Bring Some Scares with These Horror RPGs

It’s October, and everything has become dark and spooky, so why not your tabletop roleplaying games? There are a plethora of games written to bring and maximize the essence of horror, with many of these games touching on different aspects of the genre. Some of the RPGs on this list will be familiar, but hopefully, there will be something here to bring the scare for your Halloween game night. So prepare some candles, turn down the lights, and get ready to be spooky.

Call of Cthulhu

Lovecraftian horror deserves mention as a genre that truly gets under your skin and sometimes leaves you a little insane. Chaosium, Inc.’s 7th Edition of this iconic game expands on the Cthulhu mythos, implementing a system where investigators become exposed to eldritch horrors, ancient forbidden truths through the Necronomicon, and die horrifically against the Great Old Ones. Most Call of Cthulhu settings take place during the turn of the century of the Industrial Revolution, but there are additional variants such as Pulp Cthulhu that brings it close to the Atomic Age with secret organizations, spies, and other deadly dangers. Lovecraft’s atmosphere along with Chaosium’s expanded Cthulhu mythos resonates into this wonderful tale of suspense and horror.

If you’re interested in learning how to create your Call of Cthulhu character, we have you covered with some quick and easy tutorial videos.

Dread

Dread is an indie narrative survival-horror RPG that does not utilize any dice mechanics or stats, but instead, players resolve their actions through a tower of wooden blocks that entirely resemble a Jenga tower. Instead of character sheets, players have character questionnaires tailored by their game masters for the particular scenario. What I love and enjoy about this game comes from the physical and emotional sensation of dread that builds throughout the game, because if the tower falls, the last player to touch it has their character suffer a tragic and possibly horrible end. The book itself provides useful tips, advice, and strategies to create your own scenarios, player expectations, and how to formulate your questionnaires. Additionally, there are four scenarios provided with pre-generated questionnaires. This is a great game to introduce someone to roleplaying games without the learning curve of game mechanics.

Ten Candles

If Dread is to be considered the epitome of survival-horror, then I would consider Ten Candles to be the epitome of tragic-horror. The game utilizes the simple setup of ten candles, some index cards to serve as character traits, several d6s with two different colors, a fireproof bowl, a tape recorder for your characters’ final thoughts before their imminent demise. Finally, it’s heavily suggested that this game is played in the dark with only the light of the candles to be the barrier against the setting’s dark apocalypse.

Unlike other games where players strive and hope to survive, in Ten Candles, the characters’ fate is inevitable and predetermined. Whenever a character fails a test, a candle is snuffed out, and the scene ends, but players can choose to “burn” away one of their character traits to prevent this failure. But ultimately, once there is only one candle remaining, the game enters its final end phase, and the players will all die. In other words, in this hopeless game, players will try to seek hope for their characters in this dark setting.

The game’s psychological degradation is appealing especially with other horror movies such as the Descent, the Final Destination series, Silent Hill, or even Friday the 13th. The desperation to keep these candles lit to delay this looming inevitability will undoubtedly have players feel the pressure after a few candles go out. The tape recorder mentioned previously? Whenever a character dies, their recording is replayed from the recorder as a final testament.

Don’t Rest Your Head

Evil Hat Productions’ Don’t Rest Your Head makes it to this list for the surreal and psychedelic atmosphere presented in its setting of the Mad City. The players are insomniacs who become aware of a metaphysical reality and entities are known merely as Nightmares. While awake, the players act like any normal human being, but their actions will eventually wear them down which runs the risk of the character drifting to sleep. While a character sleeps, the Nightmares stalk and attempt to kill your character. Survival requires another awakened character to assist, but alternatively, a character can choose to accrue madness in the face of their growing exhaustion.

The game employs a growing dice pool mechanic between its three attributes of Discipline, Exhaustion, and Madness. Players roll dice using their base Discipline plus any Exhaustion gained and any permanent Madness dice. For most mundane actions, a player character may roll their Discipline within a sense of control, but by incurring an Exhaustion die, the dice pool increases and grants a chance to succeed their rolled tests. But players can choose instead of using their Exhaustion pool, they can add a die to their Madness pool. Besides the onset of psychological strain and mental breakdowns, there are more devastating results such as the decrease in their Discipline trait followed by permanent Madness die.

Additionally, the game utilizes a meta-currency of Hope and Despair, with the former being a means for player characters to combat against the debilitating journey of living with insomnia. Despair is a currency for the GM to impose a significant challenge against a character, but between these two features, when one is spent, it is added into the coffers of the other which establishes the metaphor for give-and-take presentation of the harsh reality of life.

Bluebeard’s Bride

Fan of the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales? This RPG focuses on two characters, Bluebeard and his Bride, with the players’ roles as aspects of the Bride’s psyche. Throughout the game, players explore Bluebeard’s house through the eyes of the Bride, each player takes turns to act as their aspect of her psyche to make decisions, speak as the Bride, and pushing the Bride forward to explore this mysterious house only to encounter new horrors along the way.

This game is another excellent tragic horror game that harkens back to such classics as Disney’s Beauty and the Beast if it had become a full-fledged horror movie. As the Bride explores the house, the psyches (players) are confronted with various revelations and horrors about their beloved Bluebeard. The game reminds and encourages discourse between players with their Bride actions to represent the conflicting internal mental struggles of this central figure.

Ultimately, by the end of the game, the Bride will face the final door that Bluebeard forbade this Bride to enter. Depending on the actions of the Bride throughout this haunting tale, the Gamemaster has a unique track to determine the Bride’s faithfulness, treachery, or defiance. Whichever becomes the dominating mentality at the end of the game, each psyche will have a chance to narrate the final scene. This RPG combines the hallmarks of a collaborative storytelling experience yet encourages discourse between the players while taking turns to control a central character to serve as a vehicle for the narrative.

Little Fears

Little Fears harkens back to those classic childhood fears but turns the dial to eleven as players play as everyday kids that face both real and imagined monsters. Players have character sheets like any other roleplaying game but also includes a questionnaire to help flesh out their fears and the various aspects of their troubles, which your gamemaster will employ and build your stories around. Additionally, the game utilizes other features that are iconic from one’s own childhood, such Belief and Rituals to dispel the monsters that haunt us. The game has a very “Monster of the Week” infrastructure for longer campaigns but definitely can work under a one-shot capacity. Unlike other roleplaying games, many of the character aspects are strictly narrative or abstract in nature, fans with familiar to games such as Fate Core will feel right at home with this sort of game.

As an honorable mention, if you wish to play a game set in childhood horror, Kids on Bikes follows the same archetypes, but while Little Fears is explicitly focused on childhood horrors and traumas, the former fits into a wider variety of genres. Though Kids on Bikes can be presented with horror elements and just like Little Fears, both are narrative-focused games.

Old Friends

This indie entry by Bully Pulpit Games, written by Jason Morningstar (creator of Fiasco) and Ode Peder, is more of a ghost story than a horror RPG but there plenty of avenues to expand on the genre. In the premise for this game, the players were once former ghost hunters who found a way to bridge the worlds of the living and the dead together to put the spirits to rest. Unfortunately, one of these ghost hunters died and never found rest. Your group has returned to the place of your former friends’ passing to finish the job once and for all. The game does not require a gamemaster, but does suggest at least one game organizer prepare materials and moderate the game, as the players must enact a secret ritual to summon spirits to possess them. A mask is heavily suggested and required as a prop for this game, to represent the possessed character. Most of the character creation is done through cards that can be printed out before gameplay that establish roles, relationships, and backstories. While a character becomes possessed by the ghost, they make direct instructions or commands to other characters and they must obey them. Possessions pass across the playgroup until the end of the game. The rules are loose and abstract to fit for every number of playstyles and groups.

The Happiest Apocalypse on Earth

Another game to bring some nightmare to your childhood memories, The Happiest Apocalypse on Earth brings you the magic and joys of your iconic theme parks and turns them into a carnival of despair and dread. Just as the title suggests, this is a hack using the Powered by the Apocalypse system, but the atmosphere and themes touch on a satirical outlook with a dark representation for a sinister children’s theme park called Mouse Park. The game adopts a monster-of-the-week structure for longer campaigns, but it is also suited for one-shots as well. Characters acquire talents and abilities that can be cut and pasted onto their sheets which reduces a whole lot of reference to the rulebook and more time to focus on the gameplay.

The satirical undertones feel like a George Romero horror movie, but within the setting of The Happiest Apocalypse on Earth, you have the added caveat of ancient evils, demonic circles, strange experiments, and rogue animatronics. Plus, who doesn’t love the idea of an evil theme park full of unknown terrors? For longer campaigns, the book does offer advice to bring the player characters back every time, with each visitation revealing a new dark facet of Mouse Park.

The Esoterrorists

The Esoterrorists marries investigation and horror under the GUMSHOE system. Unlike most investigative driven RPGs, the GUMSHOE system focuses on the interpretation of the clues. This system inspired another Cthulhu RPG called Trail of Cthulhu which deserves an honorable mention here, but the real honor belongs to The Esoterrorists for being the progenitor. In The Esoterrorists, the players battle against fanatical occult terrorists who seek to shatter the fabric of reality to bring forth otherworldly monstrosities to our present realm.

This narrative-centric game utilizes a pool of points to perform investigative abilities, with other generic tests conducted with a six-sided die and its own point pool. As the players find clues, the story advances. To find the clues, the players will need to use their investigative abilities that correlate with it. All investigative skills always work, but again, the novelty from this system applies to the players’ and groups’ interpretation of these story clues. Spending their investigative points usually grants additional clues which are often additional information or benefits. Since the point pools can be adjusted and tailored for any scenario, a gamemaster can customize their tales to fit any kind of difficulty and length.

Fate Horror Toolkit

Fans of Evil Hat Production’s Fate Core and Fate Accelerated have a new toolkit for bringing horror to their games. While Fate provides a full breadth of narrative creativity with the interpretations of their aspects, this book offers advice and tips to maintain the tension often found in the horror genre without sacrifice the system’s ingenuity and freedom. There are mechanical elements such as the descent (very similar to mechanics found in the sanity mechanic from Call of Cthulhu) and methods for coping with trauma. Additionally, the supplement discusses the playgroup’s buy-in through impending doom and storytelling advice for crafting a survival horror scenario.

For the survival horror rules, there is a clock mechanic and a system for the gamemaster to establish finite resources that the players can freely utilize throughout the game. However, when those resources run out, there will most definitely be consequences which can range from reducing results to skill rolls and possibly even alterations to established aspects. As for the mechanics to define impending doom, there are some great tips and advice for setting this early buy-in with your players. Additionally, the toolkit adds a clock mechanic that is reminiscent in other games such as Apocalypse World or Blades in the Dark. Overall, this book provides solid advice to incorporate horror into your Fate games, whether to an existing campaign, a new one or even as a one-shot. Fate’s adaptive storytelling system allows for a full breadth of actions, moments, and creativity but in the vein of horror, some exercised limitations and restrictions will draft the necessary atmosphere needed.

There are plenty of horror-inspired RPGs out there, and whether or not your favorites made this list, just remember the core elements of horror: limited resources and inevitability. Atmosphere and mood are essential whether it be darkening a room or having appropriate music as a backdrop. Of course, the last key ingredient to any good horror game comes from the players and their acceptance of their fate within the game. Have the players aware of the context of their game, set expectations, and provide a safe means to express their discomforts. These elements can be found in the roleplaying games listed above, as it’s essential that every be comfortable and safe to tell the best tales possible. Enjoy, and may your nights be full of terror.

Return to the Loop with Free League’s New Adventures for Tales from the Loop

Imagine a setting in the 1980s and machines roam the landscape all connected to a mysterious facility and an equally mysterious power source used to generate various odd experiments that occasionally run rampant in your suburban life. The caveat? You’re all playing as kids, and only you can stop the machine menace. Free League Publishing released their ENnie awarding Tales from the Loop in 2015 which would later become of the “must play games” of 2017, and the game continues to grow with their first campaign book, Tales from the Loop: Our Friends the Machines and Other Mysteries.

The new campaign book consists of three mysteries, eight shorter mysteries inspired by songs from the 1980s, a chapter on machine blueprints, and a section dedicated to making your hometown the center of the Loop for your games. The chapters, design, and layout are identical to the core rulebook and honestly are aesthetically pleasing as they harken back to Swedish artist, Simon Stålenhag’s paintings.

  • Our Friends the Machines is a great mystery that encompasses everything from Transformers, to Toy Soldiers or Toy Story if you’re so inclined mixed with opposing AIs and mind-control chips. There’s plenty of information for the game master to run these fully established mysteries and have the kids (players) investigating the strange happenings in their small town. There are a lot of alternate paths and endings, and it’ll be a reoccurring design choice you will notice with subsequent mysteries.
  • Horror Movie Mayhem takes the moral panic of the 80s and adds the twist of subliminal messages and awful televised programs. It’s the classic “something went terribly wrong” sort of brainwashing and creepy PTA members to boot. There are some other elements that I feel I shouldn’t spoil but if anyone who grew up during this period of the moral panic, this one is for you.
  • The Mummy in the Mist brings the ideas of H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man meets Stephen King’s the Mist but with less blood and gore. This will have the kids exploring and investigating in several locations before it all leads to the showdown which has some great choices and equally great endings.
  • The Mixtape of Mysteries are all mysteries with titles borrowed from iconic songs from the 80s, and each one is distinct in their flavor and stories. One of my personal favorites “Every Breath You Take” is a great twist from the original song that served as its inspiration into some perverse and somewhat grim which had my full attention. All eight of these mysteries set up the premise, the truth, provide hooks, and countdowns to help narrate the story but leave the ending open-ended enough for the players to draw their conclusions.
  • The Machine blueprints provide insightful lore for the machines that roam within the Loop and provides suggested mysteries if the game master wishes to implement them.
  • The Hometown Hack chapter is probably my favorite chapter for game masters to transplant their hometowns into the mechanics and aesthetics of the Loop. There are some useful tips for defining your town, establishing the Loop, and fleshing out the details of your characters’ hometown. After all, the players will be spending the majority of their time in this area, so it’s helpful to have them participate in the worldbuilding process.

I honestly enjoyed this campaign book, and if you already own Tales from the Loop, I highly suggest picking up this book as well. It’s a great companion piece to help give some meaning mysteries, provide hooks for some others, and great tips for bringing to the Loop to your small town. The last section on the Hometown Hack is worth buying this book already, very insightful information that allows a gamemaster to transfer the Loop to practically anywhere. The book is very well organized, the layout is easy to read and navigate, and expands on the setting provided from the core rulebook.

You can acquire your copy of Our Friends the Machines and Other Mysteries here and currently, at the time of this article, the book is sold out, but there are plenty of 3rd-party distributors that should have copies available. Additionally, Free League Publishing launched a Kickstarter, Things from the Flood, that is meant as a sequel to Tales from the Loop. If you haven’t picked up your copy of Tales from the Loop, the game is essentially the Goonies meets Eerie Indiana, and it just works with all of these different niche genres.

Call of Cthulhu Goes Mobile

By Jacky Leung     Twitter

Call of Cthulhu is one of the definitive tabletop roleplaying games that portray H.P. Lovecraft’s stories full of madness, eldritch horrors, and ancient creatures called the Great Old Ones. The legacy of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories continue to inspire and terrify audiences with an upcoming video game, various tabletop board games, and plenty of movies, music, and tv shows that have drawn influence from the material. Mobile games have adapted several board games and various other adventure style games. MetaArcade’s Cthulhu Chronicles, partnered with Chaosium, Inc,  brings the classic stories from Lovecraft to life as Choose-Your-Own-Adventure (CYOA) tales. The game was featured at Gen Con with a massive screen demo, and I had a pleasant chat with MetaArcade about plans for this platform of storytelling.

First Cthulhu Campaign

The first Cthulhu Chronicles campaign contains nine stories; most are iconic Lovecraft stories brought into the CYOA genre with a few original pieces to bridge the narrative together into a cohesive experience. During the demo, I had the pleasure of playing Alone Against the Flames. The atmosphere, the aesthetic, and the gameplay were easy to pick up and learn. I quickly became immersed into the story and tried my best to escape but ultimately succumbed to a grisly fate. The game sports multiple different characters with different stats and each story has clues that act as a sort of achievement system. Some stories and sections are more accessible for certain characters than others, but the challenge to get them makes the experience all the more satisfying.

Fans Already In Love

During my interview with MetaArcade, I inquired about the overall reception the mobile app game has received. As of the time of this article, Cthulhu Chronicles is only available on the Apple App Store, but I was assured that an Android version would be made available in the coming months. But overall, the mobile app has received some considerable download numbers, with many fans in between the US and Japan being the bulk of interest. The Asian mobile environment is vibrant, with the US as a close second place, and the opportunities for both a CYOA adventure mobile platform and the love for Lovecraft’s suspenseful tales will undoubtedly improve once the app opens to the Android app marketplace.

Update: As for September 13, MetaArcade has released Cthulhu Chronicles on the Google Play App Store

Familiar Mechanics

Cthulhu Chronicles utilizes the Call of Cthulhu ruleset from Chaosium, Inc but with a streamlined integration and implementation of the iconic horror mystery game. The mobile game acts as a shell for the CYOA narrative along with the unseen game mechanics. Instead of a full-fledged character sheet, prospective players have three primary skills: Appearance, Athleticism, and Intelligence. During the game, players will have encounters and tests that can either open or restrict specific narrative paths. While the tabletop game utilizes a d100 percentile dice, the mobile version incorporates that three skills and the d100 roll through a spin wheel graphic interface. Players will still have the ability to choose specific directions for their adventure, but the addition of tests yield an opportunity to explore new pathways or at least attempt to study them.

Atmosphere and Mood

In Cthulhu Chronicles, players will have a feel of Lovecraft’s Arkham, with pictures and graphics taken from source material set in the turn of the 20th century (supplied from the Library of Congress) and a soundtrack that genuinely gives that Cthulhu vibe. The text, layout, and even color schemes help to immerse a player into the narrative without feeling like you’re playing a game at all. Even the spin wheel interface sports the lost language of the Great Old Ones.

Free to Play

Cthulhu Chronicles is free to download from the app store, with three free plays a day. In other words, you get three attempts with any of the nine stories available. If you wish to unlock unlimited plays, you can purchase tickets for each story. Given the large bundle packages, I was assured to me that this was not a one a done deal for Cthulhu Chronicles, but hopefully a sampling for more great content ahead. The game is expected to release a second campaign as well though there was no announcement date determined yet.  

Community Content

One of the unique features that MetaArcade is hoping to implement with Cthulhu Chronicles is a community content service, much like other marketplaces as such as the DMsGuild for D&D and the Storyteller’s Vault for White Wolf, this platform has the potential to grow and hopes to do so in the near future with a pilot program for content creation. MetaArcade hopes to expand into other genres, and adapt this opportunity beyond the Cthulhu mythos. Presently, the program has not been established, but prospective writers and creators can sign up to join the pilot program once it launches. There is no definitive date at the time of this article, as such a development may take several months but interested parties are encouraged to sign up to stay informed for any progress

Not Their First Rodeo

Cthulhu Chronicles is not MetaArcade’s first rodeo they have another mobile app that utilizes a game that somewhat resembles Dungeons & Dragons called Tunnels and Trolls. A very similar CYOA style dungeon crawl experience, though the shell is not as refined as Cthulhu Chronicles, though I found myself still enjoying the game with my short time with it. Again, this again showcases MetaArcade’s app platform can work with a variety of different genres in the future and I hope to see this developer’s name more often in future apps

Sample Screenshots of Cthulhu Chronicles

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Top Upcoming Releases by Green Ronin Publishing

By Jacky Leung     Twitter

Green Ronin Publishing is a renowned roleplaying game company with a reputation for innovative quality games since 2000. Some of their notable roleplaying game products include Dragon Age, A Song of Fire and Ice Roleplaying, and Mutants & Masterminds. The Seattle-based publisher continues to be hard at work to produce expansions to their existing properties while broadening into new systems and projects. For example, a week before Gen Con 2018, Green Ronin launched their Expanse RPG Kickstarter campaign and highlighted the release of their new Modern Age system, the contemporary-to-futuristic successor to their Fantasy Age ruleset.

It’s been a month since Gen Con, but there are still plenty of projects Green Ronin has in development, soon-to-be-released, or recently completed. These are my top picks for most anticipated projects or products, but they encompass most of Green Ronin’s product offerings.

The Expanse Roleplaying Game

This upcoming game system brings James S.A. Corey’s award-winning science-fiction novels to your tabletop. Fans of the SyFy Channel series based on the same novel series can look forward to the same fast-paced action and intrigue-filled storytelling. Using the new Modern Age ruleset, the game offers unique features such as Fortune instead of Health, Interludes for those breaks between encounters, and of course, spaceship battles. You can snag a copy of the quickstart for The Expanse RPG here.

Modern AGE

Fancy some adventures during the Industrial Revolution? Or perhaps some urban fantasy noir game? Or maybe head into a dystopian future reminiscent of settings such as Blade Runner or Ghost in the Shell? The latest iteration and expansion to the Adventure Game Engine (AGE) now features a classless implementation through talents, focuses, and specializations. The iconic stunt system makes a return in this new high octane, fast-paced combat, a sleek new interface for a plethora of games and genres. The new system includes new mechanics for running chases, along with options to add magic and psychic powers to your games. The World of Lazurus will serve as the Modern Age‘s first campaign setting with a dystopian noir flair. Additionally, there are plans for a companion book be released sometime in late 2018 to 2019. You can take a glance at the new Modern Age ruleset with a quickstart PD here.

Dragon Age/Fantasy AGE

Fans of this video game turned tabletop game, as seen on Geek and Sundry’s Tabletop, inspired the Fantasy AGE ruleset but the folks at Green Ronin have been hard at work to produce new content for this beloved franchise. According to announcements and planned releases for both Dragon Age and Fantasy Age, longtime fans can expect several new supplements to arrive over the course of 2019. Notable products include a new “Faces of Thedas” supplement series, a rules compendium, and a campaign builders handbook. I will enjoy reading the campaign builder book, I love the AGE system and would not mind have some more ideas on crafting my campaign settings.

Mutants & Masterminds

The superhero inclined RPG system has received some cosmetic and linguistic updates in the latest edition. Green Ronin’s partnership with DC Comics produced iconic heroic stats for Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman to name a few. At the Gen Con panel, designers announced a quickstarter’s guide to introducing new prospective players to the game, a Super Team handbook, and an “Astonishing Adventures” series as their modular adventure entry. Additionally, the game recently launched a new Basic Hero’s Handbook to present a streamlined presentation of their third edition rules, and a Rogues Gallery supplement, containing all of their iconic villains from M&M under one cover.  I have not personally played Mutants & Masterminds since their 2nd Edition book sometime back in the mid-2000s and would love to read up on the changes over the past decade. The system is quite adaptable and exemplifies one of the most authentic superhero RPGs with an ample blend of mechanics to narrative design.

Freeport: the City of Adventure

Green Ronin has partnered with Drowned Monkeys Games to create a computer roleplaying game (CRPG) based on the publisher’s original campaign setting of Freeport: the City of Adventure. According to Drowned Monkeys Games, the game will feature a virtual room hosted by a virtual gamemaster on a virtual table. The entire experience is akin to a full-fledged simulation that includes “dice rolls, playing with friends, painting miniatures, dioramas, character sheets, etc. are represented in the play space.” The game is slated for release during the holiday season of 2019.

Ork! The Roleplaying Game

Longtime Green Ronin fans will recall this familiar product, Ork! The Roleplaying Game was the company’s first product released over eighteen years ago. This casual, “beer-n-pretzel” roleplaying game is chock full of wild antics that will often leave your playgroup reeling in laughs. After years of no additional releases, the company has returned to their roots and announced before Gen Con a new standalone second edition printing. The updated book is currently still on preorder at the time of this article, but if you are looking for a fun, casual antic-inlined tabletop RPG, Ork is the right game for you.

Green Ronin is undoubtedly going to be busy the rest of 2018 and well into 2019. Dungeons & Dragons fans may recall the company’s previous entries which include Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and in the Critical Role: Tal’ Dorei Campaign Setting. For D&D fans looking for new roleplaying games, this is an excellent opportunity to expand your horizons with a trusted company with years of experience crafting quality games.

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Return to the Night with the new Vampire the Masquerade

By Jacky Leung     Twitter

Sometime in the early 2000’s, I entered into a world of darkness and terror, where monsters wore a human face and a great plot lurked underneath the pale moonlight. Vampire the Masquerade 5th Edition by White Wolf Entertainment brings the nostalgia of the revolutionary vampire tabletop roleplaying game to the 21st century. Since its original publication in 1991, White Wolf has published games to tell captivating stories about the horrors of the night, touching on mature content compared to the fantasy roleplaying games of yore. 

What you need to know about Vampire the Masquerade 5th Edition (V5):

  • Storyteller Roleplaying System: a dice pool of d10s with difficulty determined by the number of successful die results (a result of 6 or above). The dice pool is usually determined by combining the dots or value in an attribute stat and skill together.
  • Vampire has strong themes that parallel the real world, which may contain dark and mature undertones but in a safe environment.
  • Updated mechanics from previous editions that offer a streamlined entry for new and veteran fans, especially fans who haven’t played a game of Vampire in many years. I love the new Hunger dice mechanics.
  • The Second Crusade and the Gehenna War has caused many powerful vampires to be gone, with greater danger now for the Kindred than ever before in a continually changing world. The metaplot within Vampire sets the stage for new opportunities for unique narratives within playgroups.
  • Players have nine clans to choose during character creation which includes the original seven clans of the Camarilla, the Caitiff, and Thin-blooded.

At Gen Con 2018, I had the opportunity to sit down with White Wolf to discuss Vampire’s changes from its previous editions, what people should expect in the new edition, and White Wolf’s plans for the future (trust me, it’s good).

Mechanically, Vampire 5th Edition sports many new options to streamline gameplay and resolution into a robust system that emphasizes story and its progression. Sure obstacles still matter, but they are no longer a detriment for narrative advancement.

For returning and new fans of the franchise, 5th edition sports some refined concepts:

  • While the dice still uses pools of d10s, the difficulty is defined by the number of success. Successful results are determined by any die results of 6 or more. Criticals occur for each pair of die results with a 10, which count as two successes.
  • Winning at a cost is a new feature, where if the rolls possess some successes, but the test fails, a player can achieve their goal, but a situation worsens. A much more narrative focused option but one that adds stakes and tension.
  • Checks are single d10 rolls, attempting to achieve a target number of 6 or higher. Typically used to determine any Hunger gain for the vampire.
  • Taking Half is one of my favorite additions to the game. As a way to reduce the number of dice rolls, Storytellers can take half for SPCs (storyteller-played characters) for rolls in contests (such as combat for example). The Storyteller takes half the value of the final dice pool, rounded down, and treats that result as successes.
  • Predator Types are similar to D&D 5th Edition’s background, except focused on the way your vampire character hunts for their blood. There are additional boons and flaws acquired that grant some areas of specialization and narrative opportunities.
  • Vampire focuses on the group dynamics with coterie creation and relationship maps, which provide an excellent tool for players to reference the overall climate of their character plots, but also as an influential tool for Storytellers to assess where to tug for story beats.
  • Hunger and the Hunger dice mechanic is significantly streamlined compared to older iterations, criticals and failures create new story avenues and opportunities. A much more narrative implementation compared to the mechanical presentations from earlier editions.
  • Disciplines offer a suite of options based on the level of investment, choosing a new power each time the vampire gains a dot in it. Characters normally have an equal number of dots and discipline powers.

One of the novel additions to the game that I love is the introduction of the loresheets, which provide a context in a character’s background and establish them as a facet of the Vampire lore and metaplot. While players should consult with their Storytellers on what loresheets are allowed, they provide a fantastic way for players to engage with the setting. The physical print sports fifteen loresheets for players and Storytellers to utilize but the digital PDF includes additional loresheet that did not make the final cut.

Additionally, the core rulebook includes advance mechanics and systems that expand on the test mechanic, explores interpretations for combat, and includes new implementations with blood and hunger.

Fun Tip: While I was at Gen Con, Karim, the lead editor for Vampire, introduced me to a novel approach for incurring Hunger. Should the vampire accrue enough damage to fill their health boxes, they gain one Hunger die. Give it a try in your game.

Some of the upcoming ventures and products from White Wolf ahead:

  • The upcoming Anarch and Camarilla sourcebooks are expected to be released later in the Fall of 2018 and include additional lore information with some mechanical inclusions as well.
  • White Wolf has partnered with Onyx Path Publishing to bring the iconic Chicago by Night setting book to the V5 system.
  • A new Legacy-format board game called Vampire: the Masquerade Heritage will be released in SPIEL 2019. In the game, players build a vampiric bloodline with characters to complete historical missions and battle against other clans in a chronicle that spans 700 years.
  • The World of Darkness – the Documentary is set to be released on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon later in 2018. The documentary explores the history of White Wolf Entertainment, the impact Vampire had on pop culture and media, with interviews from many creators, fans, and artists who were inspired by this IP for over 25 years.
  • White Wolf has also partnered with Belladonna’s Cupboard for a Vampire: the Masquerade-themed makeup line.
  • Additionally, there will be new upcoming Vampire LARP events in the coming future including one in Austin, TX in November 2018 called The Night in Question. You can find other LARP events and support at World of Darkness’ community hub.

Vampire’s 25-year legacy lives on in the latest 5th Edition and is prompted with possibly the most ambitious media resurgence that would be akin to a Second Coming. The growth of the tabletop roleplaying hobby presents a substantial audience from Vampire’s initial release in 1991. The system is accessible, the setting is vibrant, and the story is still just as dark. It almost makes me hopeful to see a Kindred: the Embraced television series reboot. Time to grab your black chain jeans and leather shirts, it’s time to return to the Masquerade. 

Additional Links:

  • Purchase Vampire: the Masquerade (V5) here.
  • Learn more about Vampire: the Masquerade on the World of Darkness site.
  • Get a sneak peek at Vampire: the Masquerade Heritage board game.

Ravnica & Eberron Announced – Tale of Two Settings

By Jacky Leung     Twitter

The long-awaited announcement for the Dungeons and Dragons settings came Monday morning (Pacific Time) on July 23rd was met with overall excitement from the D&D community though not without some hiccups. Wizards of the Coast released details on their collaboration with D&D and Magic: the Gathering to bring Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica with a release date on November 20th and that the Eberron setting will be making its triumphant return to the franchise as well. Eberron’s return starts with a digital PDF release of Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron on the DMsGuild marketplace by Keith Baker in collaboration with the creative team at Wizards of the Coast.

What you need to know about Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica:

  • Release Date: 20 November 2018
  • Price: $49.95 USD
  • Accessories include a Map Pack and a premium dice set featuring the Guilds of Ravnica
  • Ravnica is a plane of existence in Wizard of the Coast’s Magic the Gathering franchise, released originally in 2005 in Ravnica: City of Guilds, followed with a revisit in Return to Ravnica in 2012, with a planned third Ravnica return in Guilds of Ravnica to be released in October 2018 & spring 2019.
  • Ravnica is an ecumenopolis, a vast city that encompasses an entire planet. Like Coruscant in Star Wars
  • There are ten iconic guilds in Ravnica that serve unique functions in the daily life within the city, with their brand of rivalries and adversaries, all governed by an oath known as the Guildpact. Not every citizen is part of a guild, but their presence is felt throughout Ravnica.
  • The current price point suggests a product akin to Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide.

The news about Ravnica was unintentionally leaked on Amazon Brazil’s website site with product pages screenshotted across Reddit and later on other social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter sometime on Sunday, July 22nd. News and speculation on the authenticity of the screenshots & cover art were eventually confirmed by the cover artist later on. The story left many fans with a mixed reception.

There was even a poll on the r/Dndnext subreddit with close to half of voters displeased with the setting choice.

While Nathan Stewart, director of D&D, indicated that “fans of Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering have been asking for years about when these two amazing brands would play together.” Impressions from the Magic: the Gathering community seemed pleased with the official product news. Various MtG pundits were excited upon the leak on Sunday, with notable individuals such as Evan Erwin showcasing his excitement. The early leak only heightened the general anticipation for the Monday announcements from Wizards of the Coast.

The second setting announced was Eberron, a beloved setting created by Keith Baker for the Fantasy Setting Search in 2002. Content creators on the DMsGuild took note of a new setting category option titled “Eberron” early Monday morning almost 6 hours before any formal declaration. Wizards revealed an ebook product, Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron, with a collaboration between the creative team and Keith Baker that would serve as a “living document” for feedback before any official product is released.

What you need to know about Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron:

 

  • Product Type: Digital PDF
  • Price: $19.99 USD
  • A 175-page book that encompasses playtest materials that include unique races, an overview of Khorvaire and the city of Sharn, dragonmarks, magic items, and a host of backgrounds to jumpstart players and DMs to their Eberron adventures
  • Iconic races: Shifters, Changelings, and Warforged make their 5th Edition debut from the mind of its creator, Keith Baker.
  • The release of Wayfinder grants DMsGuild content creators the ability to create and distribute content within the Eberron setting.
  • According to the Introduction by Keith Baker, this content is considered a playtest or a draft and therefore is not applicable for official Adventurer’s League use. If an official Eberron product is released, Wayfinders will complement the officially released material according to D&D creative lead, Mike Mearls. Mearls also commented that the product would eventually have a Print-on-Demand option for purchase later.

Initial confusion of the “official” status of Wayfinders as an official D&D resource left fans, and consumers concerned with their purchase of this playtest document.

Previous playtest documents by Wizards have been free in the past. When the official announcement was published, the lack of a playtest description on the official Twitter and Facebook posts felt misleading. At the time of this article, official Wizards staff have clarified that Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron is indeed a playtest document and the DMsGuild product includes this detail.

There is an “if” in front of the possibility for an Eberron print product with a clarification of additional content in THAT product with Wayfinder to complement it. You’re paying for two products, one that is not an official product that is labeled as a living playtest document (until otherwise), and then the probable (but not guaranteed) Eberron product.

Warning Signs?

Playtest documents for tabletop RPGs tend to change, as with the case of Wizard’s Unearthed Arcana column where some content was adjusted from player feedback. The practice to buy playtests seems to secure capital from dedicated die-hard fans possibly to ensure a quality product. The video game industry suffered backlash to Early Access business models for games due to extended production times and incomplete work with some games suffering from the inability to fulfill expectations. The practice has become unpopular, with many developers returning to traditional development timelines.

This Early Access practice has been seen with Paizo’s Pathfinder 2nd Edition playtest where prospective fans can purchase physical hardcover copies of the material. Paizo is a leading competitor for Wizards of the Coast on tabletop RPGs, though there are no sales figures to make any conclusions, the initial hype from the 2nd Edition announcement was met with enthusiasm.

Ultimately, Monday was supposedly Wizard of the Coast’s big day to shine and present their newest offerings. Instead, half of the surprise was leaked prematurely, and the other half was miscommunicated to the fans but before over a thousand copies were sold. One cannot help but feel somewhat entertained by the mishaps this Monday, the 23rd of July. Nonetheless, I am excited about the latest offerings and look forward to Ravnica and the future of Eberron.

Channel your inner Han Solo with Evil Hat’s Scum and Villainy

By Jacky Leung     Twitter

Long since the days when renowned smuggler and scoundrel, Han Solo graced the silver screens in the first Star Wars movies, would pop culture be dazzled by the soon-to-be-iconic trope of the space cowboy. The trope would carry on into many films, television series, and books include such notables as Firefly, Dark Matter, the Expanse, Guardians of the Galaxy, and anime series like Cowboy Bebop and Outlaw Star. The “space western” genre grew from the space opera scene and told stories of anti-heroes or heroes with attitude in a cruel, unforgiving universe. With Evil Hat Production’s open-game license of Blades in the Dark into the Forged in the Dark branding, we are presented with a unique space adventure known simply as Scum and Villainy. The title pays homage to a particular line from Star Wars: A New Hope from the late Alec Guinness’ Obi-Wan Kenobi, “Mos Eisley spaceport. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”

Fans of Blades in the Dark will find familiar mechanics.

  • Progress clocks make a return with new additions like “race against the clock” and faction clocks for those pesky rivals.  
  • The game structure remains the same but includes new mechanics for upkeep to maintain your ship. The ship takes center stage compared to the lair from Blades.
  • Dice rolls and resolution remain unchanged but with twelve new actions for all the space heist high jinks.

The new things in Scum and Villainy include:

  • Seven new playbooks (or classes) that resemble typical sci-fi tropes such as the mechanic, the muscle, the scoundrel, and pilots. Essentially, all the critical roles from Joss Whedon’s Firefly if you wanted to be specific.

    The crew of the Serenity, Firefly
  • Armor to reduce to nearly lethal consequences.
  • The Way is the mystical energy that acts like magical ley-lines across the galaxy. What’s a space opera without some supernatural force that no one can explain? Did I mention there are cults for it too?

    When mysticism meets the weird, Outlaw Star
  • What’s a crew without their main attraction, the ship? Unlike the crew’s lair in Blades, in Scum and Villainy, the ship is a character too and requires upkeep to stay functional for your band of scoundrels to make their heists.
  • Rules for science and the strange mystic forces that bind the universe together. Everything from advanced tech, to elusive precursor races, and even the mystical Way.
  • Androids and drones. Sadly, you cannot be an Urbot character, but maybe in a future installment?

    Who wants to this upcoming Star Wars movie?
  • Speaking of advanced technology, crafting has a more significant role as a downtime activity. In many sci-fi series, you will always find someone tinkering away on a new device or modifying an existing one.
  • Is there honor among thieves? In Scum and Villainy, there are some added suggestions for crafting your trust mechanics along with tips for those massive spaceship battles. 

    Space battles!

Pre-orders for hardcover copies of Scum and Villainy are already underway with an expected shipping date in early August around the time of GenCon. Due to Evil Hat Production’s PDF purchase policy (something several indie publishers have started the practice), anyone who pre-orders the rulebook gets immediate access to the digital PDF so you can start playing right away. I adore this practice, and if you’re interested in Blades in the Dark, you can read the Forged in the Dark SRD and start your adventures with your motley crew of scoundrels and heathens trying to make a name for yourselves.

Scum and Villainy Preorder Link: https://www.evilhat.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=79&products_id=336

Forged in the Dark SRD Link: https://bladesinthedark.com/

The Mountain Witch is a Samurai RPG of Trust & Betrayal

What I love most about Kickstarter is finding new RPG projects being designed brought into the world, but what I also about Kickstarter is that it serves as an excellent platform for other tabletop RPGs to get the chance to be crowdfunded for reprints or even new editions. This presents opportunities for indie RPG authors and game designers to reintroduce their games during this tabletop renaissance. With so many indie RPGs out there, finding them all or knowing all of them is quite a feat. So when I stumbled upon Timonth Kleinert’s Kickstarter for the second edition of Mountain Witch, I was intrigued by the medieval Japanese setting, the mention of the horror and noir genre, and this daring assault against a powerful mountain witch.

Mountain Witch is a self-contained roleplaying adventure where players assume the roles of ronin, or masterless samurai, that accept a deal to assault the dreaded O-Yanma, the Mountain Witch of Mount Fuji. The game utilizes primarily a six-sided (d6) die to resolve conflicts across gameplay. Typically, players declare their intent through a freeform narrative, where contested rolls are done with a single d6, the winner gains control of the story, while the losing die is used to subtract from the value of the winning die to determine degrees of freedom to measure the overall success for the winning character. I genuinely enjoy this mechanic as a way to bridge the concept of contested rolls, which keeps the game dynamic but also present a method to determine degrees of freedom to reward and incentivize the storytelling. Unlike typical RPGs where characters test their skills and gain progression through gameplay, the Mountain Witch assumes competent characters and instead implies that under normal circumstances the characters to be able to perform any reasonable action within their ability. Conflict in this game is more of a conflict of interest between characters. The degrees of success grants players the metaphor of two samurais in a duel to the death with one strike for one kill.

In a game where character death is very probable over the course of gameplay, Kleinert skillfully incorporates a meta-game mechanic referred to as Trust wherein even dead player characters (PCs) can accrue this currency to continue influencing the narrative. Trust as a currency grants a player influence over another character’s conflict rolls. Additionally, it is given by a character to be on them in a future conflict, which is a very dangerous double-edged sword that invites betrayal. At specific points in the story, players rate how much their character trusts other members of this company. At character creation, players designate one of six grim fates for their character that act as open-ended descriptions that reveal a samurai’s past while providing ulterior motives. Both the Fates and Trust mechanic create a tense atmosphere where the samurai characters must trust one another to survive but cannot trust all of them for they all have ulterior motives.

The current Kickstarter campaign has already met their $10,000 USD funding goal which will produce a published instruction book of the game with full-color illustrations, and the ability to provide game cards that contain the dark fates and zodiac signs to be used during character creation. Additional stretch goals, which at the time of this article have been achieved, include other writers to contribute a few chapters and instructional videos on GMing the game. Some of the sections include commentary and alternate settings and rule variants. After purchasing a digital PDF of the game for myself, I look forward to the updated version and have my physical copy to add to my RPG collection.  

Kickstarter link: http://kck.st/2LocRrI

 

Step into the Dystopian Universe in Evil Hat’s Uprising

Step into the Dystopian Universe in Evil Hat’s Uprising

By Jacky Leung     Twitter

The classic and iconic tropes in dystopian, cyberpunk settings tend to have an oppressed populace ruled by nearly untouchable leaders with a growing band of freedom fighters that form an underground movement in the hopes of liberating the world. One of the most iconic board games, The Resistance by Indie Boards & Cards, has made considerable headway in the tabletop board game arena. Later games such as Coup and One Night Revolution expanded the board games’ setting to the current presentation of Uprising: the Dystopian Universe RPG. Like other DU games, there will be government agents and cunning spies, along with iconic caveats such as trust and betrayal, and combating the institutions of the world hellbent on quelling a populace full of unrest and rebellion. Uprising utilizes the Fate Core RPG system with players assuming the roles of characters behind the game cards or creating their own to form their core members of the resistance against their corporate overlords.

According to the Kickstarter description, character archetypes are based on familiar DU cards (based off Coup: Rebellion G54), some playsheets are modeled after particular archetypes or tropes that players can assume but provides apparent customization to personalize the experience. While familiar Fate mechanics will be seen in this game, new ones have been included as well, such as secrets (which is an integral part of the Dystopian Universe setting), new downtime activities to utilize accumulated Fate points, new actions, and an advancement system using character-specific goals to mark milestones. Such goals may cause characters to clash with one another, which only adds more to the story.

Backers have instant access to a preview PDF that contains all of the text found in the finished book but lacks most of the artwork. Having read the document myself, I found the setting to expressed vividly and yet familiar, for someone who has played many of the Dystopian Universe games. One noticeable difference from traditional Fate Core rules would the be character/playsheets. Unlike other Fate games with a wide array of skills, four main skills or actions grant modifiers when rolling Fudge dice. There are new conditions such as compromised, blacklisted, or marked for death; death is a common occurrence in the DU setting according to the disclaimer at the very front of the book. There are nine character playsheets divided into three categories which players can select and customize. Players choose secret cards into a secrets deck, and the GM adds spy cards to it; afterward, players draw two cards from this makeshift deck and pick one of them to be used as their secret during gameplay. Each playsheet has five unique stunts and players can choose two of them at the start of character creation. Like most Fate games, players and their GMs spend time setting up details for the Resistance before moving onto developing the oppressive government the players will fight.

Backer rewards include a digital download of the rulebook PDF at $20 USD with a hardcover copy at $35 USD with a planned shipped date in late 2018. The project is already fully funded and is in the process of unlocking stretch goals. Presently, backers will have a print-on-demand copy of the secrets deck included with their rewards from DriveThruCards. Additional supplements for a corporate catalog, hotspots, and safe houses are also added as digital rewards for all backers. The promise of more stretch goals provides an excellent incentive to spread the word and bring this game to more eyes. If you’ve been a long time fan of the Dystopian Universe board game series from Indie Boards & Cards, you will not want to miss this opportunity to snag a copy of Uprising using a system that provides depth in a beginner-friendly system for any potential Game Master.

Uprising: Dystopian Universe RPG Kickstarter link: http://kck.st/2GFQCPx

Digital Dragons, Synth Wave & neon lights – Enter the Retroverse D&D Campaign Setting

Digital Dragons, Synth Wave & neon lights – Enter the Retroverse D&D Campaign Setting

By Jacky Leung     Twitter

There’s a certain appeal for neon lights, electro/synthetic wave music, and the sound of dial-up: all were products of a bygone era. Those who grew up during this period or even shortly after that may often develop nostalgia for the brightly colored and often futuristic aesthetic. The idea to bridge iconic fantasy elements such as Dungeons & Dragons and this retro-futuristic style leads us to the Retroverse, a D&D 5e compatible campaign setting. Created by Chris Lock (@snickelsox) and Lluis Abadias Garcia (@LluisAbadias), the Retroverse is primarily inspired by the music, games, books, movies, and fashions between the 70’s and the early 2000’s. Narratively, the Retroverse is a world where old memories of poorly remembered songs, lost childhoods, terribly cheesy styles have gone to be forgotten. While utilizing many of the core aspects of the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition ruleset, it does possess a series of unique core classes tailored to the feeling and style of the setting. Currently, the Retroverse is undergoing development and test trials, with a recent sample of the game on YouTube. According to their website, the Kickstarter for the Retroverse is expected to launch on April 10th, 2018.

I was granted a sneak peek into this nostalgic yet unique world, include some playtest material which showcased some of the new races and classes players could use to create their heroes of the Retroverse. The playtest materials add new rules and mechanics, along with creatures, items, and even a short campaign to sample. Some of the iconic races included the wolf-like Wo’nari, the anthropomorphic dinosaur Cerans which range from Tri-Cerans, Sty-Cerans, and Pa-Cerans. Dragonborn receive new variants available only in the Retroverse which are separated by four types: Neon, Laser, Xenon, and Tesla.

For the playtest, the De-Fragger, Goreangyr, Holo-Knight, and Synth Weaver were available to be reviewed. The De-Fragger is a champion against digital corruption. They are a half-caster class that shares mechanical similarities to a Paladin but with the durability of a Barbarian. You may attribute this class to be the system antivirus software for your computer. The Holo-Knight is another half-caster warrior class that can create holographic weapons on demand, if you’re a big fan of Green Lantern or the Fate/Stay anime series, you will feel right at home. The Synth Weaver is a blend of bard and rave music, calling up the flavor of being a roller-blading disc jockey rhythm enthusiast. Thinking back to the 90’s, one cannot forget the nostalgia of Saban’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, which was an Americanized adaptation of Toei’s Super Sentai series, and we are presented the Goreangyr class. Combining the notion of a familiar or animal companion with a class that becomes empowered with a real costume change, and a tremendous sized mechanical robotic ally, this particular character class hits all sorts of nostalgia buttons for me.

One of the new mechanics implemented in the world of the Retroverse is the breakdown of digital matter called corruption, and it causes effects that resemble code decay, dissemination, and just an overall unpleasant experience. The playtest also featured new spells that thematically fit within this vibrant universe, including spells such as party ball or Mom’s spaghetti to name a few. A short campaign was included and hits all the buttons of nostalgia with callbacks and references from the 80’s and 90’s. The monsters in the Retroverse are diverse and exemplary such as pizza cubs or even karma chameleons (yes, I kid you not).

The Retroverse is a love letter to some of the favorite time periods of the many gamers and players within the tabletop RPG community but also an excellent introduction for newer players to a world of bright colors, cheesy puns, and fantastical combinations like laser velociraptors. As the Kickstarter campaign’s launch date approaches, more material will be unveiled by Chris and Lluis, along possible playtest streams. Interested backers can currently sign up on their website Lasers & Liches for a newsletter.

YouTube link: https://youtu.be/ilEursS85R8

Lasers & Liches Website: https://www.lasersandliches.com/

 

From Breaking Bad to Narcos – Welcome to Cartel RPG

From Breaking Bad to Narcos – Welcome to Cartel RPG

By Jacky Leung     Twitter

Step into a world of danger, drama, and narcotics in Mark Diaz Truman’s Cartel RPG, a Mexican narcofiction tabletop game. In Cartel, players assume the roles of narcos, their spouses, and even dirty cops tied to a drug cartel in Mexico in the mid-2000s. It’s a dangerous game of drugs, money, and power. The game is inspired by adult fiction such as Breaking Bad, The Wire, and El Mariachi which captivates fans of crime dramas and Mexican melodramas. Previously published as a 50-page preview for Gen-Con 2015, Cartel is now officially ready to be released as a finished product, full-colored and packed with stunning art.

Using the Powered by the Apocalypse engine in its core, Cartel has the mechanics and narrative flexibility to tell tragic stories with a sense of dark humor within the backdrop of what seems like an eternal drug war. Powered by Apocalypse is used in other RPG systems such as Apocalypse World, Urban Shadows, Bluebeard’s Bride, and more. Players take a playbook, which consists of their character sheet and relevant archetypes. Each character has a distinct role, each packed with their mechanical abilities and narrative choices. The base game includes six playbooks, with possibly more pending stretch goals. At the time of this article, three additional playbooks will be added to the game with a possible fourth soon. Truman assures backers that Cartel can facilitate a variety of ways to play, whether it be short or long-term campaigns. The game sports a key-advancement system within their playbooks, each key provides a condition to earn experience points and advancement but at the cost of losing the key. By fluctuating their keys, players can tailor their characters by adjusting how they earn experience points. The campaign provides a quick start PDF on their Kickstarter page for interested backers to review the content and embrace the visual aesthetics of the setting.

According to Truman, Cartel allows players to tell compelling, tense stories through character actions that inevitably ends in a possibly bloody climax. If you’re a fan of other tabletop games such as Fiasco or have seen any of the previous television dramas listed, most of those do not always end with happy endings. Admittedly, Truman was inspired by an episode of Breaking Bad, as it featured his hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. After completing Urban Shadows, Truman expressed his wish to create a game with a connection to his Latino roots. In the end, Cartel serves to tell a story of the drug war from the perspective of the Mexican people and capture the sprawling human moments amidst the War on Drugs.

Besides the Cartel core rulebook, the Kickstarter also offers the Amigos y Enemigos NPC supplement. Both can be acquired at the $20 pledge level, along with all stretch goals from the campaign. Additionally, backers can pledge $150 for a unique edition cover of Cartel which contains the exclusive print of El Aguila y El Serpiente CIA supplement. Additionally, a location deck can be purchased as an add-on or included in higher pledges which provide details of the setting within Mexico without any gratuitous foreknowledge or prep on the Game Master.

Quick Start link: http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/225344/Cartel-Quickstart

Kickstarter link: http://kck.st/2FmP8G1

Inconceivable! A Princess Bride Tabletop RPG

Inconceivable! A Princess Bride Tabletop RPG

By Jacky Leung     Twitter

Ask anyone growing up in the early to mid-1990s and mention the Princess Bride movie to them; you will instantly be greeted with a smile and fond memories of nostalgia. The 1987 romantic comedy fantasy adventure film, an adaptation of William Goldman’s 1973 novel of the same name, has expanded into the tabletop roleplaying world. The Princess Bride RPG is a cooperative storytelling game within the Princess Bride universe. The game mechanics utilize the Fudge engine, a rules-light RPG system using descriptions, along with the iconic Fudge die, to handle actions and combat resolutions, making it fast-paced and easy to play.

Most of the primary source material is inspired by the movie and less from the book. Players can create their characters, or alternatively, there are stats for all of the main characters from the original film players can use, which provide some additional unique adventures after the events of the movie. Some mechanics pay homage to the original movie and brings some other nuances to the game, such as Grandpa Wait! For viewers who recall the movie, the grandson (played by Fred Savage) would occasionally interrupt this grandfather (played by Peter Falk) whenever a dangerous moment would arise, and the hero’s fate was doomed. You can consider it akin to a second chance mechanic wherein effects are lessened but not rebuked.

Backers can sample the tabletop experience with a downloadable PDF with quick start rules along with five pre-generated characters. The sample rules also include a short adventure to give players a taste of playing the Princess Bride universe. Players familiar with Fate RPG will notice recognizable elements from the Princess Bride RPG and feel at home with playing this game. There are some subtle differences, especially regarding skills and handling of health, but the Fudge RPG does not factor in heroic aspects and instead relies on descriptive modifiers and professions to denote character elements. Additional game elements as such as gifts serve as boons or bonuses with inconveniences to help as character flaws. Game designer and author of the Princess Bride RPG, Steffen O’Sullivan, also designed the Fudge RPG system and also best known for his work on GURPS: Bunnies and Burrows, and GURPS: Swashbuckler.

Backers can pledge $25 USD for a digital PDF copy of the core rulebook. An upgraded pledge of $50 USD provides a physical copy of the core rulebook along with a folded map of the continent of Florin. For more swag, backers can pledge $85 to get a beautiful faux leather cover of the core rulebook along with eight-Fudge dice and the map of Florin. Backers of the Inconceivable Edition receive all of the benefits from the $85 pledge plus a cherrywood box to hold the book and a set of Grandpa Wait! Tokens. The project has been fully funded and currently is in the process of unlocking additional stretch goals.

 

Kickstarter link: http://kck.st/2EGIJsh

Princess Bride RPG Quick Start link: http://www.toyvault.com/princessbriderpg/free-downloads.html

More on Fudge RPG: http://www.fudgerpg.com/about/about-fudge/fudge-overview.html