Monday, July 31, 2017

Micro Guest Review: The Emoji Movie

My son Marcus got to see The Emoji Movie with his grandmother on Saturday. Yes, my wife and I breathed a mutual sigh of relief, as we managed to get a night off for gaming together (I was running Call of Cthulhu) and we dodged the bullet that was....The Emoji Movie.

All the other reviews online are focusing on how bad this movie is, but I have actually heard ONE good review: from Marcus himself, who wanted to make sure I knew how AWESOME this movie was. So I thought to myself --sure, why not. Let's let what may be the target audience, Marcus's own post-millennial generation, get their own review.

This will require some translation on my part since Marcus is 5 and starts Kindergarten in about 2 weeks. But to summarize:

"Nana and I saw the Emoji Movie. Did I tell you we saw the Emoji Movie? It was The Best Movie Ever! It was awesome!"

"What did you like about it?"

"I really liked that they played the games, and there was Candy Crush, and they should have had Minecraft but no, they didn't. But they had all the emojis."

"Which emojis did you like?"

"I liked the cat with the heart eyes. And...."

"Did you like Meh?"

"Yeah I liked Meh. And the Ice Cream."

"Did you want to see it again?"

"Yeah! Let's go, you and me and mama."

"How would you rate this on a scale of one to ten?"

"Twenty Two!"

......So there you go.....22 stars from the five year old Kindergarten set! I encourage parents everywhere to talk other relatives into taking your children to see this movie. You will owe them, but it will be worth it, if all of the Rotten Tomatoes Reviews are to be believed.

Next...Spider Man!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy: The Scurvy Rogue

I've rolled up quite a few GURPS Dungeon Fantasy characters over time, though I have never gotten around to running GURPS DF. I'm hoping that will change with the imminent arrival of the GURPS DF boxed set from the Kickstarter later this year (fingers crossed). Here's the first of three I worked up, a sample if you will of what a typical DF character looks like....

Seralon Galadastin   (250 pt build)                                                                                      
Human rogue from Hyrendan
Thief, Human, male age 27 5’11” tall and 145 lbs.                    
ST  11 DX  15 IQ 13 HT 11         
Dmg th/sw 1d-1/1d+1          
BL  24 lbs.          
HPs   11     Will   13    Per.   15     FP   11        Speed 6.0  Move   7

Base: Dodge  9 Block --    Parry 10    
Readied Defense:   shortsword (parry)
Active Dodge 10   Block --    Parry 11    Armor DR 1*

Modifiers: +1 to active defenses, +2 vs. Fright, +6 to recover from stun, +1 or +2 init mod vs. surprise
Archetype Advantages: Flexibility, High Manual Dexterity 1, Perfect Balance, Combat Reflexes
Archetype Disadvantages: Trickster (12), Callous (-5), Sense of Duty (adventuring companions) (-5), Lecherousness

Skills:  Forced Entry 15, Climbing 18*,  Filch 15, Stealth    18, Escape 16*, Pickpocket 15*, Lockpicking 14, Traps 14, Acrobatics 14, Sleight of Hand 14*, Gesture 13, Holdout 13, Shadowing 13, Smuggling 13, Streetwise 13, Search 15, Urban Survival 15,Shortsword 14, Main-Gauche 14, Thrown (knife) 15, Bow 14, Brawling 15, Gambling 12, Carousing 11, Fast-Draw-shortsword 15, Fast-Draw-Knife 15,  First Aid 13, Seamanship 13, Disguise12, Fast-Talk 12, Scrounging 14

Gear: leather vest jacket (chest and groin), and leather pants (DR 1*)
1 Large Throwing Knife (1D-1 impale; Acc 0; Range X0.8/X1.5; RoF 1; bulk -2)
Shortsword (1D+1 swing or 1D-1 impale; reach 1; Parry 0)
1 minor healing potion (1d), lockpick set, 20 yards heavy rope, grappling hook 

0 gold pieces 
*=modified by advantages/disadvantages

Seralon Galadastin is a rough and tumble sort of rogue who grew up on the post-war streets of Hyrendan, after surviving as a youth in a city ruled by the seditionist forces of the Betrayer King Makhorven. He's learned to survive during war time when the cruel soldiers of the southern seditionists would beat wayward urchins silly for fun, and later to thrive when the northern Emperor's forces occupied fallen Hyrendan, and the betrayer king was dragged to the bottom of his endless dungeons. He is simultaneously driven by endless amusement at irritating and provoking others even as his hard-bitten attitude drives him to assume the worst in life and others around him.

Recently Seralon stumbled across a duo, an infernal human with demonic blood named Volistaire Dartane and his comely traveling companion, the ebon dark elf sorceress Syraline Neredestyr. They spoke of forging a mercenary company, one which would seek out profit wherever it it in the heights of one of the betrayer king's abandoned castles or in the depths of the deepest dungeons. It sounded just crazy enough for Seralon to give it a go.... 

GURPS DF NOTES: I have an extended version of this sheet with all the skill stuff tracked (cost, formula, such) but that sheet does not like to play nice with blogspot's editing page, so I provided the condensed edition above.

GURPS as usual is skill heavy. The same character in D&D 5E would have Sleight of Hand, Stealth, Perception, and maybe Deception. This does contrast --sharply-- about just how much nuance is lost when you use a simple skill system. The downside is that the GM has to recall many, many more skill options when running a skill heavy game like GURPS....but I have a secret trick to this, in which (when a task is presented to the player) I ask them to tell me what skill they think works best for their situation, and then I'll see if I agree with their choice. It's not perfect (sometimes you gotta know the right skill and only that skill) but this is a good way of encouraging players to think about what they can do, within their wide array of skill options.

GURPS DF relies heavily on templates to help facilitate character generation. GURPS lets you build anything, but DF is all about channeling that do-anything design into familiar concepts, all of them essentially a riff on D&D style fantasy gaming. The templates are an important part of the process, and this character (and the ones I'll post next week) all use templates for their design. This is as close as GURPS gets to "class based design."

In the current form available at the DF rules suggest that it was originally designed to allow for dungeon delves in GURPS but that it was inherently representing an unsustainable, some would even suggest frivolous take on fantasy, as D&D style games are often characterized as such by those who prefer games such as GURPS, anyway.  My hope is that the new boxed set moves away from that characterization, or at least acknowledges that virtually all fantasy....from the gritty and bloody Song of Ice and Fire to the wildly out there Discworld are all equally improbable, and a setting about a world with an economy driven by dungeon delvers is no less or more improbable. By definition if it weren't then it would no longer be fantasy, but instead some weird alternative reality historical game or tale, anyway.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

D&D 5E: Tennus Wolfson, A Paladin Raised by Wolves

Unplayed PC I rolled up for my wife's games. I think I got the background from a random pull on but don't recall which book...

NAME   Tennus Wolfson
Race:     Human male      
Class:    paladin                 
Level :   5              XP:         6,500
Alignment:         neutral good                                      
Background:       raised by animals

STR 10 (0)
DEX 14 (+2)
CON 12 (+1)
INT 10 (0)
WIS 13 (+1)
CHA 16 (+3)
HD 5D10; Speed 40
HP: 32
AC 16    
Languages: common, “wolf”
Skills: Athletics +3, Insight +4, Religion +3, animal handling +4, survival +4
Tool Proficiencies: herbalism kit, woodcarvers tools
Feats: Dual Wielder (+1 AC, stow, don’t need to be light), Mobile (+10 spd, dash bonus, OOP special)
Class Traits: divine sense (4/day), lay on hands (25HP/day), fighting style (defense +1 AC), spellcasting, divine smite (1D8 per level of spell slot), divine health (immune to disease), extra attack
Sacred Oath Traits: Oath of Devotion – sacred weapon (+3 attack, one minute, 20’ light), Turn the Unholy; Oath Spells: protection from evil, sanctuary, lesser restoration, zone of truth
Background Traits: raised by animals; ferret pet (named Moon)
Spell Slots: Level 1: 2
Spell Save DC: 14             Spell Attack Modifier: +6

Spells Memorized:  heroism, zone of truth

Armor:  hide armor         
Melee Weapons: 2 scimitars (1D6+2 each); attack +5, finesse, light; 2 attacks + bonus off-hand)               
Ranged Weapon: javelins (1D6+2 each; attack +5, range 30/120; thrown)

Wealth: 240 GP
Equipment: scimitar, shield, five javelins, explorer’s pack, hide armor, holy symbol, warhorse   

Personality Trait: I speak very little, in cryptic nature metaphors when I do
Ideal:    Natural Order – every animal must live life by nature’s code       
Bond:    when I see an animal in need I must help!           
Flaw:     the best comfort of civilization is liquor                 

Son of a powerful priest of a paladin cult, I was stolen away and left to die in the woods for (reasons involving an evil gorillon lord) and raised instead by the animals of the region, as if I were a cub of their own (Jungle Book style). I eventually was found by woodsmen and returned to civilization, where I was adopted by the order of my father, who had since perished in a battle against the very cult that stole me away. I adopted their ways but still driven by a sense of perspective from 15 years in the wild. I love the modern civilized concoction called "booze." 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Traveller: An Introduction to Sirianthus Sector

My latest Traveller campaigns have centered around the Sirianthus Sector, in a larger, more fleshed out version of such set specifically (so far) in Authority Subsector as well As Plague Subsector and Wreathe Subsector (and yes, no one likes the Plague monicker in that subsector). The sector overall has five features which affect the region:

Lost Aslan Empire: It's the same general location as an ancient and expansive lost empire of Aslan which collapsed two thousand years ago, but left many Aslan colonies isolated in its wake. Today some of these Aslan colonials have aspirations to restore the lost empire.

Omnium Collective: An indigenous humanlike species which evolved through parallel evolution appeared in the region now known to be contested by the Omnium Collective. They are noted for their psionic abilities, and may have developed this as a byproduct of an unusual higher dimensional life form, a kind of parasite which latches on to ordinary four-dimensional beings of time-space, creating a symbiosis in which the "host" becomes more psionically receptive.

Plague Worlds: About three centuries ago a strange mutagenic nanophage was released through unknown sources, possibly lost ruins on a red class world, and spread rapidly to infect at least a dozen worlds, most in the Plague Subsector and Seven Stars Subsector. The nanophage either outright killed or horribly mutated its targets with a near 100% success rate. Sector Authority and the Imperium quarantined all worlds and took a "shoot first" approach to insure containment. A means of eradicating the nanophage was designed by Imperial Engineers but no cure for the afflicted survivors was ever found for their mutated state.

Sector Authority Rule: The region is under rule of a contracted entity, the Sector Authority, which was granted control of the region a century ago by the Imperium nobles who decided to move their interests elsewhere.

Early Colonization: Finally, the region is noted for having been seeded during the early expansionist era of humanity by a number of generation ships. These lost colony worlds were almost all recontacted within the last five centuries, but many had fared poorly, some had adapted in strange ways, and a few all but lost their memories of being colonies in the first place.

Sirianthus Sector is a fringe region, but still technically in the dominion of the Imperium. About two hundred years ago local Imperial powers negotiated a contract with what was originally a PMC to turn general control over the region to Sector Authority. The Sector Authority eventually turned in to a governance unto its own, branching out from its corporate merc roots into four major branches:

Authority Assist - a civic and developmental branch designed to promote the terraforming of new worlds and the development of existing worlds. This branch focuses on "uplifting" lost colony worlds.

Sector Authority Patrol - the naval and ground forces branch, this provides sector defense through a generous military budget. It is not enough to combat threats like the Omnium Collective, however, and Imperium forces have been dispatched to assist.

The Bureau - the bureaucratic branch of Sector Authority, this is the admnistrative wing which keeps the machine running and also provides governance for indigenous worlds which lack any other unifying government but need it.

The Aeon Group - originally a separate entity, Aeon Group was folded in to Sector Authority when full control of the region was handed over by the Imperium about twenty years ago, as Imperium resources were pulled out for greater needs elsewhere. Aeon Group is the intelligence branch, and a kind of "secret police" with overriding authority throughout the sector.

Sector Authority is centered on their seat of rule at the fabled Utopia Incognita, a lush, well developed world which has been inhabited for at least nine centuries. The original write-up was posted here.

More to come!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Movers and Shakers of Altavir

Many personalities dominate Altavir for power and are the key movers and shakers. Although I'm currently using Savage Worlds for my system of choice in this setting, the list below could easily make for a fine "Icons" list for a 13th Age game, too!

Major Powers and Personalities of Altavir

   The secret powers of Altavir are neither as involved nor as impressive as the powers of other realms and Ages. They are the movers and shakers of this world…..but perhaps a bit more mortal and with fewer arcane resources than one might think. Still, their reputation precedes them.

The Black Mage Sarkindos: Sarkindos, ensconced in his tower deep within the Vapari ruins. The so-called “Black Mage” is one of the major threats to those who brave the straights of Acutum, as he sends out his monster-ridden ships culled from piracy to retain control of what he perceives as his “Black Empire of the Dead.” He is known to have allied himself with enigmatic demons known as the galadantas, a rival faction of demons who seem to have a strong desire to destroy the in’forge.

Tharagron and the Silver Blades: Tharagron, paladin of Malevig in the north, is a vile but righteous crusader who uses any means necessary to cleave foes and trumpet the cause of the fallen god of light. Tharagron believes that the Ice Gods of Death will be defeated if the lands of the Satras is unified under one single, glorious rule…his own.  He has an extensive order in his service, the legendary Silver Blades, which work to accomplish his designs as conqueror of the North.

Charados, the Lord of Nether: Charados, the last living Hapathic Sorcerer (now a Nether), may be the single greatest scholar and mage on the subject of the Nether in the world. He keeps largely to himself, realizing he is the last living direct descendant of his ancient kind, and is closely guarded –and served—by the in’forge demons which flock to him, worshipping him like a god.

Gorgonat, the King of Old Stone: Gorgonath, of the Barrier Mountains, is the dwarven king of the deep, a ruler without peer, at least according to the dwarves who trade with the human kingdoms. No one alieve, not even the dwarves, can claim to have held an audience with Gorgonath in his ancient citadel of the deep, and scholars in ancient Vapari ruins question whether the name is one passed down over the generations as it appears Gorgonath is identified often in ancient records believed to be a thousand years old (or more) as an ancient ally and sometimes cultic figure in Vapari myth and legend.

Tempestre, Queen of the Sylvanestre and Goddess of the Firmament: Tempestre, of the Elemental Woods is the “goddess of the firmament” according elven belief, and the Oracle of the Titans, the ancient elemental gods which the elves believe forged the world. She “manifests” in an elven woman who at puberty is given a unique rite of passage to contain the spirit of Tempestre, taking on her mind and personality as a result. The current incarnation of Tempestre is two centuries old, and more warlike than usual as she motivates her elvinkin to take up arms against the orcs of the north.

Emperor Saduum of Vidari: Emperor Saduun, of Vidari is the supreme regent and lord of Vidari, a firm ruler who keeps the seven provinces under firm control. With his council of seven and his Hall of the Senate the emperor comes off as a fair man who seeks prosperity for all. In reality his rule benefits the elite class the most, but he is deeply revered by the prosperous Vidari. Thanks to the relative isolation of Vidari it continues to thrive, fearing only barbarian attacks from the Ugadam and Hadarim, and piracy from the north.

The Dragon King Wrathos: Wrathos, who dwells in the Barrier Mountains is the enigmatic king of all dragons…or so he claims. An ancient wyrm, none dare oppose his will,  and both giant and dark elf bow to his rule as needed. The Dragon King commands an army of draconians to scour the deeps and enforce his will.

Eradonsos, High Priest of Sadaqua: Eradonsos, of Ugadan is one of the druid-shamans of the barbarian tribes. His cult is dominant throughout the region, his word as the Voice of the One True God is considered absolute. The wallowing “pits” which serve as temples to Ugadan, with great stone cairns at the center of a hollow depression are monuments of both deep faith and strange sin; the ways of Eradonsos and his followers are considered anathema by the civilized men of the north and east. Eradansos wants nothing more than for his cult to spread to all men, everywhere.

Satroth, Last King of Daskuun: Satroth, lord of ruined Daskuun is the depraved undead king of a dead city, who rules a populace of demons and the dead in a perpetual state of madness. He seems to have an affinity for when dark “things” awaken in the world and an insatiable desire to explore and control such awakenings.

Haladon, the King of Saredone: Halagon, lord of Saredone is the orcish warlord who has seized power and now wages war against the elves of the south. He is sworn to the Sons of the Dark, the seventeen devils which brought ancient Hapath to its doom. Unlike the men of old, the warlocks of Saredone seem to thrive in servitude to the Seventeen, and Halagon claims to be the bastard son of Simadasi, the Lamia Queen.

Lady Kerenath of Ateinas: Lady Kerenath, of Port Abnay is the ruler of this well-known southern port, the Vidari counter to Vadan in the north. She is also the enigmatic ruler of the cult of Ateinas, and claims to be a direct voice of the goddess. She is revered in the south as the chief priestess of the whole pantheon, and is consulted regularly by the emperor for advice. Her temples in the region are staffed entirely by women and actively seek to expand the cult base while dismantling or destroying the cults of other lands. The active priestesses, Templars all, are called the Daughters of the Red Lotus.

Ekarn, Lord of the Daggers in the Dark: Ekarn, the underworld lord of Port Giton, is regarded by many as the secret spymaster and dealer in the darkness. Some claim he works at the beck and call of the Emperor, others feel he clearly opposes the rule of the emperor and seeks to tear down the ruling class. His real purposes may be obscured by the fact that Ekarn seems to also run an organization known as the Daggers in the Dark, a guild of assassins that strike out and attempt to slay attempts to revive the lost culture and lore of Hapath and Vapari. They stand against the cults of the Sons of the Dark, as well as attempts to revive the worship of the older demon gods, and seek to destroy evil artifacts where they surface.

King Teneren of Vormanse: The most progressive and enlightened of the Northern Kings, Teneren has actively enourages southward expansion of his people by promising plots of land, women and treasure to any man who would lay claim to the wilderlands along the Straight so Acutum and swear fealty to him in his name. This has led to dozens of small and large colonies popping up in the otherwise non-human dominated region, and led to tension with Port Vadan, which is the staging ground for so many of these ventures. Teneren is actively opposed to the machinations of Malevig and its crusader.

King Metharoum of Port Vadan: the southern-most kingdom of the North, Port Vadan is a single great city on an island riddled with small towns from which this lone king rules. He is cousin to Teneren of Vormanse, and supports his cousin’s desire to conquer the no-man’s lands of the Terrano Abandonato. Metharoum is mid-forties, and harbors many illnesses, but his wife Serkatha is a sorcerer who uses her magic to keep him alive while she sends expeditions into the Hapathic ruins to find a cure for her husband of what she believes to be an ancient malady suffered by the Hapathic kings of old.

The Winter Death: The four death gods of the Northern Satras are enigmatic and terrifying beings. They are followed by ancient northern barbarian cults (the Agondias) which are related distantly to the men of Satras, but who have descended into cannibalism and madness. The will of each death god is always personified in one chosen champion, and that champion seeks to perpetuate the cause of the death gods, which seems to be the destruction of the kingdsoms of Satras and beyond.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The ever changing systems for Altavir - Dregatis Ascalair in Savage Worlds

With my revamp of Altavir in to Savage Worlds Fantasy, I also redid the "star NPC" who is at least the key patron in the new campaign. Meet.....or reintroduce Dregatis Ascalair:

Dregatis Ascalair

 Plying his trade as a mercenary of the straights, Dregatis Ascalair is a soldier and explorer when time and madness permits. He has journeyed twice to the ruins of Hapath, where the nether rule and worship a strange being called Kazak the Unbidden as if it were a god. Dregatis is more than willing to serve as a guide to Hapath, though the coin must be right, for on his second journey he acquired the weapon he called Blood Dancer, a blade which sings as it slays. He took it from the hand of a nether war priest, and knows that the next time he goes to Hapath they may well seek to slay him for his actions....but the lure is too tempting to resist, the coin too great. Plus....Dregatis cannot resist an effort to find out what Kazak the Unbidden really is.

Dregatis Ascalair (SW)
Veteran human warrior of Port Vaden; expatriate of Satras (XP Earned 45)
Agility D8, Smarts D8, Strength D8, Vigor D6, Spirit D6
Pace 6” Parry 2_ Toughness 5 (7 with armor)
Edges: Rich (15,000 gold annual salary; mansion), Scholar (+2 on occult, history)
Hindrances: Curious
Skills: Boating D4, Fighting D10, Gambling D4, Investigation D8, Knowledge (History) D8+2, Knowledge (occult) D8+2, Notice D6, Persuasion D4, Riding D4, Shooting D4
Languages: Altaviric common (native D8), Hapathic  Runes D6
Armor: chain hauberk (+2)
Weapons:  scimitar (STR+D8), crossbow (2D6 dmg, 2 AP, 15/30/60 range; 1 action to reload),
Blood Dancer, magic great sword (+2 damage, to hit; when rolling, make a spirit check; on a success recover 1 wound; 2 wounds on a raise; When making this check, a crit fumble applies a permanent -1 penalty to Vigor)
Current Cash: 177 GP
Special Gear: one copy of the Codex of the Hapathic Sequence (SW version coming soon) which he is still studying, plus plenty of bargain basement exploration gear.

Monday, July 10, 2017

What I'm Playing These Days: Traveller, Savage Worlds, D&D 5E and Mythras somehow in action!

First, for those interested I finally got around to updating my Video Game Review index. Now all the video games I've reviewed, in one spot! I was wondering why I don't do more paper and pencil game reviews, when I realized that really, what happens with PnP is that you can tell which games I like by what I produce....if a game is on my radar, you know I like it because I'm doing content for it.

The last two weeks have been weird for my local gaming circles. I have regular groups that meet on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and a prospective five part game on Mondays or Tuesdays in which I am getting to be (gasp!) a player are all ongoing.

Wednesdays are currently rotating between a D&D 5E game set in Enzada and a Traveller game which is two sessions in. This Traveller group is in the same sector of space as the Saturday group, but exploring a different subsector. We also have a possible new D&D 5E campaign budding once Enzada dies down, and this new campaign will explore Lingusia's Western Nakamura Isles.

Saturdays are hopping with an active Traveller campaign, and a long running D&D 5E level 15 campaign currently on hold. The Traveller campaign is an exploration of the Sirianthus Sector, which I'd started working on years ago but is now getting fully fleshed out. Last night I was unprepared for anything specific but the group agreed to an experiment, and I finally ran a game which hit two milestones: we played Savage Worlds as a fantasy RPG for the first time (it was very effective at the genre, and I love the Fantasy Companion) and I ran the game in my Altavir Campaign setting, which I had previously been considering for use with any number of systems from Fantasy AGE to 13th AGe and T&T. Well....tentatively at least maybe it turns out Savage Worlds will be he default system for Altavir going forward....I really enjoyed applying the Fast! Furious! Fun! ethos of SW to fantasy. We had some encounters with lead-lined skeletons, moss men and a gant scorpion in a quest for the ancient tome of evil, and a side quest involving a local witch and her evil temple. I'm hoping the rest of the group is up for it, but I think I could be pretty satisfied rotating between Traveller and Savage Worlds Altavir on Saturdays.

The final surprise was a pick-up session during the holiday of Mythras with a friend of mine who is running a historical campaign set late in the Crusades, involving what amounts to a game of ruthless opportunists cutting a bloody swathe through the holy land in searching for a lost relic in the form of Christ's cross. It was a fantastic game, more so because the GM runs games the way I like them (and I am a really particular player!)...I think the group plans to meet for Tuesdays with a planned story arc of 4-5 sessions. Definitely going to keep making this one.

I also learned that I really, really love playing Mythras when someone else is the GM.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Review: Conarium - A Lovecraft Adventure that Won't Drive You Mad (well, it will, but in the good way)

I actually snagged Conarium prior to the recent Steam Summer Sale so this has been sitting around for me waiting to get to it. I bought sight unseen, after reading it was a hard Lovecraft-inspired tale with direct influence from At The Mountains of Madness. Enough early Steam reviews suggested it was not horrifyingly bad....that was enough for me.

Well, my hunch paid off. This was an incredibly good game, a Lovecraft tale of horror, discovery, mystery and exploration all in the name of discovering that our frail mortal coils cannot handle the truth.

Conarium's tale is of a man...Frank....and Dr. Faust (aptly named, I must say), who have been part of an expedition to Antarctica funded to (among other things) investigate the antediluvian ruins of a lost age, one which you might imagine is the tip of the proverbial iceberg on what can be found in a Mythos Antarctica.

Besides the ruins, Frank is part of Dr. Faust's mysterious experiments with something called a Conarium. Coupled with a strange mixture of halluinogenic derived from salv divinorum, he and several others (it is implied, at least) have been inducing out-of-body experiences in a fashion which Lovecraft fans will quickly realize is resulting in events not unlike what we have seen in some other tales (such as "From Beyond.")

Frank begins his journey waking up in what appears to be a largely abandoned research base, with no memories (it just wouldn't be an adventure game with memories!) and a serious mystery to uncover as to where everyone went. As he dives deep in to the rabbit hole things get progressvely weirder and more disturbing, until ultimately his very life as well as sanity are both tested.

The game has some tried and true elements of the genre, such as: protagonist with amnesia, everyone is missing, and (most of the game) it's focus is on ambiance, horror, mystery and exploration.....but later on some very unexpected and horrifying threats emerge which will take hardcore fans of this genre by unpleasant surprise. Without giving anything away (spoilers by inference ahead) let me just reassure you that when "that time" comes run in a long, wide circle and be to escape and get out the way you came in, and be ready to do it twenty times in slightly different patterns until you do it right. It took me a while, but I got can you.

Aside from that moment of hardcore action terror, the game is otherwise very consistent with its exploratory/mystery nature and is shockingly good at building slow, horrific ambience. It is also surprisingly stingy in its actual use of Mythos lore and creatures....we get interesting hints, glimpses and momentary, terrifying moments of certain things, but nothing in such an over the top manner that you are left feeling saturated. The ambiance must be son was sleeping on the couch and woke up to tell me the game noise was making him scared (headphones went on around that point).

Overall I spent a bit under 6 hours playing the game and at the current price of $20 I'd say it was well worth it. If you love Lovecraft's Mythos, and you love adventure games, then this is a must have. A+

Five Spoiler-Filled Comments (you have been warned!):

1. If you get stuck this guy did a great speed-run which doubles as a good FAQ.

2. If you're wondering about the Mountains of Madness elements: the game focuses on the idea that long after the Old Ones departed earth and left their immense ruins, the serpent men created a necropolis to worship and revere them, and traces of the memory of this old empire of serpent men survived in surviving outlier colonies to be discovered. This game explores that idea in great depth.

3. The Conarium device of the game is stimulating it's namesake, the pineal gland, to allow its users to see into the other realms of space-time...and of course something else can see them back. There is one sequence which strongly suggests that this "thing" which can see back is what killed the Mad Arab (without actually stating such).

4. They were incredibly restrained in their use of the shoggoth, and when one does pop up...hoo boy, it was both a surprise as to where and a shocking moment (run!).

5. Frank's last name is Gilman. Siggghhhhhh. Very Lovecraft, Much Mythos. But yeah, almost as bad as putting Lovecraft into a game as himself....the game does not do the latter. In a weird inversion though Frank's last name does not appear to be relevant, and it is nowhere (in my playthrough, anyway) suggested he is from a small New England coastal town with exotic genealogy (Though I think the inference is that this is probably why his forays with the conarium machine worked where it failed for others).

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Top Secret Returns?!?!

Yep...per this article I have just learned that TSR (the new one, which published a revived "Dragon" magazine in the form of Gygax Magazine for a while) is upping a Kickstarter to a new edition of Top Secret, the Espionage RPG. From the Kickstarter:

TOP SECRET: NEW WORLD ORDER is the brand-new espionage role-playing game by Merle M. Rasmussen.
You are an agent of ICON, the International Covert Operatives Network. Working alone or with a team, you are tasked with the missions that other agencies can not, or will not, handle.
TOP SECRET: NEW WORLD ORDER is set in today's world of shadowy organizations, shifting alliances, high technology, and unpredictable threats.
Color me intrigued....the contents look pretty compelling:

I think I'm in at the Field Agent level. They say it can be fulfilled by November this year...that seems optimistic to me, but maybe the majority of the work is already done. Anyone else have experience with a TSR Kickstarter to share?

Sense of Scale: The True Size of the Hobby Games Market

There's a fascinating article here on ENWorld using ICV2 data which really hits home just how niche-of-niche the hobby games market, and within that the RPG market, really on over and take a look.

I think the only thing more impressive than the microscopic nature of RPGs in the midst of all of this is just how enormous video games have become, eclipsing

Monday, July 3, 2017

Runequest: Roleplaying in Glorantha - There's a Lot of Game in Here

First off, you don't need my impressions to give you a sense of Runequest: Roleplaying in Glorantha when you can find it right here for free. This edition is a fifty page free release to accompany the "Free RPG Day" which is, best I can tell, something other parts of the country get but no one in New Mexico participates in. Luckily (?) Chaosium is offering the print version for $9.95 on their site as well. I was a bit behind in snagging the latest Call of Cthulhu goodness so I threw a copy in for good measure.

My first impression on reading through the PDF is it happens to be a mostly complete game. Although specific bits (such as additional possible magic systems beyond spirit magic and rune use) and a bestiary are clearly reserved for a future actual release, you pretty much have about as much in this book as, say, Mythras Imperative offers, and Runequets also offers a scenario.

One of the reasons I'm grabbing a copy is that the new core system is really pretty classic and also pretty nice. It's got some "issues" depending on whether you are still sold on certain classic elements of BRP and RQ....I have no love of the strike rank mechanic, for example (but accept that it's still core to the Runequest design concept). I have fallen in love with Call of Cthulhu 7E's bold excision of the 3-18 stat ranges in favor of uniforn percentile scores, shoring up what now feels to me like a nearly forty year old artifact of game design derived from D&D. But all this aside, the new RQ looks a lot like old RQs of the past.

It's still "RQ 7th Edition" to me no matter what the Chaosium crew would like me to think. And the "Roleplaying in Glorantha" part is still annoying, but I guess in some respects this is a vanity product aimed at a niche audience so this is probably a design feature we will just have to accept if Glorantha is not your thing.

There is good news, though.....nothing overly unexpected.....but just from reading this tome I can safely say that running Runequest adventures in settings other than Glorantha should be just as easy as it was in 1982. All you have to do is embrace the runes and core conceits of the magic system as chracteristic of whatever setting you desire, and that's it. Gamers have been cutting the setting from the mechanics since the dawn of the hobby, this is nothing new here. And this sort of concern is ultimately only for people like me who do not need a pre-created world to run games in, or who find the specific design ethos of Glorantha not to their liking. For most gamers, I have a feeling the new Runequest is going to make Glorantha accessible and easy to adapt to in a way we haven't seen before.

Anyway....check it out....I am really hoping we get to see the final product later this year.