What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

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

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Weekend R&R: The Fantastic Adventure

This edition of the Weekend R&R is a bit early but I hope to do another one before the weekend is through...  Enjoy!
"Sneaky Players make the Troll Lord angry.  Unless thee be a crafty Referee, master not the mysteries contained in 'dis tome.  Turn thy attention elsewhere 'til thee are summoned to the table.  And 'den?  'Den thee follow the Troll Lord's command: Roll 'da dice.  Play Hard."
Those were the first words introducing  Mac Golden's "Fantastic Adventure" which was first published in July of 2000.  It was also one of the very first products that Troll Lord Games published and was done right before Wizards of the Coast unleashed its vision of Dungeons & Dragons and the d20 revolution that followed.  More importantly, this module along with a couple other initially published offers a glance at the 'Sword & Sorcery Fantasy Role-Playing Game' which is, arguably some of the roots which became Castles & Crusades.

The adventure module takes a simply concept and offers a twist when the party is confronted with some unlikely allies pursuing common goals.  In essence, 'The Fantastic Adventure' is a very basic scenario which is good for referees and players who are just starting out.  It's a great introduction and, if it weren't for going against a couple of stereotypes when first meeting these non-human and what end up being intelligent, monstrous allies, it could be a module very quickly forgotten or simply ignored by more experienced gamers.  However, there is a bit of charm to the presented scenario.  It is in three basic acts... Act I essentially railroads the players by forcibly compelling the characters to undertake a mission on behalf of the town.  Act II largely deals with the encounter with the other adventuring party.  Act III is where you clear out the abandoned abby in order to complete the quest.  There is very little beyond it but it does make a fun little romp which can easily be completed in a single gaming session.  The adventure contains text for the GM to narrate which is bound to annoy a few people and yet, it also provides an introduction to the setting of Aihrde which is TLG's default setting.  As an introduction to both this type of game and the setting, the Fantastic Adventure does a fair job but, given its simplicity, it is easy to do more with it and the key is how you use the NPCs encountered in Act II and then using them in Act III.

My players will always have fond memories of Octo -- the oddest looking character in the bunch and how he was struck down in combat.  Some of the battles in Act III were ferocious and the Lesser Chimaeras they faced proved brutal.  But the party prevailed and the Fantastic Adventure will always have a special place in my heart as this was the first adventure I ran with my C&C group and my wife.

Of course, I had to convert the material contained in the module for this to happen which brings me back to the 'Swords & Sorcery FRPG'.  The system which really consisted of some 3 or 4 pages of notes detailing very basic stuff was designed to be compatible to other similar FRPGs that came before it.  It was effortless to use with C&C and, the revised d20 version that appeared afterwards is equally easy to use and adapt.

There was never a published version done for C&C though... well, at least not until now.  There were rumors that this was being worked on of course going back several months.  However, it is with the present Castles & Crusades Kickstarter that it is being released in print format for C&C.  This is a freebie for everyone who pledges $99 or more to the campaign.  As an added bonus, it is going to be signed by the author and certain to be collectible.  I have no idea is they intend to put in some of the old S&S notes at the back of the module.  I think it would be awesome if they did.  Regardless, it will be nice to finally see an official C&C version of this fantastic adventure.

If you want to learn more about TLG's current Kickstarter campaign, you can do so HERE.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

To Games Workshop... I'm cashing out!

A little over a year ago, I was introduced to Warhammer 40K.  Admittedly, it was all my fault; I had already been flirting with some of the GW gaming products for a few months.  Notably, these were the Citadel paints which I still primarily use and that starter box of Moria Goblins from the Lord of the Rings game served as my introduction to miniature painting.

Personally I found the quality of that kit to be a bit questionable but I fell in love with the painting of miniatures.  This is a good thing since I had backed the first Reaper Miniature Kickstarter with their Bones line.  With all this time talking to the ever helpful staff at the store, following the advice of a friend who was into miniature wargaming, I also had a chance to take a good look at some of the Warhammer miniatures they had on display.  They looked pretty awesome but the prices on the other hand did help my resolve to stay away.

At least until someone offered to split a box of the Dark Vengeance starter kit.  All they wanted was the Chaos forces... I would get all the Dark Angels, rule book, templates, and dice.  Given the price which worked out to $50 or so, it was a pretty good deal.  I also was rapidly running out of stuff to paint and my Reaper order was still months away.

That's when it started.

A short time thereafter, I found the Miniwargaming site and became a member.  Becoming a member meant additional discounts and, combined with their daily deals and free shipping, my Dark Angels rapidly grew into a sizeable force and suddenly, I was starting to get too much to paint.  I routinely saved 30% of most models; it was never lower than 20% and, on occasion, it was as high as 40%.  I eventually got the overpriced rulebook (for a reasonable price thanks to discounts) and picked up the Dark Angel Codex.  Things were looking up and I could hardly wait to try my first game once I had the larger bulk painted.

Then things turned horribly wrong somehow.

It started with Games Workshop outlined new policies which effectively killed the online retailer and bits market.  Discounts became much harder to come by.  This annoyed me but, by this time, I had most of what I wanted.  Besides, it was a new game and I had plenty of stuff to paint (really too much stuff I realized when my Reaper Bones came in) and a lot of stuff to read up on as I was digesting both rules and fluff.

But now, after being 'in' for just over a year and with 6th Edition being out for around two years, GW is pushing out a 7th Edition and this new edition is even pricier than the last.  Some of the changes being talked about seems more different than I would have liked.

So, what am I to do?

Well, I looked at my shelf and the multitude of boxes that are *STILL IN SHRINK WRAP*, consider the prices that the stuff sells for (and thank my lucky stars that I got almost everything at a discount), and decide to cash out.  I have about $500 worth of models that I am selling (and have already found a buyer for).  I'm 'losing' maybe $50 - $75 on the deal given what I actually spent and what I am getting in return so I'm happy with that.

The models are still beautiful and I'm keeping the few that I've already painted and still have enough to have a full Ravenwing Squardron and an impressive Deathwing force.  I'll still be able to enjoy the occasional Warhammer 40K match and painting some nice models which will eventually be part of a display.

However, Games Workshop that likely has had problems getting new people interested in the game is managing to alienate some more.  Models are just too expensive and the price of the new rulebook is outrageous.  Come out with an affordable rulebook that people can buy outright -- something akin to what's thrown in to the starter sets.  A book with just the rules and light on pictures and art.  It doesn't have to be hardcover either.  Maybe then I'd at least pick it up and maybe make more of an effort to play the new edition.  Right now, I just feel like I'm being taken for a ride and I feel that cashing out (while I still can) the best option available right now.  In the short amount of time I have been dealing with Games Workshop products, I keep on seeing countless examples of shameless cash grabs and endless price increases.

I bailed on TSR on the early 90s because I got fed up with their shenanigans and I'm jumping ship here too.  Time to consider other avenues for some wargaming.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

TLG's Castle & Crusades Kickstarter Update

With just under a couple weeks left, the campaign is starting to heat up once again.  The first few days, the funding amounts grew by leaps and bounds unlocking a few stretch goals.  As it stands right now, this is where it stands:

$29,620 with 280 backers supporting the project.

That means (currently) that the average pledge amount is just over $105 per person.

While I love the game, I do view it as a bit of an uphill battle.  Some backers are undoubtedly the 'faithful fans' but it is encouraging that there are those who are coming to this particular campaign having heard of but not previously owning any of the material.  As I mentioned before, this is certainly something that is nice to see.

Castles & Crusades is a solid game and, why wouldn't it be given its foundations.  Of course, with the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons out on the horizon with release dates and prices confirmed, some gamers are curious (and more than a bit hopeful) that this new version will harken back to the 'good old days' of gaming.

Here's the truth of the matter and something I was lucky to learn back in 2006 around the same time I was looking and subsequently stumbled upon C&C.  Those golden days of gaming are really what you make of it.  It doesn't matter which system you choose to play or try to run as 'FUN' is the key.  For me, C&C fit the bill as it stepped away from the needless complexities that befell 3rd Edition D&D and the annoyances present in 2nd Edition AD&D.  It struck a balance *for me*.  In turn, I was able to present the sort of game that gave me the fun experiences I had when I first came across AD&D so many years prior.

Since then, I've come across other gems that share a common thread that I can relate with.  Swords & Wizardry and Lamentations of the Flame Princess RPG are two other favorites of mine (and there are so many more out there).  Grab something have just have some fun with it.

Of course, since I am talking about the C&C Kicktarter, I should also point out what you are getting at this moment:

For the $99 pledge level, which is about $50 cheaper than the three books many are considering getting from Wizards of the Coast starting this August, you get the three core C&C books -- both in print and PDF.  Granted, the page count of the three books are not quite as extensive as what the new D&D books promise to be *but* the same classic 1st Edition AD&D books also don't come close either.  I don't think anyone will question the fantastic nature of this edition.  But I digress.

With current stretch goals unlocked, you get the three physical books and the PDFs to complement them -- two of which are going to be in full color (the PHB and M&T).  The plan is to do the CKG in full color as well but that stretch goals has not been unlocked... yet.  Along with the three books, three classic adventures that TLG published when they first started operations (years before C&C came about) are also included in print and signed by the respective authors.  These are 'The Fantastic Adventure', 'Vakhund', and 'Mortality of Green'.  I've run two of these before for C&C (using their d20 versions) and they were great fun to run -- I plan to do reviews of these in the coming days before TLG's campaign comes to an end.

It should be pointed out that 'The Fantastic Adventure' has never been published before for C&C and has been long out of print.  'Vakhund' appears to be also out of print but still available on RPG Now.

In an unusual move, TLG is also releasing the occasional hidden stretch goal in the form of different type of dice.  By the sounds of it, it seems like the idea is to release an entire set by the time the campaign ends and the final $45,000 color CKG stretch goal is unlocked.  But who knows... maybe they have other surprises in store.

Still, for $99, three hardcover books and their PDFs and three adventure modules and some dice (so far).  What's more interesting to me is the future stretch goals:

TLG is $320 short of unlocking a $30k stretch goal which is an electronic index of the three books.  Once 300 backers is attained, this same electronic index becomes a printed index companion for the books.  At $33k, another module is unlocked and this time it is 'Dzeebagd' which is the module that follows 'Vakhund' and both part of a trilogy.  While not revealed, it might be safe to bet that the third module will also be in an upcoming goal.  However, before that happens, the most impressive stretch goal of the project (in my opinion), is the planned 'Arms & Armor' book at $35k.  A free book for backers at the $99 level and above (like the other collector's modules) and the comparisons was a useful guide in the same vein as the classic Palladium book of Weapons and Armor.

As an added incentive to get to that $35,000 stretch goal, if reached by Friday by midnight (PST), a saddle stitched supplement for Epic Level Play will also be put together and given to backers at the $25 pledge level and up.  Some of this material is already in the CKG *but* it isn't in the PHB which only goes so far to detail advancement for the various classes.  Not every player will want to get teh CKG for this content but it might be nice to have and free is always a good thing.

Speaking of which, while there are several different pledge levels detailing different options.  A couple of the other popular ones are the $25 level where you get a hardcover and PDF copy of the PHB and the $45 which gets you the PHB and the M&T in hardcover and PDF.  The CKG, while expanding the game nicely, is something that many fans have gone on for years playing the game without.  $45 for two books and really everything you need to play the game (rules, monsters, and treasure) is a great deal given that it's still $5 less than the new D&D PHB will be selling for.  Not too shabby I think.  That said, you wouldn't automatically qualify for the extra modules and Arms book at the lower pledge but still gain other benefits from the campaign.  Of course, it should be worth noting that the campaign is also selling add-ons and TLG has stated that the combined total of your pledge is what counts in terms of what you quality for.  In other words, if you pledged at the $45 level but bought a $55 in add-ons, you qualify for the freebies given at the $99 level.

All around, this is starting to look pretty sweet!

If you want to check out the campaign, you can do so HERE.

(PS - By the time I finished writing this, the total climbed to $29,764 and increased by a couple of backers)

Monday, May 12, 2014

Signal Boost: Ichiban Studios Pro Line Brushes

A few days ago, I backed the newest Games & Gears Kickstarter effort producing a series of Pro Line Brushes with Ichiban Studios.  This has been a highly successful kickstarter with an initial goal of 3000 GPB (which is just over 5000 USD).  With less than three days to go, the campaign has raised close to 70,000 GPB (over 118,000 USD).  As someone who has embarked on the wonderful hobby of miniature painting (thanks Reaper!), I quickly grew dissatisfied with the brushes I started with (thanks Citadel!) and scaled up.  While what I use now is a step up, I am always on the lookout for a 'better brush'.  I suppose the same goes with any tool I use and I'm certain I'm not the only one.  There comes a time when 'good enough' is just not.

It was a friend who helped me out when I started painting my own miniatures that pointed out this particular campaign and, after checking out some of the reviews, updates, and campaign, I decided to pull the trigger on this one.  Of course, it helps that it's being funded by my other half who wanted to get me a nice birthday gift that I would appreciate and use.

So... what do you get:

Well, obviously some brushed.  ;)

At the lowest pledge level you get four brushes -- size 2, 1, 0, and 00.  They are red sable brushes, and the ferrule and bristles portion separate from the handle in order to store them within the aluminum constructed handle thus protecting the bristles.  They appear to be thicker and the brush is tapered down to a shape reminiscent of a pen.  These are sexy looking brushes.

Bonuses have been unlocked and the freebies included is a leather case for the four brushes and a towel to dry off your brushes once you've cleaned them.  There are also a couple of digital downloads.  Beyond that, there are paid add-ons and plenty to choose from.

Of course, these brushes aren't cheap either but a good, quality brush never is.  At 30 GDP, we are talking about $50 USD but, compared to a set of Winsor & Newton Series 7 brushes, very reasonably priced -- especially when I've heard minor rumblings and comparisons between these new brushes and the venerable W&N ones.

Only time will tell how these will stack up though but these sound like a great opportunity.

Something worth noting: This Kickstarter is based in the UK which means no Amazon Payments.  You'll need a Credit Card to back this one.  If you are curious, feel free to check out the campaign going on HERE.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Kickstart This: Castles & Crusades

Troll Lord Games have had several successful Kickstarters in the past and with the help of fans, both older fans and newcomers to the game discovering Castles & Crusades for the first time, have made a difference.  The game started with the fans and an idea to return to a certain style and flavor of gaming and its continued success is directly a result of them too.  Naturally, the same could be said of many other games in this smaller gaming marketplace; old favorites like Chaosium's "Call of Cthulhu" RPG will never fade away.

A couple of years ago, Troll Lord Games did try and expand upon their game.  Not in the sense of additional supplements or campaign modules -- they never stopped doing that. Instead, they wanted to add a splash of color to the pages of some of their books.  At they time, TLG did another Kickstarter to help fund the production of the Player's Handbook heading into it's fifth printing go full-colour.  The campaign, of course, was a success and the book ended up being quite nice.  Truth be told, I never had an issue with the books being in black and white.  My first edition D&D books were all black and white and the second edition books (the initial printings) went with blue text and graphics with some full color plates thrown in.  Honestly, I would have been happy with black and white but with some color plates throughout the book.  One thing is for certain though, the reasoning behind the decision to go full color was simply because it has a tendency to stand out more -- especially when put along side to some of the other full color RPG book offerings by other companies in the market.

At the time, fans figured that a full-colour M&T and perhaps even the CKG would be soon coming.  As it turns out, not exactly.  I'm certain that the intent was always there but, given that the Player's Handbook is the biggest seller for the game because, like dice, everyone needs it to play, the other two 'core books' in comparison sell much more slowly.  When the fourth printing of the PHB sold out, TLG still had the corresponding print versions of the Monsters & Treasure book and Castle Keeper's Guide still in stock.  By the time that the 5th printing PHB sold out, the CKG and M&T were finally at a point that they too needed to be reprinted.

And so, here we are.  On April 29th, Troll Lord Games had announced a new Kickstater to reprint all three core books and the campaign is fully underway have blasted through the initial goals.  The initial goal set at $15,000 was simply to reprint the three books with the Player's Handbook in colour.  There are of course stretch goals and two of them are significant goals.  They are to do the other two books in colour as well.  As I write this entry, we are less than $1200 away from the M&T being done in full colour and that's a lot of pictures.  That particular stretch goal is set at $25K.  The biggest one is set at $45K and the good news is that the funding drive still has just over three weeks left to go and it's trending well.

You can find it, HERE.

So, you may ask yourselves, why back this project if I already have the books and these are just new printings and not an edition change?

Well, true enough, there won't be anything new in this book.  At most, some lingering errata from the PHB and M&T might be resolved though, by now, we are mostly talking about clarifications being put in.  The Castle Keepers Guide on the other hand has only had one printing so it's possible that the lion's share of these corrections will be going in there.  However, the font is getting changed to be just a tad larger.  Many have commented on how the font seemed to be a bit on the small side and while some don't have a problem with this, others did.  The whole point is to make the books as attractive as possible with these new printings and, with the font change, textual clarifications, and the layout alterations, the PHB is projected to be close to 192 pages compared to the last printing's 144.  The M&T and CKG will similarly grow in page count if only to accommodate the font change.  Of course, the three books in color will surely make them stand out.  The last PHB which was in color was mostly good but the paper used didn't showcase the colors as properly as they could have.  Apparently the paper used will be changed to something that will permit the colors to stand out more than the last printing did in order to truly have these three books stand out.  Many fans of the game have acted and continue to act as sort of ambassadors for the game and having better looking books in hand will help make a better impact.

Doing this is an important stage for Troll Lord Games in order to grow their game further.  These amounts being sought are not only to do the books in colour but also to do larger print runs than they've been able to do in the past.  It is also significant to point out that the game is coming upon it's 10th anniversary and in recognition of this, some of the other stretch goals aim to reprint some of the modules that helps launched the company back in 1999 like Mac Golden's "Fantastic Adventure".  Up to know, it hadn't been converted to C&C and has been long out of print.  This module will printed in limited quantities for the backers that qualify -- all signed by the author.  The same is planned for the "Vakhund" module and there is more to come (though not revealed yet).

Of course, if you are already sold on the idea, what might interest you further are the possibility of leather copies of the books.  Having personally bought many different printings of the books over the years, having what is looking to be a 'definitive' printing in leather is awfully tempting.