great and very personable.  We had pictures taken with them all on Saturday and I decided to get an autograph from Wil Wheaton the following day.  At first, I toyed with the idea of getting him to sign my PHB for Castles & Crusades as a fellow gamer but that was before we had the picture taken.  So instead, it only made sense to get him to personalize and sign the picture of the three of us together.  To protect the picture, I kept it in the PHB to prevent any damage and, when I pulled the picture out -- it was the book that proved to be a great conversation starter.  You see, he is also a fan of the game because of the 'old school feel' it gives while keeping with the streamlined d20 mechanic.  We briefly talked about our love for AD&D and how he played it when he was younger but how revisiting it years later, the 'fiddly' bits seemed much more apparent.  He relayed that it probably had a lot more to do with how we all probably ignored or just house ruled aspects of the game and focused on the pure enjoyment of it.  Playing Castles & Crusades is the closest to experiencing the 'feel' of gaming that he remembers so fondly (like so many of us).  I couldn't agree with him more.

Of course, hearing others like Malcolm McDowell speak was a fantastic treat and I also met Mike Magnola (creator of Hellboy).  What I didn't quite expect was meeting Tom Savini.  Late in the evening while most we either at the Steampunk Mixer After-party or the 'Hardcore Nerdism' Comedy Show, the wife and I went to see 'Smoke & Mirrors: The Story of Tom Savini'.  We were coming out of the game room but the movie/documentary had already started so the room was dark with the exception of the projector screen.  We took a couple of seats and enjoyed the documentary very much.

As a kid, I used to watch a lot of blood/gore movies and Savini was pretty much a household name in connection with the genre.  A friend and I used to look over the issues of Fangoria and, of course, we were both hopeful that someone would eventually do a Freddy vs Jason movie.  I mean who knew that would actually end up happening so many years later, right?  At the time, while there were many that he was involved with that I liked and thought was 'cool', one of my favorites was Creep Show.  I can't remember when I first saw it but it was a few years after it was released.  I was probably 13 when I saw it for the first time.  Tom Savini was the guy that did all the makeup and special effects and is best known for this type of work.

Well, the lights came back on at the end of the movie and walking to the front was the man himself.  I knew he was at the Con but I didn't know he was going to be at the screening.  The great part of all of this was the fact that we may have been a total of 20 or so people which made his chat afterwards much more casual and open.  People there were people genuinely interesting in the work he did and he opening asked for thoughts and criticisms on the documentary (not yet in a finished / final form).

I made a point to meet him again the following day, get an autograph and thank him for his work and commented on how much I enjoyed 'Smoke & Mirrors'.  I also got a picture taken with the man at his booth.  On the one hand, Montreal was a smaller con compared to others of this type so his booth (and Mike Magnola's for that matter) never drew huge crowds.  For that, I have to say I'm a bit disappointed.  Then again, I might have not gotten the same opportunity had it been much larger.

Fandom is an interesting thing and, I met people of all types.  Everyone seemed to be very pleasant though and I got a chance to meet and talk to a bunch of strangers -- people who simply enjoyed many of the same things in a lot of cases and, while at the con, we were also all friends in a way.  It's kind of the same sort of comradery you can find amongst gamers and it's great to share a passion or hobby.

As for stuff... well as anyone who goes to these knows, every kind of convention like this acts as a blackhole when it comes to ones finances.  Aside from the professional pictures taken with Shatner and Patrick Stewart and a few signings here and there... the wife and I came back with some T-Shirts, comic books, artisan jewelry and apparel, some prints, and a couple sets of Game Science dice.  Found a new distributor based in Montreal that started up which carries the line.  I made sure to get the business card to suggest a couple of local games stores to contact him and start carrying the lines he distributes -- like more GAME SCIENCE DICE!  I only picked up two sets (I would have picked up more if they had the color I was looking for) but would love to increase those numbers.

Of course, as someone who runs and plays games, it'll be hard to give up the set I currently use.  Natural 20's and 1's seem to come up with a bit more frequency than some of the other numbers (that chessex tumbling process again.  Given that the 1 comes up as often as the 20 does, others don't seem to mind as much but it has resulted in the death of a couple of my characters as well as the death of many a critter and, well, other player characters.  But, the Game Science dice will look 'bitchin'  once I've inked the numbers.  ;)


Friday, September 14, 2012

Comic Con (Montreal Edition)

If Gencon is the 'mecca' for gamers, the Comic Con is surely the 'mecca' for geekdom.

Today is the start of Montreal Comic Con which, while smaller and not connected to Comic Con International (you know, the *big* one held in San Diego), has exploded since its inception a few years ago. As a convention celebration comic books, graphics novels, great movies and television focusing on the sci-fi, fantasy, and other alternate genres -- it has a unique spin from other similar conventions. It models itself very much on Comic Con international in many ways but because of the cities bi-lingual nature, offers programming in both English & French.

I'm very excited to be going today and, this actually makes it my first. Deluxe Weekend passes and a couple of photo ops have already been paid for along with other ticketed events. This years honored guests are William Shatner and Patrick Stewart but you also have a host of other interesting and fun guests of all sorts including Malcolm McDowell, James Marsters, Wil Wheaton, Brent Spiner, Kevin Sorbo (and the list goes on...).

I've made a point to take a good long look at the schedule to determine what I most want to see and a few secondary choices should scheduling and over capacity end up hindering my weekend. It will be a fun, though perhaps costly, weekend.

If the time permits, I'll post more about some of the interesting things I see or do later. Please note that my Weekend R&R series will be delayed a few days. :)


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Swords & Wizardry and the OSR

The question being: Where does it all stand?

Just over a week ago, the Swords & Wizardry Kickstarter came to a successful but quiet end.  Back at the beginning of August, I wrote about some of my thoughts on this particular KS and a bit on the importance of the game (you can read that particular post HERE).  During the progression of this KS, bonus goals were established and subsequently met, though very slowly at first.  Some people may believe this to be a result of the Reaper Bones KS drawing a lot of attention and pledge dollars, but I think the draw might have been less enthusiastic due to the lukewarm interest in some of the bonus goals.  To be clear, bonus 'swag' shouldn't be a major factor in these various kickstarters but it has come to be expected with some of the successful ones.  Frog God Games also set a level of expectation with their last one too.  In the end, they established a final goal of $75,000 with the proclamation that surpassing this goal would truly establish the game as a contender in the mainstream RPG world.

However, having actually surpassed that final goal, I have to disagree what these dollar amounts actually mean.  Here are some numbers tied to that KS:
  • Backers total: 532
  • Backers getting a copy of the Complete Rulebook: 497
  • Total Raised: $78,189
  • Premium Pledges: $27,500 (16% of backers funded 35% of the total raised)
Now, by premium pledges, I'm talking about the Black and Red Dragon levels (which were $250 and $500 tiers respectively).  You got the Complete Rulebook, the Monster Book, the Tome of Monsters Complete,  the Black Monastary, dice and some other odds and ends.  Oh, and signed canvas print of the cover art by Erol Otus.  Pretty awesome actually but it also means that a third of the money raised came from a mere 85 backers.

All these numbers are nothing to sneer at of course but I am a bit saddened to see that only about 500 people opted for a book and, the majority of these gamers, probably already have the game in one form or another or something comparable.  Castles & Crusades is now up to their 5th printing (for the PHB) and sales for the game has done well and likely this partially due to availability and visibility.  I believe that getting Swords & Wizardry into regular retail distribution will also do wonders for increasing the game's profile.  I believe this is a necessary step if this game is to significantly grow.

For comparison's sake, Troll Lord Games also had a KS a few months back for the 5th printing of the PHB for C&C.  It garnered a little less than half the backers of what S&W managed to pull in.  TLG raised $16,106 for their KS (goal was only $6,000) but their highest tier was a retailer level tier where, for $200 you got 10 copies of the PHB as well as an assortment of other products -- totaling a value of $463.30 (MSRP).

As far as the OSR is concerned, I think Sword & Wizardry's growth as well as the continued success of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess line and Labyrinth Lord are all good indicators of the community support and love for what these games have brought to our respective gaming tables.  Larger publishers have taken notice and, the online connectivity that we have now ensure that some of these products get more exposure than they ever could before.

Now, there has been some talk dating back to GenCon on the 'state of the OSR' with some proclaiming the end with a desire to hang up a huge 'Mission Accomplished' banner.  People have taken notice of the OSR and everything they have been trying to showcase.  Others disagree with take or just spin it to illustrate something else.  Was it a type 'renaissance' and is the OSR more about a philosophy that made of these 'Old School' games?  Or is it just a rebellion against newer models and systems of gaming?  Does any of this even matter?

Here's my take: The OSR as a movement is a romanticized notion and ideal.  Nothing more and nothing less.  Well before the OSR was a 'thing' you had three companies that embraced the style and substance of what people in the OSR cling to.  These were Goodman Games, Necromancer Games, and Troll Lord Games.  Goodman Games is best known for their Dungeon Crawl Classics line of adventure modules -- a concept which was initially met with skepticism.  Of course, Necromancer Games with their whole 'Third Edition Rules, First Edition Feel' is basically the predecessor of Frog God Games.  Finally Troll Lord Games developed the Castles & Crusades game which preceded the movement to create the various retro-clones and other simulacrum games we have today.  These companies were all doing their thing before an OSR though, to be fair, TLG took the first step to make a simpler game which harkened back to classic D&D and AD&D using the d20 SRD and OGL as a means to do so.  At the very least, the material put out by these companies was another necessary step for the games we now have available.

The point is that people have continued to play in the 'Old School way' even with 3rd Edition out and in full force.  Some chose to stick with their older and familiar rule sets of choice, and others tied to keep to the style they were already familiar with and adopt a more modern system of rules (but not let themselves be tied down by them).  Of course, aside from the D&D pedigree, there were always other games available beyond them -- some of which haven't really changed in the past couple of decades.

In the end, the OSR shouldn't matter to any one individual -- just the enjoyment of a game... any game... with some friends.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Weekend R&R: Rogue Mage PHB

This week is featuring an early edition of the Weekend R&R in virtue to having been surprised with my hardcover copy of the Rogue Mage PHB earlier this afternoon.  Those of you who follow my blog may remember mentioning a Kickstarter back in February earlier this you about this game being developed in part by Christina Stiles along with the novelist, Faith Hunter.  If you want to look back on that post, you can view it HERE.  It seems so long ago now and, back then, this Kickstarter was only the second I backed (I have since backed so many more).  Now I was fortunate enough to get my PDF copy of the PHB along with the rest of the backers a few weeks back and, while it looked good, I hadn't really gotten a chance to go through it much.  With a physical copy in hand, I was better equipped to give it the attention it deserves.

Simply put, it's a nice book and a nice game.

Now, I admit that I haven't read the books that the game is derived from and, on top of that, the game is a d20-based game.  Some of you may wonder why I would back this project.  Aside from the respect I have from Christina, the premise of the setting seemed interesting.  The way I understood it, it's an End of Days campaign setting centered which takes place about a century in our future.  Angelic and Demonic forces continue to wage their wars and most of the Earth's population have been wiped out.  The survivors either fight alongside them or mind to their own affairs among the wastelands.  Sounds cool... but with d20... how will it play?

Well, I prefer a Rules Lite style of play and, the reason why I set 3rd Edition aside was that I found a lot of it tedious and a general pain.  It's also why I didn't get into Pathfinder either.  They are both fine systems but, I preferred a game like C&C.  But, when I was still invested in 3rd Edition D&D (actually 3.5), I did try and find solutions and alternatives to make my game run better.  This led me to other efforts such as True20 (derived from Blue Rose) which did a lot of interesting things with the d20 based system that is the basis of 3rd Edition.  True20 was a nice step forward which did away with certain established and accepted features that we recognize from D&D but I never felt it was enough and the True20 Player's Guide never did seem quite complete for me though I did enjoy it.

In some ways, the system in Rogue Mage feels like another step forward.  Granted, I'm sure a lot of that is because of the setting material which is married to the system and aspects of the system were created especially for the setting.  The book does a great job in summarizing how this game is different from other d20 based games (summarized on page 10 of the book), and a lot of these is why I wanted to back this product.  I will summarize some of the key points here:
  • No classes and no levels.  You build your characters with a point buy system for *everything*.  This also means that a character's build is based on skills and talents (like Feats as opposed to an archetype.
  • This game strictly uses the 20-sized die (which kind of makes me sad but the game is better for it)
  • No bloody attacks of opportunity and you can forget the necessity of a combat grid.
  • The game uses a wound track instead of hitpoints
  • Attacks are also based on skills since there are no levels
  • Character advancement is achieved by earning more character points
Add to that a luck mechanic and an interesting magic system, and you have a good take on a d20-based framework.  Even if the setting isn't quite to your liking, I think there is enough in this book to mine from if you wanted to spin a d20 based game in a different fashion.  As for me, I'm not sure if I will ever run Rogue Mage but it's not because I wouldn't want too.  Sometimes is just a case of too many games and too little time and sometimes the problem is also trying to get a group of players together to play a different sort of game.  I certainly want to try though and I would recommend others to at least check it out.

As for the book itself, the hardcover edition of the book is nice and totals about 240 pages.  It's got black and white interiors and various nice pieces of art -- some by Peter Bradley, the principal artist for Troll Lord Games.  As a rulebook, it is clear and concise, but thankfully, there is also fiction scattered throughout the book and fans of Faith Hunter's work who want more from the world of Rogue Mage won't be disappointed.  The price for the hardback has a MSRP of $39.99 though I have no idea what the pricing is for the softcover versions of the rulebooks.  These are not commercially available (yet) but the PDF version of the book is a mere $9.99 which can be purchased from RPG Now! or direct from Misfit Studios HERE.

In the meantime, not only do I have more reading to do with the PHB, but I also have the Rogue Mage trilogy to read as well!


Arcana Creations General Update

It's been a few days since the passing of my cat and I am doing better but lately, I have come to do some thinking about Arcana Creations in general.  I normally take stock of what we're doing, what we've done, and what we have yet to do about once a year but it's been a very difficult past couple of months.

My day job takes it's toll, my wife is currently out of work and seeking new employment, and the declining health of Medea and her subsequent passing all have added additional stresses making it difficult to get much progress on current projects.

However, Arcana Creations will be pressing onwards.  I think we've done well since the start of 2012 despite minor setbacks and delays in terms of maintaining and rebuilding a presence online.  The readership on this blog is actually up and higher this year than previous years due to my constant efforts.  As far as 2012 releases go, technically the only thing to have come out was the Summer issue of the Domesday e-zine but two physical releases are due by the end of Q4.  These are both adventure modules for Castles & Crusades, and the first of these two is entitled 'Hide In Plain Sight'.  It was originally slated for an earlier release but delays caused the release to slip a bit this year.  Despite this, the second C&C module entitled 'Mystery at Morfurt' is on target for a release towards the end of the year.  As it happens, both of these will likely be released within close proximity of each other.  Arcana Creations will also be putting together the Fall issue of the Domesday e-zine which should be out the end of October in time for Halloween.

The one project that has continued to shape and morph since it was initially announce is Ballista.  While work is progressing on the rules that will make up the 'Ballista Rules Companion', I am now uncertain if it will actually see a release anytime before the second quarter of 2013.  That said, a line Ballista supplements and scenarios is also being developed which will be compatible and/or system neutral with other great systems derived and/or inspired by D&D and AD&D.  This will also be happening in 2013.  In short Ballista will become the 'house brand' for Arcana Creations.

Due to our partnership to Brave Halfling Publishing, we have proposed and pitched the idea for a supplement for their X-Plorers game which both John and I are very excited about but I have no firm timeline on that and won't really explore one till the end of this year.  However, if you are a fan of X-Plorers, I hope this one will prove of interest to all of you.

Lastly, Arcana Creations has received an exclusive license to produce a new game/line.  The license is secured though it's still VERY early as we are still in the planning phase.  The only thing I will say for sure at this juncture is that it derived from an already existing and published system and that the first product would release towards the 4th quarter of 2013.

Next year will represent a change of pace for Arcana Creations and it will give greater focus on products which are not strictly C&C.  This doesn't mean I'm dropping C&C -- it remains my 'go to' Fantasy RPG.  However, for those who have followed my blog or know me well enough, I don't limit myself to any one system.  I happily backed the Sword & Wizardry KS which just ended  and love other various systems depending on the style I want to go with.  In truth, I am interested to see how sales will go for the two modules releasing later this year since the C&C game still seems to be enjoying some growth.  Incidentally, while I don't care too much for some of the Illusionist spells added since the 4th printing of the PHB, the new 5th printing is simply awesome with it's color pages.  Aside from appearance, the only significant change was the tweaks to the Encumbrance System which make it simpler and sleeker.

Anyway, to all me readers who continue to read and follow my blog, you have my thanks!  I am committed to Arcana Creations and I hope to continue see it to grow between now and the end of 2013 and really want to release stuff that you guys will want to see and use!

I am on vacation as of today as well as next week but will be around and catching up on  updates and some of the work I have piling up.  In short, I'm only taking time off from my 9-5 job to do the work that I would rather be doing full-time anyway.



Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Rest In Peace - Medea

April 28th, 2000 - September 4th, 2012
She was the embodiment of Will, Strength, and Love
Rest In Peace


Monday, September 3, 2012

Amazing Adventures Review Postscript

Yesterday I posted a review on TLG's new 'Amazing Adventures' book -- a RPG for pulp era style gaming. You can find this review HERE.  Unlike the typical Weekend R&R post where I talk about a gaming related product, I did not go about detailing cost and availability.

They had limited copies of the book at Gen Con and, those who pre-ordered a copy of the game have received links to the PDF version and are currently awaiting their copies. As of this moment, the book is not yet available through regular channels but this will be changing very soon. Once officially released, the book (a perfect bound, softcover product) will have a MSRP of $24.95

 I have no idea how much the PDF will be selling for but rest assured this will also be available very soon through the regular electronic channels. M

The Question of Memorials

I began writing this article a couple of weeks back but things got busy and I wasn't entirely sure if I wanted to continue this post... Upon reflection, I've decided to post it 'as-is':

I briefly considered giving the title of this post a slight different one given the post a friend wrote over on his blog, Raven's Keep.  Common sense prevailed and I decided to keep the tone light.  There was a bit of exchange over on the Dragonsfoot forums when people were talking about the AD&D reprints which have a percentage of the proceeds going to the Gary Gygax Memorial fund.

A moderator intervened before it got out of hand though and Julian wisely took to his blog to express his thoughts in a more concise manner.  He makes some good points but I don't quite agree with him on a variety of points.  Frankly, I was also concerned with the fact that he played the G-O-D card.

First off, let me start off by saying that I consider myself to be a very logical and rational man who happens loves the wonders and mysteries of universe.  I am also a spiritual person who appreciates the mysteries and miracles of the world that surrounds us.  In another time, I could have been viewed as a heretic and treated accordingly much like many other scientists and philosophers of the day.

I have no problem if people around me believe in some sort of divine entity such as God or just happen to be an atheist or simply agnostic.  These have no bearing on my enjoyment of the game created by Gygax and Arneson and the many other rpgs that followed.  I just don't think that religion should have a place in a discussion when we are talk about gaming.  Consider it neutral ground. 

To be clear: I'm not talking about the question of morality or anything like that.  That's a whole different conversation.  Morality has its place and to have a campaign based on the 'good vs evil' paradigm is fine by me.  We all have our respective moral compass we draw from and we generally have similar notions of right and wrong.  We have countless stories that do this all the time and any good exploration of the works of Joseph Campbell (for starters) will discuss the importance of myth and recurring patterns at great lengths.  Religion or, rather interpretation of doctrine, has caused much grief to the earlier years of the hobby which should give us reason to keep some of that separate.

I think this is why, personally, I was initially taken aback.  I believe a person's faith is really their own though and something which is very personal.  Some people love to share their beliefs and, as a gamer, I know what it's like to want to share the hobby I enjoy so, on at least some small level, I get why some people want to share other moving experiences and connections they have.

But religion aside, let us consider Gary as a person.

Speaking for myself, I think my life is richer for the works that Gary E. Gygax have brought to us all. I don't think it's wrong for those who felt they have been so touched or influenced by the man or his works to desire a monument in his honor.

I think a monument to Gary E. Gygax is more of an inspiration and a reminder of a part of his 'good works'.  Through his writings, he has encouraged a lot of us to dream and allow for imagination to develop -- after all, the capacity imagination is probably one of the greatest gifts we will ever have.  If the monument is in Lake Geneva and only a fraction of people will ever see it up close, it's certainly no worse than other significant holy sites or places of historical importance.  As it stands, many people have visited Lake Geneva and continue to visit this place because of the influence of this one individual.  I don't think there is any danger of any of us of praying to the statue as if one were praying to a Saint (for example).

Joshua does have a good point though: While it is acceptable to respect the man and honor him by enjoying his games, if you really want to honor the man, there are other ways to do it if one doesn't agree with the idea of a monument.  A donation to one Gygax's favorite charities is still a great way to go about it: ChildFund (formerly known as Christian Children's Fund) or Fisher House were ones that he favored.  Gary was human and, while we may strive to be good, we are not perfect but we can all inspire each other for strive for greater things.

 As far as suggestions of continuing to publish his works with money raised, I'm less inclined to agree.  Fortunately, some of his works do continue to be available in one form or another and with WOTC recently republishing the the PHB, DMG, and MM for AD&D as well as soon re-releasing some of older TSR material in PDF format, his works won't be completely disappearing anytime soon.  Sure, it would be nice to see Lejendary Adventures get the treatment it deserves as well as republishing anything that Gary Gygax has put out in the past and, from what I understand, it would have been his wish to see it so.  However, if and when there comes a time to get that done, there would be no issues in raising the capital for such an endeavor.  Even then, with the various POD options and other companies who all have respect for the man and his works, it wouldn't be an issue if the family really wanted to re-publish his works.  Until such a thing happens, it's probably best to leave it be in order to ensure that it gets done right when the time comes.

Now I don't write this to stir up controversy and I won't go into opinions on how the IP belonging to the Gygax family is being handled or mishandled.  I certainly don't want to get in a theosophical debate either.  It's been over four years since Gary's passing and I just think we should focus on the good times and not worry so much about what other people should or shouldn't be doing.

Happy Gaming!


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Weekend R&R: Amazing Adventures

Troll Lord Games has had it's share of challenges in the past few years.  Castles & Crusades is their biggest line and the Player's Handbook has now gone on to a 5th printing (not to be confused with a new edition of the game).  With underlying mechanic known as the Siege Engine, TLG has tried to put out other games to use this game mechanic as a backbone but has, thus far, met with mixed success.

While there are fans of StarSiege, Tainted Lands, and Harvesters -- there are many others that don't share the same opinions on these games for a variety of reasons.  StarSiege suffers from poor organization/presentation took a few departures from what was 'recognizably' the C&C game.  Tainted Lands also suffered in terms of organization and, any extended campaign may end up requiring some of the C&C core books giving it the feel of being more of a setting than it's own thing.  Lastly, Harvesters was good but had more of a feel of an adventure module with some new monsters and races than an actual standalone game.

However, with Amazing Adventures, TLG truly did things right here.  Everything you need is actually in this book.  It is very recognizable and anyone familiar with C&C will know how to play this game.  As far as rules and presentation is concerned, it is also very approachable for a 'new' game.

What is Amazing Adventures? Simply put, an RPG focusing on adventures in the 'pulp era'.  We're talking of stories typically depicted from the 30's give or take a decade.  Think of 'the Shadow', 'Doc Savage', or 'Flash Gordon' or turn towards the hard boiled detective, 'Philip Marlowe' for inspiration.  Indiana Jones certainly takes its queues from the pulps of the era.  Or, you could go a bit darker, and consider the writings of H.P. Lovecraft.  Simply put, there is a lot of inspiration to draw from if considering such a game.

The book comes to just over 200 pages and presents 8 character archetypes, options to customize your character such as traits and backgrounds, and a variety of rules to make this genre of play more accessible (like fate points, sanity rules, and basic vehicular combat).  For those of you who are curious, these characters types are: the Arcanist, the Gadgeteer, the Gumshoe, the Hooligan, the Mentalist, the Pugilist, the Raider, and the Socialite.

White I personally love Amazing Adventures, some may not like it because it is so close to C&C.  What does this mean?  Well, it's a game that follows a very familiar class and level based system as one would find in C&C and other D&D type games.  The game also uses hit points in a similar manner leaving one wondering if a wound track might have been a better option.  Of course, by keeping this the same, it means porting existing C&C material into Amazing Adventures extremely easy and something has to be said for that.  Frankly the complaints leveled against Star Siege simply won't apply here and, even vehicles have 'hit points' and, given the nature of the genre, the traditional hit point system can work depending on other considerations such as melee attacks, magic, and firearms (normally a non-issue for a fantasy type game).

The inclusion of firearms in a framework used in a D&D type game have had a few different approaches.  Sometimes it's handled by increasing damage or damage multipliers or allowing for exploding damage dice.  If trying to run a gritty and realistic / deadly level of combat, the present hit point system is problematic when dealing with characters of higher levels who also happen to have a lot of hit points.  However, as far as the pulp genre is concerned, this isn't so much of a problem.  It is 'believable' and perfect acceptable to have a hear take a few gunshot wounds and keep on going.  What the author has done here is acknowledge that some firearms have a rate of fire but there is a cumulative recoil penalty per shot fired.  Some weapons are better for accuracy and there are others with are worse.  However, the damage per bullet is no worse than damage from something like a sword and, within the context of hit points, this ends up working well enough.  For those weapon that have a higher ROF (10+ shots per round), this is a burst and the targets can do a Dex Save for half damage from such an attack.  Let's face it... a Tommy Gun can do a lot of damage but this simple rule will mean that the would be hero won't be cut down automatically in their first gunfight.

Now, if you are willing to accept that this game uses the same mechanics overall that C&C and other D&D inspired/derived games do, there is one thing that some people might be less happy with.  You will have MANY spells simply carried over from C&C.  In a couple of cases, these have been renamed but, more often than not, they still have the same names and same effects (Magic Missile is renamed to Arcane Bolt but Fireball is still Fireball).  Of course, you don't have 'Arcane Magic' or 'Divine Magic' but rather 'Int based Magic', 'Wis based Magic', and 'Cha based Magic' -- a choice determined when you create an Arcanist character will determine what you have access to.  Unlike C&C though, spell casting is mana point based though you still have the various spell levels ranging from 0 through to level 9.  Suffice to say that it is an interesting re-organizing of spell lists.  Now, using all these spells as a base isn't necessarily a bad thing and some people will no doubt enjoy this but part of me thinks that it is a wasted opportunity to really develop a more specific and streamlined spell selection appropriate to the genre and possibly re-usable for C&C.

That said, beyond the magic, you also have a section on psionics.  Admittedly, this is something I avoid in my fantasy games and never liked but, this fits right in with the genre once again and thus, perfectly acceptable.  I'm happy to say that psionics are not just another spell list selection but rather abilities usable with a successful ability check.  All pretty cool stuff and, in this case, it won't break the game or end up being another type of spell caster.

Overall, I am very happy with the game.  The book truly includes everything you need and there are no additional book requirements but the compatibility is there to easily port in whatever else you feel is needed from C&C.  The presentation of the book itself is nice and clean and the layout seems decent enough.  As for the game itself, there is enough little things added in and a few interesting yet simple tweaks to make this its own game rather than a C&C product with the serial numbers filed off.

Now with all that in mind, imagine some of those classic TSR modules like the Tome of Horrors tweaked somewhat to have a party led by a Raider infiltrating these ruins or even take Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and give that a bit of a pulp flair.  It might work a bit *too* well.  ;)