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’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.

EDIT: That changed. For a short while, I also worked as the project manager and publisher on Pendragon books! However, Pendragon returned home to Chaosium, and I returned to being an avid fan!


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.

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The Book of Feasts: The Book of Feasts fixes one of the weakest parts of Pendragon (that was hard for me to write!) and adds a lot of context, mechanics, and excitements around feasts!

The accompanying Feast Deck really punches up the action, and I consider this book an absolute add to your game.

[Bonus tidbet: This is my first credit as a publisher on a Nocturnal Media product and a Pendragon product.]

 

 

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 may 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!

RPG Retrospective: Halloween 2015

Some context. Every year, I build a massive Halloween game, where I go all out on minis, terrain, costumes, food, and just an overall gaming environment. Today, I started prepping for the 2016 run, and I thought it’d be fun to share some photos of last years!

These are in as much chronological order as I can summon.

The RPG of choice that year was Numenera, and the theme was trying to determine the strange goings on in a blasted clockwork town to the North.

Of course, as befits Numenera, there was some…shenanigans going on.

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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.

The Great Pendragon Campaign: Year 480

In which, I, Alan, keep a yearly log of the progress and history of the characters playing through the Great Pendragon Campaign.


During the year 480, we followed the travails and successes of three of the knights of Salisbury, the knights being named as follows:

  • Robert of Newton Tony, a British Christian Knight, famed for his Honesty.
  • Cole of Tisbury, a Pagan Knight, famed for his Just ways.
  • Einion of Baverstock, a British Christian Knight, famed for his Generosity.

Of Battles, Knighting and Marriage

First, the knights began the year as squires, and were sent to Vagon for training under Sir Elad, the Marshal of the Earl of Salisbury. After some training and martial practice, the squires were sent to Imber to remove and slay a man-eating bear that was causing the peasants to fail to work the fields as appropriate.

With much effort, and aid from the local priest, Old Garr, the squires were able to track down the bear. Robert fell upon the beast first, and valiantly held it off, while Cole and Einion raced to aid him. After furious fighting and blows, the bear was felled, though Cole and Robert had been wounded.

The bear was dressed and as the squires transported the carcass of the great beast back to Imber, they fell upon some bandits, who were waylaying one of their Lord’s peasants. Slaying two, and taking one alive, they spent the night in Imber, where unbeknownst to Cole, he fathered a bastard child with a villager.

Arriving back at Vagon, they recounted their tales to Sir Elad, who instructed them to accompany him to Sarum, a few days in advance of Easter Court, so they could inform their liege, the Earl of Salisbury, what had occurred.

After a half-days ride, they arrived in time to speak with the Earl, who was greatly pleased with their progress, and informed them to explore and enjoy the town around them.

Robert spent some time praying, and consulting with the local father about marriage and how to continue his line. The priest instructed him to speak with Lady Ellen, the wife of the Earl about a suitable wife.

Einion sparred with Sir Jaradan, performing well, and inspiring a rivalry fueled by minor jealousy.

Cole wandered the gardens, meeting several ladies of the court and engaging them in conversation.

Before the dinner that night, Cole, Einion and Robert all conversed with three eligible ladies (whom the GM had moved about 5 years earlier in the city, as he needed eligible ladies):

  • Lady Adwen
  • Lady Elaine
  • Lady Gwiona

That evening, each of the squires was put forth by Elad to recieve the honor of being knighted. They stood in vigil that night, praying and attempting to stay awake.

The next morn, they recited their vows and received their titles and lands. As Easter Court was being held in Sarum, their ascension to knighthood was witnessed by none other then the High King himself, Aurelius Ambrosius, and his entourage. There was much glory heaped upon the new knights, and many congratulations given.

As the knights navigated their Easter Court, Robert spoke with Ellen, who agreed to intercede on his behalf for the hand of Lady Adwen if Robert performed well, as he accompanied Rodrick to war this summer.

After the court, the Knights returned home for a time, until Rodrick summoned them to travel with himself and the High King against the Saxons, whose treacherous King had led them against Salisbury. The knights traveled south along the Avon river, until the armies collided and clashed.

Sir Elad, Rodrick’s marshal led the knights into battle, and much blood was shed. The High King fell victim to poison, and Duke Gorlois rallied the knights, who pushed and pursued the Saxons back to their ships.

Robert gave into his hatred (critical success on Passion [Hate Saxons]), and such was his rage and hatred that dozens of Saxons died by his sword that day.

Upon return, Robert was gifted Adwen’s hand in marriage for his valor in battle, and Einion secured the hand of Gwiona.


Winter Phase

  • Robert and Adwen produce a daughter, named Adwen after her mother, as Adwen dies in childbirth
  • Einion and Gwiona produce a son, named Brynmor.
  • Cole produces a bastard son from the villager in Imber.
  • All of them produce new locations, improvements, and defense for their manors, fueled by wealth gained form marriage and/or battle.

Titles Earned

  • Robert earns the title, Sir Robert, the Saxon-Butcher of Salisbury
  • Cole earns the title, Sir Cole the Just (due to his ending the Winter phase with a 19 in Just)
  • Einion earns the title, le Roche (the Rock), due to his defense and valor in combat, and his unyielding nature.

GM wrap-up

  • House Rules I used:
    • 2k glory earns you a title, based on an event during the year (Robert and Einion earned those).
    • A 19 in a trait earns you a title based on that trait (Cole earned that).
  • In one year, we did the knighting, two marriages, and a massive battle, met major NPCs, and had a blast.
  • First off, I love Pendragon, so starting the GPC is always a blast. The group was involved, invested, and we had some great moments. When Robert’s player rolled a critical on Hate (Saxons), the shock and surprise from the other players, as he lost himself to the battle-rage was wonderful.
  • Robert losing his wife, lead to some great RP, and planning for future lives.
  • as a GM, Cole having a bastard son, is exciting because I get to make some longer term plans.

Overall, I think the session was one of the best sessions I’ve ever ran, and I had a great time. Can’t wait for year 481!

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!

Daredevil and Total Party Kills

daredevil-season-2-poster-2If you’ve ever watched the TV show Daredevil, you know the basic plot. But on of the hero’s traits that stands out to me the most is his ability to stand back up after he falls down (or in the show’s case, gets knocked, stomped, punched, pushed, thrown, shot, or tripped). More than his super-senses, ninja/parkour kung-funess, or Catholic guilt, his ability to keep going is what drives the show and makes you cheer.

(I love Daredevil, and I highly recommend it, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about).

One of the biggest struggles of RPGs (and in particular being a game master) is the challenge. How far do players want to be pushed? How far can you push them? When do they break? Where does it stop being fun, and start being frustrating? Getting knocked down, and standing back up to kick the villain in the teeth is a hell of a lot of fun, and an exceptionally rewarding experience for both the players, and the GM.

But it’s a hard experience to deliver. It’s easy to misstep.

FCI-spots-2-ancient-battlefield-skull-on-postIn the last 2 weeks, I’ve TPK’d (total party killed) both my weekly RPG groups. The most essential item to understand, is the value I place on motivated, exciting, cinematic, and narrative games. Stats, HP, positioning and what weapon you use, are less important to me than fun, drama, and elation. I haven’t had an accidental TPK in almost a decade.

The first TPK, was due to the players’ decisions, and that’s life. Sometimes players won’t listen when the GM warns them they can’t win, and this is a fight that ends badly. Sometimes they vent themselves into space, despite numerous hints that this is a bad idea.

Sometimes the GM screws it up. That was my second TPK. I lead the players through an encounter that was designed to be world building, and inspire questions (with the advent of some setting breaking rules, unique enemies, and their first foray into ancient magicks best left forgotten). I casually put stats to the encounter with unique enemies.

Due to a spat of both exceptionally lucky dice (mine), and exceptionally unlucky dice (the players), suddenly the encounter went sideways. At first it was a lark and a table joke, but after about five minutes, the dire straits the party had entered into was clear. Clearly, I was not at my best with the session, or I’d have not made an error like I did. It’s a mistake that feels like it violates the trust placed in the gamemaster.

It’s a hard thing to assign blame on. The dice were unlucky for the players, and lucky for me, but I didn’t roll them behind the screen I normally use, because I had built a 3D battlefield, so the players could envision the story better. I’m not normally a minis or terrain GM, but I have been trying to stretch myself, so I made the effort. It seems to have cost me.

I didn’t step in when things went south. Since my rolls were public, as were the players, I had painted myself into a corner with the dice, and suddenly I didn’t have an out.

One feels like Fortunato in Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” as the dice and your mistakes play the role of Montresor and seem to box you in.

To my players credit, they were excellent sports, and laughed and no one was mad. But, I haven’t accidentally killed a character unless it was narrative driven and appropriate.

It’s an odd feeling.

One I’m not sure I’m at ease with.

Where did I misstep? Did I misstep?

Where should I have stopped pushing and let them stand up?

Now, the questions of where we go from here remain, lingering with the group long after the food is eaten, the crumbs are cleaned, the dice and character sheets stored.

Things to muse on, and take into account as I attempt to improve as a game master and designer. In the end, I realize that mistakes happen, it’s just a game, and no one is mad, hurt or upset (not even me), and all is well.

But it’s an interesting study of what goes wrong, and how one can avoid, build around, or mitigate such occurrences.

Do I stand back up? Do I push the campaign forward, or do I throw in my proverbial towel, and say consequences are such, the story is done, and it’d break the verisimilitude of the story and campaign to force it? There’s a lot of places to go from here, and I don’t think a single one is wrong. Just have to find the right one for the group affected, and work to rebuild that trust and continue on.

After all, if it’s not fun, what’s the point of playing imagination?