What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
Castles & Crusades Players Handbook - 7th Print Edition

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Weekend R&R: Mini Six

I enjoy the d6 system and have said as much on repeated occasions.

My first foray with the system would be though West End Games' classic Star Wars RPG at a time when I truly got fed up with TSR and their bloated publishing schedule and, what I perceived as schlock, being produced.  This would have been around the mid-90s.  The Star Wars RPG (and d6 in general) was easy to grasp, quick to learn, and fast to play and the rules were light enough to allow the freedom and flexibility for a narrative and cinematic experience.  It was also the first 'bucket-full of dice' game I played, a symptom usually associated with dice-pool systems.  I think I just liked rolling many dice but then, which gamer doesn't?

My initial foray as a character in the Star Wars universe was a brief one... he ended up dying in a cockpit of an A-Wing but it was an experience I remember fondly.  It would be a few years later that I ended up trading a deck of Magic cards (my primary play and tournament deck at the time) in exchange for ten Star Wars RPG books (all hardback rulebooks save three of them).  Within a few years from that, my collection grew by leaps and bounds as I was able to get a lot of those books severely discounted.

By the end of the 90s, West End Games had lost the Star Wars license and ceased producing the game but fortunately, they had also managed to release "The D6 System: The Customizable Roleplaying Game" before eventually going into bankruptcy.  It got basically bought out afterwards, and three generic d6 books: "Space", "Fantasy", and "Adventure" were published.  From this, there was also a big push to essentially restore West End Games and this was called "Septimus".  A couple of years back, I wrote an article about it which can be found HERE but things just didn't work out as planned.

In what almost seems to have been an act of contrition with the failure to rise from the ashes, the last act of West End Games was to declare various works as System Reference Documents and release an Open Game License for the D6 System knows as OpenD6.

And this brings us to Mini Six.

While Mini Six is not the first distilled rulebook for the D6 System, it it perhaps the shortest, and best streamlined and accessible version of the d6 rules you can get.  Including the OGL, the book is 36 pages and almost a third of those pages are just sample settings.  Simply put, Mini Six is an excellent distillation of a rule set made popular by the Star Wars RPG which, for some, is still the best rules incarnation of the license.  I will admit that the current FFG ruleset is pretty damned sweet though.

Obviously, with a rules light system there is a lot of room to throw in a few things to make this rulebook a functional and versatile one.  There is enough samples of critters and people along with vehicles to fill basic needs.  Weapons and Equipment is equally streamlined and was always something which tended to be on the 'simple' side however, it works very well for the scope of this book.  As for stuff that might not be in the book, the system itself is simple enough and examples are ample enough to allow for someone to create what they need for the game.

As such, the book as-is and the system being easy and quick to learn and play makes Mini-Six a great ruleset for an extended campaign or just the one-shot.  It give a bit more 'crunch' than "Fate: Accelerated" and will feel more familiar for games who have played various pen and paper based RPGs before.  Obviously, Mini Six won't be perfect and you can't expect it to have EVERYTHING but it has everything you would want to build upon.

While I praise Mini Six, I'm afraid that I am somewhat hesitant to deliver the same praise to AntiPaladin Games.  I am fortunate enough to have gotten my hands on a physical copy via Lulu and, while this took a long time to actually happen, at least it was always available as a free download from their site.  Presently, there is no way to get a new printed copy of the book.  The free links have been removed but, at least it is available at RPGNow! (OBS) over HERE.  It is a 'pay what you want' with a suggested price of $2.00.  As for a print product, it will eventually happen but there is an uncertainty when this will actually happen.  The last time they promised a print copy, it took a few months for it to show up on Lulu but I'm hoping that transitioning from Lulu to RPGNow for POD won't take anywhere near as long this time around.  However, at 36 pages, it shouldn't be too bad to get the file and have something printed yourself if you are the type to want something tangible and just can't wait.

I've had the fortune to play Mini Six more than once in the past few years and I'm sure it will happen again this year.  Mini Six is a great little rulebook and system and if you only ever get one D6 related book, this one is certainly worth considering.

M

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Kickstart This: Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion

While I am backing and supporting Troll Lord Game's latest Kickstarter for Victorious, there is another intriguing crowdfunding campaign that I wanted to highlight.  I stumbled upon it accidentally and I'm glad I did.

The Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion is essentially a supplement for Call of Cthulhu -- in particular, the Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign which was originally released back in 1984.  For fans of the game, this campaign is heralded as one of the finest adventure campaigns that Chaosium published.  While admiring the new and revamped Horror on the Orient Express boxed set at GenCon this past summer, I was fortunate to see the limited hardcover edition of the 2010 printing of the book.  I snatched it up along with the two Achtung Cthulhu rulebooks I had been eyeing as well.

Masks of Nyralathotep is a bit of a monster of a campaign which takes you across the globe in a series of connected scenarios much in the way that Horror on the Orient Express plays.  There is a lot of flexibility, potential for side-adventures, many NPCs and the lot of it makes for a very complex and challenging campaign.  It's complicated enough that a Game Master will need to do sufficient prep to pull it off and the 'net is full of tales of woe and cautionary tales on running this campaign.  However, running it successfully is very rewarding which is why many consider Masks of Nyralathotep so great.

Fortunately, after considerable time and effort, Yog-Sothoth.com has assembled a Companion volume to this venerable campaign.  At 600 pages, this book is two to three times longer than the campaign itself (depending on the edition)!  Many fans of the recent Horror on the Orient Express campaign had wanted to see a similar revised and expanded treatment done to the Masks of Nyralathotep.  I feel that it's safe to say that this Companion combined with the campaign basically achieves the same.

The book itself is impressive and I've seen the material.  Even if you don't plan on running the campaign, there is still plenty of resource material in this book to consider the investment.  If you would like to know more about the campaign, you can find information and the Kickstarter HERE.  Prices are in British Pounds so, it might seem pricey when you factor in the conversion and shipping but remember -- it is a 600 page book!  It is also something I look forward to having on my bookshelf.

M

Monday, February 23, 2015

Mail Call: Rogue Mage Game Master's Guide

Last Friday, Canada Post delivered my copy of the Game Master's Guide for the Rogue Mage RPG.  By doing so, delivery was completed for one of the oldest Kickstarters I backed which was completed just shy of three years ago on March 5th, 2012.

It was an interesting campaign for a few reasons.  It happened before we started seeing some of those 'mega' funding campaigns raising ridiculous amounts of money for one.  And, looking back at all the comments (there are less comments than updates and there weren't many updates the past couple of years), none were nasty like others I have seen that blew a delivery date by a few months.  For some reason, delivery was slated a few months after March but this obviously didn't happen.

To their credit, they did deliver a bunch of rewards instead of holding on to everything until it was all ready to ship out and this probably helped a great deal.  While updates were few, there was still some support and it goes to show that a little goes a long way.  That said, I've seen a lot of other toxicity with out Kickstarters that were still delivering stuff and some of it quite unfairly.

I think it shows how the mentality, perception, and most importantly, expectations have shifted in the past couple of years.  And I'm not thinking of just the backers here... project creators do share in some of the blame when you look at various projects.

However I am happy to check another off my list.  Sadly, I'm not sure if I'm even interested in the game anymore... it's still fascinating to look through and the concept (and novels) are pretty fun.  I am still happy to have supported it though, I have to say that the binding of this book is sub-par.  The book looks like it's ready to come apart but maybe I was just unlucky with this one.  While I'm a bit disappointed with that, the the content itself is solid.  I'll still hold on to the pair of rulebooks and novels I got from the Kickstarter... the books were signed by Christina and the author of the series, Faith Hunter.

Who knows, it might make for a solid one-shot, though, if I did that, I'd adapt the system a bit to streamline it and turn it a bit more rules light for the game.

M

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Why Victorious Matters?


Troll Lord Games has launched a new Kickstarter a few days ago for 'Victorious' -- a game set in the last half of the 19th century.  Like Amazing Adventures, this is its own game but remains compatible to Castles & Crusades and other Siege Engine games.  For those who have enjoyed the recent television series, "Penny Dreadful" or were a fan of Alan Moore's "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen", or simply loved some of the literature of the period such as the venerable Sherlock Holmes mysteries by Arthur Conan Doyle, they will find many things to like with the new game.

I have a history with this game and readers who have followed the development of this project and Arcana Creations will know that I was a brief custodian at one point.  While things ultimately didn't work out back then, I was always a supporter of the game and saw the tremendous potential with it.  While I am not aware of any significant changes with the system since I last looked at the material and now, I feel that it is safe to say that many of the core concepts in place have not changed.  With games like Amazing Adventures and Castles & Crusades being more of a class/level based game, it was immediately refreshing to realize that Victorious leaned towards being more of a skill based game while remaining tied to a leveling mechanic.  In short, you don't pick a 'class' but your essentially create it (your character) from scratch.

When Castles & Crusades was launched a decade ago, Troll Lord Games was also publishing other materials.  They had, up to that point, been supporting the d20 movement by offering great third party supplements, and along with it, material for Lejendary Adventures which was part of the Gygax catalog of stuff they were doing.  With the success of C&C and the underlying mechanic at the core of the system, capitalizing on it and expanding the Siege brand was a very natural step.  One of the first attempts to grow the game outside of the Fantasy genre was, Star Siege: Event Horizon.  I mention this because, there too there was an attempt to move away from the archetypal, class-based level mechanic and focus on a skill based one instead.  Unfortunately, the Star Siege boxed set proved to be less of a game than a toolkit to create your preferred sci-fi game.  While well-designed, execution as a product was criticized by many as a misstep.  Other attempts were very mixed such as Tainted Lands arriving a year later and Harvesters a year after that.  Both Tainted Lands and Harvesters suffer from trying to be both their own games but sticking too close to C&C making both seem more like supplements than standalone products.  Arguably, they both contain enough bare-bones material to be used by themselves but I have yet to meet someone who did.

Fortunately, during this time, C&C itself continued to grow albeit slowly at first.  Something amazing happened in 2012 with the release of Amazing Adventures.  In some ways, Amazing Adventures played it safe -- it was entirely compatible with C&C but it had it's own identity.  As a pulp adventure game, few games of the genre embraced the class-based level mechanic the way that D&D (and C&C) employed.  A lot of the more popular games for the genre tended to focus towards skill-based character builds as opposed to archetypal ones.  While it heavily borrowed from C&C's playbook, it wasn't just a game with the serial-numbers filed off.  It brought more customization of the characters, new rules, and new ways of doing things.  For fans of both games, it gave a broader toolkit that could be used for either system with ease.  Some fans welcomed this and some didn't take to the original, and decidedly more abstract concepts for character creation in Star Siege.

The point is, the approach was hugely successful and a necessary step for Troll Lord Games.  TLG finally branched out and created a new line that was proving to be successful and popular.  Much so that, when they moved to a second printing, they expanded the line from one book to three books late last year.  Well, more like expanding... the kickstarter campaign ended successfully in the Fall and thus far the first two books have been released to backers via PDF so there is more to come.

Victorious on the other hand has it's origins possibly dating as far back as Star Siege.  Development for Star Siege started as far back as 2006 with 'beta' play-testing happening in 2008.  Brave Halfling Publishing and Arcana Creations were approached with Victorious in 2009  at a point when Troll Lord Games were not ready to proceed with Victorious themselves.  Back then, the framework of the game had already been worked out and I had created a character and played a session and the material was fantastic.  Victorious has effectively been demoed and play-tested since.  As I indicated before, I had nothing but good intentions and had even over enthusiastically committed to a 2010 release.  Anyone who has a copy of the 'Secret of Ronan Skerry' (not the earlier digest version but the version that went into retail distribution) will see the proud ad in the back of the module.  It just didn't work out but I'm glad that Mike Stewart persevered with his game.


It's worth looking at the Quickstart (which you can find HERE) but, when you do, understand it isn't an official release from Troll Lord Games and some material could change by the time the game is finally released.
 
Judging by the Quickstart, you will have a system that, not only follows the general mechanics of play found in C&C, but goes a bit further with skills and powers.  There is no defined class so, Victorious is the closest at creating creating a level-based gaming experience that doesn't rely on pre-made character classes to choose from.  While developmentally speaking, it doesn't follow Amazing Adventures, for fans of the Siege Engine, it will appear that it builds upon it since, Victorious in many ways will give an even greater flexibility in the emerging family of Siege Engine games which is proving to be successful for Troll Lord Games in its 15th year of operation.

For more information on Victorious and the current Kickstarter, you can check out the Facebook page HERE, and the fundraising campaign which has completely busted their initial goals HERE.

EDIT -- Also, feel free to check out the Google Plus Community for Victorious and join if you are so inclined (HERE)

M

Weekend R&R: Fate Accelerated

A little over a couple weeks ago, I asked: "What makes a good rulebook"?

The answer seemed to center on the notion that a good rulebook tends to be shorter and more concise and able to outline the system in fewer pages to get the idea across.  As such, I thought it would only be fitting if I looked at some of these shorter books and start with 'Fate Accelerated' which outlines a system in about forty pages.

My first, and really, my only experience with Fate was 'Spirit of the Century' which is also published by Evil Hat Productions.  While I am not a convert, I did have a lot of fun in the one session I played.  I did like the production quality of the book but the system seemed to be even more abstract than I was accustomed to.  I quickly learned that it the underlying system had its strengths and weaknesses.  I didn't pick up 'Spirit of the Century' myself though, if you are already familiar with Fate and like Pulp, I would recommend it.  For me, it made enough of an impact that I decided to pick up the 'Fate Core System', 'Fate System Toolkit', and 'Fate Accelerated'.  I suppose I didn't really need the Accelerated book if I was picking up the Core and Toolkit books but, being that it isn't my go to game, and the physical copy was only $5, I figured a book that distilled the essentials of the system would be well worth the investment.  If not, it's not like the $5 would break the bank.

The system, as presented in Fate Accelerated, is deceptively simple.  It is a system that people tend to love or hate and I can understand why.  It's a system that I wouldn't mind playing but I'm not sure if I would ever do so long term.  To me, it's an interesting option for a pick-up game and while all pen-and-paper RPGs are essentially cooperative games, I feel that Fate is much more dependent on character and player interaction to all jointly tell the story.  There are very few numbers that a player really has to deal with in the system and the game uses 'fudge dice'.  That is to say, six-sided-dice which contains a couple of  '+' signs, '-' signs, and blank sides (2 of each for a total of six sides).

Character Creation is very simplistic but very open ended depending on the 'stage' of character creation.  You start off by listing aspects of your character which pretty much define your character instead of choosing something like a class, race, etc...  This is broken up as your 'High Concept' which is basically the archetype/concept for the character.  Using one of the pre-gens in the book, Reth is a 'Suncaller of the Andral Dessert'.   You then define the characters 'Trouble' and in Reth's case, 'Steel Assassins want me dead'.  Finally, you have other additional (other aspects).  Reth has 'My Kung Fu Is The Strongest', 'Crush on Avasa' and 'I Can Learn from Serio's Experience'.

Obviously, someone who is looking for something a bit more rigid and defined in a gaming system might not like the above when they realize that this isn't stuff picked out from the rulebook.  These are created by the player, and given the nature of the game, the best outcomes might be when players create their characters together with the GM.  Obviously, the GM would have to agree that a 'Suncaller' is a thing and that the Andral Dessert exists.  More importantly, Steel Assassins will have to exist and will need to crop up time and time again.  Considerations regarding Avasa and Serio also need to be made.  With a party of characters all have created and perhaps connecting aspects, it will become very apparent how collaborative a story this is -- perhaps even more than your typical pen and paper RPG.

The largest mechanical component of the system is regarding 'Approaches' -- there are six in all.  They are Careful, Clever, Flashy, Forceful, Quick, and Sneaky.  Each approach has a numerical bonus attached to it and characters start with approaches ranging from 0 to +3.  These can be improved over time and they are basically descriptions on how you approach various tasks and challenges.  Quickly climbing over a wall may present a different bonus to your character than Carefully climbing over the same wall.  These bonuses are added to the dice roll for the attempted task.

On top of that, your character has a stunt which will add another bonus in a given situation and Fate points which will affect the course of the game.  With all that, you play by trying and create advantages for a given situation, you overcome challenges, attack, or defend.  Your approaches will determine how you do this, and the die rolls will determine if you fail, tie, succeed, or succeed with style.  As far as combat is concerned, it's Attack vs Defense and failure to adequately defense will result in Stress and further complications (Consequences).

Those are the rules in a nutshell.  Fate Accelerated is far from being a very granular system with a plethora of rules and modifiers.  It certainly encourages story tellers and, with the right group of players, will play very fast and loose and be an amazing gaming experience.  Unfortunately, it may be that Fate is a bit too abstract for some people to adequately enjoy.  The Fate Core book is a lot bigger than Fate Accelerated -- about 250 pages longer in fact.  In some ways, it doesn't add much more to it save for greater detail and more examples to draw from.  That isn't to say there isn't new material in the Core book, it's more about options and showcasing the system.  Given what Fate Accelerated accomplishes in the 48 page book, you do have all you need to run a game with provided the GM and players are open to it.

As for the presentation itself, the text is clean and readable in a nice 6x9 perfect bound book.  The art is not to my preferences but the art is very well done and the style is consistent throughout the book.  For the cost of a designer cup of coffee at Starbucks, you can pick up the book.  At $5, it's hard to argue against the value of the book.  Better yet, the PDF is available at OBS services for a 'Pay what you want' price (suggested is $2.50) which you can find HERE.

M

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Time-Space Disruptions!

Well, I didn't have much of a chance for a lot of R&R this past weekend, nor did I have a chance to do a few other things I wanted to get done.  The time I try to set aside to write and paint went out the window.

Between Valentine's Day, a friends birthday and murder mystery party, a guest from out of town, and another session in my campaign, there just wasn't a lot of writing or painting done.  Oh, and then there are those wedding invitations I still need to get to.

Last week and weekend ended up being busy and I think this week is shaping up the same.  Effectively, it means my blogging routine has been sidelined somewhat but I hope to get back on track this weekend.

An interesting bit of news though -- Troll Lord Games has launched their newest Kickstarter for Victorious!  I will take the time to write about it in length sometime within the next couple of weeks but if you want to check it out sooner rather than later, the Kickstarter can be found HERE.

M

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Problem With Citadel Paints


For those who follow my painting exploits, you may have noticed that I have tended to favor the Citadel line of paints.  But why do I do this?  On the surface, it certainly isn't economical.  At $4 a pot at current US prices (bastards charge $5 here in Canada), that 160 range of paints will cost you a fortune -- even if you buy it as a discounted 'ultimate paint set'.

The latest incarnation of the paint line was released in the first part of 2012 from what I understand,  My own introduction to that aspect of the hobby came afterwards, so I actually have had no experience with the older paints.  Reviews were mixed.  Regular uses of the paints seem to come across similar problems time after time even though the paints, on the while, are decent enough.

A couple of good things about them:
  • With the broad color range available, you have a lot of choices without having to mix your paints to get a particular shade.
  • The Shades and Glazes are great, and some of the 'technicals' -- including the newer ones added like 'Typhus Corrosion' and 'Nihilakh Oxide' makes certain effects really easy to do in order to attain a particular look.
And some of the bad:
  • Pots not that practical and sometimes hard to keep open.  There could be a sealing issue with some of them so it's always good to double check.
  • Pots impractical for other uses like the desire to airbrush.
  • Some paints will separate over a short period of time (days as opposed to weeks).
  • Some paints will thicken and clump -- even if never opened before.
It's frustrating at times.  The majority of the 'problems' can all be fixed or worked around so it becomes less of an issue to be no more than an annoyance.  Those who buy from the Citadel paint line is likely to encounter less issues if they do so on a 'per-need' basis.  Unfortunately, if you are one of those people who has invested in the majority of the line, you will need to work out the issues as they come up.

I have the majority of the line.  All the bases and layers, Dry Compounds, Shades, and even the Edges and most of the technicals.  Imperial Primer is absolute garbage IMO but I've recently picked up a bunch of the textures for some bases due to pure laziness.  The *ONLY* reason I have these is because of the change in Game Workshop Policies when it came to online retailers in 2013.  I had gotten into the hobby a few months earlier and, when I did, I started with these paints.  They did the job and I liked the selection.  When the policies changes, a couple of online retailers liquidated their stock.  Before this happened, I routinely got 20% off the price of my paints... but with the sale, it was between 50% and 60%.  And this was before the price increase (back then, it was $3.50 US per pot of paint).

So now, when I pull out a pot of paint I haven't used in a while (regardless if it was open or not), I frequently have to shake the shit out it because it's separated and/or had become otherwise 'thicker' and adding some sort of medium to thin it out as necessary.

The pots are terrible if you want to airbrush.  You can try and pour some into a gravity feed or use a dropper to extract paint and drop it in though you will waste paint this way.  The solution is to live with it or go elsewhere for you paints.

And while I can certainly live with it (and have up to know)... I'm increasingly of the opinion that it's time to cut more ties from Games Workshop and have been starting to go elsewhere for my own convenience.


I've been experimenting with Liquitex paints from their Basic line with some success.  Since I have a lot of Citadel stuff remaining, I will still be using it for months to come but the Liquitex paints are going to be used more and more for diverse paint jobs -- especially where airbrushing is concerned.  The fact that the paints come in tubes just makes it that much easier to mix or use with my airbrush... of course, I have some airbrush medium to thin out the paint for the brush and the flow is quite nice.  With the kind of shelf life, 5-7 years, is plenty for me to use and the paints (and quantity in each tube) far surpasses the value in a single Citadel paint pot.  There are 12 ml (0.4 fl oz) in a pot compared to 22 ml in the 48 pack of Liquitex basic paints.  A box of these paints is $60 and the same volume of paints (88 pots for the same volume of paint) would cost $352.  A single 8.4 oz tube (250ml) runs between $10 and $12 so, compared to a pot of Citadel paint, it gets really easy to imagine the savings when you start doing the math.

Of course the problem is the color range... it just isn't as large as what Citadel has done in the newest line of paints but you can argue that it isn't necessary either.  Fewer tubes to play with and forcing you to mix colors isn't the end of the world.  If anything, it will make you a better painter.

It will also get you to use that wet palette you picked up but hardly touch.  Mixing a shade to work on a model over a few days is less frustrating if you can preserve that paint.  By using a wet palette and keeping the point moist, you can use the amount of paint you mixed to finish the job.  I have one that I hardly used up to know simply because of my over reliance to the large line of paints.  Just picking the shade I want instead of mixing it saves time but not cash.

So, lets assume we can cut out the Citadel paints... at least the bases and layers.  That's most of them.  The dry compounds are a neat trick but hardly necessary. However, the washes are very nice and some of the technicals as well.  But it's easy to do away with the rest of them and even the washes have their substitutes.

After the mermaid, I'm planning on painting a few miniatures just with the Liquitex for comparison's sake.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Halmar, the Wizard Painting Guide

This Wizard miniature was from Reaper Miniatures and was part of the Haunted Highlands Kickstarter from Troll Lord Games with a handful of other miniatures I received with my pledge.  It is certain to see tabletop play at some point.

For the most part, this was a simply miniature to paint but there are a couple of tricky aspects to painting this model which I'll cover in a bit.  First off, the base coats.

After model was prepped (acrylic gesso being my starting point), I decided to keep things relatively simple... clothing predominantly red and white.  Using Citadel paints, I went with a base of 'Khorne Red' for the robes, and 'Ceramite White' for the arms (shirt sleeves).  The fire wielded by the mage was 'Averland Sunset' which I find is a nice shade of yellow to start with.  The best has a black paint applied though most of the best is obscured by other details of the model such as the many pouches.  For those, I opted for a 'Steel Legion Drab' which is a light to mid-range brown.  Skin had an initial coat of 'Rakarth Flesh' and 'Dryad Bark' (a darker and richer brown) was used for the hair.


From there, I needed to think about some shading.  Most of the model (save for the skin) got a wash of 'Nuln Oil' shade.  This darkened the model considerably but the layers and drybrushing I applied thereafter would correct and lighten up the areas I wanted to focus on.  The belt and pouches were pretty much perfect with the wash but the red robes needed some attention.  A layer of 'Wazdakka Red' was drybrushed on the robes and, since I didn't want a grey shade of white, I drybrushed some more white on the arms leaving some of the shading intact but restoring (for the most part) the brilliant white that was once there.

The face got more attention with a wash of 'Reikland Fleshshade' along with the hands with some highlighting done with a layer of 'Kislev Flesh'.

The two tricky things about the model is a doing decent looking fire effect and the eyes.  Honestly, the eyes require patience, possibly multiple tries, and probably something more accurate than a brush in most peoples hands.  Oh, and some sort of way to magnify what you are seeing.  On the flip side, aside from maybe needing a few tries to get the eyes right, it is straight forward.  While I have some decent brushes for my detail work, I personally find my brushes a bit big for it.  I use a modified toothpick for this kind of work.  I take a toothpick (one of those bigger round ones), and using my hobby knife, I work the end to a much finer point.  When I have that point, I will dip that in my paint and use that.  Eye is done with some white and the iris done with, well whichever color you prefer.  But on a typical 25mm model, this will be a singly point you apply as opposed to something you brush on.  Black also shows up better so I tend to favor that.



For the flame... Well, it is important to know how fire looks.  Sounds simple but it is a mistake that some people make when painting fire for the first time.  The fire closest to the 'source' is brighter so you can go with a bright white-yellow and as the flames grow from that point, it transitions to an orange and then to a red.  The easiest way I found to do flame is to start off with a nice, rich shade of yellow.  As indicated earlier, I went with ' Averland Sunset' as my base.  I added a bit of 'Flash Gitz Yellow' as a layer but what really distinguished the color scheme was targeted used of both 'Fuegan Orange' and ' Carroburg Crimson' washes.  I applied these holding the model upside down and applied the orange two-thirds away from the tip to the tip... and then 'Carroburg Crimson' about a third of the way from the tip to the tip.  Using a glaze, I applie 'Lamenters Yellow' to the entire flame working the pigmentation and highlighting what needed to be highlighted.

There are certainly different ways to do it, and while the picture doesn't quite do justice to the fire (these pictures are really just snapshots), it does look really nice when you look at the model itself.  It's certainly worth trying at any rate since it's really simple to pull off something good.

With this post, I am a few days behind on the fourth model I selected to paint and, this week and weekend is looking to be a bit busy so I'm not sure when the Mermaid will be up.  But it's coming.

Happy Painting!

M


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Weekend R&R: No Salvation For Witches

A couple of weeks back, I took a look at and shared my thoughts on the revised edition of "Death Frost Doom" by Lamentations of the Flame Princess (you can find the review HERE).  I mentioned that I was still waiting for the reception of my physical copy of the book and, lo and behold, I finally got my package last night.  For those curious, it was shipped out around the 19th of December.  However, the whole reason for that order was for another book in the package -- "No Salvation For Witches".

Back in August, James of LotFP and Rafael Chandler teamed up and ran a crowdfunding campaign to publish NSFW and did so with an unconventional twist.  It was a 'Pay What You Want' deal for a full cover, 64 page, 6x9" hardcover module.  The campaign was a success and 8,328 Euros were raised when 5,000 was the requirement.  The average pledge was 13.39 Euros though, looking at the webstore, a physical copy will run you 22 Euros.  Quite a bit of savings for those who paid the average and, while there were some that gave the minimum (a single Euro), it was nice to see that others gave much more than the average as well.  As a backer of the project myself, I got the PDF for NSFW a day or so after the campaign ended so I've had some time to look through it on and off since then and I liked what I saw.

Now with book in hand and having thoroughly read through the material, did I like it.  Yes, but... while there was a lot to like, I did have some issues with it.  These issues having nothing to do with the art or content in the scenario but, it is definitely 'mature content territory'.  The adventure itself is very much a sandbox which is a big plus for many gamers.  But, aside from characters voluntarily walking through the 'outer sphere' and realizing that they cannot leave it again, the players won't necessarily know what to do and the urgency to take care of the 'central problem' with a fixed time frame.  For that alone, the GM will need to do their due work to properly prepare the adventure and, at the same time, really know the gaming style of the players.

Of course, the players will find many disturbing and dangerous things as they explore the area and, as far as I'm concerned, everything else in the volume is very well done.  While the book will not hold the GM by the hand to tell him how to best approach the adventure, it is broken up in an organized manner covering information on the setting and backstory, the key characters, locations, and objects that the characters will interact with.  The setting and backstory are simple enough and adapting it into an existing campaign shouldn't be overly difficult.  The characters are detailed with notes on personality and motivations to help the GM give 'life' to them.  The locations give you enough details and information presenting some very memorable encounters for the players to enjoy (or be horrified with).  And then there is the 'Tract of Tetratology'. Out of a 64 page publication, a fifth of the book is dedicated to this one item which is a manual to summon other worldly beings.  In game terms, it's a random system to generate these critters and a disturbingly creative one at that promising a ridiculous 3.6 trillion possible combinations.



With this item alone, the book is something that can be used and mined from for some great ideas and material to inject in an existing campaign should you find the adventure itself unsuitable to your needs.  Even some of the scenarios can be ripped from these pages to give something the players can remember for years to come somewhere else.  And given the possible outcomes of this scenario, all-the-more desirable -- which is the other problem with NSFW.  This scenario will screw with the players and, as someone who has read through the module, I'm not sure which is worse: Stopping the ritual in time or allowing it to finish.  One certainly will change the course of the world and the other could cause loss of limbs amongst the characters and having them pursued by the law.  The second would be the 'good' ending -- especially if they go looking where the shouldn't be up in the attic (and world will still be screwed in the process).

No Salvation For Witches is good and in the right hands, a GM can make it great if the players are good with it as intended.  If not, the GM is advised to tweak it a bit while they become familiar with the material.

As a full color production, the art is great, maps fantastic (as full color end pages), and the dual-color text is a welcome design choice (the stat blocks are red versus the rest of the text which is black).  There are a few (deliberate) layout inconsistencies which I find odd when flipping through the book.  The text shifts from single column to a two column style and vice versa from section to section.  However, the text is a perfect size and legible.  Overall, it's a very nice book.  But is it $25 nice (an approximate conversion) given that it is a 64 page, 6x9 hardback?  I'm certainly happy to have it but I also didn't spend quite as much (I paid more than the average during the campaign).  If you are a fan of all things LotFP, then I would say that this one might be a hard one to pass up.  If in North America, I know that Noble Knight Games has copies listed at $22.95 right now but ordering from the LotFP storefront can get you both the physical book and PDF for 22.00 Euros.  If you would be happy with just the PDF, you can easily find it available at RPGNOW! for $9.99 (HERE).

Happy Gaming!

M

Saturday, February 7, 2015

X-Wing Miniatures Battle Report: 'Misfit Squadron'

I've written on my love of the X-Wing Miniatures game in the past and, while I don't get to play as often as I would like, I do get a game in and it is currently my 'go-to' miniatures game.  It's a simple game to pick up and play but has enough strategic elements during play as well as point build considerations to make it a very popular game.  Add to it the beauty of the pre-painted miniatures itself, and the fact that you can get an interesting taste for the game just with the starter box, and it's a great game for experienced gamers and newbies alike.  You can read my review of it HERE, if so inclined.

That said, having a few games under my belt, I've decided to write about the builds I'm doing how how they fair in the matches I play.  I figured it might be an interesting read others who follow the blog and play the game.  Constructive comments on the build or suggested variants are, of course, welcome.

With the most recent match, my friend and I agreed to a 125 point build.  My friend is my usual opponent for these games and his focus is Imperial.  I can play either side but, will play Rebel for these encounters.  At a point count above 100, some experienced players will argue that Imperials always have an edge due to numbers.  It comes down to one side always having more guns at a gun fight.  That basic logic is sound but I disagree with it.  It's no surprise that Rebel ships tend to be on the expensive send compared to Imperial ones but, they are generally balanced.  This is the reason why there is one X-Wing and two Tie Fighters in the starter.  An X-Wing vs two Tie Fighters is a fair fight and all that remains is strategy on the tabletop and the luck of the dice.  However, the lowly Tie Fighter is extremely effective when traveling in hunting packs.  In a larger point game, a squadron of four Tie Fighters flying and fighting in formation can tear an opponent to shreds.  The more points the Imperials have for their build, the greater likelihood that sheer numbers could overwhelm an opponent with fewer ships -- even they have the same amount of points to play with.

I've also seen people crap on some of the vessels like the A-Wing and the newer release of the Z-95.  People were enthusiastic about the initial release of the Z-95's with the possibility of Rebel swarms.  However, the Z-95 just doesn't have the same sort of maneuverability of a Tie Fighter.  I have also not seen a lot of love for the Hwk-290.  So, it is with that in mind that I decided to build my 'Misfit Squadron'.

'Misfit Squadron' (125 points)

Hwk-290 w/Jan Ors (25)
  - Squad Leader (2)
  - Ion Cannon Turret (5)
  - Chewbacca (4)
A-Wing w/Gemmer Sojan (22)
  - Chardaan Refit (-2)
  - A-Wing Test Pilot (0)
  - Outmaneuver (3)
A-Wing w/Prototype Pilot (17)
  - Chardaan Refit (-2)
  - Stealth Device (3)
A-Wing w/Prototype Pilot (17)
  - Chardaan Refit (-2)
  - Stealth Device (3)
Z-95 w/Bandit Squadron Pilot (12)
  - Proton Rockets (3)
Z-95 w/Bandit Squadron Pilot (12)
  - Proton Rockets (3)

The true stars of the build were the A-Wings of course, with the two Prototype Pilots piloting A-Wings with a Stealth Device, their agility was effectively raised to 4 (at least until they lose it) and Gemmer in the other A-Wing has a 4 agility when any enemy ship is within range of 1 of him.  A-Wings can get into an engagement as fast as they can withdraw from it as the situation warrants.  The additional Outmaneuver card on Gemmer also makes him more dangerous should he end up on an opponents tail.  However the Refit lowing the total cost of the build by 6 points effectively pays for the two Stealth Devices which is an amazing card in the game.

The two Z-95s were inexpensive ships meant to stay close to the Hwk-290 which was the least fast and maneuverable ship in the build.  However armed with an Ion Cannon Turret, the ability of Jan to give an attacking ship (within the range of 3) an additional attack die, and possibly giving other ships an action (via Squad Leader), the Hwk-290 makes for a great support ship and the Z-95 work well with it.  Add those nifty Proton Rockets to the Z-95's and they can hold a nifty and nasty little surprise should anything decide to prey on the hawk.

As it turned out, I had matched the Imperial build ship for ship which was one of my hopes -- both sides had six vessels.  The Imperials consisted of two Interceptors, Vader in his Tie Advanced, and three Tie Fighters.  I was surprised to see the build mind you as my opponent opted for name pilots vs regular and inexpensive ones -- the build could have easily squeezed a another Tie Fighter in there with different pilot and ship choices.  I honestly figured I'd be seeing a Tie Phantom in the mix and was partially relieved to not see it.

Board layout was simple, I had two groups... the A-Wings and the Z-95s & Hwk-290.  Imperials split up the forces into three Tie Fighters and Vader & Tie Interceptors.  The first round was simple enough... no shots exchanged but the A-Wings went to their maximum range (5 Straight) towards the Tie Fighters.  The hawk and convoy moved slowly across the board in a different direction.  The Tie Fighters moved towards the A-Wings where as Vader and his wingmen were making for the hawk.

Second round saw a lot of action.  The first kill went to the Imperials when one of the two Z-95s was taken down in one shot by an Interceptor.  However, the second kill went, surprisingly to the other Z-95 who killed the other Tie Interceptor in one shot.  That Interceptor had the privilege of getting ionized by the Hwk-290 before it got killed.  The kill shot was performed by the surviving Z-95 who had locked on to his target, fired his Rocket with a total of 5 attack dice (2 Attack dice + 2 from his Agility and +1 from Jan).  The dice were hot for me... but not for my opponent in that exchange.  The A-Wings on the other hand were started harassing the Ties at great efficiency and the Ties were unable to score a single hit.  The Ties were unable to score a hit on the A-Wings at all during the match.  In that same second round, the A-Wings took out one of the Tie Fighters.

The third round saw one of the Tie Fighters receive heavy damage and Vader managed to take a good shot at the hawk.  Chewie was sacrificed to avoid a hull point of damage and to bring up the shields once more.  However, by the 6th rounds, due to a gross maneuvering miscalculation, the two Tie Fighters had wound up off board -- removing them from the match.  While I'm not a stickler for those kind of rules (a game between friends), my opponent realized how badly things the tables had turned against him, and conceded defeat.  It was very apparent that the damaged Tie would not survive another round of fire and the both the HWK-290 and surviving Z-95 were holding themselves very well against Vader and the Tie Interceptor.  To add insult to injury, Vader was also ionized the previous round very close to the edge of the board and risked going off board as well.

It was a Rebel Victory!  Losses were a single Z-95 and the Hwk-290 received very little (no) damage from the incursion.


At 125 points, Misfit Squadron performed admirably and while my opponents strategy was flawed, I think that had Vader and Interceptors had gone against the A-Wings instead, it might have gone a bit differently.  I'm certain the Hwk-290 and Z95s wouldn't have had difficulties with the Ties though.  Misfit Squadron will be called to duty again in the weeks to come against a different 125 point Imperial build and we'll see if they will fair just as well then.

M

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Freelancers & Publishing

Freelancers & Publishing... it isn't a game and if it were it I think most would find it extremely frustrating.  A couple of days ago, I came across Morrus' excellent post over at En World titled, 'What's a Freelance RPG Writer Worth?' and while some people weren't surprised, others were completely shocked.  You can find the article, HERE.

Arcana Creations hasn't published much of anything yet, and the early publications were jointly published with Brave Halfling Publishing.  These rates mentioned?  I  can honestly say that I wasn't surprised and these are the sorts of numbers John and I talked about.  Like many other indie and hobby publishers out there, we couldn't afford to pay much and what we did pay was on the very low end of the scale.  However, we were conscious of the fact that we not only wanted but needed to pay more.  Early on, it meant a bit of cash but it also meant a bunch of complementary copies and other things we were producing being given as well.  And, by complementary copies, we are talking physical products and not just a PDF.

While we weren't paying much, at least we were actually funding print runs (even if it was small scale runs).  So, if a writer got paid just a bit, an enterprising author going to a convention might be able to make a few bucks offloading the copies we give him.

Yeah... it sucked but on the other hand, we also gave some writers who had never published a single thing an opportunity.  What we didn't do is try and purposely exploit anyone.  Everything we used had the creators compensated and we hoped with a bit of success, we would be able to compensate a bit better.

A few years after the last physical release, and I'm still struggling in putting out the next physical release while trying to avoid pitfalls we have seen so often.  Honestly, I think the only way a lower-scale wage can work is with a decent percentage on sales.

Things have certainly changed and, once I was proud to say that I was avoiding POD services and doing print runs.  The next one I do will not only be POD, but likely be crowdfunded as well.  I think that, by doing this, there is actually a decent chance at a freelancer getting a bit more out of it.  It won't necessarily be a huge amount more but every little bit counts.

As to the rates posted in the article, the top rate for freelancers is Paizo at $0.07 cents a word, Pinnacle pays $0.06 plus a percentage of crowdfunded projects, Evil Hat does $0.05, Steve Jackson Games does $0.04 or royalties (base 25% of cover price), and Goodman does $0.03.  There are much more listed and quite a few are at 2 or 1 cent per word and some go as low as half a cent.  Naturally, some of these are also subject to the experience of the writer where they might be paid more.

What would I pay now?  Honestly, I'm not certain.  As I said, it would be a combination of a fixed rate along with royalties but it would depend on the nature of the work as well.  Great art for whatever project can be a huge expense and, in my experience, can sometimes cost more than the writing!

As for the rest of it, well publishing requires a bunch of cash for any given project.  Yes, there are shortcuts and savings to be had but, if you are looking at paying for art, writing, layout, editing, and the physical print run itself, and the respective cuts depending on which channels you use to sell your stuff, the publisher ends up with just a tiny piece of it.  The Castles & Crusades modules Arcana Creations put out have broken even but they took their sweet time getting to that point.

I do it and continue because I love it and the hobby that I support and not because I make a lot of money from it.  I suspect that many publishers and freelancers do it for the same reason.

M

Snake Oil Update (Myth & Magic Kickstarter)

Well, after nearly a years since his last update, Tom Ryan of the defunct New Haven Games has provided an update.  The problem is, the community of backers is just out of good will.  I find it ironic that I wrote about the Players Guide (with the PDF in hand) back in 2012 and mentioned the dangers of stretch goals and using the Kickstarter as a platform.  I had very erroneously concluded that New Haven Games would be fine and soon launch the Games Master Guide funding campaign.  Well, I was half right...  (You can read my original post HERE)

Extremely few people have received their rewards from the first Kickstarter and the second is in a much worse condition.  Rightfully earning the ire of backers, Tom Ryan provided an update in April of 2014 (the only update that year).  He vowed to set things right and, being very open, many backers were moved and supportive.  I made a comment myself with a willingness to 'cut my losses' and request only the physical Player's Guide and write off a the physical copy of the GM's Guide and the shipping I paid for.  Others made similar offers.  He in turn was going to set up an email address and deal with these orders on an individual basis.  I thought it was a win-win.  I didn't end up with next to nothing given what I paid for, and it also eases up on the pressure on his end.

Since there has been no communication or apparent action between this newest update and the last one, no one is buying it.  The very tarnished silver lining was the release of an art-free PDF version of the GM's Guide.

And most people just do not care.

According to the newest update... all domestic orders have been shipped.  Backers are already disputing this claim but an email was set up to deal with any issues where domestic orders have not been received.  At which point, he'll double check the tracking information and address, etc.

I think the email will be bombarded with requests for refunds with a potential of nastiness.

Of course, only a fraction of the 'international' orders have shipped and with the budget he has, he is hoping to send out some more.  He tries to sweeten the deal by saying that those international backers who have backed both with get the PG shipped at the same time as the GMG.  I really don't see much of a ray of hope here.

Look... I want to believe but I'm also at a point where I don't care and would love a way to cut my losses and get some money back.  It's unfortunate that such a project that held potential turned so very badly and left such a bad taste in many backer's mouths that they tend to shy away from the whole crowdfunding thing since.

I'll post more if anything actually develops.

M

Monday, February 2, 2015

What Makes a Good Fantasy RPG Rulebook?

In a round about way, this question came up recently and, looking at my bookshelf, I had to ask myself what I liked about certain rulebooks and what made them great.  I'm not talking about ease or complexity of any given system.  Some people love older iterations of D&D or a streamlined system of rules conducive to a certain style of gaming.  Others prefer all things Palladium where character generation itself can be difficult quest.

With D&D, some people loves the old blue basic set edited by Holmes.  In 48 pages, it outlines an entire system.  Sure, you can argue that it was only meant to be played up to 3rd level, but it certainly isn't hard to expand it a bit further within a couple more pages.  It's been done before and some people play it that way!  Of course, with the OSR, other similar solutions are already at your disposal and just looking at the White Box version of Swords & Wizardry is a good way to go.

However, there seems to be always the case made for bigger, badder, better rulebooks that expand and detail their content.  Take a good look at the Pathfinder Rulebook for instance: You have a huge rulebook that threatens to give anyone holding it open with one hand a serious case of carpal tunnel syndrome.  Sure, some people will say that the book is really two books in one if you compare it the the original three core books published by Wizards of the Coast for D&D 3.5.  But did it really need to be that big?  Given the lengths and details necessary to be very clear in the letter of the rule, it probably did.  Third Edition was not just a set of rules but felt like a long, detailed legal contract.  Given that they put out a Rules Compendium on top of all the other rulebooks and supplements they released -- essentially a rulebook for the rulebooks, it is little wonder that the Pathfinder system is as big as it is.

When you consider the lineage of the game and that same 'Holmes' Blue D&D Rulebook, it does make you think.

Now, Fifth Edition did some fine work at making certain things much simpler.  Just looking at the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic should be ample evidence of this.  Sure, the newest edition of the game preserved the three book paradigm made popular with the first edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons but the Player's Handbook is hardly complete.  Sure, you can run games with just that book but a book of monsters is damned practical to have.  The DM's Guide is also pretty nifty and generally praised for what's in there and the advice it gives.  The paradigm works when the material is broken up in a logical fashion.

However, I think I find myself increasingly preferring a simple yet concise body of rules contained in a single volume.  The rulebook for BareBones Fantasy is a prime example of this.

BareBones Fantasy is a fantastic piece of work (I first wrote about it HERE).  Imagine an 80 page rulebook that has everything you need to play.  It's got character creation rules and the rules to play the game.  Stuff for monsters... magic... and dungeon creation thrown in as well.  To me, *this* is a fantastic book.  If you want to check it out, you can pick up a copy HERE.

There are other games that follow this model too.  I've always like the Call of Cthulhu book that essentially distills everything you need to play within a single book, albeit larger.  I had been worried that this was changing in the 7th Edition of CoC with an Investigator's Handbook being created alongside the Rulebook but most of everything (except maybe some fiction) is repeated in the larger rulebook.  The Investigator's Handbook is just great if you want to hand something to the player without having that player check out other things from the Rulebook.  The only problem is that, there comes a time there is probably too much information.

Support material is always great but rules should be ideally short and concise.  Easy to create characters, easy to catch on to the rules, and easy to run and play.  If you can give everything you need to do to create and run your game by providing a framework to work within a single book that is under 128 pages, I think the game is on the right track.

At the very least, it is food for thought.

M

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Campaigning Again!

From 'Death Frost Doom'
As I mentioned in my recent look at Death Frost Doom, I was getting ready to start up my new campaign.  Despite the understandable allure of running a D&D 5th Edition campaign, I've stuck to my guns and am sticking with Castles & Crusades.  It's been close to a year since the last campaign I ran and, subsequently got put on hold around April of 2014.  It was supposed to be a temporary hold but, next thing you know, 5th Edition comes out and different campaigns start to try out the 'new and shiny'.  Sadly, most of us don't have the time to play in multiple campaigns so the adventure path we were going through will be on hold for an indeterminate amount of time.  Fortunately, I was still playing in different game with another group so putting my game on hold wasn't that big a deal.

One of the reasons that original game got put on hold actually stemmed from player dissatisfaction which his character's advancement (and rate of advancement).  I just recently found out the new D&D campaign he is in is running in a few other issues which seems to be pointing to a deeper problem with the player in question.

Aside from that, I did try running another session to start a new campaign, but as I wrote about in October (HERE), it didn't quite work out.  That session more or less imploded when 'partying' became the focus and not the game itself.  There was much imbibing and merriment and next to no gaming done.


So, here we are, the start of the new campaign.  I made a couple of adjustments to what I intended back last Fall and dropped one of the two prospective players from that group.  I decided to have only one 'unknown' variable at the gaming table and my my fiancee and a close friend of mine made up the rest of the players.  It's a small group: 3 players and one GM but certainly manageable and will likely expand once we get a good rhythm going.

Our first session was EXCELLENT so I think the future of the campaign I have planned is promising.  Death Frost Doom, albeit modified, is what I'm starting the group with and I've already laid the ground work to where this is headed beyond it.  Well, we'll see how the group fares.  It might be that the campaign will also be cut short based on the actions they take.

Without going into too many details (which could constitute as spoilers), the party consists of very much of a good spread of archetypes... We have a Barbarian (the non-berserking variety), a Cleric of Dagda (a Celtic deity), and a Rogue.  They are accompanied by their employer (NPC), a Wizard whom they know little about but have quickly realized how unreliable this person can be.  The Wizard, naturally, has his own agenda.  After some discussion, the party (spurred on by the Rogue) decided to go investigate the peak.  They have met with ol' Zeke and have found their way to the cabin and the large cemetery that surround it.  They are beginning to realize and experience strange things and wondering if this excursion was a mistake.

In truth, we didn't get that far into the adventure itself -- with character creations, questions, and the roleplaying, it was easy going.  Because the party decided to avoid the established trail up the to the peak, they got attacked by a pack of wolves and the dice were just not going their way.  Of course, the very first attack roll of the night, from a wolf no less, scored a critical hit.  That poor cleric.

It was the roleplaying I was most please with though.  The players grew comfortable in their roles much quicker than I am accustomed to seeing.  As it turned out, one of the players really got into roleplaying his character which really helped encourage the others to do the same with the NPCs and each other.  It was fantastic.

Next game is already set for two weeks from now -- we settled on playing the game once every two weeks on Friday evenings.   I can't wait!

M