What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

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

Friday, January 31, 2014

Weekend R&R: Storyteller's Thesaurus

When considering gaming resources, everything from campaign settings, to monster compendiums, rule options, map packs, and game aids of all sorts come to mind.  What doesn't come to mind is a thesaurus.  Like a dictionary, a thesaurus can be a great tool for writers and others seeking a better mastery over a given language.  With the rise of self publishing and the OSR, many hobbyists want to share and perhaps even sell their creations with others.  A dedication to professionalism, artful whimsy, and great editing has led to some fantastic products over the past few years.  Many others are passed over and sometimes, it's because of the writing or editing.  For those who want to describe a setting, a situation, an object or a person, a thesaurus can be a helpful the way a dictionary can be helpful -- it's there is you pick it up and use it.  Oddly enough inspiration isn't the first thing that comes to mind when you think 'thesaurus'.

The Storyteller's Thesaurus published by Troll Lord Games is different.  Written by James M. Ward and Anne K. Brown, this thesaurus isn't exactly a thesaurus but should prove a lot more useful for anything trying to narrate something.  For starters, it isn't set up in an alphabetical format but arranged thematically.  In other words, if I wanted help or inspiration to describe a character I have just rolled up, I turn to 'Chapter I: Character Building' and find multiple categories such as Gender, Age, Size and Body Type, Facial Features, etc.  Each category will then have sub-categories.  For example, the Gender Category has Male, Female, Relational, and Terms of Endearment.  Male for  has over 45 descriptors starting from 'bachelor' and ending with 'young man'.

The idea is sound and has a lot of potential.  Since the book's organization is clearly different than what one would expect, some people may be at a loss of how to go about using it at first.  The concept may be good but it will take a bit of time before you get comfortable with working with it.  If you wanted to describe a forest, I suppose the best place to start would be 'Chapter 10: Geology, Geopraphy, Meterology, and Botany' (Trees are found here).  Woodland animals would mean you would have to skip to 'Chapter 15: Animals and Creatures'.  If you're looking from some more adjectives to describe this same scene, then you need to skip to 'Chapter 20: Descriptive Terms'.  There isn't a category for something like Forests which combines some of this material.

Of course this is the one stumbling block with this kind of organizational structure -- you could risk seriously overlapping certain things depending on how you want to go arranging and sorting them.  Thankfully, the book makes up for this by provided a detailed chapter listing and a 400 page index to accompany the previous 150 pages.

Flipping through the many pages, I only have a minor criticism with the resource which has to do with the American-centricism prevalent in some of Chapter 8.  The section on 'Ranks' lists U.S. Ranks, 'Air and Water Craft' gives U.S. Air Force, Army, and Navy vessels and crafts.  However, in the 'Ground Vehicles' section, a comprehensive sampling from 15 different countries is provided.  When it comes to 'Military Weapons', we're back to U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force.  I can understand that, being an American publication, why it would be U.S. prevalent but consistency is equally important.  The first option would have to keep things general.  The second one would have been to give further samplings for other countries as offered in the 'Ground Vehicles' section.  The third would have been to keep it U.S. Centric.  Personally, as I would have preferred something closer to the first option with a bit of the second.  Otherwise, these become lists which will not have much context for many civilians.

Aside from that, I find the book to be a great little resource.  Even going through the book and scanning through various sections could be enough to re-energize someone who is trying to write creatively.  Because of the way it is designed, it doesn't replace a traditional thesaurus but it may end up being a lot more versatile than one too.  It is not in print yet (a print run is still in the planning stages) but, as a PDF priced at $9.95 right now, I think it's well worth the price if you are doing some writing and hobby publishing.  Or maybe even if you just want to spruce up the stuff you do for your own game.  It is available HERE at RPGNow! (and other OneBookShelf stores)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Codex Nordica Kickstarter

Well, the newest Kickstarter by Troll Lord Games is up and this time, they are pimping the 'Codex Nordica'.  Those subscribed to their newsletter were informed earlier today of the newest project letting us know about the 'soft launch' of the Kickstarter effort.  It officially launches this evening at 9pm CST.  While it isn't advertised on the Kickstarter, there is a special bonus for those who pledge $49+ before it officially launches tonight... as extra perfect-bound softcover copy of the book.

If you are looking for better bang for your buck and you really liked what the Codex Celtarum had to offer (I wrote a review of it HERE), I suggest you head on over to Kickstarter and make your pledge!

You can reach the page HERE.

With regards to this Kickstarter's pricing, $10 gets you the PDF, $30 gets you the hardcover and PDF, $49 gets you book, PDF, module, poster, and something from Fat Dragon Games.  There are a couple of add-ons and additional pledge levels but $125 will be needed if you want a leather bound book in addition to your hardback.  Stretch goals are planned but only a couple have been revealed.

The $125 level is tempting but I'm hoping that future stretch goals will make this pledge level more worth while.

For those of you still here wondering what this or that other Codex was all about...  In short, Codex Nordica will be reminiscent of the Historical Reference series published by TSR for Second Edition AD&D.  If you are like me, then you'll fondly recall those great books and this one will be like the Vikings book in many ways.  In other ways, I expect this book to be quite different.  I was pleasantly surprised with the first Codex book that TLG published.  It was well written with a nice overview of the folklore and mythology as opposed to just the historical reference material with relevant gaming crunch.  I expect Codex Nordica to be similar in this regard and, I anticipate that I will probably enjoy it more than the Celtic book simply because the mythology and culture of the Norse interests me more.

Happy Gaming!

** EDIT ** With 5 hours to go in the soft-launch, the project made it to its goal -- only 32 days remain for some stretch goals!


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hacking Blacktooth Ridge

Wow.  Way back in 2011, I started up a campaign published by Troll Lord Games.  At this point in time, the 13 part saga has yet to be completely published but with only one part remaining, TLG has managed to put together an impressive series of adventures.  While many others love the series thus far, I was never entirely satisfied with it given the tastes and preferences of my players.  So, as I started to run these adventures, I also went about changing and streamlining them to meet MY needs and I thought I would pass on what I did to my readers.

Prior to Assault On Blacktooth Ridge (A1), the Rising Knight (A0) serves as an introduction to the region but not strictly necessary to the series.  It does however set the tone to the rest of the modules that follow.  I started with A0 and when I ran it, I made next to no changes save to the maps themselves.  I managed to find an old copy of the first level of the dungeon:

Assault On Blacktooth Ridge on the other hand was a bit more detailed and a lot of time could be spent exploring and interacting with the locals.  Since I ran A0 beforehand, I was more comfortable of throwing the players in the thick of it.

At the start of A1, the characters were only getting settled in Botkinburg when I decided to have the Redcaps do a large raid on the small town.  The party rallied and defended the town and successfully fought off the Redcaps.  With the band defeated, an emergency town meeting was called and the party was recruited to seek out and put an end to the threat.  This really helped kick off the adventure with a clearly defined goal for the players.

A couple of clues and a bit of exploration later, the party found it's way to Kruggle's Lair, and there, a couple more clues to help them find the Varlog and those responsible for the raids. All the other areas detailed with additional encounters, while interesting and fun, I mostly did away with in order to focus on the Varlog.

When it came to the Varlog, I also chose to trim it but only by a bit.  I kept some of most of the key encounters and areas but did away with some of the others. At least one encounter was the result of merging a couple of them together.  Sadly, it's been well over a year so my notes of what I exactly did seem to have been misplaced.  In retrospect, this last 'third' of the module had the least done to it and was the meat of the scenario.

Assault On Blacktooth Ridge is a strong and well defined adventure.  Thankfully, it was also one that can easily be modified to suit the needs of any one gaming group.  After running the Rising Knight, I was able to assess the needs of my group and changed this adventure accordingly.  Due to a lot of scheduling issues, it was more than a year before I finally began the next module in the series, A2: The Slag Heap.  I was able to do A1 in three (or maybe four) sessions -- none which were overly long.  I just finished the Slag Heap a couple of weeks ago and was able to get that done in four sessions as well and we are starting A3 this Friday.

Happy Gaming!


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Book of Familiars (C&C): Now Available

Great news for those of you that have been waiting for this and have been concerned about the errors I mentioned in my initial review found HERE.  The errors have been fixed and it is now available at RPGNow in PDF.  Priced at $2099 you can find it HERE.

Happy Gaming!


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Weekend R&R: Expanded Races - Amber Dwarves

This week, something short and sweet ... a little supplement for Castles & Crusades from the Expanded Races series published by 'Christina Stiles Presents'.  This represents the third in the series which was initially called 'Fantasy Races Unlocked' but changed to 'Expanded Races'.  Personally I prefer the former series title but only by virtue that it's easier to find.  Doing a search for 'Expanded Races' will bring up a number of additional hits.  But I digress.

As I was relaying, this is the third and almost a natural step from the previous 'Granite Dwarves' release (I reviewed that one HERE).  Where as the Granite Dwarves were an arctic/tundra based dwarven sub-race, Amber Dwarves are from a much warmer, jungle climate.  Like the polar dwarves, the though of some tropical dwarves may just not seem like much for the average gamer.  Thankfully, a well thought-up write up for the concept should instantly sell it to most gamers with imagination.  I mean, if TSR was able to sell us the setting concepts of Spelljammer and Darksun, it shouldn't be too hard to stimulate inspiration to use them.

I confess that, at first, I didn't think much of the concept but since I do genuinely enjoy the series, I did want to pick it up.  Now, I want to put them into play and and adapt them to some of the Freeport ideas that have been building up in the back of my mind. Or maybe revisit and modify some classic TSR modules that explore tropical islands and jungles.  But that's how I'd tweak it and maybe that's what some of us need to do to really take advantage of these.  Just adapt it slightly in order to use it.
Sometimes you have something on hand that just 'works' with some of these ideas presented in the 'Expanded Races' series.  The release of 'Granite Dwarves' is a perfect example and it could be paired up perfectly with one of Arcana Creations releases, 'The Trick on the Tain'.  So much so that it's still bundled together and available HERE in PDF.  Naturally you can still get them separately.

As far as this release is concerned, like the previous releases, it follows the same format.   You get a detailed write up about the Amber Dwarves ... what the look like, their personalities, their affinities, as well as their environment.  What is more interesting and the draw for this series are the Racial Traits and Abilities which are different from 'traditional' dwarves and in many cases offer new abilities that replace the traditional ones.  Of course, some of these are completely optional but they do really help make this sub-race stand out.  Like the last release, this one also presents a couple sample Amber Dwarf characters, tips on encounter with them, and a couple of new creatures for the Jungle.  All this comes in a 6-page PDF though 2 of them are the cover and the credits/OGL page.  Still, 4 pages of material with a bit of art which is nicely laid out makes it an interesting and small supplement if you are looking to spice up your game.  The only thing I didn't like was the colors for the cover but that's more of a personal taste thing since it is well done.  Green cover with the red C&C logo seems out of place compared to the previous two releases and their predominantly white covers.

On a positive note, the supplement sells for half the cost of a cup of coffee at Starbucks ... actually a bit less *BUT* at the time that I'm writing this, this and the rest of the series is half off!  Yes... just one dollar.

If you already have the previous releases but haven't gotten around to picking up Amber Dwarves, you can do so HERE.  If you want to see all of what's available instead, go HERE instead.

Happy Gaming!


Friday, January 17, 2014

Book of Familiars (C&C) Update

 With yesterday's review done (found HERE), I reached out to Tim Burns from Troll Lord Games to point out the problems (the hold overs from the d20 version) in book.  He was kind enough to reply back:


Thanks for catching that!  We will make the necessary changes in the Print version and will update the PDF once it is completed.  Hope all is well and thanks for the review as well, a very good read.  :-)


So, the good news is that the book should be better for it.  The bad news is an additional delay depending how long it takes to correct the problems.  Personally, I rather wait a while longer if it means a better product.

Thanks Tim!


Weekend R&R: Book of Familiars (C&C)

A week ago, I and others like myself who pre-ordered this new supplement for Castles & Crusades got an email letting us know that the PDF would be sent to us in the next 'few days'.  At first I assumed this meant for the weekend or the start of the week.  Guess it took a few more days than that making this Weekend R&R post a late post or an early one depending on how you look at it.

The Book of Familiars is not an entirely brand new book it was first published as a d20 (3.5 edition) back in 2004 after a couple of challenging years to get it out.  Once it was released, it was warmly received by fans as a book unique enough to stand out as a third party product.  A few years later, WOTC announced 4th Edition and, like many of the d20 books available, this book quickly fell aside.

Like many third party publishers, Troll Lord Games had a few decisions to make and, fortunately for them, they had worked to develop Castles & Crusades which began to come into fruition in 2004 as well with the release of the Castles & Crusades Collector's Box.  By 2007, TLG had released several other books for C&C and the game was gathering steam.  Enough that they could focus more on that line of products and allow the older d20 stuff to go out of print.  Other companies, like Paizo, also developed the Pathfinder system which builds on 3.5 and Pathfinder became an instant hit among gamers which drew other third party companies to develop materials for that game.

Why mention this additional bit of history?  Simple ... in what appeared to be an attempt to diversify their portfolio, Troll Lord Games announced a new version of the Book of Familiars book for the Pathfinder RPG in 2009.  They assured their C&C fans that another version would follow for them once the Pathfinder version was done.  I assume this decision was made because a conversion from 3.5 to Pathfinder would be fairly easy to do.  But like the initial version of the Book of Familiars, there came to be a few problems and delays.  In 2012, TLG announce they were opening up pre-orders for a C&C version of the Book of Familiars having achieved several milestones and releases for the C&C game.  A Pathfinder version has yet to be released and the latest information I was able to dig up was that it was put on hold, seemingly indefinitely.

Honestly, for Pathfinder fans, this isn't so much of a loss in my opinion.  The d20 version is still accessible and available in one form or another.  It's relatively easy to track down a second hand copy of the book and some retailers may even have an older but new copy still on their shelves or available online.  Sadly, there is no PDF version available for it anymore.

On the other hand, it is a nice addition to the C&C assortment of books.  In this area, it seem like the company has finally hit its stride.  Not including different printings, they have over 10 hardcover books released in the line and a large assortment of adventure modules.  They have released box sets and are expanding their game base with titles such as Amazing Adventures.  Being based on the d20 game system and with its design, it retains compatibility with other d20 products as well as older editions of D&D.  But, as far as branded books are concerned, most aren't as specialized as this book happens to be.

Castles & Crusades has several monster related books, a couple of general rules and rule option books, and some setting oriented books and adventures.  The Book of Familiars is best considered as an optional extra.  The concept of having animal companions isn't necessarily new but the game tends to focus on the archetypal wizard or witch with a familiar (think a cat, toad, or an owl for example).  Familiars are something special and not just a simple pet.  A lot of games don't tend to explore or expand upon this aspect and this is what made the original Book of Familiars stand out.  The book gives options on having a bonded familiar no matter what class you happen to be and, as a result, these are designed and tailored for those classes.

So... what exactly in the book?  The book spans 208 pages and consists of 13 chapters.  The first chapter gives a concise overview and explains how to introduce these rules for this sort of play into your game.  Actually, there are two ways you can go about this for the characters.  The first is through Advantages which were introduced in the Caste Keeper's Guide.  On the other hand, if you do not use this rule option, you can also allow a player to sacrifice experience points to purchase the ability to gain a familiar for their character as well as expend experience points to further empower these familiars.  Either method will work very well and, depending on your campaign, some players may even think twice about trading hard earned experience points in order to gain these interesting perks.  The remaining 12 chapters are devoted to each class (Paladins and Knights share a chapter) detailed in the Players Handbook.  Beyond these chapters, you have 4 appendixes.  The first details new animals for C&C and the second gives new monsters.  The other 2 appendixes detail new magic -- spell as well as items and artifacts.

As for the book itself, the layout is simple enough and cleanly set up with art and tables adorning its many pages.  The past few releases for C&C have resulted in a look which has distinctly become a trademark style for the company along with the artists which are regularly employed for these projects.  If you liked the look and artwork of recent books, then it's a safe bet you'll like the presentation of this new title.

But the book isn't perfect.  While TLG certainly has a better track record when it comes to editing their books there are two issues with this particular book and both seem to stem from hold-overs from the previous d20 version of the book.

While many gamers will know what a 'Dire' creature is, there is no such classification in C&C.  Just doing a search through the PDF will allow you to find a multitude of Dire entries.  This may not have been so bad had this information been included in the Book of Familiars.  Otherwise, many entries (and not just the dire ones) have an asterisk when refer you to one the appendix A or B and sometimes even the Monsters & Treasures book.  However, often these searches will yield nothing at all.  Considering the amount of tables and entries which have asterisks, this is a problem.  This is an unfortunate problem but it shouldn't be a problem for most people.

Despite this issue, the book will be well worth the $29.95 MSRP when it becomes generally available.  I don't have a price for the PDF yet though I imagine it will be around $21 when it becomes available at RPGNow!  I will keep you informed when it becomes available.

Happy Gaming!


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Tools of the Miniature Painter: .177 Caliber Steel BBs

I'm always on the lookout to expand my repertoire of tools and tricks when it comes to the hobby of painting miniatures.  In 2013,  I wrote two pieces called the Tools of the Miniature Painter and both proved to be popular posts.  As I gain more experience, I learn a few more things and try a few others.  It's only fitting that I expand and continue to share what I've learned.

For those interested, you can revisit those initial posts HERE (for part 1) and HERE (for part 2).

Ok... BBs.  What possible use would you need BBs for painting? A very good question and a few weeks ago, I might have thought it a bit daft.  As my readers know by checking out some of my past painting guides, I am fond of using the Citadel line of paints.  Some people love these paints and others consider them sub-par.  They are also expensive when you consider the amount of paint you are getting in exchange for your hard earned cash.

Why do I use these paints so much?  It's simple really -- because I started with them.  The first set of miniatures I painted were goblins from a Lord of the Rings starter box put out by Game Workshop.  I had never painted miniatures before hand but I had committed to the first hugely successful Reaper Bones Kickstarter and figured I would get a bit of practice in.

As it turned out, I liked it A LOT.  The starter box contained a bunch of goblins, a starter brush, and an assortment of paints to do up the models.  I picked up a spray can of black primer and away I went.  I did the goblins and then I did a series of metal orc miniatures (you can see that post HERE).

As I got more involved, I got more paints and, at the time, I was able to get many of these paints discounted online.  Sadly, Games Workshop shifted their retailer policies and this is no longer possible.  To add insult to injury, they even raised prices a few months ago.  However, while I was able to get them cheaply, I did so though it still cost me a lot of money in the long run.  The Citadel line of paints is extensive. This is actually one of the nice things I like about the line.  There are so many nuances of shade and color available that it makes it easy to get the colors you want without having to mix them.  For this reason, and the initial investment into the line, is why I have stuck to the line.

If I was paying regular prices, I probably would have been using something like Liquitex Acrylics instead.  I much smaller investment though more mixing would have been involved.

The biggest problem I have found with the Citadel paints from time to time in the past 14 months that I have been using them is that some of them had a tendency to clump or otherwise a thick consistency.  Some paints seem to be more prone to it but it might also be regular use.  When I encountered the problem when I came to do my recent skeletons (the base), I decided to do a bit or research and realized that some people used makeshift agitators for the paint pots.  One of the preferred methods was using .177 caliber steel BBs.

Here's the thing.  It works well and I pulled a handful of paint pots where I had been experiencing some of these issues and dropped a couple in.  They are very small and still have a bit of weight to them so a couple in the paint pot when you shake it up will do wonders to help the consistency of the paint.  That said, there is a bit of a risk depending on the quality of the BBs themselves.  Avoid other metals such as copper though these days, you'd be hard pressed to find anything other than steel.  As such, it is possible that these may rust or corrode.  Those which are coated will cause far less issues and those brands which are 'premium grade' are likely coated to prevent corrosion problems.

If you want to play it safe, you could use bits of a plastic sprue to do the same thing but it just won't work as well as something with a bit more weight -- especially if the paint is starting to 'thicken up' some.  The other thing to consider is the actual amount of contamination should the BB corrode a bit.  Yes, the paint pots are small but these are so much smaller.  If there is a chance of rust, it's not going to disintegrate into a powder ruining your paint because you dropped in a BB or two in it.

Of course, it's a new pot of paint, there is probably little to no reason to do this until you actually start to run issues with it.  Another thing to keep in mind: Agitators alone may not do the trick.  If the paint (pigment) is not quite clumping but it seems to be getting thicker, it may also be time to consider an acrylic paint retarder or some sort of flow medium to it (no more than a few drops) as well.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Skeletons: Painting Guide

Painting Skeletons really couldn't be easier.  There is little needed to do to get a really good look for the figurines and, aside from maybe doing a batch of them, shouldn't take too long to do.  Note that the majority of paints specified were from the Citadel line of paints.  Prior to commencing the actual painting, the models were cleaned and primed using Acryic Gesso.  These models were from the Reaper line of Bones miniatures.

The very first step once you are ready to start the actual painting process is actually paint these white.  I did a batch of twelve of these and I simplified my life by using an airbrush to provide my base coat.  'Ceramite White' or even 'Titanium White' from the Liquitex or equivalent lines will be perfect for the task.  You want a nice even coat to provide coverage.

The next step involves using a wash to shade the entire model.  I used 'Seraphim Sepia' to give a yellowish tone.  Others may prefer a browner tone like what's provided by Agrex Earthshade' but I prefer Seraphim Sepia.  This shading will bring out all the details of the model, in particular the ribs, eye sockets, teeth... etc.

Alone though, the wash may be too pronounced so scaling back this harshness isn't hard to do.  I drybrushed the skeletons with 'Longbeard Grey' which is one of the dry compounds from the citadel line.  This is an 'off-white' and will catch raised surfaced and edges of the model but keeping the shading for all the recesses the model has that the wash went into.

At this juncture the models are mostly done.  All that's really left to concern yourself with is the gear and bases.  All the wood and leather (polearms, bows, quivers) was done in 'XV-88' which is a light brown.  'Agrax Earthshade' was applied to these afterwards leaving a good color for the wood and leather.  The based were painted in 'Zamesi Desert' and also got a generous wash application of the same 'Agrax Earthshade'.

The metal was done using 'Ironbreaker' so all shields, swords, and polearm tips were done up in this paint.  'Agrax Earthshade' was used again to give an aged look to the metal but the definitive touch was the new technical from Citadel called 'Typhus Corrosion'.  It is a gritty paint which was applied along the edges and recesses of the metallic objects.  Once applied along the edges, I also 'smeared' some of this 'paint' (for lack of a better word) across the surface of the shields.  Very easy to do but they really look well done with a minimum amount of fuss.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Weekend R&R: Bluffside - City on the Edge (C&C)

Well, time to kick off another round of Weekend R&R's and hopefully I'll be able to do more than I did in 2013.  When I initially went about doing these in 2012, I tried to do one a week but the number of posts last year were far less than those the year before.  I think I managed to do no more than 16 or 17 of these reviews.  Of course, it isn't for a shortage of material to review or reflect about.  There are a few products I've meant to talk about for quite a while -- some of them related to Castles & Crusades and others which do not.  To kick off 2014, I opted to take a good look at the Bluffside - City on the Edge book put out by Troll Lord Games for their flagship C&C game.

First of all, what is Bluffside?

Bluffside is a sandbox adventure setting which was originally put out in the early days of the d20 era and recently redesigned and expanded for Castles & Crusades.  While those who were aware of the product back in 2001 were quite taken by it, it sadly was just a drop in a very large bucket due to the sheer amount of d20 material being pumped out by a legion of publishers and studios.  The city of Bluffside has a chance to be rediscovered and may now stand out a bit more compared to its previous incarnation.  From the back of the book, Bluffise is described as:
...a Boom Town boasting the most precious metal in the known world -- adamantine.  Perched upon high cliffs overlooking the deep waters of Crater Bay Bluffside's many districts sprawl into the country beyond, climb  the cliffs and ride the waters.  Here is a city forged on power, where corruption mingles with purity and men contend with one the other for gold or glory, for the greater good or the selfish turn.
Granted, this text is evocative as it is poorly written and punctuated.  Fortunately, the text within the book is better edited.

According to the history of the area, Sem La Vah was the center of an event referred to as the Great Sundering which seems to have likely been caused by a meteorite.  There was an ice age, and the city along with the northern continent was lost only to be re-discovered over a thousand years later.  Bluffside was the name given to the community which sprung up amongst and beyond the ruins of the ancient city.  When adamantine was discovered, people flocked to Bluffside and it grew into the city detailed in the book.

The idea of the city if compelling enough and as a sandbox setting, it makes it easy enough to insert into any given campaign world.  Because of the link to a rare and precious metal, it also gives this city a possible purpose for a campaign -- principally a way to introduce and control the flow of a rare material while creating opportunity of adventures, plots, and intrigue to go along with it.

As a resource, the book details over 100 places of interest each with an array of adventure hooks.  This represents about a third of the book's total page count.  You have an additional 30 pages of NPCs detailed that forms the first appendix, more creatures detailed for C&C in the second appendix, and new races, classes, and magic beyond that.  The book has plenty to mine from though a discerning GM or CK may elect to drop certain things.  New classes for instance are always interesting to see and can be fun if there is a purpose and context to them.  However, how the class is constructed is a different issue.  As an example, the experience point progression may be a touch too high for the Blood Guardian though it should be higher than that of a wizard.

It should also be noted that this final version of the book was released just a few months after TLG's "Free City of Eskadia" which I talk about HERE.  This naturally invites some comparison between the two but both are excellent resources.  Each offer similar features but the Bluffside book does have one nagging little issue.  In Chapter 1 (the Introduction), under Maps, the book goes on to describe:

Every district of Bluffside has a section devoted to it, describing that district.  At the beginning of each of these sections is a map of the district, identifying all the POIs in the district, with a key for ease of use.
While it is true that every district has a section devoted to it, there is no map at the beginning of each section.  Furthermore, while there are maps included at the back of the book, the maps themselves are not keyed with the various POIs.  You know there are there by reading the section but not the location within the district.  Most won't really need to know that either and can get by without it but, in all fairness, the Free City of Eskadia has map sections all throughout the book as well as the back and both have the locations inscribed on the maps.  Conveniently, the maps in the book are blown up cross sections and they are very convenient for the reader.  It strikes me as a bit odd that a similar approach wasn't done with this book because it is quite a nice volume.

I confess that I continue to be a bit disappointed at TLG's pricing when it comes to PDFs.  I missed the opportunity to pre-order the book initially though they were asking for $5 to get both the PDF and book.  That pre-order page is STILL up though you won't be able to follow through with an order.  If you want both and are looking for a deal, you are sadly out of luck.  This is not so much an issue if you prefer having just one format and I do recommend the book despite a couple of inconveniences of design.

You can order it off of the TLG site at their online store or, if you would like it in PDF, you can find it HERE on RPGNow (part of the Onebookshelf family) for $19.59.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Picking Up A Good Book: 2013 in Review

A year ago, I made a resolution to increase the amount I had been reading after realizing I had only manged to read 4 or 5 books in 2012.  Well, I've kept it and succeeded by altering a few of my habits along the way.

I have completed 19 and am in the middle of 2 books which will count towards the 2014 tally.  Most of it was fiction though a couple of titles were more esoteric in nature and a couple others were video game related.

In 2013, I had continued reading some of the Edgar Rice Burroughs books (notably the John Carter ones) but also decided to give the Warhammer books a shot with the Horus Heresy novels.  I have to say I was really impressed with the caliber of those books.  I hadn't given much thought to them but, since I was immersing myself into a bit of Warhammer 40k, I figured reading about the Horus Heresy would help my to quickly get a grasp of characters and factions of the 40k game and how those events unfolded.  They are quick and easy reads but more entertaining that I would have thought them to be.  I have read six of them so far but there are so many books set in the grim futuristic Warhammer universe..

Aside from that, I had finally cleared "Clash of Kings" off my bedside table and have recently started (about a fifth through it right now), the "Storm of Sword"s book.  "The other book I am reading is entitled The Earth, The Gods, and the Soul: A History of Pagan Philosophy" which is interesting enough and a bit different.

I mentioned a couple of changes in habits... One of which was not being fixated at reading a single book at a time.  Being a fan of technology, I had embraced reading on eReaders and tablets early on but found in my relatively short commute that this was simply not convenient enough.  I started to read on my phone though this has been difficult the past couple of weeks in these frigid temperatures.  However, reading on my phone (it does have a larger screen than most), is convenient and a few pages here and there a few times a day will quickly add up.  I still try to read a bit of something before I go to bed and it helps that I try and get to bed a bit earlier which means I can usually polish up part of a chapter and, being in the comfort of my own home, reading an actual book is less of a problem.  Reading on the phone is perhaps not ideal given screen size and such but I've clearly managed to significantly boost my reading by doing so.  Here's to at least another 20 books in 2014!


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Under Siege's Top 10 Posts of 2013

Well, another year has gone by and as is customary for me, I take a look back at Arcana Creations and the Under Siege blog for the past year.  This is the first time I do this sort of top ten list for the blog but it's always interesting to see what others have taken an interest in.  Of course, this is by no means a 'definitive list'.  Sure, I went with the numbers but older posts in general have seen more hits than recent posts which is why I don't think it's a perfect study.  It was fun none-the-less.

10. Mr. Bones - A Painting Guide

Painting Guide for the mascot of the Reaper Bones Kickstarter.  The face was kind of botched due to some bad paint but it was serviceable enough as a test subject to get used to working with the Bones plastic material.  At some point, I'll have to order another and retry.

09. Tools of the Miniature Painter - Pt.2

A follow-up to my introductory piece, tools of the miniature painter, this article gave a bit more information for someone looking to 'step up their game' as far as painting miniatures were concerned.  It glaces at airbrushes and spray guns, compressors, and tools to start modifying what you are working with.  Very introductory in itself and could very well expanded upon but probably a valid starting point.

08. To the OSR Community

A letter I wrote to the OSR community given some of the reactions I had been reading about the necessity of the OSR given WOTC's new stance and directions.

07. Weekend R&R: Free RPG Day 2013

My thoughts on this year's Free RPG Day plus reviews of my three picks from this year's 'haul'.

06. Painting Miniatures - The Gesso Experiment

Acrylic Gesso is awesome and has become one of my 'go to' solutions  to prime miniatures -- especially since I've started working the models from Reaper's Bones line.  Many miniature painters don't know or have simply have heard different things about it.  This piece aims to clarify a few things by personal experience.

05. Weekend R&R: Dragon Warriors

Review of Dragon Warriors .. very old school made available once again.

04. Dark Angel Space Marine: Painting Guide

One of my very first painting guides.  While I am proud of the work on this model, I can't help thinking that I could do better now but a nice piece that goes a bit beyond 'tabletop standard' none-the-less.  

03. Weekend R&R: Tunnels & Trolls

In light of the kickstarter for the new edition of Tunnels & Trolls, I give a look back at the game in general.

02. Forumotion's Brave Halfling Forums... Gone!

This one confused me.  It seems that when I mentioned and a similar post related to the defunct forums in the previous year, the hits just seem to shoot up.  Is it because of concern that BHP is to follow?  A twisted sense of morbid curiosity?  Or something else?  Despite rocky relations with the fans with the past couple of projects, Brave Halfling Publishing is a recognizable name in the OSR and perhaps that is all this was.

01. Quick Rules: Death's Door

The clear winner as far as hits were concerned was this one.  A simple set of house rules take really takes care of issues within a hit-point mechanic based game without relying to more potions and healing spells in order to continue a given dungeon-delve.