Sunday, September 30, 2012

[A Touch of Evil] Breaking The Gargoyle

This was an actual play report originally posted at for A Touch of Evil, some three years ago.
In the upper right corner: The Gargoyle
Set-up: This was a solo play with a team of 4 vs The Gargoyle. In use were the base set, Something Wicked, The Madness and the Hero Pack. (Still don't have Allies or the SE Soundtrack).

Heroes and Villain determined randomly.

Breaking the Gargoyle

Eliza the Witchhunter

Adrianna the Foreign Traveler

Katarina the Outlaw

The Scarlet Shadow

Round 1:
Eliza ventured to the Ancestral Tomb in the Abandoned Keep, where she was confronted by Grotesques! They left her badly shaken before she killed them.

Adrianna began a slow trek to The Manor, stopping off at The Church first.

Katarina arrived at The Windmill, where The Beast in the Dark was lurking! It hit her once, but she struck quickly and deadly, finishing it fast.

The Scarlet Shadow entered The Olde Woods where he happened upon a Runic Amulet.

Grotesques that had appeared at the Forgotten Island took flight, hovering over The Monastery. However, The Scarlet Shadow was attacked by The Gargoyle! He failed to penetrate the stony hide of The Gargoyle, but he dodged its efforts as well.

Round 2:

As Adrianna continued onto The Manor, Militia were sent ahead for her and to the Monastery.

Katarina’s timing was either good or bad, as The Gargoyle struck at The Windmill while she was headed toward The Fields. The Gargoyle left behind Living Statues as a parting gift.

The Scarlet Shadow marshaled his resources and headed to The Crossroads, on his way to Echo Lake.

Eliza headed to The Doctor’s Office for some healing.

The Living Statues left The Windmill. The Gargoyle struck at The Abandoned Keep, leaving clues behind. The Living Statues arrived at the Blacksmith’s, while the Grotesques took flight toward The Inn.

Round 3:

Katarina had a very useful meeting with The Elders at The Manor. She also discovered that The Gargoyle wears a second face: Lord Hanbrook!

The Scarlet Shadow crept softly into Echo Lake.

Eliza returned to the Abandoned Keep to search for clues. The stairs gave way and she fell down below! Luckily for her, she found a Rosary when she landed!

Arriving at The Manor, Adrianna sensed something under the floor, but failed to locate it.

The Living Statues arrived at Town Hall. All four travelers found themselves at The Monastery, where The Gargoyle was waiting, sneering! Unfortunately for The Gargoyle, Adrianna armed herself with Holy Water, Katarina with a Crossbow, Scarlet Shadow with Robes, and Scarlet Shadow thrust his Runic Amulet into the hands of Eliza! Katarina struck a fierce blow with the Crossbow, but paid for it when the Gargoyle lashed out and smashed her into a wall. The Gargoyle clipped The Scarlet Shadow, but he struck back, finding the weakest point he could and forcing The Gargoyle to scream in pain! Eliza and the Militia attacked with little effect, and the poor Witch Hunter found herself slowly hardening! Adrianna smacked The Gargoyle, but he blasted her out of the fight. Katarina struggled to her feet and hit, but got taken out seconds later. Seeing his team fall and The Gargoyle charge, The Scarlet Shadow slipped out of his robes as The Gargoyle grasped for him, and slipped away to the North Docks. To top it off, the arrival of more Living Statues at Town Hall, plus appearances at The Crossroads and the South Dock made Shadowbrook very nervous.

Round 4:
The Scarlet Shadow ventured to the Forgotten Island, where he discovered a Weathered Skull.

The rest of his team recuperated at the Monastery.

The Living Statues continued their march. The women recovered, though Adrianna and Katarina lost their gifts from the Monastery. Though Scarlet Shadow beat back the oppressive darkness, The Gargoyle’s healing from its grievous wounds began in earnest, as a murky fog settled over the town.

Round 5:

Eliza sought clues at the North Dock, and “corrected” a rumor about the Lady Hanbrook also being involved with The Gargoyle.
Adrianna moved down the road to The Inn, actively seeking out the Grotesques. She struck quick and true, eliminating them before they could threaten her. She also discovered something else: The otherwise arrogant Sophie hiding from the Grotesques. With a disapproving shake of her head, Adrianna headed on to The Inn.

Katarina crossed Echo Lake to hunt down the Living Statues, but her first blow bounced harmlessly off of them! They struck back, taking a lot of the fight from her. She failed to harm them with her second attack, before being knocked unconscious until monks could save her.

The Scarlet Shadow arrived at the South Docks and sought clues. The Statues suddenly picked up their pace on their march to Town Hall.

Katarina and The Gargoyle healed further, but Grotesques attacked Katarina at the Monastery! She’s really having her doubts about that place now. They struck her, but by the time the Militia came running, she already had them dead. Meanwhile, Sophie spread all kinds of crazy rumors around town.

Round 6:

Adrianna arrived at The Inn, hearing the voice of Sebastian Skinner calling her to Room 216. Unfortunately, it was a trap and a swift assault left her unconscious in the hall until another mysterious monk hauled her onto his cart and took her back to the Monastery.

Katarina decided to move under the town, slipping through the tunnel from The Monastery to the Manor. Once there, Selena the Housemaid, frightened by the transformation of Lord Hanbrook, offered to join her!

The Scarlet Shadow was very much impeded by the fog, but his resolve only grew stronger.

Eliza sensed a shadow beneath the surface as she rowed to the Forgotten Island, but her resolve held.

More Statues arrived at Town Hall, sending the townsfolk into deeper panic. The Gargoyle grew stronger as its wounds disappeared. It celebrated its returning strength by killing some of the Shadow’s men at the Abandoned Keep and turning them into Living Statues. The crazed machinations of the Hanbrook persona of The Gargoyle moved the town ever closer to darkness.

Round 7:

Katarina slogged through the fog, trying to make it to town to prevent any further damage from the Living Statues.
The Scarlet Shadow returned to the South Dock, seeking more clues, as an ominous Full Moon appeared overhead.

Eliza, impeded by fog and her stony curse, found herself stranded on the Forgotten Island. As further proof that God hates Eliza, a Spiteful Totem infected her with a Werewolf Curse! Ominous full moon indeed.

Adrianna, quite furious after the ambush by Skinner, stomped down the path to the Inn. However, she found herself inside the Rose Room this time…where the echoes of Lost Souls whispered in her area cryptic clues about the location of The Gargoyle.

Eliza felt her animal side growing, while the Gargoyle neared 100% health. The Statues began to surround the town. The Gargoyle killed again, this time in the Olde Woods, leaving more Statues behind. Then, he did it again at the Doctor’s Office, though no Statues were produced this time.

Round 8:

The Scarlet Shadow arrived in the Olde Woods, where he attacked the Statues there. He struck true, but they are hardy and hit back. He pressed the attack and destroyed the stony servants at the cost of his own health, due to the effect of the moon on them. Some of his men scooped him up and carried him to the keep.

Eliza, without full recollection, appeared at The Inn with Adrianna. There, she found the Book of Death, which quite intrigued her. She also thought Adrianna looked scrumptious.
Adrianna moved to The Bog, picking clues along the way.
Katarina charged Town Hall, intent on stopping the Statues there. Her opening salvo left them wounded, and they retaliated in kind. As they struck back fiercely, Katarina callously sacrificed Selena to their assault. Like Shadow before her, she beat them at the cost of her own health.

The Gargoyle finally returned to full health as Katarina and Shadow recovered, and Eliza transformed into a werewolf, then stalked Adrianna in the Bog! Adrianna struck first, and the curse-weakened reflexes of the Eliza-wolf weren’t able to pin the blind traveler down. She ran away in the night, leaving

Adrianna confused and flustered. The terror of the Gargoyle continued to reign over the town. The Gargoyle was growing more brazen, placing a sense of urgency on the heroes.

Round 9:

Eliza crept slowly down the path to the Bog.

Adrianna, impeded by the fog, slipped closer to the Crossroads.
Katarina bravely moved to the Magistrate’s office, to trade blows with the Living Statues there. Again, she stopped their advance, but again, it was at the cost of her own health.

The Shadow, pinned in by the fog, stayed at the manor: where Statues attacked! His initial attack bounced right off of them, and he got hurt. They smacked him again, but he unloaded a furious attack that crushed the minions. The Shadow’s contacts also brought him news: The Gargoyle was holed up in the Blacksmith’s.

Eliza-wolf struck again, this time getting to Adrianna and weakening her. Katarina recovered, as the Gargoyle began openly attacking anyone and anything indiscriminately. He killed again, this time at the North Dock.

Round 10:

Arriving the Woods, Adrianna encountered hanging skulls, listening to the sounds echoing through them…sounds that told her Magistrate Kroft, one of their best hopes for stopping the Gargoyle, is in fact a pawn of the Gargoyle. The tide turned much worse, with the skulls telling Adrianna all Sophie could possibly tell her…but the Gargoyle sensed this and turned the Midwife into a crumbling stone statue. Some good news came at last…Reverend Harding (who was also into Witchcraft) went on the hunt, and happened to be in the vicinity of the Blacksmith’s. Doctor Manning joined Adrianna’s cause, seeking to atone for his hidden warcrimes.

Katarina moved to the Doctor’s Office, trying to hold the line against the statues. Again, they traded blows. Katarina quickly took the worst of the exchange. There was no double knockdown this time, as the statues smashed her and began their advance to Town Hall.

The Shadow slowly slipped toward a town that hated him nearly as much as it did the Gargoyle.

Eliza moved slowly through the Bog, finding a party invitation for her troubles.

Eliza-wolf got smacked by Adrianna, but slashed the traveler down and infected her now as well. Adrianna and Katarina both recovered at Town Hall to find Living Statues staring them down. Katarina killed them, but was left barely standing. The Gargoyle struck at the Inn, creating more minions and sending Shadowbrook into near hysteria. Then, just because, it struck again, this time in the Fields.

Round 11:

Katarina, in desperation, moved to the Blacksmith’s and called out the Gargoyle. Reverend Harding tossed Katarina a pistol, while The Scarlet Shadow loaded a musket as the two stalked the Gargoyle with Adrianna and Eliza in tow. Katarina’s opening shot winged the Gargoyle, while it smashed her to the ground. The Scarlet Shadow blasted it as well, and while it did smack him down, Dr. Manning moved quickly to aid the outlaw. Eliza gashed her hand open as she aimed the Runic Amulet at the Gargoyle, blasting it. Her sacrifice was repaid by being crushed against the wall. Adrianna attacked, staggering the Gargoyle, but it lashed back, wounding the traveler though she avoided his stony touch. Katarina blasted the Gargoyle and got knocked unconscious. Rev. Harding pulled her to safety. A well-placed shot ripped through the Gargoyle’s face, and Dr. Manning’s guiding voice kept the Shadow out of the reach of the Gargoyle! Adrianna was the next to fall, leaving the Shadow, the Doctor and the Gargoyle. The Shadow shot for the heart, but the stony beast roared and charged. Shadow took it hard that time, and Dr. Manning could do little for him. As the Gargoyle stalked Manning, The Shadow raised the musket once more, and a shot tore an ear from the Gargoyle. The Gargoyle missed the Doctor and went after the Shadow, but he again avoided the stony touch while the Doctor moved quickly to cover his wounds. When The Gargoyle finally did pin down the Doctor, The Shadow sacrificed the Weathered Skull to save him. The Doctor repaid that several times, tending to The Shadow and guiding him from the stony grasp. The Gargoyle, nearing its end, went for the Doctor once more, but the Shadow again reached the Skull and used it to save the Doctor. The Gargoyle lashed out in desperation, but Dr. Manning saved his charge and allowed the Shadow to unload with a shot at the cracked façade of the Gargoyle, shattering his face and ending his evil.
And, to boot, Dr. Manning helped The Shadow escape the town, all parties silently understanding that Katarina, Eliza and Adrianna should take the credit.

Thoughts: God hates Eliza...clearly. Nice, dramatic end for the Scarlet Shadow. The combo of The Shadow and Dr. Manning (and Hero of the People), plus a LOT of luck were the only things that pulled this out for the Heroes. First time using Shadow or Adrianna at all. Shadow's abilities were gimped due to the Weather, so he never got to "appear anywhere". Eliza got REALLY hampered with the Stone Curse AND Fog impeding her movement. The Stone Curse' penalty to fight dice probably kept Adrianna going longer as well.

If I had the time just to sit and do it, I would try to "dramatize" it into story form, but there ya go...solo session report.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Tommy's Take on Hollowpoint

Hollowpoint sounds like a game about people shooting each other. It appears to be aptly named.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Hollowpoint is the game of “bad people killing bad people for bad reasons” and draws inspiration from (and heavily references) my all-time favorite comic book series, 100 Bullets.

That’s a great start, right there.

In addition to 100 Bullets, Hollowpoint heavily references GI Joe and James Bond for examples…but it really does seem tailor made for a 100 Bullets type of game. It is available in print for $22.95 or PDF for $11.95. Hollowpoint sidesteps the question of how the group gets together by making everyone part of the same Agency, and setting them out on a mission.

Character creation is based off of assigning a value (0-5, using each number once) to skills (Kill, Take, Terror, Con, Dig, Cool, though you can optionally expand the list to include Seduce, Watch, Hurt and Boss). After the skills are assigned, you assign Traits, which can be burnt off in play to provide bonus dice. One method of doing this is by Q&A, like “You’re a pro and you know you’re a pro, because you always do *this*”. Optionally, you can create traits on the fly instead, or use Company Traits, which are things like equipment, sidekicks and the like. Lastly, you pick a Complication, which links you to the mission in personal ways (and is kept from the other players).

The core mechanic is a dice pool of d6s, with rolls calculated similar to Arc Dream’s One Roll Engine, with the matching dice grouped together and calculated by “length” (number of dice in the set) and “height” (value of the dice in the set). The referee has his own dice pool that is based off of the number of players in the game and grows with each successful conflict. Additionally, PCs can work together (or not), as working together is up to the person being asked for assistance, and if they say no, they actually take dice from the PC needing help. If the request for assistance fails, the PC can draw from the Teamwork pool instead.

Length of the sets determines who acts first, and as hits are inflicted, dice are knocked off the smallest sets. As characters take hits without sets, they take on damage effects based on the skill being used (this can be “social” attacks as well as physical damage).

Scenes can have objectives set, which must be completed before the opposition is taken down, to further complicate matters.

There are a couple of detailed conflict examples and a mission building chapter that offers advice, though mission building is pretty simple: Pick a target, an objective or two, add a Principle or two that are acting against the PCs, then see if the PCs come up with an Objective that deliciously complicates things.

Sample missions are included, like a celebrity deathmatch kind of arena, a riff on The Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai and a sci-fi mission/setting.

In addition to the conflict examples, a pair of playtest reports are also included, as well as a nice, if unnecessary set of memos designed as helpful information for new members of the Agency.

WHAT WORKS: Anything drawing this much inspiration from 100 Bullets is a good thing. Lots and lots of examples help, especially if you’re not a big fan of some of the terminology used in the game. The potential for tense interplay between characters is great, especially for a pick-up game. Several great examples to diversify the game, showing off that it’s more than just “hitmen in suits”.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: Some of the rules bits are confusing until you get into the examples. I could do without game mechanics dropping the F-Bomb, personally. Not a big fan of the core mechanic, though it seems more intuitive than the similar mechanic the One Roll Engine uses.

CONCLUSION: Hollowpoint was nominated for three Ennies and has some enthusiastic support. The mechanics have some interesting depth to them, such as adding objectives to a scene that must be completed before the opposition is taken out, and how rolling too many dice can backfire and cause you to blow your opportunities early. When you factor in how adaptable it is to other settings (VCSA Publishing’s site includes a link to Hollowpoint being used for a Skyrim game), this is an impressive package to draw on, perhaps as an interlude between your group’s campaigns.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tommy's Take on School Daze

I have lots of High School setting-like RPGs. Smallville has a whole supplement about playing in High School. It’s kinda the assumed setting of Buffy. So I was expecting to see some big hook for the School Daze RPG by Sand & Steam Productions…and it’s played fairly straight. Is that a bad thing?

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: School Daze is full color, tons of illustrations, bookmarked and searchable. It’s only 66 pages, so not a giant tome, and is $10 in PDF format. The intro references Buffy, Brick, Ferris Bueller and The Breakfast Club in addition to Glee and American Pie, so that’s a bit of range. It IS worth noting that, despite the cartoony art, there are drug and sexual references, so be advised.

Mechanically, it’s not a complicated system. Your character has a favorite Subject, which adds +2 to rolls when relevant, as well as up to three Ranks (all of which rhyme), and add +1 if they are  a good thing for what you are trying to do, or -1 if they are bad. For instance, if you’re a Tank trying to sneak past the Principal, that’s a -1. Now, if it’s the middle of a football game and you’re trying to sack the Quarterback, that’s a +1. If you’re a Prank and you’re trying to humiliate the substitute? +1. If you’re trying to NOT say something out of line when the Town Councilman is holding an assembly…-1. You can also get Gold Stars, which can be used for +2 bonuses, removing consequences of failure or altering the story as it progresses.

You round out your character with Name, Motivation (“I wanna be a doctor”, “I wanna bang the head cheerleader”, etc) and three Relationships (they can be students, teachers, outside NPCs, you name it…they’re just people that’ll come up in the game).

The adventure chapter (or Group Projects) is meant to be really basic and then free flowing. Decide what’s going on (the example listed is Prom), add in the major NPCs and the basic set-up and then play it out. In the given example, the most popular girl in school (that is, the one every hates) is trying to get the school stud to take her to the Prom. Presumably, the PCs will interject themselves in the middle of that. There’s also a random School Year Events chart if you need inspiration, with things like Football Championship, Finals Week, Protest in the Halls, Bomb Threats, Alien Invasions and the County Fair.

Trowbridge High, home of the Fighting Kraken, l is provided, with school colors, mascot (Squiddie) and school paper, and a faculty that you can use or discard as you like. Each staff member has a headshot and a little quirk or two to help you along with using them in your games.

There IS a list of alternate settings, one being very Buffyish, one being very Harry Potter and one being set in the Old West, oddly enough, as well as a setting in space.

Finally, a list of pregen characters and a rules summary are provided.

WHAT WORKS: Pretty book, simple system that’s not trying to do too much, or overcomplicate a simple process. And I absolutely love random charts, so that helps.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: The list of Ranks seems too small, especially if you have a group of five or six players, all taking three Ranks. I’m not sure I’d wanna run a Buffy or Space School setting with this completely unmodified. The last gripe is technical, as the download is nearly 80mb for a 66 page book and my computer actually struggles a bit with it compared to other PDFs, especially of the same size.

CONCLUSION: Very professional presentation for a game that could easily make for a fun diversion, either short campaigns or one-offs. I’d be more inclined to go “Saved By The Bell” with it over “Buffy” or “Brick”, though I’d be tempted to venture more into Saturday Morning Cartoon territory than Saved By The Bell did. In essence, I’m not completely sold on it being quite as versatile as the author says (though there are a lot of folks credited as playtesters, so I may be dead wrong), but I do also think that it’s a lot more versatile than I initially thought. Pick it up if you want something simple and Completely Different from what you’ve probably been running.

Hellbrood: Countdown to Invasion released!

Hellbrood: Countdown to Invasion was released by Daring Entertainment for Savage Worlds this week!

Countdown to Invasion is a supers event series in which the world is assaulted by the Necroleans, an alien race armed with nefarious weapons that cause the dead to walk and turn the heroes and villains into superpowered zombie nightmares.

Countdown to Invasion leads into the Hellbrood setting book and plot point campaign, and is intended to only be the first event for the world...(I edited the thing, so I can tell you that plot seeds are woven throughout that take you well beyond the scope of just the one event, even as big as it is).

Designed for the award winning Savage Worlds role-playing game and the Super Powers Companion, this volume includes five playable races, new Edges and Hindrances, and new setting rules— including how to perform Power Stunts and expand your hero's capabilities.

You can read the previews on the Daring Entertainment website: Countdown to Invasion, New York, The Hellspawn and the Necroleans.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Tommy's Take on Uresia: Grave of Heaven

Uresia: Grave of Heaven is one of those books I’d heard about, but never read. During its initial release, I was frequently a player of games released by Guardians of Order, but not really a customer. Now, S. John Ross and Cumberland Games has released an all new, All-Systems version of Uresia (meaning you get the background, you add the mechanics yourself).

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: First off, there are no game mechanics in here. Second of all, the PDF is 114 pages and $19.95, or you can get print versions through Lulu, including Omnibus Editions featuring Uresia and its supplements.

The premise is very cool. In a fantasy world, the Gods went to war with one another…and destroyed Heaven. The people were happy at first, pleased to be out from under the thumb of the Gods, until the remnants of Heaven crashed to the earth and wiped out large chunks of people, destroying land, and generally being pretty catastrophic. All the remained was a ring of islands known as Uresia – The  Grave of Heaven.

In the aftermath, the peoples of Uresia are divided into Men (the “civilized” races like humans, elves, dwarves, etc.), the Trolls (the “uncivilized” races like ogrish trolls, and the like), the Gods (a very few survived, and most people don’t realize it) and the Others (pretty much a catch-all for whatever else you want to put in the world. It’s great because it covers things that escaped the Skyfall, things that were created by the Skyfall and whatever else you want to do here).

The first part of the book covers the major islands, and I say “major” because the book explicitly says that there are more islands than the ones on the map…these are just the biggest and, currently, most important…and for you to add in whatever else you need.

Each entry covers Climate, Society, Language, Currency and Cities (in population order) before getting into the background and current events of each island, often peppered with plot seeds. The land of Birah is an Elven land that has freed itself from the rule of Koval by making a demonic pact, the Elu Islands host the “Sailor Olympics” every year (which always ends in disaster), and the cold, dour land of Yem was built on the remnants of the Realm of the Dead.

Sidebars are used well throughout here, showing off religious customs, describing lethal spirits that can harm you and discussing languages that are commonly used, but not adopted by any given country. Another sidebar details the limitations of magic (you can’t make someone love you, you can’t raise the dead if they don’t have a strong connection to life, there’s no time travel, no seeing the future, that sorta thing)…and no one can decide on just how powerful magic was before the Skyfall, with some good arguments that it was stronger and weaker.

The book zooms in on the hamlet of Rogan’s Heath in Rinden, to give you a closer look at small town life in Uresia. Again, plot seeds are all over the place, like the guy living on the burial spot of a murdered priest, the White-Bearded Man who mysteriously asks people to donate a portion of their souls to his cause, the buried suit of Emerald Armor that sometimes moves when its owner’s not around, and more.

Shadow River is port city in Temphis, and a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Notable landmarks include the eyeless statue in the Necropolis which sometimes DOES have eyes, which always means someone’s going to die. We also have a sidebar here talking about the flying islands that drift over Uresia, as well as a sidebar on gunpowder and explosive weapons. There’s even an artifact map with several paragraphs throwing its reliability into question in very game-able ways.

Another chapter is devoted to the “rest” of Uresia: The Deep under the islands, the Divide – a stretch of ocean separating the old empires (now the Troll Lands) from Uresia…and also the border where magic fades away. There’s even a section on the “other realms” beyond that, including “The Heavens” where folks have occasionally fallen from in metal ships. Yeah, Uresia allows for pretty much everything.

A timeline is provided, covering all the events from Skyfall to the current year, 1380.

There IS a character creation chapter, it just doesn’t have much to do with mechanics. The PC races include Beastmen (pretty much any animal-man, fromcatpeople to minotaurs), Wise Beasts (these are intelligent animals), Centaurs, Dwarves, Elves, Humans, Mushroom Trolls, Snowmen (spirits who can only inhabit bodies of snow…yes, you can play  Frosty), Slimes (of which there is a MASSIVE variety), Satyrs and Troll-Landers, and sidebars basically saying “and whatever else you might want to play”.

Magic, of which there are different kinds (like Druidic or Necromancy), is covered here, again with relevant sidebars. The point that is repeatedly stressed, however, is that magic is EVERYWHERE and occasionally activates even when you don’t mean to.

Uresia also pushes the idea of characters having unique talents and motifs, angling for the idea that everyone is completely unique in some way.

The main book wraps up with an equipment chapter before heading into appendices. These include naming conventions, a massive table you can roll on for random life events for your background (d1000!), rules for a Chess-like game called Mastery, a section on measurements, an essay from S. John Ross about the origins of Uresia (including a 21 track soundtrack and a Mountain Dew reference!), and a massive (clickable) index.

WHAT WORKS: Any book that gives me a d1000 chart to roll on is fantastic. There are plot seeds ALL OVER the book. The setting has a lot of details *and* is blown wide open for you to put in pretty much anything you want…or play it however you want. It basically says “Look, this is how the world is, unless it’s not.” The author's enthusiasm for the material is obvious in the reading, no surprise that he released it early because he just didn't want to wait.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: The art is not created equally in the book, with some huge shifts in the art style. With there being no game mechanics, if you’re not inclined to do the mechanics work, this is probably not going to be useful to you.

CONCLUSION: Uresia does a great job of giving a ton of information without dragging or over defining, gives you a ton of toys to play with while giving you enough room to go “oh, and a shooting star crashed to the earth, cracked open and large, tentacled fiends emerged”. The approach to the book is largely “This is probably what’s going on, but a lot of this is going to be hearsay anyway, so it’s probably not true if you don’t want it to be”. Just a fun base to build a kitchen sink setting off of, using whatever system you feel comfortable doing the work in (I’m leaning towards Savage Worlds or High Valor at the moment, myself). Whatever system you use, you’re either going to want something that’s not rigidly defined, I think, or something you are intimately familiar with, or both. Entertaining system, tons of plot material, just add game mechanics.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Dungeonlands Kickstarter and Heroes & Servitors

The 24 Hour Design Party is complete, and the Dungeonlands Kickstarter is live!

Here is release info on the Kickstarter:


Savage Mojo's Old School Killer Dungeon which will be released in both Savage Worlds and Pathfinder versions.

Savage Mojo is pleased to announce DUNGEONLANDS, our upcoming killer dungeon set in the First Age of Relic, our fantasy realm, where your heroes will answer a call through time and space to rescue an angel imprisoned by the Lich-Queen.

Her Tomb is littered with the bones of all the heroes that came before. Her Machine spews forth endless hordes of chaos. Her Palace will hold your finest hour...or your crushing defeat.

The first Savage Mojo product produced for both Pathfinder and Savage Worlds, DUNGEONLANDS combines the epic adventure you've come to love from Savage Suzerain with classic, old school dungeons that have shaped the foundations of fantasy gaming.

There's an award-winning development team behind our Dungeonlands line, including writers John Wick (Legend of the Five Rings, 7th Sea, Houses of the Blooded and Lee Szczepanik, Jr (War of the Dead; artists Jason Engle (, Jim Pavelec (, Aaron Acevedo (, Alida Saxon (; and Savage Mojo (, ENnie and Origins Award winning publishers of Suzerain roleplaying games, Gamescapes roleplaying game accessories, and Brainradio fiction.

We're raising funds to create two books (one for Pathfinder rules and another for Savage Worlds) and a wide variety of accessories too: character cards, monster cards, a full soundtrack, tile maps for the entire dungeon, and more! We have a lot of great pledge rewards, including commissions from Jason Engle, custom tile map sets personalized for your game, or even illustrated fiction based on your character! Look for more on these and other rewards in the coming updates.

Funding Goal: $5,000
Deadline: October 14th.


They came from all corners of the universe,
heroes to defeat the Lich Queen
and free an angel from the Dungeonlands.

They came from all corners of the universe,
servitors of vile alien gods to protect the Lich Queen
and keep an angel imprisoned in the Dungeonlands.

High Fantasy; Epic Conflict

Heroes & Servitors is a book of pre-generated characters, ready to play
with backstories written. Get straight into the action. And for GMs,
there’s an evil, twisted version of each character, together with a premade
fiendish dungeon encounter especially for them. However you
mix them up, they’re bound to enliven your killer dungeon experience.

This is a product for the Savage Worlds rules system and Savage Suzerain. A Pathfinder version is in development.
A copy of Dungeonlands: Tomb of the Lich Queen is recommended to
make the most of this book.

Heroes & Servitors was created by the Savage Mojo crew over a 24 period as the end result of the Savage Mojo 24 Hour Design Party.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Savage Mojo presents DUNGEONLANDS

Savage Mojo is pleased to announce DUNGEONLANDS, our upcoming killer dungeon set in the First Age of Relic, our fantasy realm, where your heroes will answer a call through time and space to rescue an angel imprisoned by the Lich-Queen.

Her Tomb is littered with the bones of all the heroes that came before. Her Machine spews forth endless hordes of chaos. Her Palace will hold your finest hour...or your crushing defeat.

The first Savage Mojo release produced for both Pathfinder and Savage Worlds, DUNGEONLANDS combines the epic adventure you've come to love from Savage Suzerain with classic, old school dungeons that have shaped the foundations of fantasy gaming.

  • Savage Mojo will host a 24 hour online Design Party beginning at 9pm Eastern Time on Friday, September 14th and running to 9pm Eastern Time on Saturday the 15th. Utilizing a combination of livestream, online chats, whiteboards, blog posts and social media, the Savage Mojo Design Team will publicly create a new supplement for DUNGEONLANDS live and on the internet!
  • DUNGEONLANDS will be the focus of the very first Savage Mojo Kickstarter, as we move to bring this ambitious project to print. Being far more than a single book, DUNGEONLANDS is our most ambitious product to date, with map tiles by Alida Saxon, random dungeon tiles and card decks for random exploration encounters!
  • During the 24 Hour Design Party, Savage Mojo will be holding open auditions for the role of our Pathfinder rules guru! Love Pathfinder? Want to be a part of the most ambitious Savage Mojo project to date? Show us what you’ve got during the 24 Hour Design Party! Check out our Facebook, Twitter (@SavageMojo) and Google+ for more information!
  • Each version (Pathfinder and Savage Worlds) will be designed to give you the best old school killer dungeon experience for each system!

Tommy's Take on Capes, Cowls & Villains Foul

I've reviewed a couple of Spectrum Games’ releases in the past, so I thought I’d take a look at their first foray into supers gaming with Capes, Cowls & Villains Foul.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Spectrum Games takes genre emulation very seriously, with Slasher Flick being the prime example, although Cartoon Action Hour Season 2 is nothing to sneeze at. At the time of this writing, the PDF is $13.99 for 163 pages in full color, or in softcover Print on Demand for $31.99. Disappointingly, there are no bookmarks or clickable links, two things I’ve come to love about PDFs.

The guts of Cartoon Action Hour live on inside CC&VF, with the game using all d12s, player-defined Traits, Factoids and so on. Damage is handled with Setback Tokens, not unlike Stress in other slightly-less-traditional RPGs, except all types of Setbacks are calculated together…there is no tracking of Physical Stress, Mental Stress, etc.

Character creation is point based, with three scales given: 100 pts (for Street Level or rookie characters), 150 (default) and 200 (The Big Guns). Traits, as noted, are player-defined, and you are assumed to wind up with 5-12 of them. Traits are rated as Human (1-4), Superhuman (5-8) and Cosmic (9+). Human Traits might be stuff like DETECTIVE. Superhuman might be TIME-SHIFTING while Cosmic might be GOD OF WAR. Traits wear down as you use them in a scene, and you can further define them with Bonuses and Restrictions. Some examples include Auto-Defend (one free use per Issue for defense), Hint (very GM-heavy Bonus, allowing for “hunches” or psychic flashes), Linked (allowing you to use multiple Traits to boost a roll), or Situational (where Traits get better in specific situations). Restrictions include Editorial Choice (where you must spend Editorial Control to use it), Not-A-Finisher (cannot end a fight), Definitive (it always works in a certain way, and there is an associated drawback to that), and Shared Trait (like a headquarters or AVENGERS ASSEMBLE! or something). A cheat sheet of modifiers is provided, as is a series of example traits and how they are built (like making duplicates of yourself, mind control or even sidekicks). There’s also a big list of example traits of various types like Professional Traits (Detective, Investigative Reporter), Genre Traits (Breaks the Fourth Wall, Revealing Costume), Equipment Traits and so on. Examples are ALWAYS good in player-defined Trait systems and they don’t skimp here.

PCs have Editorial Control, which are essentially plot points. You can spend them to re-roll dice, avoid knockouts, save innocents or pull off random twists…and if you want REALLY random twists, there’s a chart you can roll on giving you effects like interrupting combat (giving you a free action and then restarting initiative), Great Shot (giving you an attack modifier), Sacrifice (giving you a bonus to a Trait roll to help someone else), a surprise cameo and more.

Complications give you points of Editorial Control when activated, while Factoids just further round out your character (like your shrinking, leaping, super-strong robot EATS LOTS OF POTATO CHIPS, for instance).

A character creation example is included, as well as Plug and Play Templates for various power levels, and a slew of heroes and villains (like Americana, Boy Frog and Death Stalker or Dead Eye, Death Star and The Rat King).

The basic mechanic is simple: Roll a d12, add a Trait, beat a target number. If you have Linked Traits, your bonus is higher. If you have Benefit dice, you roll multiple d12s and take the best result. If you have Detriment dice, you roll multiple d12s and take the lowest result. If you roll a 1, that’s a fumble. If you roll a 12, double the value of the Primary Trait before adding the die and modifiers. If you fail a roll by more than your Threshold (based off of your starting Editorial Control), then you take a Big Hit and are knocked out.

Initiative is free-flowing. Essentially, when combat begins the Editor (GM) decides who goes first. After they act, they pick who goes next and so on and so on, but everybody has to get a turn before anybody else gets a turn. Advice is given for adjudicating the rules in situations (like when a player insists on using a Trait that may not be appropriate for an action), as well as gang piling, combos, or Pushing (taking Setback token to roll more dice…that stick with the result, rather than just having you pick the higher one).

Villains get their own chapter, and scale depending on whether they are working solo or in a team. Think about how Spidey can be pushed to the limit by each member of the Sinister Six individually, but still not be overwhelmed by them attacking him at once. Villains also get to spend Editorial Control on things like Escapes, Big Speeches (which will either demoralize the heroes or give away crucial plans), setting off big explosions or even pulling the “It was really a Doombot all along!” bit. There’s even a section on shorthanding the random villains that get used to fill out the Masters of Evil or the Taskmaster’s lackeys in a pinch.

Optional Rules include Zero Level Traits (letting you make a straight die roll without modifiers for something that everyone would have on some level), a suggestion on cheating the die rolls for NPCs (starting off by roll 2d12 and taking the highest, and shifting to taking the lowest near the climax of the adventure), shifting Auto-Defend to once per scene (instead of issue), mixing and matching heroes of different point totals (this equals more Editorial Control for the lower total characters), and playing “Heroes in Training” games where you build the “end result” heroes and shave points off to get the “rookie” version. There’s also rules for Killing Damage, LARPing and Experience Points/Upgrades/Overhauling characters.

An extensive example of play is provided (complete with PCs of differing point totals in order to show those rules off).

The Issues chapter offers some general GMing advice, as well as a pair of pretty-well-ready-to-run Issues featuring villains from earlier in the book.

The book ends with a character sheet, glossary, summary charts and index.

WHAT WORKS: Tons of examples. Simple system, with the Setback Tokens being among my favorite “non-Hit Point” damage systems I’ve seen (with the word Stress just stressing me out). CC&VF seems to have taken a lot of ideas from other games but implemented them well. Oh, and I loved the random twists. The system is very flexible without being completely hand-wavey.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: Very few of the example characters terribly inspired me. Many of the optional rules (like the templates or building heroes in advance and working up to them) don’t do a thing for me…but they are optional. There are big chunks of the system that are open to player-GM negotiation, which can go bad in the wrong hands.

CONCLUSION: While many of the support pieces did little to inspire me, the core seems very flexible and very sound. With large parts of the system open to such interpretation, certain types of players can make for nightmarish sessions, just like certain kinds of GMs can, but that’s true of any system (and especially Supers systems, which require a certain amount of buy-in from all parties above and beyond most genres). Unlike some other recent entrants into the supers RPG realm, I feel confident that I have a good/decent grasp of the mechanics right away, but I suppose I would have actually preferred the “serial numbers filed off” approach to the sample characters, rather than the characters used, because generic versions of Thor, Flash, Batman, Silver Surfer, Captain America, Wolverine and Superman are more useful for me in pinning down the important bits of the system. Does CC&VF hit some magic area that no other supers game ever has? Not for me, not really. “Hawkeye fighting alongside Thor” has been built into more and more games over the years, with BASH and ICONS even handling it in largely the same way. Does that make CC&VF a bad game? Heck no. If anything, I'd call it the more "traditional" alternative to Marvel Heroic. I intend to play around with the character creation to see how well it models certain characters of mine, but I’d be inclined to put it near the top of my Supers options right now, if not at the very top.

Friday, September 7, 2012

tremulus and Truth and Lies

To follow up on the Exploding Aces Kickstarter I blogged about the other day, I have two more to mention:


Obviously, I'm a big fan of Wu Xing. I've mentioned this a lot. I feel bad that I didn't mention this Kickstarter before, because, Wu Xing.

Anywho, this book covers the Will of Iron and Hidden Strands of Fate clans, two major Wu Xing clans (the former acting as a force for justice while the latter manipulates everything they can from behind the scenes). I have yet to be disappointed with a Wu Xing purchase (or any purchase from Third Eye Games, and I own everything except Mermaid Adventures...I even own t-shirts for each game line), and I have backed this at the $25 level in order to score a print and PDF copy.

It only has 13 hours to go and they are trying to score $400 more, at which point a Wu Xing combat tracker app will be released to backers for free, as well as a new clan.


I left this uncapitalized because the word is supposed to be uncapitalized, and I didn't want a lower case "i" and a capitalized rest of the word.

Anyway, this Kickstarter is for a storytelling game by Reality Blurs, based off of the Apocalypse World engine with a Lovecraftian twist. I'm torn between the PDF and print levels, but the anticipation is killing me enough that I've acquired Monsterhearts (which uses the same engine) for review.

Read a playtest right here on the blog.

With 24 days left to go, it has been funded many times over and just keeps unlocking stretch goal after stretch goal.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Tommy's Take on Exploding Aces

Another one of those “perks of blogging”, I get an early look at the Exploding Aces RPG by 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming, who primarily make d20 based stuff, and so are usually out of my normal areas of interest. Coincidentally (or not), they have a Kickstarter going on right now for Exploding Aces.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: 18 days to go as of this writing, Exploding Aces has reached its initial funding goal of $3,000 and is working towards a $5,000 stretch goal for player mats. Higher end stretch goals include custom card decks and GM screens. $10 gets you the PDF version and $25 gets you the print, while $50 gets you the full color version. To see the various pledge levels and rewards, click on the Kickstarter link above. This review is based off of a pre-layout version of the manuscript.

Exploding Aces eschews dice altogether, in favor of a traditional deck of playing cards, complete with two jokers. Exploding Aces are references to automatic successes, which occur when you draw an Ace. What kind of Ace is an exploding one is dependent on how skilled you are at what you’re trying to do, but an Ace of Spades is always Exploding. In fact, if you get an Ace of Spades as the first card draw, it’s a Sterling Success, which makes it an automatic success and can regain spent Force of Will points or gain you twists (which are kinda like Savage Worlds bennies). Force of Will points are used to flip cards and then decide if you want to keep them or discard them.

As noted, Aces Explode, which equals success, while Jokers equal failure (and possibly botches). You draw a number of cards equal to your relevant Quality, and the difficulty chart determines which cards are Plus, which are Minus and which are Blank. You want to have more Plus cards than Minus cards in order to succeed.

The damage system is interesting, as you draw cards for the weapon type, with 2-10 dealing damage, and the suit determining how much (half rounded down, half rounded up or full damage). You can soak wounds, but health is tracked on Health boxes, and you can choose to accept Setbacks instead of actually marking off damage boxes. These include injuries like Cracked Ribs, Acoustic Trauma and Hairline Fractures, as well as issues like Hysteria, Doubt and even being Cursed.

Character generation starts with selecting four dominant aspects: Extrovert or Introvert, Realist or Dreamer, Thinker or Sensitive and Judge or Adapter. Then you spend 10 points on Mind, Body and Psyche, determined by your personality type as determined by your choices above.  The qualities break down into further categories, with Body defined by Agility, Appearance, Stamina and Strength, Mind by Intellect, Perception and Wits and Psyche by Poise and Spirit.

Next, you pick your Persona, and this does give you a seven point spread divided among Combat, Physical, Knowledge and Social. These are spent on Edges for each group, like Fight, Firearms, Drive, Sneak, Medicine, Survival, Guile and Persuasion.

After this, you get 25 free points to further customize your character, including buying ratings up to Trained, Skilled and Expert, as well as Lifestyle.

Basically everything is given benchmarks to go off of to guide your character creation selections, with a generalized scale of 0 to 6 and more specific examples for each aspect.

If you buy up to the Supernatural level (6), you get a free talent. These include things like Martial Combat Master (Agility), Owning the Room (Appearance), Tough (Stamina), Python Grasp (Strength), Lightning Calculator (Intellect), Dark Vision (Perception), Empath (Wits), Master Assassin (Poise), and Beacon of Hope (Spirit).

Additionally, you can further define your characters with Talents and like Hammer Fan (for revolvers), Danger Sense, Crack Driver, Area Knowledge, Surgeon, Carouser, Famous, Honorable, Mentor and Optimist. Flaws include Coward, Red-Shirt (you are ALWAYS attacked first), Allergies, Deaf, Klutz, Code of the West, Notorious, Wanted, Dark Secret, Addiction and Nightmares.

The GM’s section is a broad cross section of advice that’ll have templates for minions, nemeses and creatures, as well as rules governing things like explosives, fighting mobs, etc.

WHAT WORKS: Interesting core mechanic, and pretty easily expandable from the vast amount of talents and flaws already provided in the rules. The extensive list of sample actions should help most GMs figure out not only what should be used for each action, but how to make actions feel different (like the ascending difficulty when climbing a mountain).

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: As with most “universal” systems, it seems to need a guiding hand to get you from the options and into your setting. That guiding hand seems to be missing, at least from this draft document, though the Kickstarter page says several adventures will be included, so this may prove to be a moot point. Some of the Setbacks were so…clinical and specific…that it was almost jarring for what seems to be well suited for an action-adventure kind of game. Not a huge fan of the organization, especially with things like an in-depth discussion of damage and setbacks showing up before character creation and way before combat.

CONCLUSION: Are the mechanics gimmicky? Well, yes. Is that a bad thing? I can’t answer that for you. For me, I think System Matters because I like the Game part as much as I do the Role-Playing, so I’m cool with a system where everyone’s drawing cards instead of rolling dice. I like the concept, even if I don’t particularly NEED another universal system (which doesn’t mean I wouldn’t play or run another one…I don’t need a lot of things that I later buy)…I’ll just be particularly interested to see the adventures, which will really show just how adaptable the game is between genres. The project is already funded, and 4 Winds have a strong reputation, so this is a pretty risk-free Kickstarter, in my view.