Start the New Year with Some New RPGs

By Jacky Leung     Twitter

It’s the New Year and what a great time to play new roleplaying games or try new systems. But starting a new RPG rules system can be costly, especially many hardcover books can set you back roughly $50 USD or more. Even with the advent of digital books and PDFs, those can still set you back almost $20 USD and up. Such an investment can sometimes be a deterrent for curious RPG players to acquire these new systems. Also, the time it would take for at least one of the players to become acquainted with the rulesets to introduce it to their playgroup presents a temporal investment. Luckily, some publishers have created starter kits or quick play kits to help interested parties learn the basics of a rules system, and even present a short scenario that can be played within a game night. Here are some RPG rule systems that offer starter kits, where to buy them, and what each of them entails to get started on your New RPG Year.

Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition currently has a system reference document that presents all of the basic rules of the game freely available for consumption and play. Thankfully, Wizards of the Coast has their D&D Starter Kit: Mines of Phandelver product to help introduce players to the world’s greatest roleplaying game. Inside, you will find pre-generated character sheets, an adventure, some dice, and a rules booklet. The Starter Set will only set you back rough $20 USD, which is not a bad way to go for your first introduction into D&D.

You can learn more about the product & where to purchase your copy under the Wizards of the Coast product link here.

Call of Cthulhu

Chaosium, Inc’s Call of Cthulhu has reached the pinnacle of Lovecraftian horror and mystery wrapped neatly in an RPG that has investigators combating against various eldritch monsters. Utilizing a d100 dice system, where the goal is to roll up to your statistic or below or risk failure, and in some let’s not forget losing sanity. This Starter Set was recently released in late 2018 and offers a plethora of resources to help playgroups dive into their first adventure. The box contains an introductory adventure to help players become acquainted with the rules and three starter adventures with additional handouts. There’s a rules booklet, blank investigator sheets, six sets of dice, and also five pre-generated characters. According to the product description, the box set offers over twenty hours of gameplay. The Call of Cthulhu Starter Set will cost your playgroup $25 USD, which is a fraction of the $110 USD to acquire both the Investigators Handbook and Keeper Handbook.

If you have ever been curious about delving into the world of Lovecraft’s mythos and losing your sanity, you can find more using the product link here.

Warhammer Fantasy

Cubicle 7’s latest edition of Warhammer Fantasy has brought new life to the grimdark fantasy setting with polished mechanics and innovative character creation. Unlike your typical higher fantasy settings, Warhammer has players part of the common folk that may rise to call, but they are ultimately mortal like everything else when combating against deadly creatures and ancient powers. You can be a human villager or even a huffer (a sort of river warden), and even the invocation of magic is not always reliable. The game utilizes a variant of the d100 system but with the resources to provide fast rolls to adjust the game to fit your storytelling needs. At the time of this article, the Warhammer Fantasy Starter Set is currently available as a preorder with an intended release date in the first quarter of 2019. The starter set is sold for $30 USD and includes advantage tokens, rules references, pre-generated characters, and a simple GM screen. The Adventure Book provided offers an excellent starting point for new players to the game, with additional pages for experienced players and scenarios to your games. There is also a 60-page guidebook to the setting of Ubersreik with a plethora of adventure hooks, locations, NPCs, and lore of the region. According to the product description, this starter set can “keep your WFRP group busy for months.”

You can learn more about the product and the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay game in the provided link here.

Vampire: the Masquerade

Vampire: the Masquerade broke ground in 1991 as the game vampire of political intrigue and horror in a world of darkness. Across the years, the game has evolved and changed with the current Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition (V5) released by White Wolf Publishing in August 2018, and the release of the V20 Anniversary Edition from Onyx Path Publishing in 2011. Vampire is typically a mature game that often deals with serious and disturbing themes, as the players assume the roles of nocturnal bloodsucking vampires. The game utilizes a d10 dice pool system based on a combination of attributes and skills while promoting narrative agency for the players.

Presently, there is no V5 Starter Set, but there is a free PDF Quickstart available for free distribution by Modiphius Entertainment. You can read my review on the new Vampire 5th Edition here. You can download the Vampire V5 Quickstarter with the provided link here.

Alternatively, you can use the ruleset that has become polished and refined from the original edition. The V20 Anniversary Edition is the original Masquerade experience, and if you get the V20 Starter Kit from DriveThurRPG, you get several other books which include the V20 Lore & Clans book, the V20 Companion, pre-generated characters, a V20 ST Screen, and the Dust to Dust adventure book. The bundle typically retails for $75 USD for the digital PDFs, but this set will only set your group back $48 USD at the time of this article. You can purchase the PDF V20 Starter Set with the provided link here.

Star Trek Adventures

You and your fellow players command a mighty starship set in the world of Star Trek universe. Utilizing the 2d20 rules system from Modiphius Entertainment, Star Trek Adventures allows the players to explore strange new worlds, find new life, and boldly go where no one has gone before. The book is primarily set during a turbulent time for Starfleet, centered on the Dominion crisis from Deep Space Nine to the pretext that would start the Voyager series. You will find a catalog of content for gamemasters and players new or familiar with the franchise. The rules and the game allow you to create your own Star Trek series.

Presently, there is no boxed starter set, but there is a free PDF Quickstart which provides a quick 30-page introduction of the game mechanics, the setting, six pre-generated characters, and a short, self-contained adventure. You can find the Quickstart in the link provided here.

Star Wars Roleplaying Game

Want to dive into a galaxy full of lightsabers, blasters, starfighter dogfights, and the best scum & villainy possible? Fantasy Flight Games established a series of Star Wars products as part of their Star Wars Roleplaying Game system that utilizes a new narrative-dice driven system that would later fall under the umbrella called the Genesys system. Under the Star Wars banner, Fantasy Flight Games presents three standalone games for different character types. Edge of Empire for the smugglers, bounty hunters, and pirates; Age of Rebellion for the rebel soldiers and freedom fighters during the Galatic Civil War against the Empire; and Force and Destiny for playing the last of the Jedi during the reign of the Empire. Each game genre has a Beginner Game that will only set you back $30 USD, providing a 32-page adventure booklet, a 48-page rules booklet, four pre-generated characters, several unique Genesys dice, and tokens.

You can purchase the Star Wars Beginner Games in the following links:

City of Mist

Ever imagine being something mythical or legendary in a previous life? Heroes, monsters, and deities are reborn as mortals but remain tethered to their mythical egos. In City of Mist, players assume the roles of ordinary humans who have a legendary Mythos awakened inside them, where now they must balance a normal life and a world of magic. The game offers a noir investigative feel but set in the tone of the supernatural. If you’re a fan of the Dresden Files or the October Daye series, this is an RPG for you to consider. Using the Powered by the Apocalypse system, Son of Oak Game Studio has elevated the mechanics to incorporate worldbuilding, themes, and produced a sophisticated character creation system.

The PDF Starter Set is available for free through email subscription on the City of Mist free downloads page. The PDF Starter Set includes the basic rules, seven pre-generated characters, four sample crew themes, and additional player aids. You can go to the provided link to snag your Starter Set here.

Best of Encounter Roleplay

Want something to binge before the new season starts or still need to catch up? Great news! You can find everything over on our youtube.

Here are some of our top picks of the playlists:

DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS
From the modules to Kobold Press’ Midgard setting, we got you covered!

Curse of Strahd

Tomb of Annihilation

Waterdeep: Dragon Heist

The World Tree Burns Season 1 & Season 2

CALL OF CTHULHU (Full 2017-2018 Campaign)

The brand new Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign will continue this season live every Wednesday and if that isn’t enough content for you there’s the return of our podcast Tomes and Tentacles.

Horror on the Orient Express

Masks of Nyarlathotep

Nameless Horrors

Doors to Darkness

WARHAMMER FANTASY

Gritty fantasy with grimdark heresy and warpstone mutations.

(2E) Beneath Dark Boughs

(4E)The Great Conspiracy

CITY OF MIST

The King’s Hustle continues this season! Take a dive into a world that blends noir, mythos and superpowers together.

Larkspur Sequence

New Season starts Monday 7th of January! Looking for a way to join in the fun? We run weekly viewer games as well as post about other opportunities on our twitter and discord.

RollUP: Call Of Cthulhu 7E Characters

RollUP is a show all about character creation – exploring a host of different systems every Friday! The focus for our first few episodes has been Call of Cthulhu 7e by Chaosium.  In addition to our episodes, we recommend checking out the free Quick Start PDF for more information as well as the Investigator’s Handbook.

Over the last three weeks, @LaughLoveLindy (Masks of Nyarlathotep and more) and I (@Frostfrmfire) have been working on two characters as an example of what could be made for playing in this narrative, and flexible, system. There are so many settings open so to narrow it down we took a poll and the classic 1920s of Lovecraft were chosen.

Our plot hook was simple: a rich Parisian society lady by the name of Madame du Faux has invited a number of guests to a lavish party in her home, the highlight spectacle of which will be the unwrapping of a mummy. What dark secrets will be found within?

Thanks to the help of chat and the random rolling method (p43 onwards in the handbook) we ended up with: Professor Archibald Bennett, a self-taught expert and Gillian Moore, a jewel and art thief. These two characters went to school together in London but their lives had since diverged. The invitation had the Professor searching for a plus one and Gillian ended up conveniently in Paris just in time to oblige.

Professor Bennett is a curmudgeonly fellow, old before his time who has a specific interest in the occult, his most treasured possession is a stolen artefact with a symbol he has yet to identify carved into its surface. He’s generally unkempt with barely tamed hair and a tweed suit a week past laundry day but his brain is organised, and fascinated with secrets the world. Having glimpsed a few of the dark secrets and not being of the best constitution he chooses to arm himself with a revolver. Gillian rides a motorbike and sidecar and appears to have a much more devil may care attitude to life and her work. She seeks a great prize and fortune – adventure isn’t such a bad methodology. Gillian’s prized possession is a compact which contains a hairpin lockpick, a breath mint and a very handy mirror (suitable for many occasions). Gillian has a habit of staring at things – things she desires and into space where she can imagine things she desires.

Professor Archibald Bennett Professor Career, 180 Personal Interest Points, 200 Occupation Points

Gillian Moore Criminal (Freelance/Solo), 150 Personal Interest Points, 250 Occupation Points

Need more Call of Cthulhu content? Check out the Tomes & Tentacles Podcast for some wonderfully spooky and maddening fun with The King in Yellow.

(Sheets compiled using Dholeshouse.org and require Adobe Acrobat Reader)

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

Additional Links

SOURCES OF THE UNKNOWN: MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP

SOURCES OF THE UNKNOWN

MASKS OF NYARLATHOTEP
You might be thinking to yourself “I thought this was supposed to be about upcoming releases” and you’d be right; Chaosium is releasing the famous and exciting campaign ‘Masks of Nyarlathotep” for Call of Cthulhu 7e. You might be familiar with older releases (Encounter Role Play did an entire playthrough of it) but it doesn’t yet exist for 7e. The updated release is more than just updated mechanics but also expands on the already fantastic story to increase the horror and adventure (and yes, South America is now a part of the story).
If you’ve wanted to GM Masks up until this point (the updated scenario releases July 1st in its PDF version, later in 2018 in hardcover), you’d have to do all of the conversions yourself (which is, admittedly, pretty easy to do) and you’d be stuck with either the handouts that were given (in my opinion, not as good as they could have been) or hunt down usable fan-made handouts (which exist if you look hard enough); not to mention add any additional story yourself. Player creation could be time-consuming but a good Keeper would’ve made it worth the effort.
Masks is one of the most popular titles for Call of Cthulhu but I feel a little awkward giving any kind of review since I haven’t played the updated version at all, my experience rests with older versions. That being said, I’ll tell you what I do know as has been released.

(from the Chaosium website 6/20/18)
The PDF package will cost USD$59.99 and contains the following electronic items:
Masks Book – Omnibus PDF of both volumes (666 pages)
Keeper Screen PDF
NPC Portraits PDF
Keeper Reference Booklet PDF
Handouts (including Maps & Pre-gen PCs)
Book Cover images x 2
Pre-gen Character Sheets x 10
The two-volume full colour hardback slipcase version will be available later in 2018, retailing for USD$129.99*.

129.99 is quite a lot but you get a lot for your money; and 59.99 is reasonable for an adventure of this magnitude (and it might just be me, but I tend to prefer PDFs), plus purchase of the PDF gives you an instant coupon at Chaosium.com for the hard-cover book (the coupon for the Hardcover, valued at $59.99, will drop the HC to just $70). Just look at the list of included downloads and you can see the value. Now, I don’t agree with everything (Pre-Generated characters seem like a waste to me) but I still feel that this would be appropriate. If you love Call of Cthulhu, and want to play this game updated for 7e, I highly recommend. The PDF will be available at chaosium.com and drivethrurpg.com

For more information on the release of Masks of Nyarlathotep, visit www.chaosium.com; to contact me, you can find me on twitter @mbertolini

GOING BEYOND THE GAME: CALL OF CTHULHU – DEPTHS OF MADNESS

GOING BEYOND THE GAME

 

CALL OF CTHULHU: DEPTHS OF MADNESS

 

I didn’t intend to write another one of these articles concerning the topic; but, if you haven’t already heard, Focus Home Interactive is releasing a video game called Call Of Cthulhu: Depths of Madness based upon the rpg created by Chaosium of the same name (if you haven’t watched Encounter Roleplay play various modules of Call Of Cthulhu on Twitch, you’re missing out).  While not a direct adaptation of any game module you may be familiar with, Call Of Cthulhu: Depths of Madness promises to give players that have played Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu an experience that they’ve come to expect while not forcing away people unfamiliar with the franchise.

In the game, you play as Edward Pierce as he investigates the rise of Cthulhu near Boston, Massachusetts.  The game is a mixture of stealth and investigation in a semi-open world of heavily Lovecraftian themes.

A Private Detective, Edward Pierce is a mission to find the truth behind the death of an acclaimed artist and her family on a backwater island. Pierce is used to trusting his instincts, but with whale mutilations and disappearing bodies, this is only the beginning as reality becomes skewed. As your investigation leads you closer to the sphere of influence of the Great Dreamer, you will start to doubt everything you see. You will have to find balance between your own sanity, and your determination in finding out what lurks in the shadows – as they say that madness is the only way that can bring you to the truth.

Focus first announced the game’s development in 2014 and the first trailer was shown at E3 in 2016.  The game had been scheduled to be released in late 2017 but was delayed to 2018.  As of yet, an official release date has yet to be set.  However, if you’re excited about Focus’ new endeavors into some Lovecraftian themes and rpg gameplay, consider some of Focus’ other games: Vampyr (June 5, 2018) and The Council (March 15, 2018).  If I had to speculate, I’d suggest that Call of Cthulhu will either be released sometime around Halloween or Christmas, depending on what other titles are going to be released around that time.  Or, Focus could surprise me and be released on some random date.

The biggest influence of gameplay will be sanity, and how the loss of sanity affects everything else in the world; an aspect of games that has rarely been successful.  Since you’re an investigator, your sanity will determine whether or not your investigation is headed in the right direction.  You won’t necessarily be able to trust your own eyes as the things you see might not be real; though you will believe what you see to the point that you could develop new paranoias that can betray you or even hurt you.

 

If you haven’t checked out Encounter Roleplay on Twitch, you can find it <a href=”https://www.twitch.tv/encounterroleplay” target=”_new”>here</a>.

 

Going Beyond the Game: Call of Cthulhu

GOING BEYOND THE GAME

CALL OF CTHULHU: DEPTHS OF MADNESS

Michael Bertolini

I didn’t intend to write one of these articles concerning the topic; but, if you haven’t already heard, Focus Home Interactive is releasing a video game called Call Of Cthulhu: Depths of Madness based upon the rpg created by Chaosium of the same name (if you haven’t watched Encounter Roleplay play various modules of Call Of Cthulhu on Twitch, you’re missing out). While not a direct adaptation of any game module you may be familiar with, Call Of Cthulhu: Depths of Madness promises to give players that have played Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu an experience that they’ve come to expect while not forcing away people unfamiliar with the tabletop franchise.
In the game, you play as Edward Pierce as he investigates the rise of Cthulhu near Boston, Massachusetts. The game is a mixture of stealth and investigation in a semi-open world of heavily Lovecraftian themes.
“A Private Detective, Edward Pierce is a mission to find the truth behind the death of an acclaimed artist and her family on a backwater island. Pierce is used to trusting his instincts, but with whale mutilations and disappearing bodies, this is only the beginning as reality becomes skewed. As your investigation leads you closer to the sphere of influence of the Great Dreamer, you will start to doubt everything you see. You will have to find balance between your own sanity, and your determination in finding out what lurks in the shadows – as they say that madness is the only way that can bring you to the truth.”
Focus first announced the game’s development in 2014 and the first trailer was shown at E3 in 2016. The game had been scheduled to be released in late 2017 but was delayed to 2018. As of yet, an official release date has yet to be set. However, if you’re excited about Focus’ new endeavors into some Lovecraftian themes and rpg gameplay, consider some of Focus’ other games: Vampyr (June 5, 2018) and The Council (March 15, 2018). If I had to speculate, I’d suggest that Call of Cthulhu will either be released sometime around Halloween or Christmas, depending on what other titles are going to be released around that time. Or, Focus could surprise me and be released on some random date.
The biggest influence of gameplay will be sanity, and how the loss of sanity affects everything else in the world; an aspect of games that has rarely been successful. Since you’re an investigator, your sanity will determine whether or not your investigation is headed in the right direction. You won’t necessarily be able to trust your own eyes as the things you see might not be real; though you will believe what you see to the point that you could develop new paranoias that can betray you or even hurt you.

If you haven’t checked out Encounter Roleplay on Twitch, you can find it here.