Forbidden Lands by Free League Publishing Worldwide Release

By Jacky Leung     Twitter

Enjoy the chaotic, the grim yet heroic world of settings such as Conan the Barbarian, John Carter of Mars, or Fire and Ice? What about iconic settings like Dark Sun or Mad Max but with a fantasy twist to do them? What about Netflix’s the Dragon Prince or He-Man and the Masters of the Universe? Strap on your raider’s mask, delve for lost and forgotten treasures from a bygone age and face harrowing adventures in Free League Publishing’s Forbidden Lands, released today for worldwide distribution.

Check out their YouTube trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgpOkhsvPvM

Forbidden Lands is a grimdark fantasy tabletop roleplaying game with a detailed history that provides many legends, secrets, and mysteries for players to find and solve. Players will assume roles of the many possible races and creatures that have endured in the Forbidden Lands since the creation of the Iron Lock. Character creation is something that can be a personal choice or randomly generated by dice rolls. Most of the major dice rolls utilize a d3, 2d6, and d66 with the occasional d8, d10, and d12. The d66 is a unique percentile dice, with one die referring to the tens place and the other representing the single digits with results ranging from 11 to 66 as outcomes.

Set in a fantasy world, where elves, dwarves, and humans lived separated by a mountain range called the Divide. After several centuries of peace, war erupted, a powerful sorcerer took over the region north of the Divide, demons poured through a mystical gate which made the area inhospitable. An effort to create a great wall severed the lands to the north from the south which became known as the Forbidden Lands. Travel was made impossible due to the Blood Mist for nearly three centuries until it inexplicably vanished. New opportunities for exploration and conquest have risen, with many secrets of the land hidden, waiting to be discovered. Additionally, the Gamemaster’s Guide provides tips and details about incorporating the game’s mechanics and sandbox campaign setting into your settings and games.

 

The Forbidden Lands boxed set, includes the Player’s and Gamemaster’s Guides


Each character has four primary attributes: Strength, Agility, Wits, and Empathy. A character’s race or “kin” and profession affect their attributes, while each kin entry provides suggested professions they are not necessarily bound to them. A character’s Dark Secret and relationship with the other player characters are essential to developing the bonds of the party to adventure together. There are some remarkably familiar aspects of character creation akin to Cubicle 7’s Warhammer Fantasy RPG 4th Edition except minus the percentile statistics and percentile dice though I found Forbidden Lands to be quick and painless with smaller numbers for attribute and skill assignment.  

The game mechanics can be best described as an admixture of d6 dice pools determined by attribute, skills, and gear. Success is defined by having at least dice result with a 6, while failure is any result with no 6’s rolled. There is a mechanic to allow a character to “push” their rolls, which offers a reroll of any dice that did not come up as a 6 or any 1’s. Any 1’s that appear after pushing your dice can result in wounds, exhaustion, or damaged gear depending on the dice category. It’s heavily suggested that you have three colored sets of d6s, along with a d8, d10, and a d12. The latter group of dice is reserved for magical artifacts that players will come across during their adventures, which are rolled along the gear dice.
Characters in the Forbidden Lands have a varied set of tricks and abilities which are defined as talents, separated by three categories: kin talents, profession talents, and general talents. Kin and Profession talents are more potent than general talents and require the expenditure of Willpower to activate. Willpower is generated whenever a player character pushes on their dice rolls. Each kin has a primary talent, then each profession has a trio of talents to select, and then a more extensive list of general talents. Players may invest ranks into some of these talents to unlock additional features, up to a maximum of rank 3. Casting spells in Forbidden Lands will always happen but require expending Willpower which may have the chance to either overcharge the spell, or the player suffers a magical mishap. Ultimately, the hope is that players will incur riches, boons, reputation, and influence to establish their own stronghold. After all, while the nomadic adventurer’s life can be glamorous, having a safe place to return after an excursion is always lovely.

Many creatures, dangers, and mysteries wait in the Forbidden Lands

The setting brings many unexplored horizons, taking less the role of heroes and more of individuals thriving under a dark regime. While delving into the material, the inclusion of additional legends and backstories for the players during character creation enrich the experience and the setting.  Especially if the group decides to go the alternative character creation route which includes a randomized generation of race and professions. This is a game about thriving in a bleak existence where evil reigns but vast treasures from centuries ago lie hidden and forgotten by time. When players tally experience for their characters, it’s in the form of a questionnaire (you’ll find this familiar with games like Tales from the Loop), as the premise stems from the idea of the characters learning from their adventures to become wiser and smarter. Additionally, your character’s pride, dark secrets, and relationships are free to be changed across gameplay which provides a profound metaphor on the nature of growth and development.

You can find Free League Publishing’s Forbidden Lands in their storefront here: http://frialigan.se/en/store/?collection_id=84541866032

Additionally, Free League Publishing also launched the Raven’s Purge Campaign Book which as an epic campaign module for Forbidden Lands that can have a profound influence over the region. Unlike traditional story modules, there are no clear objectives but plenty of material for legends, locales, and individuals to interact.

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.

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.

Additional Links

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

 

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/

 

Black Void Kickstarter

At the time of the Babylonian Empire, humanity was sucked from the safety and order of the Cosmos into a realm of chaos called the Void. Humanity was scattered among the stars. Some managed to find their way to the eternal city of Llyhn, where they were able to band together in order to survive in the alien cosmopolis. This is the scene that Christoffer Schultz Sevaldsen has set for us in his cosmic survival horror RPG Black Void.

What I like about what I’ve seen of Black Void is that it depicts humanity in a weak and vulnerable position. In Llynh, humans have managed to carve out their own district, but it is a slum in comparison to the opulent alien districts nearby. In this caste-based urban society, humans are at the bottom of the ladder, and there are a lot of aliens who would like to destroy or enslave them. Because the city is so diversely alien there is no standard morality. Morals are a point of view. The city is founded at the border between the Cosmos and the Void, where the veil between the two is thin, and it seems like this makes it an attractive place for alien cults who worship the strange and powerful entities that live there.

When it comes to making player characters, Black Void is very nonlinear and modular. All player characters are human (although there are options for creating ‘halfbreed’ characters with alien traits) and abilities are acquired or improved using a point-buy system. At the game master’s discression, player characters can also increase in enlightenment (by increasing their knowledge of the Void) or influence (by gaining power over others).

In the quickstart rules there are options for gaining boons through blood magic. To use blood magic, a character has to ritually sacrifice another creature. Depending on how the ceremony goes, they will get access to a range of beneficial options. There’s also a chance of a botched ritual, which might lead to negative effects. I like the fact that this makes magic seem a bit more dangerous and costly. It seems more like how I would expect magic to work in the ancient human world, and also helps to make the setting seem strange and alien.

The Black Void Kickstarter campaign launches April 11. In the meantime, you can get the quickstart rules and adventure via the form here.

By Chris Booth Twitter  Instagram  Website

Dragons Conquer America Kickstarter

What if Saint George didn’t slay the dragon, but instead converted it to Christianity? That’s part of the backstory to Dragons Conquer America, a new tabletop RPG that is currently being Kickstarted by Burning Games. (This is a second attempt. Last year’s Kickstarter had some hiccups and was cancelled, but the new campaign seems much more viable.) The Spanish conquistadors arrive in the Americas with their trained dragons. It turns out the Mexica (you might have also heard them referred to as Aztecs) have their own dragons – and theirs are untamable.

I’m quite excited to play this game not just as a break from the familiar medieval European style fantasy but because it also has some interesting mechanics which could also be used to add new elements to other tabletop RPGs.

One of the elements that I think will be most interesting is the prejudice mechanic. To reflect the Sixteenth Century era, player characters start off with some prejudices that make it difficult for them to get along with other characters because of their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. You can develop your character by overcoming your prejudices.

Another aspect that I think you should take a look at is the corruption mechanic. Player characters use a statistic called Spirit to cast spells, which represents their holiness. The thing is, each player character doesn’t know exactly how holy they are. Only the game master knows that. This means it is possible for a player character to overreach when they cast spells (especially if they believe they are exceptionally holy) and open themselves up to corruption. Corruption manifests itself as various forms of curse, derived from the player character’s religion.

I should acknowledge that not everyone has been happy about the news of this game. There have been concerns about the portrayal of Mexica and a perceived lack of involvement of Mexica in the development of the game. It seems to me like Burning Games is listening to those concerns, and I’m not sure that the critiques are entirely accurate. That doesn’t mean that there will not be problems, but I hope that when problems do come up there they can be discussed and addressed. I think a game like this could be an opportunity for intercultural collaboration if we’re open to it.

If this sounds like the kind of game you want to play, get behind their Kickstarter! In the meantime you can also play an introductory adventure that has been released as a preview – The Coatli Stone.

You can find the Kickstarter for Dragons Conquer America here. It ends on April 12. It costs €39 if you just want the basic PDF set, with larger pledges for paper books.
You can also download the free quickstart adventure, The Coatli Stone here. If you don’t mind spoilers, there’s also a playthrough of the adventure, which Carlos from Burning Games ran on our stream last year, and you can watch that here.

By Chris Booth Twitter  Instagram  Website

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

 

Good Society: A Jane Austen RPG

Good Society: A Jane Austen RPG

By Chris Booth Twitter  Instagram  Website

Good Society is a tabletop roleplaying game currently being developed by Story Brewers, based in Sydney. They’re currently running a Kickstarter campaign to publish the game. Good Society seeks to recreate the feel of Jane Austen’s novels, with a focus on reputation, family obligations, ambition and secret longing.

Good Society has a focus on collaboration between the game master (referred to as the facilitator) and the players. Before the game begins, the facilitator and players work out together what kind of story they want to tell – for example whether the game will be historically accurate or whether it will mess around with regency era gender roles; whether the storyline will be dramatic or comedic.

Players each control a create a main character, but they also control a minor character who is connected to another player’s main character. Each player’s main character also has an established connection with another main character. Part of the character creation stage includes assigning each main a secret desire that they are persuing throughout the game.

Good Society doesn’t use dice, and the mechanics seem to encourage a lot of free roleplaying roleplaying. However, players get a few tokens each session which they can use to direct the story. Players and the facilitator can spend tokens to cause a significant event to interrupt the story. This might create a setback for another player’s main character, although the rules emphasis the importance of the other player’s consent, so as to emphasis collaboration. Players also have the opportunity during to spend a token to compell another player to perform an interior monologue, so that the other players know what their main character is thinking and planning at that moment.

Each session of the game cycles through five phases:

  • the novel phase, when players roleplay a social situation (such as a dinner party, a meeting or a ball) in which main character try to pursue their goals while also minding their manners and protecting their reputation
  • the rumors and scandal phase, when each player gets two opportunities to either start a new rumour or confirm an existing rumour
  • the third phase is the epistlatory phase, when each character has the opportunity to narrate a letter that their main character is writing to another character
  • after the first three phases there is a second novel phase and a second epistlatory phase completing the cycle – although a session of Good Society may consist of more than one complete cycle.

If you’re not so into the Jane Austen theme, I think this idea could also be reskinned as a more ruthless intrigue-type game set in a fantasy city like Menzoberranzan, Kings Landing or Ankh-Morepork. A couple of the stretch goals also add expansions which integrate magic and swordplay into the game which would come in handy if you were attempting this.

You can get behind the Good Society Kickstarter campaign for AU$10. (There’s also a discounted option for folks experiencing financial hardship.) The Kickstarter ends on Tuesday March 6, Sydney time. If you’d like to watch a demonstration, you can find live play videos here and here.