What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

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

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Weekend R&R: Rune Lore (a C&C Supplement)

About seven years ago, I discovered Castles & Crusades and the company behind it, Troll Lord Games.  Suffering something of a gaming burnout, C&C reinvigorated my interest in gaming and I began buying other books to beef up my gaming collection.  I did this because I found it very easy to use older pre-d20 era D&D material as well as the newer 3.x Edition stuff.  Being pleased with their efforts with C&C led me to look up other material that Troll Lord Games had done.  As luck would have it, the company essentially was clearing out a lot of this d20 material and selling them at rock bottom prices.

This is how I came across Erde (to be respelled as 'Aihrde' in later years) as well as some of their excellent early modules and sourcebooks made for a 3rd Edition era.  Out of all these books, the one that held the most fascination for me (even before looking through it) was the Winter Runes book.  The Winter Runes book served a two-fold purpose -- it was a sourcebook detailing an area of the setting and a new form of magic as well as providing a couple of adventures in this area.  The most significant feature of the book was the rune magic and the new class, the Rune Mark.

Time didn't dispel this sort of material from memory and Troll Lord Games announced the production and pre-order for a new Winter Runes book for C&C at the end of 2011.  There were some delays and, during the many months that followed, what started out as a simple conversion project turned out to be a revamping of the project.  As such, the book now carries a new name and it is simple ... Rune Lore.

So how does it stack up?

The original book, as fun as it was, came it at 80 pages or so but this new one comes in at 144.  The primary print run of this book looks to be in softcover -- or at least that was the initial objective.  When Troll Lord Games put this pre-order package together, they modeled it after what we have come to know for Kickstarter.  A higher pledge amount would have gotten me a hardcover copy as well as some other things I personally didn't care for or (in this case) already had.  Kicking it off close to X-Mas also put a budgetary constraint but I didn't think it would be a year and a half before this saw press.  I am assuming that it will be a softcover / perfect bound version that will end up on store shelves.

The book itself is nice and clean and suitably illustrate.  Having read various bits and pieces (though not the entire work as of yet), it looks like it will be a pleasure to read as well.  The updated take on the Rune Mark is certainly one of the coolest aspects about the book as the class truly taps into what the setting is all about though there is nothing preventing an easy transitioning of the class into other campaign settings -- even if you decide to not allow the players to play one.  Frankly, this may very well be the case since some of the Runes are quite powerful and while a Rune Mark is more limited how much they can do in a day, more powerful runes are not restricted to the class.  Simply put, that's the GM's responsibility: If you don't want your players to have it, don't put those powerful Runes into your game!  Besides this, the class seems to be very well balanced and some of the other abilities of the Rune Mark would make one truly interesting to play or even use as an NPC in an upcoming adventure or campaign.  An example of another ability: the ability to transfer their life essence (be it hitpoints, ability scores, and experience) to create a bonded magical item.  A Rune Mark using such an item can become more powerful... until he is parted with said item which could spell disaster for the character.  The Rune Mark class and Rune Magic are covered in the first section of the book which spans almost 30 pages.

The next section is just as long and covers the Gottland ... places, persons, and encounter tables.  This is followed by several adventures.  Actually, half the book are various scenarios ready to be used for the campaign of various lengths but it is through these adventures that one can really help bring the Gottland region to life.

The book closes with a couple of appendices covering new magical items and critters for your game.

Is the book worth it?  Well, that will depend on who you ask.  Personally, I have mostly stopped buying adventure scenarios though I am a big supporter of published adventures.  I simply don't have the kind of time I used to in order to create adventures for my players to experience.  I much prefer taking published work and adapting it to my needs.  The Troll Lord Game modules are about the only ones I buy nowadays.  I know others are just not interested in this sort of material anymore.  However, the book does offer much more than adventures and even the setting material that goes along with it.  I feel that the Rune Mark is an interesting idea and, for some, that alone may be worth the price of the book.  I don't regret ordering the book and, given the time it took for this to come out, I  am happy they took their time with it.

As of this moment, Rune Lore isn't officially released yet.  Those who pre-ordered received a PDF copy but this is also to get many eyes on the book as possible before TLG moves to print which is looking to be very soon.  It looks like those interested in it can still take part of the pre-order initiative which means that a PDF version will cost your $10 but a perfect bound book will cost you a total of $25.  Other packages are available though I expect the one where you get to name something no longer applies to that specific benefit.  I expect that the window on this is VERY limited though.  Those interested can follow the link HERE.


Monday, May 20, 2013

'Twas Busy This Weekend...

And it will soon be back to the grind.

However, before any of that happens, there is still a couple of hours left for the lower prices I was offering for stuff I'm trying to clear off my gaming shelves.

Check it out HERE.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Victoria Day Weekend!

Hey folks ... things have been busy the past few weeks and I don't update the blog as much as I would like to.  But that's not necessarily a bad thing.  I'm busy and, though I haven't really painted in the past couple of months, my paints and worktable are out again.  I plan on finishing a few touch ups on my Dark Angel Space marines  and then shift gears on a new project which I can't really go into detail yet since that, much like a project I did just before Christmas, is intended as a surprise.  I hope to have a quick turnaround on it and have something to show for it before the end of June.

Actually, between now and the end of June is when I expect a couple of miniature shipments to drop.  Summer is a great time to get outside in the fresh air... and do a lot of priming and base coating.  The two packages are Reaper's and another from Center Stage Miniatures.

Aside from painting, I have started writing some more for a release I have up my sleeve.  I also have to revisit some older projects and get those done and pretty much off my plate.  We'll see how that goes.

That said, things will be a bit quiet this weekend as I will be away.

It's Victoria Day Weekend here in Canada and in celebration of this, I am lowering the prices on the clearance section on the blog page.  There will also be some new additions during the course of the day (probably morning) of the 20th so be on a look out if you have some money burning a hole in your pocket.  ;)

This sale is on till Monday at midnight.

Have a great weekend folks!


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Clearance Sale - Private Stock!

Well, I've promised myself I'd get back to it and I promised it would be once I was back up and running.  So, what we have is the beginning of an attempt to trim down the gaming collection while raising funds for future projects and continual costs incurred by Arcana Creations.

For those who come direct to this site to read the blog, you will now notice listed on the right-hand side, a link to the Clearance page.  Otherwise, you can access it though this link HERE.

The goal is to add more stuff to this list as other items get sold.

Let me just re-iterate here that I accept Paypal and the prices listed are in USD.  Furthermore, the prices already include shipping costs to any destination in Canada or the continental United States.  If you live further but are interested, feel free to contact me and ask.



Saturday, May 11, 2013

Weekend R&R: Hercynian Grimoire

At the beginning of February, James Mishler kicked off a series of little contests to promote the new material he was putting out under 'James Mishher Games'.  I have always been a fan of James' work and since I hadn't yet had the opportunity to pick up the new release, I entered one of these contests.  The price was a copy of the first issue of the Hercynian Grimoire and, I subsequently won.  I was very happy to get the news and, was even more surprised when I saw it contained over 40 pages of material.  I thanked James and promised a review in the weeks that would follow.

Before that could happen, my computer had the meltdown.  This left me without a valuable tool I had taken for granted since I went on without a computer for close to two months.  When I got back online, certain things got prioritized over others and the planned review of the Hercynian Grimoire was one of the things that got put aside.  This is something I regret simply because the Hercynian Grimoire is such a neat product and I'm not sure it got the attention it deserved.

Similarly, this was something I saw with the older AGP products ... a line with great potential but also troubled and struck with constant misfortune.  Adventure Games Publishing faced a variety of issues and challenges and, understandably, shut down with James essentially burnt out by the whole affair.

For those of you familiar with his older material and AGP, some of you may wonder what makes 'James Mishler Games' different from 'Adventure Games Publishing' and those products. A valid question and, in short, the quality and substance from Mishler has not diminished.  You have a ton of material which can be dropped in any campaign and the material is intelligibly written and organized.  I've always enjoyed reading Misher's work and I'm always delighted to see more of it.  The Wilderlands, or rather his version of it, is something that has been left behind but, starting with the first issue of the Hercynian Grimoire, he begins offering glimpses of a new campaign setting (more on that later).

While I like the Wilderlands and some people absolutely adore the third edition incarnation by Necromancer Games (where Mishler was a primary author), others may have found it too 'niche' to reach a broader audience.  I tend to disagree with that sentiment but will put forth the idea that the setting itself may be daunting to those who are new to it.  Before AGP, I knew next to nothing about the Wilderlands and Judge's Guild but I jumped in anyway not being too sure where to start.  There can be no denying that there's a lot of history when you look at Judge's Guild and, by retrospect, someone who came to view the Forgotten Realms setting now with everything that was released for it, be it novels and gaming modules, supplements, and accessories who had no prior knowledge may find that equally daunting or confusing.

The AGP material was also primarily written for Castles & Crusades, some may have found the decision to do so equally limiting.  As someone who has used C&C as their preferred gaming system for the past seven years or so, I don't see the system as an obstacle but have seen a trend of lower than expected sales numbers for some third party products.  JMG products now provide dual-stats for Castles & Crusades as well as Labyrinth Lord for the material presented.  This means that, even if you don't play either system but use something else derived from the same family of gaming system (that is to say D&D derived), there should not be any issues with adapting the material included to your system of preference.

Essentially, the new material is great content with plenty of substance that is suited for a fantasy themed game designed for both C&C and LL.

What you won't really see though is a lot of art.  In fact the first issue of the Hercynian Grimore contains *no* art.  I'm afraid I can't count the art which are adverts in the last couple of pages of the PDF which go to promote Castles & Crusades, older AGP material, or material published by Goblinoid Games.  Reasons are simple: JMG is keeping costs low and art is one of the most expensive costs when putting out a gaming product.  The flip side to that is you are getting over 40 pages of written content!  So, having doing the (almost) mandatory comparison between AGP and the newer JMG products, what does this first issue and first product from JMG actually contain?

A lot of odds and ends.  The issue is split up in four sections -- the names of three of which will be instantly recognizable for those familiar with the roots of the hobby.  They are 'Men & Magic', 'Monsters & Treasure', and 'Underworld & Wilderness'.  The fourth section is called 'Gods & Demigods'.  The introduction is simple enough and provides and idea of what is to come and what one should expect from JMG in the future.  First off that the Hercynian Grimoire is going to be an irregular publication and that the JMG is really the efforts of two people: James and his wife, Jodi Moran-Mishler.  The 'Olden Lands', the back drop for much of the material, is also described in the introduction as a:

... classic fantasy role-playing game campaign setting, incorporating elements of High and Low Fantasy, Swords & Sorcery, and Historical Adventure ...

Meaning that all the material could be adapted with ease to any existing campaign.

The Men & Magic section has an articles on Gnolls including having a Gnoll as a playable character race, Gnoles (offspring of Humans and Gnolls), a random table for 'Ferocious Fighters', and a couple articles with new spells.  What I found interesting were the tables in this section and those that followed.  The 'Ferocious Fighters' table are rolled with d66.  No... that's not a typo.  You roll two d6 but instead of adding the results together, the each die represents a different digit much like how you roll a percentile result using two d10.  In this case, there are 36 possible results in this table.  However, as you can see, it's a hodge-podge of material which can easily be adapted to a game.

The Monsters & Treasure section that follows offers articles similar to the section prior and offers, 'D66 Fairies and Nymphs', a 'Gnoll Tribe Generator', 'D666 Demonic and Devilish Traits', and a section containing magical items.  This section also contains a whole bunch of new monsters for the game under 'Monstrous Menagerie' making this second section the largest for this particular publication.  My immediate favorite was the D666 Demonic and Devilish Traits because it's always nice to make your evil outsiders distinct and unique in a manner that your players will remember.  As far as critters are concerned, you can never have too many of the buggers to throw at your players.  The Gnoll Tribe Generator was also a very nice touch and serves to connect previous material in the issue to make the publication a bit more coherent.

The second-to-last section, Underworld & Wilderness, gives another table, 'D66 Underworld Oddities' which is the perfect little tool to spice up a dungeon, and two setting specific articles which are effectively previews of the Olden Lands Campaign Setting.  These are well detailed and could be mined for use in other campaigns if one wanted to but may be the type of article skimmed over due to lack of context.  Then again, it could lead to looking at the other Olden Lands material which is probably the whole point of the preview to begin with.

Gods & Demi-Gods on the other hand is a bit more interesting even if one is not particularly sure of investing into a new campaign setting.  While is is also previewing material for the Olden Land, the 'Blood God' is a concept that could readily be adapted and used in many different settings.  The inspiration is certainly there if one takes the time to read the final article.

All in all, the first issue of the 'Hercynian Grimore' is a great collection of material.  It is strictly available as PDF and part of the reason for that are the costs and time involved in getting something closer to print, even if it is just POD.  While I certainly have a preference for physical copies for the material I intend to read or use, in the past couple of years, I have increasingly found myself preferring a digital option.  However, given the nature of this particular publication, I have to say that PDF suits it quite nicely.  If I want something specific, I can just print it if I need it but more often than not, I can just call it up on my screen when I'm seeking some inspiration and working on something like an adventure or even call it up on my tablet at the gaming table.  As far as price is concerned, I didn't buy my copy (it was a contest prize) but I noticed the cover price indication $10.  Honestly, I think that a bit high but when I looked it up on RPGNow, the regular price for it was $8.  At $8 dollars, I think it's certainly worth the price given the amount of content you are getting here.  Other more recent products for the Olden Lands are priced lower than that though the page count is also closer to 20 pages.  These newer publications carry a $3.00 price tag (this is the regular pricing) and end up being a fine bargain.

As irregular as the Hercynian Grimoire is, it's been several months since the first release and I do hope to see a second one soon.  I understand there was a major move for James Mishler which pretty much means the whole company moved.  Moving can be quite time consuming and the recovery of a move and getting back to a routine a lengthy process.  However, from what I've already seen (I've also picked up a series of other products he did up recently), James Mishler Games is off to a good start and the Hercynian Grimoire is worth checking out.

You can buy it HERE.


Monday, May 6, 2013

Weekend R&R: Free City of Eskadia - The Jack of Lies

As mentioned in recent posts, Troll Lord Games is doing a series of pre-orders for the new Jack of Lies book.  Now titled the 'Free City of Eskadia- The Jack of Lies', the book is more than a detailed adventure, it is a city sourcebook!  Realizing the error I made with regards to shipping, and then seeing the advantage of ordering it as opposed to waiting for it to show up at my local game store, I decided to open up my wallet a bit and pre-order a physical copy of the book along with the PDF.  For the record, I still disagree with paying for the PDF if ordering a physical copy but the book itself was very reasonably priced.  For those curious, a PDF only option is $10 and a book only option is $20 and $30 gets you both.  Since the book is essentially finished though not yet printed, I was able to get my PDF copy within a day.

Now, I'm familiar with other city setting material such the City State of the Invincible Overlord, Sanctuary (Thieves World), Yggsburgh, Freeport, and even Waterdeep -- all of which I've enjoyed for various reasons.  Having to choose a favorite amongst these would be a challenge since there is something I can say about each of these that make it stand out for me.  And that's what surprised me about Eskadia -- it seems to be a bit of fusion of many of the things I liked about all the others.  That's not to say that it's scattered as I believe it does a good job standing out as well.

There are essentially three sections to the book (totaling 136 pages).  The first part spans 50 pages and does an excellent job at concisely detailing the city, section by section.  It details various Trade Guilds and Houses and provides a history and briefly mentions the political and religious backdrop of the city.  This makes it ideal to drop it into other campaign settings and easily adapt the material.  The city itself is examined ward by ward detailing notable sites and characters as well as tables for various features to help flesh out each of them.  In short, plenty of information to run a sandbox style game if one decides to use the Jack of Lies adventure.

The section part is the adventure portion of the book and while the core scenario is a mere 28 pages, an additional 28 is devoted to supplemental material which can be used with the main adventure.  Beyond that, I can't comment much on the adventure itself as I haven't had the time to read it yet.  From what I have been able to see, it isn't an adventure meant to be run on rails -- a group of players and GM will be able to weave in and out of the adventure and do as they wish should other things in the city catch their eye.

The rest of the book is more setting material ... things like NPCs, Magic Items, Monsters, and even Commonly worshiped deities span these pages as well as a new race, some new classes which could be deemed 'NPC classes', as well as some Black Powder rules all help to round of what seems to be an excellent supplement!

Overall, I really like Eskadia and want to run a campaign in it.  As much as I like some of the other city settings I mentioned earlier, this new setting is a very strong contender as well.  Why do I like it so much?  I guess the setting feels accessible somewhat and not as daunting of trying to run a campaign in something like the City State for example.  Maybe it's because it just doesn't have the same sort of history attached to it.  The book is certainly well organized and probably one of the best products that TLG has put out in the past couple of years.  I think it's certainly something that warrants a look if nothing else.

Another nice thing about this book is that, even if you don't run a Castles & Crusades game, the system is simple that using the material in another similar system (Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, most iterations of D&D, etc), it can be done quickly and easily.  I think this sourcebook is a great example of a gaming book that many would appreciate and adapt for their system of choice.

If you would like to know a bit more and possibly pre-order yourself, you can find more information HERE.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Weekend R&R: Codex Celtarum for C&C

This edition of the Weekend R&R is a bit late as is some of my general thoughts and material I share on this blog the past few days.  New position in the work place is taking its toll as I take the time to adjust to the new responsibilities.  I also partied quite a bit with some friends this weekend.  ;)

That said, I also got my softcover of the new C&C book, the 'Celtic Celtarum' and it's quite a nice addition to my gaming bookshelf.  The work is by Brian Young and the books comes in at 176 pages full of material just waiting to be injected into one's game.  So what does the book exactly consist of?

Well, in a very playful manner, the author of the book puts it thusly:

1. Once Upon a Time (History section)
2. In Lands Far Way (Covers the Setting)
3. There Lived a People (Faery races and monsters)
4. Great of Magic and Power (Magical abilities, items, and spells)
5. Strong of Feats and Deeds (Combat and warfare)
6. With Great Gods and Lords (Deity section)
7. Who have Mighty Names and Feats (CK section)

The first and second chapters is filled with great material to help a CK add depth to a celtic themed campaign and clearly demonstrates to love and knowledge the author has brought to this project.  You have a taste of history, myth, and culture and the chapters which follow help bring things to a more 'tangible' state for a campaign.  Of course we're talking about sections on creatures and magic and thankfully there is plenty to use.  Chapter 3 is 46 pages in length and chapter 4 is another 27 pages.  It should be noticed that players fond of Druids will be particularly pleased with the selection of spells though a handful of cleric and illusionist spells are also included.

The 5th Chapter is an interesting mix of fluff mixed with some game mechanics to spice up your game.  There are 20 assorted 'Cleasa' which is a different name for 'Adjuncts' which were introduced in the Castle Keeper's Guide which function as minor Feats from that other game.  There is a bit section on Tattoo magic and even a minor section of hit locations via called shots and potential critical hits.

The 6th Chapter focuses more on the gods and goddesses of Celtic mythology which is rich in the lore one would want to continue painting a vivid picture to help bring the campaign to life which will nicely complement the material already found in 'Of Gods & Monsters' fore C&C.

The 7th and what was originally the final chapter of the books covered a few notes on existing C&C classes and how they fit in this setting as well as introduces two celtic themed classes, the Woodwose (a sort of wildman class) and the Wolf Charmer (described as the Pied Pipers of wolf kind).  A section of names is also included for the benefit of your characters.

However, thanks to a popular kickstarter, there was an additional chapter put in.  This is bonus material which takes the book from 144 to 176 pages and is a bit of a hodge-podge of information such as metals and magic items, the Ogham alphabet, and additional historical and cultural information.

So, how does this book measure up?  Well, the only other gaming book that I have that comes to mind is from TSR's excellent historical reference series.  The Celts Campaign Sourcebook was certainly well put together but there is certainly something 'more' to this new offering.  I'll be perfectly honest, the Celts were never a big thing for me -- I was always more interested in the ancient lands of Egypt, Greece, and the Roman Empire though I do have a soft spot for Vikings.  Unlike the Celts, the Codex Celtarum leaves me with the desire to at least use *some* of the material and adapt it for my own campaign -- particularly when it comes to the Fey.  The Codex Celtarum certainly has some substance to it there's enough to pillage for your own game even if you are inclined to run a Celtic themed game.  The PDF version is available now for $19.59 and will carry a price of $27.99 for the hardcover copy of the book (once released).  You can buy the PDF HERE.


Jack of Lies Pre-Order Update

A few days ago, I wrote about the Jack of Lies and I mentioned expensive shipping to Canada.

Apparently I was at fault and didn't realize that the cart had held on to a couple of items from the last time I considered ordering something 2-3 months back.

The shipping for just the buck is just below $5 actually which means very excellent value for your dollar if ordering from Canada.  Somehow I suspect this too may be in error (and too low) but given the price, it makes getting the $30 version (book and PDF) a lot more enticing.

My apologies for the confusion regarding the shipping and thanks to Steve for setting me straight.


If you want to pre-order, please follow the link HERE.