Review Policy

So, there’s a weird juncture, where as someone who is trying to publish a game, and a consumer of the same industry products, that you have to keep your opinion to yourself.

As such, I will no longer be reviewing roleplaying game products. In the interest of honesty, I’ve left my previous reviews up (all except the one right before this was determined. I said what I said, and I will adhere to that), but it’s unfair of me to publicly express these opinions, nor appear to demean, or detract from my colleagues, and their efforts and hard-work.

If you wish to hear my private and personal opinions, you’re welcome to message or contact me asking for them.

Otherwise, enjoy my past reviews, and I’ll find other items to fill the void on this blog!

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Life Changes / Don’t Panic

I’ve been full-time in the game industry for almost 18 months now. It’s been awesome. I love what I do, I love my friends (I can’t rightly call them fans/customers as we’re all in this together as a community).

But sometimes life throws you a curve-ball, and you have to adjust.

The wife and I have been trying to start a family for a few years now. IVF, hormone treatments, surgeries, the whole thing. No luck. So we are preparing for foster care.

Foster care comes with some life adjustments, primarily kids who will likely have medical needs (both physical and mental/emotional.) There’s resources out there, but they can take time, approvals, or more. If we’re going to take in foster kids, we want to give them the best home possible. While Gallant Knight Games provides the income my wife and I need (in addition to her job), we decided we’d rather have a more secure safety net if we’re going to bring children into our home in the near future.

To this end, I’ve gotten a full-time job back in my old career of data analytics! YAY! It’s a great job with amazing insurance, adoption assistance, parental leave, and great pay. It’s basically the dream considering our situations.

However it does mean some changes for GKG and my game career. Nothing major, but some reorganization.

We have 3 existing projects (3.5 technically) that are outstanding: Cold Shadows, Tiny Dungeon 2e (the .5 in the 3.5), Tiny Wastelands and Monster Hunter International. Cold Shadows is on it’s way for fulfillment. Tiny Dungeon 2e is waiting on two books (one almost done, the other headed for pre-press soon), and then wave two shipping. Tiny Wastelands is moving along on track, as is MHI.

However, a full-time job will slow me down. When I started GKG, I was working full-time outside of creating games, and I’m well aware of the limitations and effort it’ll take as I get back into that.

Tiny Supers was scheduled for a mid-May Kickstarter. We’re pushing it back until the PDFs for all our outstanding commitments at GKG (for our GKG specific products) are out. Once PDFs are out, that means books go to print, and we can start the next project.  (Our partner projects are unaffected by this, as we are not as directly involved in the day to day there.)

Based on our timeline, this will likely push it to late June/early July for a Kickstarter, but we’ll see. We don’t wanna jeopardize our quality or results. Our backers and supporters deserve better for that.

Everything else is spaced out enough that we feel comfortable leaving it on the schedule (such as D6 System 2e in September/October) and we’ve got exciting news coming this month about some new stuff in the works we think you’re going to love!

My Infinity War

This blog post deals with mental illness, depression, suicide attempts, and stuff like that. It’s not light. Also terrible pictures of me culled from Facebook.


It’s been ten years since Marvel’s Iron Man hit theaters, a fact not lost on the marketing team for Avengers: Infinity War, comic fans, movie fans, or really anyone remotely plugged into pop culture.

It’s also been a decade since my last suicide attempt. My 4th.

I was a recently diagnosed patient of bipolar disorder, and struggling with the medicines I was on.

I was on a lot of medicine. Some of it prescribed. Some of it not.

One night I took too many. By a lot.

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The only good picture of Alan circa 2008


I’m not good at writing this sorta thing. So be forewarned. It’ll all tie together eventually.

I’d been reading comics from a young age. Stuff I picked up at garage sales, graphic novels at libraries, that sorta thing. We didn’t have a comic shop where I lived at the time (not one I knew of at least), and so I was a tangential comic fan in a lot of ways. X-Men and Spiderman movies were my big exposure at the time.

Those sorta dried up around Superman Returns (which I still maintain has the best opening third of a Superman movie ever)  and X-3.

Not a big deal, I was dealing with some other stuff at the time.

Around then-ish, I started hanging out at a local comic and game store, mostly for the tabletop stuff, but I started picking up a few comics again (Captain America primarily, he’s my boy.)

I also started treatment for bipolar disorder.

I think you see where this collides.

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2012


Late that April (the 26th to be precise – you tend to remember these things), I OD’d pretty hard on sleeping pills. I woke up on the 27th, violently ill, but alive. No one had noticed. (It’s not their fault. I was adept at hiding it at that point.)

With nothing to do (no job at the time, due to mismanaging my depression), I ended up wandering down to the comic store a day or two later. I bought some graphic novels that were on sale in the discount bin.

One was The Infinity Gauntlet trade paperback. I no longer own that book, as it logged many hours of reading, water damage, food stains, moving day trauma and more, until it split and fell into it’s component pages.

However, I vividly recall Thanos and his motivation speaking to me. His nihilist take on the universe dovetailed precisely with my mental state at the time. A Mad Titan, who had amassed power that undermines the pinnings of the universe, pining for Death, and driven by ego?

Yeah. That was my bipolar summed up nicely. I was living with my own Thanos in my head, my emotions, and my intellect.

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2014


I recall being vaguely disappointed the heroes saved the day in Infinity War. I remember reading other comics.

And then I remember seeing Iron Man when it came out about a weekish later.

Despite all my comic reading, for some reason the idea of the hero’s public and heroic identity being the same had never clicked for me. But seeing Tony Stark, on the big screen, ending the movie with “I am Iron Man” jarred something in me.

A decade later, it’s all a haze, and while I could put fancy words to some lesson here, coming off where I was into a movie where a hero owned their identity somehow felt like a revelation to me. Good, bad, and all the in-between, Tony Stark was facing down himself, his weaknesses, and was gonna win.

The idea of the MCU didn’t matter to me, but I will admit, something about that ending for Iron Man spoke to me.


I am not gonna claim the MCU saved me, or Marvel kept me alive. Therapy, medication, and emotional/mental honesty about my illness saved me. There’s nothing romantic about it. It was hard work, medicine, science, and a lot of struggle.

But comics. Comics were a constant companion during the harder times there. Distractions, refreshing heroism, new stories, weaknesses and triumphs. I took some solace in those stories.

I read comics a lot less than I used to, but they still matter to me. I follow and read reviews. I read articles. I buy graphic novels and catch up on my friends at Marvel (sorry DC, Marvel’s my jam. The Superman Family is great though. For real.)

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2016 (with my best friend/wife)


Here’s the thing.  

It’s not some serendipitous thing that Infinity War hits theaters this weekend. It’s just what it is.

But, it’s been a decade, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that going to see Infinity War on the 26th (I got tickets!) doesn’t hold some level of triumph for me. I don’t know what’ll happen to the heroes in the movie any more than I know what’ll happen to me in the next decade.

But I made it a decade. And, I plan to celebrate by seeing my favorite heroes punch a bad guy I no longer empathize with, as I sit there with my best friend and wife. Maybe it’ll be sad. I’m sure parts will be exciting, happy, and triumphant. I’ll almost certainly cry.

But the thing that matters the most is then I’ll come home, to the best life I could imagine, and I’ll get to wake up the next morning. I’m healthier than I’ve ever been (mentally and socially), I’ve grown in ways I never anticipated, and I actually think life is pretty good most of the time.

Ten years ago, I didn’t think I’d ever get that.

So I hope you had a pretty good decade MCU. I’m pretty happy with how mine turned out after all. I’ll see you tomorrow.


 

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2018 (with the best friend/wife again!)

 

 

April TTRPG Maker! #AprilTTRPGMaker Day 1-4

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So here we are! I was told I should do this, so here’s day one, two, three and four! Since I’m behind.

1.) Who are you? 

I’m Alan Bahr, founder/owner of Gallant Knight Games, project manager/publisher at Nocturnal Media, and general game enthusiast.

2.) Where ya at?

About an hour north of Salt Lake City, Utah!

3.) How did you get started creating TTRPGs?

I mean, I created my first homebrew within minutes of buying the 3.0 Player’s Handbook (those custom races were awful.) It was a downward and slippery slope from there. Planet Mercenary was my first big entry into the market though. I’ve detailed that a lot.

4.) Describe your work.

Oh man. Generally I sit in a more traditional, rules lite space, where cinematic emulation matters more than crunch, and the game should disappear behind the story. I dunno. What do you think?

Ok! See you tomorrow for more.

Alan’s Unofficial (& Totally Biased) Essential The One Ring RPG Guide

My Pendragon guide was very popular. One of my top three blog posts! So I’m doing more for other RPGs I love.

Thus, I present to you, Alan’s Unofficial (& Totally Biased) Essential The One Ring RPG Book Guide!

I adore The One Ring (also called TOR.) My love of Tolkien runs deep and nostalgic, and TOR captures everything I adore about Tolkien into a game that I consider near perfect. Cubicle 7 crushed it. Their team has made an amazing game that I’m always excited to buy and play.

I’ve divided these into categories, start with Must Buy, and getting all the way to Optionals. You can click on the titles or the pictures for links to the purchase site (all of them on Cubicle 7’s website). I’ll primarily focus on The One Ring Edition (not Adventures in Middle-Earth, but AEM is amazing!) because it’s both readily available in PDF and Print and because I’m wildly biased (again, my favorite Tolkien RPG ever).

Note, just because something isn’t “Must Buy” doesn’t mean I think it’s bad or don’t use it. Often the opposite! But if I am coming into the game, or recommending purchasing orders to folks, this is how I would recommend it.

 


MUST BUY

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The Core Rulebook: You have to always start with the corebook! Luckily, this scorebook is a 336 page tome full of gorgeous full-color art, easy to read and learn rules, and everything you need to play!

Bestiary, pregens, a small adventure, storytelling advice. It’s pretty much spot on and perfect!TOR_Dice3

 

The Dice SetWhile the dice set is not officially required, I really like having the official dice for this game. They make play much smoother, it’s easier to teach, and it generally improves the experience.

I consider them a must buy if you’re going to play TOR. You won’t go wrong.

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The Adventurer’s Companion: Us roleplaying fanatics love our options, and The Adventurer’s Guide gives us so many more options. A useful book if you want to expand outside of the core options, this book is a must have at any table.

It also includes some unique Fellowship Phase options, and some extra rules to add a bit more crunch and character development to the very streamlined ruleset.

It also has a catalog of all the Fellowship options up to that point, and it adds Generational Play (a favorite of mine design-wise.) Yes please.


BEST OPTIONS TO BUY FOR MORE AWESOME

If you want to add more awesome to your already awesome The One Ring game nights, these books will serve you nicely. I have all of them and regularly use them all.

JourneysAndMaps600Journeys & MapsI love this product. Big, folded maps that I can lay on the table and teach folks with, or show their travels and journeys? Yeah, this is a win.

With the beautifully thought-out travel rules in the core, I consider this product just below Must Have, and it’s an absolutely valuable resource at my table.

The only real issue is that future & new maps aren’t/won’t be in it. Here’s hoping for a Journeys & Maps II or similar product.

 

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The Loremaster’s Screen: Well, how are you going to go wrong with a Loremaster’s Screen for TOR? The back end of it is fantastic, with tons of useful rules information and guides to playing.

Plus as a bonus, you get the Lake-Town rules (for playing Men of the Lake) and some new Fellowship options.

Unfortunately (kinda?), those are reprinted in The Adventurer’s Companion, so if you aren’t the sort of LM who wants a screen, you might not find full value in this.  It’s still beautiful, and I still consider it useful, but I don’t consider it a must have.

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The Heart of the WildThis book introduces River Hobbits, so it’s pretty much perfect from the get-go!

However, it also adds a lot more detail to the Wilderland (the default locale in the corebook), more enemies, more Cultures, and lots more excellent options, like those above.

However, lots of this book (new cultures, added Fellowship phase options) is repeated in The Adventurer’s Guide, so it’s hard to justify on the table at times (for me.)


MORE AWESOME OPTIONS (BUT LESS ESSENTIAL THAN ABOVE!)

So, this is where it gets weird. These options are pretty great! And I love and use them all, but they’re a bit more…precise in what you might want or need.

The books below expand the core experience out of the Wilderlands (the area around The Lonely Mountain) and add new cultures and locales to the game.

However, if you’re not planning to travel to these locations in the game, nor play a culture from there, they are relatively superfluous in your game.

Instead of going over which is in each of these in particular, I’m going to simply show you what they are, and give you a brief overview of how these are all set up.

  • They generally introduce a new culture or two.
  • They introduce specific rules for that culture (such as Horses for Rohan, Dragons & Dwarven Artifacts for Erebor, etc.)
  • They add a new map and new pregenerated characters.

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ADVENTURES!

The One Ring has oodles of adventures. Just so many. And they’re all great. But if you don’t do premade adventures, they’re less useful.

So, mileage might vary! Most of the adventure books are tied to one of the locale expansions above (Tales from the Wilderland being tied to the Corebook, and The Darkening of Mirkwood being stand alone.)tfw_fc800.jpg

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That art though… *faints*

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Book Review: Lullabies for Dungeon Crawlers

6196yU0iPgL.jpgSo here’s a thing I haven’t done in a long time, a book review!

Lullabies for Dungeon Crawlers by M. Todd Gallowglas is a collection of roleplaying game, fantasy, and dungeon crawling inspired poetry. The book is slim, only 60 pages, and laid out in a minimalist manner.

I haven’t done this recently, so let’s get right to the point. I had a great time reading this book.

I’m not a poetry critic, so I can’t get into if Gallowglas’s words fall into some nebulous category of “good” or “bad”, but I can unequivocally state: I had fun, I laughed, I nodded in agreement, and I saw a reflection of love for the hobby and industry where I’ve been living in some part for the last 20 years.

Gallowglas has an insight into the world of tabletop RPGs, and even when he’s poking fun, it’s with a very loving smile towards an old friend, no malice or ill intent.

I should probably close this review, with some sort of RPG based pun, like how this book rolled a natural 20 to win my heart, or Gallowglas clearly didn’t make poetry his dump stat, but that’d be cheesy….

I fully recommend this book if you love tabletop RPGs, and I don’t think you’ll go wrong with it. It’s an excellent, loving and tongue in cheek analysis of our beloved hobby through an unique medium.

You can read the eBook for free on Kindle Unlimited or buy a hardcopy here.

Pendragon Halloween Game Recipes

Cooking with Alan Time!

Some folks asked for the recipes I used for the Pendragon Halloween Game. Here they are!

You’ll have to bear with me, I’ve never written recipes on this blog before.

These recipes are deliberately medieval-styled, but obviously benefit from modern advances. I used this site to do my best to use ingredients that were as authentic as possible. But I didn’t break my back, as I was more concerned about “feel” than accuracy.

The stew (except for potatoes & the Lea and Perrins) is fairly authentic to some historical recipes that have been studied/cataloged. Obviously Guinness wasn’t around in the same way, but one can safely assume some form of beer was. Now, I’m not a scholar, so that information might be outdated, but I did do some research (yay internet and some free books!) to figure out how close I was.

The Berry crumble is a take on a Scandinavian recipe, and is a pretty reasonable extrapolation of a possible dessert (but there’s no evidence they actually ate dessert in the way we consider it now.)

As for the cider, well, that’s just really good. And it has the benefit of being possible. There’s Saxon and other cultural chronicles that indicate cider was drank regularly! So….yeah.

Not accurate, but a lazy effort!

Continue reading

Halloween Game 2017 – Pendragon

This is a really late update, but hey. Here we go.

I ran a Pendragon one-off for my Halloween game in 2017.


Rules Changes for MOAR HORROR

I introduced a new “Curse” mechanic to the players. I had a giant d20 on the table set at ‘1’. Every time a player rolled a result equal to that number on the d20 (or lower) I increased the D20 by 1 and then they had to draw a Curse Card from the Curse Deck.

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There were 4 types of curses. They had more “purple” names on the cards, but functionally:

  • Blood Curse (They took more damage and dealt more damage.)
  • Corruption Curse (big penalty on rolls.)
  • Cowardice Curse (had to make severe Valorous checks to do certain things.)
  • Death Curse (only one of these in the deck, but you had to make a Valorous test or take damage for each curse you had, then all the Curses in play shuffled back into the deck.)

The basic setup put them in a cursed faerie forest, trying to rescue their wives, who were kidnapped by an evil Fae-Skeleton.

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FOOD!

I made the following meal for them:

  • Guinness Stew consisting of carrots, beef, potatoes, a Guinness broth with a few secret ingredients of my own.
  • Homemade Apple Cider with a spice recipe I learned from Mom.
  • Cloudberry Crumble, a dessert made from green apples, cloudberry jam, brown suger, and flower.

There was various assorted modern drinks too. You can find the recipes here.

We ate on wooden dishes and utensils for extra immersion!

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Cider

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Stew

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Cloudberry Crumble


The Game

It was a blast! We had a great time, full of awesome moments. All of these players learned Pendragon for the first time (except one.)

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In the other room, I’d set up the castle I’d bought and painted along with special minis for them and their knights (plus all the enemies) which ended with a climatic battle, where all the Knights but one died, and the survivor was cursed to be a werewolf (some seriously bad luck.)

It was a blast and I’m already mapping out this years Halloween game.