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.

Review: Waterdeep: Dragon Heist

Friday last week was the early release date for Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, the latest Dungeons & Dragons hardcover adventure from Wizards of the Coast. (The official release is on September 18.) While previous 5th Edition D&D adventures have focused on the large-scale apocalyptic plots of dragons, giants and demons, Dragon Heist is much more small-scale and down-to-earth. Adventurers explore Waterdeep, the city of splendours, racing against underworld rivals to find a stash of 500 000 gold pieces. (In Waterdeep, gold coins are known as ‘dragons’.)

As well as being a much more localized adventure, Dragon Heist isn’t designed to be used a long campaign. Unlike previous 5th Edition hardcovers, Dragon Heist is only designed to progress player characters from first to fifth level. For this reason, I think Dragon Heist will serve well as a new introductory adventure – an alternative to Lost Mine of Phandelver or In Volo’s Wake. Those who are keen to continue on all the way to level twenty will be able to, with Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage dropping soon after, in November.

Because this adventure only spans levels one to five, WotC have been able to use the extra space to provide four different ways of running the adventure. Each version of the adventure is set in a different season and features different villains, so it has a lot of replay value.

I think this adventure also has a greater emphasis on roleplay and diplomacy than previous 5th Edition hardcovers – in fact, adventurers who try to fight their way through the adventure will probably find themselves in trouble with the law or being hunted down by one of the city’s underworld factions.

Early on in the adventure there is an opportunity for the party to begin running their own Waterdeep tavern, which I expect will be of interest to those players who enjoy the social side of D&D.

The five Sword Coast factions (as well as some local groups like Force Grey) are well integrated into the adventure. There are a lot of ways for adventurers pursue renown within their faction, and there are lots of opportunities for faction members to call in favors from their faction, particularly toward the end of the adventure.

I’m not planning to run this adventure as it is written straight away, but my Thursday night D&D group is currently not far from Waterdeep, and I’m looking forward to using some of the content from this book if they end up in the city of splendors. There’s one chapter where Volo gives an overview of each area of the city, and the adventure proper gives a lot of detail about the lairs of a number of Waterdeep operatives that adventurers could cross paths with. The bestiary provides stats for a lot of powerful non-player characters, presented like the superheroes and criminal masterminds of a renaissance city.


We’re playing through Waterdeep: Dragon Heist on our Twitch stream this season from 5pm Mondays US Eastern Standard Time. You can watch session zero here.

You can preorder a copy of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist via Amazon here.

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

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

Return to the Night with the new Vampire the Masquerade

By Jacky Leung     Twitter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Links:

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

Review: Wayfarer’s Guide to Eberron

Earlier this week (in a fairly confusing announcement!) Wizards of the Coast announced the release of some substantial playtest material for Dungeons & Dragons’ Eberron setting. You can purchase the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron for US$20 on DriveThruRPG or D&D Beyondbut remember this is playtest material. It’s unfinished and unofficial.

What is Eberron? I would describe the Eberron setting as noir magepunk set in a period of renaissance cold war with a focus on high adventure and cinematic action.

That seems like a lot of themes, but I think these themes are well integrated. In Eberron magic has been industrialised and is largely controlled by groups called Dragonmarked Houses, a lot like corporations. Magic is widespread, but most people only have access to low-level magic.

Wayfarer’s Guide provides an overview of the nations of Khorvaire, a continent where the borders have been recently redrawn in the wake of a world war. Questions have arisen about the rights of warforged (sentient constructs manufactured to fight in the war) and traditional ‘monsters’ like goblins and orcs. There’s an overview of each nation, with info about places to explore; local factions and their plots; and suggestions for creating characters from that region. There is also information about more distant lands and about Eberron’s cosmology. This world doesn’t fit into the standard Dungeons & Dragons multiverse – the planes seem to have a much more direct impact on the material world, and there’s a sense that Eberron is cut off from the wider multiverse.

This playtest material includes rules for four new player races: warforged, changelings, shifters and kalashtar. Some of these options seem a bit more complex and powerful than those in the Player’s Handbook. I think that’s okay given that Eberron isn’t the core setting for Dungeons & Dragons. Most new players will probably be making a character using the basic options in the Player’s Handbook. However, I would prefer that the rules for dragonmarks were more consistent. At the moment, there are three different ways that they can be applied, depending on character race. I’d like to see all the dragonmarks depicted as feats. In Eberron all player characters could get a feat at first level, which would also mean you could make a level 1 magewright character without having to choose a spellcasting class.

Wayfarer’s Guide includes a lot of new magic items: specialised arcane focuses, common items representing industrialised magic, items that can only be used by dragonmarked characters and augmentations for warforged. There are also lots of powerful magepunk maguffins, many of which would fit into the plot of a campaign’s big bads. There are also guidelines for manufacture of magic items, which could be used in other settings.

Wayfarer’s Guide ends with a strong section about the very vertical city of Sharn, which provides a good place to start off adventuring in Eberron. There are details about the levels of each district: who lives where, what kind of conflicts exist and what adventures may be in store. Three locations get more in-depth treatment, and each one could be used as a base for an adventuring party. One is a university where you could run a Harry-Potter-style coming-of-age campaign. This chapter also includes some tables for generating plot ideas and simple urban encounters (which could become side quests or plot hooks).

You can purchase the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron at DriveThruRPG here or at D&D Beyond here.

We also published this article earlier in the week to clarify the confusion about the Ravnica and Eberron setting announcements.

Ravnica & Eberron Announced – Tale of Two Settings

By Jacky Leung     Twitter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Warning Signs?

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

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

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

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

 

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