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!

Gallant Knight Games and the Future

I’ve received a few questions on what is happening to the TinyD6 line, and the products I had brought with me and created with Nocturnal Media in the aftermath of Stewart Wieck’s passing.

This is the official statement:


Effective August 1st, Gallant Knight Games will be stepping back out from underneath the Nocturnal Media publishing umbrella.

As Stewart’s brother Steve steps in to manage things at Nocturnal Media, it’s clear that Steve cannot put the same full-time energy into Nocturnal (given his other job running DriveThruRPG) and thus Nocturnal cannot continue to serve as a publishing partner for the full scope of projects it planned to release. Nocturnal is returning many projects it planned to publish back into their creators’ hands, even strong-selling games like the TinyD6 line. As Steve said, “Stewart’s ghost would smite me down if Nocturnal continued to hold onto the rights to publish these projects and then underserved the creators.”

I will still be working at Nocturnal Media to help project manage and deliver on outstanding Kickstarters, current projects (such as PALADIN) and some future unannounced projects.

Nocturnal Media will continue to fulfill the outstanding Cold Shadows Kickstarter, but the rights to that game, The [REDACTED] Hack, and the TinyD6 line and all its pieces will be back in my hands. 

Other games of mine that aren’t out, will also come back to me. This includes unannounced games, games I’d developed prior to the buyout, and some IPs I brought with me. 

The Tiny Dungeon 2e Kickstarter scheduled for August 1st is being rescheduled for September 5th (to allow me to accommodate for my Nocturnal work load, and wrap up the existing projects and products).


You can expect some more news from me in the near future.

Vinyl Review: Popular Problems by Leonard Cohen

Another Vinyl review. You’re welcome.

Today I’m reviewing Popular Problems by Leonard Cohen (one of my absolute favorite albums). It’s Cohen’s 13th studio album and was recorded when he was 80 (!). Popular Problems was released in 2014.

I got my copy from a local Barnes & Noble. It’s a single disc, ten track album.

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PHYSICAL IMPRESSIONS

  • This record is really light (160 grams most likely), and as it’s one of my most played albums, I worry about that sometimes.
    • Note: There’s no sound quality benefit to a thicker pressing inherently (there are some around the stability of the record for your needle and arm), but higher gram albums last longer, so I prefer it.
  • The record is a carbon black pressing, as I’ve noted I prefer. So great.
    • Note: Colored vinyls look cool, and are often thematic, but the carbon black increases the lasting power of the physical record itself, so I prefer that.
  • The cover leaves a bit to be desired. The colors strike me as weird, and they certainly don’t match the content of the album.

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TRACK LISTING

Of the 10 songs on the track, all  were written (at least collaboratively) by Cohen (which is normal).

SIDE A

  • Slow– I love this song. It’s focused, regular beat, and Cohen’s off-track vocals give such an authentic feel. The gravelly purr of his voice as he moves through this blues and rhythm infused track really sets the tone for for the rest of the album.
  • Almost Like the Blues – The lyrical talent on this song is incredible. Somehow the disparate words weave this perfect story, and the minimalist instrumental backing really drives home Cohen’s growl. Probably my second favorite song on the album.
  • Samson in New Orleans – A haunting song about loss and pain, and missed potential. This song continues the very stripped down feel of the album (the backing is there, but it’s so subtle, it pushes Cohen to the front).
  • A Street – A song focused on love and condemnation, somehow Cohen pulls anger, longing, pain and cynicism into a single ballad that covers all of those feelings well. A great song.
  • Did I Ever Love You? – Throughout the chorus, Cohen takes a backseat to his backing vocalists, who carry the song into what feels like uncharted territory on this album. The questioning nature of the song, and almost “bluesgrass” feel of the chorus seem jarring the first go around, but after a few listens, it all clicks.

SIDE B

  • My Oh My: Another great song (I’m going to say that a lot), and the languid pace of the instruments as Cohen meanders his way to the end gives this song a somewhat-unique feel throughout.
  • Nevermind: A bit more up-tempo than the previous few songs, Cohen returns to the signature growl of his later work on this track. There’s a deep bitterness on this track, echoing against a sense of loss.
  • Born in Chains: A great song and one that Cohen had been working on since the 1980s, the time it spent in gestation shows. A ballad in the truest sense, it showcases the troubadour-esque nature of Cohen’s earlier work.
  • You Got Me Singing: A melancholic tune closes out the album, with lyrics about lost love, and references to religion and hymns. True Cohen in the best sense, and an excellent ending song.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

I love this album. I’ve loved it since it came out, and I will continue to love it for years. Leonard Cohen is one of my favorite artists and this vinyl does not disappoint.

I do wish the pressing was of slightly better quality (I’d prefer 200 grams), but in the end, as long as I can buy a new copy when mine wears out (which it will), I am satisfied and happy!

Vinyl Review: Traveller by Chris Stapleton

One of my big “off-line” hobbies is listening to, and getting vinyl records.

This week I got Chris Stapleton‘s Traveller record, so here’s a review!

Traveller is a 2015 release by Stapleton and is his first debut album (although he’s done lots of work on very popular country songs as a lyricist and backing vocalist).

I got my copy from Amazon (because I haven’t found a vinyl store here I’ve liked, though I haven’t tried very hard).

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PHYSICAL IMPRESSIONS

  • The record isn’t a 200 gram weight pressing, and it might not even be 180 grams. (160 would be my guess).
    • Note: There’s no sound quality benefit to a thicker pressing inherently (there are some around the stability of the record for your needle and arm), but higher gram albums last longer, so I prefer it.
  • The record is a carbon black pressing, so points in it’s favor for that!
    • Note: Colored vinyls look cool, and are often thematic, but the carbon black increases the lasting power of the physical record itself, so I prefer that.
  • The Black and White photos on the cover and back are attractive and set a certain look and impression that I find appealing. It conveys a “worn” or “well-used” aesthetic that matches Stapleton’s vocals and lyrics.

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TRACK LISTING

Of the 14 songs on the track, 12 were written (at least collaboratively) by Stapleton. This is not a kid friendly album (as a note).

SIDE A

  • Traveller – The title track is a strong track, focused on establishing the tone of the album and it does a wonderful job. At times melancholy, at times defiant and joyful, Stapleton establishes his brand of country and the backing vocals from Morgane Stapleton (his wife) are strong and serve well as a compliment to his lead.
  • Fire Away – A down turn after Traveller, this song is likely my least favorite on the album. While Stapleton delivers great vocals, the song itself seems to wallow and drag itself on.
  • Tennessee Whiskey – A singularly fantastic cover by Stapleton, this song is one of my favorites on the album. It’s strong, thematic, and highlights Stapleton’s unique sound. Morgane Stapleton’s vocals again serve as the perfect compliment.
  • Parachute – A popular radio hit from this album, this is another very good song. Stapleton digs his heels into the lyrics, dragging them out into the song with some serious panache.

SIDE B

  • Whiskey and You: A heart-wrenching comparison of love and alcohol, I give this song high marks for it’s stripped down nature, and it’s natural sound.
  • Nobody to Blame: A track that puts Stapleton’s lyrical prowess on display, this might be my favorite song on the album. Comparatively, it’s fast moving and a bit more “rock” in it’s pace and tempo than the others on this album, service as a great second track on the B-Side.
  • More of You: A middling track, this feels like a filler track on the album. Put here to keep it going, but not really serve to showcase much. It has a very classic country sound, and it sorta rolls in and out of your ears and listening field.
  • When The Stars Come Out: Probably my second least favorite track on the album, this one is nice, but it just doesn’t fill a need on this album another song doesn’t feel better.

SIDE C

  • Daddy Doesn’t Pray Anymore: Probably the most heart-wrenching song on the album, you can hear Stapleton’s voice cracking and breaking with emotion on this song, lending it a crushingly haunting and personal feeling.
  • Might As Well Get Stoned: There’s a strong sense of resignation and triumph alternating through this song. It’s not “fun”, but it’s energetic, interesting, and a listening pleasure.
  • Was It 26: A cover of the Charlie Daniels classic (the second of two non-Stapleton penned songs on this album), Stapleton has chosen a great classic to cover here, showing an unique take on a staple of country music.

SIDE D

  • The Devil Named Music: A condemnation of the stresses of touring and road life, this track hits hard, and keeps moving. I really like this one.
  • Outlaw State of Mind: A track that seems more inspired by AC/DC than country, Outlaw State of Mind is an aggressive, tough sound on this album, and a great way to (almost) close off the album.
  • Sometimes I Cry: At the end of the album, Stapleton returns to the melancholy and heartbreak that has defined most of this album. A good, solid closer song, though I’d have preferred to swap the track order, and put this ahead of Outlaw State of Mind.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

I really like this album. The listening sound on vinyl sells the authentic nature of this production, and the whole thing feels very personal. Stapleton has a strong grasp of simple, yet deep lyrics, and the whole album resonates with a personal touch throughout.

His wife provides excellent backing vocals, and the entire production team which was Stapleton and his producer, Dave Cobb really cut against the standard country mold here.

The more I think about it, the more I’d push this album into the 9/10 range (a few weaker tracks hold it back). I can’t wait for his next album.

In Memoriam: Stewart Wieck

On Thursday, June 22nd, my employer, mentor, and close friend Stewart Wieck passed.

A great many folks said very nice things about Stewart, such as HERE on rpg.net, HERE at Chaosium’s website, and HERE on Onyx Path’s website. (There’s many more, but those are a few).

Stewart touched a lot of lives, and much will be said about his career in the game industry, the boundaries he pushed, and all of those things are essential. World of Darkness formed an indelible part of my formative gaming. I talked to Stewart every day for the last 8 months (as we worked together, we had lots to discuss), and those conversations were full of his enthusiasm for gaming, life, philosophy, esoteric topics, and reading. We shared previews of projects he knew I was excited for (both mine and others), and eagerly asked and followed up on my personal life.

 



 

One of my earliest interactions with Stewart as an employee was around the failure of IVF for my wife and I. We were on our fourth cycle, had undergone a majorly invasive surgery to set this one up for success, and had spent two years and almost immeasurable dollars on IVF (I say almost, I am acutely aware of how much we’ve spent).

Stewart had known I’d be unavailable the day of the results, and when I didn’t respond with good news, he reached out and asked how we were. We chatted briefly, and he gave us his good wishes.

A week or two later, he asked what our plans were, and I informed him we were going to stop trying IVF and take some time to sort out the future. He commented that he understood, and asked if it was financial (I’d made a comment about the excessive cost to success rate we were experiencing at this juncture), and offered me an advance against royalties to do another round.

IVF is not cheap. And here, my boss who’d I’d worked for about a month, was offering me a significant advance because 1.) he cared about our family, and wanted to help, and 2.) he believed in my quality enough to have the confidence he’d make his money back.

We didn’t take the advance (we’re trying private adoption), but I kept that number in mind as a bench mark, quietly tracking when I’d have earned out that advance and could justify his faith in me.

If you discount Kickstarters (which I do), I would have earned that advance out right around this week.

 



 

More than anything, Stewart left a mark on me in the way a publisher, game designer, and individual could behave. There was no malice in him. He welcomed designers new and old to the Nocturnal fold, helping to put their games out there, wanting to teach everyone about the joy in gaming. He was quite literally, a paladin and champion for the virtues and transcendental abilities of gaming.

I have three moments in my life that I consider defining. The first was my marriage. The second was the Planet Mercenary project and running that game for Steve Jackson.

The third was a conversation I had with Stewart after I’d joined the team, where I asked him quite bluntly why he felt my company and time were worth an acquisition and salaried position.

He told me that he felt I understood the potential of gaming to change lives as he did, and that after we’d spoken, he’d felt I’d be a partner who would focus on uplifting the industry. I left that conversation feeling as though I’d just won the lottery.

That was Stewart in a nutshell. That response is exemplary of the sort of person Stewart was. Not just a brilliant, boundary pushing game designer. Not just a giant in the gaming industry, who molded and challenged us all. But at the most essential and fundamental level, he was a good, kind person.

That’s the legacy I’ll remember most of all. That’s what I will try to emulate and carry forth, more than all the other pieces of his legacy.

 



 

No matter what the future holds, Stewart helped me set a course that I can be proud of. He showed me how to be a good person, a good businessman, and a good friend.

His loss is a hole I won’t ever fill.

Thank you Stewart. For everything.

-Alan

Tiny Wastelands is on Kickstarter!

Tiny-Wastelands-Logo---Full-Render-02On Kickstarter today, Tiny Wastelands is the next genre game in the TinyD6 line published by Nocturnal Media!

Based around the minimalist ruleset popularized in bestselling roleplaying game Tiny Frontiers and it’s expansion Tiny Frontiers: Mecha & Monsters, Tiny Wasteland brings the post-apocalyptic wastelands to your tabletop in a small, affordable and easy to learn package!

Play as scavengers, mutants, tyrants, road warriors and more in any of the amazing micro-settings written by contributing authors! With every stretch goal, we add a new micro-setting to the game! These micro-settings are specifically engineered to get you playing quickly, and prompt your game master with awesome ideas that let YOU fill in the details!
So rev up your engines and get ready to scavenge for survival!
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Alan Watches Star Trek: The Next Generation, part II

TNG_head

Wow, I’m pretty behind on this thing. I’ve finished Season One, so I’m going to write all those up over the next week. I adore Star Trek, and my snark here is mostly be being 30+ years behind the times.

First Post Here

Season 1, Episode 5: “The Last Outpost”

Soooo, Ferengi. They’re here now. That’s a thing I kinda wish hadn’t happened. Space ship chase scene, with mysterious techno-babble that requires the Federation to convince their enemies who they just met via the Ferengi stealing a thing to team up. Lost civilization, dead planet. That’s pretty cool.

So the crew has to investigate the planet. Oh, we get some Ferengi trickery and Riker shows off how civilized he as, giving him some much needed development. Sweet. I actually like Riker a bit after this episode (since the first four just…kinda made him a wooden square).

Rating: Actually Ok. All snark aside, I enjoyed this episode the most so far. The Ferengi are a total joke, don’t get how they progressed beyond a throwaway alien species, and the Portal Guardian thing is a bit of a cop out. But, we get actually character development and some well-written plot twists. I liked it.

Season 1, Episode 6: “Where No One Has Gone Before”

Ok, so Federation scientist, mysterious alien with only a title for the name, and poorly defined scientific tests! Time to get my Star Trek on.

Whoa. The acting in this episode is on point. Seriously, well done. Digging the ‘pseudo-science’, proto-Voyager plot point of the episode. Hm, Picard seems to bounce around on his personality and dialogue. He’s not clicking like the rest of them are. Boy Genius is busy being a genius (and actually doing well at it here). Alien technobabble and bonding with the crew. Mysterious illness, and self-sacrifice to wrap it up.

Oh, and Wesley gets promoted. Cool!

Rating: Pretty darn good. All the acting was well done, but some of the writing was weak (Picard). I dug the mysterious “thought as reality” vibe of the episode, and the good character growth almost all the cast got. There was a significant lack of Geordi (in my mind) this episode, but hey. Can’t win ’em all. This one felt most like a good episode of TOS.

 

Summary

Well, I’m now six episodes in, and there’s 20 more to go. There was some marked improvement upon the previous episodes, and I’ve got a little hope it’ll get better and better as I go!


Alright, that’s good for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more!

Wife and I are starting Voyager (she’s never seen it, I grew up on it). I’m gonna tackle DS9 after this, and then we’ll do Voyager!

The Beginning of a Saga

SAGA_Rulebook_35238Recently, Wife (whom I’ve been trying to get into wargaming with me) and I decided to give the historical war game Saga a try.

I’m a huge sucker for historical war games, and even more of a sucker for 28mm or 15mm war games. However, locally, 32mm science fiction and fantasy rule the game tables, so I’ve never taken the plunge and just bought in. My flirtation with historical wargaming has always fallen flat, or opponent-less. Well thanks to marriage, and the fact my wife is forced to do my hobbies with me, this is a problem no longer!

So we took a bit of a gamble on Saga (but with the added benefit and insurance that even if we don’t play it, I can use the minis as Saxons and other enemies for Pendragon RPG nights). I’m going to be pseudo-documenting our journey into this game as we go!


We each got an army:

Saga covers a wide variety of armies and times (Roman/Arthurian Briton, Crusades, Viking Age), but we wanted to stick into one set game at the start. As the Saga: Dark Ages rulebook was all our local shop had in stock and this was an impulse purchase, Viking Age it is!

Two armies, two sets of custom dice, one rulebook later, and here I am assembling the minis.

Part of the deal of getting Wife into a wargame is I have to do some of the annoying parts (assembly), so I assembled our two boxes!

Let’s talk about that.

First, I assembled mine to get a feel for it. It wasn’t too bad. Most models need an arm or two, a head, and a shield attached, and then bases and done!

When doing my wife’s I took some photos of the process. Without further ado, here is a stream of terrible photos!

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The box (in case that wasn’t clear). The box contains a full starter war-band (you need about two more units to fill up to a “full” army (as their rules indicate).

 

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Sprues and bases!

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The Viking Warlord in full assembly.

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Started by separating out all the bases and begun with working on the Hirdmen, the elite guard unit for the Warlord. IMG_20170416_0839470

In order to make things a little easier on first time wargamer Wife, I kept the weapons consistent for each unit of 4 Hirdmen. The game requires some unit cohesion, so to make things simpler and less complicated up front, each unit has the same weapons. Mechanically, they’ll function the same, but it makes spotting the units faster and just…better. I didn’t think to do this for mine, but I’m wishing I had.

So one unit of hand weapon Hirdmen, and one unit of Spear Hirdmen

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While the Hirdmen were drying and setting, I started working on her Bondi (Warriors). These are sort of the rank and file of the game.

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Hirdmen with heads and shields!

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Spear Hirdmen with heads and shields!

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Headless Bonid, armed with hand weapons. I did the same thing for the Bondi that I did for the Hirdmen and kept the weapons similar inside each unit to make quick spotting easier.


Not a bad day of assembly. 16 Bondi, 8 Hirdmen, and a Warlord took about 90 minutes.

The smaller scale took a bit to get used to and it’ll be interesting to paint. Luckily, I’m really excited about these ones, so I’m looking forward to getting to work with them. Post painting up my warband (Wife will paint hers), I plan to work up terrain. Yay for terraining (which is my favorite part of wargaming).

My goal is to get a starter game in this week and write up a battle report about how it went.

This looks like a fun road to journey down.