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!

RPG Spotlight: Corporia

This column is part of an ongoing series highlight RPGs that I like and feel are not as well known as they deserve. 

So, I’ve stopped reviewing RPGs on this blog (you can see the post why HERE), but not reviewing RPGs has caused my already sporadic blog output to drop. So, I need to do something else.

I decided to highlight RPGs I love, and try to increase awareness of clever, fun, or interesting RPGs that I wish more people played. It’ll be hard to distinguish why this is different than a review (I won’t give ratings for starters). Consider these less a “review” and more a “recommendation” as if we were talking in person and you asked me to refer a lesser known RPG for you to purchase.

So let’s start with Corporia!


http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product_info.php?products_id=127226&filters=0_0_44825_0_0&manufacturers_id=6049

Cover Image from DriveThruRPG


I love Arthurian RPGs (Pendragon first and foremost and I’m very fond of Keltia), and I love science fiction in it’s many and sundry forms, so that’s pretty great. I reviewed it previously (HERE) and I was pretty positive.

I still am, and I chose this game for my first spotlight for two reasons.

  1. This is a great game that deserves more market penetration. It’s not perfect, but it’s clever, innovative, and different, and I think that’s well worth taking a look at it.
  2. Mark is a talented designer who knows how to put together an useful and stylized product, and I want more Corporia stuff, so if I highlight this and he gets more sales, maybe I’ll get more Corporia stuff!

(Hear that Mark? I want more Corporia. We should talk.)

So what is Corporia? It’s near-future corporate dystopia where you play characters who are supernaturally empowered (or straight reincarnations out of Arthurian myth) attempting to protect the world (a la X-Files, Angel or Torchwood). It’s sort of Shadowrun but less punk, and a bit more mythical, and very well done.

It takes place in a generic city, with lots of cool details, some groan inducing plays on Arthurian mythos (the X-Caliber laser pistol for one), and a lot of potential for fun, dramatic, and cool play.

I’d suggest you take a look. It’s on DriveThuRPG and RPGNow as a Print on Demand product.

Alan’s Unofficial (& Totally Biased) Essential Pendragon RPG Book Guide

A friend asked me to respond to this article with my thoughts. As my thoughts were longer than the communication medium (Twitter) allowed me to respond easily, I decided to collate them into this blog post. I mostly agreed, but I felt my own article on my favorite RPG would be worth it (plus I needed to write a blog post!).

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

My love affair with Pendragon as the best RPG I’ve ever played is well documented on this blog, and it doesn’t bear repeating (I love Pendragon so much. It’s the absolute best RPG I’ve played, if not the best you can buy).

I’ve divided these into categories, start with Must Buy, and getting all the way to Don’t Really Need. You can click on the titles or the pictures for links to the purchase site (all of them on DriveThru). I’ll primarily focus on 5.X Edition (the current and my favorite) because it’s both readily available in PDF and Print (thanks to Print on Demand at DriveThru) and because I’m wildly biased (again, my favorite).

And if you don’t know, I do work for Nocturnal Media, but not on Pendragon. I’ve loved Pendragon since long before I worked at Nocturnal Media.


MUST BUY

King Arthur Pendragon 5.2: You have to start with the corebook of course, so you can play the game! King Arthur Pendragon 5.2 is the most up to date (and prettiest) version of Pendragon you can get.

If you have to have it in print, it’s coming out soon, but 5.1 will also suffice (5.2 is mostly cleaned up errata, some clarified rules, full color and with really nice art). 

The Great Pendragon CampaignIn a large aspect, the point of playing the Pendragon RPG is for this campaign. The Great Pendragon Campaign (or GPC) is a massive tome that covers year by year recounting of Uther’s reign through the end of Arthurs, along with adventures and yearly plots for your players to take part in. It’s massive, it’s directed, and it’s fantastically researched, written and very enjoyable. You need to have this book if you want to play Pendragon.

The Book of Knights and Ladies: If Pendragon has one failing, it’s the fact that the core book only allows for characters to be from one very specific region of Arthurian England (Salisbury). This book address that issue, by opening a lot more regions to the players to be from. Everything from France to Viking to Faire(!?) origins are in this book. You’ll want it, and your players will want it.

It also has some excellent expansions to corebook rules such as Family History charts and characteristics, luck tables, and more. A+ expansion.


BEST OPTIONS TO BUY FOR MORE AWESOME

If you want to add more awesome to your already awesome Pendragon RPG these books below will serve you nicely. I use all of them almost every session we play.

The Book of Uther: I reviewed the Book of Uther before, so you can find out my thoughts there. If you’re playing the GPC, this book adds a 5 year expansion to the front of the campaign, and gives you (the GM) a lot of useful information that will help you set the tone of the world and game with a lot of “accuracy” (for a game about romantic myth and magic swords in lakes).

I consider this game an absolute must for my games, and suggest you buy this after you buy the three above. 

The Book of the ManorThe Book of the Manor is in a weird place. It’s sort of (but not really?) superseded by Book of the Estate (we’ll get there soon). The Book of the Manor deals with rules for managing Manors (or the lands your knights individually hold) on a singular level. Rules on upgrading, managing, and maintaining individual manors are here. It doesn’t help you manage huge tracts of land (hah!), and it can become sort of “book-keepy” and lead to some Knights having massive amounts of money, but if the GM is prepared for it, and your players love that level of management, you can’t go wrong.  I’d suggest you buy Book of the Estate before you buy Book of the Manor however (see why below). 

The Book of the Estate: One of the other land management books, the Book of the Estate is written to compliment the Book of the Warlord. The Book of the Estate is designed to replace Book of the Manor in part, and address some of the issues with economic inflation and book-keeping present in Book of the Manor. However, it’s less detailed and can be a bit less interesting then Book of the Manor. I tend to use both, starting with Manor and moving to estate when a Knight has more than 2 Manors to manage. Your mileage my vary. I’d suggest you buy Book of the Estate before you buy Book of the Manor.

The Book of the WarlordWritten to be a companion with Book of the Estate, the Book of the Warlord is designed to be a reference book for managing lesser nobility (Barons and Earls) in the time of Uther and the first era of Arthur’s reign. It’s land management at a larger scale than Book of the Estate, and forms a sort of natural progression (Book of the Manor to Book of the Estate to Book of the Warlord) for how much land one might own. It’s also exceptionally interesting in it’s own right. Buy this after you buy Book of the Estate. It’s less useful in all circumstances.

The Book of Battle: This book expands upon the battle rules in the core rule book. It’s more complicated and requires players and the GM to be familiar with it’s changes to mechanics.  However, it adds a lot of depth, fun and excitement to the game, and if you’re willing to put the time in, it greatly enhances the core value of the game.

Buy this one after the rest on this list.


COOL, BUT HOW OFTEN WILL YOU USE THEM?

Our next section is supplements that add more to the game, but aren’t resources you’ll readily be pulling out on a regular basis.

The Book of Armies: This book is really interesting and very good. It’s basically a collection of rules and stats about various armies through out the GPC. But you won’ use it every session. Every year doesn’t have battles, and every army is not in every battle. It’s nice. I like it. But I wouldn’t call it “essential”. You can get everything you need from the Book of Battle.

But if you want more, this is a really nice add-on and compliment to the Book of Battle.

The Book of the EntourageNot based on the TV series, this book handles rules for servants, squires, more detail about wives (which is a bit of a big deal in Pendragon), and lots of rules about people your Knights might hire to aid them.

It’s good. But I find, it tends to come up a lot less than you’d expect, as the core rules for hirelings are solid, quick and serviceable, and a lot of players don’t care to micro-manage “employees”

If you want it, or love the idea of it, you wont’ regret it. I just find I use it less.


There’s a lot more Pendragon stuff out there on DriveThruRPG. A lot of the old adventures are easily compatible or moved over to the new edition, so if you’re looking for things to jog your inspiration, I’d suggest you just find what fits you there.

I could quadruple the length of this post going over the previous editions material, but I don’t think it’s necessary. After these books, I think anyone would have a good feel for what they need or want later, so you can make your own judgements! Just be forewarned that some conversion work might need to be done.

I hope this helps prospective Pendragon fans or players, and gets you started!

LTUE Appearances and Schedule

I’ll be at LTUE again this year!

I go every year, as I love seeing my friends and hanging out down there. This year, I’m a special guest!

Let’s see what I’m on eh?

THURSDAY: 

9 to 9:50 AM – Spycraft! Sneaking where no one has snuck before!

1 to 1:50 PM – Rules & How to Write Them!

  • I’m moderating this panel, so I’ll be making sure to steer the conversation into productive and helpful advice on how to create rules!

FRIDAY: 

6 PM – Kaffeeklatsch: You can come hang out, have a drink with me, and ask me any sorta question you want! It’s a little more personal Q&A.

SATURDAY: 

4 to 4:50 PM – Alan Bahr Presentation: Games from Start to Finish

  • This one is great. It’s an hour-long Q&A about the process of getting a tabletop game out onto market, on time, on budget, and how to avoid those pitfalls.

That’s it for my panels, but I’ll be there all day. You can find me or grab me after a panel, and I’m exceptionally happy to sit down, chat and talk. I’ll also have a selection of Tiny Frontiers (including some of the Kickstarter LE), and Nocturnal Media products with me, if you have something you’re interested in!

 

Crazy End to a Crazy Year.

Wow. 2016 has been a pretty bonkers year as far as things go. Shall we recap?

1.) I ran my first Kickstarter  for a Gallant Knight Games product! (Tiny Frontiers!)

  • We delivered the PDF 5 months early, and the physical book 3 months early.
  • Reviews have been good! Especially for a first effort. Is it perfect? No, but I’m very proud of the quality of work our little team did on this game. It’ll only get better as the line expands…

2.) Speaking of which: We Kickstarted the first Tiny Frontiers expansion: Tiny Frontiers: Mecha & Monsters! Also…fairly crazy. That delivered TODAY to the Kickstarter Backers, the PDF being a month early. This one is full art, gorgeous, and 160 pages, 40 pages BIGGER than it’s sourcebook. And none of that increase is rules. Awesome.

  • TF:M&M will be on time. Which is great.
  • Reviews are super positive already. I’m over the moon. Again, our little team knocked it out of the park.

3.) Power Mage RPG. We launched and ran the Kickstarter for the Powder Mage RPG. We’re gonna be really rolling on that very soon, so we can get that out. Really exciting.

4.) The sale to Nocturnal Media.

  • Yeah. That happened today too.

What a 2016. If 2017 looks halfway like this, I don’t know what I’m going to do.

Just really grateful and lucky to be where I am today.

Top Ten RPGs of 2016

So, I’m doing a non-review of my favorite RPG products of the year. I don’t review RPG products anymore, but I can certainly tell you what I loved. This is simply my impressions and responses to products that have come out.

Consider these recommendations, but there are so many great RPGs out there. It was hard to choose the best of list, and there are many more I wish I could mention.


1051yd0i7mrxl-_sx380_bo1204203200_.) Volo’s Guide to Monsters

So, there was a small slew of Dungeons & Dragons 5e product this year (all of which is excellent), but Volo’s stood out. Volo’s is a book best described as luxurious. Entire page spreads dedicated to details about monsters, where they live, their cultures, and so much more.

It’s clearly a labor of love from game designers who love what they do, and want to share that with fans. Additionally, the addition of several new playable races to the D&D 5e ruleset is fantastic.

If you dig D&D, and you really wanna dive into monsters, this book is perfect.


horselordsofrohancovermockup-793x10249.) Horse-Lords of Rohan

First off, my love for The One Ring is entirely unabashed. I consider it a triumph in the RPG space, and one of the best made and most beautiful games I play and own. Cubicle 7 does a great job with the line, and I’m ecstatic with every release they do.

That being said, this book delivers the piece that was always missing, that of Rohan and the Rohirrim. I’ve been in love with the culture, vision, and style of Rohan since I read the books as a teen, and my single biggest complaint with TOR has always been the lack of playable cultures.

Well no more! This book is beautiful, full of maps, locations, stories, two new cultures to play, rules for mounted combat, and hits every button for me.


haiku-warrior-cover-scaled-downwithtagline38.) Haiku Warrior

Hm. Not really an RPG, but a card game. But it’s a card game that tells a RPG like story. Through Haiku. Pretty cool.

I demoed it at GenCon and loved it. I’ve got a copy on the way, and I can not wait to introduce it to my group. It’s fun, clever, and beautiful, marrying card game mechanics, roleplaying game fun, and clever design into a wonderful experience.

I can’t recommend this one enough.

 


7.) Weird War Iwwi_pg_cover-455x700

I’m a big Savage World fan and a big fan of their pseudo-historical Weird Wars game line. Weird War I is the perfect fit into the game line and expands to a perfect place.

The morally grey era of World War 1 is a stark contrast to the more black and white conflicts of World War 2. The use of various components (zeppelins, cavalry, melee weapons), puts the warfare here into a less familiar but very surreal place.

Battling a Zeppelin crewed by the living dead is a unique experience, and Weird Wars 1 delivers on those sorts of stories repeatedly and with the ease and elegance of the Savage Worlds ruleset.


keepercover6.) Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition

The return of Chaosium’s flagship roleplaying game is one of the best produced books of the year. The standard editions are gorgeous, full-color books (they even have ribbons!), and I adored the rules updates to the game.

They felt appropriate, streamlined, and pulled Call of Cthulhu into a more narrative space, while retaining the good horror elements.

It’s a great example of how an ongoing and evolving ruleset can stay true to the roots, without having to sit stagnant (You can see my review of Mutants and Masterminds 3rd Edition for another example of that).


unnamed5.) Polaris

I missed the Kickstarter on Polaris (due to already throwing piles of money at other projects), and waited to get it until it was out retail.

Well it is! And it’s a stunningly pretty book.

Seriously. For no other reason than you will own one of the prettiest RPGs made, you should buy this.

The ruleset is solid (it’s similar to Pendragon), and the setting is evocative and delicious. There’s so much to read and explore here. A purchase I would repeat in a heartbeat.


scarredlands4.) Scarred Lands Player Handbook 5e

Wow.

I think I found my new default setting for my 5th Edition games.

This book is a triumph on so many levels. The mechanical design is rock solid.

The art is top notch.

The graphic design is great.

The setting is evocative, dramatic, and intense, and the book serves as wonderful introduction to someone who has never experienced the Scarred Lands before. Right now I only have the PDF, but I’ll be getting the physical as soon as I can. Really regretting not Kickstarting this one.


rhune3.) Rhune

D&D 5e replaced Pathfinder for me a while ago, but this book constantly drives me to want to run Pathfinder. It’s a great production, and something about the setting really grabs me.

I love the new races, new classes, new abilities, and there’s so much in here that is so well done.

There’s something for everyone here (unless you hate awesome), and it’s just a great book. I’m glad I have this one on my shelf, even if I never run it.


174365-thumb140.jpg1.) A Single Moment

Ah. #1 on my list for the year, is a tie! Let’s go over the first one.

A Single Moment is a masterpiece. An RPG for two players, A Single Moment stands apart in a crowd of indie games due to the brilliant design behind it.

There’s a strong focus on theme and mechanics that support theme, while allowing for dramatic and personal storytelling.

The designer of this game will be one to watch for a long time to come.I just couldn’t place this game any lower than number one.


regular_cover_ryuutama1.) Ryuutama

Much like A Single MomentRyuutama is a force of RPG ingenuity and deserves the highest accolades. The focus on the journey as the best part of the game (both thematically and mechanically), and it’s JRPG design notes, while remaining fully in the tabletop RPG space all come together.

Ryuutama is a game I could wax poetical about for a long time to come. Instead I’ll say you should pick it up for yourself if you want to try it.


 

Free RPGs for Veterans Day!

Several RPG Creators are giving out free PDFs of games:


Attention, veterans! Your service to your country is greatly appreciated! We here at Kyoudai Games would like to offer our gratitude. Following the example of Alan Bahr at Gallant Knight Games, we’d like to offer a complimentary PDF of Thunderscape, either Pathfinder or Savage Worlds version, to any interested veteran. Contact shawncarman32@gmail.com for your download link!

Gallant Knight Games is giving away Tiny Frontiers for free to any veterans. Contact alan@gallantknightgames.com for a download link.

Moebius Adventures is giving away Mazes & Perils for free to any veterans. Contact fitz@moebiusadventures.com for a download link

Ad Astra Games will give away the $5 Squadron Strike starter kit. Contact design@adastragames.com for a download link.

Battlefield Press is giving away Kaiser’s Gate for free to any veterans. Contact thompsonjm@gmail.com for a download link!

Blue Moon Ink is givng away three issues of their D&D 3.5/3.X magazine!
Contact blue.moon.ink.press@gmail.com and they’ll sort you up.

Tobie Abed has joined us to give away “A Single Moment” a two player RPG about samurai duels! Contact tobito_abad@yahoo.com for a download link!


Thanks to all these wonderful companies for supporting our veterans!

 

Leonard Cohen

I’m not really a person who gets invested in celebrity as a concept. There’s actors I like and follow, musicians I enjoy, but I don’t really tie my personal life or feelings up in them or their works.

That being said, Leonard Cohen was a massive influence on my musical listening and personal life. The raw, hoarse, gravelly voice was among some of the first CDs I bought as a college student. There was something about the old fellow in a fedora on the cover that grabbed me. Bought a CD sound unheard, and sort of ignored it for a while in favor of Guns n’ Roses, and 80s rock I already knew I liked.

I can’t remember anymore why I listened to it when I did, but at a time when I didn’t know I was bipolar and struggling through depression, Cohen’s music and his voice struck a personal chord, and it became one of the closest things I had to a friend during those days. It was a personal thing. I wouldn’t play it if others were around, or could hear. It was music that I listened to by myself, for myself, and with myself.

There’s a sense of personal loss at the news of his death. It’s a sort of an echoing, rattling feeling, bouncing around my emotions and brain like a hollow echo. It’s something I hadn’t quite expected to feel or have resonate within myself today.

I’d put off listening to his music in the last half-decade, as I’d attempted to put those negative memories behind me. I don’t think I’ve really listened to a single song of his until last night. I shrugged it off as another event in 2016, and while sad, it was just…what it was.

Today, I found my old Cohen playlist, and loaded it into Google Play. Hearing that off-key, yet familiar voice coming through the speakers today was like seeing an old friend. I’ve found the bad memories have washed away, and I’m left with the deeply personal, almost spiritual reverberations. I’m looking forward to updating this playlist and exploring what I’ve missed. It hit me harder than I thought it would today, and so here we are. Me placing words on digital paper as the album Ten New Songs is playing behind me.

Thank you Mr. Cohen, and I hope you have found what you needed to. You left something indelible on my soul, and I’m better for it.

leonard-2_cohen