Sunday, July 30, 2017

Review Burp: Alpha Blue RPG Reviews with Stuffer Shack

Disclosure: Product links include my drivethrurpg.com affiliate identification. I receive a token % if you purchase something from the landing page. It's one way to support this blog and its content. Thank you for that support.

Alpha Blue
RPG reviews for Stuffer Shack begins! My review of Alpha Blue (link to Stuffer Shack) was posted just this last Friday. As mentioned prior (with Submissions Open), Stuffer Shack is paying a flat rate for RPG related articles and reviews. If you're interested the submission guideline is here. And the best advice I can give, is to browse the site to get a better idea of the sort of content they might be interested in.

In the future, I'll be including my announcement(s) of RPG reviews with Stuffer Shack along with what publishes with Knights of the Dinner Table and posts with EN World. But, it felt right to post a brag... err, I mean announcement of this first review. I've already got my next title for review with Stuffer Shack lined up... I just have to put aside the time.

Oh, yeah as to Alpha Blue? Well, you'll have to just head over to Stuffer Shack and read the review (duh)... But in the meantime, should I ever get the chance to run Alpha Blue... I'm running it in the 41st century.

And how did this movie get a PG rating in 1968!




       

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Trouble on the Road: Part Three

Part One: Here
Part Two: Here


-Observations-

Interior of the Carriage
As Elian is spins his false tale of woe and attempts to place the coachmen's corpse in the carriage, the GM can introduce any number of the items which belong to the Dorman family. How the GM does this, as well as the number of clues which are available, is at the GMs preference. If the player characters inquire more about the scene (the interior or exterior of the carriage) the clues should be revealed. As they are revealed, Elian will fiction an adequate story for each as explained below.  

The exterior of the carriage has two rectangular, open air windows at the back of each flank, offering no view of the perch from inside. A thick beige fabric shrouds the view (and is latched) inside. The interior of the carriage is a total mess. This is because Elian was in search of valuables until the player characters arrived on the scene. Clothes, a few empty containers and some food stuff are strewn throughout. If you’d prefer a random clue roll d4

1) Sitting upright in the corner adjacent to the doorway is a corset.
2) The frill and lace of high quality ladies dress in two sizes (Ulna’s & Dorna’s) and a large bulge at the center of it which the iron lock box will be revealed if the clothes are moved.
3) An ornate ivory comb, which closer inspection reveals long strands of fair hair. Elian’s hair is short and brown.
4) A blood splattered tunic is at the bottom of the tangled mess (Elian’s)
 
GMs Dialog Example:
GM: “As Elian opens the door you (addressing the group) notice the interior of the carriage is a total mess and reeks of spilt wine. Clothes, books, a few empty containers and some food stuff are strewn chaotically throughout.”

Player Character, Camden: "What about the mess inside the carriage?"

GM: “Camden, in addition to the mess,(Gm rolls D4, result is a 1) the lace and distinct curve of a corset catches your eye.”

Exterior of the Carriage
Besides the body, nothing to peculiar about the exterior of the carriage unless the player characters specifically inquire and/or make effort to investigate. The road itself is rocky and hard revealing little in the way of tracking clues, though looking to the ground might reveal clue #4. Player characters should discover a recent trail left by Talen and the Dorman family, though the grass to the grove of trees to the northeast, should they search for it away from the road.

1) Close examination of Elian’s frayed leather ridding gloves, reveals blood. The gloves are stained with blood from the killing stroke.
2) The perch of the carriage (where the coachman sat) is heavily stained with blood but a hand crossbow is upon the seat, unstained (because it belongs to Talen). 
3) The coachman has a wound on his arm. A piece of broken shaft and smallish bolt (which fit the hand crossbow) are revealed if the arm is inspected.
4) Partially beneath the back wheel is a small toy horse, on closer inspection at the bottom of the child’s trinket, the name Dorna is carved.

Elian’s Silver Tongue

If the player characters voice their observations to one another and are overheard or question Elian directly, he has a sufficient story to explain most suspicions away. (Each Instance: *Td6*) 
The mess inside the carriage he attributes to his own panic while searching for his sword and old gloves during the attempted robbery. Fact, The mess is Elian scrounging for items of value.

The ivory comb, ladies clothing & corset belonged to patrons, who fancied more than his acting and donated them for use as actor props. The fact is that these are possessions of Ulna and Dorma.
The toy horse a toy he bought at a bizarre which he’s gifting to his niece. The horse is Dorma’s toy and her name is inscribed on the bottom.

The coachman and his fatal wounds as well as the hand crossbow he will claim to know nothing of. The coachman’s fatal wound was delivered by Elian’s short sword at his hand. The hand crossbow is Talen’s weapon left here thoughtlessly while binding the family.

Elian: “So much blood, I couldn’t do anything to help the man. It was too late.”

If the player characters catch the above line and recall that Elian claimed on two prior occasions (bolded prior) that he never left the carriage, as well as the windows of the carriage which are situated at the rear, and don’t afford a view of the perch, award them (additional XP for attention). Still, Elian will hold to the story long as the player characters keep their distance. If the player characters inquire about the contradictions Elian will stutter a bit, but claim that he was in such a state of fright and panic he can’t honestly recall what he did or did not do.  
If the player characters ask to examine Elian’s sword gloves, he will refuse to allow either to be closely examined. His reaction upon request will reflect guilt. The sword was sheathed hastily without wiping and gloves spattered with blood, revealing his deception to this point and the fact that he delivered the killing stroke. Keep in mind that if the player characters have allowed Elian to lift the body into the carriage he could have received some of that blood on his gloves, which in fact this is what he will claim.


Attempted Custody (*Td6*)

Aggressive actions directed towards Elian at any point will be met with harsh threats, pending actual guilt is yet revealed. Looking through the carriage forcefully without permission Elian never breaks character. GMs should play him how you like but I prefer to play him with a certain aristocratic air about him. The moment his bloody tunic is discovered, or guilt is determined obvious by the player characters, Elian will make an attempt to flee. 
“Do you fools know who you’re dealing with? I am a great and favored actor of these lands! People for mile upon miles love and favor me. Mind you-people in high places! Those who try and manhandle me or-mine shall be digging themselves an early grave!”

“No doubt you plan to rob me as well!”
If the player characters attempt to “handle,” Elian in an impolite manner Elian will strategically position himself to make sure they have not surrounded him or cut off his exit for flight.

If the player characters attempt to procure Elian’s sword through physicality he will brandish the weapon (revealing his guilt). Being outnumbered he uses it sparingly making all efforts to escape. Elian is very mindful (as guilty folks often are) of his surroundings as well as how the player characters position themselves about his person. If a grab is attempted, his first action will be to duck and roll beneath the carriage to the other side, breaking into a full sprint for the grove. Make an opposed roll. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Map! Products & Borders of Yore: Chirstmas in July!

Map! Tower Ruin & Map! Swamp Dock are currently 25% off, as part of the "Christmas in July Sale." My publisher's resource product, Borders of Yore is also available. Admittedly I'm not huge fan of Drivethru's frequency of sales. I usually I don't option in. However, nearly coming up on this blog's one year blogiversary, I figure I'd give this one a try, as a test. Is this sale better than "Products written in Chinese Sale," or the "Thanksgiving on the second Tuesday of the Month Sale?" (Note: Those sales don't exists, I'm being smart) Ehh... We'll give this one a shot...
 
Disclosure: Products below include affiliate links. I receive a token % if you purchase something from the landing page.
Product Page Link Sale!!!
Borders of Yore

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Trouble on the Road: Part Two

Part One is Here 

Narrative (to be read aloud) is in blue,

(*Td6*) = Timeline Mechanic, described in Part One


-Encounter Introduction- (*Td6*)
“Beside the occasional farm, your travel on the old road is unmet and uneventful. Groves of deciduous trees highlight the countryside. The occasional gust of wind services to cool the warmth of the mid-morning sun. For 100 hundred feet the road meanders up a modest hill…

As the hill plateaus you see the rear and side outline, of an enclosed passenger carriage. The two horsed carriage is off the right side of the road. The horses idle.
At the perch of the carriage a boot and pant leg hangs over the road side, presumably of a coachman with his back against the frame of the carriage, seemingly at rest.”

The player characters are approximately 60ft away; approaching the carriage from the rear (Starting position marked by S, bottom center).



If the player characters exercise caution: (*Td6*)
If the player characters exercise caution by inquiring more about the carriage or the scene in general, emphasize that the carriage is one of luxury; enclosed and crafted of study wood and iron. The carriage is more common to a city living, than country roads. The carriage door is parallel to the road, at the center of the cab. The oak box step beneath, is trimmed in copper. The carriage has one window (2) on each flank toward the rear. Each window is shrouded by a beige curtain, fastened on the inside. The seat of the perch is at the front and somewhat above level of the frame carriage. 

When the player characters are within 20ft: (*Td6*)
When the player characters are within 20ft, perform a Hear Sounds check. For Labyrinth Lord, classes which don’t have this mechanic; House rule: rolling a 1 on a D6 indicates success. Unless a player initiates the check the nature of the roll is unknown to the players.
Success entails that the player character will hear Elian scrounging about the cab, hear the squeak of the iron suspension and once heard, notice the slight lateral shift of the carriage against the wheel. In short the character is certain that someone is inside the cab.

If the player characters hail the coachmen or carriage: (*Td6*)

The coachmen’s body is positioned with his back to the player characters. The body is upright on the perch. The head and shoulders rest against the frame of the carriage. The coachman is clothed in leather and dark brown fabric, which makes the stain of blood less obvious. If the player characters attempt hail the coachman, Elian emerges from the cab.

If the player characters sneak up on the carriage: (*Td6*)
When the player characters are Within 10 feet they will certainly notice a pool of blood on the ground below the front wheel and which the origin of this blood is of the coachman.

Once within 10ft roll 1d6 for each character. Any result of 3 or more indicates one of characters have spooked the horses. The horses are a bit high strung due to recent events and neigh loud enough to alert Elian to the presence, which he emerges from the cab.
In the event that the characters have snuck all the way to the carriage unnoticed and if they should happen to open the carriage door Elian will be surprised. His reaction and whether his guilt is revealed, such as drawing a blood stained short sword, is up to the GM.

If the player characters hail the coachmen or their presence is revealed, read the following

“As you approach (or as you hail the coachmen), the carriage shifts and the side door opens. A shirtless man in leather breaches, gloves and boots leans out from door. He sees you and steps upon the block of step beneath the threshold, with a gloved hand guarding the scabbard of his short sword.
The passenger says (or shouts if further than 20 ft. away), “What an eventfully damned day! And who are you? More robbers I suppose?”

The passenger puts his hand to the scabbard of his sword and steps off the carriage; the shift of weight causes the body of the coachman to fall face first from the perch to the road.”

Optional narrative, pending the player character’s awareness (if they had snuck close enough to notice) that that coachman is dead:
“The coachman is dead and not from the fall. You can now see the top of his head is a mess of blood and flesh. A savage looking cleave-mark at the crown of the skull exposes brain.”

 
-Character Encounter: Elian- (*Td6*)
Elian spins his “tale” of recent events (perhaps a bit too enthusiastically) while hefting the coachman off the road and inside the carriage. Elian’s story is horribly inconsistent. Upon the first read through, GMs should take note as to what is bolded.  

1) Elian claims that he never left the carriage during the (fictitious) assault. An examination of the short sword on his hip (hastily wiped), and/or gloves, reveals blood spatter, suggesting otherwise.
2) Later, Elain claims to have attempted to help the coachmen with his wounds. In addition to supposedly never leaving the carriage, he didn’t even take the coachman down from the perch. The coachman’s wound was certainly enough to cause instant death.

The GM can play this a number of ways. Recommended, is to commit to a character that is immodestly self-consumed and slightly pompous. The following dialog is a guideline, but there is a lot of room to make the Elian’s story more or less consistent to what has actually transpired.
Would one of you be kind enough to give me hand (with the body) here?

I’m sorry you had to see that, but thank the gawds you’ve come along. We’ve had some trouble here-some bandits killed my man, in front. I was so frightened until you came, I didn’t even think about leaving the carriage. I couldn’t see much of it from my view in the back. Windows here out the back sides. Poor desperate souls tried to rob us, I believe. Whoever they were, the rabble fled once my other man confronted them. He gave chase on horseback into that thicket of trees!
Elian points to a large grove of deciduous trees (supposing) northwest of the carriage. Indeed it is the grove Talen has taken the Dorman family. If the Elian’s talk spurs the player characters to charge for the grove, Elian will shout, “No wait! It may have been in that direction,” now pointing northeast, feigning uncertainty.

 
If the player characters remain with the carriage: (*TD6*)
Elian introduces himself: as Elian Stormspire, the highest paid actor and talent of the land, performer for kings, lords and ladies of fine standing. GMs should consider adding as much theatrical flair as they are capable, but a few jazz hands and a bow should be sufficient. Without being asked and once introductions have concluded, Elian continues the ruse saying that his journey is to a nearby city, where his acting and stage talent have been procured for a season festival.

If the player characters press Elian for more information: (*Td6*)
In regards to the scuffle, the number of bandits, weapons, or ask, if the bandits were on horseback. Elian will claim cowardice and which he heard the scuffle better than witnessed it, never leaving the safety of the carriage. Once the coachman is inside-Elian finds a shirt (surprisingly) close to fit and puts it on.

If the conversation remains civil: (*Td6*)
And if the player characters seem to believe him, he will certainly offer the group employment as escorts for the remainder of his supposed journey, once Talen returns.

Part Three is Here

Monday, July 17, 2017

Trouble on the Road: Part One ( I need input)



Trouble on the Road is a short encounter designed for Labyrinth Lord or Basic, but for the most part is system neutral. Included are a couple of unique features, which a more experienced Game Master (GM), might option to use only in part, or discard entirely.

·         Blue (classically, Boxed) text is presented in two sorts. The first is scene narrative, which is to be read aloud to the players. The second is dialog, which may or may not be read aloud, but more so intends to present the disposition of the non-player character (NPC) speaking.


·         A Timeline Mechanic underlines this encounter. Though for the most part the mechanic is in the background, its execution can alter the sequence of events and so following, change the outcome of the encounter.    
The encounter is for 3-5 characters of 1st to 2nd level, but some consideration is needed for game balance. Recommended, is that the two NPCs should be slightly less or at maximum, equal the cumulative experience level of the character group.  For instance, a group of four 2nd level characters is 8 levels to distribute between the two NPC bandits. How these levels are distributed is left to GM: 5th & 3rd; 4th & 4th etc., and relevant to the mechanics of the system.
 
***

-Encounter Overview-
The encounter begins on an isolated road, with a carriage robbery in mid progress. Two bandits, Elian Stormspire and Talen Crow, murdered the coachmen and halted the carriage. The passengers are Dorman his wife Ulna and the couple’s eight year old daughter Dorma. Before the player characters arrive at the carriage, Talen has led the family off the road to nearby grove of trees. Currently, Talen and the family are out of sight. Elian is within the cab searching for items of value.
When encountered at the carriage, Elian spins a false account: that he and the coachmen were the victims of an attempted robbery. And that his guard Talen, chased the rabble rousers off and should be returning soon.    
Talen and the family are unaware of the player characters arrival at the carriage. He has transported the family using his and Elian’s mount. Talen’s task is to bind the family to a tree and leave them such that they should be able to untie themselves once the bandits are afforded a head start. The original plan to escape with the carriage may be followed through depending on the player characters.
Though indeed Elian and Talen are criminal opportunists and have murdered the coachman-neither are cold blooded killers or willing to slaughter an eight year old girl and her family for a few months’ worth of coin. The two live by the golden rule of lawlessness: Steal enough gold, make your own rules. The level of infamy, if any is left for the GM to decide.
At the GMs preference, Dorman is a successful merchant or minor lord somewhat influential. The family was in route to the funeral of Ulna’s father. Dorman had made haste upon receiving the news, mistakenly traveling lite and under protected.
 -GM Notes-
·      The encounter starts (line of sight) as the player characters are 60ft from the carriage.
·      The coachman is dead. Upon first impression he is seemingly at rest.
·       Elian is within the cab, searching for items of value.
·       Talen and the family are 40 feet within the foliage, and out of sight from the road. The perimeter of the grove is 60 feet from the carriage.
·       Talen is in the midst of binding the family to a tree.
 
Timeline Mechanic
Talen becomes aware of the character group, if and only when he has finished binding the family. The completion of his task is represented by a Timeline Mechanic. Each member of the Dorman family is representing by 1d6. A Cue: (*Td6*), indicates when the GM rolls this mechanic. A single die total of 6 translates that Talen has successfully bound one of the family members to the tree located on the map. The GM rolls 3d6 when the encounter starts 1d6 for each member of the Dorman family and rolls one less dice on future rolls for any result of 6. Example: rolling two sixes indicates that two family members are bound. The next Timeline Mechanic only requires 1d6.
·         If player characters venture into the grove and Talen has not finished his task, the likelihood that he is surprised is 3 in 6. The order Talen binds the family is Dorman, Ulna, Dorna.
 

Notes: So... It's been slow goin' for Trouble on the Road, my short road encounter (I'm callin' it an in-between adventure) for D&D Basic/LL. Finishing it by August is a no go. I haven't even begun to tackle the illustrations I wanted to create for it; I'm not even in the "warming up my formerly, semi-artistic abilities" stage (seriously, yes, as a creator I'm just as pretentious as that sounds). RPG Reviews have picked up, and I have a whole host of other excuses I'll just not mention... Honestly, sometimes I look at this blog and think ugh! I need to post something! So I'm going to attempt to kill two gnome thieves (evil procrastinating bastards they are), with one series of blog posts.
I cannot emphasize this enough: Comments, critique, grammar and spelling corrections, noting word usage errors (which I'm really good at) and whole host of whatever comes to mind as you read the above is welcome. Keep in mind: This part one other parts will be forthcoming as time allows. Any input and/or discussion is appreciated. 
 

Trouble on the Road: Part Two

 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

RPG News: Stuffer Shack: RPG Submissions Open

The folks over at Stuffer Shack recently reorganized their Patreon, setting new publishing goals. I'll let front man Chris Stevens speak for himself...


Stuffer Shack Patreon

"Our content includes roleplaying game tips, game and supplement reviews, editorials, tutorials, as well as download to use for your characters, encounters and adventures."


Truly Terrifying Vampires
Submissions are currently open at Stuffer Shack in regards to any of the above mentioned content. A quick look over on the Patreon reveals: "All of your pledge goes directly to the writers (minus Patreon fees)." Rate of pay is currently $14 per accepted article.
Submission Guidelines.

Over at the Stuffer Shack website there's already a respectable amount of RPG articles, the occasional contest, and Truly Terrifying Vampires... Stuffer Shack's first Patreon release (cover, stage right).

This article by Justin Schmid, Finding Mansion Maps for your Game, is unbelievably awesome! One of many free articles on the site. If you do nothing else (and happen to be in need some free mansion maps/layouts for your RPG) certainly give this one a read.

 
    

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Review Burp: Reviews on EN World & KoDT #245

Disclosure: Links for products and the banner below include my rpgnow.com affiliate identification. I receive a token % if you purchase something from the landing page. Links to the RPG reviews on EN World are the reviews in full, and the page of those reviews also include affiliate links... Just FYI, (as required by the FTC).


KoDT #245
Mechanika RPG
Knights of the Dinner Table #245 is (almost) out and so with it, my review of Mechanika, Empires of Blood and Steam. The publish date for KoDT is gradually getting later and pushing into the first week of the month... Kenzer & Co have about 2-3 projects in various states of completion and the recently funded Kickstarter for Aces & Eights Reloaded (which I backed) is due out in December. So yeah, the folks are busy... 

Mechanika is a steampunk RPG and as admitted by the author a mash of many other RPGs. Overall, it wasn't my cup of coffee.


Ninja Crusade 2E
Savage Rifts
Writing RPG Reviews for EN World continues... Last month I reviewed Savage Rifts (EN World Review) & Ninja Crusade 2nd Edition (EN World Review). I enjoyed both. I'm a player for a group on Fantasy Grounds with Savage Rifts and we are really enjoying it. Ninja Crusade 2nd Edition is hands down my favorite 3EG RPG. 

And a shout out to both Third Eye Games and Sean Patrick Fannon -for Pinnacle Entertainment Group (PEG), both product lines are ENnie Award Nominees.

RPGNow.com

Monday, July 3, 2017

RPG News: Lamentations of the Flame Princess Latest Release is PWYW

VaM!
Disclosure: Products in this post include affiliate links. I receive a token % if you purchase something from the landing page. It's one way to support this site and its content. Thank you. Every purchase helps.

Vaginas are Magic, is currently Pay What You Want... And you should certainly pay something... LotFP's tribute for free RPG Day is available on drivethrurpg.com and rpgnow.com in PDF

This is the space I'd tell you to "act now!" While supplies last... Yadda-yadda so forth and so on... But, really you're already gone... I've given it a brief one over and it looks pretty good. I would certainly (and if the title wasn't obvious enough) recommend it for mature readership and as such as it is, already noted on the cover. I'm including this product with my PDF reviewer slush pile...

Saturday, July 1, 2017

RPG Review: Pirates & Dragons

Disclosure: Product links within this post include my drivethrurpg.com affiliate identification. At no additional cost I receive a token % if you purchase something from the landing page. It's one way to support this blog and its content. Thank you for that support.

Pirates & Dragons
Pirates & Dragons
Written By: Peter Cakebread & Ken Walton
Review By: J.L. Duncan

Avast! And welcome to a review of the portable document format (PDF) of Pirates and Dragons, available at drivethrurpg.com. Cakebread & Walton were generous enough to provide a complimentary download as well as a digital copy of Curious Creatures of the Dragon Isles, the RPG book of beasts and animals and a full color quality resolution map of The Dragon Isles, the main setting for adventure. Pirates and Dragons was brought to life via Kickstarter to the tune of £6,544 or a bit over $7K US.

The Pirates and Dragons PDF is full color and clocks in at whopping 349 pages cover to cover. Curious Creatures of the Dragon Isles is full color as well and 147 pages. Fortunately, I’m an avid reader and I take good notes. By page count, the game is by far the largest I’ve reviewed for Indy Game Scene.

Similar to my review of LotFP, I’m breaking tradition of my regular format and focusing the review on the most interesting aspects of this RPG. Let’s jump in and read what the game has to say for itself.

“Pirates & Dragons is a role-playing game of fantasy swashbuckling in a world of magic and treasure, of fantastical islands inhabited by strange beasts and vile necromancers, of treachery and heroism. Together with a group of friends, you take on the role of pirates, out for adventure and booty – raiding the treasure galleons of Esbania, the merchant fleets of Gaule and Batavia, the dragon-hunting ships of Albion, the ruins of lost Adalantas... and the gold-filled caves of ancient and evil dragons.

Gather your crew. Load your flintlocks. And prepare to plunder!”
(Pg. 9)

I had to review this RPG in sessions (due to some real life scheduling things) and with each time I sat down, I found myself wanting to read more. Fortunately, it’s well written and despite its page count it was an easy read. The relationships between the games main ingredients or specifically how the setting, rules and game mechanics fit together really impressed me. 

From a design standpoint while the current trend of RPGs leans-more towards a focus on mechanics and rules which imply a setting and little bit of fluff to glue it all together, it was a nice contrast to read the effort of game designers who seemingly put world building first; or for a change, the setting ahead of the system. Whether this is actually the case it doesn’t matter. The fact is Pirates and Dragons is an RPG which offers a complete system and setting.  

Speaking of setting and as you read in the above quoted, Pirates and Dragons is a clash of high seas adventure and fantasy. The game isn’t a typical high fantasy setting and has toned down or omitted some of the more commonly used Tolkien inspired elements (such as demi-human races), trading these in for doubloons and black powder. There is a certain give and take with the writing of this game that when you finally wash ashore, you’ll realize all of the elements contained therein have been tweaked (that is from what we typically see in a fantasy RPG) in such a way which should allow gamers to experience a unique game world.

The main setting is the Dragon Isles, a collection of warm tropical (think Caribbean) islands and provides the main theater for adventure. Here is a brief on the main cast of cultures.

An impressive amount of detail paints the four most common (human) cultures known as the Uropans. These cultures venture to the “Isles” in search of treasure and glory. Each is inspired from historic seafaring European cultures of the 1600-1800s. Just for fun, the Uropan cultures are the Albionic Batavian, Esbanian and Gallic. Which fictional culture is inspired by which actual culture? If you think about it Uropan- European, you might hit a couple-on the nose.

Curious Creatures
Islanders are native to the Dragon Isles. Islanders who worship or are more enslaved by dragons are known as the Dragon Tribes. Islanders are also human and are the only playable race who can utilize magic. Magic and how it works is not your typical fantasy magic or spell books and broomsticks sort of stuff. Magic in Pirates and Dragons is spiritual/voodoo in origin, seemingly inspired from African culture/mythology.
Dragons are the overlords of the Isles, more often than not to each their own island and Dragon Tribe. One of the most interesting aspects of Dragons with this game is their preference for necromancy magic. Not to be excluded are the undead minions commanded by these dragon barons. With an entire tribe under one wing, necromancy at the summons of a thought and a host of undead beneath the other wing, dragons are the setting’s most powerful protagonists.

In regards to game mechanics, Pirates and Dragons utilizes the Renaissance System (RS) which is a D100 system. Required are a complete set of standard polyhedral dice, with most game rolls hinging on the use of the D100 (or two D10s) or as some know them better percentage rolls. I would put the RS in the light/medium crunch category and should be easy to master.

For those familiar and as far as I can tell, the core of character creation and some aspects of the system are comparable to Basic Role Playing (BRP). Admittedly, it’s been a very long time since I played BRP and I only played it a few times so I’m not going to be comparing the system directly with Pirates and Dragons, but system “wise,” the two, as best I recall, seem similar. To make a long story short, if you like BRP you’ll likely feel at home with RS. Thankfully, if you have no idea and if you’re feeling curious… Or if happen to be afflicted with tight-wad syndrome, you can take a look yourself as The Renaissance System is available as a free download over at Drivethrurpg.com.

In regards to adventurer development or system, one interesting aspect is how Improvement Points (Experience Points) function with the individual aspects of adventurer (character) progression. The game utilizes an ingeniously simple format for adventurer progression, which includes a point buy structure. Adventurer progression is without a level based system and creates a respectable amount of balance between adventurers. Hero are not born, they are developed.

As with any system, player adventurers accumulate Improvement Points and spend these points towards potential advancement. Key is potential advancement, not automatic advancement. Because each category that a player can increase for their adventurer is weighted; the more advanced a character is, concerning skills, magic or characteristics the more likely that attempting to increase these abilities will fail.

For instance to increase skills the player spends an improvement point and takes his chance with dice gawds rolling a D100. If the dice total is above the adventurer’s current skill percentage the skill is increased 1D4+1 (%) points. If the dice total is below the current skill percentage, the improvement point has been spent but no increase to the skill is awarded. Another facet of this is that totals above 100 are possible as skill points are automatically increased with rolls at 96 through 100. So player could conceivably increase his adventurer’s skill if say it was at 98 with a roll of 97, the only caveat of this being that once skills reach 100 they only increase in 1 point increments. Adventurer progression for other areas of potential advancement is similar with this weighted approach.

I might very well be the only person I know who gets excited about how RPG systems work as well as the ideas and design choices behind them. This might also be why I enjoy writing this column. The rules which make up a system are rarely sexy but often a few well thought and written rules can make something decent into something great. Pirates and Dragons provides a comprehensive system and a healthy dose of rules including maritime situations and well beyond. No RPG can cover every situation but if there was anything absent I missed it.

Conclusion: While I usually spend some amount of space nitpicking something I honestly didn’t find much if anything to critique. As far as I’m concerned everything you need to play Pirates and Dragons is adequately covered. Curious Creatures of the Dragon Isles, the games book of beasts and animals would make a nice companion though there is also a decent sized listing of creatures in the main book. Due to the sheer amount of detail while there might have been a section or two I could argue was a bit lite, my tendency was to think that this was more about prioritizing space for what the creators thought were more pertinent.

The organization and layout of this RPG is well put together. The art is respectable as well as consistent. While it spanned a 3 week journey to get through, when I finished I was really impressed. Introducing Pirates and Dragons as an exploratory RPG product or as something new and different to your player group you’d be hard pressed to find something better.

Walk the plank I say…

Disclosure: This review is property of Kenzer & Company and republished here with expressed permission.

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