Monday, June 18, 2018

Strange Stars: RPG Review

Strange Stars
This is a review of the portable document format (PDF) of the Strange Stars Setting Book, Published By: Hydra Cooperative; written By: Trey Causey...
Disclosure: This review includes affiliate links to drivethrurpg; I receive a % if you decide to purchase something from the landing page.

Strange Stars is available at drivethrurpg.com and rpgnow.com in print and PDF format. On hand, I was also provided the Strange Stars OSR Rule Book and the Strange Stars Fate (Core) Rule Book, which this review mentions in brief. These products were provided by Hydra Cooperative free of charge, for the purpose of this review.

The Strange Stars Setting book is compact: 32 pages cover to cover. Unfortunately, it’s so compact that the effort to put forth what I’d consider a “setting book,” has been nearly squeezed to irrelevance. That’s certainly my opinion. While I get what this product is, after I finished my read, my conclusion was that it’s not properly defined. If the book was subtitled: Game Setting “Treatment,” this review would be a little less harsh.

Being fair, I certainly seem to be in the minority with this opinion. I’d recalled seeing a high number of positive reviews (and 5 star rates) for this product, but after my impression I was compelled to take a second look at those reviews.

“If you are looking for a book filled with rich histories, detailed customs and lifestyles of each planet and race- then this might not be the book for you.”

Or in other words, nearly the exact definition of what a setting book might be?

This one, is my favorite:

“The layout is smooth, easy to read, & gives not only a gist of the interstellar setting but an entire setting straight out of the box.”

This reviewer is overstating it a bit: An entire setting straight out of the box? This statement is false. A concept of a setting is not for all intents and purposes, a setting. The closest thing I can think of, as to what this product represents in layout and art direction, is a splatbook. In fact, as I write this, I look up the term splatbook (as my mind grasps at what to call it) and here is the first result that sums it up nicely:

“A Splatbook is a non-core sourcebook for an RPG that provides additional rules and material that can be used with the main system.”

And yes, this is what the Strange Stars, Game Setting Book is, a system less, space opera splat-book.

As far as system, mentioned in the book is a loose association for the RPG: Stars Without Number (SWN), which you can find and download for free on DriveThrurpg.com. If I’m remembering correctly, the tech level for Strange Stars seems a bit advanced for SWN. The two additional titles for this review: Strange Stars OSR Rule Book (which works with SWR) and the Strange Stars Fate (Core) Rule Book roughly follow the same splatbook format, but do provide some serviceable crunch to their respective systems. Let’s talk about the actual book.

First is an overview of the setting. A brief history notes, the four epochs of human space exploration. Earth, known as Old Earth is a fable. Other empires have left behind remnants of advanced technology.

Creatures in the setting are categorized as Sophonts: biological creatures, Moravecs: self-replicating, sapient robots, and Infosophonts: digital minds independent of physical form. Ten or so variants are given a fully illustrated one page treatment and a few details in text. As this book is system less no crunch. These illustrative treatments don’t have their own chapter, but are spread every other page.

Between those pages and starting after the history is the meat of the setting. System maps give a brief treatment to each of the worlds of these systems, slightly detailing inhabitants and basic social conflicts/customs. This is exactly the thing that was missing and was my chief criticism for the Redemption RPG. The system maps and the ideas on how to use them (for RPG purposes), provides the GM a handy resource to work from. On the other hand, Redemption had about 100 pages of detailed setting and history, which Strange Stars doesn’t even compare. The book ends with a number of thoughtfully presented one page treatments, which should aid the GM in getting adventures in this system going.

Certain, Strange Stars wasn’t my cup of coffee. There is a difference between a setting book and splatbook. The art is beautiful to a point, but mundane in it’s over use. I like my setting books with content. The layout is simple to navigate, because the concepts don’t run very deep, and moreover, neither provide the appropriate amount of detail in what should be included with a setting book. If you’re in the market for a space opera setting book, I’d certainly encourage you to look elsewhere.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate: RPG Review

Wandering Heroes Of Ogre Gate
Welcome to a review of the portable document format (PDF) of Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate. A wuxia & xianxia inspired role-playing game (RPG). Don’t know what wuxia or xianxia is? Admittedly, I had only a passing knowledge myself. We’ll get to that. Digitizing in before me is nearly 500 pages of game content.
Disclosure: Product images on this page below this disclosure include affiliate links. I receive a token % if you purchase something on the landing page. Thank you for your support.

Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate is available in Hardcover, softcover and PDF at studio2publishing.com and at OBS sites (RPGNow & DriveThruRPG) Bedrock Games is an active indie publisher and has a number of RPG products available. This is the second RPG product (Mafia, Cosa Nostra being the first) I’ve had the pleasure to review for this column.

A brief on Wuxia and Xianxia:

One of the most well-known and readily available examples of wuxia is the movie Hidden Tiger, Crouching Dragon. If you haven’t seen this movie I highly recommend you do. If you don’t care to learn what wuxia is, I still recommend it. It’s good. To put it roughly, wuxia is Chinese mythologies knight errand. The literal definition is martial hero. Typically, these heroes roam the land righting wrongs, for the sake of virtue, instead of a typical knighted hero, for god and country. The driving elements in wuxia or of a wuxia story, are the martial artists’ journey for virtue itself-to do a thing because it is virtuous, rather than as with the western ideal, in the name of said virtue.

Xianxia literally means immortal hero. A xianxia story deals in the fantastical, bringing in the elements of demons and magic wrapped in Chinese mythology. The merge of these elements is attributed to the influence of Taoism, a real world religion being practiced today. While martial arts are a prime feature in wuxia, in xianxia martial arts are an element of the story. Xianxia themes are more to do with the supernatural. The best western movie I can think of to compare (or one which you may have seen) is Big Trouble in Little China; this to me, is a xianxia movie. Thankfully, the preface provides an explanation that should have any westerner ignorance covered, or least does so in an effort to create a roleplaying game with these themes. Now that we’ve covered that in brief, let’s get to it!

The setting of Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate is Qi Xien, the realm of man, which following the multiple definitions used by Chinese language also implies the physical world players will explore. To say that amount of setting detail in Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate impressed, is putting it mildly.

Historical Eras are succinctly defined providing a mythological themed “beginning of time” and a brief description for each of the following eras to the setting’s present. The timeline encompasses about 4,000 years of Qi Xien (fictional) history. A few of these eras even come with their-own map! Those that read this column know that if this reviewer is a sucker for anything; its maps and setting. Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate has both. Admittedly, the setting elements of this RPG were the first chapters/sections I jumped to when I began my review. Beyond eras, lengthy sections expand and tie in the basics of Qi Xien: religions, cosmology, customs & daily life.

Chapter Eight: People & Places-provides a detailed outline of the Zhan Dao Empire, (the likely, governmental protagonist) and a number of brief outlines for the independent regions and cities beyond. Just about every notable region, or city location indicated on the map, is provided a treatment. While a picture paints a thousand words, the description provided in regards to the setting make sure that this picture is specific (or at least will be) in the theater of the (players/GMs) mind. Wander Heroes of Ogre Gate doesn’t imply, it richly describes it.

A bit of an aside, but with a little improvisation the setting elements of this RPG could certainly be inserted into just about any medieval fantasy setting. I have some thoughts to even incorporate Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate as a land afar, for my current D&D basic campaign. Let’s move on to the fiddly bits, otherwise known as game mechanics.             

Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate utilizes a variation of the Network System. Mechanically, the Network System is a skill based system. Characters don’t have what we classically consider attribute or ability scores, which aim to simulate physical and mental aptitudes. The system utilizes a D10 dice pool. Unlike previous editions the system, Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate incorporates incremental numerical (+1 or -2 etc.) modifiers. Difficulty is determined by the Game Master and can be adjusted by situational modifiers and/or, martial hero capability.

A character’s skill or level of aptitude directly correlates to the total number of dice rolled for a check. With the target number set by the GM, as long as one of the dice rolled is a number equal or greater than TN, the character succeeds. A specific action which is determined by roll of the dice is a success, a greater than normal success, or failure.

A few particulars of this system are that with an unskilled check or trying to something in which a character has no rank in the relevant skill; the roll is 2d10 and the lowest result is taken. Penalty and condition modifiers can alter a roll dramatically reducing or increasing the dice roll by as much as (+/-) 3d10. In addition these modifiers, additional numerical modifiers equal to the number of dice, which are added (favorable) or subtracted (unfavorable) from the result. Rolling an unmodified 10 is counted as a greater than normal success and awards a bonus dependent on the specific nature of the roll, be it in the attempt at a skill or combat roll.

I’ve done a couple a reviews without; so let’s make a character!

Character creation in Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate is no simple task. The reason for this is the number of options and the meticulous nature of the writing. Right away, while everything is clearly outlined and this being my first delve into making my martial hero, I can tell I’m in for it. I’m giving a brief treatment here rather than covering all of the thirteen steps.

Step One is picking a race. There are four other worldly options besides being human and the subtle features of these races (advantages/disadvantages) are borrowed from Chinese mythology. I took the road most traveled here and select a human.

Step Two Primary Skill Groups. Players select their primary and secondary skills groups, note, not the actual skills themselves, until (step seven) the character is better fleshed out. Primary skills are selected among two of the six total categories, and receive 12 points for each. Six points are given for Secondary skills and can be among any of the other six categories. What interesting about this section is the ability for characters to increase the physic of their characters is possible by availability of skill ranks which reflect physical aptitudes. Most skill based systems avoid the mechanics of physicality (or at least the ones I’ve read mostly do), but as the practice of martial arts is certainly a physical activity I was glad to see these options. Skills are divided into two categories General and Expertise.

Step Three is to Select a Sect and/or Sifu. I’ll let the game speak for itself here:

 “Martial sects are organized groups of Kung Fu Experts and come in many forms. Some sects are associations or communities, some are religious orders and others are martial arts schools. Sects are divided into orthodox and unorthodox sects….” (PG 190; Martial Sects, CHPT 6)

There are a dozen sects to choose from. Each are provided a brief treatment: History, Organization Belief, Reputation & available martial arts techniques. If I ran a Campaign, I would certainly have the players start in the same sect, though this isn’t a requirement.

Step Six is selecting from among four Kung-Fu disciplines which players previously allocated points to determine proficiency. Each discipline has a specific number of techniques attributed. What’s most interesting here is the way Wander heroes of Ogre Gate balances a characters ability to utilize techniques by creating an applicable mechanic: imbalance and limiting the initial techniques that are available via sect/Sifu. Each of the four disciplines, the available techniques and options receives a detailed treatment encompassing roughly 60 pages of content.

Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate is certainly not an entry level RPG. Though a minor point, that could be a criticism, but if it is, it’s really the only one I can muster up. The level of detail is likely the first thing you’ll notice if you pick it up. In fact, as I wrote this review I had to carefully decide what to include and there is a lot of good and great content here I’m not mentioning.

The layout and organization is very important in a product like this due to its sheer enormity, but thankfully the table of contents acts as a mini index; chapters and heading titles have been thoughtfully linked in the PDF. One click and you arrive. Beyond what is written I can honestly say that there wasn’t a single aesthetic that I didn’t like; which is pretty rare. I usually find something to nit-pick. The clean lines and effects of the interior black and white illustrations, certainly add to the wuxia and xianxia vibe. The artist Jackie Musto is awesome! As is the cartography work. The maps, borders, headers and side pane illustrations are very trim this product nicely.

Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate is a product I defiantly recommend. And in so far, the best RPG I’ve reviewed for this column, this year.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

What's the Impact of a Roleplaying Game Review?

I've found myself meandering about the same topic of conversation over the last couple of months. One thing is certain. Neither any indie publisher, nor RPG reviewer I've talked to, has any idea on the impact of a review. Does a glowing review lead to sales? Does a negative review have an impact that can be measured? The assumption that makes sense to most, is that a glowing review is much better than a negative one. But, is it?

On my end, I don't think what I write in a review, has much quantifiable impact. Or at least being fair, that the words I choose to write about a specific product can be measured separate from any other element of the RPG itself (usually). My opinion and review, is but one part of many elements which may or may not, earn the publisher a sale. Also, I have evidence which supports this theory; and though I think it should be considered, admittedly it's based on a very limited sample.

More important than what an RPG reviewer says about your product, is the location of the review itself.

Erik Tenkar noted here, the lack of professional RPG reviewers, and the key quandary of affiliate links. The main issue being how there are so few third party publishing companies, who pay for RPG reviews. And so a lack of professional RPG reviewers. The point being that most RPG reviewers are prone to review products which they'll already be biased to enjoy, because even folks who post reviews tend to stick to buying things they'll have a preference to like; certainly some good points in that post.

Just for the record, while indeed, my depravity knows few bounds, the amount of money it would take for me to curb my opinion with affiliate links, is more than I'll ever make writing reviews. Also, I review all sorts of RPGs. Some of these I would run or play, or in fact have. Some of them I wouldn't touch with an eleven foot pole. And that's not to say some of those games aren't good, they're just not in my wheel house.

I have zero interest in being the sort of reviewer who only has nice things to say. There is nothing wrong with being person who only reviews RPGs, which they have predisposition to enjoy (and so follows, mostly positive reviews), but I don't do that either.

So now that I've adequately meandered about...

What this article is really about is giving indie publishers a little inside info and seeing if the questions I'm asking have any answers. Occasionally, I've gotten my hand nearly bitten off, when requesting review materials... What's that you say? Who nearly bit my hand off? Click my affiliate link: here (there is no link, but click away if you must) and I'll tell you...

While I absolutely respect a company's reservation to give me free access to their game and to write a review about it; at the same time, it turns out what I say about your RPG is less important than you imagine. What is important (gets on soap box) is where this review is published. I know, not exactly rocket science... (gets off soap box).

Unlike this blog, and many RPG blogs like it, people read articles at EN World. Unlike this blog, people pay real money to read Knights of the Dinner Table (KoDT). And I'm very fortunate to write RPG reviews for both.

Here is a quick look at the top three sellers through my links, which were all RPG Reviews I published on EN World. And then let's look at what I wrote about each of these products and see if there is any correlation in regards to sales.

Top Three Sellers

Disclosure: Product images on this page below this disclosure include affiliate links. I receive a token % if you purchase something on the landing page. Thank you for your support.) 

The Indie Hack: 6 sales

Finders Keepers: 5 sales

Starship Commandoes: 5 sales


So what did I write about these products?


The Indie Hack on DriveThru
The Indie Hack certainly received a positive review (link to the full review on EN World, here). It's pretty much glowing. Mind me, while I quote myself here. Let's not make it awkward, ok?
"The Indie Hack scratches more than few of my personal RPG itches. The minimalist design is appealing. Getting a game going, including character creation, in-less than 15 minutes is very plausible, which also gives it GameCon or Convention appeal. It's a great in between game if you have a group comprised of a mix of Storyteller and typically D&D or Pathfinder players… (See convention point, above) I could go on, but I'm out of words… Buy it!"


Finders Keepers on the DM Guild
Finders Keepers received a mixed review, (link to the full review on EN World, here). Some good, some bad. I was critical of the product, but I thought it had potential. Again quoting myself:
"Overall, I think Finders Keepers requires a bit of refinement and will in order for it to be effective at the table, even beyond scoping it for 20th level characters. There is certainly enough to work with. But, whether it hits your table, I'll leave to you." 



Starship Commandos on DriveThru
Last, Starship Commandos. While I've since traded fair a number of emails back and forth with Fraser Ronald on a number of RPG related topics and have respect for his thoughts and ideas ... I was still pretty critical of his RPG. And for reference the "above question" was whether this RPG would scratch my personal itch for a survivalist kill the Xenomorphs type of RPG.
"Starship Commandos is a concisely designed storyteller RPG. What's the answer to the above question? For this reviewer, it's a no. It isn't a stretch to imagine that this RPG might have some appeal, if you're savvy with more narratively-oriented game systems. Without any emphasis on a setting elements, and only one type of (though admittedly, it's slightly modifiable) character, the game is a bit too vanilla in its approach. This RPG certainly has potential, but given the scope, I'd preferred to seen something with more grit."

First on my end, and admittedly with this very small (& skewed) sample, the difference in affiliate sales here between a positive, middling' and negative RPG review is in fact pennies from heaven. It's also why as a reviewer, I have zero issue with using affiliate links.

Second, if you're a publisher I recommend to dismiss the concern of what a reviewer might say about your product and jump at the chance to get that product reviewed and seek reviewers out. Worst case you might be able to improve your product or be made aware of actual errors and mistakes in said product. As long as the review is professional and stays on the topic of your RPG, even a negative review might get you a couple of sales. There are a lot of other reviewers on EN World other than myself. You can find them there, if you know how to navigate a forum. And if you don't. Just ask.

So... What's the Impact of an RPG review? Who knows... But if you can stand it; it's certainly more of an impact, than not getting your RPG product reviewed at all....

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Raging Swan Press Open Call: 11 Cents/Word

RSP

Raging Swan Press (RSP) posted on the Paizo Open Call Boards last week and is looking for RPG content; backdrop material for the city of Languard... Finally it seems RSP is opening the gates for submissions. To go straight to the page on Languard click here or on the five finger discount, image snippet (below); it's on the Raging Swan Press site. But, really wait a moment and finish this blog post as to where you need to go on the RSP site... Here is a taste:


City Backdrop: Languard
"Storied Languard—capital of Ashlar and its greatest city—stands hard against Hard Bay’s turbulent, stormy waters. To the north lies the Mottled Spire’s brooding spray-drenched mass, the curse-haunted ruins of Greystone and Gloamhold’s doom-wreathed halls. Ashlar’s greatest—indeed only—city, Languard is a noisy, dirty place. Here, amid broad, muddy streets teeming with life and shadow-mantled, danger-filled alleyways there is little beneath the sun that cannot be had somewhere—for a price."

Though the work of their Patreon, Raging Swan Press pays 11 cents/word. By RPG standards this is an excellent rate of pay. For details on the "process," head on over to the "Languard Locations Open Call," page -dedicated to this call, here.

Though it will be unlikely you'll find a better rate of pay than the above... but you're still interested in writing/creating for the role-playing game (RPG) industry, check out my RPG Submissions Open Page (link to that page); a list of RPG and third party publishing companies, that pay freelancers for RPG content, reviews, news, and various other things. Know of such a company, and aware of an open call? Contact me; drop me line, or leave a comment. Happy Freelancing!  

Friday, April 13, 2018

Borders of Yore Collection #1 & #2 Discounted 25%

Borders of Yore collection #1 & collection #2, are discounted at 25% off ( $1.50 each) through the month of April. Each collection is intended for use in publishing or personal use including page and border designs from the public domain as well as derivative works. Each product is perfect for OSR products/e-zines and the like, index or table of content pages.

Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links. I receive a token % if you purchase something on the landing page. Thank you for your support.)


Borders of Yore #1
Collection #1 consists of 8 pieces, which have been cleaned up, vectored and formatted. In addition, derivative pieces and arrangements have been made from the originals. See the PDF Preview for specifics. Link to DriveThruRPG is in the image above, but if you prefer to shop RPGNow click here   
  • Borders are 300 dpi with black lines
  • Borders are clean and can be modified with software effects and image filters
  • Borders are can be resized with software such as Adobe, Inkscape, Gimp.
  • Each Border comes in Tif and PNG format
  • Borders are best suited for page, booklet size, or smaller.



Borders of Yore Collection #2
Collection #2 consists of 13 pieces, which have been cleaned up, vectored and formatted. In addition, derivative pieces and arrangements have been made from the originals. See the PDF Preview for specifics. Link to DriveThruRPG is in the image above, but if you prefer to shop on RPGNow click here   
  • Borders are 300 dpi with black lines
  • Borders are clean and can be modified with software effects and image filters
  • Borders are can be resized with software such as Adobe, Inkscape, Gimp.
  • Each Border comes in Tif and PNG format
  • Borders are best suited for page, booklet size, or smaller.
A fair use license is included with both PDF products. This work includes both public domain and derivate work. Borders of Yore products are formatted and intended for use in publishing and personal use.  

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Adventurer Conqueror King: RPg Review

Adventurer Conqueror King
This issue is a brief review of the portable document format (PDF) of Adventurer Conqueror King (system). As suggested by the publisher I will be borrowing the much kinder and simpler abbreviation of ACKs. In 2011-2012 ACKs core book was brought to market via a successful Kickstarter campaign which funded just shy of $12k internet bucks. Autarch LLC has completed five successful Kickstarter campaigns since, through 2016 and while the publisher was kind enough to share a host ACKs material, the focus of this review is with the ACKs Core book. This RPG and its supplements can be purchased in print as well as PDF at drivethrurpg.com and rpgnow.com. You can also visit their website at: http://www.autarch.co/ for more information.
(Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links. I receive a token % if you purchase something on the landing page. Thank you for your support.)

Adventurer Conqueror King is a clone of Dungeons and Dragons and utilizes the open game license (OGL 1.0) of Wizards of the Coast. While not fully a retro-clone, having more advanced features such as proficiencies (likely borrowed from D&D 3e or 4e?) and not entirely neo-clone with a semi-independent (ascending type) combat system, it’s hard to relate where ACKs fits in the scope of other clones.

About the only reason to compare it as such, is to guess whether the OSR and fantasy gaming consumer is interested, or at least why they might be interested. To the OSR and old school customer base I would say that this RPG certainly has bits and parts of old school familiarity, which the OGL affords it, but it is also… Perhaps and certainly more so mechanically, a bit of a D&D mash. In that regard, I’m on the fence whether the game appeals to the old guard.  

Not in question is that the gem of this product is the campaign chapter. ACKs provides an interesting continuation of somewhat subtle idea. The framework of what was started (if I’m remembering this correctly at any rate) by AD&D nearly four decades ago: the push for adventure beyond the dungeon crawl. Otherwise known as Duh! A Campaign! The framework which is found in the Strongholds and Domains section is very well done. Anyone who has ran a campaign knows that with survival comes player character influence (even fame) and while the final idea is that the player characters will build and maintain strongholds and domains, game designers have rarely provided a serviceable framework for this gameable idea. Even if you’re not in the market for an entirely new D&D system, the framework in ACKs can be modified to most systems with a little finesse. Personally, this chapter alone turns this product into something I would buy and recommend to others.

In ACKs character Levels cap out at 14th level. There are the traditional four: fighter, cleric, mage and thief as well as several campaign classes. The campaign classes are the Assassin, Bard, Blade Dancer who are human women who serve the god of war, think Amazon Women etc., the Explorer which is much a ranger, Dwarven Vaultguard, Dwarven Craftpriest, Elvin Spellsword and Elvin Nightblade. All and all a basic mix of magic or advanced fighting/thief capabilities in regards to demi-human races. No halflings, gnomes or half elves (thank you, said some people).

Character Alignment is pretty much straight out of OD&D and applies the same way as most retro-clones; Law, Neutrality & Chaos. An interesting choice was to do away with memorization/preparation for spell magic. Casters need only rest themselves for eight hours before being able to restore their spell repertoire. I’ve house ruled this way for most of my fantasy RPGs a long time.   

The production value of ACKs, art, tables and layout is respectable. For the PDF of the core book each chapter has a number of hyperlinked pages which you can click and arrive at your chosen destination rather than scrolling through or typing in the page number. This feature is present in the table of contents as well as the index. Both sections have been meticulously detailed and encourage use. The hyperlinked pages are certainly a feature I wish more publishers would take advantage of. One can only hope those publishers are reading this column!      

As I said, Adventurer Conqueror King (system) s is a bit of a D&D mash up. It seems as if the creator borrowed their favorite elements from the different editions of D&D and made an RPG stew of sorts. Some people like stew, while others won’t get near it. The combat system isn’t too difficult to get the gist, but I think most old school gamers would have preferred the standard ascending or descending armor class (AC) system. As I mentioned, the campaign chapter is really well done, expanding the idea of a valuable concept and creating a respectable framework in making it gameable. Keeping with our stew analogy, this is the ingredient that I think most gamers will love.

Wild Skies Liberating Strife is on Kickstarter: RPG News

Wild Skies Liberating Strife
Wet Ink Games has launched Wild Skies: Liberating Strife a sourcebook for Wild Skies: Europa Tempest, on Kickstarter, The crowdsource has a modest funding goal of $7k and with a few days has already surpassed $2k. I reviewed Wild Skies Europa Tempest for Knights of the Dinner Table (mag). I Enjoyed it, and I think there's a lot to like about this diesel punk, World War themed, Anthropomorphic RPG.
Here is a brief snippet (from that review) of what I thought/think about Wild Skies...

"Wild Skies Europa Tempest, is the best anthropomorphic RPG I’ve read in the last 30 years (TMNT, anyone?). The setting is a World War I mash. It’s a little diesel, a little punk and a lot of machine guns. Mechanically, it’s on the lighter side in regards to crunch, but the true gem of this RPG is sheer variety of anthropomorphic characters players will create and the fact that each player can set the goals of their character in how they progress. If you’re in the market for any of the above, I don’t think you can go wrong here… That is, unless you don’t."

If you missed out on the original Wild Skies Kickstarter, a pledge of $35 you can get in on both the PDF versions of Wild Skies Europa Tempest and Wild Skies Liberating Strife. Or for a mere $25 more ($60 total) you can pledge for the PDF and print versions of these products. You can link up by clicking here (to the Kickstarter!) or on the image above.

I don't do unabashed product plugs very often (in fact three years of blogging this might be the second or third time); and Kickstarters just as rare... But, honestly Brandon Aten (Wet Ink Games) has a good track record of producing and writing in this industry; he's the sort of professional I think this industry needs more of and a member of the Indie Game Developer Network... (site) So, if you're so inclined, head on over and check out what Wet Ink Games (Facebook link) is creating.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Happy Gnome Publishing: Submissions Open

Happy Gnome Publishing put out the call the beginning of this month, and is looking for freelance writers/designers to create RPG content. Rate of pay is 3 cents/word. T.J. Lantz who is the head of Happy Gnome Publishing says it just as well as I could so... For more info in regards to what he's looking for click here, or check out the link in the image below. As always best of luck to submitters.


Happy Gnome Publishing Open Call

If the submission call for Happy Gnome Publishing isn't your cup of coffee, but you're still interested in writing/creating for the role-playing game (RPG) industry, check out my RPG Submissions Open Page (link to that page); a list of RPG and third party publishing companies, that pay freelancers for RPG content, reviews, news, and various other things. Know of such a company, and aware of an open call? Contact me; drop me line, or leave a comment.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Review Burp: RPG Reviews With EN World & Knights of the Dinner Table

KoDT #252
Krendel Core
Last month I reviewed the Krendel Core RPG in Knights of the Dinner Table (KoDT) issue #252 and Heroes Wear Masks, a superhero themed RPG skinned for use with Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Both of these products received somewhat mixed reviews. Each had some things that I liked, and each had things I didn't care for.
(Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links. I receive a token % if you purchase something on the landing page. Thank you for your support.)


http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/147467/Krendel-Core?affiliate_id=815972
Heroes Wear Masks
Krendel Core is a system-less RPG toolkit. The game encourages somewhat of a story-teller approach to gaming, but this system offers a lot of options in how to approach it. Certainly, a plus side of this product is that it's currently available for free on DriveThruRPG and RPGNow.

Heroes Wear Masks for D&D 5E is Avalon Games reskin of it's popular superhero themed Pathfinder version of the same name... The appeal of this product should be for folks who aren't familiar -or interested, in learning another system other than D&D 5E, but want to play a superhero themed RPG. It certainly has potential. The review on EN World is here.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

RPG Review: The Dark Eye

The Dark Eye RPG
We are taking a brief look at the English edition, portable document format (PDF) of The Dark Eye role playing game (RPG), published by Ulisses Spiele. Many gamers from across the pond boast this RPG as the Dungeons and Dragons of Germany (some say even Europe), while here in that states, gamers have been begging for an English translation to find its way to market. No doubt, those wishes have been answered via Kickstarter and while technically this is the second time this has occurred, it is also a revamped edition. The Dark Eye (and the second English translation) was funded just shy of $150k internet bucks on Kickstarter.

(Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links. I receive a token % if you purchase something on the landing page. Thank you for your support.)

The Dark Eye RPG is full color and is a behemoth at 418 pages cover to cover. By page count, the game is by far the largest (single volume) I’ve reviewed for Indy Game Scene (column, at the time). Hopefully that will be the last time I note that… I have no plans to review RPGs bigger than this.

The Dark Eye is a fantasy setting in the world of Aventuria. As far as setting elements go, Aventuria seems to have all the bells and whistles of a typical Tolkien inspired RPG, which many will be familiar with, dwarves, elves, orcs and the like. There is an interesting chapter that distinguishes the many dwarven, elven and human cultures, rather than jamming them all under individual race descriptions, which rounds out the setting nicely. The Dark Eye offers a fantasy realm of gods (and churches) for the characters to worship and magic to wield. The magic is toned down a bit from your usual fantasy RPG, and medieval elements are a bit better detailed than the usual fair. Included with the setting elements is very healthy amount of art, the quality of which is top notch.

I had my concerns (and would understand anyone else’s for that matter) knowing that this product was a translation, but I’m happy to report that my concerns were unfounded. Point of fact the writing really impressed me. While it would seem that 478 Kickstarters backers likely received a thief’s bounty for a mere $20 pledge before we get into the review itself let’s talk about what is, “The Dark Eye,” or the main premise of this RPG.

 “The game is named after the most intriguing magical artifacts it has to offer—the Dark Eyes, extremely powerful orbs that are very rare and hard to find. Wizards of eras long gone used them to look at far distant places, even other worlds, or to glimpse scenes from the distant past. Creating such an artifact calls for very powerful magic and a huge quantity of meteoritic iron. When fashioned into a Dark Eye, the iron takes on the form of an orb or, in very exceptional cases, an eye, hence the name.” (PG 6)

Rolling up a hero in The Dark Eye involves a fifteen step process. The game utilizes a variable point buy system which allows the players to start at a level which best suits the group. There is a lot of detail to character creation and the system allows a campaign that can be built from humble beginnings or one that is epic from the start. There is a fair amount of flexibility throughout the system and in regards to the sort of game/campaign you want to run, but the rules a very thoroughly written. Certainly an RPG cannot be written to cover every possible situation, but I'm confident the writing didn't miss anything for the purpose of gaming it at your table. Beyond character creation the system is well defined. Running a few numbers. the Arcane and clerical magic systems are thoughtfully balanced.

(Note: This review is property of Kenzer and Company and republished here with permission and the format may have been slightly modified from what originally published)

Crunch wise The Dark Eye is a heavy rule set. Though, I would say that some of the crunch will be reduced with familiarity. There are a number of features that differentiate it from other RPGs of the fantasy thread, such as D&D etc. and while good deal of the mechanics will be familiar, the terminology used will require a bit of adjustment. For instance, among these is that in rolling checks -a natural 20 (D20) is a botch or bad result and the use of more than one D20, between 1d20-3d20, for most checks. The ruleset itself is meticulously detailed. If this puts you off just remember your first delves into this wonderful hobby. Thank fully there is good deal of charts, sidebars and tables to help speed comprehension.

Overall, I am very impressed with The Dark Eye RPG. There are plenty of nuggets for a gamer to appreciate. The magic system is well balanced (not unwieldy powerful) and the detail of the system should appeal to most gamers who prefer medium to heavy crunch. About the only criticism I have is that the Bestiary is a little light; however as an introduction to the game everything in this product is beyond adequate. The terminology which is exclusive to this RPG pulls my mind back to middle school when I was first embarking on this wonderful hobby. It was a nice reminder. If you’re in the market for a fantasy RPG you might consider giving The Dark Eye RPG a closer look.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

EN World: An Editor and a Columnist Walk Into...

EN World has begun it's goodbyes and fare thee wells to EN5ider editor James Haeck. No Doubt, the EN5ider Patreon has done well under James' watch, reaching five D&D 5E articles per month, and is currently at just over $2k per month. James is staying on board through March 15th to ease the transition, and the open call for who will replace him is officially out. Think you got the right stuff? Click Here for more info.


EN World

And just as I've starting writing this... I'm reading that the new columnist position to write and post episode recaps for season two of a Critical Role has already been filled. Sorry folks. That's what happens when you don't Facebook for a day.

Still, EN World is (seemingly) always on the search for article writers, so you may still yet have a chance. For more information Click Here. Rate of pay for RPG News & Review pieces is 4 cents/word. If you're more interested in writing game content consider EN5ider (D&D 5E) Trailseeker (Pathfinder) of EONs magazine (WOIN RPG); rate of pay for these is 3 cents/word. Click Here for more information.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

OneDice World War One: RPG Review

OneDice WWI
Welcome to an RPG review of OneDice World War One. This review concerns the portable document format (PDF). Those familiar with some of my reviews know I’ve reviewed a couple of other of Cakebread and Walton’s RPGs and the OneDice game system covers a number of other settings such as steampunk, fantasy, pulp and rather recently space fantasy.

(Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links. I receive a token % if you purchase something on the landing page. Thank you for your support.)

OneDice World War One is available in both print (black & white interiors) PDF at DriveThruRPG and RPGNow. If you want to choose the route of frugality, or take a look before you decide, Cakebread and Walton have you covered with a Pay What You Want Quickstart version; here. It’s essentially free, so you have few reasons to not check it out and if you’re looking for a clean and very simple RPG system…

Spoiler Alert: I recommend to give it a read and a run a one shot.

As you might guess, the OneDice system requires the use of one dice. In this case it is a six sided dice (D6). For the most part all conflicts and skill rolls are determined by rolling a D6 against a Target Number (TN) determined by the Game Keeper (GK or Game Master/Narrator etc. in other systems). If the player character exceeds the TN they succeed. If they don’t exceed the TN, the player character might be able to spend some Stunt Points to change the outcome more to their liking. Each player starts the game session with six Stunt Points which cannot be accumulated beyond the session. Stunt Points can be applied a number of different ways to mitigate or change the outcome of specific actions at the cost of one or two points. How Stunt Points can be applied and spent is aptly defined in the ruleset.

Modifiers or bonuses the character might receive in a task roll are calculated on a straight one to one basis. If the Game Keeper determines the task being attempted requires strength and the character has 2 points in the Ability: Strong; those 2 points are added to whatever is rolled on the D6. Most task rolls will be modified by either Abilities (or attributes in other systems) or the amount of skill points the character has, in the relevant skill.

Consistent with everything about this product is that making an adventurer (or character) is quick and simply laid out. Adventurers in OneDice World War One have three abilities: Strong, Clever and Quick and players have six points to distribute among the abilities. Adventurers also have three derivative abilities Health, Defense and Move. For instance Health is calculated as your Strength multiplied times three and the other derivative abilities are similar. Players must then choose one of three, Social Status’ for their Adventurer: Wealthy, Middle Class or Poor which will assist in defining the adventurer's Job Skill Set. This is more of the career that each character starts with giving them two skills to start. Players then receive four more skill points which they can distribute how they see fit and in line with the game and the concept of how they want their character. Skills are numerous (around 30-ish, but described with one sentence or two) and simply laid out, but just in case there are even rules to create new skills.

Beyond creating an adventurer OneDice World War does a good job of defining the setting, as well as provides the GK with a succinct set of rules. Everything presented in Appendices and Game Keeper Section is well presented and should assist in running (if the GK would like) a historical game; the RPG also has some options for including horror or an occult themed skin. The Appendices section has a Timeline which outlines the significant events of World War One as well as an excellent general overview in regards to who was involved and why; and the strengths of the world powers. The Gamekeeper section gives a basic shading of World War One in terms of converting it to a roleplaying experience.

Though I’d liked to have seen a bit more as far as adventure seeds, the setting material does a really excellent job of defining itself to the point where you get a ton of ideas reading through it. About the only criticism I have is a lack of maps in the product itself, but then again the fact that the game is based on real history and being in the day and age of Google means that maps are only a couple of mouse clicks away… Still no Maps!?

Cover to back the PDF of OneDice World War One is 108 pages. Like all products in the OneDice line, it’s a quick read and very easy to get the gist of. Characters can be rolled up in less than 20 minutes (for certain). Art is minimal, but decent.

(This review is property of Kenzer and Company. Republished here with permission)

Overall, OneDice World War One is an excellent product. I’ve been looking for an opportunity to slip in a quick session, or perhaps one of those nights when one of two of my players cancels with my regular D&D Basic game. I did get the opportunity to run OneDice Supers last summer, and it worked pretty well. With how simple OneDice (any system I’ve read so far) is, it makes for an excellent fill-in RPG. Whether it hits your table, I'll leave you to it.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Map! Vast Stars: Digital Release

Map! Vast Stars
Map! Vast Stars is released! This is my last post this month so I wanted to make it a good one. As always this product is PWYW on OBS sites. On with the product blurb...

(Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links. I receive a token % if you purchase something on the landing page. Thank you for your support.)

Map! Vast Stars is available on DriveThruRPG: here
& RPGNow: here

To be perfectly honest...  This isn't the best map I've ever made. I made it because star maps are trending, and every map pack I've seen is somewhere between $3-$10. No doubt, those will be superior quality products, but I figured some might not what to pay that much. My products don't cost anything, but if you want to throw some spare change in the tip jar and support what I'm doing, thank you for your patronage.

Map! Products are in full color, providing a visual location for the Referee (GM) to populate, and for the player characters to discover. Each map depicted in the PDF is included in Zipped PNG format. Though it's unlikely you'll use it ,this pack includes a 300 DPI version, and a 100 DPI version for virtual tabletops. For an exact account, click through to the sell you site of preference for a PDF preview.

The Download Contains:

  • Map! Vast Stars PDF (preview)

  • Zip File PNG (300 DPI); four files total 

  • Zip File PNG (100 DPI); four files total

  • My appreciation: Thank you. Please consider taking the time rate, review and comment. Also, what sort of Map! products would you like to see in the future?

Note: Please, This product is not for use in commercial products. 

Monday, February 5, 2018

Review Burp & General Updates

KoDT #251
Last month I reviewed OneDice Supers with EN World, and my review of World War II: Operation Whitebox published in Knights of the Dinner Table #251. Both received positive reviews. Little similarity between the two, other than being complete RPGs.

(Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links. I receive a token % if you purchase something on the landing page. Thank you for your support.)

OneDice Supers is Cakebread & Walton's Superhero themed RPG published for their popular OneDice system. Simple. Easy. And though not aimed at youth or people who've never played an RPG before, it should certainly be up to the task. Rare, but I got to run a handful of sessions with this RPG, before I wrote the review. The review on EN World is here.


OneDice Supers
Side Note: A popular purchase through my affiliate links since my review on EN World published is OneDice Space. And if you prefer the route of frugality Cakebread and Walton has you covered  with a Pay What You Want version: OneDice Quickstart.

WWII: Operation Whitebox
World War II Operation Whitebox is exactly the sort of product I like to see from an OSR creator. I wouldn't call myself a "fan," (in fact I somewhat despise the term) but I've had the opportunity to look at few products by Small Niche Games and Operation Whitebox is gem among gold pieces. The game use Swords & Wizardry as the engine, but it has a lot of options for telling stories, dodging grenades, and gaming the deadliest conflict in human history.

Last month was pretty much a total time suck. I made the choice to change how reviews appear on this site, reformatting and editing nearly all of them. I changed some labels, which had me delving into old posts... Finished and published Map! Fief Bend (actually that is a +); and was rather shamelessly promoting it. Added a google search tool, a disclaimer and privacy policy. I'm also taking my second shot as an Amazon affiliate, but nothing to report there. While changing the blog is not exactly a sexy endeavor it might help a bit with SEO (search engine optimization)... Time will tell.

  

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Hydra Cooperative is seeking articles for Hydrazine: Submissions Open


Hydra Cooperative is getting ready to unleash Hydrazine, a new RPG print magazine which will focus on OGL compatible content (specifically OSR and D&D 5E), as well as aim to produce support material for Hydra Cooperative's already established (Strange Stars, Hill Cantons, Operation Unfathomable) RPG lines. Each issue of the Hydrazine will cater to a theme; for the first two issues the themes are "pointcrawls" & "conspiracies."

Submissions are open at Hydra Cooperative, and submitters are asked to submit a pitch as well as what the proposed length of the article will be, and wait for correspondence. If your idea is approved you'll be expected to write a finished piece of somewhere between 500-1,500 words. Rate of pay is a 5 cents/word and payments cap at $75. 

Hydra Cooperative is promoting diversity in gaming but I'm just going to (quote) take it straight from the horses mouth here:

Diversity in Gaming

The Hydra Cooperative is committed to supporting diversity in gaming. We’re extremely interested in amplifying some of the voices that have always been part of our hobby, but haven’t always been heard or amplified. While we’re accepting applications and manuscripts from everyone interested, we are particularly seeking submissions from creators who are:

* Female or non-binary

* LGBTQIA

* People of color


If this open call has your interest the submission guidelines for Hydrazine is here. As always, best of luck to submitters.

End Note: Because some potential submitters might be asking "what is a pointcrawl?" Here and here are bloggers which define pointcrawls. In summary, the pointcrawl is somewhat a play on the hex crawl. Instead of detailing every aspect of a hex map; major encounters or "points" on the map are focused on, and detailed by the Game Master. There's a bit more to it than that, so certainly check out those blogs.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Map! Fief Bend Digital (PWYW) Release

Map! Fief Bend 'has been released into the digital wilderness. It's available at DriveThruRPG & RPGNow. Like all Map! products you can get it for the exorbitant price of Pay What You Want (PWYW). Map! Fief Bend is finished. This one is pretty decent.

(Disclosure: Product images on this page include affiliate links. I receive a token % if you purchase something on the landing page. Thank you for your support.)


Map! Fief Bend
Map! Fief Bend

Map! Products are in full color, providing a visual location for the Referee (DM/GM) to populate, and for the player characters to discover. This product contains a master PDF (preview). Each map depicted in the PDF is included in Zipped PNG format. Each map format has a print friendly (300 DPI) version, as well as a virtual tabletop (100 DPI) version. For an exact account, click on the image and check it out over at DriveThruRPG.com

This Download Contains:

  • Map! Fief Bend PDF (preview)
  • Print Friendly, Zip File PNG (300 DPI); four files total
  • Digital Friendly, Zip File PNG (100 DPI); four files Total
  • My appreciation: Thank you. Please take the time rate, review and comment.

Notes: Hexagon measurements are at 5ft per side; graph is at 5ft sq. (standard). This product is not for use in commercial products.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Maps! Fief Bend & Smugglers Dock

Fief Bend is very close to completion. I wanted this post to actually be the digital release post, but ultimately I've squandered an enormous amount of time this week. Edit Post: Fief Bend is finished you can get it right here.

(Disclosure: This review includes affiliate links. I receive a token % if you purchase something from the landing page.)
 
I've been busy updating my blog, reading this book: How To Make Money Blogging: How I Replaced My Day Job With My Blog, which is obviously about blogging/money (Ha!); and trying to figure out how "the Facebook" actually functions as a platform. For the most part, two of those were enormous wastes of time... The book was decent enough to get a couple ideas from at least. Also, for once in very long time, I'm very behind on some of my freelance writing stuff.

Map! Fief Bend Working
And because it's been noted twice before... Those little squares in the center is my color palette (will not be in the final render). All that's left on this one, is finishing up the road,  and couple of color details.

Smuggler's Dock is progressing nicely... But with this one I need to do some-things I've never done before. Also, the details of the sandy beach is creating it's own problem; lack of black lines of any kind, beside the buildings & dock, might be another. This one is for an upcoming 5E (I think) adventure book Kickstarter, so maybe I'm trying too hard?

Smuggler's Dock Working

Not that you asked for it but that's that, for the progress report. Though I've certainly noticed each of these projects eating up more and more time... The overall quality has certainly gotten better. If I can get caught up with the writing, Fief Bend should be available for purchase right before the end of this month.

Like all products in the Map! line Fief Bend will be available as a Pay What You Want product at DriveThruRPG.com: here, and RPGNow here... Essentially free, but if you have guilt about getting something for free... I gladly accept tips! No amount is too small and every little bit helps me keep these projects going. And if you have already: Thank you for your Patronage!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Posthuman Studios: Open Call for Your Whispering Muse

Posthuman Studios is seeking RPG freelancers interested in making their mark on an official Eclipse Phase release; A serial style project titled: "Your Whispering Muse." Article ideas should be refined to a short 100 summary. If your piece is accepted, you'll be expected to expand the summary to a more robust piece at around 3400-5400 words. Rate of pay upon delivery of a final draft, is a flat rate of $200; or roughly about 3 to 6 cents/word.



Posthuman Studios open call page
Details on submitting to "Your Whispering Muse" open call is here. (Posthuman Studios site) Best of luck, if you decide to pitch. I'm thinking of giving this one a shot... The submissions page is encouraging with the sort of content they want; specificity is good thing, as is limiting the pitch to 100 words. They don't want to waste your time and don't want you, to waste theirs.

Disclosure: Product images on this page below this disclosure include affiliate links. I receive a token % if you purchase something on the landing page. Thank you for your support. 


Eclipse Phase 1E & 2E Quickstart Rules
The first and second edition Eclipse Phase Quickstart Rules are on DriveThruRPG.com here; or click on the product image above (affiliate links). I'll be looking over these myself and see if I can craft anything before the weekends out!

If the submission call for Eclipse Phase isn't your cup of coffee, but you're still interested in writing/creating for the role-playing game (RPG) industry, check out my RPG Submissions Open Page (link to that page); a list of RPG and third party publishing companies, that pay freelancers for RPG content, reviews, news, and other various things. Know of such a company, and aware of an open call? Contact me, or leave a comment.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

RPG Gag Comic Pinterest; The Gnome Thief

I've been working on a couple of RPG/gag comic ideas for KoDT's Parting Shots and I just realized; I never posted the first edition of the Gnome Thief... Remember, Knights of the Dinner Table (KoDT) is currently looking for gag/comic submissions for Parting Shots. If your submission is accepted, you'll receive a copy of the issue in which the work appears, and flat rate payment of $25. I'm just a self appointed messenger and occasional submitter.


Image Linked to Pinterest Board



Also, I started Pinterest Board for RPG Gag/Comics. Similar to most social media stuff. I'm new. No idea what I'm doing... However, if you'd like to check it out, the board is here. I'd really enjoy including other's work on this Pinterest Board, so if you know someone; please cast your summoning spells, a +name if you're on G+ or via the Facebook. I found nil, nada, nothing, in regards to boards which delve into this niche. If you're aware of such a board, send me a link! (Help!?!)

Details on submitting your comic/gag ideas to Kenzer and Company, for Parting Shots is here.