RPG Review: Gods of the Fall by Monte Cook Games

Gods-of-the-Fall-CoverIt’s time for an RPG review! Trying to get back into the swing of things, while fulfilling two Kickstarters, planning three more, and handling regular life.

I feel busy. But this week was a good week. I received fulfillment rewards for 5 Kickstarters in the last month, and I’m slowly working my way through them for review.

First up, Gods of the Fall by Monte Cook Games. Gods of the Fall is the first book in the new line of settings for MCG’s Cypher System, a generic ruleset identical to the one that powers the wildly successful Numenera and The Strange games.

Gods of the Fall was a Kickstarter reward, and the game does require the generic ruleset in the Cypher System Rulebook to play the game (think along the lines of the new White Wolf World of Darkess/Chronicles of Darkness line of games).

Players take on the role of adventures who discover they have a divine spark, 40 years after Heaven fell and crashed through the Earth, killing all the Gods. It’s a post-divine, post-apocalyptic fantasy game.


1.) Size and Production Quality.

A nice 188 page hardcover, full color book. Like all MCG productions, the book is a mixture of gloss and matte on the cover, and feels sturdy and durable. It feels solid, and fits nicely along the rest of the MCG games on the shelf. It’s a little thin for $45 USD, but RPG pricing is a hard line to nail down, and I certainly don’t feel like my money was wasted.

8/10


2.) Art

This might be the single most beautiful RPG book I’ve ever owned. Every piece of art in the game is brimming with beauty, evocation and talent. Seriously. I just flipped through the book looking at what might be the most amazing fantasy art I’ve ever seen compiled in a single RPG rulebook.

The graphic design is the normal MCG layout (sidebars with page references and tips, multi-colored chapters), and it holds and contains the art and words in a truly stunning manner.  Can’t rave enough.

It frankly reminds me of the beautiful 4th Edition Legend of the Five Rings books.

11/10


3.) Content / Rules

Ok. So. The Cypher system seems to be a bit polarizing. I haven’t made up my mind about the ruleset in a final decision.

It’s the usual “I’m a _adjective_ _noun_ who _verbs_” but with the addition of a new type, called a domain, that adds on the the end of the Character descriptor and says “and is the _God of _________”.

Ok, that works, and it’s a solid way to get into that. I approve fully, and as always, I like the “adj/noun/verb” char-gen set up. The Domain powers are pretty slick, and there’s wonderfully generic so you can let your imagination run wild. Domains can be as specific as you want, from “God of Winter” to “God of the Morning Frost” to “The Snowflake God of the North” and mechanically the same ruleset will completely cover all the aspects.

The rules for Divine Shifts are a simple variation of the superhero rules in the Cypher corebook (makes sense, and fits), and here’s where the game gets awesome.

You have to complete legendary labors (a la Hercules), fulfill a 7 part prophecy (which is excellent written), gain servants, and help restore the (or create a new) kingdom of Heaven with some semblance of Glory.

It’s amazing. The list of legendary deeds the setting has prebuilt is extensive. Aside for my (admittedly undecided) reservations about the ruleset, this whole section is great game design, evocative setting integration, and exceptionally well dome.

9/10


4.) Game Master Section

The GM section here is designed to be appended to the GM section in the corebook, so it’s a little sparse. It talks about how to run an “epic” game and deal with questions of divinity, god-hood, and integrating some of the fiddly bits of the Cypher System into Gods of the Fall.

7/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

There’s one here, designed to get you started on your path to Godhood. It’s pretty fun, but as always, all pre-mades suffer from a need to cram all the little bits you need to learn about the game into this book. Wasn’t for me, something with a little more epic (like the GM section advises) around the pre-made would have felt better.

7/10


Total Score: 42/50

That’s a pretty high score, and it reflects my impressions of the game. I am exceptionally impressed and glad I got in on this. I’m already planning a full campaign and how I’d run that, and my head is full of cool visuals, ideas, and plot threads.

This game is awesome. Full stop.

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Monthly One-Off Recap! The One Ring from Cubicle 7!

NEW-TOR-packshotEvery month, I or a guest GM, run a “one-off” for any one who wants to come.

It’s always a pre-determined game, set several months in advance, and we use it to teach, learn or try games, we’d not play normally, either due to interest, trepidation or others. It’s sort of a time we cut loose, just play an RPG, and enjoy company with out the structure or stricture of a full campaign (which we love, but a break is nice).

I’ve been heads down on my Kickstarter for my science fiction RPG: Tiny Frontiers, so it was nice to step away and take a break for an evening.


This month, we played The One Ring from Cubicle 7. No one but me had played or read the books before, so we had 5 players new to the RPG, one of which is not a Tolkien fan, and one of which only really knows Tolkien through the movies.

I’ll explain: the reason I chose TOR was two-fold. First off, Lord of the Rings is my all-time favorite book series (as a series). I love the films, the associated media, the books, and all things.

Secondly, I selfishly just wanted to play it again (having only ever done a one-off).

So we sat down, and I provided everyone with pregenerated characters I pulled from the C7 website.

I ran through the rules, the dice, how Hope, Shadow, Fatigue and Endurance worked, and did my best to explain the combat rules before we did any combat.

We started with a pretty iconic style of adventure, Gandalf giving a hobbit a quest to recover a piece of treasure that was driving an Orc Warlord made due to it’s Dragon-Curse. The Dwarves of the Misty Mountain would have gone in force to recover the lost goblet of King Gamlin the Fat, and Gandalf wanted the land to remain settled after the Battle of Five Armies.

We worked through the Journey mechanics and explained how the Travel Map works. We were able to leverage that to great success, with the party encountering harsh rains, that slowed them by several days, but eventually making the trek to Rhosgobel where we used the social encounter rules to have the party gather information at the Inn of the Leaping Trout.

the_one_ring_iconics_wallpaper_by_jonhodgson-d494jc1We had a lot of fun with the introductions, the use of the Riddle and Song skills (which feel very Tolkienian), and learning how fellowship focuses work.

The company eventually traveled off into the deep dark of the Mirkwood where they encountered giant spiders, and the Orc warband of Gathon the Greedy, an orc who survived the Battle of Five Armies, but was driven mad by Dwarven gold he stole.

There was a ferocious battle, and wounds were taken and shed on both sides, but eventually the foul Orc was slain.

The treasure was returned to Gandalf, and all ended well.

We ran out of time, so we didn’t get to leverage or use the Fellowship phase, but overall it was great.


The mechanics and style of the game feel very Tolkienian, and the strength of the game is clearly apparently, as it’s a master-class in building rules around the form and setting of a game.

I loved it, and all the players were complimentary of the mechanics, agreeing that it fit the idea and feeling of Lord of the Rings.

(Highly Biased) Grade:

  • Mechanics: A-
  • Setting: A+
  • Accessibility: A
  • Replayability: A+

I think I might be able to run a TOR campaign shortly! Everyone had a good time, and several people were very complimentary regarding the mechanics and feel of the game.

An excellent success and a winning game.

Monthly One-Off Recap: Fantasy AGE

This post is written by the GM of our Fantasy AGE one-off, Riley Horn! GRR6001_450_d9ffbea6-fda4-4ef0-b275-a8521e0bd371_1024x1024


I always struggle with the first line of writing any post. I tend to type, delete, type, delete, until I find the exact words that make perfect sense.

So last night I had the chance to GM a Fantasy Age game by Green Ronin Publishing. It had been a while since I GMed so I felt a little awkward doing it. I am still new when it comes to Fantasy Age, but the rule system allows for easy play which is nice, and it’s simple to figure out.

The first of two challenges I found is the use of stunt tables. It is supposed to speed up game play and bring a flair of excitement to the table. I found it a little clunky and slows down combat. I think of the stunts were simpler it would really help to smooth out the process of using them.

The other challenge I found is more of a personal thing, I like to have a lot of variety to choose from when it comes to monsters and creatures in general. In the back of the rule book there are some, but not enough for my taste.

The supplements that Green Ronin makes are great additions, but to me still leave a little lacking in what I wanted to pit my players against. Overall running the game was a good experience and playing Fantasy Age periodically is something I will continue to do, but it hasn’t won a place as my favorite RPG to play, or run.


 

This blog has already reviewed Fantasy AGE (click HERE).

Thanks Riley for the one-off and the write up!

Monthly One-Off Recap: Pendragon!

KAP+Pendragon+5.1Every month, I or a guest GM, run a “one-off” for any one who wants to come.

It’s always a pre-determined game, set several months in advance, and we use it to teach, learn or try games, we’d not play normally, either due to interest, trepidation or others. It’s sort of a time we cut loose, just play an RPG, and enjoy company with out the structure or stricture of a full campaign (which we love, but a break is nice).

This month, we played King Arthur Pendragon, the 5.1 edition from Nocturnal Media. Only one of our players had played before, so it was a new experience for the rest of the guests.

I’ll recap: the reason I chose Pendragon was two-fold. First off, Pendragon is my all-time favorite roleplaying game. Bar none. I consider the mechanics, setting, roleplaying, and theme perfectly melded into the perfect game. As an RPG designer, it had more influence on me than any other game. I can’t talk about it enough, or rave about it enough to anyone who will listen (and often those who won’t). kap2

Secondly, due to my constant raving, talking, and musing on Pendragon, several of my players from my various groups who had never tried it, wanted to try it.

So we sat down, and I walked them through the base character creation in the core book. I was using the new Great Pendragon Campaign expansion of 480 – 484 that recently came out with The Book of Uther (review here), and set it in that time frame. KAPBookofUther

Character creation was a blast. The explanation of Traits (internal personality and emotional drivers) and Passions (external attachments and drivers) instantly fired the new players, and made visualizing their knightly character much easier for them. The skills, the family history, and the land ownership instantly invested them in the setting and the game, and made everyone much more involved that I usually see in a one-off.

That took about an hour to get everyone through, we determined their land, and got them started on their quest.

It was a brief adventure, involving brigands who were holding a small ford used for trading, newly knighted characters with something to prove, and a scheming manor lord out for more power and authority.

We did the Winter Phase (despite the one-off nature), because I wanted the players to experience the phase I consider the most fun in the game, and the aspect I enjoy the most, namely manor management. all the players but one successfully had children, and the odd one out lost his wife and child during the winter phase, and there was mourning throughout the land.

There was excellent roleplay all around, some great rolls, some terrible rolls, inflamed passions (in characters, not players), revenge, and honor. The game felt instantly captivating to me, and after the game, we had a recap, and the reviews were unanimously positive regarding the mechanics, setting, and ideas behind Pendragon.

(Highly Biased) Grade:

  • Mechanics: A+
  • Setting: A
  • Accessibility: A+
  • Replayability: A

I think I might be able to reboot my Great Pendragon Campaign shortly if I can keep selling the game like this. Of course, the game makes it easy to sell, due to it’s excellent and awesome nature.

Overall, a resounding success.

In Praise of ABC’s Galavant

galavant-poster-fullGalavant is ABC’s musical comedy that airs over a 4 week period. I watched last year when it came out, as light-hearted, and comedic fantasy TV is rare and doesn’t come up often.

I absolutely fell in love. It’s a wonderfully comedic blend of Monty Python, Mel Brooks and Disney, and if that doesn’t sound like something deserves your immediate attention, i don’t think I can’t help you.

But I’m gonna try.

It was hands down the best thing I saw on TV all year. The story is pretty basic at the very start, but I can have you just watch the intro. Don’t worry. I’ll wait.

That’s not even the best song. Somehow I missed the the premiere of the second season (I still haven’t forgiven myself), probably because Galvant’s original renewal was probably the surprise of television for me as it’s ratings were…mediocore. But Galavant is everything that is right with fantasy, music, and enthusiasm for the arts in a single 21 minute package delivered twice a week.

If it’s not absolutely clear to anyone, I’m a huge fan of fantasy. I play roleplaying games, I read fantasy novels, and this blog is called The Last Paladin. I don’t know how else to telegraph my love of fantasy to the world.

What Galavant is, is a fresh breath of air in a stale, grim and hard era of fantasy. It takes all the ideas that make up shows like Game of Thrones, and turns them into rousing musical numbers, witty one-liners, and delightfully cliche tropes that breathe new life into a genre that was desperate for something like this.

Every half hour episode has three musical numbers, and brilliant guest stars abound at every corner.

The second season did the right step, and instead of simply following the same old song and dance (I’m not even sorry I did that), it takes bold forays into new territories. Zombies, expertly executed spoofs of famous musicals like Grease, West Side Story (Dwarves vs Giants, anyone?), and Menken’s work on Disney and others, resound throughout. Even those in the cast who can’t carry a tune as well as others get their songs, and they’re positively brimming with enthusiasm.

The passion and joy of the cast carries through in the show, and when the first episode of the second season opens, the tongue in cheek surprise at renewal and joy of being back carries through.

I’m not the only one who feels this way. Galavant has a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating for the second season, and it’s well deserved.

The last two episodes air this Sunday (on my birthday! Thanks ABC!). While I love shows like Netflix’s Daredevil and Jessica Jones, and of course HBO’s Game of Thrones, Galavant is the only show I will spend this year raving about to everyone.

I look forward to spending Sunday night enjoying the Season 2 finale, and then fervently hoping that ABC will give me one more season to enjoy.

Watch @GalavantABC. You won’t regret it. Buy it on Amazon Video, watch it on Hulu, get it on BluRay, but whatever you do, do yourself the biggest favor you will this year, and binge watch Galavant.

 

 

RPG Review: The Lone Wolf Adventure Game from Cubicle 7

LoneWolfBoxIt’s time for another RPG review! This time it’s the Lone Wolf Adventure Game from Cubicle 7!

The Lone Wolf Adventure Game is based on the series of Lone Wolf Gamebooks by Joe Dever, and is both a continuation of those books (both mechanically and in spirit) and an advancement of those game books into an RPG.


1.) Size and Production Quality

The Lone Wolf Adventure Game comes in a box priced at $30 retail. That’s pretty cheap for a full RPG, but about right for a “beginner box” as many bigger RPGs do now days. Inside the box are several things: 6 ready-made characters (both basic and master level, we’ll get into that later), tokens, handouts, reference sheets and 3 books: The Book of Kai Legends, Training, and Wisdom.

Each book is full color and ranges from 60 to 100 pages in length (it’s about 240 pages total between all 3 books). All are soft cover, and have art on almost every page. It works well, and for 30$ you won’t be disappointed in the contents.

10/10


2.) Art

The art is the same artist that decorates The One Ring roleplaying game, and gives a very distinct vibe. There’s a lot good here, and the spot illustrations and graphic design are top notch, as befits a Cubicle 7 product.

My only real complaint, was I felt like I kept seeing the same pieces over and over again, and while there was some reuse of pieces, it was actually different pieces that were very similar. A minor quibble, but it mattered to me.

8/10


3.) Content/Rules

Each of the 3 books covers a different section.

The Book of Kai Training is an “intro to roleplaying” book, and covers a lot about the setting, called Magnamund. It explains the role of Kai Lords in the setting, and how they manage (basically, they’re fantasy Jedi, complete with some mind-reading, force pushing, animal calming, and small object moving abilities). It covers creating new characters both on the basic level, and the Master level.

The difference is the complexity of the rules. Basic level is the simplest common denominator between the rules, and is really easy to use, play and go with. Master-level is much more akin to a complex RPG, while still retain the base mechanics of the basic level. The best part is the layering levels of rules, where the narrator can add new rules and mechanics as he deems appropriate, as to teach all the players the rules at the same level.

Some parts of the book revolving around Master level rules weren’t very clear, and I had to do some hunting through text to figure out various mechanics, rules, and interactions. The book is exceptionally new player friendly in it’s layout, and interface, but there’s some loss of clarity in it’s attempt to have a newer player friendly place.

The base mechanic harkens back to the old Lone Wolf books, and you flip a “coin” onto a grid of numbers rated from 0 to 9 to determine your starting skill check, and then add your level. It’s exceptionally new player friendly, and for more experienced gamers, contains rules for using a d10 (hint, 10s count as 0s, and the rest of the numbers are the same).

The Master-level mechanics work well, but involve a lot more math and creation then I expected at their highest level.

7/10


4.) Game Master Section

The Book of Kai Wisdom covers all the rules of the game in a single place for the Narrator to manage the game. It also has a lot of setting fluff, and covers what the steps to scale some of the mechanics. After reading it, I discovered many of the lingering rules questions I had from Training were answered here.

It’s a little frustrating to be flipping through 2 separate books to try to piece together mechanics that could have easily been condensed into a single book.

6/10


5.) Pre-Made Adventure

The Book of Kai Legends (the third book in the series) contains two missions that scale the rules up from basic to master by introducing new scenarios as the newly appointed Kai Lords move through the land being fantasy Jedi. It works for what it is, a learning adventure, and the full-color illustrations of NPCs and maps make it very immersive and easy to show and tell your players.

8/10


Total Score: 39/50

Not a bad score. The game suffered from some writing issues, and lack of clarity, plus a pretty heavy docking for having to flip between multiple books.

However, the game does pass the “Would I play this?” test, with flying marks in one particular section. This is a roleplaying game that will hook new gamers on RPGs easily, and with intuitive mechanics and an easily accessible setting. This is the one I’ll be busting out when I have to teach children, or newer players, and it’ll be a go-to game on my shelf.

 

RPG Review: Keltia from Cubicle 7

KeltiaCover550Time for an RPG Review! Anyone who knows me will know that I am a huge fan of Arthurian roleplaying, history, and myth, and integrating that into my RPGs.

So Keltia seemed like a natural fit for me, and I bought it. Guess that’s time for a review then eh?

As usual, let’s start with:


 

1.) Size and Production Quality

A 240 page hardback that MSRPs for $49.99. Hm, little bit of a small book for a price tag like that, but it seems like RPGs are getting more expensive anyways. The art inside and layout is in greyscale which was exceptionally frustrating. For $50 I expected a full-color book. Pages feel a little thin, but the book itself is plenty sturdy.

5/10


2.) Art

The art inside itself is quite evocative and beautiful, and works in the greyscale feel of the book. The cover is simply gorgeous and one of my favorites I’ve seen recently. Can’t complain there.

10/10


3.) Content/Rules

The interior layout of the book was interesting. There was a good 80 pages of setting in a lot of detail. Serious detail. A fascinating read, but it was a bit jarring to see so much setting first. It reminded me of layout I’ve seen in Pinnacle books. It kinda jarrred me at first, but that’s probably due to the currently reading slate of RPG books I’ve been involved in. The detail given about the world and setting is fantastically done, and the discourse on the “true” Arthur is well done. Where C7 filled in gaps in real world knowledge, it flows very well, and makes logical and cultural sense.

The rules are mostly good. They’re mostly simple, and mostly to the point. There’s a few points in which I was confused and had to reread multiple sections, and there’s one particular section that I still am unsure about. Character creation is fast and easy, and the rules of the game will not bog down in play.

I like their combat system, the multiple action set up is exceptionally interesting. Their combat action list is well thought out, but it’s a little too much for how fast the rest of the game plays. They need cards to remind you of the options.

10/10


4.) Game Master Section

Historically I have little patience for Game Master sections, and C7 historically keeps theirs pretty well done, and focused on how to capture atmosphere, and feel of the game. No exceptions here. I like what they did, but a few examples of rules usage would make up for some previous confusion.

8/10


5.) Pre-Made Adventure

Well well. An Arthurian “saga” adventure that will be continued throughout splat books and detail the coming of Arthur, and his rise to power/fame/etc. It’s interesting. It’s short. It’s fun. It’s well done. I have no complaints here, other than it’s a little too short.

9/10


 

Total Score: 42/50

That’s the highest score I’ve given, so… pretty good score?

Frankly, and I tried to keep the gushing down. This is one of the best RPG purchases I’ve made in recent years, and I can’t wait to get a real campaign going and buckle down to play in a mythic history of Arthur. I would highly recommend this RPG to anyone, and it’s got a very strong chance of being in my top 3 RPGs of all time list.