What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

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

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Arcana Creations Update!


Arcana Creations has always been more of a hobby than a dedicated pursuit.  Over the past few years, there has never been a tremendous amount of output and, depending on the year, my efforts have shifted depending on what I saw as priorities at the time.  And of course, life and my regular 9-5 mean that all my hobbies -- gaming, writing, reading, painting, and the like all take a back seat.

With 2016 finally coming to a close, one of the reasons I have been quiet this year, is some of the work I've been doing.  Instead of writing reviews or chatting up on my blog, one of the things I've been doing is a large editing job on a novel.  At present, this is over 75% completed and at the current rate, it should have gone to layout before the end of the month with proofs being done shortly thereafter. Specific details on this release will follow just after the holidays.

That said, there is one title currently being worked on with the tentative title of 'The Shaman of the Mire'.  Troll Lord Games has just finished a short, three-day campaign to release two modules that take place in the Darkenfold in their setting of Aihrde for Castles & Crusades.  It was a very successful campaign that will also produce a boxed set with plenty of goodies.  Arcana Creations has pledged a digital copy of this new adventure to every backer ($10 and up) of the project.  Once my commitment to that project is met, it will be made available for general sale as well as a physical print run.  The delivery of TLG's kickstarter is slated for June 2017.

Arcana Creations plans for at least TWO other releases in 2017 but I don't want to get ahead of myself.  In the meantime, there is A LOT of work to be done but I am enjoying it.  However, one of the things that will need to be completely OVERHAULED before the end of the year is the Arcana Creations website...



M

Monday, November 21, 2016

Adventurers Backpack - Final 24 Hours in Kickstarter!


Wow!  After last night's post, pledges have climbed and that combination flipbook which contains the full Players Handbook for Castles & Crusades and the complete contents of the Adventurers Backpack has been UNLOCKED.  Everybody at the $59 level and above will get a copy of this along with the rest of their goodies!

At the time this is being written, the kickstarter is $104 from some Jokers added to the deck of cards and then just another $1k to realize a full deck.

The next two goals are a bit further off -- they are two more adventure modules in the ever growing and popular C-Series that Troll Lord Games has been putting out.

So, in the last 24 hours, are these goals even possible?  Well, in the past 24 hours, the campaign managed to raise $2600 so ANYTHING is possible.

Check it out:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/676918054/castles-and-crusades-adventurers-backpack/description

M

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Kickstart This: C&C Adventurers Backpack

Ending in under three days is the latest project being crowdfunded on Kickarter, the Adventurers Backpack for the Castles & Crusades RPG. But before I talk about this new book, I want to talk about an old classic -- the Unearthed Arcana for AD&D.

The Unearthed Arcana always held a special place on my gaming bookshelf, and given how I got started into AD&D, I've always viewed it as a great and special book. When I started gaming, I came a bit late to the party. TSR had just released second edition so the first books I cut my teeth on were the newer PHB and DMG.  A friend of mine had some D&D boxed sets so we mixed and mashed as necessary. The thing is that, this other book I saw had a class called the cavalier and another for the barbarian.  These were fantastic classes and why they weren't available in my copy of the Players Handbook was just weird and sadly disappointed.  In that single moment of discovery, the Unearthed Arcana became very important to me and my game.

Looking back now and knowing a bit how the Unearthed Arcana came about, I also understand why many first edition gamers took kindly to this book as well -- new classes, spells, and a few oddities.  It was just so much more material that, in one fell swoop, brought in a breath of fresh air to a game that had seen countless hours of adventure!

This is what the Adventurers Backpack could very well end up being for Castles & Crusades.

The first iteration of the Castles & Crusades game came out over ten years ago.  It was a white boxed set and contained three booklets. This was quickly followed by full length gaming books, a multitude of adventures and accessories, and small but dedicated and ever-growing fan base. Along with the Castle Keepers Guide that had been talked about for years but took at least five to finally materialize, the Adventurers Backpack was a project that had been talked about for what seems just as long.

A brief preview was released as a booklet in the Black Collector's Box set released at GenCon 2014 and it previewed 4 new classes, some new spells, and a selection of 'pre-packed' backpack lists to quickly equip characters.  The Kickstarter is funding a much larger book that builds upon this preview.  There are 13 new classes in all which are, class variants and complements to the current 13 core classes in the Players Handbook.  There will be, for instance, a Thief class which will have some different skills to make it standout from the Rogue class we already know and love.  There will be a different sort of ranger suited for a more 'urban' environment (the name of which is still being finalized).  Some new spells and non-derivative ones at that ... totally new spells which also build up and expand as the character advances in level.  Pre-generated equipment lists (aka 'backpacks') for all the classes, as well as some oddities and advice.  Due to special request, I would be fully prepared to see a section devoted to Pole-Arms too ... much like the Unearthed Arcana had.

Of course, being a Kickstarter, there is a bunch of other goals and loot to be had!

The book itself will be a full-colour hardcover in other to best complement the current, existing corebooks and Codex of Aihrde for Castles & Crusades.  At over 150 pages, it should make for a nice book to add to the gaming bookshelf.  Along with this, there are plans for a deck of Equipment Cards for reference and, upon reaching a particular strech-goal, this deck will be expanded up to 52 cards and double up as a deck of playing cards.  Poker anyone?? There are also bookmarks, additional free books and adventure modules (some already achieved and others being just around the corner) as well.

Depending on the pledge level, you can just go in at $1 and pick and choose a variety of add-ons providing a great chance to pick up a few things you may not already have.  There is a $20 PDF only level and a $40 level which gives the physical book and PDF.  The most popular is the $59 level.  At this level, you get the main book in physical and digital format, a deck of equipment cards, a nice dice pouch, and eligibility to a bunch of stretch goals (currently bookmarks and two modules).  Presently, the campaign is less than $1,800 for the next stretch goal which is a perfect bound copy of a book that combines the full PHB and Adventurers Backback in one volume!  There are a couple pledge levels higher though it is significantly more in comparison.  But, by pledging at $150 you get everything mentioned in the $59 level plus a nice, heavy duty canvas back pack, lapel pin, t-shirt, water bottle, and a digest version of the book as well.  That backpack looks GREAT!!

If you also like the TLG leather copies of their books, you have an option to get it hear as well, either as part of the highest tier or as a separate $50 add-on which is a pretty good deal IMO.

In any event, if your curious to know more, head on over HERE and check it out.  There is about 48 hours left to go and a few more stretch goals that would be nice to hit.  It is shaping up to be a great resource for fans of Castles & Crusades and with other projects constantly being wrapped up, this is looking like a great buy-in.

M

Monday, October 17, 2016

Mail Call: Good Things Come In Three's

Last Thursday, I was very happy to receive my package from Italy.  I posted here about it shortly after midnight.  A day later, another package was waiting for me and, after a busy weekend, a another delivery of two small packages!

Three packages in almost as many days.


Classic Fantasy is what was waiting for me on Friday and, fortunately for me, no one else walked off with the package when the UPS guy decided to leave it on the floor of my building lobby!!!  I have fallen in love with this book.  While technically not a stand alone book, it roots to the BRP system and RuneQuest run very deep.  Right now I'm running some 7E Call of Cthulhu and have always had a soft spot for the system and was thinking about doing a fantasy game using the same system (thanks in part to the Dark Ages sourcebook with bits from the BRP Rulebook book to help.  This books goes a step further and give me a way to get a D&D experience with a BRP ruleset.  By doing so, it has just armed me with so much stuff from D&D that I can terrorize my Call of Cthulhu players (not that the game is lacking in that department).  Classic Fantasy is a sourcebook of Mythras which is RuneQuest 6 with the serial numbers filed off.  From what I have seen of it, I actually prefer it to RuneQuest.  So, despite the fact that I have been slimming down my gaming collection the past few years, I'll be acquiring Mythras for the books shelf at some point.



Next up was these four miniatures from Antediluvian Miniatures.  When I saw this familiar looking group, I knew I *had* to have them.  And if they don't seem familiar to you, I suggest it's time to load up and watch the Princess Bride!  We have Inigo Montoya, Fezzik, Vizzini, and Westley (the Dread Pirate Roberts) of course.  Due to the scale of the miniatures, Fezzik isn't as imposing as he should be compared to one of the D&D mini's slightly bigger 'heroic scale' but will look impressive enough against 28mm Reaper mini's!


And last, but not least... some dice!  In this case... small dice!  16mm dice (if I'm not mistaken) and I only have a black set (someplace).  It was a great way to test and try out Massdrop.  Besides, you can never have too many dice!  ;)

I'm expecting at least one other package in the days ahead but beyond that, I don't think I'll have many other surprises between now and the holidays.  I'll be sure to give a much more in-depth analysis of Classic Fantasy as well as a better look at the latest edition of Call of Cthulhu having now run a few sessions.  The short version, I like it a lot but there are still a couple little things that could use a bit more thought and tweaking.  More to come!

M

Friday, October 14, 2016

Mail Call and Signs of Life

What happened to September... the rest of August... and what do you mean we're almost halfway through October!?

Things have been busy around here.  I certainly lost track of time though.  I am doing a bit of work on some projects as well as continuing to 3D print and paint here and there.  At least when I can manage it.  More significantly, I have been subjected to more dental surgury in the form of a significant bonegraft.  Rest assured, I draw breath still.  ;)

But things are still coming in -- be it books or miniatures.  Today this came in the mail for me:


Inspired by 'Stranger Things', that Netflix series veryone was (and still are) talking about, I was happy to find the 'infamous' demogorgon. Mirliton Fantasy now owns some of the old Grenadier molds and happened to have this particular model in stock but between the diversion from the Euro, the shipping from Italy, and the minimum order amount, it wasn't cheap.  Still too cool to pass up though.  Since there was a minimum purchase amount, demogorgon was accompanied by a friend -- a rather small Cthulhu!

I am very pleased with these and, despite the expense, will likely to order a few more things in the future.  The only question now is how I am going to paint demogorgon.  I am a bit tempted to paint it in a style that is reminiscent of the series and keep it a but simple.  Guess we'll have to see.

M

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Mail Call: Warrior Dice!


Well, after months of waiting (a bit over a year), the three sets of Warrior Dice that I backed though Kickstarter are now in my hands!  The timing of their arrival also coincided with the launch of a new series of dice.  More on that later...

So... what are my impressions?

I really like them.  Now, having used the Crystal Caste, I'm already accustomed to using polyhedral dice for my gaming that weren't exactly the standard shape.  The d4 and d10's for example are mimic more the structure of a crystal than what some of us may be accustomed to seeing.  In some ways, most of the dice will roll in similar ways.


The Warrior Dice are themed by taking their design cues from various pieces of arms and equipment.  The d4 is a dagger, the d6 is a shortsword, and the d8 is a mace matching the damage dice for those same weapons in games like D&D.  The d10's are a pair of gauntlets, the d12 is a helm, and the d20 is a shield.  Honestly the d20 is a bit wonky but is balanced and was one of the reasons why the project took a bit longer to fulfill.  The first sample / model had issues so it got tweaked and altered to correct this problem.


The plastic itself feels a bit different than a lot of the dice I own though.  Each die still has a good weight about it but I suppose it's possible that the handles for the weapons could break in certain special circumstances. To be clear, I'm not talking about standard or heavy use but one were forceful or one of the weapon dice found it's way under the brutal heel of a heavy boot, something could snap.  Of course, I suspect a clean break would also be REALLY easy to fix without affecting how it rolls.

Because of the shape of the dice and nature of the material, the dice are NOT tumbled.  The means you will also be able to find the sprue marks on the dice if you look closely.  However, given how they roll, they will not interfere with the rolling at all.  If it bothers you, they are easy to eliminate as they are on game science dice and miniatures.

Are they worth the price tag of $25?

When I backed the project back in 2015, I pledged for 3 sets which set me back $64.  Shipping was free so it worked out to $21 and some and some change per set.  2 sets or more also came with a mini card game to use with the dice and each set was shipped in a heavy duty plastic case.  The plastic case itself is great and I'd by happy to buy more of these empty cases. They are great for cards or quite a bit of dice!  Each case has two compartments and each compartment will hold cards -- even if you use sleeve protectors for them.  Needless to say, those who backed the Kickstarter got a better deal.

At their regular price, $25 is still a decent price given the case that comes with them.  Shipping from PolyHero Dice is very reasonable as well.  You can find them HERE.


So, now that I have these sets in my possession, I am very comfortable at the idea of backing a couple of Wizard Dice sets through their second Kickstarter that started up today.  Much like the Warrior set, theme is everything and they are look great!  The d4 is a bolt, d6 is a fireball, the d8 is a scroll, the d10's are a pair of potions, the d12 is a wand (rod?), and the d20 is an orb.  As a kickstarter exclusive, there is also a d2 which is a book in this case.  They are also cheaper per set compared to the Warrior set but their is a very small worldwide shipping amount.  They are also NOT doing the heavy duty plastic cases which cuts down on shipping costs.  Three sets would set me back  $48 (after shipping) compared to the $64 I paid for the Warrior set.


If you missed out on the first Kickstarter and don't want to order directly, they will be offering up sets of the Warrior dice as part of the Pledge Manager phase once the campaign is over but you likely won't save much if anything by doing that.  Otherwise, you may just prefer wizards over warriors and just check out and pledge for this set instead (over HERE).

Happy Gaming!

M

Monday, August 8, 2016

A Leather Oracle...


Yesterday I posted some info on the latest TLG Kickstarter ending in a couple of days and voiced a bit of concern on the pricing of the leather books and some of the pledge levels.  I am very happy to say that my message and question got through and Steve Chenault was able to clarify things at the $125 level and higher. At that level, BOTH books get a complementary upgrade to leather -- meaning there is no need to add $50 to get the Player's Guide in leather to complement the core book.

This is great news and gives that level a lot more value.

If you haven't checked it out yet, you may want to as time is running out!

Here's the LINK if interested.  ;)

M

Sunday, August 7, 2016

An Oracle Stares Into The Abyss...


Well, around 3 weeks back (give or take), I posted and promoted Troll Lord Game's newest Kickstarter for the Hallowed Oracle -- an adventure path for Castles & Crusades based on the Abyss Walker setting and novels by Shane Moore. You can read up on that HERE. Before the campaign, I hadn't really heard much about the Abyss Walker series but, I recently started reading them and I'm enjoying them. They are a fun, light, and fast-paced read.

Now given TLG's recent Kickstarters were more to do with updating and reprinting past titles, one would think that new material would be doing better in this Kickstarter campaign.  That isn't to mean it has done badly either.  The minimal goal was $3,000 and the current total currently sits a bit above 11,000.  In the past week, there has been minimal gains in the total funding the project has received.

It's might be worth examining *why* it hasn't been doing better.

The belief that it's an adventure path / module and not a sourcebook / accessory.

Well, for some, it may affect how much one decides to back it but there is plenty of material beyond the adventure path for players to enjoy.  New classes, optional rules, magic are all promised for this project and higher stretch goals promises even more material.

The belief that you need the C&C Rulebooks to play.

Thankfully, the basic rules and classes (up to level 5) are all there. Since the adventure path takes characters up to level 5, one has everything they need to play in the Hallowed Oracle books. That said, there are opportunities to add some of the other C&C books in with the Kickstarter at reduced prices. However, the best thing to remember is that C&C is very compatible to D&D and other similar, FRPGs. It would take minimal effort to port this adventure path to your 5th Edition game for instance.

The problem of not knowing anything about Shane Moore or the Abyss Walker books.

Well, this one is fairly easily fixed.  He has an author section on Amazon.com which can be found HERE where you can easily pick up on of his books. They are available as an ebook (Kindle) or you can get a physical copy if you are so inclined. However, picking up an ebook now and reading it (or at least starting it) can give you a taste of what the Abyss Walker setting is all about. There are several to choose from. Naturally, Google is your friend if you need to find more info.  ;)

There doesn't seem to be much activity in this Kickstarter.

Yeah. That's a problem.

Let me assure you that TLG have done many Kickstarters in the past and have ALWAYS delivered the goods. And, normally they are bit more talkative but they chose to start this shortly before GenCon. Why oh why, did they do this? Sometimes it's best not to ponder what goes on in their minds. Perhaps this was the best they could manage with the rest of their publishing schedule? Perhaps they thought they could manage both and really overestimated their capacity to do so? Many of the present backers are already loyal fans so a lot of the pledging happened early on. But Shane Moore himself has been active as have been a couple other people. If you are interested, pledge at the lowest level and feel free to ask questions there and participate. Hopefully that will dive up chatter and interest in the project. When that happens, we all win.

Some of the things seem expensive. 

Unfortunately, I don't agree with all the pricing I've been seeing and I think a slightly different strategy could have been employed here.  But gaming books *ARE* expensive and they are only getting more expensive. A couple years ago, WOTC released the Players Handbook for the newest edition of D&D with a price tag of $49.95. Fifty bucks for a book is pretty expensive but it is a full colour hardback with a page count of about 300 pages. Generally speaking, Troll Lord Games has always been VERY good about pricing but the reality is that it costs what it costs.  In comparison, the C&C PHB is $30 (190 page, full colour, hardback) and the C&C CKG is $50 (352 page, full colour, hardback).

At $40, you get the main book in hardcover which is going to be over 200 pages (but in B/W) along with a Player's Guide which has changed considerably since the project began and likely to be at least 90 pages. There is also and expanded map, PDFs, and a bonus adventure. The Player's Guide is *not* in hardcover at this level -- only a perfect bound softcover.  You'll need to boost you pledge to $59 to get the PG in hardcover as well. But at this level there are a couple more physical items thrown into the package. Now, I describe the pricing at these levels as fair but not great but I can't fault them to not giving the PG the hardcover treatment at the $40 pledge level either.

But the pricing for the leathers honestly irks me. They have a level at $125 that gives you leather copy of the core book as well as a regular copy of the main book and the players guide. The players guide is NOT in leather. Apparently a leather copy of that means an add-on of $50.  So at $175 total, you get a regular set and a leather set. However, unless my math is mistaken, you get can achieve the same with a $59 pledge and then add-on the two leather books at $50 each for $159 total!  The only thing you don't get is a special stretch goal where you get to immortalize a character in print but that goal is just shy of $5000 from even being unlocked with only 3 days left to go!  Unless those $50 leather add-ons are merely UPGRADING your books and that makes a lot more sense but this also goes to the previous problem with not a lot of people asking questions getting communication from the company regarding the project.  It would make for an expensive book but, leather isn't cheap to begin with either.  ;)

So... summing up?

There is a LOT of potential with this project with a few questions and not a lot of answers.  If this projects hits $16,000 before it closes, a lot more cool material will be added thanks to the talents of James Ward and another book will be added to the bunch. It will focus on the various gods and heroes of the setting and only serve to give it a bit more depth. The enthusiasm from Shane Moore is also very encouraging to see and, with the game system bits being largely written by Jason Vey, the project and material is in good hands.  GenCon is pretty much over and this project is soon to follow.

Now is the time to step up and pledge over HERE!

M

Dog Days of Summer?


Things have continued to be quiet here on the blog and have been for the better part of the year.  For the past few weeks, the heat and humidity have certainly not helped things either. Sometimes, I wish it was just that but most of my year has kept me busy for one reason or another and things just don't seem to be winding down the way I would like them to.  I'm trying to do a minimal amount of gaming and have successfully launched a Call of Cthulhu game (7th Edition).  It's a monthly game due to the lack of time and scheduling conflicts but the game (and system) thus far has passed the bar for the group and somehow, we are able to maintain a semblance of momentum.  To fill the gaming gap, the odd tabletop boardgame and random intervals of occasional video games (Forza and Doom lately) have helped keep me sane.

The 9-5 gig is really wearing me down these past couple of months and I'm hoping things will improve for the better.  I could probably use a nice vacation but, with present circumstances, won't be able to really get away this year.  So, I still need to get back to regular painting (my miniatures), and get back to some of my writing and publishing projects.  The book I am editing is about to get a lot more of my attention this month so that I can wrap that project up in order to tackle other longstanding ones.

So, as these dog days of summer begin to wind down later this month, I'm hoping to ramp up things on the creative end of the spectrum.  :)

Speaking of winding down, GenCon is wrapping up today and it looks like it was a lot of fun.  I'm so sorry that I couldn't go this year but am committed to next year's event!  A few noteworthy kickstarters are also wrapping up but... there are ALWAYS kickstarters wrapping up.  A couple in particular are worth mentioning... there is the Hallowed Oracle adventure path for Castles & Crusades which can be found HERE and, if you are an Evil Dead fan and like boardgames, you may want to check this campaign wrapping up HERE.  I'll have more to say on the latest C&C campaign in my next post.

Well, I have several things left on my to-do list before the reset button is pushed and the cycle begins a new tomorrow.  Need to get to it.

M

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Weekend R&R: The Doom That Came To Atlantic City



Normally, the focus of my Weekend R&R are to review a single RPG product -- be it old or new. But we all have different ways to unwind and I recently decided to shift towards the Call of Cthulhu RPG and, given that the time I can actually get a game together is surprisingly challenging due to either time restraints and scheduling, I will find other ways to occupy my leisure hours. I love a good board game and, with my current frame of mind, The Doom That Came To Atlantic City had a lot of the trappings I am currently immersing myself with as far as theme is concerned.

If you are someone who has followed various projects or gone as far as back some on Kickstarter, the title of the game may sound familiar. A Lovecraftian themed boardgame which took many cues from the classic game of Monopoly which raised over $120,000 in 2012 only to have the project cancelled and the money disappear.

Never underestimate the power of the great old ones though.  Another company stepped in, secured the rights, and produced the game. They even went so far as to get backers of the original project copies of the game -- something they were not required to do but awesome nonetheless.  I was never a backer though.  I missed the campaign when it ran and stumbled upon it after it had already ended. With the delays and problems, I eventually secured my own copy of the game only just recently.  Part of the reason I waited on it was because it's a pricey game but the components of the game and high quality and the game proved to be a light-hearted distraction.



In many ways, the game plays in a very familiar way but, it is very much 'anti-monopoly'.  Your goal, as one of the elder gods, isn't to build, but rather destroy.  Power (through destruction) and cultists are the currency of the game and when you have accumulated enough of both and succeed in opening the requisite amount of gates, you can bring about the end of the world and win the game.

It's a simple game and, unlock Monopoly, it will not last you hours.  It is entirely possible to play a game under an hour though, I've had a couple which went on to about an hour and a half.  Luck is very much a factor here too and the dice can be fickle.  However, you aren't just constrained to moving around the board.  You can use gates to travel to other gates and bypass sections of the board.  You also can attack your opponents and steal cultists away from him as well as rain destruction and destroy homes.  Each elder god also has abilities which can be swapped out with other ones with Providence Cards and then are are 'Chant' cards to assist you as well.  And, because of this added dynamic, there is a bit of strategy to go along with the random luck factor of the dice.

The game is good in the sense that the style and theme of the game is actually well-thought out in a cute kind of way and doesn't feel like it's just been tacked on.  But the game also manages to remain accessible.  So, between that and the visuals, the game just works and will be one that will get pulled out from time to time -- especially if I'm waiting on the late arrival of a player before we can start up a Call of Cthulhu game.



Now, I was lucky as the normal retail price goes for around $75 from what I have seen.  I basically was able to get it for a little more than half that price.  Given the quality of the components, and the beautiful sculpts of the miniatures included in the box, it is well worth the full price of the game.  Just shop around first.

M

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Kickstart This: The Hallowed Oracle (C&C)


To date, Troll Lord Games have done many successful Kickstarter campaigns.  Of course, being who they are, the products always come out even if they might be a bit late.  The various campaigns always do well and some do better than one might expect and others seem to fall short of what could have been.  Arguably, the biggest hurdle with the recent campaigns has been the nature of the material.

If we look at the last 10 campaigns, half of them have been reprints of sorts.  Going back a couple of years now, we have the latest and full colour reprints of the core set of books.  That is to say, the Players Handbook, the Monster & Treasure book, and the Castle Keepers Guide.  They are a fantastic set of books and, by far, their biggest Kickstarter.  It is also a campaign that took a while to completely fulfil.  While most of the rewards (the core books and subsequent swag) where delivered promptly enough, another massive stretch goal has just wrapped up which effectively completes the project.  With continued updates and news, fans were not worried and everybody seemed happy and other successful campaigns followed.

Amazing Adventures was a new line that went from a single softcover rulebook and got expanded into three books and TLG kept on doing a few MAJOR fundraising campaigns.  But recently, we have seen more reprints than not.  Always improved in some way which is nice but nothing really 'new' lately.  Classic Monsters, the Monsters & Treasure of Aihrde, and the Book of Familiars (both for 5th Edition and C&C) all got some attention.  But the last major Kickstarter of import was probably for the Mythos books done launched last summer (no physical products delivered yet but coming soon).

Clearly, something new is needed beyond some reprints and aside from the failed Brimstone & The Borderlands campaign, we have not seen anything new this year!

That is thankfully changing.  As TLG is wrapping up delivery on past Kickstarters, they have launched a new one and this one looks a bit different.

It's an adventure path set in the Abyss Walker universe.  The Abyss Walker is a series penned by Shane Moore -- which, for this project, means a new fantasy setting for us to explore!  The Hallowed Oracle is looking to be 200+ pages with a smaller Player Guide to go along with it.  New classes... variant rules... spells... and critters to be found as expected but what is nice about this project is that the base rules are included with the game.  In other words, if you don't have the C&C PHB, you can still play the game with just the Hallowed Oracle.


At this point, the project is already funded (it did so the first day) and it's now just a question of what stretch goals can be unlocked.  At this stage, it is already over $7,000 with almost 4 weeks left to go and the next goal is at $8,000 which means the main book is upgraded to hardcover.  Pledge levels are varied depending on what you are looking at.  You can pledge as low as $1 and then add-on stuff (if you want digital, this is your best option) but at $40, you get the physical books.  There is an interested pledge level at $150 which gets you the Hallowed Oracle, as well as a copy of the three core books!  Now these rulebooks alone would retail at $110 but there are a few other things at this pledge level which might be worth considering if you don't already have the C&C books.

Ultimately, the project looks promising and it's something new for this year which is already more than halfway done.  Now, I'm keeping things simple myself and sticking with a lower pledge tier but I'm a huge supporter of Troll Lord Games and Castles & Crusades!  I think it might be worth checking out.

To do so, you can find the project HERE.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Weekend R&R: Under The Blood Red Moon (Free RPG Day)

In past years, where I get asked to demo stuff from Troll Lord Games for Free RPG Day, there is an attempt to get a hold of me a bit earlier.  That way, I can check out and better prepare to run the current years adventure they put out to promote Castles & Crusades.  This year was a bit different for two reasons.

1) Communication with the store was terrible and badly organised this year.  I did not get a copy a day or two in advance.  Despite my efforts, the information and confirmation on how the store was running events this year just came too late.  I was only able to confirm that I would participate about 16 hours ahead of time and there was no opportunity to pick up the adventure early.

2) This years release was showcasing both Castles & Crusades and Amazing Adventures.

A release showcasing both systems with one adventure sounds cool and I knew this is what they were doing for this year.  But I just didn't know HOW exactly this would take form.  This is best described as an 'Open & Play' or 'Fast Play' module.  A very short info blurb on the general mechanics of the game, some pre-gens, and the module basically explains how to play the game as you are basically going through it.  It is a pretty good approach and a great way to start and learn to play a role-playing game -- especially if you are new to RPGs altogether.  

There is something to be said about the brevity of some of these Free releases.  Most are quite short though, thankfully, there tends to be enough in them to make it worthwhile.  On occasion, you will get a release that is quite large for something being released for free.  Depending on the level of support for Free RPG Day, this could amount to quite a bit of money in free product being given away so you won't always see smaller game publishers doing this.  If you get something 'more', than the publisher has something to prove or they are really trying to make an impression and gain a lot of exposure.  Troll Lord Games has been participating since the very first year and their releases have always been decent.  However, I do feel that the ones from the past couple of years really stand out.  While they were a shorter page count than a standard module release, it had enough content to make it an interesting item to pick up.

With that in mind, I was a bit disappointed with this years offering.  Don't get me wrong, it is well written and a fun little romp with the same sort of page count as previous years.  The problem is that this isn't a single adventure but rather two adventures that are basically the same.  It is highly doubtful that you will run this thing back to back with the same group of players to play both C&C and AA.  As a result, some may just view this as a missed opportunity.

Under the Blood Red Moon is an adventure that takes place 'Across the Gulf of Space & Time' and while there are elements of that are, the adventure itself really isn't.  Essentially, an old man hires a party of adventurers to bury a scroll as an offering to a god and, the other adventure has the reincarnation of this man hire a party of adventures to retrieve it.  Same temple with four keyed locations.  Because of the similarities of the systems, both will play about the same mechanically speaking though there are a few differences between the two systems.

Honestly, what I would have like to see is a bit of 'back and forth'.  Actions in one affecting things in the other and actions in the other having effects felt in the former.  Each critical to the success of the other and critical for the ultimate goal and final objective.  That would have been cool and a bit confusing maybe.

It would also be beyond the scope of a short release.  I think the only other way to do this is if you happen to be playing both games at one point or another with the same group of people.  It might be interesting to do one of them only to revisit months later and play the other one in the other system.

Quibbles aside, it's nice to see that Troll Lord Games continues to support Free RPG Day and that both major games they publish is getting some support.  Amazing Adventures is a great resource even if a pulp type game isn't your thing and I look forward to seeing more of it in the future.  I still think this year's free offering was worth picking up but a bit more variation between the two would have been nice.

M

Monday, June 20, 2016

Weekend R&R: SLUGS!

For the past few years, there has been one release that I have always looked forward to and sought out if possible -- the one from Lamentations of the Flame Princess, courtesy of James Edward Raggi. While not intended for children, the LotFP offerings have always been a bit darker, twisted, and imaginative. They are always presented in an evocative style and, at times, a bit perverse. As a small publisher, the publications for the past few years measure up very well and often surpass the quality of some of the larger and more mainstream companies putting out quality gaming material.  The first two years to see free LotFP products were a couple of wicked adventures titled 'Better Than Any Man' and 'The Doom-Cave of the Crystal-Headed Children'.  In 2015, there was no release for the event but, this year's release made up for it.

Not everyone likes James Raggi and the stuff he publishes.  Some go as far as consider him and his line successful only because of the 'shock value'.  Ignore those people.  A considerable amount of consideration and care goes into putting out every title and some titles to vary quite a bit in terms of tone.  Slugs! takes things a step further as a free-product though and, instead of a quick set of rules and a couple of dressed up encounters, Slugs! is a bestiary of sorts.  Not counting the the couple pages in the back dedicated to the LotFP catalogue, the accessory clocks in at 34 pages (albeit digest-sized).

And, with tongue thoroughly implanted in cheek, James decides to had fun with it and take the piss out of a few things.

If you are looking for some dark and twisted work with critters to devastate your group's characters, this might not be what you are looking for.  If you want something a bit off the wall and something that might provoke a few chuckles... read on.

The introduction itself really sets the tone for the rest of the book.  At first it almost sounds like a manifesto with a criticism of the Washington gaming establishment.  It didn't take me long to figure out what he was doing.  Part way through the introduction you have a paragraph that starts thusly:

And we're going to win. Believe me, we are going to win so much it's going to make their heads spin. It's going to be like we've build a wall to keep all the bad gaming out, and it's people like Fred Hicks that will end up paying, believe me. We can make gaming great again.

Frankly, this material is GOLD and we're just at the introduction. The entire bestiary is basically about having fun the way that gaming should be. If you read between the lines when you read the introduction, there is something of a critique as well and he makes a valid point. As a free product, the LotFP ones have always been incredibly impressive and useful -- not at all disposable.

So, the meat of the book itself are write-ups and illustrations of 16 different and weird giant slugs. If you never use the material for gaming, it should nonetheless be able to crack a smile on your face.  At the very least, some of the stuff will give you ideas. Other things might just make you groan.

The illustrations are black and white line art which works for the book and the cover looks great and, almost festive!  But I have one MAJOR issue with the book and many others will probably agree with me here.

With the first two LotFP releases, there is an Explicit Content warning on the cover (Ages 18+).  I'm not offended by the content and, for those that know me, my language is often colourfully-laced.  I love the illustrations and the illustration on the front inside cover was fantastic!  However, the image on the back inside cover alone should have should have warranted an Explicit Content warning on the cover.  There are a couple of other things that could similarly warrant such a warning as well.  So, unless there was a warning in the shrink packaging about the nature of this content and the game store was irresponsible with the access of this particular title, I just don't know why this cover didn't get the same treatment the last two from previous years did.

Honestly, that's my only complaint over this book.  It's fantastic and I'm personally not offended by any of it. I don't know if I'll ever use something like 'Slugatron' but the 'Ocular Slug' and the 'Rock Slug' are pretty awesome.  'Acid Slug' just rocks.

If you managed to score a copy of Slugs! then, rejoice!  There were 3750 copies printed for this year's Free RPG Day.  If you missed out, than I assume it's only a matter of time before it's made available online in PDF form as well and you can grab it then.  It is worth it and a nice little supplement that manages to remain distinct from the rest of the event's offerings this year.

M

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Gaming Triple Threat!


Or rather.... a gaming triple treat!  :)

I have seen more gaming in the past 24 hours than I have seen in a long time -- with the exception of maybe my GenCon experience last year of course.  That said, aside from the two last Free RPG Days, I haven't even run much else.  Those reasons have varied between too busy, schedule changes, and even disinterest.

However, last Friday at the invitation and general encouragement of a friend, I got roped in to playing a character in a D&D Fifth Edition campaign.  It's been fun and I played again last night.  I also was requested to run a demo or two at my local game store for Free RPG day.  It was VERY last minute but I did some prep and got everything together to do just that earlier this morning.  Things don't always work as planned though and, despite completely setting up, I and about 3 other GMs were all waiting for players to show up. This year, there just wasn't that big a turnout at the store and most likely this is because of the store undergoing major changes with a major renovation and a move as they prepare to open a second larger location.  So, instead I got to play in a Call of Cthulhu game (newest edition).

I had a blast, lost some sanity, but survived to fight another day!

It also helped me to understand a couple of the newer features in this new version of the game because, as luck would have it, I was kicking off my own Call of Cthulhu game this evening.  The adventure we played was a scenario by the name of 'Deadlight' -- a great, short scenario.  As a player, it impressed me enough that I opted to run this instead of the original adventure I had planned to run.  Great fun all around!  The stars were truly right for me this weekend!

Now, while I didn't end up running a game due to lack of players, I was still able to introduce a few people to Castles & Crusades and answer a variety of questions about the game, as well as Amazing Adventures. There were no more Free RPG Day offerings from Troll Lord Games this year after I talked up the system.  There were other free products getting some love... the offering from LotFP was another favourite but interestingly, Paizo's Pathfinder didn't get the same sort of love this year at my game store compared to previous years.  This year, highlights of what was being played was 5th Edition, Fantasy Flight Game's Edge of the Empire (Star Wars), and Call of Cthulhu.  At least C&C and AA got an honourable mention.  ;)

I picked up some swag but not much of it.  I've grown a bit more particular with what I grab.  There were some great looking products but ultimately there was only three items I truly wanted.  I got two of them but only because Chaosium included only one product per box as opposed to multiples.  Generally, the store raffles other single and special items off to those who actively participate (running or playing in games run on this day).  I was lucky enough to get a dice tower, though, I find a meeple shaped dice tower to be mildly disturbing.

I'll be sure to review and post my thoughts on what I did grab in the next day or so.

Happy gaming!

M

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Melted Plastic & Broken Dreams - Part 2


If you missed out on Part 1, you can find it HERE.  Otherwise, welcome and read on!

So after a couple of tragic experiences with the first two failed printers, I now had in my hands a third printer.  This printer was extensively tested and calibrated prior to being sent to me and I took the time I needed to ask and clarify various things about the printer to make the most of the experience and hopefully avoid any more pitfalls.  Sadly, nothing in life worth having is necessarily easy.

Printing proved to be challenging with this third printer.  Most of my prints were failing and there still a fair bit of shifting with my prints on this much like the last one.  I also had to increase the temperature about 25-30 degrees higher than the last two in order to get comparable results. Then I saw another instance of compression on one of my prints.

WHAT THE HELL WAS GOING ON?!

With all the cursing I was uttering, I'm surprised that I didn't end up summoning some foul demon from the underworld but the good news at this point is that I already established a dialogue with a manager.

I contacted him and outlined all the issues with the new printer and got a prompt reply.  He suggested I stop using the printer immediately and had a theory that could correct the Z-Compression issues, other shifting, temperature, and even instances of the nozzle crashing into the bed.  Power, or rather, brief interruptions of power may be the cause.  One of the fundamental flaws with the printer is a lack of power; there is already barely enough to power everything.  Between the temperature settings, fan, motor, there doesn't seem to be a lot of overhead left from what the adaptor supplies the printer.  The theory is that, in some cases, if the power flow isn't constant enough for whatever reason, it can cause unpredictable results which include instructions not being correctly received by the printer or greater temperature fluctuations and fan issues.  It was an interesting theory and a high buffer power adaptor was sent to me to try out.

This actually resolved MOST of my issues.  The shifting on the X and Y axis had already been largely corrected by placing my external fed filament above the printer instead of on the printer's side.  Once again, the motor isn't a very strong one and is pretty much getting barely what it needs to if there is the slightest pull or resistance from the filament, it could well result in the print shifting towards where it is pulling from.

I still noticed random shifts that would occur for no reason though.  Imagine a the print head randomly moving beyond where it was printing from by at least an inch and attempt to continue printing over thin air.  It makes quite a mess.  The manager was also at a loss but, when I mentioned I was trying to print at 100 microns, he recommended that I don't try to print above 200 microns.

There is a problem with that statement.  Mainly, the printer is advertised as being able to print in the 50 - 350 micron range.  One reason I bought this printer was because I wanted to print at 100 microns.  It was, to me, an important requirement.  As it was put to me, the specs on the website are 'a bit overstated'.  The hardware is theoretically able to do it but the software isn't optimized for it yet (despite being available there).  I started printing at no more than 200 microns and I started to have plenty of success now and no more random shifting.  Suffice to say that the software is still in BETA and still needs work.

So, at this point, all of my issues seem to have been resolved with the exception of one: Temperature.

After confirming if there was something wrong with the PLA (there wasn't and the problems were consistently present regardless of brand I used).  From there , I thought maybe it was a temperature sensor issue but I was compensating by raising the temperature setting.  As it turns out it wasn't a sensor issue.  The temperature problems persisted and got worse.  I was prompted by support to remove the cover from the print head to examine the wiring and, sure enough, this was the cause of the problem.  Apparently, the heater works on a closed circuit and, during transport, it looks like one of the connections started to slip proving that sometimes, it's the simplest solution that works.  I pushed the wire back in and heat has been working as it should.

All this was over well over a month ago now.

I have had a few more hiccups but, everything was manageable and I have many successes and very few failures since.  There was one problem which I quickly was able to figure out involving my extruder motor which had stopped working properly.  Support was able to get me a replacement part and I swapped the bad one out with no issues.

All of this has been a great and rigorous learning experience.  It took the entire length of my warranty period and three printers to sort everything out.  At the same time, 3D printing remains wonderful and still fascinating.  Despite my problems and moments of doubts, I ultimately do not regret my relatively small investment.  At a price of $350, it's still a hell of a bargain though I wasn't quite expecting as big as an investment when it came to the time to get everything in proper working order.  Having said that, I'm certain there are probably some more headaches just around the corner with my printer but, I'm much more prepared to do what maintenance and upkeep to get things going again because of everything I've gone through.

So... my final thoughts on M3D (both company and the Micro 3D Printer):

The support I was able to get was solid and customer support has gotten better during the past few months. If it wasn't for the support I got, I would have tossed in the towel and arranged for a partial refund (80% of the cost of the printer).  It is the support and willingness to back their product that stands out and, in my case, this was demonstrated many times.

The printer design itself is flawed and there are a few things that can be done to improve upon it.  Now that many kinks have been sorted out, some of the components have been changed and upgraded on the design, so anyone getting an M3D Micro now is getting a slightly better printer.  The biggest change has been in the a recent software release for the machine.  While it is still in BETA, it is a significant improvement over the version I had been using myself.  I now routinely print higher than I had before with no issues and the print speed has also improved.  Things are actually looking up in the software department as well.  That said, the internal feed and bay will cause nothing but issues if one attempts to use it.  The heater unit for the printer also has to be calibrated before going out to the buyer and, as such, there is no way to get a replacement heater should problems occur.  Apparently this is something that might also be changing down the line though I don't know if this will be for the current incarnation of the printer or a hardware refresh down the line. If they do a refresh, hopefully they will do something about the power demands of the printer and consider a heated bed option as well.

With competition growing as more and more economical printer options present themselves, M3D and any small 3D printer company developing their own designs, will need to work hard to stay in the game.  For the consumer and the advance of the technology, things continue to look bright for 3D printing in general.

I am a fairly early adopter to this technology and, I was expecting an uphill battle (to an extent) as began my experiences with it.  Despite my issues, I will still (cautiously) recommend this particular printer but there are others on the market I would easily recommend as well.  Next to buying a kit or simply the components to build your own, a 3D printer currently will not be much less this Micro 3D's offering.  But buyer beware and be sure you understand what you are getting into.

M

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Two Months...


It's been two months.  Well, two months and a few days.

That's a long time not to be writing and updating my readers over here.

But all this time away has not been for nothing.  Back in March, I wrote something about how I intended to get things moving again.  I've been putting a lot of effort in getting things going again from the ground up.  I've been streamlining my gaming collection and putting the extra money earned there to good use.  I've re-arranged my office space to be a lot more conducive to creativity and various projects.  I am currently editing a book (with most of it in layout) and, while it isn't gaming, it is hopefully a new direction that some people will enjoy reading.  Everything going well, I will some news about that particular release in later in July.

Otherwise, I have been keeping myself busy.  I'm been enjoying various creative endeavours thanks to a problematic 3D printer that seems to be finally working the way it should (I have Part 2 mostly written as a followup to my April post on my experiences thus far).

Perhaps more importantly, I am gaming and I am starting off a new campaign of my own.  Sadly, it isn't Castles & Crusades -- there seems to be a continued and overwhelming desire for a lot of 5E D&D so I decided to finally start and run a Call of Cthulhu campaign.  I don't know how long or short lived it will be but I really don't care.  I'm just eager to do it.

I'm also painting again.  One of the recent games I just joined was a friends Ravenloft game for 5E and I decided to paint up a miniature for the occasion.  I'm very pleased with it.

It's the little things but that creative fire is now burning and I'm just eager to share so much with those interested in reading and checking out what I have to offer.

Happy Gaming!

M


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Melted Plastic & Broken Dreams - Part 1



I have had my mind set on getting a 3D Printer for several months now.  I have been constantly checking out various offerings available, kickstarters, and reading up on this relatively new and rapidly evolving technology.  As a hobbyist interested in miniatures, there was no end of what I could potentially do with one of these tools in my arsenal.  Of course, price was a bit of a barrier but things have been changing there too.

Knowing myself all to well, I figured that I would want a bigger, faster, better printer to suit my tastes and needs but since I was all too new at this, I figured that a much more economical and smaller option would serve me well as a 'starter printer'.  My choice and finances narrowed down the choice to two models and I opted to go with the M3D printer.

The best piece of advice I have seen (a video put out by the Printrbot people) was that, 3D printing is hard.  There is so much truth to this statement when you consider the multitude of variables that go into a successful print.  The technology is still a new thing after all and many refinements will be made as time goes on.  However, there comes a time when it seems like circumstances are stacked against you.  Given my experiences with the M3D, I have to say that I have either been extremely unlucky or, there are issues with this model that need to be rectified.  What follows are my experiences, impressions, and ultimately my review on the M3D, so get yourselves a nice beverage and settle in.

I ordered the M3D printer straight from their site and elected to go with the 'Standard Edition' for a mere $349 USD.  They also have a 'Retail Edition' for a $100 more but, make now mistake.  It's the exact same printer.  Any refinements made to the printer are available on all printers.  I believe one of the main changes was the print bed itself.  Honestly, he biggest different between the two packages is that the retail one comes with a roll of PLA filament and has a one year warranty compared to 90 days for the standard one. Shipping was quick and I had my unit within a few days ordering it from the US.

The printer itself is tiny and cube-shaped and will occupy a very small footprint on your desk near you computer.  There is a USB cable to connect the printer to the computer and an AC power adapter to supply the necessary power.  One of the interesting features of the design is an internal compartment located under the print bed for a roll of filament.  It is smaller than a typical roll so, unless you plan on buying their own filament, you'll likely have to feed it externally.  I bought one of their rolls to get me started.  The package itself was fairly bare-bones.  There was a couple pieces of paper included with the unit -- one instruction to remove clips before attempting to print anything and the other directing to an online address to get the software to start using the printer.

Here's the first problem that people will notice.  All the software available are BETA releases.  While it is nice that the software is being developed in-house and the software is being made to be user-friendly, there is no real clear indication on which version you should use as several are listed.  Ideally, stability is what you want but there is little to indicate what that might be.  Fortunately, installation is simple and each version will download the appropriate firmware update for your printer.  Everything went find and, tracking down the online manual, I followed the steps and began printing.

The whole process was painless and I was up and printing within 15-20 minutes.  My first print and the few that followed seemed to all work well enough.  After my fifth print (and not a single failure), I noticed the tendency of my raft to be almost impossible to remove my print.  It often broke up leaving bits on the bottom of my print and, some research led me to realize that my printer might need to be re-calibrated to alleviate this issue.

I should be clear here that, the manual got me up and running and didn't even mention calibrating the printer before my first print.  Kind of odd when you think about it but, if you don't know better, and they pretty much advertise that you can start printing right of of the box, you might not give it any thought at all.

So, looking up online because the manual was of no use, I was able to find a few tips on how to calibrate.  To make a long story short, I started to print a test border to see if everything was well, and instead of doing a border around the bed, it essentially 'carved' an inch square in one of the corners of my test bed.  That disaster led to another when I tried to calibrate the bed position.  The print head shook violently as it moved to the center, except that it kept going and moved to the front of the printer.  The nozzle came down, beyond the print bed, and plunged into the frame of the printer.


After this happened, I powered down the printer and submitted a ticket.  Tech support got to me pretty quickly and provided the instructions for an RMA.  I was using the internal filament feeder and was easily able to lift the print head (using the 'remove internal filament' option) to retrieve my roll of filament and waited for instructions.

A week and a half went by with no word so I chose to escalate to a manager.  Thankfully that got the ball rolling and a few apologies on top of that.  Instructions and shipping label in hand, my defective printer went back to the manufacturer and, they in turn, sent my my replacement.

All in all, the first printer lasted me less than 48 hours before hardware failure.

The second printer came to me not too long after that but the days since the original order happened were quickly going by.  Immediately, I was able to notice problems with the fan.  It was extremely and uncharacteristically loud but, at least it worked.  Gritting my teeth and knowing I would have to deal it with it, I set up my external spool holder (apparently there are problems with using the internal feeder) and began a series of test-prints after making sure I calibrated the bed location.  I was having a couple of problems compared to the prints I had gotten from the first printer and I noticed the weirdest of things on one of my prints (a trusty test-cube I had been using on and off for testing).  It was about a quarter of an inch shorter than the other test cubes I had printed.  The print was completed but it was like the height got compressed.  I was also experiencing a fair bit of shifting along the X and Y axis.  When I noticed these issues, I decided to calibrate the bed location again and, for whatever reason, it decided to plunge the nozzle into the print bed.  This was my second printer and the second time I have this issue and, also within a week of receiving it.

All I could think of at that point was that this printer was garbage.  Having already escalating an issue to a manager, I decide to start with that.  It didn't take long for a reply.  In short, I wanted my money back and wanted to know where I could ship this thing.  As one can expect, they weren't exactly eager with that and were quick to point out that I was past my 30 day money back guarantee.  By this point, between the original date I placed the original order, I've had a printer go back and forth from Maryland and Montreal twice with a 10 days delay in processing an RMA I had to escalate to get things going.  I was equally quick to point out that fact and, taking those 10 days into account, I fell WITHIN those 30 days.

The company was fairly reasonable at that point and presented me with two options: I could get a refund less a 20% restocking fee.  Or... I could get a third printer but, this printer would be 'extensively tested' before shipping it out to me.  I gave it some thought, and accepted the replacement but negotiated an extension of my warranty.  This ended up being an additional month (30 days) which basically covered the period that I lost with these two problem printers.

With all the testing, which mostly consisted of a few larger prints and a couple of smaller technical prints went well enough but it took the better part of a couple of weeks before I got the printer in my hands.  The manager who tested out the printer was very forthcoming with answers to the multitude of questions I had.  It took a bit longer to get this replacement but it would be all worth it in the end if the printer ended up working the way it should, right?

To Be Continued...

M

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Arcana Creations: From the Embers

At the start of this year, I wrote about the relatively slow start of the year.  Realistically, the past few years have been slow as far as my writing, projects, and even gaming was concerned.  I've managed to keep things going thanks to the Under Siege blog here as well as generally keeping in touch with a few members of the online gaming community as I continue pledging my support for the various project that Troll Lord Games put out as well as a few other independent creations here and there.

Things are changing on my end -- some good where as others, not so much.

I miss the enthusiasm I used to have when I was able to do more.  But the enthusiasm I still have helps to keep me going and dreaming.

As the first quarter of 2016 is coming to a close, I'm looking at my many incomplete projects be it old or new.  Part of the challenges have always been time and money to get various things done and sometimes, you need to make some hard choices.  I'm making some now.

My goal is to really get those fires burning again.

There WILL be releases this year but they will not be as I had originally envisioned.  However, they will be done one way or the other.  Time and money will continue being issues and while there are ways around being cash-strapped for certain things, time will always slip through one's grasp.  Of course, I've also had commitments from people willing to help but this never seems to materialize.  A one-man operation is hard to sustain with everything else but it can be done, even if it means making some changes to overcome certain challenges that keep blocking the way.

There will be more updates to follow as things become more concrete in the weeks ahead but they will be secondary to the work I feel matters most.

Suffice to say, I'm tired of waiting.

M

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Weekend R&R: Empire of Imagination

For many gamers, March 4th will mean different things for them.  Since 2002, March the 4th is recognized as international GM's day, and since 2008, it also marked the a anniversary of Gary Gygax's passing.  GaryCon has become an event since then to remember him and honor his memory by rolling some dice with some friends and gaming in his memory and honor. This year, I chose to read 'Empire of Imagination' by Michael Witwer to commemorate this anniversary.

Much of what I read I have known for years but seldom have I read the account told in such an engaging way.  The book chronicles the birth of Dungeons & Dragons and the events that shaped the life of Gary Gygax.  It is by no means a 'heavy' read but certainly enjoyable.

The book itself seems to focus more on the earlier aspects of his life as opposed to his later years but it isn't an in-depth study nor do I feel it was ever meant to be.  The author presents the information more in the framework of a narrative then a collection of hard facts but, there are plenty of notes to back up the majority of what the book presents.  Above all, it did make me think, get a bit nostalgic about my introduction to the game, and reflect on my own gaming right now.

Honestly, I don't think there are many better ways to celebrate this anniversary save from actually gaming!

Out of everything that I read, the one thing that surprised me was the extent of description of the older first edition backstock that TSR still had on hand when they began to publish 2nd Edition.  A comment in the book likened 2nd Edition to how 4th Edition was viewed by fans of the previous edition and that 2nd Edition sold only half as well as original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons did.  Apparently skids of 1st Edition rulebooks were sitting in the warehouse as 2nd Edition was being pushed.

When I first was introduced to the game, I came to it while my father was stationed in Germany.  I made friends and a couple of them described to me this game which sounded fantastic.  This was D&D but what we all then collectively called D&D was truly a blending of D&D (Mentzer BECMI sets), AD&D 1st Edition and AD&D 2nd Edition.  Accessibility to gaming material, and above all dice, was challenging at times.  Ultimately, as 2nd Edition material became more available, this is what we played and I ran.  At the time I got into the game, I couldn't buy any of the 1st Edition core rulebooks (being the Player's Handbook, DM's Guide, and any of the Monster Manuals) but the all the other hardbacks could readily be found along with many of the classic AD&D and D&D adventure modules.  I also remember getting my hands the free TSR product catalog and was floored by all the stuff that was available.

But the passage of time also grants the gift of perspective.  I understand and view things differently now than I once did.  Ultimately, Witwer's 'Empire of Imagination' served to remind me of a couple simple truths...

While I think that pen and paper RPGs are still going strong today, the golden years were back in the 80's when it games to these type of games with TSR and D&D on top.  And, if it weren't for Gygax, we might not have any of this.


M

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Charity and Castles & Crusades


For many of my gaming-savvy reader, the Humble Bundle and Bundle of Holding are two services you undoubtedly already know about.  I came across the Bundle of Holding some time ago after I already became a huge fan of the Humble Bundle.  The difference with the Bundle of Holding is that it is pretty much exclusively to do with putting together Table-Top RPG bundles benefiting charity.

I don't buy from the Bundle of Holding as much as I would like to since I tend to be a lot more discerning about what RPG products I do buy.  More often than not, stuff I would be interested in, I already have but it did help introduce me to some games I wouldn't have normally.  But this time around, Troll Lord Games have partnered with them and has up for grabs a whole bunch of Castles & Crusades stuff for a really great price!



With the Bundle of Holding, there are two tiers.  The entry tier at a fixed price and a higher tier of goods which you get when you beat the present threshold ($21.28 at present).

The starting tier gets you three books (retailing at $47):

  • The Players Handbook (full color, 6th printing)
  • Castellian's Guide to Arms & Armor
  • Rune Lore

Beating the threshold will get you another five books (retailing at $73):

  • The Castle Keepers Guide (full color, 2nd printing)
  • Classic Monsters
  • Engineering Dungeons
  • Engineering Castles
  • Lion in the Ropes

All in all, a decent haul of products for less than $22 and a great way to dive into Castles & Crusades.  In fact, the only 'key' book missing from this lineup would be the Monsters & Treasure book (also in full color) but, given the roots of this game, hardly needed if you have classic D&D books or even d20 monster books.  The Classic Monsters also has an index of monsters in the back that includes the basic stats for the monsters found in the original M&T book as well as a whole host of interesting critters as well!

Unlike the Humble Bundle, you can't set how much goes to charity.  The amount for charity is a fixed amount (and calculated after the gateway fees are paid) which means that 10% will be going to Heifer International.

While not garnering the same sort of numbers that Paizo is doing with the Humble Bundle right now, the amounts for the Bundle of Holding are steadily rising.  It would be REALLY nice to see it climb much higher though.  If I didn't have every single title listed, I wouldn't hesitate to participate.  Instead I'm doing what I can by passing this along.

You can find this particular Bundle of Holding deal over HERE.

However, if you are like me and already own all or most of this stuff, maybe you should check out Paizo's bundle benefiting charity which I talk about over HERE.

Happy Gaming!

M

Charity and Pathfinder


For many of my gaming-savvy reader, the Humble Bundle and Bundle of Holding are two services you undoubtedly already know about.  I came across Humble Bundle a few years back and I have bolstered my Steam collection of video games by an almost embarrassing amount during this time.  To my delight, and financial dismay, they started doing similar things with books of all sort as well as comics.

The way it typically works is simple, there are typically a few tiers with the first one often being a 'pay-what-you-want' though sometimes this will just be a set, but ridiculously low priced tier.  Then there are a couple other tiers available -- usually gotten by a 'beat the average' amount or higher fixed amount and, the highest tier which is fixed.  All of this is digital which is part of the reason they can do this for low prices to begin with.  With the growth and success of the Humble Bundle, they are now able to run multiple campaign bundles simultaneously and the really nice things about these bundles is that benefits go to charity.  With whatever amount you end up pledging, a percentage goes to the publisher who is offering these goodies, a percentage goes to the Humble Bundle group, and a percentage goes to a particular charity (which will vary depending on the bundle).  The splits for the money are predetermined by default buy you can customize who gets how much if you like (I often tend to bump up the charity amount compared to the other two but everybody gets something).

However, what took me by surprise is Paizo partnering up with Humble Bundle and offering a MASSIVE Pathfinder related bundle.  Don't get me wrong, it's not that I was surprised to see Paizo participating -- I have just never seen any table-top RPG offered up in that way on Humble Bundle before.  Frankly, this is fantastic and the offerings are impressive.

For a single $1 (or more -- this is for charity), you get the Core Book, GameMastery Guide, the Digital Beginner Box, Character Folio, Advanced Class Guide, GM Screen, and the first part of an adventure path.

If you pay $15 or more, you add on to that a copy of Ultimate Magic, Ultimate Campaign, Ultimate Combat, Bestiary 2, Inner See Post Map Folio, Year of the Sky Key Scenario Mega Pack (23 adventures), and another part of that aforementioned adventure path.

Paying more than the average (currently $17.19) gets you the Inner Sea World Guide, Strategy Guide, Bestiary, Ultimate Equipment, the Advanced Players Guide, and another couple of scenarios.

As it stands, for less than $18 -- you get a whole lot of Pathfinder.  And, for those of you who would like something a bit more tangible, a pledge of $25 or more will also get you a physical copy of the Pathfinder Beginner Box.  Well, at least $25 plus shipping.

That said, unlike most other Humble Bundle transactions, this one did not run smoothly right out the gate.  Paizo greatly underestimated the demand when they decided to do this and in the past few days, over 40,000 bundles have been bought.  Paizo is hosting the files themselves and the demand on their servers with the watermarking process creating an interesting bottleneck has led to a lot of frustration for regular users as well as all these new users.  It has taken me the better part of a couple of days to get all my files and I had waited a couple days before that even trying.  Paizo apparently took steps after the problems arose to try and cope with the increased demand and I can say that this morning shows a vast improvement over the past couple of days.  The good news is, once they are bought, they are yours and there is no time limit to get them or if you need to re-download them.

However, had Paizo allowed Humble Bundle handle the hosting of these files, it might have allowed them to prevent these issues from even happening.  But that would mean skipping any watermarking (or personalizing) of the files in the first place.  Yes, it means forgoing any updates to the files (correcting typos or whatever), but that's hardly a deal breaker either.  It would also mean that people wouldn't have to create a Paizo account if they didn't already have one in order to get their PDFs.

Let's focus on the good though:

With over 40,000 purchases... over $690,000 has been raised so far.  Paizo is getting a nice boost as well as charity and there are still 10 days for these numbers to grow.  With tremendous value, this bundle is a great way to get into Pathfinder or grab them for reference.  I'm not a Pathfinder guy but I admire what Paizo has done and I had no qualms about doing my part.

You can find the bundle HERE.

But maybe you already are a huge Pathfinder fan and have most (if not all) of these already.  Up next, I will tell you about another tabletop RPG bundle benefiting charity.

M

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Kickstart This: Familiars & Companions for 5th Edition

Troll Lord Games pretty much started with at the start of the d20 era though their first releases predates d20.  Thanks to the OGL though, as well as a couple twists of fortune, they had started with some promising and interesting books -- including material from Gary Gygax.  But the wheel keeps turning as as the 3rd Edition era was phasing out, Castles & Crusades became an increasing focus for the company.  When Gygax passed away, C&C and other games using the same mechanics, became their sole focus.  It stayed that way for the past few years.

This has begun to change however, and at the end of last month, they launched a Kickstarter to release a gaming book for 5th Edition.  While it is true that TLG is testing the waters with this product, the material that makes up the book isn't something that hasn't been tested before.  The present kickstarter is to put out a full color hardback detailing Familiars and Companions for your 5th Edition D&D game.  Prior to this book, TLG has produced 'The Book of Familiars' for 3rd Edition and, a C&C version a few years later but this book is not just a conversion of something we have seen before.  At best, it builds on the foundation and concepts previously introduced and builds up fully embracing 5th Edition mechanics and aesthetics.  In fact, this approach will likely result in a much better product than C&C's Book of Familiars simply because it isn't a rehash or simple conversion.  It is also nice to see a much more focused approach for 5th Edition as opposed to releasing a 'catch-all' product that tries to juggle many different subjects.

Now, I have enjoyed the aforementioned C&C book for what it offered.  Some things seemed to be a bit overpowered to my liking but, I lay the blame for that at the foot of the original d20 version.  I found it a bit ironic that some aspects of this new 5th Edition book will be toned down compared to what was done previously.  Certain mechanical aspects found in the original d20 and C&C versions are no where to be seen in this new one.

For instance, the whole point of this book is to open up the possibility to have Familiars and Companions expanded beyond just a couple of classes.  One of the way they treat this is through the spending of character experience points.  This won't be how 5th edition gaming accessory deals with this.  Rather, these familiars and companions will be a true extension of the character and advancing along with them.  The best part is that these won't just be restricted to a animal or magical creature.  Imagine, a fighter linking with a 'legacy blade' or a rogue's own shadow becoming something more and fighting alongside him.  While some of these things might have been introduced before, they seem to fit much more naturally with 5th Edition.

If you are a FAN of 5th Edition, and want something more that what is currently being offered for that game, this Kickstarter may very well be for you.  Troll Lord Games has come a far from its humble beginnings and the recent products that have been released the past few years have gotten many to take notice.  A full color hardcover $35 USD with some extras thrown in is great value -- especially if you consider the C&C Book of Familiars retails for about $30 and that's in black and white.

Curious for more?  Check out the campaign that is winding down over HERE.  They haven't reached their funding goal yet, but reaching hit isn't impossible at this stage.  It's just taking a bit longer to get there.


M