What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

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

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Quick Rules: Death's Door

With the new Castles & Crusades campaign I've started, I decided to address the issue of hit points in the game.  You see, I like and 'get' the idea that hit points are an abstraction so hit points were never a problem for me.  Others do away with them completely and adopt a wound track.  A good solution seems to drop them down and implement a bit more damage reduction and fighting options to actively parry ... deflect... and counter possible blows.  Sometimes it just gets more complicated that it's worth.  Besides, hit points are pretty much part of the system I want to play.

So what to do?

Simple... keep them as-is with the following two rule amendments:

1) Survivors regain half the hit points lost in combat (rounded down) at the end of combat.
2) Those who are struck down to below zero hit points make a Constitution based Saving Throw.  A success indicates that they live and failure indicates death.

You see?  Simple.  It has the advantage of allowing characters to press on but doesn't negate the notion that combat is deadly either.  Those who were unlucky or simply foolish enough to allow their character to be felled won't know till after the combat if the character lives or dies.

For those that still think this is harsh, you could always allow a healer to assist the character during combat to either improve the odds or simply allow the recipient to live.

I know some of you may feel that the allowing to gain back half the hitpoints lost after combat is maybe too generous or even akin to something out of a video game but it does help the lower level parties survive and it frees the Cleric from being a dedicated health point dispenser.

Seems to be working well enough so far...


The Problem With Gygax Magazine

I loved Dragon Magazine.  When I discovered D&D, the material my friends and I had on hand in our younger days was a bit hard to come by.  The only thing harder to come by at the time was the dice needed to play.  My friends and I were military brats and our families were living in Germany at the time.  But we did have some of the books and the local bookstore on the base did carry a very small amount of gaming material (well, honestly the gaming material was pretty much restricted to TSR material).  However, the local highschool also carried a variety of magazine subscriptions and, among them was Dragon Magazine.

While between my friends and I, we had a handful of books, we all were able to check out the newest issue of Dragon and back issues as well.  Thanks to these back issues, we had a wealth of information at our fingertips ... ideas... options... and most importantly, inspiration.  The magazine ads were just as cool as some of the new monsters, items, and spells one could find going month to month.

Frankly, my love affair with Dragon Magazine came to an end as it approached it's 200th issue but at that time, I was staring to set AD&D aside having grown increasingly dissatisfied with the game and the direction TSR was taking.  However, when I was an avid ready of the magazine, I also distinctly remember the things that appealed to me the most in those early years.  They were, in no particular order, options and classes for my AD&D game, monsters, spells, and magic items.  In other words: Stuff I could readily use and just dump into my game!  Interestingly enough, the articles like monster ecologies, short stories, and how to be a better player or game master just had no appeal to me.  To be fair, those were the articles I would come back to and appreciate at a later time -- in some cases MANY years later.

Now for those familiar with the look and feel of the classic Dragon Magazine, the new Gygax Magazine will look instantly familiar -- almost hauntingly so.  If you loved it, you'll love the new one.  It's as if classic Dragon never left and never changed over the years.

And maybe that's the problem.

While there is support for all sorts of games -- both old and out of print as well as new, and the sort of articles that many gamers will enjoy, the new Gygax Magazine has challenges that the old Dragon Magazine never had.  You see, the reason I looked forward to the kind of material in the old Dragon magazine was simply because, outside of TSR and what you or your friends cooked up, there really wasn't much access to material to use.  Dragon Magazine was there to give you 'more' than what the books you had already gave you.  There was no OGL and there was no internet.  There were no blogs.  The closest was unofficial newsletters from gameclubs and hobbyshops where enthusiasts shared ideas and material.

I will say that looking at the table of contents, I personally find there are a few articles I wouldn't mind reading and I'm certain I would enjoy the magazine overall.  However, some of these topics sound like the sort of blog articles I also have enjoyed in the past.  As for game crunch related stuff, this will be a hit or miss depending on how broad or narrow they choose to be as far as game system coverage is concerned.  Kobold Quarterly was willing to accept and publish for a great many systems but invariably, it was typically showcasing 4th Edition D&D and Pathfinder.  It will be interesting to see the material trend in Gygax Magazine but in any case, there is a lot of third party material out there for all these games -- tons of it.  A lot of it free too.

At the end of the day, the new magazine has some competition even if nothing is competing directly against it.  The magazine DOES look great though, and if it wasn't for the high price to get an issue to Canada, I'd probably would have ordered a copy.  As it stands, I had two shipping options... the cheapest would have cost me close to $15 to get a copy of the magazine though it's far better that in a Priority Mail International Envelope where it would cost me $20 just for the shipping!  My hope is the PDF option, once available in a week or two, is affordable (not much more than half the cover price of the print edition) because I'd happily buy the PDF for $4.50 an issue and subscribe digitally at that price.

If you want to buy a copy of the magazine... you can do so HERE.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Dark Angel Space Marine - Painting Guide

Well, after checking out various pictures from the new codex, January's issue of White Dwarf, and some of the material that came in Game Workshop's 'Dark Vengeance' set, I sat down and began painting my Dark Angel Space Marines for Warhammer 40k. A batch of them are currently waiting with base coats and some preliminary layering but I decided to focus on one model from start to finish to figure out exactly how I was going to go about it.

I guess you can say that the picture represents the prototype as far as how I'm going to proceed to paint the rest of them while perfecting my technique as I go along.  Once again, I am using paints from the Citadel line.

Primary base coat was in 'Caliban Green' which covers the majority of the model.  Some slight layering using 'Warpstone Glow' was done for the armor and 'Moot Green' is used to highlight certain lines and used to accent certain pieces of armor.  The band along the edge of the shoulder plates are prime example of something I decided to try to have the model stand out a bit compared to some of the other Dark Angel Space Marines I have seen.

The eyes, the red patch on right arm, wax seals, and gun were done with 'Mephiston Red'.  The metal on the armor, such as the vents on the pack and gun were done using 'Leadbelcher' and the white patch on the left arm was done using 'White Scar'.

The chest crest was done using a base of 'Rakarth Flesh' and a layer of 'Ushabti Bone'.  I also used this combination to do the various scrolls that make up the purity seals (largely on the back pack of the model).  The 'Ushabti Bone' was also used for the skull on the helmet and the top of the pack.

Lastly a bit of 'Steel Legion Drab' was used for the ammo pack.

As far as shading (washes) were concerned, three were used: 'Biel Tan Green' for the armor, 'Nuln Oil' for the gun and vents, and 'Agrax Earthshade' was used on the ammo pack, the parchment, and a tiny amount to "dirty up" the white patch on the left arm.

I'm not a fan of doing complicated basing so I defaulted to 'Astrogranite' to give it a gritty and grey look.

Now, the rest of the squad awaits!


Monday, January 28, 2013

Codex Celtarum Kickstarter Revisited

Earlier today I wrote a piece about Kickstarters and the recent Razor Coast book that Frog God Games was putting out.  If you are just stumbling upon this post and don't know what I'm talking about, you can check it out HERE.  Bottom line... while I thought the project looked excellent, I couldn't justify price for content and the use given what I already have.  I've talked about various Kickstarter projects before and I know that some people tire of hearing about them and one which caught my eye but also couldn't justify was Troll Lord Games' new Codex Celtarum.  I felt that their pricing was also a bit off:  A book with an estimated MSRP would cost you $40 if you wanted a physical copy plus shipping outside the US.  For me, it meant a book costing me twice the cover price since I'm in Canada.  A few of my readers agreed with my assessment (the original post is HERE) but, unsurprisingly, the project is successfully funded and is now in the process of doing stretch goals these last 5 days or so of the Kickstarter.

Well, because of the stretch goals, there is at least a bit more bang for your buck.

For the most part, anyone living outside the US would need to shell out a bit more money to make this Kickstarter worthwhile and that's assuming it hits the final stretch goal listed.

For someone in my position (that is to say... not in the US), the best bang for the buck starts at $100 and only because upon reaching $8000, backers at this level get:

  • A collector's edition / leather cover copy of the Codex Celtarum ($8000 Stretch)
  • A regular hardcover copy of the Codex Celtarum
  • A copy of the Castle Keeper's Guide
  • An exclusive themed module
  • An additional hardcover of your choice ($8000 Stretch)
  • Two additional modules / supplements ($6000 Stretch)
  • A Tee-Shirt

Of course, shipping to Canada is an additional $24 or a staggering $42 outside North America.  However, if you do the math and consider the collector's edition of the book to be worth the same as the regular version, the two copies of the codex and the CKG alone comes to very close to $100 and there is at least another $50 worth of stuff beyond that which means that you are at least offsetting shipping if not coming a bit ahead.

There are still only a couple things to overcome here though.

1) You're spending over $100 to get a reasonable deal.
2) I own most of the TLG line to begin with so do I really want to spend money on material I already own beyond the Codex?

If you were on the fence, and have some extra money to kick around and have a group who is interested or plays C&C, check out the Kickstarter (HERE) and look at some of the other packages starting at the $100 level, it might be a way to outfit a gaming group out.


Quick Rules: Fate Points

A few games gave the concept of Fate Points...  Sometimes they are called Luck or Hero points or even Karma.  Generally they serve the same purpose -- to offset the effect of a bad roll which could prove detrimental to the game.  It can be argued that a solid system doesn't really need them and there are strong opinions on whether life or death should really be left to chance on something like a saving throw or ability check.  Regardless for the reason for this sort of mechanic, some people just enjoy having them.

It is with that in mind that the new Castles & Crusades game that I've started is using a simple, yet effective Fate System.

It is as follows:

Characters all start with a number of Fate Points.  I believe 1d4+1 is a good starting number or you can simply start them off with 5.  I like giving 5 points simply since I don't feel like I need to hold back any punches when I run a game.  ;)

Nudging Fate

Spending 1 point will allow you to add 1d6 to a roll.  This roll can be after you have already rolled a skill check.  It can even be used to bolster damage.  However, these can only be used for the character that plays them.

Tempting Fate

Spending 2 points will allow you to re-roll a result such as an ability check, save, or attack roll.  If the roll is better than the original result, an additional benefit is gained by this success.  However, if the second roll is worse than the first, then there is an additional complication.  These can only be used for the character that plays them.

Example: Dorin goes to strike an opponent with his battleaxe but his roll is an 8 and misses.  The player spends 2 points to re-roll and gets an 18 -- Dorin has tempted Fate and is successful and the GM accords him additional damage.  Had the re-roll been lower, something like the loss of weapon or even footing landing him prone in front his enemy could have happened instead of a simple miss.

Reversal of Fate

Spending 3 points is simply turns a failure into a success... a success into a failure... and even prevent the death of a character from what should have been a killing blow.  These can be used for anyone.

Gaining Fate Points

Beyond first level, Fate is rewarded a point per session for each surviving character.  Some may be inclined to reward an additional d4+1 Fate upon attaining a new level or reward a bonus Fate point for a clever idea or heroic deed.

The system is not too rigid or detailed to require constant consultation but is powerful enough to sway things quite a bit.  Given the amount of checks, saves, and rolls that can happen in any given game, these won't break the game either.  Currently, it's the first time I am using Fate Points quite in this matter and I'll let you guys know how it works out.

One thing I wasn't sure if I wanted to try or not is to do is to have the d6 explode on the roll of a 6 when Nudging Fate.  Might be something I will try the next session.


Kickstarter Remorse?

Kickstarters ... where does it all end?

People in our hobby have talked at great lengths about the advantages and problems that Kickstarters cause and, I am one that has generally been positive about them even though I take some of them with a grain of salt.  To this date, I have backed 35 projects on Kickstarter and another 2 through Indiegogo.  The majority of these have been gaming related though not all pen and paper based RPGs -- there are many video games as well.  The majority of these happened last year and to date, 6 have been completely fulfilled and another 8 have been fulfilled in part.  Despite the waits involved, I have been satisfied for the most part.

A few days ago, I had caved and pledged for another Kickstarter.  I had known and been following it since the start but waited in the last few days to pledge because of the money involved.  Within a few hours of doing so, I regretted the decision and lowered my pledge.  Within a day, I cancelled it entirely.  The project in question?  The Razor Coast being developed by Frog God Games.

Don't get me wrong -- I think the Razor Coast will be simply awesome and I would very much like to have it but it in the end, it comes down to simple economics.  Could I afford to back it?  Well, frankly yes... yes I can but I wasn't willing to pay the prices being asked.  I was more than willing to back their last two crowd funding efforts though.

I backed Rappan Athuk which wasn't cheap but there was a perceived value to it.  The tome is huge being over 450 pages for the Swords & Wizardry version and even bigger for the Pathfinder version and then there was everything thrown in with it.  The book itself is $99 and, while pricey, it is signature stitched and textbook durable.  Given the cost of the hard-to-come-by box set that preceded it years back, it's actually not a bad value at all.  If you pledged at the $100 level you got tons of swag to go with it.  Bottom line: REAL VALUE for your dollar.  Shipping still had to be covered and there were extras you could pay for or you could ramp up your pledge to get cooler swag and exclusives.

When the Sword & Wizardry kickstarter launched, I backed it at a very high level but once again... there was some value for your dollar.  At the Black Dragon $250 level, you get the Swords & Wizardy Complete Rulebook, the Monstrosities monster book, the Tome of Horrors Complete, the Black Monastary, an introductory module, a GM Screen, a signed canvas print by Erol Otus, as well as other swag.  The Tome of Horrors Complete is a $99 book and is over 650 pages and the Monstrosities books is around 550 pages!  What's curious is the MSRP listed on the site for the new Monstrosities book -- a mere $49.99.

Think about that for a moment and no... it's not an error.  And yes... it's hardcover and it's supposed to be in the same signature stitched format that the rulebook is in.  Now, I'm eager to receive all these books and have paid my invoiced shipping and I imagine I won't have to wait much longer for my physical books.  Judging from Rappan Athuk, I will certainly be pleased and I consider the money well spent.

This brings us to the Razor Coast.  I am happy the project was funded successfully and proved to be a great success.  At the lowest level to be eligible for a physical book, we're talking $110 and this is the only physical product you get.  The rest is a bunch of electronic material.  Now the book is estimated between 280 (S&W) and 350 (PF) pages depending on the version.  It is full color.  For perspective, the D&D 3.5 Edition Monster Manual is about 320 pages and is also in full color.  The recent release of the premium reprint of this book retails for $49.95 which is half of what the Razor Coast book will be retailing at.  For that matter... the Warhammer 40K book is something like $75 (or $90 in Canada) is full color and comes in at over 400 pages and Games Workshop has a reputation of charging high prices.  Granted, the print volume of Razor Coast books are going to be a fraction of the volume printed for either one of the other two but I really think $100 is too high for a gaming book -- especially if I have many shelves worth of other gaming books I can pull from to create a comparable gaming experience ...

In the end, I think it's not just the price but given what's available (whether it is immediate or not), is this something I need.  Usually the answer is definitely a 'NO' but... price is always an interesting modifier to that equation.  Many a book I would normally have passed on are on my gaming shelf because the price I picked them up for.  The third-party series of d20 books, 'Legends & Lairs' are solid books but I would have never picked them up at cover price.  I didn't need them given what I already had.  But when Fantasy Flight Games decided to clear out their inventory and sell these hardcovers at $5 per book, I immediately swooped them up.  If a $100 book is one extreme the $5 books are at the other end of the spectrum.  Anything in-between is a give or take depending on the moment.

I'm certain that others will find the new Razor Coast book to be worth every penny and I'm certain it will be a fine book and an important step in Frog God Games' development.  Keep up the good work and I'm eager to see your next big project!


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Painting Miniatures - The Gesso Experiment

I haven't been posting as much as I would like to the past few weeks but I haven't quite been idle.  As always I do try and get some painting in when I can though never as much as I would like.  I do have a couple other things on the go -- including the launch of a new C&C campaign later today.  Some of these thought, opinions, and activities will eventually find their way onto the pages of my blog.  One of the things I wanted to check out was working with Gesso in relation to painting with miniatures.  For some experienced people in the hobby, they will already be familiar with this and opinions are pretty split on the practicality of it.

For those who don't know -- Gesso originally was a medium comprised of glue, chalk, and white pigment used to coat rigid / rough surfaces to present a surface suitable to paint on.  Surfaces such as wood paneling were often prepared in this manner to be used for the purpose of a painting.  For the purposes of preparing a canvas, an emulsion of linseed oil and gesso was used since gesso on it's own could easily crack if not applied on a rigid surface.  But this is traditional gesso.

A lot of artists today will use something which is a form of acrylic gesso to prep their canvases for painting.  This type of gesso, despite carrying the name, isn't really gesso at all given the chemical makeup.  However, what it does do is very important and pertinent and, after some research, deserved some testing.  Notably, it coats and bonds to a variety of surfaces and, once dry, adds 'tooth' to the surface which paint will adhere to.  Basically, this stuff is a primer.

Many people who are into painting miniatures will know the need to paint their pieces with a primer before they think about adding a base coat of paint.  This usually involves a can of spray paint formulated for this purpose.  This isn't regular paint though -- the composition once dry provides a better surface for the paint to bond to.  Since this comes from a can though, a propellant is used and there is a very noticeable odor involved.  Between the smells and chemicals and the misting paint coming out of the nozzle, you pretty much are restricted to do this outside or in a very well ventilated area.  In other words -- not inside an apartment.  Living in Canada, and only getting into the hobby at the start of the fall, this presents a bit of a problem come winter.

I had given thought about other alternatives to those spray cans but hadn't had much luck in the past few weeks.  I was running out of varnish (also from a spray can) but I opted to get some liquid varnish which I could just use through my paint gun to at least eliminate that spray can hassle.  This need brought me to my local art supply store and when I was looking at the section for varnishes, I saw the gesso.  As soon as I saw those bottles, it dawned upon me that I may have found what I was looking for.  I knew what gesso was because of friends (as well as an ex) who painted so I had some knowledge of its properties.  After doing a quick bit of research, I realized that a few others were doing the same sort of things.  It seemed promising enough to pick up a small bottle to test it out.

Well, the first thing I did was find a miniature that I didn't mind using as my test subject and I proceeded to do something which I shouldn't have done.  I decided to coat the miniature nice an thick.  Gesso was used as-is straight out of the bottle.

Before I started:

After the generous coating:

Once dried:

Despite the thick application of the gesso, I was relatively pleased with how it dried and tightened up on the miniature.  There was some loss of detail (though fairly minimal) but that was hardly surprising given how I painted the stuff on.  I decided to strip the mini of the gesso coating and a good 24 hour bath of pinesol with a bit of scrubbing afterwards cleaned it up perfectly with no issues.  My subsequent test was involved a light coat of a slightly watered gesso mixture (about 1 part water and 4 parts gesso):

All in all, I think the test was a success.  The details of the miniature are intact and while some areas are thin enough that there the residual color of the metal coming through, it is still coated.  Some may feel that another coat of thinned gesso could be required but I would be inclined to paint it as it is right now.

The only other test I would be curious about is using the thinned gesso and shooting it through a paint gun but I'm not sure if it is 'thin enough'.  Unfortunately, a mix with anything beyond 25% water could thin it to a point where the gesso is no longer able to work as a primer and something too thick can cause problems if trying to shoot it as opposed to paint it on with a brush.

The good news is that this looks to be a decent solution to drop the use of spray cans altogether.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Every Edition Available Again!

At this point, the news that Wizards of the Coast has made available the back catalog of D&D material is not really news anymore.  There have been whispers about it for some time that this was coming and with the various reprints being done and the good hype generally surrounding the newest edition being worked on, this was perhaps inevitable.

However, there was one significant thing I noticed... or rather something I found absent.

PDFs of the older core rulebooks.

Aside from the Moldvay Basic D&D Rulebook, you will not find the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th edition core rulebooks.  No Players Handbook ... No Dungeon Masters Guide ... No Monster Manuals!

They are conveniently available... or at least will be soon.  That is assuming you want to shell out money for the reprints done or being planned.  For myself, I admittedly got the 1st Edition reprints and look forward to the Unearthed Arcana reprint.  I'm not sure about the 2nd Edition ones and I didn't bother with the 3rd Edition ones (3.5 actually) since both are on my shelf.  The 1st Edition ones were on my shelf as well but they are used and have been consulted the longest.

That said, given the fantastic job they have been doing with the reprints, cleaned up PDF versions of the 1st Edition reprints greatly interested me.  However, I suppose this is a compromise I'm willing to put up with if the older editions will continue to remain in print for years to come.

In the meantime, you can check out the site (part of the Drivethru RPG / RPG Now! family) over HERE.  The module, 'In Search of the Unknown' is being offered for free so I would recommend grabbing it and checking out the selection while you are there.

As for the rest of it ... I have been busy the past few days.  More so than anticipated.  Things will hopefully get back to normal soon enough.  Thanks for reading!


Saturday, January 19, 2013

My Orcs - A Painting Guide

As promised, a few good pictures showcasing some of the orcs.  This is my first batch of orcs -- models which are not part of any recognizable line of miniatures.  A little background on these models though: they were from a game called Nin-Gonost.  This was an adventure boardgame, though 'boardgame' wouldn't be the best name for it -- it had plastic magnetic tiles that formed up floors and walls and used miniatures which permitted the game to be run by designed scenarios.  The classic game Hero Quest comes to mind but with far more production value.  Do to an unfortunate series of events, the company producing it called Adiken folded a number of years ago.  I got the game for a steal a couple of years back from a local game store clearing out some stock.  The miniatures were metal and the game even provided a starter selection of paints to paint the minis.  I still have a selection of heroes from the set that need to be painted so sooner or later I will get to those too.

For these models, I use the Citadel line of paints and, given the variety of models and details, I ended up using quite a few of them. I'll try to break it down as simple as I can make it though.  Once the models were cleaned up and primed, I started with a complete base coat of 'Leadbelcher' since these were heavily armored orcs.

Beyond that, my Bases mostly consisted of 'Waaagh! Flesh' for the skin, 'Steel Legion Drab' for the cloth, 'Rhinox Hide' for any models with bows and some of the the handles, 'Mournfang Brown' for any pouches and bags, 'Abaddon Black' for things like the hair, and 'Khorne Red' for the eyes and some of the shield work I painted.  'Zandir Dust' was used for the arrow shafts.

From the Layer family of paints, 'Ironbreaker' and 'Runefang Steel' were used for the metal weapons and shields, arrow heads, with a bit of 'Runelord Brass' in a couple of cases (hilt and buckles).  I used 'Ushabti Bone' for the teeth.  'Gorthor Brown' was also used as an alternate shade of brown.

The Washes were simple... 'Nuln Oil' for the armor, 'Biel-Tan Green' for the skin, and 'Agrax Earthshade' for any of the cloth used.

Now, I am debating on the next project.  I've started getting my hands on a variety of Warhammer 40K models for a Dark Angel Army so I am certain to tackle some of those in the week ahead but I have also three diaoramas waiting for me as well as a jetfighter model to assemble and paint.

UPDATE: Dark Angels won out ... as of right now, initial green base coat is done on some space marines.  ;)


Monday, January 14, 2013

Orcs Miniatures ... DONE!

It's been a while since I started these and in the past few weeks since I started them.  When I have a chance, I'll post more about the paints that went into the lot of them.  I just need to varnish / seal them now and then they'll be ready for the gaming table.

Better pics to follow.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Not Backing The Codex Celtarum?

For those long time readers of the blog and those who know me, they know that I like Castles & Crusades and the various products that Troll Lord Games release.  As a fan, I've also been critical but fair when it comes to taking a good look at what they put together and, for the most part, I've always been more than satisfied with their offerings.

Of course, with any release of a game of this nature, there is only so much that can be released while remaining fresh and interesting -- a challenge which many a rpg publisher strives to meet head one.  One very obvious tactic is releasing new editions of a game and sometimes this can work well and other times, the effort will fall flat.  Some will consider Wizards of the Coast (for example) to have really struggled with this one which is why they seem to be treading oh-so-very-carefully with the newest edition being worked on.  You see, for some gamers, you question the necessity of buying additional books beyond the 'core set' -- whatever that core set of books may end up representing.

For C&C, the really comes down to just a couple of books.  These are the Player's Handbook (which has seen several printings with tweaks along the way) as well as the Monsters & Treasure book.  In the years since the original release, you have some which will consider the Castle Keeper's Guide to be as significant and possibly 'core' and others still that would include more recent publications to be just as significant releases in their own way -- the Classic Monsters book being an excellent example of this.  Beyond these sort of books, you also have the published adventure modules, campaign specific material, and even other product lines which share a connection with C&C or the Siege Engine.

If you are a collector of sorts, you may end up getting a lot of this stuff but you may come to a point where you ask yourself, do I really need a book with new monsters, spells, and classes?

With the Codex Celtarum, I have to give TLG some credit -- the book does sound interesting and it will appeal to many fans.  The latest TLG product I got my hands on was the Amazing Adventures book but there have been a few releases since that I haven't had much of a desire to try and get.  I'll probably get them eventually but I'm certainly in no rush for them at this stage.  However this new sourcebook seems interesting, despite the promise of new spells and monsters.  The reason for this is the context of all this new material and how it relates to the Celts, druids, the wilds, and mythology.

Sometimes, it's just how a subject is approached I guess.

They've launched a Kickstarter for it which you can see HERE with a very modest goal of $4000.  Then I looked at the pricing / reward structure and, despite the fact that I would like to add this book to the collection, I was immediately turned off.  The book has an estimated MSRP of $27.99 but to get a physical copy (which includes a digital copy as well), you will need to shell out $40.  If you live in Canada, add another $12 (it used to be higher but an update amended the shipping costs) or $20 if you live outside North America.  That's sadly way too much given what this will be selling for in stores and, unless there's some interesting stretch goals that get added on, I think many C&C fans living outside the US will be passing on this Kickstarter as well.  Maybe an interesting stretch goal or two may help.

Oh... and is it just me or does the title 'Codex Celtarum' sound a bit silly.  ;)


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Weekend R&R: Dragon Warriors

My last Weekend R&R post was a few weeks ago thanks to the hustle of the holidays but given that the focus of my last review concerned 'Advanced Fighting Fantasy', I thought it fitting to follow up with the 'Dragon Warriors' RPG which got reprinted a few years ago in an attractive hardcover.

Dragon Warriors has its origins in the mid-80's and was very much influenced by the Fighting Fantasy books and, to a much lesser extent, the continuing popularity of Dungeons & Dragons.  Dragon Warriors is very much a rules light game and conveys a very 'Dark Ages' view of Fantasy.  This is promotes the idea that rare encounters with the fey could be very dangerous and, unlike other fantasy worlds, meeting a dwarf or an elf wasn't as simple a thing as just wandering to the local tavern.  Dragon Warriors is the  definitive 'British Old School RPG' and is both rules light and an enjoyable treat.

The system is a class-based game where characters are further defined by 5 attributes (Strength, Reflexes, Intelligence, Psychic Talent, and Looks).  The classes themselves provide the player an array of basic archetypes to choose from and play, much like Fighting Fantasy and other rules light type games, is fairly simple.  Once again, simple does not mean inferior here.  The various character classes have a variety of class abilities and features to further distinguish one class from another and the book does a nice job of providing a functional rule set to play and enjoy.

The system is simple enough -- most tasks such as climbing for example will require a d20 roll where a roll equal to under the relevant ability to succeed.  Combat is also fairly straight forward, with an additional caveat.  After determining whether you hit or not, you roll to see if you get through the armor.  If you do bypass the armor, only then do you deal a fixed amount of damage (based on the weapon rating).  Compare that to just seeing if you hit or not to then rolling for damage or even doing this but just factoring a damage reduction once damage is rolled.  That said, it does work.  When a character increases in 'rank' (aka level), aspects of the character will improve such as hit points but not by any large degree.  A Knight of 5th rank will only have 4 more hitpoints than what they started with at first level.  This means that combat can quickly become gritty and deadly.  There are also variant rules where damage can be variable instead of fixed, more critical hit opportunities as well as permanent injuries, and lastly, no actual increase of hitpoints beyond 1st level.

Magic is also pretty basic ... spellcasters have a pool of magic points and no caster can cast a spell which is above their rank.

Overall, the book also provides a section of game mastering, an setting to play with and various relics, a bestiary, and an adventures to get a campaign going.  Tons of material which is actually an entertaining read in itself all go to fill this 255 page book.  Since the book was initially reprinted in 2008, the license changed hands and it can be readily obtained in PDF or hardback through RPGNow HERE.  The price here (discounted at $34.99) is better than the price the previous publisher (Flaming Cobra/Magnum Opus Press) had it for $39.95 -- plus the updated book had the errata integrated as well.

The book is certainly more about feel and substance than just a set of rules and I think this really goes a long way to enrich the game.  It's nice to pick up a game book that gives you the desire to want to play it and I think Dragon Warriors does this well enough to at least take a look.  Given a choice between 'Advanced Fighting Fantasy' and 'Dragon Warriors', I personally prefer Dragon Warriors though both convey a great sense of nostalgia when looking through them.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Picking Up A Good Book

It's something many take for granted though I suspect none of my fellow gamers and readers here do.  I love reading a good book but I've noticed an unfortunate trend in my own life the past year and a half... the amount of reading I do has dropped dramatically.  I began noticing the pattern months ago actually and it's something that I have been aware of in my passing years.  Ever since I graduated High School, the amount that I read is no where near the quantity that I used to and a lot of this has to do with time.  But not just time... time and energy.

Back in my high school days, I would sometimes polish off a 300 page novel anywhere from a couple of days to just under a week.  Obviously summer was a time where I got more reading in and I didn't actually work back then so my time outside of school involved reading... playing video games... and playing D&D.  I also traveled, loved watching movies, and spending time with friends but a good book was always close at hand.

Now, I guess I would have to say that I need a lot more sleep than I used to and one of the best times to get some reading in is now a challenge -- just when I get to bed that night.  I would used to read for upwards of an hour before turning off the lamp to sleep.  But now I sometimes have problems reading more than 2 or 3 pages before I'm too tired to continue.  Shamefully, this is what is causing to be still reading 'A Clash of Kings' -- a books I've been reading (more or less) for the past several months.  The book is good and I've been watching the Game of Thrones series on HBO (and enjoying it) but, not matter how good it is, it's been a struggle to do any sort of reading in the past couple of years.

Which brings me to my resolution for the year... to read more.  To read a lot more.  It was apparent that I wasn't getting the sleep I needed and, as I get older and as I have to be even more mindful of my health, I need to adjust a few things.  To that end, I've been catching up on some sleep the past few weeks (despite the busy holidays) and have already noticed a difference with how much I am able to read the past few days.

What I will be doing is keeping a tally of the books I read in 2013 along with their titles -- I encourage my fellow bloggers to do the same  Not counting gaming related books, I think I read all of 4 or 5 books in 2012 (not including 'Clash of Kings') which is pretty unacceptable IMO.  I mean, reading is what helped propel me towards so many of my interests and hobbies I have today.  Better yet, my significant other will be also reading some classic Sword & Sorcery books this year which may be a great excuse to revisit some old favorites!

In any event, I will update the blog (side panel) once I finish the 'Clash of Kings' to reflect the books I have read or am currently reading this year along with any other books I am currently going through besides the novels.

Now I need to finish off a few things before I head off to bed (another early evening) and read a bit.

Good night!


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Welcome to 2013!

Well, depending when this goes out and the date stamp that goes along with it, this will be my last post of 2012 or my first of 2013.  I started 2012 on a bit of a reflective note and observed that 2011 was a bad year for Arcana Creations.

How did 2012 fare for the studio?  I guess it depends on your point of view.

This blog has seen a lot more attention (even though last January and December have been slow as far as posting goes).  My blog posts are up 953% compared to what was posted in 2011 and readership and hits have grown as a result.  I've also started to do more with Social Networking which has helped grow readership to the blog.  To all the readers of the blog, whether you are a regular or simply stumbled upon it with a google search and decided to check it our -- thank you!

This was one of the more significant goals I set for myself -- to raise up the profile of the blog and share various thoughts.

On behalf of the Castles & Crusades Society, I have scraped up material together with the help of fans and put out two issues of the Domesday, and effectively resurrected it.  Well, maybe just re-animated it.  There is still work to be done there and I have two more issues I committed to do for that.  I really have to start focusing some attention to the next issue -- the Winter issue.  I have no hard date for it yet but it will likely see a late February release.

Despite my love of C&C, I have held two planned releases for the fourth quarter of 2012 back.  Both of these are adventure modules and both have gone through editing and are pretty much ready for art, final layout, and production.  Quite a few hours have been devoted to get these to that stage however art and a print run is expensive -- even in small quantities and I have really been trying to gauge what the actual interest is for these.  As I've indicated before, 'A Trick on the Tain', my previous release written by Keith Hackwood, had disappointing sale numbers but this had nothing to do with the quality of the work.  As such, I have been very mindful about such things since I operate very much on a shoestring budget at this point.  For those interested in those, I think I've figured out how I'll proceed with the production of one, if not both, of these releases.  Simply put, given that the majority of the work is done and all that is required is art and additional layout, I think I will turn towards a crowdfunding initiative (like Kickstarter) to do it.  Goal would be low, little to *no* stretch goals, with shipping included and product shipped within 3 months of the end of the funding.

If for some reason, funding does not meet its goal, then I think I will refocus the energy producing these to other projects and re-purpose the scenarios for other systems other than C&C (though using it for that would still be simple enough).  If the demand is overwhelming and funding greatly exceeds initial goals, well, I certainly have more projects which are ready for C&C and will have to get working on those to.  In any event, I'll put the fate of my C&C related projects with Arcana Creations in the hands of fans of the game and simply wait and see.

I have two other significant projects for 2013 -- but no more than that.  Time is limited and this is very much akin to a hobby.  It does not generate the revenue that would warrant any additional time devoted to it.  Especially since I enjoy playing the games as opposed to just developing material for them.  One project involves an exclusive license to a system which allows me to build a new game from it.  I have a time window for this and others will be shouldering the burden as far as writing and design is concerned.  This gives me the time to do the other thing... which was already a work in progress for the past couple of years and has had its share of transformations to how it would ultimately be presented.  I am talking about the Ballista and how it will finally be used.  Certain parts of the system are still a bit 'rough' but solid enough to either continue to refine or drop aspects of it completely and just go with something a bit more familiar.

Besides those ... I have a couple of little things -- one of which I have to finish writing for submission for the 15th of Jan.  Oddly enough, this first of little things is one of the items I am most excited about and I think it is because it's small.  A smaller scale means projects area easier to start and finish and a completed project gives me a good sense of having accomplished something.  Very much like the past issues of the Domesday I did in 2012, it was nice to have a chance to put together and complete something.

If 2012 was changing things around... growing some awareness for Arcana Creations and the blog... and get started (or re-started) on the right foot, I hope 2013 will be more about moving forward and getting things completed to continue building from there.

As far as moving forward and getting things done is concerned, I also don't think there is any better wish I can hope for my readers and supporters for this new year as well.

Happy New Year and all the best for 2013 to each and everyone of you!