I have to admit to being a little excited by the latest concept from Cakebread & Walton, the Origins Award nominated authors of Abney Park’s Airship Pirates and Clockwork & Chivalry and more importantly Dark Streets and Clockwork & Cthulhu.
According to their latest mailer as well as their web and facebook, pages they have an imminent Kickstarter project to bring us Pirates & Dragons. Promising to feature more slick, cinematic game mechanics based on the acclaimed Renaissance D100 system. So, what’s the premise?
Pirates like gold. Dragons like gold. When the terrors of the sea meet the terrors of the sky, there’s bound to be trouble!
They came from Albion, from Gaule and Esbania and Batavia, in search of the treasures of the New World. They found a menace older than mankind – dragons!
In their mountain lairs on the Dragon Isles, giant beasts – old and wise and malevolent – sit on their piles of gold, surrounded by their zombie minions. The natives have found ways of appeasing or evading them – the Dragon Tribes honour them with gold and human sacrifice, the other Islanders use their magic to hide away or resist. The Uropans must rely on gunpowder and cold steel.
And the pirates? The pirates will use whatever comes to hand in their battle with the dragons. Armed with science, sorcery, steel and superstition, they take the fight into the dragons’ lairs in their endless quest for gold.
Pirates & Dragons is a role-playing game of fantasy swashbuckling in a world of magic and treasure, of fantastical islands inhabited by strange beasts and vile necromancers, of treachery and heroism. Together with a group of friends, you take on the role of pirates, out for adventure and booty – raiding the treasure galleons of Esbania, the merchant fleets of Gaule and Batavia, the dragon-hunting ships of Albion, the ruins of lost Adalantas… and the gold-filled caves of ancient and evil dragons.
Gather your crew. Load your flintlocks. And prepare to plunder!
If like me, you like the sound of that – then keep an eye on their Facebook page for more details as they emerge and I look forward to doing a review of the game when it hits the shelves.
I’ve recently been playing the “War Of The Dead” campaign for Savage Worlds from Daring Entertainment, its a fantastic Zombie Apocalypse setting that was originally published as week by week subscription. There are four chapters each with thirteen weeks which built into something you could run once a week for a year. I really like it and find it great fun.
I also like the fact that there is a good deal of “fan produced content” available to support and add to the “War Of The Dead” setting, everything from equipment cards, GM Screen Inserts through to the usual Character Sheets – you can find a good deal of that content collated on DriveThruRPG (here). So here I’d thought I would add my own small contribution.
I wanted to have some custom bennies and condition counters for my game, and so I came up with the attached.
The sheet contains 45 “Bennie” counters, 31 “Wounded”, 10 “Shaken”, 10 “Fatigued”, 10 “Exhausted” and 10 “-2 Parry” which you can use to help you and your players keep track of just how bad you are making them feel…
The counters work well printed onto thin card stock and cut out, but better still you can do what I did and print them onto 19mm sticky labels (available from Amazon.co.uk), and stick them on to 22mm games counters – widely available on Ebay or through good games stores.
You can download the bennies and counters here, there are two copies of the sheet one with outlines and one without. If you are printing onto stickies use the one without the outlines, you’ll get a better result.
On the 1st April the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design (GAMA) announced the 2013 Origins Awards Nominees.
The awards are presented by the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design to companies for outstanding games in the industry. For the 39th annual award cycle, the Awards had fifteen categories, but as always the ones that interest us the most here at miskatonic.co.uk are: Best Roleplaying Game, and Best Roleplaying Supplement. A full list of the 15 categories and all the nominees can be found here.
The winner of each category will be voted on by attendees at the Origins Game Fair, in Columbus Ohio. The winners will be announced and presented at the Origins Awards Ceremony on Saturday June 15th of the event.
We thought it would be fun to share with you our thoughts on this years nominees and give our predictions for who we think will be picking up those awards. Here is our whirlwind view of the nominees in the Best Roleplaying Game category.
Nominations For Best Roleplaying Game
Iron Kingdoms Full Metal Fantasy RPG Core Rules – Privateer Press
From Privateer Press the Iron Kingdoms RPG gives your players a chance to “discover exciting character careers, wondrous mechanikal devices, and exotic monsters while you adventure throughout the lands of western Immoren, where steam power and magic combine to create a fantasy experience like no other”. The game builds upon the rich setting from their very successful 30 mm tabletop miniatures battle game WARMACHINE, where each player controls an elite soldier-sorcerer who leads an army and delivers a deep, rich and beautifully presented traditional roleplaying game.
For us here at miskatonic.co.uk we like Iron Kingdoms, it is well presented, well written and has a simple and playable game system; archetype based, good range of character races and so on. But, on the flip side, there are now several steampunk, magic, fantasy mash-ups and whilst we get what Iron Kingdoms brings to the table with its fully fleshed out background and story it just didn’t convince us. Our simple verdict is that this is a very nice game but we wren’t sure if it was really the best in its class. Still it is in with a good shout and if it carries away an award it will be due in no small part to the very high production values that have gone into the product.
There is a lot more information about Iron Kingdoms to be found on the Privateer Press website, and the following video clip gives you a real taste.
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Basic Game – Margaret Weis Productions
I have always had mixed feelings about the MARVEL HEROIC ROLEPLAYING Basic Game, I guess I’m a bit of a purist and when I was younger I never liked roleplaying out adventure stories that I already knew, I didn’t want to be a hobbit in LOTR and similarly I never wanted to be Spider-Man, Captain America, or Wolverine.
But, I do enjoy creating my own heroes and I guess it is the flexibility to do either that means that MARVEL HEROIC ROLEPLAYING appeals to such a wide audience. The kids who have just watched the latest in the stream of hero movies, the comic book aficionados and the true roleplayers alike. The settings are so well established, the villains so well understood that the appeal is instant. When you add to this the fact that with the Operations Manual even a complete RPG newbie can be taught how to play the game in less than 15 minutes then you are on to a winner. Our verdict for the Origin awards then is that MARVEL HEROIC ROLEPLAYING will add this Origin Award to its existing list of awards – it is our top tip for the winner in 2013.
“MARVEL HEROIC ROLEPLAYING opens the door to fan-favorite crossover events in the history of the Marvel Universe. Presented as fantastic open-ended adventure books, you take the roles of Marvel characters tied to these events. Make your own choices, engage in world-shaking battles, and seize your own heroic destiny! From Marvel’s Civil War to the Age of Apocalypse, every MARVEL HEROIC ROLEPLAYING Event is its own self-contained epic adventure series, ready to play”.
Monsterhearts – Buried Without Ceremony
Now I’m going to be BRUTALLY honest – I wanted to hate this game, I wanted it to suck badly, I loathe the Twilight Movies, the Vampire Diaries makes my eyes hurt and the mere thought of pretty teenage monsters with over active libidos, no spots or greasy hair and all that vomit inducing angst makes me gag… So I SHOULD PROPERLY HATE Monsterhearts. But I don’t…
Why? Well for a start Joe McDaldno’s story game Monsterhearts first caught my eye on Indiegogo where he was looking to raise a relatively modest $2,500 goal, which he did easily. Throughout this funding drive there were plenty of hints of what was to come, it could have been sickly, but its not – its sincere, its got a revolutionary spirt, it feels rebellious it is undoubtedly the kind of game that if I was once again a teenager I’d want to play. People will play it for the same reasons we played Vampire back in the day. It’s also a game that is going to appeal to male and female roleplayers alike – I know I shouldn’t even dare to suggest that there is any kind of sexual divide when it comes to RPG’s, but there is. So acknowledge it and suck it up – Monsterhearts will bridge that gap, guys there is a chance that GIRLS will want to roleplay with you again.
Finally the other reason I like Monsterhearts way more than I should didn’t register straight away – it was almost subliminal and it really bugged me that I couldn’t put my finger on it. But then it hit me the Monsterhearts system is based on the concepts of Apocalypse World, a game I really got into and wrote briefly about in 2011 (see here). The concepts of the playbooks for character creation, the fact that the game is story led and driven, Monsterhearts takes all of those great concepts and uses them extremely well. Take a look at the pitch video from the Indiegogo fundraiser where Joe explains the game and the concepts in his own words.
Look this isn’t a game that I’m going to be running anytime soon, I’m too old and grumpy. But it is a great game, play it with some humor and you’ll have a better Buffy than the Buffy The Vampire Slayer roleplay game ever was. I like to think that Joe is in with a chance of picking up the award, but somehow I doubt it. This is definitely the best games system in the nominations, for me this is the inevitable Indie runner up. If David could still beat Goliath this is the game that should win.
Nights of the Crusades – Aetheric Dreams Primeval RPG – Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
The best place to start with this nominee is on DriveThroughRPG where you can download it for FREE (here). So that’s a good start to any review of an RPG isn’t it…
In their own words Nights Of The Crusades is:
“… a roleplaying game set in a land and time that is familiar on the surface, but within its cracks lie tales of alchemy, madness and violence. It is a world that could have happened and then been lost to barbarity and time. Players take on characters that can explore its lands and plunder them for wealth, glory or knowledge. The Tale-Weaver is their guide, plunging them into the horrors of war and fanaticism as they pursue their goals. The world is rife with dark cults, creatures that dwell in unseen places and bloodthirsty warriors. This is a time when anyone’s thoughts, from king to slave, are enough to condemn them to death and hell, and many are they that will line up to cheer the execution.
The setting of Nights of the Crusades is a mixture of the One Thousand and One Nights, the history surrounding the Crusades and both modern and ancient tales of terror. The rules reflect mature and gritty issues, including the psychological impacts of combat and killing. The gameplay also allows for tension in every form of conflict, whether verbal or physical, and wraps the rules of the ‘Real World’ around ‘Story’ interludes. The game offers more options as the characters advance and a group of companions made up of an artist, diplomat and physician will be as enjoyable to play as one made up of a warrior, archer and thief.”
Nights Of The Crusades is an interesting game and an even more interesting background, the background is so good that it is also available – at a modest price – as a Pathfinder campaign setting for those who enjoy the Pathfinder game rules more.
However focussing on the nominated Nights Of The Crusades game, rather than the Pathfinder add on, the system itself is incredibly simple. But what I like is that it is in keeping with the current games trend for very story focussed and story led, easy to play systems – ruleplaying seems to be dead. Anyone who has read more than a couple of posts on this site will know that this is something that appeals to me immensely, I’ve played whole evenings without feeling the need to reach for my dice, but I digress…
The game system is as I said very simple, and I agree with other reviewers that it is quite elegant in its simplicity. With just five stats: Communication, Knowledge, Melee, Ranged and Vigor with the values of these stats ranging from 0 to 10. What is nice is that the level of each stat is equal to the number of related feats you have. Each and every time you get a new feat, your related stat goes up – as you gain new feats you get better at related ones – it kind of makes sense. The d10 based resolution system is also nice and easy, no tables or complex maths, just compare your stat to the difficulty level of the task, and add the difference to a d10 and try to get a 5 or more to succeed.
Nights Of The Crusades has been compared to “Pendragon in a more brutal Ars Magica style setting”. It certainly has the epic storytelling feel and the system is new, well constructed and it works. The production of the PDF is nice, the artwork pleasing and the writing, clear, concise and engaging – unlike some rulebooks I found this an easy and enjoyable read, its more than just a reference work.
Will it win the Origins award? I don’t think so – it is certainly a worthy nominee and I will find time to play it properly, but I don’t think it has the mass market appeal of Marvel or the quirky factor that you get with Monsterhearts.
Modiphius Entertainment is a new British games publisher, established by Chris Birch in 2012 after writing two Ennie Award nominated roleplaying games Starblazer Adventures and Legends of Anglerre (co-authored with Sarah Newton, who we are a big fan of here at miskatonic.co.uk, see our review of The Chronicles Of Future Earth here).
Modiphius Entertainments first project was Achtung! Cthulhu, the terrifying HP Lovecraft-inspired World War Two roleplaying setting, written for use with Call of Cthulhu, Savage Worlds, and the PDQ roleplaying systems. The first two releases, each an epic adventure in the Zero Point campaign by Sarah Newton have been so popular that three huge campaigns are currently being written for release later this year.
I first became aware of Achtung! Cthulhu when a friend sent me a link to the Achtung! Cthulhu – Charlie Company : Forest of Fear #1 a Beta test and first episode in a fun new free photographic web comic featuring miniatures, terrain and Cthluhu horror. (Find it on RPGNOW here). The basic idea being that the survivors of Charlie Company find themselves alone, forgotten & hunted behind Nazi lines trapped in the “Forest of Fear”. You know exactly how that is going to go down don’t you…
To-date there are two fantastic stand alone adventures available in the Achtung! Cthulhu series which form part of a globe spanning campaign Zero Point. Written by Sarah Newton (Legends of Anglerre, Mindjammer) and converted to Realms of Cthulhu by Dave Blewer (of Sundered Skies fame).
The first of these adventures is Three Kings where you join a band of heroic soldiers, agents, and partisans behind enemy lines on the eve of World War Two, as they discover the unspeakable horrors of Castle Karlstein in occupied Czechoslovakia!
Heroes of the Sea is the second of these standalone supplements. Once again you can take on the roles of soldiers, agents, and resistance fighters in the chaos and carnage of the Battle of Dunkirk, as a sinister conspiracy threatens the lives of the retreating Allied forces!
What stands out about these is the sheer quality – the artwork, the stories, the editorial quality it truly is as good as it gets and I for one can’t wait to find an excuse to play them. What is more they have recognised that there is a wide spectrum of roleplayers out there who like their Cthulhuian encounters served up in different roleplay systems. As such they are providing the materials of this huge and terrifying World War 2 setting Acthung! Cthulhu for four popular roleplaying game systems: Call of Cthulhu, Savage Worlds (Realms of Cthulhu), Trail of Cthulhu & The PDQ System (it is worth noting that at the time of writing the Trail of Cthulhu & PDQ Conversions are currently in layout for Three Kings and not yet available – Feb 2013).
As if this wasn’t enough they have just launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring forward the publication of the Achtung! Cthulhu – Keeper’s Guide to the Secret War and the Achtung! Cthulhu – Investigator’s Guide to the Secret War.
The Keepers guide is billed as “The essential wartime reference for any Keeper or fan of the Cthulhu Mythos”. within its pages we can hope to find details of “secret Nazi plots, Allied & Nazi special forces & intelligence agencies, mystical missions and wonder weapon development, mythical organisations, campaign and plot ideas, key characters, vile creatures, and new rules for World War Two combat and equipment – a whole shoggoth’s worth of Cthulhu villainy, enough for any Keeper to have his investigators dead, insane, or running for their lives!”
The Keepers Guide is expected to have a huge page count of around 248 pages, depending upon meeting the Kickstarters first Stretch Goal.
Similarly the Investigators guide,aims to be “the definitive guide to the late 30s and 1940s for use by players and Keepers alike. Inside you’ll find a whole kit bag stuffed with cool new occupations, skills, equipment, and backgrounds from all over Europe and the British Commonwealth”. The book will provide details on playing as part of the Allied war effort, or from within the ranks of the partisans or even the Nazi forces as one of the many brave heroes who fought to bring down the regime from within the borders of the Reich! The book is anticipated to have a page count of approximately 128, once again dependent upon meeting the kickstarted goals.
Both books feature the efforts of some fantastic writers: Lynne Hardy, Dave Blewer (Sundered Skies), Alex Bund, Chris Birch, Bill Bodden and Adam Crossingham (best know to some of us for the amazing “Worlds Of Cthulhu”).
On the Kickstarter page it also notes a serious side to the games with the stated aim of; ”highlighting the real heroes who fought and died, and so at the end of both books there will be a short section on the World War Two memorials and museums you can visit across the battlefields of Europe to learn more about this period”. This is such an important sentiment when using the WWII genre within roleplaying games and I applaud them for this.
I hope you will take a look at Achtung! Cthulhu, maybe invest in the Kickstarter. I swear on my pet Shoggoth and all its offspring that you won’t be dissapointed.
We’re sure that you’ve noticed that at miskatonic.co.uk, we’ve been keeping a keen eye on the up-and-coming gaming entrepreneurs that have been spawned by sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
The latest such gem to capture our imagination comes from a young entrepreneurial gamer called George Youens who has come up with a really great twist on the simple concept of card protectors or “sleeves”. You can find his kickstarter here, but below is a bit more detail in his own words…
Protect your cards, and look good while you do it! Tough, durable card sleeves with the art of your choice on the back!
Currently there is no way to buy custom sleeves in small quantities – companies in China can do vast shipments for shops, but this is out of reach for the average consumer. This I would like to remedy. My sleeves are designed to be more durable than regular card sleeves, and more eye-catching. The best way to make a product appeal to an individual is to let that individual be a part of the creation process – in this case, they get to choose what art goes on the back of the card sleeve and the cardboard case the sleeves come in.
The sleeves will come in sensible unit sizes. With packs of 80, people have enough for a standard deck with sideboard, and have 5 spares in case any are lost or damaged. In comparison, Ultra Pro sells their Magic card sleeves in packs of 50 – one packet is not enough for a deck, and two packets is too many. For a run-of-the-mill product (card sleeve or not) you could make more profit by forcing people to buy too many; however, I believe that for a quality product, the best ethos you can have is to please the customer in as many ways as possible.
Currently, prototype sleeves have been made. If the Kickstarter is successful, I will have raised the money to produce these sleeves in far larger quantities and at a higher quality. My last batch of prototypes meet my strength and rigidity standards, and I am perfectly happy storing expensive cards inside them. The one flaw is the hand-finished edges. If the funding is successful, then the edges will be sealed by machine, not hand, ensuring a much neater finish.
Should the funding be successful, I will be looking at turning this project into a business. As previously stated, I wish to appeal to individual customers as well as businesses – and with a run of just 40 sleeves being feasible, I believe I will be able to. Just as people recognise popular Magic teams – Channel Fireball, Star City Games – by the shirts worn at Magic events, I want people to be able to spot my sleeves easily when they play the game.
Should I move on to make this into a business, I will develop a system that will let people submit their artwork when buying online. Also, I will look into developing a “standard” range of sleeves – the same high quality product, but with artwork that I own the rights to – so people can spend a little less to get quality, attractive sleeves.
Should the Kickstarter be a success, I am also planning on making a range of chainmail and leather dice pouches, as well as looking into creating other gaming accessories, such as life counters. I already have experience with making items from chainmail and leather.
George Youens is a 21 year-old student at Oxford Brookes University. He has always enjoyed making things (from jewellery to suits of armour) and is trying to turn that passion into a business. He professes to be a gaming enthusiast – from table-top RPGs, to card gaming, to participating in LARP scenarios – but we have it on good authority that he also quite likes cooking.
When it comes to games we like supporting new and innovative ideas, we wish George all the best of luck with his campaign and his future adventures in the gaming industry.
Derek and all the little cultists here at miskatonic.co.uk.