What You Need to Know About Geist 2e

Onyx Path Publishing are currently crowdfunding the Second Edition of Geist: The Sin-Eaters, and they’re well into their schedule of stretch goals. Here’s what you need to know:

Geist is about death and about exploring the memories of the dead: regrets and grief but also moments of hope and joy.

In the game, each player character is a ‘sin-eater’. A sin-eater is a dead person who has unfinished business and has been reanimated by a ghost or ‘geist’. Sin-eaters walk the boundary between life and death. They needs to put things right in their own life and in the world generally. If you are familiar with revenants from Dungeons & Dragons, sin-eaters are similar.

Geist has a focus on stories of the marginalised and questions about why the world is full of injustice, suffering and death. There’s a sense that sin-eaters are trying to absorb the suffering of others by intervening in the lives of the living or assisting the spirits of the dead. This might come from a sense that they caused pain and suffering for others when they were alive.

One of the strengths of this game is that it has interesting ways of connecting player characters to each other. The root and bloom mechanics also help connect the characters to the worlds of both the living and dead. Characters advance by having significant experiences, and by developing deeper synergy with their geist.

There are also rules for creating different kinds of sin-eater societies called ‘krewes’. Krewes provide a group of player characters with a shared purpose. Creating sin-eaters, geists and a krewe seems like a lot to do before getting started. If I was GMing this game I would want to introduce these elements one at a time.

I mentioned already that Geist has a focus on stories of marginalised people. While I’m all for that, Geist does come across to me as very ideological. I’m a card-carrying SJW, but I don’t like the idea of segregating our games along political lines. I hope people from a wide range of perspectives can give this game a shot. I hope that if there are people of different ideologies playing this game together there might be opportunities to develop empathy for each other in the real world.

Geist Second Edition is being funded on Kickstarter here until the end of July. A US$25 pledge will get you a PDF copy of the finished product as well as access to previews. For US$50 (plus shipping) you can also get a paper copy.

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


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

Play D&D Anywhere with CharacTable

Play D&D Anywhere with CharacTable

By Jacky Leung     Twitter

With the growth of tabletop roleplaying games, more new players surface to take on this beloved hobby. The advent of virtual tabletop services are well designed, easy to use, and readily available compared to the past, allowing players to play across the world. But the classic approach of a bunch of friends gathered together at a friend’s house to play a roleplaying game remains a staple and part of its fundamental identity. But not every home is equipped to handle a group of five to eight friends huddled together around a kitchen table or even in one’s living room without some loss of play space. Transportation of supplies such as character sheets, sourcebooks, and notepads can be a hassle which often leads to the loss of that snippet about a legendary artifact that you all found last week. Enter the CharacTable, designed by Matthew Lew, where players and their gamemasters can be organized and play virtually anywhere – from the couch to even outside.

CharacTables are portable lap tables that help keep everything organized for players. Each one serves as a lap table that can hold up to twenty character sheets, kept in place with strong neodymium magnets. There are trays to store and roll dice, or they can be rolled on the main board as well. Once you’re finished with your game session, you can put the lid on top, and everything is easily carried and stored safely until next time. There are even slots for keeping your phone or tablet secure during a session, which is excellent in an era of digital resources such as D&D Beyond. There are GM tabs that act as a screen for the Gamemaster board that can be written with a pencil for temporary notes and details or made permanent through Sharpie. CharacTables are designed with the philosophy to free your games to take place without a table. Definitely something worth considering for playgroups with tight gaming space or when there are no available kitchen tables available to play.

Matthew’s twenty years of experience in product design and fabrication, along with thousands of hours of feedback and tests from new and veteran players have to lead to the current models available for backers during this Kickstarter campaign. CharacTable is fully funded and currently unlocked several stretch goals including left-handed models, larger space for US/Canadian paper sizes, velcro book strap to help keep your gamebooks and table together for easy transport, and much more. The Mini-board starts at around £30 (or $42 USD), with the Old-School and Sci-Fi board ranging from £40 ($56 USD) to £45 ($63 USD) respectively. The GM board is structurally a larger board along with more components, topping off at £80 ($112 USD). There are some discounted bundles, such as the Mini-board four pack for £100 ($140 USD) to furnish the typical roleplaying playgroup. Shipping might be a concern for backers due to the weight of these physical rewards, with backers in the UK expecting £12 in shipping fees and backers in the US around £22. The campaign is a worthwhile endeavor for individuals looking to expand their play horizons and be less restricted to the traditional table setting of tabletop RPG.

CharacTable Kickstarter link: http://kck.st/2D7l67Z

Adventure and Raid in Sagas of Midgard RPG

Adventure and Raid in Sagas of Midgard RPG

By Jacky Leung     Twitter

Vikings, Norse gods, and raiding. These were the many things I was introduced to when I recently tried my hand at a new tabletop roleplaying game known as Sagas of Midgard, written by Nick Porter and Dominic De Duonni. Players assume the role of Viking warriors that are defined by their prophecies through surnames, blessed by iconic Norse deities such as Odin, Thor, and Loki, and empowered by Nordic runes. Sagas of Midgard uses cinematic storytelling defined by dice rolls utilizing a d100 on checks across over a hundred skills and specializations. The unique raiding mechanic allows skills and dice results to facilitate and drive the narrative.

Characters in Sagas of Midgard have short lives, fifteen hit points to be exact, but upon their deaths, allies within a specific range gain a boon. So while survival is essential, just like the Viking’s way of life, there is no greater glory than dying on the battlefield. A character’s surname and title define their prophecy, which is chosen from a list that is inspired by Norse mythology that grants bonuses and abilities. From there, players can choose from over a hundred skills across five domains (which correspond with a Norse god) with subdomains to emphasize specializations. There are no character classes in the traditional sense which creates an environment that focuses on roleplay. Characters are also endowed with a minimum of two runes with effects inspired by the Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem. Runes serve as one-time use magic items that can be acquired over the course of play, or a character can start with more runes depending on their surname or title. The runes also grant effects based on their relative position, which provides additional variance in character creation and allowing each character to be genuinely unique.

Gameplay is broken into three phases: Raiding, Heroic Deeds, and Mead-Hall. Raiding is where your Viking characters travel to attack, loot, and plunder settlements. It was designed with the mindset to make the aspect of going to their destinations with your Viking Warband interesting with challenges and obstacles. During a raid scenario, players roll to overcome obstacles and complications may arise on low rolls. Heroic Deeds are what you typically come to find in an adventure tabletop roleplaying experience, they fight creatures and foes, pillage and take the loot. Sometimes they uncover artifacts or runes, sometimes they expand their jarldom, and sometimes they want to explore the world. The Mead-Hall is meant for in-between adventures but serves an important purpose, as the Viking, who boasts of their most glorious of achievement that week and deemed the winner, is awarded skill points.

A Viking’s settlement plays an important in developing upgrades for their characters and whenever they perform raid rolls. Settlements have their own “level” of development, whether it’s one that the Vikings are invading or even the one they call home. Combat is done without a grid, using three concentric circles called “distance increments” from the center of the battlefield. The intention is to produce theater-of-mind gameplay (which reduces clutter and keeps narrative pace uninterrupted).

A mythical Scandinavia inspires the campaign setting for Sagas of Midgard with new geography and points of interest, littered with gods and monsters of yore. Players can even explore the Nine Worlds cosmology, with adventures to provide more details. There is an included cultural guide to the custom setting of Drengrlands, including over 30 monsters pulled from Norse myth and the creators’ imaginations. The core book also contains three fully-fleshed adventures to help ease players into the new mechanics and game system. Additionally, backers can also secure a unique 24-card Rune deck to use during their sessions and character creations.

At the time of this article, Sagas of Midgard has hit over 400% of their funding goal and presently working on achieving stretch goals. The sneak peek worth of materials I was given the opportunity to read has a clean and straightforward structure of play with plenty of room for gamemasters and players to explore and develop their own stories. It genuinely reminds me of a Norse/Viking version of the XCOM video game franchise or even similarly Norse inspired board games such as Champions of Midgard. For a $25 pledge, backers secure a PDF copy of Sagas of Midgard. For an additional $10 to their pledge, backers can include the 24-card Rune deck at the $35 pledge. At the $45 pledge level, backers can acquire a hardcover edition of the core rulebook signed by the creators; at $60, backers get the hardcover copy and the Rune deck.

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

Learn more about Sagas of Midgard: https://sagasofmidgard.com/


Review: Tales from the Halfling Camp

Tales from the Halfling Camp is an effort by two charming brits, Mike Bridge (composer) and Dan (singer, self proclaimed ass spanker). Here at EncounterRoleplay we have the pleasure to be sponsored by the Kickstarter campaign and to play an array of tracks already produced by Mike throughout the week on our shows to give some exposure to their effort.

The original track, Wilbur Helmfast’s Tall Tales spawned the initial success for the team, gaining airtime on HighRollers DnD from the Yogscast and on Battlebards. It’s a carousing tale of halfling debauchery straight from the Green Dragon, and immediately brings to mind that famous scene from the Lord of the Rings. I’m listening to it now as I write and I’ve been humming it for the past hour, though it does make me crave a pint of ale. (“They come in pints?!”) The Chorus had me giggling, and captures Halfling communal singing perfectly.

The Grass is Green, The Air Is Clean

A sweet lass by my side,

There ain’t nobody looking so,

I squeeze her rump behind.

The Kickstarter video itself begins like a bad Hollywood Blockbuster, before humorously cutting to Mike’s studio in the true spirit of Halfling joking. The bumbling explanations of Mike and Dan show their passion for the project and that the two certainly have a sense of humour. This is clearly an indie project and a labour of love, not a super serious company out to net some cash. My favourite moment is just at the end where Mike walks to the camera and you hear “It’s okay, we’ll just cut out the shit bits”. Well played, gents. All throughout the video of course we’re treated to an array of fantasy tracks which lift the spirit.

Mike plans to create an album of Halfling songs just like this, including one long, Led Zeppelin inspired song but “with more dragons, and more halflings” which I’m particularly excited to hear. The different tiers of pledges allow for you to gain access to the album of songs, Mike’s huge back catalogue of music (and future works), and even being a part of the song itself. Any up and coming Halfling Bards out there, you know what to do!

Tune in throughout the week to our livestreams to hear a number of tracks from The Halfling Camp, and check out their Kickstarter campaign here to support the wonderful work Mike and Dan are doing.