Monday, September 29, 2014

Covert Ops RPG

On referral from you the readers I ordered Covert Ops RPG from DwD Studios, which as it turns out is such a cool game that I plan to pick up Barebones Fantasy next. I just got my copy this weekend so no in depth review yet, but its an elegant and easy percentile/D10-based system for running modern and near future covert ops/espionage adventures. The hard cover edition from rpgnow is loaded with all you need to play, but I picked up a print module and also ordered both the initiative cards and condition cards for the game. The production quality of Covert Ops as well as the interesting design have me keen to's very quick to get fully functional PCs up and running, and I think my Wednesday group will be interested in trying this sucker out.

DwD also has an "Equipment Pack," consisting of a box with GM screen and "bones" counters on their main site, which I plan to pick up ASAP. Nice!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Eyeballing Runequest 6 for the next alt-night Fantasy Campaign

Magic World has been on hold for a few weeks due to thw whole D&D 5E thing sucking up everyone's game time, but I am getting a serious itch to return to the split game nights, in which we rotate campaigns with D&D one week and "something else" the next. My plans currently are as follows: introduce the Wednesday night crowd to The Void, and expose the Saturday night crew to Runequest 6. The Saturday group has already got a decent Magic World campaign under their belts, but I think they are ready to graduate to the Big Boy of the BRP family of games now. This will open them up to the full range of exotic magic in Runequest, as well as the more tactical/maneuver based combat system which is where RQ6 has a definite leg up on MW.

Apparently Design Mechanism has been busy when I wasn't paying attention, because there's a short "Ships & Shield Walls" supplement out as well as a campaign setting book. I've ordered a copy of the former in print through frpgames, and the latter may be nabbed in the future, if only for the fun of reading it.

For many GMs, the question of "what campaign to run" is a matter of what resource you want to read, or whatever setting you devise in conjunction with your campaign. For me it boils down to which one one of my existing worlds I would like to exploit for my RQ6 campaign. Right now I'm using Enzada for my Wednesday D&D setting, Chirak for my Saturday D&D setting, and was using my newly created world of Pergerron for Magic World. Pergerron, being customized for MW already might be a very easy fit for RQ6, and could in fact benefit from the additional magic systems. However, if I were to run it, then I would have to explain why we were using RQ6 and not just continuing with the MW characters where they left off. So.....

There's my old venerable setting for Lingusia. The World of Lingusia has received so much weird attention from me in the last few years that it's timeline and setting details are all over the place now. I used it most recently for my 13th Age games, but decided that ultimately 13th Age is a little too epic and super-heroic for a world that was originally grounded in a mixture of AD&D 1st edition, T&T 5th edition and Runequest 2. So now, with my latest "update" to that setting I'm thinking maybe Runequest 6 would be a fine choice.

D&D 5E would be, too....but I don't want to just run D&D into infinity anymore. I was to keep it mixed up  a bit.

What I think I'll do going forward is devise the new setting (a revisionist timeline of Lingusia set in the year 2,090 AW for those actually familiar with the setting) with RQ6 as the focus. Make RQ6 the de facto engine for Lingusia going forward, essentially. Given how much I've used time traveling campaigns to revise the setting, this may be more than a little appropriate....and the grittier RQ6 mechanics will be more than sufficient to handle the Age of Strife era I am working on for the next iteration of the world.

So....goal now: try to develop this setting and campaign with RQ6 in mind, and sprinkle blog with liberal doses of both!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Feng Shui 2: Action Move RPG Kickstarter

This one I'd love to back if I wasn't so risk-averse to Kickstarters. It's already blazing along with a huge level of success ($101 K over the modest $8K goal with 22 days to go as of 9/25), and I am sure it will be available at retail, where I prefer to throw money to support (because honestly if the FLGS went away I'd have to host my games somewhere else, and I hate the thought of having to figure out where that "somewhere else" would be....)

Anyway, Feng Shui is one of my all time favorite games from the nineties that I once again never got to play enough of, though I did manage to run a few short campaigns and play on occasion. It's an Atlas Game and frankly they will produce something that'll literally knock your socks off.

Feng Shui 2 fills a much needed void in the RPG market, and I can't wait to play this one 2D12 months after its proposed release date of August 2015.

Five Moons RPG Kickstarter

Sean K. Reynolds is designing a new role playing game called Five Moons and throwing it on Kickstarter. Five Moons RPG is aimed at a sort of "RPG influenced by Sean's years working with card games, tabletop and computer gaming." From some samples it looks like it may also be influenced by Sean's work on the Pathfinder Beginner Box. Given what a fine introductory set the Beginner Box was, it sounds to me like Five Moons aims to capitalize on the interest that set created as an alternative to the core Pathfinder rules.

Anyway.....I don't know if I'll back it, but I'll definitely be interested in the final product. Producing yet another iteration of D&D in the current market is a brazen strategy, but it could pay off if the final result offers a good, targeted style of play that is focused on what people really want right now...and it somehow distinguishes itself enough from the competition (D&D 5E) to be relevant.

Here's a sample of a monster page posted at EnWorld:

Based on the sample above it looks like the goal is: streamlined mechanics from the 3.5 era, and no bounded accuracy anywhere.

When 5E was in playtest mode I kept thinking bounded accuracy would be it's biggest Achilles Heel. Now i think bounded accuracy is its greatest secret weapon. So....we'll just have to see when Five Moons comes out how it holds up.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Character Generation in The Void Core

 Characters in the Void Core rules tend to come from one of three Warden Professions: the enforcer, investigator and researcher. There’s also a freeform character generation option available. We’ll go ahead and stick to standard character generation this time around; wardens are the peacekeepers and law-enforcement officials of the Void universe, and are the core rule defaults for a reason: when something weird happens, they are the first line of defense to get called in to investigate. It’s the ready-made convenient way to justify players investigating mythos incursions into the solar system without running out of too many dead relatives (a tried and true classic hook in 1920’s style Call of Cthulhu).

To start my character off I’m going to think about a bookish sort of fellow, possibly a Warden Researcher because this is a Cthulhu universe after all, and guns probably never did anything except make monsters angry anyway, right? We’ll call him Arnold Hawthorne because why not, and it sounds like a good mythos investigator’s name.

Step one is to figure out the birthplace of Arnold Hawthorne. There are 16 key planets and moons that contain meaningful habitats represented here. For fun I’ll pick the Saturnian moon of Tethys, where Odysseys colony is located. Colonists of Tehys are water miners, working along the famous Ithaca Chasm in a very “frontier town” sort of environment. Aside from givingArnold his native language at rank 5 (presumably English) he also gets E-Suit 1, Freefall 1, and Trade: Product 1 as skills.

Since Tethys is so “out there” on the fringe of the frontier, this tells me Hawthorne’s interest in science and academia was something that he nurtured against the grain of the local prospectors. He probably grew up around lots of frontiersmen who had good mechanical skills and the requisite familiarity with physics and space necessary to stay alive in a crunch, but his real interests lay in higher order physics, perhaps, or a more compelling intellectual calling that went well beyond ice mining.

Stage two is to choose a primary specialty. We’ve already established that we’re going to go with researcher over the combat-focused enforcer and info-gathering investigators, so Hawthorne will be focused on the R&D side of the operation. With that decided, stage three is to determine two secondary specialties based on the primary. For a researcher, these secondary specialties include artist, engineer, physician, and social butterfly. Okay…..I’m going to have to conclude that engineer and physician may be the best choices for Hawthorne, whom I do not see as being very artistic or social, so maladjusted and introverted, as a proper mythos investigator should be.

Stats for the game are assigned with an additional 5 points to customize. The freeform version gives you the full point pool to work with, but we’re going by template so I take the base stats and add 5. For a researcher it indicates that awareness and cleverness are most useful. I take those 5 points and boost both of the core stats, as well as perseverance.

Hawthorne’s stats will look like this based on the preceding choices:

Awareness 5, Cleverness 5, Demeanor 2, Grace 2, Perseverence 4, Physique 2.

I’m going to be focusing heavily on Hawthorne’s mental acumen here, as I am sure you can tell. For skills, he gets 30 points to distribute among his primary skill set. Skills are a 1:1 cost ratio until you reach rank 3, after which it costs 2 skill points to get rank 4 and 3 points to then get rank 5. Here’s what I purchase for Hawthorne, including points gained from his home turf:

Warden Researcher: Computers 2, Cryptozoology 4, Defense 3, E-Suit 1, Freefall 2, Guns: handguns 2, Investigate 3, Law 1, Notice 4, Research 4,  Science: Space 3

Not bad, but I am left wanting. Good news is, I can take 20 more points and divide 10 each among my two secondary templates. I pick the following:

Engineer: Electrical 3, Engineer: Life Support 2, Engineer: Basic Drive 2, Mechanic 3
Physician: Bureaucracy 1, Medicine: Physical 1, Medicine: Psychological 5

In doing this I now see that Hawthorne’s interest was in human psychology….something perhaps which has eluded him due to his own lack of social grace and skill. That said, it was impossible for him not to pick up a hefty volume of lore on space sciences and ship functions, a side effect of necessary basic survival skills on the frontier worlds and moons.

With skills out of the way, next is Qualities. You get five points to spend on qualities, which are like advantages. You can also take a disadvantage, which gives you at least 1 point to spend on further qualities. Unlike skills these all have set costs. For Hawthorne, I look at the following as good choices:

Advantages: Common Sense (2), Eidetic Memory (3), Sixth Sense (3)
Disadvantages: Nightmares (3)

Common sense seems like a no-brainer; it means the GM makes a secret cleverness check when you’re about to do something foolhardy. Growing up in the frontier of Tethys could make for a compelling argument that you learn to double-check everything you do, second guess all your actions, since you’re always one bad idea away from explosive decompression.

Aside from common sense, eidetic memory is a great trait…photographic recall is useful for a researcher and also an annoying ability for those who would sometimes prefer not to remember everything they’ve ever seen or experienced. Lastly, I pick Nightmares as a disadvantage to afford sixth sense, which means more GM-controlled secret tests to see if Hawthorne also picks up a sense of imminent danger. Hawthorne is not a beautiful biological early warning detector. All he had to give up in exchange for these perks was terrible sleep from persistent nightmares that are (possibly unknown to him) a byproduct of the incursion of entities from beyond the solar system….mechanically it means each morning he needs to make a perseverance test, and on a failure he drags around at -1die to all tests for the day. I can see a Hawthorne that may be reliant on stimulants and medications which knock him out entirely to survive through a night with uninterrupted sleep.

You also get to pick a talent. Talents are “feats” in a way, giving an edge to your warden in his daily adventures. From the appropriate researcher talents I pick:

Talent: One Foot in the Grave

With this talent, Hawthorne, probably due to the nightmares, knows that something is out there and it will inevitably get him. Mechanically, when he suffers a Horror Effect he can shift it up or down one result on the table. This can actually be useful….if, for example the default effect he suffers is “Freeze” Hawthorne can actually choose to “shriek like a little kid” or “faint dead away.” Screaming could get help to arrive…and fainting is never a bad idea when you are facing the mythos, as they are notoriously disinterestd in unconscious creatures. So it’s a weird talent….it adds a little agency into just how grizzly Hawthorne’s end might be.

Finally we get to stage four of character generation. We get two quirks, which much like GURPS quirks are things that are interesting but not necessarily special. From the example quirks provided I pick the following for Hawthorne:

Quirks: Clean Spotlessly, Obscure 20th century psychiatric quotes

Hawthorne is an immaculately clean fellow and his environment shows it; he doesn’t like clutter or dirt. Likewise, his obsession with psychology has led him to delve deep into obscure factoids about the early rise of psychiatry in the 20th century….friends and acquaintances are used to him making one-off comments about Freud and Jung in otherwise polite conversation.

Characters under the default character generation are presumed to be experienced professionals, and fall around age 28 to 35. I’ll put Mr. Hawthorne at Age 34, the tail end of the age range.

On gear, The Void uses a wealth code system. Default characters (without special advantages) have a personal wealth of 2 and sponsored wealth of 1. The wealth 2 raiting is “middle class.” If you want to purchase something and it’s under your wealth rating….then no problem, it’s yours. If you want to purchase something at or over your wealth rating, then a skill check determines if you can, in the form of a purchase test. The difficulty you beat determines whether you deplete your funds, by how much, and whether you can keep spending. It’s an abstract mechanic that can keep the focus away from the game’s  economics, though if your players are like mine they like counting every credit they earn, so YMMV on this one.

For Hawthorne, however, his wealth level is enough to buy a ACC-44 holdout pistol if he needs it along with a flak jacket. His goal is not to get into that kind of trouble, however, so our main interest is in useful research tools. It is at this point that I realize that while a lot of discussion is provided on tech, only weapons and armor get specific stats with wealth codes, so I will just assume Hawthorne has the stuff he needs to get the job done and make it all up.

And so we now have a complete adventurer in The Void using the core rules:

Arnold Hawthorne
Human male of Tethys, Warden Researcher Age 34

Attributes: Awareness 5, Cleverness 5, Demeanor 2, Grace 2, Perseverence 4, Physique 2.

Background Skills: English 5, E-Suite 1, Freefall 2, Trade: Product 1
Warden Researcher: Computers 2, Cryptozoology 4, Defense 3, Guns: handguns 2, Investigate 3, Law 1, Notice 4, Research 4,  Science: Space 3
Engineer: Electrical 3, Engineer: Life Support 2, Engineer: Basic Drive 2, Mechanic 3
Physician: Bureaucracy 1, Medicine: Physical 1, Medicine: Psychological 5

Advantages: Common Sense (2), Eidetic Memory (3), Sixth Sense (3)
Disadvantages: Nightmares (3)
Talent: One Foot in the Grave
Quirks: Clean Spotlessly, Obscure 19th-20th century psychiatric quotes

Equipment: portable computer, ACC-44 Holdout pistol, flak jacket, suitable dress and garb, security locked briefcase, portable psycho-analysis kit (Freud Systems limited field AI unit)

Next: Hawthorne vs. a mi go!!!! Or maybe a look at the lifepath generation system in the Expanded Characters Book.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

13 True Ways printing error, news at 13

My physical copies of the 13 True Ways, Book of loot and Shadows of Eldolan all showed up at the same time today from Pelgrane Press. Joy! It is like Xmas in the 13th Age come early. But then I opened up my 13 True Ways book and found that roughly half the pages were stuck together starting along the top spine down, a couple dozen pages severely....almost all had to rip to come apart. Not good!

I've sent off an email to Pelgrane's customer support and will let you know how the process goes.

That said.....although I empathize with those who consider themselves digital media only these days (hell I consider myself digital only for paperbacks and normal books now) I gotta say, these are some gorgeous looking books, wouldn't trade them up for PDF only, period.

Now, if I can just get a 13 True Ways that isn't terminally sticky.....

Monday, September 22, 2014

Batman...or Bat God? The Batman as a Mayan Deity Figure

This art project is all about merging the Batman motif with the traditional iconography of Mayan myth, specifically the iconography of Camazotz, the Death Bat of Quiche Mayan folklore (and earlier) and one of the key Xibalban demons of the Popol Vuh.

The Mexican Museum of Design with artist Kimbal is posting amazing pics....I have to say, I definitely approve of this look:

Methinks a carefully crafted Elseworlds tale could spring from this design....

Icons of the Realms Minis

I finally picked up ten boxes of the Icons of the Realms minis sets, and if you've been on the fence about whether these are worth your time, here's some opinions from a "mid level" minis collector....someone who doesn't expect to devote a princely sum to securing a complete set, but does want a nice range of interesting minis to use at the game table when the time comes for it. Although I'd prefer to never use minis, many of my players like them and it can be useful at times. So....some comments:

First, the paint job in the Icons of the Realms starter set wasn't nearly as nice as the actual regular boosters. The six iconic heroes were fine, but the effort clearly went into the regular boosters.

There are 44 unique minis, and a range of exotic rares, including clear plastic "invisible" figures. Each box includes four figures, one of which will be a large figure. In my boxes I managed to get a pretty decent range of figures, and a couple rares. I snagged one invisible figure (invisible Drizzt) which my cohort at the gaming table (who IS a "gotta have it all" minis collector) did not have.

Because these sets include 4 figures per pack it is much harder than in the old days to get large numbers of the the idea of amassing large numbers of orcs, goblins, kobolds and others for which lots of commons are handy is simply not feasible from buying the boosters, or at least not as easy and definitely more costly.

The paint jobs on the figures are very nice. The sets often include separate stands, clear tubes for the flying figures, and these require a bit of perseverence to properly mount. Glue might be handy to have.

I felt like I got a decent range of figures out of ten boxes. Of the ten boxes, two had errors: one came with five figures (nice) but one was missing a clear stand tube, so the wyvern it came with was grounded.

Will I get more? Maybe. Hard to say, honestly....after a discount from the FLGS I still spent close to $150 on the ten boxes which worked out to about $3-4 per figure. You might be better suited to perusing Ebay if you just want to collect singles, and if you want hordes of certain commons. I might pick up a couple more boxes at random just to see what I get, but I have to say, I think they should put more medium and large figures in these boxes, and stay are from the very large figures, maybe reserve those for special non-collectible sets. Six to eight normal figures feels like a more useful investment for my game table, sort of how the older sets (i.e. Harbinger) did it. But...this is Wizkids doing it under license for WotC, and Wizkids knows what they are doing, I suppose. They might have the volume:value formula down right for their primary audience, and honestly, I'm a bit cheap when it comes to buying minis.

For the paint jobs and range of figures over ten boxes I give this a solid A. for the dollar value and the likelihood you can get a complete set without spending a lot of money? Definitely a C-.

Friday, September 19, 2014

More Monster Manual Madness

Reading this when I can is compelling. The new PHB was exciting, but much of it was a process of skipping through the new rules to get to the meat of each class or set of mechanics to get play rolling. Good and utilitarian. The new Monster Manual, however, commands your attention and really makes you want to read it. This is a very good thing. It's not the only book to do this in 2014, either...the 13th Age Bestiary is very much the same sort of tome, one where the reading of the book is sufficient to send your head swimming with neat ideas for future games.

Overall, this book is shaping up to be the best MM since the 2nd edition Monstrous Manual. It's that good.

The Monster Manual - just killed all the other Monster Manuals and took their stuff

I secured my copy this late evening and while I haven't had time to read it cover to cover yet, I wanted to make a few observations for those interested:

1. This is the most gorgeous Monster Manual to date. Those early reviews out there saying it's a good looking book? They are not kidding. Even the most ardent haters of the 5E style will sound lame and ineffectual if they try to argue that the 5E Monster Manual doesn't look good.

2. It has about 421 individual stat blocks, spread out over 352 pages, and covers pretty much "all the core." You may not necessarily see something surprising jump out at you (this is a book of the tried and true) but the artistic depictions and actual details of some old favorites may take you by surprise.

3. The succubus (and incubus) is now a vile race of the lower planes that plays all sides...demon, devil, whatever. Also, the incubus is distinctly more sexualized than the succubus.....

4. The spiffed up looks of the demons and devils are great, but I am especially impressed at the black-armored Erinyes, and the spined devil is freaky.

5. Where are the mohrg? Were they not iconic enough? I know they got gutted into viscera thingies in 4E, but I've loved mohrg as major foes since their 3.0 appearance. Murderous serial killer undead with drippy touchy intestine-tentacles better show up in a future book, please.

6. No nymph?

7. Downside to the book so far: it includes a nice selection of sample NPC encounter stat blocks (similar to what was released in the free mini-MM) but the advice to customize them for the core races is to use the PHB's racial details. A concise "template" of each race in the MM would have been welcome.

8. No monsters-as-playable-races options in the MM. I think they're saving that for the DMG.

9. The mind flayer illustration is seriously bad ass.

10. Revenants exist in 5E! They have a monster entry, which gives me hope they will get some space as an alternate race in the DMG or a future tome.

Two months to go before the DMG....oh, the wait will be excruciating!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Synchonizing Media - the Marvel Example

This is not something DC quite has down, which is surprising, considering how venerable their characters are, but after reading up on the Marvel comics universe over the last several months and re-watching the movies with my son, it's become clear that Marvel's connection to Disney is stronger than one might's subtle, but very, very deep. Specifically, it's the branding, and the "identity" of the Marvel Universe that's at the forefront of it all.

Given that I've only returned to Marvel comics recently, it's possible for some this is old news, but as I have played a lot of catch-up on titles from around 2006 to current it's easy to notice some interesting trends. The biggest trend (aside from Marvel relying on Brian Michael Bendis to deconstruct and write the entire friggin' line of comics, more or less) is to sycnhronize the film mediaverse with the comic universe. As a result, we have a trend in which characters, situations and themes in the comic start to resonate with the film versions of the characters. Nick Fury is awesome as Samuel L. Jackson, a significant improvement over the Hasselhoff edition of the old Nick Fury, who has now gone into retirement (mostly) in the comics, to be replaced by his son he never knew he had, who is now officially the new Nick Fury Jr. Not precisely the same origin as the movie version, but similar enough to avoid confusion for fans of the movie who return to the comic, I guess.

Hawkeye gets a suit that's more suited to his film counterpart (but there's a suggestion the older look will return on film, ironically). Black Widow is a much more interesting character now because of her film representation than she ever was in the comics. Captain America in the comics was the champion of "violence without slaughter" but even that has been corroded a bit as the films amply demonstrate the oddity of a guy who's literally a super soldier trained in the heart of World War II to get the job done, no matter how many dead nazis lie in his wake.

About the only character to not get a severe make-over is Tony Stark, alias Iron Man. Sure, his personality in the comics sounds and feels more and more like the Downey Jr. version (which of course was the quintessential extrapolation of the original pre-movie Iron Man, but with better hamming it up per scene)...but the Marvel version has gone off the deep end as the guy who not only solves problems but often causes them (Civil War) and regularly does super science craziness that even makes the comic universe look a little wacko (Dyson sphere construction, anyone?)

But, and this is something you have to have been reading Marvel a long time to notice....the Marvel universe has gotten very, very tight. The stories are long and detailed, and usually span convenient measurements of 6 to 12 issue story arcs, enough to fill up a TPB release or two. If there is a conceivable way to tie characters into the Avengers it is done. If they don't fit there they make it to the X-Men series. X-Men are a little "out there" these days but that's okay, they don't need to worry about having it all make sense for the film universe, since they aren't tied in to the Marvel continuity of movies. But the Avengers? Definitely.

Downsides to this trend of tight storytelling are a tendency to forget to make the less well known characters much more than props. The number of stories I've read over the last five years' worth of comics appear to all tie to Ultron, Thanos, Kang, and mirror-universe variants of the key characters. The number of time travel stories I have read is so ridiculous that it makes the 52 universes of DC look positively mundane by comparison. And all of this appears to be to keep the comics in interesting holding patterns, to test themes for interest in the bigger media, and to provide themes for forthcoming film releases.

Even Scarlett Witch is back with the Uncanny Avengers (prep for Avengers: Age of Ultron?), and I still haven't read the book which convinced me that anyone would think that was a good idea after her House of M madness. Must still be on my reading list....

So the Marvel universe is simultaneously riddled with high-concept storytelling but also seems to have an alarming tendency to do horrible things to their characters before "resetting the clock" to insure things don't deviate too much. The Disney IP branding methodology seems stronger and more firmly in place than I might have ever imagined it. could just be me. Next time I'll talk about the wacko timeline of the Marvel Universe, and the interesting ways the writers mess with it (especially Bendis, that mad genius!)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dungeon Master's Guide delayed

Only three weeks according to The Escapist, but the DMG will be pushed back a bit to insure the best quality control they can. I figure it's for one of these reasons: 1. feedback on errata from the PHB and MM have convinced them that they need to pay more attention to the final edit/layout; 2. they really are pushing the time spent writing the final draft to the limit; 3. feedback on the first book has left them scrambling to make sure the DMG includes expected/desired content.

Either way, probably not a bad thing. I'll now go look into forums where enraged entitlement gamers whine about how this is a deal breaker for them....

Mearls softened the news with an awesome picture of the Modron March from the DMG:

Necromancer Games Fifth Edition Books now on Pre-Order

As predicted, the Fifth Edition compatible books from Necromancer Games are now available for pre-order with the closing of the Kickstarter. I ended up not backing the Kickstarter at the last minute due to a desire to see what the actual remaining D&D rulebooks look like first before committing to another batch of hardcovers that may or may not contain content that is optimal for use with D&D 5E, given the tight turn-around on these books....I suspect it will be good stuff, though....but now I can order them at my leisure and without the nebulous specter of a Kickstarter effort looing like a dark shadow, threatening to cause all participants involved to get horribly ill with deletirious wasting diseases as is exceedingly common for most Kickstarters....starting one seems to induce terrible plagues upon those creative souls who endeavor in such ventures....

I kid! ....a little. At least the Frog God guys are more than proven on their ability to knock Kickstarters out at this point. However they also come with steep price tags, and ordering these books later at my leisure is a better deal for me in the long run. If it turns out these books will be full of useful content that is both in alignment with the 5E rules and fills a needed void....then I shall invest at that time.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Review of The Void: Role Playing in a Lovecraftian Hard SF Future

A while back I mentioned acquiring The Void, a system from Wildfire available on PDF and print at rpgnow. The Void is a new game system that adopts the Cthonian Stars setting from Wildfire into its own entity (the original was Traveller-based), and is based on a "not to distant future" hard SF setting in which something out in the void is approaching the solar system, and with it comes the horrors of the Cthulhu Mythos to once again descend upon man.

Characters in The Void take on the role of Wardens, solar "rangers" and peace-keepers who have the resources and the need to travel through the habitable worlds solving crimes and espionage, and also dealing with futuristic mythos-tainted X-Files situations in the process. The Player's Guide expands character creation to include all sorts of other background options, as well.

So far I have all of The Void in print, not least of which is because the standard-color print editions are pretty cheap, and this is a fun game with an easy system to learn. My goal is to run a campaign very soon, possibly starting in a couple weeks if I can convince one of my groups to go back to a bi-weekly rotation away from D&D 5E.

Anyway, here's what's out for The Void so far:

The Void Core - the main rules, which give you all the basics. Free version is available, and it's also written as a "open source" set of rules so you can produce content for the game as long as you attribute your sources correctly. I'd like to see someone take advantage of this feature, maybe even myself....

Secrets of the Void - a mess of useful ideas for GMs on the presence of the Old Ones and their influence in the solar system.

Player's Guide - hardly needed if you're just planning on running a couple games from the core about the wardens, but invaluable if you'd like to make the system and setting something you'll revist frequently. Lots and lots of new options for characters.

Horrors of the Void 0: Expanded Horrors - there are only a few monsters in the core book so this is pretty essential, containing a mix of classic and new Lovecraftian horrors and details on their role in the future of The Void. About 30 monsters in all.

Horrors of the Void 1: Body Horror - if Dead Space is going to be a major thematic influence on your campaign then these body horrors will be very useful. Lots of detail on four specific monsters and how they change their hosts...

Pandora's Paths I: Adventures - three scenarios to get you rolling. There is also a four-part scenario series in PDF only on rpgnow called the Stygian Cycle, which I am hoping is eventually grouped into its own print collection.

Some notes about these books and system:

First, they are all 5X7 digest format, and the format looks good in PDF, so if you want a PDF version these will read well on any normal sized 7 inch and up tablet. The books are all full-color and the full color editions read well in print since the text area is kept clean of any background clutter, and in a decent font size, so kudos to Wildfire for making these books nice and acessible to older eyes.

The art is great in all of the books. The full color art is evocative and the artists know their Lovecraft well enough to convey it quite nicely. I suppose this should come as no surprise since this is the same crew which devised the slavishly illustrated Cthulhupunk line. Note that Cthulhutech and The Void are not otherwise related to the best of my knowledge; the anime-mythos crossbreed of weirdness that is Cthulhutech is its own separate universe.

Mechanically the game system uses a very simple "test" mechanic where you roll a pool of six sided dice based on relevant skill and attribute. Your goal is to roll 5's and 6's, and get as many more than the target number which is usually from 1-4. Thus, you may have Demeanour 3 and Intimidation 2, and would roll 5 dice to try and intimidate a guard. The GM might declare a target of 2 to beat....get two or more 5's and 6's and you succeed.

The core rules include plenty of information on equipment, including some starships and lots of details such as planetary travel times and costs. The entire system, sans mythos, could readily serve an ordinary hard SF campaign with no problem at could easily run this as an Outland-style campaign without once exposing your players to a mi-go or seethari. Heck, with a modest bit of work on adding in some FTL concepts you could use the system and most content as written to produce a near-future FTL interstellar exploration campaign, too.

The game does lots of work providing some simple rules and direction on providing for "hard SF" concepts, enough so for me to be happy with it...happier than I was when I first started reading it, in fact. Every now and then I may disagree with one or two points.....colonizing Venus, for example, is highly unlikely to happen in the form of subterranean habitats....the sheer engineering prospect alone of digging sustainable underground habitats on the Venusian surface strikes me as beyond the scope of even the future civilization presented in The Void, for example. Another one that I scratched my head at was the macguffin introduced to keep Mars safely "red" and free of terraforming...a mysterious substance that is basically useless and makes mining prohibitively costly. Whaaaaaaa???? They can dig deep int Venus and make habitats humans can live in but the outer crust of Mars is all but impossible to dig into just beneath the surface??? The purpose of this appears to be an effort to keep Mars mysterious and red, just the way we like it, but at the expense of setting up a postulate that is missing some important details that any hard SF afficionado is going to want answers to (such as what is the hard substance beneath the crust that made mining ventures ultimately futile...what is it called, and why is it useless and/or more prohibitive in cost to drill through than, say, making cavern habitats on the hideously volatile surface of Venus?) This sort of item may not bother your group, but a hard SF fan or even an armchair geologist in your group could leave you using a bit of handwavium on the donotwantium of the Martian subsurface shale....

Aside from those examples above, none of which are game-breaking by any stretch (I'm just being nitpicky) the future solar system of The Void is a very cool place just begging for exploration. The idea of making every single scenario about the mythos seems counter-intuitive to be honest....there's loads on regular SF concepts just begging to be explored here, and dropping the mythos on top of it is like adding a tasty cherry to a large banana split.

About the only other negative comment I could make is that you really will need at least "Horrors of the Void 0" to fill out the roster of potential mythos encounters in The Void. The four-odd threats in the Core are not enough for the long term. If you focused on lots of non-mythos exploration and mystery you could probably get away with limited mythos resources, but the game really could have benefitted from packing the Horrors 0 book in with core to begin with.

Anyway....the core book is Pay What You Want so check it out first! Each of the supplements are in color for standard print (I found standard had no problems in terms of quality) for $10-$19 apiece and you can get the core rules in print for $29.99 with standard color. I personally strongly recommend The Void as your go-to resource for hard SF Lovecaftian future horror.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

5th Edition Thri-Kreen

In case you haven't seen it yet EnWorld has the thri-kreen on display here. Also, here:

I've got an upcoming scenario which needs some thri-kreen to spice it up, so perfect timing!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Five Games that Desperately Need to Join the Old School Revival (somehow)

The OSR has done wonders for preserving the memory of games from the first decade or two of the hobby, and it's kept them alive either spiritually or in some form of retroclone. The OSR was strong enough that I think it is at least part of the reason that we ended up getting reprints of no less than four editions of D&D (not to mention the D&D PDF store), and is why we continue to see effort poured into making older games such as Traveller and Runequest available through various editions and iterations.

There are, however, some games out there which are worthy of this sort of respect, but which linger on in limbo, neglected by all save a very small handful of gamers who still have physical copies to play around with. Some non-D&D games have gotten some attention, yes....the 4C System is a decent lowdown on the classic Marvel Superhero RPG from TSR, for example, and others appear in decidedly more nebulous format (such as how Star Frontiers exists as a thing you can buy if you don't mind feeling a bit shady about the process).

Nope, this is about those games which, despite popularity or venerable status as classics, haven't somehow gotten their proper due when it comes to the OSR revival. Or "osr" revival if you're one to quibble that the hobby is exclusively about D&D and everything else is at best a fringe case. So without further top five RPGs in desperate need of an OSR revival. All they need is a champion with the spare time to figure out how to massage the OGL into coughing up a suitable replica....or a crazy publisher willing to spew forth a working reprint or revival:

5. Top Secret

Top Secret recently had a module print no Gygax Magazine. The only thing more utterly inconceivable than a game that's been out of print for close to 30 years getting a new module in print today is a game that's been out of print 30 years and doesn't even have an OSR retroclone to support said module.

Top Secret was part of an 80's wave of spy/espionage games and one of the most memorable. The second edition might arguably have been the better edition, but it was nonetheless a great game and did a fine job of conveying the genre from an 80's cold war style. It's possible later competitors like the Bond 007 game were better, but Top Secret was the one that first grabbed me.

Status: presumably part of WotC's wholesale grab of TSR, it is theoretically possible they could do something with the game but I think we'll be fortunate if they bother to scan it in for PDF re-release.

4. Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes

Even better than Top Secret was Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes, Mike Stackpole's magnum opus of gaming (because sometime after MSPE he moved on to fiction and never looked back). MSPE was based on the same core system as Tunnels & Trolls 5th edition, adding a skill system in and demonstrating rather amply that regardless of how irreverent and beer & pretzels T&T could feel, MSPE could use the exact same system for some serious gaming. The book was, like all Flying Buffalo products of the day, clean and exceptionally well organized with loads of interesting bits. One of my favorite games of the last four decades was in MSPE.

Status: MSPE currently languishes in the hell that is reserved for games that passed in ownership to other less stable/responsible publishers. So while Flying Buffalo exists and is producing new stuff even today, MSPE is not a part of that, having been bought by Sleuth Publications, which folded a few years later and also took Different Worlds magazine with it, as well as some great Tekumel books (as I recall...or maybe it was whoever bought Sleuth, and then THEY folded, too). The good news is you can still get copies of MSPE and most of the content released for it over at Flying Buffalo's online store. If a new iteration of MSPE were ever made possible all the game would need would be a an update to the modern era...the core rules could remain as-is.

3. The DC Heroes MEGS System

DC Heroes went through three editions before Mayfair Games had some sort of meltdown and liquidated their RPG line. The core mechanic, called the "MEGS" system for Mayfair Exponential Game System was a stroke of genius and this was my second-most-played game system for most of the late 80's and early 90's outside of AD&D and Cyberpunk was such a smooth system, and it handled the vast power differences of the DC universe flawlessly.

Status: Sold to the people who released the system as "Blood of Heroes" and then disappeared off the map, MEGS languishes in forgotten game hell now. The only consolation I can suggest is that Mutants & Masterminds 3rd edition moved to a stat system with exponential values that is distinctly similar to MEGS.

2. Dragonquest

When SPI carved its way into RPGs it did so as only a wargame company could, with complex systems that were viewed by some as on the extreme end of the bell curve of complexity. Dragonquest quickly became my go-to system right after Palladium Fantasy and Runequest back in the day when I formally abandoned AD&D between 1985 and 1988, and I did not leave it as my engine of choice until AD&D 2nd edition (and a large table of begging and pleading players) coerced me into the dark side once more.

Dragonquest was robust, filled with exotic modifiers and details including astrological signs and a combat system that would make D&D 3.5 blush with jealousy. It's format was strongly aligned with the protocol for the era of wargame rulebooks, something that proved daunting to those who had not dabbled on both sides of the fence. It later fell into limbo as SPI was bought out by TSR, and was then revived in a new 3rd edition which received one module for support. A hypothetical future sourcebook still exists on the internet.

Dragonquest was noted for its elaborate rules on demonology with a strong focus on "medieval" feeling magic. When it was revamped by TSR it became a victim (and benefactor) of the "we are terrified of the fundamentalist anti-D&D crowd" focus TSR had adopted, and the demonology was removed entirely and replaced with a new set of rules on elemental summoning. The ideal 4th edition of Dragonquest would include both the new content and the missing old content.

Status: presumably one of many games sucked up as part of TSR by WotC, but suffering because they already have a flagship game. The best we could hope for would be a re-release in PDF down the road. There's a hidden online fanbase for the game as well, if you search hard.

1. Fantasy Trip

Need I say more? Fantasy Trip was for many the defacto alternative choice to AD&D back in the day, and was considered by many to be more playable and functional than other competitors of the time. It became the spiritual father to GURPS 1st edition and the Man-to-Man sourcebook which Steve Jackson Games released was effectively a second edition of Melee. Unfortunately TFT died when Metagaming went belly up after a scandal involving a "treasure hunt" for a million dollar gold unicorn advertised in a supplement, with no prize ever forthcoming. Steve Jackson's efforts to buy TFT outright were thwarted, prompting him to instead create GURPS.

TFT was so amazing because it was such a tight, concise system that offered all you could possibly need or want in one very clean, comprehensive package. It was the anti-D&D of it's day because it managed to be both complex and organized. It had sourcebooks which offered solo play, books like Melee and Wizard which offered tactical combat experiences, and the full "In the Labyrinth" which graduated it into a fantastic full-featured RPG. It was designed by Steve Jackson, and it shows. The map and minis/chits combat was fluid and fun. It was a Full Monte style package. I had a friend back in the day who practically devoted his life to this game...he never played anything else. I tracked down all of the books I could back then, and loved pouring over every detail it offered. This was written at a time when every word was worth reading, nothing was just filler text.

Status: The Fantasy Trip plays like a tight, pared-down version of GURPS which focuses on gritty, low-magic calculating fantasy with an emphasis on tactics.* We could technically have a version of TFT today of SJGames released a Lite version of GURPS which skinned the system down to just the stuff that would coincidentally exist in an iteration of TFT. As it stands, to get the pure deal you need to hunt around online for those sites which keep it alive, sometimes in the form of bootleg PDFs. Then you have to try and explain to your younger gamer crowd (or older D&D-obsessed gang) what TFT was and why it was so amazing. There's also a "version" of it in existence that has some current scenarios in print that model themselves loosely on Metagaming's old boxed sets here. Dark City's pretty close in terms of a modern rendition, but they still don't have a good hardcore "In the Labyrinth" product out, last I checked, to bring it all together.

*Note that a "tactical" experience in 1979 was decidedly different from what we think of as tactical today. A lot grimmer, high mortality rate, and no superheroics or game systems designed to keep you in the game through gimmicky rules designs. TFT comes from an era where tactical meant a sword to the gut was likely your PC's grizzly end.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Different Worlds

While researching a bit for a post I am scheduling this Friday on five games that desperately need OSR attention, I stumbled across the Different Worlds website. If this site is functional and live, it appears to contain a plethora of old Different Worlds back issues for sale, as well as sundry Judges Guild products, Gamelord books and some more contemporary stuff, too. If you're looking to flesh out your collection of old school books, this may be a decent resource. If anyone's ordered from here let me know....sometimes it's a bit hard to tell if these sites are functional or not....!

For those not in the know, Different Worlds was a great magazine that ran for over forty issues back in the 70's/80's and was published by Chaosium for most of its run. It was a fantastic alternative gaming resource and was pretty much the best source of general RPG content back in the day, next to Dragon, Sorcerer's Apprentice, Space Gamer and a few others. Sleuth Publications eventually bought it up then DW tried to continue a few issues later on its own after SP folded, but alas that was the magazine's death knell.

Anyway.....check it out here. Someone order something and report back! I'd love to get as many issues of DW as possible back into my collection again...

City States of Pelegar

Excerpted from the Realms of Chirak; still a bit dated but I plan to bring it current soon...

Valen, the Neutral City

   The immense walls of Valen, the gateway city, stretch from one wall to the other of the Cossarit Pass. The walls are as high as two hundred feet,  built over the ages by many dedicated hinterlanders who seek to preserve the privacy and integrity of their land from any outsiders.

   Valen is said to have been founded shortly after the apocalypse, and its age shows. The city is a great and maddening maze of multileveled streets and towering buildings with a pervasive gothic architecture. Here dwell both hinterlanders, lowlanders, and zealots all in harmony (on the surface) in what is agreed upon as the only neutral city of the land. Ruled by three regents named Lord Gale Medeban of the hinterlanders, Pastakar Ranhadal of the zealots, and Cherathas Delitharia (the younger sister of the queen of Talosin), Valen is carefully kept as a neutral territory for all disputes.

   Behind the curtain of Valen, the dark being Gloom rules with a quiet perseverance, maintaining its eternal charge as the slayer of Avatars. It was summoned long ago to insure that no avatar of any god should enter the Pelegar land seeking forbidden knowledge, or to lift the curse of the people. Gloom is ruthlessly efficient and enjoys the flesh of avatars in a vampiric manner. He despises all holy men, in fact, and preys upon anyone who is not a member of the Cult of the Lost Gods.

Talosin, The Dreaming City

   With the Cossarits looming like a great and endless wall of darkness, Talosin is nestled in a fertile basin of green along two major rivers that cascade down from the mountains. It is called the dreaming city, for its lowlander nobles are said to dwell in decadent squalor, and rely on their thralls to keep them comforted and safe. The city is ruled by a king or queen chosen by the Servants of the Dream, mages who have learned to divine through dream magic the hidden will of the land. The current ruler is a young woman named Vialle Dianeni. Her youth and energy have prompted a new era of warfare, as she struggles to unite the decadent nobility in to an effective force against encroaching orcish raiders from the mountains as well as the overwhelming armies of the Empire of Sabradan in the west. 

Vanholm, City of Relics

   The quiet and murky city of Vanholm is ruled by a council of three nobles, the chief of which is Cartus Vindaros. Vanholm is a relic city, in which the population goes about its daily affairs in a dreamy state, but the life of the land seems gone. Only the threat of Dalevar incursions rallies the people, and then only briefly. Strange beings and predatory undead are rife in the region of Vanholm, and some suspect that the torpor of the people is in part an ensorcellment caused by these entities which use the population like fodder. The suspected leader of these beings is a vampire called Eris the Red, an ancient being, said by some to be a soldier who was alive during the apocalypse, who drank deeply of the blood of Ga'Thon, and whose enervated life force was corrupted in to a permanent servant of the destroyer.

Pillar, City of War

   Pillar is a militant community, and many of Pelegar's finest warriors come from this region. Warfare as a sport is common here, and the grand arenas are a fabled attraction for those seeking the glory of war and bloodshed for sport. The ruler of the city is Corbas Halone, a violent and dangerous man who is known to be the famous general who repulsed the now infamous Omnios Invasion of two decades ago, in which the Sabradan Empire sought to exterminate the Pelegar once and for all under Emperor Suvias.

   Pillar is haunted, like its fellow cities, by an entity of dire nature. Memneres is a fallen Eholim, it is said, once the general of Pallath, the fallen sun god. Memneres is said to have betrayed Pallath for the love of a demon woman named Trivvetir, and when he realized his error, he remorsefully threw himself in to the Battle of the West, but was slain. The blood of Ga'Thon seeped in to his mortal wounds, and he was resurrected as the undead that he now is. Memneres now lives only to be sated by the perpetual war games of the Pelegar he incites, relishing in the deaths of the cursed people.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Destiny is now out, and it's a thing, at least if you're into consoles. PC owners will have to wait a while, I suspect....assuming Bungie actually does release this for PC down the road, that is. They may be quite comfortable with keeping it on console, if only because it's easier to monetize there.

Anyway, it's a great game....not the "be all and end all" of new titles for the next generation, but definitely innovative in a significant way for shooters. The structure of the game is a well-conceived blend of traditional FPS style gameplay and MMO design, creating a mixture of scenarios and open world exploration that blend really well together. The hubs and multiplayer elements are there, and certainly available for exploit by those who crave them, but just as easily a "background detail" for those not so can still get into plenty of firefights with allies without having to group, talk, or do much more than nod appreciatively at the assist, basically.

I'm only a few hours in so far, catching up and surpassing where I got to in the beta test a while back, but the open world areas are huge and gorgeous, the quests generally interesting in a "collect this and kill that" sort of way. Although I can see them getting a bit repetitive after a while, I am counting on the game giving me incentive and opportunity to move on to new regions and events to keep it fresh.

The desolate post-apocalyptic landscapes, sound and music are great....sort of reminds me a bit of the love child of Halo and Fallout 3, but with the lighter fare of an MMO quest mechanic over the more involved RPG storyline. The main missions contain the story, which is told in cut scenes and events....I am eager to see where it goes over time.

Character generation is surprisingly detailed for the kind of game this is, but you don't get to name your character, which is a shame...simple things like that will attract the diehard RP crowd, which Bungie may not be all that familiar with, coming from a FPS console side of the picture. A shame, because I could see my wife and her RP buddies playing the hell out of this game for the character armor options alone.

Destiny won't rock everyone's world, but I think it does set a new precedent for FPS titles. Going back to play CoD: Ghosts, Wolfenstein The New Order or Killzone: Shadow Fall after playing Destiny is a bit hard....they feel a severely lacking for different reasons, to say the least....CoD: Ghosts too tired and focused on rigid formulas, Wolfenstein too on the rails (despite trying to pretty up the experience with the illusion of choice) and Killzone feeling too clunky compared to the smooth, almost effortless control scheme of Destiny. Metro Redux gets a pass because the game's aambiance is through the roof, and its story is hard to beat.

Anyway.....nice to have a really good and unique game out on consoles again. I'll provide a follow-up report once I've had more time to really delve into Destiny's long term potential.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Comics on Tablets

With the increasing ease of access to hi-resolution tablets, reading electronic editions of comics is getting easier. In the last few months I've taken to collecting a lot of back-issue trade paperbacks on both the Marvel and DC lineups, as well as using the medium to experiment with third party books (Cyberforce, Savage Sword, Robyn Hood and others to name a few). As a result...I have a few bits of advice and direction to help out those curious about the choices available.

First off: Choice of tablet is pretty important. Make sure you get a hi resolution tablet, and make sure it's noted for how decent the resolution is. The screen size can have an impact as well. For example, my reader of choice is my Nook HD+ which at 8.9 inches with a 1920X1280 resolution screen is fantastic for reading comics. I was enjoying my Asus Transformer Infinity 700T which has a bigger 10 inch screen but roughly the same resolution, and the pairing doesn't work so well; things which are sharp and clear on the Nook HD+ can be muddy on the Asus. your research carefully, but of the various tablets I've tried the Nook HD+ is the best size and resolution for me. If you have youthful eyes and don't mind tiny print you might get away with using a Nexus 7, too.

Second: choice of app is also important. Right now you can buy comics through a variety of mediums. I haven't explored Comixology or Kobo yet, but I have purchased comics on the Google Play, Nook, Kindle and Marvel Comic store apps. Here's my quick run-down on each:

Google Play

Google's comics are hi-res and larger size files. The store is the one you'll be familiar with on Android platforms. There's nothing wrong with Google Play, and it was my default venue for a while, but three problems crop up with it: first, it's very slow to load books. Put them in queue and wait a while. Get too many downloads going and wait a long, long while. Second, not a lot of customization on how to view your library of content. You can't hide former reads, only uninstall and note what's got the little blue circle to indicate what is and isn't loaded. Third and of consequence mostly to Marvel readers, Google's editions of Marvel books are not synchronized to show pages correctly...when you have a double-page splash you can't see both pages at once by turning the tablet on its side, nor does it "shrink" them for viewing at the same time. Big problem.

Google's prices are fairly competitive. Some of their library is a bit pricey compared to the competition, but they mark sales better. Searching for stuff is a weird experience....for a Google product you'd expect their store to show you all the related content you are looking for a bit better. Finally, Google Play does have plenty of Trade editions and is getting lots of DC single issues, too....but no single issues for Marvel.

Marvel Comics

The Marvel Comics app is the best place to find Marvel offerings. They seem to keep some issues and editions in reserve for their store only, and it's the only place to find single issues as well. Marvel's also got a promotional thing in virtually all of their print books where you can get a code that will give you access to an electronic edition of the print book, and sometimes this code includes other free comics or TPBs as well. The downside of the codes is that you pay $4 for a book to get a code for the comic you just read....useful for future reading, I suppose. The stickies that hide the code are also prone to malfunction...about one in five tends to come off wrong, and then it's a guessing game as to what the code actually was supposed to be. Still, it's a cool perk if you like the idea of having e-copies for posterity.

The store itself is a great reader, and includes a feature which lets you tap to highlight specific panels, which works a bit better than the Kindle version of the same (in my opinion) but is just as useless, at least for how I like to read comics (I really prefer a full-page view). Unlike Google Play and Kindle, most of the Marvel comics in the app will correctly display double-page spreads for reading.

The main problem with the Marvel store is price. Most TPBs are discounted, but all single issues are priced at the same cost as a print issue, and rarely seem to get discounted in price. Still, hard to beat as a place to find the occasional issue you can't locate anywhere else.

A second much more serious issue if you travel a lot and are away from wi-fi is that the Marvel Comics app will not work unless you are able to log in remotely. For this reason alone I don't buy on the Marvel Comics store unless I have no other choice. Apparently it's never occurred to Marvel that the main time people read content on a tablet is likely when they are not near a computer, which means that they likely aren't near a convenient wi-fi hotspot. If your circumstances are such that you never find yourself away from a connection this won't be a problem for you, though. For means anything I have on the Marvel Comics app probably isn't accessible when I go on vacation.


The Kindle app is friendly to use and has a wide selection, but its files load fast for a reason: they are lower-resolution smaller files, and show poor quality compared to the other stores I discuss here. Marvel comics also have a "read" problem with double page spreads, and the panel-zoom is a pain to use in my experience. I disliked the Kindle app as a comic reader enough that after trying out Wonder Woman, Hawkman, Five Ghosts, New Avengers and a couple others I gave up and moved on. Even the occasional ridiculous sales prices Kindle offers aren't worth the will find these unpleasant to read once you're used to the higher quality of the other store apps.


I'm a Nook fan, but I don't think that overly influences my buying decisions as much as does the fact that their reader rather nicely displays hi-res files, load quickly, is easy to navigate, and also correctly shows double-page splash scenes in all cases I've tried so far. They occasionally have sales, and for some reason I've found books on Nook that aren't on Google Play (they might be on Google Play, but the search engine over there is shady at times). All of the Nook comics I've loaded to date are very nice and clear hi-res copies, too.

Nook's main problem is'll typically pay 50 cents to a dollar more for many titles on their store than Kindle, though they tend to be comparable to Google Play more often than not. As a result, if price is a big issue, I'd suggest Google Play (which will have more discounts over time), but if ease of management for your library as well as good download speeds for bigger hi-res files counts, then stick with Nook. Still, if you stick with Nook then you can avoid supporting the predatory nature of Amazon and stave off the inevitable collapse of the publishing industry into Amazon's hole of mediocrity a little longer.


It's possible the Kindle works best on the Amazon tablets. It's likely that if Google Play resvises the Google Books app then it will bump up in my estimation...and if you just want Marvel comics then you really do need the Marvel Comics app. But from my experience to date, the Nook store gives you the best and speediest reading experience.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Pelegar: A Historical and Regional Introduction

A lot has happened in the kingdom of Pelegar since the gazetteer entry in the 2008 edition of the Realms of Chirak, and I am working on a proper update, but most of the material below is still current:

(Excerpted from The Realms of Chirak, 4E edition)
Cultural Level: steel age
Population: approximately 2.5 million
Government: alliance of city-states ruled by monarchy
Rulers: Different by city state, but Vialle Dianeni of the Dreaming City is looked up to by all.
Religions: The faith of Pelegar is tested by its haunting entities
Social Titles: slaves, commoners, land owners, knights, barons, lords, kings
Coinage: the nick-name for coins in this land is “bones, “ Ex: “I’ll pay 3 gold bones for that.”
Allies: The Pelegar are isolationist and don’t like outsiders. They trade through middlemen, and only deal directly with the Sabiri.
Enemies: The Sabradan are the greatest enemies of the Pelegar.

   The only clear passage through the Cossarit Mountains going east and west, and the only easily accessible pass, Pelegar is poised in a unique position of being one of the few readily available regions by which the east and the utter west can converge in relative safety.

   Pelegar is divided in to three cultural groups which are all descended from the soldiers of the final war of the Apocalypse that resolved in this region. Most populous of these local groups are the western hinterlanders, a breed of private, uncouth mountain men who dislike the people of almost all other lands and even refuse to learn foreign languages. They live as herders of reindeer, build great houses from the massive oaks of the forests that range along the lower slopes of the immense Cossarit range, and fight their local wars with more bravado than blood shown on the battlefields. The hinterlanders refuse to learn any other languages, and dislike all foreigners, though they make excellent mercenaries because of this disdain. Many enjoy levying heavy taxes on raiding caravans that pass through the range. They are also hardened by the conflicts they experience with the clans of Dalevar dwarves, Skull biter goblins, Blood fire Orcs and the many giants in the mountains.

   The Central Pelegar culture, known as the lowlanders, are the old aristocracy of the land, men who claim to have the oldest elite heritage in the land and a natural right of rule. The lowlanders are driven by ancient politics and intrigue. They recruit most of their forces from those who dwell about them in the mountains to continually pursue their ages-old Machiavellian plots and wars of intrigue.

   The westernmost culture of the Pelegar is centered in the city of Tulos, and they are known as the zealots, for the city of Tulos is a monument city of ancient temples and shrines to the fallen gods, as well as to the demon gods and evil spirits which haunt the lands of Pelegar. The zealots are seemingly more open and diverse of thought than their brothers, but are in fact the most dangerous and xenophobic of all. They are strong followers of the principles of the cults of the Lost Gods, and believe that they are the only hope of salvation, of providing sanctuary from eternal damnation for all those who have been left behind in the mortal plane. The zealots are as diabolical in their devious schemes as the lowlanders.

   Pelegar labors under an ancient curse, one which explains why the people of the land are so grim and unhappy with outsiders. It is said that the land was cursed by the terrible evils which were dealt to it, as the Battle of the West, where so many countless demonic beings and gods fell, took place in this land. The ancestors of Pelegar are believed to have been servants of the betrayer gods, followers of Ga'Thon, and indeed Shaligon herself was said to have come from Pelegar in the ancient days. When the war was over, the land was wracked with the residual essence of evil as well as the mounds of the dead. The surviving men of Pelegar were left to disperse throughout the remains of their fallen kingdoms, to carve out a life for themselves branded forever as the men who sided with the apocalyptic forces of destruction. All other men shunned them, and the very essence of the dead god Ga'Thon seeped in to the souls of the men, tainting them forever more.

   Though two thousand years have passed, and much of the old ages have been lost to memory, the curse of the land still pervades all of its inhabitants, and ancient demon spirits trapped in the mortal realm haunt the land. Creatures such as Gloom, Shmaga'thael, and Molabal continue to taint the land, while finding that they, too, are locked to it for mysterious reasons. To pass the time, these entities play maddening psychic games with the inhabitants.

   There are also two unique species in the region of Pelegar: The Yakovi yak folk of the Tulos area, and the Simviriin cat folk, who dwell throughout the Cossarit region, but seem to thrive in the Pelegar area, and are tolerated as a nuisance by the men of the land, like gypsies and mummers.

   Throughout the woodlands of Pelegar dwell small enclaves of elves, unseelie descendants called the ithiri, believed by many to be dangerous entities who have a capricious hatred toward humanity. Ithiri are rarely seen in the company of normal mortals and usually feared by men when encountered. They are believed to have been permanently affected by the close proximity of the Weeping Wall in the Cossarit Mountains, where the remnants of the fey realm were expunged from the dying flesh of Ga'Thon and frozen in stone forever.