Monday, 8 February 2016

Boardgame Review: Dungeon Saga

Published by Mantic

'Over a thousand years ago, Valandor, the greatest known hero fell in battle, fighting to protect the lives of those around him. From shore to shore, all owe thanks to his wondrous legacy. Now, sacred sites across the land have been defiled and plundered by the disgraced wizard Mortibris, who along with his vile undead minions will stop at nothing to obtain the secrets of Valandor’s power. Only the bravest heroes dare oppose him. Thrown together from the far corners of the realm, they step boldly into the depths, ready to face whatever foul evil awaits them…'

If that doesn't scream out epic fantasy dungeon crawl campaign, I don't know what does.

And that, to me, was one of Dungeon Saga's biggest draws. To read the blurb on the box and hear the game talk about what it was I used to go dungeon delving for, thirty years ago? That's a great sell for someone like me, so all I could do was pick the box up and hope that the game delivered.

The box itself is a great sell, too. When you slide the packaging out from it's cardboard cover it's designed like a huge book, like a tome of lost knowledge, and inside you get everything you need - and you really do you get a lot. for £49.99 there's plenty inside. Tokens, books, but most importantly you get 26 assembled plastic miniatures, all fully detailed and paintable but don't worry; if, like me, you don't have an eye for model painting, they're all different colours so you can easily tell them apart.

The detail on the miniatures is excellent and model enthusiasts will have a great time with them, as well as with the barrels, bookcases, doors and other paraphernalia that comes with it, but you may find some of them bent out of shape, or leaning off their bases. This is due to the packaging but Mantic have a helping hand and give some good advice on how to carefully get them back into shape, heating them up with hot water or a hair dryer and then (very carefully) bending them back into their poses. If one of your skeletons is bent at the waist and leaning off it's base like a drunken breakdancer, don't fret - it's all perfectly fixable. It's a shame that they had to include that, knowing how their miniatures might end up after shaking about in the box, and makes me wonder if they should have decided on miniatures a little more durable and solid. Still, they are a miniatures company so I guess they'd want quality in the box, but if you're a modeller then perhaps you should store them in a separate carrycase - I can't imagine what they'll be like after painting and then bouncing around in transit.

Along with tiles to build the dungeons and counters to help keep track of everything, you get cards for items, spells and surprises that the Overlord springs, hero and villain stat cards and six-sided dice of two different colours, blue for the heroes and 'bone' (an off-white) for the bad guys. It's all good card stock and quite durable, and I do suggest you use the small clips that help hold the floorplan tiles together.

First we need to talk about the box itself...

All in all it's a great looking box and the weight and contents feel like they're worth the money you're spending. The outer box that covers the book-shaped box has some amazing artwork, and the artwork in the box is of a high standard, so production values are high. Not only that you get sealable bags for most of the stuff in there, as well as some spare empty ones to use once you've popped the counters and tiles out from their cardboard holders. Nice thinking, Mantic.

The game is really simple - the heroes have to get across the dungeon map and not die. And that's pretty much it. There's undead to fight, items to pilfer and doors to get through, but the basic premise of the game is to get from one end to the other in one piece.

The game can be played with 2 to 5 players, and in every game one player is the Overlord and the other players(s) have the heroes divided between them. Other than the introductory scenarios the four heroes (a human barbarian, a dwarf, an elf archer and a mage - I said it was old-school, didn't I?) are in play at all times and the player(s) control them all.

The Overlord player is the one in charge of Mortibris, and he's sending his undead minions to stop the heroes at all costs. The Overlord decides who to attack, where to resurrect bad guys and what cards to play - he has his own set of cards so that he can issue extra minion commands to foil the players, or raise more undead, or basically make the lives of the players hard and miserable.

The game is also set up so that the Overlord lays down the dungeon tiles as the game progresses. The heroes do not know what is behind a door until they open it, and this adds an excellent exploration dimension to the game. Basically, the players need to get to a door that gets them out of that section of the dungeon... so are they opening the right door, or will they unleash another hoard of undead baddies? Are they even going in the right direction? It's a whole other level that adds to the fun.

The rules are simple - each character has three stats: Movement, Combat Dice and Armour (there are other skills but it all works in a similar way). Movement is how many squares you can move in a round, Combat Dice is how many D6's you throw in a fight, and Armour is how much damage you can soak up.

The basic roll is this - each character throws their Combat Dice. The Attacker then removes any die that is equal to or is lower than the target's Armour score. Then the dies are paired off on each side, highest to lowest. For every die the attacker gets that is higher than the defender's, he scores a hit. For every die the defender has that's higher than the attacker's, they negate the hit. Work out the number of hits at the end and bam - you have your damage score. In each round, the heroes go first, then the bad guys, then the Overlord gets to play a card and mix things up a bit. There's a few more rules for magic and ranged abilities, as well as a few feats the heroes are capable of, but it's all generally the same.

Sound simple? It really is. Put it this way - in an hour and a half, we had unboxed the game, set it up, and played through the first two scenarios in the campaign book. Now, that's great, and it meant I didn't have to lock myself away in my office and study the rules like they were ancient, undecipherable writings scrawled onto a tablet by a madman.

I've played quite a few dungeon-style boardgames and they all have their own quirks, new ideas and levels of complexity, but as much as I enjoyed them it felt like a lot of book-keeping and complication. Sometimes I don't want to spend two hours learning rules, and then another two hours referring to a rulebook as we plough through our first game correcting all of our inevitable mistakes and saying 'we'll remember that for next time'. Sometimes I just want something with an old-school feel, with a simple system and a feeling that I'll not need a thousand tokens to accurately keep track of what's happening to my character. I just don't want that level of detail or pseudo-realism. I want to go back to when things were simple, when my rules were about as complicated as what I got in my solo gamebooks.

And that's what Dungeon Saga gives me. It's a simple system that may take a roll or two to fully grasp - and I guarantee that my description above does not do it any kind of justice - but once you're on board it's simple, quick and intuitive. There's not a lot of token tracking, something I'm not a huge fan of, and instead of worrying about what token should be where and if that gentle gust of wind or table-knock has messed up your perfectly laid-out character you can just get on with the fight.

Simple does not mean dull; there's enough complexity to make the game tactical, and more than once there were moments when the balance of a game shifted because one hero got cut off, or was injured and unable to perform properly. The mechanics may be simple but it allows you to concentrate on what makes the game fun; wandering dungeons and beating up bad guys.

My only issue with the game is the fact that I never really felt it gave you the option to branch out from the scenarios in the admittedly lengthy campaign in the book. There is nothing stopping you from designing your own dungeons (as long as you take into consideration the dungeons explored in the book and how they're designed so that you don't create a simple death trap) and pitting the players against new threats. I also felt that the constant stream of undead was a little lacking and that other monsters and threats should have been included, but there's nothing stopping you from using other miniatures and creating your own stats for other creatures. There are expansions for the game available and will no doubt expand on the core game, but what you get in the box gives you plenty to be going on with, and with a little creativity you can get a lot more out of it.

Dungeon Saga is a blast to play. It's fast, simple and easy to get into, and the dynamic it creates around the table between the player's heroes and the Overlord trying to stop them makes for some good ol' fun times, and at the end of the day there's nothing quite like kicking down a door and laying waste to the foes beyond for fun and profit. It's simplicity makes it a great game to play for any age, too, and I've already used it on family game night and it went down really well; my nine year old son took great pleasure in helping to rid the world of evil.

It might not bring anything new to the table, but Dungeon Saga takes a step back from the complication that a lot it's competitors revel in and says, 'let's have some fun with this'. And that's all I really want in a game.

Highly recommended.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Some Basic D&D Sci-Fi Rules

I've found another load of rules on my system, this time for a simple science fiction D&D game I had in mind. These were my system notes but I never used it - I don't even know if these rules work or not, but the starship creation rules had some promise and I might see about adapting this for D&D 5th Edition.

If anyone does use this - well, let me know if it works or not, I'm curious.

A VERY SIMPLE SCIENCE FICTION RPG USING THE BASIC D&D SYSTEM

Hello!

I’m a massive roleplaying fan and I was introduced to this amazing hobby way back in 1984 with the red box D&D rules. I had endless fun exploring fantasy worlds and smacking evil monsters in the face with my sword, and recently I’ve been doing it again using the rules system that got me into tabletop gaming in the first place.

In the intervening years I played well over forty different systems in just about every genre going. I’ve climbed mountains, delved into dungeons, sailed seas, patrolled the skies, ventured beyond the planet and saved entire solar systems. I’ve been a hero all over the place.

Only one genre, my favourite of them all, has stuck in my head during all these years of gaming; science fiction. I’ve always wondered what it would have been like to run a D&D-style game in a sci-fi setting. The thing is, I didn’t want to hace to klearn a new system basd on the D7D rules, I just wanted to use the D&D rules, the red box specifically, and say ‘Okay, guys – we’re in space now!’ No messing, and - more importantly – still simple to play.

So, this is what this game is all about. It’s a bolt-on for your Basic D&D ruleset, or whatever OSR ruleset you’re using. You might have to fiddle with it to suit but in general there’s nothing stopping you from simply using this with your favourite version of Basic D&D.

WHAT YOU WILL NEED FOR THIS GAME:

Basic, red box D&D was the basis for this game, but any old OSR along those lines will do. Bear in mind that the attack rolls do not use THAC0 but the roll target number of 10+AC from 3rd Edition onwards.

ATTRIBUTE ROLLS

You can use the standard 3D6 roll for each attribute, or you can roll 4D6 and discard the lowest number. Add up the remaining three numbers and that is the score you can put in an attribute. Do this six times, once for each attribute. You can then decide which attribute receives which score based on the kind of role you want to play.

Attribute bonuses apply using the following chart:

Attribute Score             Adjustment
3                                              -3
4-5                                           -2
6-8                                           -1
9-12                                         0
13-15                                       +1
16-17                                       +2
18                                            +3

Roll 1D8 for hit points, or 1D4 + 4 if you want better odds.

ADJUSTMENT SCORES:

STRENGTH – bonus to CQ to-hit and damage rolls
INTELLIGENCE – for each +1, choose an extra skill
WISDOM – bonus to WILL saving throw
DEXTERITY – bonus to Rng to-hit score, bonus to REFLEX saving throw
CONSTITUTION – bonus to hit point score, bonus to FORTITUDE saving throw
CHARISMA -

SAVING THROWS

The saving throws 'Fortitude', 'Reflex' and 'Will' are scored at 10 plus the applicable attribute bonus. Fortitude uses the Constitution bonus, Reflex the Dexterity bonus, Will the Wisdom bonus. A successful saving throw is a D20, scoring less than the saving throw score.


COMBAT

Attack rolls are D20 plus the relevant Attack Bonus. Rolling high, the initial target number is 10 or the target’s Reflex saving throw for a successful hit. This is modified by armour, raising the target number, making it more difficult to hit.

The STRENGTH adjustment score modifies hand-to-hand to-hit and damage rolls.

The DEXTERITY adjustment score modifies ranged to-hit scores.

Armour class is based on normal armour in the book, so imagine the medieval equivalent in a science fiction setting. Hard leather would be a bulletproof vest or a spacesuit, chainmail a combat suit, plate full combat armour.

Weapons remain the same, use bow and crossbow damage for the pistols and such.

SKILLS

Each player is given three points. They can use a single point to raise an 'Attack Type', this being either Ranged (Rng) for pistols and thrown weapons or Close Quarters (CQ) for fists and hand weapons. Each point spent gives a +1 bonus to their attack roll.

Also, each point can be spent on a single skill, any type of skill they think they need, and the DM/player decides what attribute the skill falls under. Once they've decided, they get the skill at that attribute's score, and they have to roll equal to or under that score on a D20 to succeed in a skill roll; the score can be modified up or down depending on difficulty.

Some example skills and their equivalent attributes (suggested - you can change these if you wish):

Bargain – Charisma - The ability to barter, haggle and trade with other survivors. A successful roll means you get what you need for less than the asking price. This skill cannot be used on fellow PCs.

Climb – Strength - The ability to climb trees, cliffs and rubble. Difficulty depends on handholds and angle. A 45 degree angle with plenty of handholds is much easier than a 90 degree angle with very few places to grip.

Computers – Intelligence - Computers are needed for information, communication, control, all kinds of things. The difficulty modifier depends on the level of security the computer has.

Con – Charisma - Sleight of hand, misdirection and outright lies. If you want to convince someone that a lie is the truth, then this is the skill to use. This skill cannot be used on fellow PCs.

Drive – Dexterity - The ability to control ground vehicles, such as cars, motorbikes and even tanks.

Electronics – Intelligence - Need to hotwire a car or a door? Need to fix a broken radio or computer? This is the skill to use.

Engineering – Intelligence - The ability to fix a generator, a motor or a complete engine, gearbox or steering system. The Engineering Skill helps get and keep a car running.

Hide/sneak – Dexterity - A successful roll means you’ve managed to hide from those you would rather not be seen by.

Leadership – Charisma - The ability to lead people – in combat, you can direct a number of combatants equal to your Leadership skill level. If a roll is failed, the orders given are not met, such as defending a position or making it to a location in time. If rolls are consistently failed, the troops might even wander off and join another resistance group. This skill cannot be used on fellow PCs.

Leap – Strength - The ability to bound a great distance – you can jump up to two metres from a standing jump, or four metres with a run up.

Medicine – Wisdom - The ability to perform battlefield first aid. A successful roll restores 1D6 hit points using a specially formulated injection that must be slammed into the body in the right place. This skill cannot be used on characters whose Hit Points are already below 0, as they’re dead.

Perception – Intelligence - Awareness – what you notice or see around you that might be of some importance. If the GM needs to direct a player character’s attention to something then they will ask you to make this roll, or make it in private...

Persuasion – Charisma - The ability to convince someone to do, say or reveal something, either with threats or pleas. A successful roll gets one piece of information out of an NPC. This skill cannot be used on fellow PCs.

Pilot – Dexterity – the ability to pilot air- and space-based vehicles.

Science – Intelligence – choose a single field of science such physics, biology, or geology.

Survival – Constitution - Cold nights, hot days, hostile environments and dangerous weather is as much a threat as the enemy. You must roll against this skill when adverse weather strikes to successfully find shelter. If you fail to do so then you lose 1 hit point per hour the weather continues. Storms last 4D6 hours and you are allowed to re-test every 6 hours.

Swim – Dexterity - Staying afloat in water is a skill everyone needs. You can swim a distance equal to your Swim skill level multiplied by 50 in metres. After that you falter and must reach your destination rounds equal to your Swim skill or you start to tire and sink.


CHARACTER ADVANCMENT

Characters start at level 0 and they must complete the same number of adventures for the level they want to attain. So, when they complete one adventure they go to level one. When they complete two more adventures they go to level two, when they complete three more adventures they go to level three and so on. (or, you can use the experience point system as normal).

For every level the character attains they get another single point to do ONE of the following:

-         spend on either one of the attack bonuses
-         buy a new skill at the attribute level
-         raise a skill by one point (maximum 20)
-         roll another 1D8 for more hit points.

VEHICLES AND STARSHIPS

The stats for these are decided by the vehicle’s length. For every metre in length, a vehicle or starship has 1 hit point. For every ten metres all vehicles must have at least 1 crewmember. So, a starship 50 metres in length will have 50 hit points and 5 crewmembers minimum. A car 5 metres in length will have 5 hit points and 1 crewmember (driver).

For every 1 metre in length over ten metres, a vehicle can hold 2 cubic tons of cargo. Less than 10 metres they can hold just 1 ton.

Armour class is decided by length – the smaller a vessel is the harder it is to hit. The AC is added (or subtracted) to the basic to-hit target number of 10.

Length  (metres)            AC
1-10                             8
11-30                           7
31-50                           6
51-70                           5
71-90                           4
91-100                         3
101-130                       2
131-150                       1
151-200                       0
201-250                       -1
Every extra 50m           -1 cumulative

Roll D20 higher than to-hit target of 10 + AC. If firer is using normal hand weapons (such as pistols or rifles) against the target, minus the vehicle’s current hit points score from the damage rolled (this way, handguns can’t really do any damage to huge vessels but can possible damage very small ones).

Each vessel has weapon slots. For every twenty metres in length the starship has a single weapon slot in which it can place a weapon.

Each weapon slot generates 1D8 points of damage from a single hit. So, a vessel with 3 weapon slots can fire three times and each shot does 1D8 points of damage. Each weapon must be manned individually.

However, weapon slots can be combined into a single shot and still be fired by a single crewmember. For each extra weapon slot added to the original for a single shot, add another 1D8 damage roll. So, one weapon slot does 1D8 damage, 2 combined weapon slots 2D8, 3 slots 3D8 and so on. These slots cannot be added to or removed at random – the combined feature means heavier weapons and must be chosen during creation. Pilots can fire any single weapon anywhere on the ship.

Any vehicle/starship hits on characters are multiplied by 10.

Shields – if they have them, shields give a starship a saving throw score of 10 to negate all damage. For every hit they take that absorbs the damage, the score is reduced by 1 point.

EXAMPLE: A 50 meter starship – 50 hit points, minimum crew 5, AC 6, 2 weapon slots, able to carry 100 cubic tons of cargo, shields.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Hints & Tips - THE INVISIBLE MAN

On the first Monday of every month, read a new hint or tip from Jonathan Hicks, as featured on www.rpg.net and available on Kindle as 'The Book of Roleplaying Hints, Tips and Ideas'.

‘What do you mean you can't come?!?’

This is a common expression of the GM when a player can't make it to the game. What, then, is a GM supposed to do?

A glass is tapped nervously. A small chewy sweet is rolled around the inside of a dry mouth. A pencil is strained to breaking point as the owner applies unconscious pressure. Fingers flex and fist as the time ticks by.

One of the players is late. The game should have started ten minutes ago.

With a shrill tone that cuts the tension, the telephone starts ringing. 

Eyes flick tentatively to meet worried gazes and then all stare at the telephone.

`Oh, my God.' says the GM, `that had better not be Bill.'

You tell me, does that sound familiar? Don't you want to throw your rulebooks through the window when a player can't make it at the last minute?

It can't be helped. Last minute changes can interfere with a game. It can make matters worse when other players have to do a lot of travelling to attend a game, or the arranged games are few and far between, and they feel as though they have wasted their time. When that one player cannot make it, there is a hole left where he should be. If it is halfway through a campaign, the continuity is warped slightly.

So let's get to the point of all this. What is a GM to do when one of his players can't make it for the evening's play?

Well, she could try the NPC trick. That's when the absent player's character is run as an NPC, still interacting with the party and generally being played as true to the original character profile as possible. This may cause a bit of a heated discussion when the player comes back, arguing that some of the actions that the GM decided on were the opposite of what they would have done. As well as that, the character could get killed, which would really put a damper on things. The best way to run a PC as an NPC is to only have them pop up when their applicable skills are needed, or when they are required as an extra hand in a confrontational situation. That way, the character is not put at any great risk, and is also not run as a personality but as more of a tool that is used when required, therefore not greatly going against anything the player may have had in mind for it.

If the evening's play is not part of an ongoing campaign, and the game is just going to be a quick one-off, so much the better. The player's character can simply have gone off to do something else, such as having a haircut or trying to buy a new coat, leaving the rest of the party to have an adventure. Fair enough, the player may be a bit annoyed that the others have received rewards and he didn't get a look-in, but hey... too bad. The rest of the gamers shouldn't have to give up a night's session because one of the group couldn't make it, and should still be able to get the rewards they earn.

If you want to be drastic, you could try having the absent player's PC hurt badly or go down with some illness that knocks them out. That way they can be unconscious throughout the entire game and the GM doesn't have to worry about their actions or personality traits. It also makes for an interesting game, with the other players having to lug the PC around and looking after them, adding to their problems. It's either that or the character can spend a bit of gaming time in hospital, although it can sound a bit silly when in the next game the player says, ‘Oh, well, I know I took a blaster bolt in the lungs and coughed blood before I passed out last week, but I feel much better now,’ and then carries on like nothing happened. Watch out when using this one.

Allowing one of the other players to control the absentee's PC can cause the same kind of problems as allowing the GM to run it. In cases like this, the players might be tempted into using the character to run the risks in the scenario. The chances are that it will be killed by the end of the game, going first into dangerous situations or generally being used as a dogsbody. The other players may get a bit cocky and decide to have a 'bit of a laugh' with the character, and have it do things that get it into trouble, and generally go against the design of the character profile. Allowing another player to control it takes a bit of the burden from the ref.'s shoulders. After all, it's one less NPC to worry about. It also runs the risk of unbalancing the game. It wholly depends on the attitudes of the players and their willingness to attempt the character correctly.

Players cannot always be relied upon to turn up for games, and it's for this reason that collectable card games are a pretty good idea. Although I have never played them myself, they appear to be quite handy to have floating about in case the game doesn't take off for one reason or the other. Having a back-up plan so that the evening won't be a complete loss is always a must, and having another game on hand, be it a trading card game, normal board game, computer game or whatever, is a good thing. This way, the roleplaying campaign won't be altered or held up by trying to fill in the place of the missing player.

Why don't you just carry on as if nothing has happened? This way, the game can continue unabated, and when the player returns for the next game she can be filled in with the details of what happened in the last game and then re-enter at a convenient moment. In fact, this is probably the easiest thing to do, and no doubt many groups already do this. Hang on, have I been wasting my time here?

Thursday, 28 January 2016

News - Mutant: Gen Lab Alpha Kickstarter Campaign is LIVE

 



GEN LAB ALPHA KICKSTARTER status: LIVE


Hi Mutants!

The Gen Lab Alpha Kickstarter is live - come and support the revolution!


(The pledges are in Swedish KR but all show the £ and equivalent underneath)

An all new stand alone book for the Mutant: Year Zero Roleplaying line. 



"In a remote mountain valley, mutant animals dwell under the watchful eyes of the mysterious Watchers. Kept prisoners for generations by electric wire and drones in the sky, never knowing who's next to be dragged off to deadly experiments in dark laboratories, the animal mutants have had enough. The time for resistance is now. The fight for freedom has come..." 

Mutant: Genlab Alpha is the first major expansion to Mutant: Year Zero, the award-winning pen&paper roleplaying game by Free League Publishing and Modiphius Entertainment. But Mutant: Genlab Alpha is no mere supplement - it stands on its own and can be played as a complete game in its own right.


Mutant: Genlab Alpha tells the story of the mutant animals, and introduces them into the dawnworld of Mutant: Year Zero. Some of the contents:

● New rules, PC roles, skills and powers for mutant animals. The expansion includes all the rules you need to play!
● A detailed description of Paradise Valley, the mountain valley where the animals are being held, including a beautiful full-color map.
● A description of the mysterious underground facility called the Labyrinth, where the Watchers dwell.
● The complete campaign Escape from Paradise, letting the characters lead the fight for freedom and uncover the mysteries of the Watchers.
● Unique strategic game mechanics for putting the players truly in charge of the Resistance, planning its operations.
● An overview of how the mutant animals can travel to the Zone if they manage to escape, and join the human mutants of Mutant: Year Zero.



Our goal is to release Mutant: Genlab Alpha by August this year. It will be a beautiful full-color book of 200 pages or more. The cover art is made by Ola Larsson, and the interior art by Reine Rosenberg, just like the Mutant: Year Zero core book. Genlab Alpha was released in Swedish in 2015, and the translation is already finished.



Enjoy!

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Some more random rules notes

I've been clearing out my folders and I've found multiple random documents with unfinished ideas for rules.

This one was called the ODDS System - 'One Die Determines Success' - and was a favourite of mine until the design bloated the rules and it became a little dull. This document appears to be my first crack at the rules, which I later dropped in favour of the even more simple SKETCH system. ODDS became the title of the e-zine I edited for nine months a few years ago.


ODDS: One Die Determines Success


STATS

Numbers 2-6 between:

AGILITY
CHARISMA
CONSTITUTION
INTELLIGENCE
STRENGTH

Hit points: STR + CON + 1D6

SKILLS:

All skills get 1 point automatically. Add Intelligence and Charisma, this is the starting skill points to divide between:

1-Handed Weapon
2-Handed Weapon
Animal Lore
Artisan
Bargain
Bludgeon
Bow
Climb
Con
Crossbow
Entertainment
Gambling
Hide and Sneak
Leadership
Leap
Locks and traps
Lore of the Land
Magic
Medicine
Ride Animal
Staff/Spear
Swim
Thrown
Unarmed

No skill can be higher than 3 initially.

SKILL ROLL: Roll 1d6, must roll equal to or less than to succeed.


OPPOSED ROLLS: Roll 1d6, add skill/stat, highest roll wins. If same, roll again.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Modiphius Entertainment: Conan RPG news!

  

Robert E Howard's Conan Roleplaying Game: Adventures In An Age Undreamed Of


Hi everyone, firstly thanks for being part of this epic journey we're about to start. I don't think anyone has brought together such a legendary line up artists like this before. Jeff Shanks has done an incredible job of not only keeping Robert E Howard's Conan roleplaying game true to the mark, but he's helped us snare some of the biggest names in the industry who can see that we're going to make this one hell of a testament to REH. The crazy thing is we still have more big name artists to unveil!

This is the first of what will be a more regular series of updates now things are hotting up so I thought you'd like to see a sneak preview of something Tomas Giorello is working on:

I also wanted to to take this opportunity to give you the official launch date for the Conan roleplaying game Kickstarter: 

Tuesday 16th February 

Sorry it's not this week as planned. We've spent a year developing this game, but I took the decision to push the launch back for a number of reasons. Some of the big name artists needed more time to deliver their cover art to coincide with the Kickstarter, the video needed more time to get right, and the delay would also mean we could get the free Quickstart download ready for the launch of the Kickstarter to give you a proper flavour for the game. This includes six pre-generated characters, a scenario "To Race The Thunder" and a summary of the rules. 

We're not in a rush to release this game, it was always going to take as long as it took to do the project justice. So as we begin the final preparations please share this page with friends:  www.modiphius.com/conan and encourage them to sign up. We'll be sharing more previews between now and then. 

In the next update I will be detailing some of the books you can expect in the Kickstarter line-up, but in the meantime I'll leave you with Brom's awesome cover again...


 
 
Tread the jeweled thrones of the earth or die in towers of spider-haunted mystery. Crom cares not!
 
Sign up at www.modiphius.com/conan to find out more with previews of the Kickstarter, art and products being unveiled over the coming days.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

That annoying moment...

... when you find some rules you started working on, but you can't remember why you wrote them and what for. All I know is that the document is dated 8th November 2014 and was called 'SCAPE'.

ABILITIES

MOVE (How many squares they can move per round)
COMBAT
RANGED
STRENGTH

Each ability score has 3 points, can be changed by lowering one score to increase another, max score 5 min 1.

Roll 1D6 + Ability score

Ability Target number is always 6
Ranged target number is always number of squares
Combat target number is opponents Combat score + 1D6

Each hit does 1 point of damage, reduced from STRENGTH score, reaching 0 means death.

CLASSES

Each class has a special skill that helps them with certain problems. Special skills are automatically at score 3.

SOLDIER - Breakdown
ROGUE – Trap mastery
SPELLCASTER - Magic
PRIEST – Defeat undead
RANGER – Precision aim


Each character has 5 equipment slots – if they go over this then MOVEMENT, COMBAT and RANGED are reduced by 1 point for every extra item.

Characters can take:

SWORD
SHIELD (gives +1 to defensive COMBAT rolls)
BOW
ARMOUR (first point of armour uses one slot every 1 point of armour over that reduces MOVEMENT, COMBAT and RANGED by one point and uses up a slot - gives +1 to defensive COMBAT rolls)

Monday, 11 January 2016

Book Review: The Pagan Night (The Hallowed War #1)

Written by Tim Akers
Published by Titan Books

'Ruling with an iron hand, the Church has eliminated the ancient pagan ways. Yet demonic gheists terrorize the land, hunted by the Inquisition, while age-old hatreds rage between the north and the south. Three heroes—Malcolm and Ian Blakeley and Gwendolyn Adair—must end the bloodshed before chaos is unleashed.'

I get a little nervous when starting to read a new epic fantasy novel; I have a whole world to learn about and understand, as well as new characters and plots to remember as the book unfolds. There are a lot of epic fantasy stories out there and this book from author Tim Akers is the first in a new series of novels, so any help to ease me into the story would have been nice.

There's an obligatory map to make sure you know where you are - which, as it happens, I simply didn't need as I didn't feel that geography played a huge part in the story - and another map that details the battle lines that have been formed for a conflict, which was a little annoying as that tells me that there's a huge fight on it's way, so there's a little of the mystery of what's to come a ruined straight away.

Along with the uninspiring cover, which is a fine piece of art but I feel lacks the atmosphere and imagery that's inside the book, things did not bode well.

However, the book got off to a pretty good start. A mysterious figure unleashes a powerful gheist, an old god that is no longer worshipped, that travels the land causing trouble - a neat idea, and handled really well in the book with men of the Church hunting them out, and the people knowing they're a threat and protecting themselves accordingly. It's as if there was a period of history where devils and demons were driven out by the Church, and not in a metaphorical sense, but physically and at great cost. This makes for an intriguing and somewhat colourful world, but also a relatable one.

On the back of these annoying old gods we have an age-old conflict between the south and the north; the south are a Church-fearing land, while the north seem to hold on to their pagan past. Tensions are brewing between the two lands and Malcolm Blakley of the north, a hero of a previous war that almost tore the land apart, and his son Ian are caught in the middle. In addition, a hunter named Gwen Adair joins the fray to try to save the day.

Now, this is all well and good - you've got your age-old conflicts, war brewing (which you know is pretty much guaranteed to boil over into conflict, thanks to that map in the front of the book) and characters with some depth all thrown into the mix. The relationship between Malcolm and his son is familiar but different; they're at loggerheads and not because Malcolm is some damn big hero who wants his son to follow him, but because Malcolm knows the horrors of war and Ian wants to make his mark, and throws himself into danger almost haphazardly. Its a great relationship between the grizzled war veteran who knows the truth, and the young warrior who knows the glory.

Then there's Gwen, who I really hoped to have a larger part in the story other than strong-willed lady with a bow, but I never really felt she was fleshed out very well and she feels a little wasted. Perhaps I'm selling her short, and perhaps her story gets more complicated as the Hallowed War unfolds. Perhaps, with all the gheists, raging Inquisitors, gory body horror and potential wars going on I simply lost sight of her character, but if she was a stronger character then I'm sure she would have stood out a little more.

Tim Akers has a great ear for dialogue and it sits well with his descriptive narrative. The conversations feel natural and the exposition - a pet hate of mine, although I'm well aware of it's necessity - is handled well. The descriptions are lengthy enough to be informative but short enough so that you don't feel like you're reading about every blade of grass in the field. This means that there's a lot going on and, in the first half of this fast-paced book especially, the large canvas that Tim has created has been given some broad strokes and the scene has been set for what promises to be an entertaining series of books.

My issues with the battle map and Gwen Adair aside, this is a good book and at no time was I bored or frustrated. I started each chapter eager to know what was coming and I look forward to the following volumes. The Pagan Night is an epic fantasy story with action, intrigue and a good story, and that's what you want in a fantasy novel of this type.

Recommended.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Interview - Chris Birch of Modiphius Entertainment

I'm delighted to welcome back to Farsight Blogger Chris Birch of Modiphius Entertainment. The last time I spoke to Chris it was all about travelling Hyboria with Conan - now we're travelling to other worlds with John Carter!

Welcome back to Farsight Blogger, Chris. It seems like five minutes ago we were all getting excited about the Conan RPG, and now we've got John Carter to look forward to! How did you get hold of that exciting property?

Yes, and the Conan kickstarter launches this month (Jan 2016) which is very exciting! Well with John Carter I'd been chasing it for sometime but the rights were tied up with Disney. So as it happened they finally reverted and Rita my wife and business partner was working at the licensing show in the UK and happened to meet Jim Sullos from the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate. She showed me his card not knowing the relevance and I couldn't believe it!

Picture

Who have you gathered to work on this gem? Can you tell us anything about development?

Well we have the very talented Jack Norris helming the project who's a familiar name to fans of Green Ronin games, Jack's a massive fan like many of the others on the project and we'll be unveiling the team shortly which includes some familiar names from the Barsoom community.

The 2d20 system sounds like a great choice for fast-action adventures on Barsoom - can we expect many changes to the system; is there anything you've had to radically change to reflect travelling Mars?

We're actually doing the first '2d20 Lite' which strips it right down the chassis - a lighter than air re-interpretation that's perfect for the fast moving swashbuckling tales of adventure we know and love from the Barsoom books.

Are you going to be sticking to Burrough's creations, or are you going to be bringing your own creations into the mix?

We're very much sticking to canon - original Burrough's creations in the setting descriptions. The adventures will draw on that and delve deeper in to plots hinted at by Burroughs or story arcs that might have been. Our core team will ensure everything stays true to the vision of Barsoom.

What can we expect to see in the core rulebook? System and setting bare bones, or system and fully fledged Barsoom to run around in?

I want you to imagine a beautiful landscape book with gorgeous page-wide landscapes bringing Barsoom to life, whilst epic action scenes burst in from the page edges. We'll be dialling down the word-count per page to focus on giving everything more breathing space and making this a fantastic read as much as an easy to use RPG core book. It will include system and a solid introduction to life on Barsoom, epic images to explain what a thousand words could not, and plenty of plot seeds to get you going.

What else has Modiphius got planned for the John Carter RPG range?

There will be supplements expanding on the core book, plus some quite epic campaigns, including one in which you are John Carter and friends pursuing the major plots of the books.

You've also got the 'John Carter: Swords of Mars' miniatures game and the 'John Carter: Warlord of Mars' board game coming next year. What details can you share about these?

We're working on sculpts and will have some to show soon. The Miniatures game will have your heroes leaping between the decks of red martian navy ships, to the tops of crumbling towers or battling it out in the ancient ruins below. The system uses a version of 2d20 to let you seamless jump between the RPG and minis game. The boardgame will explore more intense conspiracies and battles in the cites and ruins of Barsoom, telling some wild tales of adventure - these will be part of a Kickstarter in the Summer. You can find out more by signing up at www.modiphius.com/john-carter

What else have you got on the go?

Well apart from the Conan kickstarter we have the forthcoming Kung Fu Panda boardgame in 2016 plus the Airfix Battles and Achtung! Cthulhu miniatures game coming out in April!

Cheers, Chris!

Monday, 4 January 2016

Hints & Tips - WELL, WE`VE ALL GOT OUR PROBLEMS

On the first Monday of every month, read a new hint or tip from Jonathan Hicks, as featured on www.rpg.net and available on Kindle as 'The Book of Roleplaying Hints, Tips and Ideas'.

Campaign going down the pan? Players not interested anymore? Running out of ideas? Games lost their sparkle? Here are some hints.

It happens. At some point or another, gaming groups, especially the more laid back ones, go through a phase when the game doesn’t interest them anymore because of something or another. This can be anything to being bored with the setting you’re in or a problem player messing up the sessions or a rather incompetent GM... There are a myriad of things that can stunt the progress of a group. Sometimes you may think it is easier to lay down your dice and forget the whole thing.

Tempting. But it’s a shame when there is a small element of the group who are really eager to play, a hyped up player or a creative GM. But then it’s hardly fair on the people who have lost interest to have to slog through another two hours. Well, no-ones forcing them to play. So how do you get life back in the game when the eager players want to burn their character sheets?

Difficult question, especially when the group has been together a very long time, and they’ve virtually tried everything. There are no definitive answers, each group have their own reasons for playing the games. But here are few ideas that may get you back on track, for a while at least.

OH, GIVE US BREAK!

The overseer of all games is, of course, the Gamesmaster. The God of the gaming world. It’s a bit of a pain, then, when the GM is a downright git who is playing the game for the following reasons...

1. He wants to ego trip on powerful NPCs he’s created.
2. He feels that he is contending with the players.
3. He wants everyone to think he is intelligent and has an imagination (there are people like that!).
4. He wants to NPC his own character and gives him the biggest rewards and best equipment.
5. He wants to show off his narrative skills, whereas he’s just a boring fart.

... and so on. Quick answer? Get rid of them. Don’t let them GM the game. Or at least explain what the problem is. Get them to change their attitude. If they don’t then just change the GM.

It may pay off to change GMs even if the current one isn’t a pain in the backside. It can make a refreshing change when the perspective of a gaming world is changed to the view of another GM. Such things can revitalise a dying campaign with fresh ideas and opinions.

PERSECUTE... KILL THE HERETIC!

Players who ruin gaming sessions can really put other gamers off, especially newcomers to the group. They bicker, they’re loud, they always want to be heard, they cheat... ooh, and they make you so mad! What destroys a gaming group faster than a terrible GM? A terrible player. Or worst of all, a couple of terrible players. Even one can ruin a decent night’s gaming, even in large groups. They just cannot be tolerated unless they take the game a bit more seriously, depending on just how seriously you take your games.

Players who generally are annoying usually won’t change their ways, and should be jettisoned as soon as possible. It can be a shame if they are there to be genuinely sociable, but they should respect the serious gamers wishes and stay away.

I HAVE THE STRANGEST FEELING OF DÉJÀ VU

"Wait a second," says the third player to your right, "We killed a similar creature to that in a similar way when we were walking through a similar city... which was very similar to this one."

Oh, dear. Sounds like the gaming world is becoming a little bit boring. Players saved the world just once too often? Even pulling back the home planet from the brink of certain destruction can be boring after you’ve done it a few times. The players need new and more exciting challenges, not just ones where you find out where the bad guy is hiding and you go round and give him a damn good thrashing. It can be difficult for a GM, especially those who play frequently, to come up with new and interesting dangers or puzzles for the players to face. If the GM is resilient enough, she can get a good few months play out of a game, even years. But you’ve got to notice the signs when the group starts to get bored with the setting. It’s then that you change everything.

First, start with the location. Go from one part of the planet to a fresh climate, or even go to another planet, which is an absolute must in some roleplaying games. After kicking backside at that locale, change the characters. Get the players to create new characters at beginner’s stats, because there is nothing more challenging than playing a weak character after playing a more experienced one. If that starts to wane, chuck out the setting. Get a new campaign in, a new setting, a new part of the galaxy. Change the genre; go from playing a bunch of specforce operatives to bounty hunters. Play differently, do more investigation than fighting, get more story out of the game. Then go back to your original setting, and start again. Or even get another setting in.

Of course, continually changing settings can disorientate and confuse players, and put quite a hole in the old bank balance. Actually, I went for whole new settings I created myself, which cost me a hell of a lot of time... but its nice having a large selection of places to go. It just depends on how serious you are about the whole thing.

HAPPINESS IS MANDATORY

Make a note in your diary about when and where the game is taking place. It can be a really big pain in the nether regions when the group is set up and raring to play and one or two people are late. Waiting around twiddling thumbs and other manipulative limbs can really put a downer on the willingness to play, so make sure that everyone is punctual.

It is also a good idea to have a little privacy. Trying to scare the players with deep meaningful narrative about the stealth-suited killer cyborg in the engine room can all be for nought when someone else who lives in the house waltzes through the room blaring "alright, mates?" Make sure the night you play there will be no interruptions.

There will also be a rather nasty problem that players may have to deal with... scorn from non-players. Being called childish and having such remarks as "don’t you think you’re a bit old for that kind of thing?" can destroy player confidence. What is worse is when your accused of depraved and occultist practising. I’m not sure what that is supposed to mean, but it sounds as though it would make a great game. Players, mainly the newcomers to the hobby, will pack their bags pretty quickly when persons who don’t play the games start on them, and I guess we’ve seen and heard it all. But what the hell, its only a game, right?

Saying that, it is a good idea to avoid those people whose entire existence revolves about the hobby. I don’t label these people as sad; I label them as dead boring. What kept my group going for years was the fact that we were all good mates anyway, and we had plenty of interests outside the hobby. People who chatter on and on about games and characters and stats and gaming worlds and settings and charts and tables and conversion systems and character generation ideas and equipment... they need a good kick up the arse and directions to that great city called Life. They can bring the group down because, well, you can only take so much roleplaying.

EUREKA!

Ideas are a bummer. Where do you get them? Well, there are plenty of places.

I’ve got quite a few games where the author has tried to explain to budding GM`s where they can get their ideas from. They usually say the media (such as television and radio) and do you know something? They’re absolutely right. I’ve got loads of inspiration and ideas from television, by watching the news and other information gathering programmes, taking the item of discussion and converting it to the game I was running. The political intrigue of other governments, the military actions of countries at war, the scandal of a public figure... all of these things can make good stories for your campaign, as long as you change some bits so that the players who saw the program don’t second guess you!

Of course, published adventures are great, but you’ll soon run out of them, no matter what setting you play. It’ll be up to the great pink mushy thing in your head when the printed games run out, and it’ll do overtime. You’ll run out of ideas after a while, but that’s the signal to change things, as detailed above.


I’m not going to say `in conclusion` because there is no conclusion. The ideas and information above may be a total waste of time to your group if you’ve already tried everything, and the games have still taken a dive. Situations like that are regretful, but maybe its time to ask yourself whether it is time that you gave it a rest. Maybe you should let the group go, round up the ones who are still eager and go and find new players. Who knows? All groups are destined to fade away as peoples attentions are pulled elsewhere, and today’s young, innovative, eager players are tomorrow's adults who remember gaming as one of their old pastimes.

Don’t cling desperately to the game and the players if the group if crumbling beyond redemption. Let it go, and then decide if you want to carry on with new players.