Sunday, 10 February 2019

'The 13th Year' Campaign Setting available now from DrivethruRPG

Available now at DrivethruRPG.

What if…?

What if the Second World War didn’t end the way it did? What if the Axis forces had atomic weapons?

What if they used them in the dying days of the war?

‘The 13th Year’ is a campaign setting for the ‘To The Stars, Stellar Cadets!’ core rulebook, set in an alternative reality. Hitler never died and actually developed his own atomic weapons. Not only that, but he used them on the world in an insane attempt to claim victory over his enemies. The survivors just want to survive, the military want to finish a war because they have no other purpose left in life.

It is set in 1952, 13 years after the beginning of the Second World War, in a period when decimated governments are trying to claw their way back to power and old enemies resurface once again.

Armies are on the move and the war continues, the sides pretty much carrying on from where they’d left off in 1945. It’s the Second World War set against a post-atomic holocaust wasteland.

Requires 'To The Stars, Stellar Cadets!' for use.

Friday, 8 February 2019

'ECHOES - We Are Alone' Campaign Setting available now from DrivethruRPG

Available now at DrivethruRPG.

ECHOES is a science fiction campaign setting in which players explore dead alien cultures, uncover mysteries of long-forgotten races and try to make sense as to why hundreds of star-faring cultures simply vanished or died out, seemingly all at the same time.

In this setting players will confront the dangers of hostile worlds, pit their wits against enterprises wanting to exploit new technologies, face off with corrupt government officials who want to use their discoveries to further their own agenda and outsmart dormant alien technologies not meant for human use.

Whole star systems lie abandoned, and their inhabitants have long since perished.

We are alone.

Contains background material - new Crew Positions, weapons, armour, starships and equipment - adventure ideas - 'Lowlight Stellarstation', a complete location from where you can start your adventures.

Requires 'To The Stars, Stellar Cadets!' for use

Sunday, 3 February 2019

'To The Stars, Stellar Cadets!' and adventures now available on DrivethruRPG

A while ago I released a free roleplaying game called 'To The Stars, Stellar Cadets!', based on the pulp science fiction adventure serials from the 1930s through to the 1950s. I found some free images on the internet and decided to have a go at designing a game that incorporated those images, as well as use it to test out my single die ODDS System.

Now the core rules, as well as the two adventures 'Danger on Bakk-Alpha-Four' and 'The Hiding Death', are available from DrivethruRPG as Pay What You Want products.

To The Stars, Stellar Cadets!

'Always dreamed of blasting through space on the back of a nuclear bullet trading laser fire with wicked alien menaces? How about exploring mysterious worlds and trading with exotic races? Perhaps you’d like to hunt down nefarious pirates in haunted asteroid belts?

Now’s your chance! Join the STELLAR CADETS and travel the stars for the Stellar Navy!'

This game harks back to the serial science fiction shows from the 1930s to the 1950s, and the system uses a single six-sided die.

Contains rules for character creation, monsters, vehicles and starships, and a short adventure.

Danger on Bakk-Alpha-Four

'The players are instructed to take a rocketship to the Bakk solar system, land on the primary planet of Bakk-Alpha-Four and pick up supplies for the struggling Beta 1-8-6 Stellarstation. Falling foul of the war and chased by the local military forces, can they make it across the war-torn city of Calappa to freedom?'

An adventure for 'To The Stars, Stellar Cadets!'

Also included in the adventure are some extra rules to help recreate the pulp action genre, giving players the chance to not only stand a better chance of surviving but also giving them the option to take more chances at feats of derring-do! It should last a couple of sessions and you may get some use out of it in your own science fiction campaign.

The Hiding Death

'In this short adventure, the heroes must enter the slow moving Sanotron planetoid field to locate a missing Stellar Navy intelligence gathering rocketship, the Tracer IV, which was lost there recently. After being warned of strange goings on and the presence of pirates, they set out to find that not all is what it seems...'

An adventure for 'To The Stars, Stellar Cadets!'

Saturday, 2 February 2019

RPG Review - Forbidden Lands from Free League

Published by Free League/Modiphius Entertainment

by Tomas Härenstam (Lead Designer),  Erik Granström (Designer), Nils Gulliksson (Main Illustrator), Christian Granath (Writer), Nils Karlén (Writer), Kosta Kostulas (Writer)

‘Forbidden Lands is a new take on classic fantasy roleplaying. In this sandbox survival roleplaying game, you’re not heroes sent on missions dictated by others – instead, you are raiders and rogues bent on making your own mark on a cursed world. You will discover lost tombs, fight terrible monsters, wander the wild lands, and if you live long enough, build your own stronghold to defend.’

I like games that have their own personal style, their own charm and their own unique atmosphere. Games such as these have a special place on my shelf and get to spend time on my table.

Forbidden Lands is that charming it could wear a top hat and a monocle, hold the door open to a restaurant to allow you to enter first and hold a pleasant inoffensive conversation over a lunch that it paid for. It’s that charming.

With a heady mix of old-school charm and modern, story-driven rules this game is one of the best fantasy roleplaying games to hit the market in many a year. That’s quite a claim, but it sets out to do a job; to bring the old-school rogues and adventurers back to the fore. You’re not out there for the glory or the fame; you’re out there for the treasure and the rewards, and if it brings glory and fame, well, that’s a bonus.

In the sturdy box you will get two hardcover faux-leather books, a Player’s Guide for the players to create their characters and get a handle on their role in the game, and a Gamemaster’s Guide to help the GM fill out the world; A booklet called Legends and Adventurers which helps with fleshing out characters; and a full colour map and a sheet of stickers so that the group can track their progress across the world and add the stickers to mark where they’ve been and what they’ve done.

It’s incredibly well presented. The books are incredibly satisfying to crack open for the first time and the thick pages, excellent black-and-white interior art and 1980s-like layout is really, really nice. It might not be for everyone; I first got into RPGs in the 1980s so this is all familiar, even comfortable, territory for me but the simple layout may not be the tastes of those used to glossy, full-colour interiors. Personally, I think this adds to the atmosphere.

The lore of the game is well thought out and gives the players impetus to get out there and explore. With a world of danger mixed with a little bit of darkness, the setting is something that players who like a bit of grim in their games will enjoy, while not being so dark it borders on the nihilistic. There’s plenty of scope for adventure. I’ll let Free League explain;

‘The core game setting of Forbidden Lands is a vast and remote valley once known as Ravenland, conquered by the spellbinder Zygofer over three centuries ago. When faced by the savage orcs, he opened dark gates to seek the help of demons. That was his undoing. Zygofer was lost to the darkness and he placed himself on the throne of the Ravenland, his daughter Therania by his side.

To keep their vile corruption from spreading, the king in the south built a great wall across the mountain pass and forbade all to ever speak of what had happened. Since that day, the spellbinder’s domain is known as the Forbidden Lands. Zygofer's henchmen, the feared Rust Brothers, still haunt the land, but the spellbinder himself has not been seen for many years. Fearful whispers say he has transformed into a demonic creature called Zytera.

Today, the Forbidden Lands it is a lawless place where demons and dark creatures roam the countryside, while common folk barricade themselves in small villages. Only the brave and the foolish, the raiders and the rogues, dare venture out to seek treasure and glory in the ruins of old.

Written by acclaimed fantasy author Erik Granström, the Forbidden Lands setting is rich and detailed, on the surface based on classic fantasy but with many surprising twists and secrets to discover during play.’

Sounds like a great time, right? Well, it really is. The setting is solid enough to draw you into a huge meta-plot you can get plenty of inspiration from while at the same time giving you enough leeway to explore the world in your own way. The system, inspired as it is by the flexibility of older games, can easily be used for a GM’s own campaign setting. The setting you get with the game is great, but there’s nothing stopping you from using your own - or even an established – setting.

Players can use seven races; Human, Half-Elves, Dwarf, Halfling, Wolfkin, Orcs, and Goblins. They can then choose from eight professions; Druid, Fighter, Hunter, Minstrel, Peddler, Rider, Rogue, and Sorcerer.

They have four attributes; Strength, Agility, Wits, and Empathy. With sixteen skills to choose from it may seem the characters are a little thin on detail, but there is plenty of material such as Talents, which give a character advantages during play, and choices to make sure the PC is fleshed out enough to be unique and fun to play.

The rules are straightforward and players of Free Leagues other games will be in familiar territory; roll a number of D6s, and any die resulting in a 6 is a success with a 1 being detrimental to the roll. The rules are simple and straight forward and easy to get into, even for players new to the system. It was easier for me and my group as we had experience with other games such as ‘Coriolis’ and ‘Tales from the Loop’.

But my reviews of games are never about the rules or how well they work as that is always subjective. The real question is, how did we get on with the game?

The characters were easy to set up – my group’s experiences in the golden age fantasy roleplaying games helped and it was fun to see this game’s take on classic races and careers – and within an hour we were set up and ready to go. We had the advantage of having played ‘Coriolis’ and ‘Tales from the Loop’, so the system was nothing new to use and all we had to do was get used to the tweaks and new approaches to the game engine.

Straight away the players were invested in the game setting. The struggle against a dangerous foe in power, the idea of exploring a land lost to them and being able to play in a game where they could basically look out for themselves and not get too hung up about an overbearing world meta-plot gave them plenty of drive to get out there and explore, delve and fight. I created a simple dungeon and a local legend for the players to get embroiled in and sent them on their way.

In fact, this game seemed to be more action-orientated than the two previous titles we’d played, and even though the game system handled the combat in the game well it was quite dangerous, and sadly the Half-Elf Hunter dies a rather ignoble death in the first hour of the game. Within fifteen minutes the unfortunate player had created a new character and rejoined the fray. The combat system certainly gave my players a reason to pause, and every possible encounter was met with a degree of uncertainty; there are some games where the players can be heroes and throw themselves into the fight with gusto but this game did not feel like one of those games. It was frustrating as the group tried to cover every angle to give themselves the best chance of survival, but it added drama and tension which is something the setting cries out for.

The system was agile and fun and quite easy to use, with very little bookkeeping or page-flipping, and with the players knowing what to do and when to do it - without having to read tables or rely on charts - encounters were easy and a lot of fun.

In fact, it was so much fun we made plans to integrate it into a future ‘Tales from the Loop’ game. We’d joked about what the child characters in the kid-driven sci-fi game would play, and this is it. If we ever sit down to play Tales from the Loop and there are any scenes in which the kids play an RPG, we’ll crack open the Forbidden Lands books and run a quick encounter in the vein of over-excited teenagers. It promises to be a lot of fun.

The game was a joy to play as most of my group are old-school gamers with fond memories of a particular age of gaming. The old-school feel was pleasant but the setting and the new story-driven way to get involved in a game felt very new, and it’s this coming together of the old and the new that gives Forbidden Lands it’s charm. There’s something in here for players young and old.

But let’s not get hung up on the charm the game offers; a system or a setting cannot survive on nostalgia alone, and to rely on that nostalgia to please old gamers does not do much for newer gamers wanting a new experience. Is the system and the world of Forbidden Lands enough to attract and retain players? It’s hard to say. For me it’s yes, because I enjoy the system and I love the setting and for other, newer players there’s a whole new world to explore. But what’s here that will bring new experiences to the table for everyone? That remains to be seen, but new material that Free League has available and in the pipeline promises much.

All in all, Forbidden Lands is an excellent game, setting and overall product. It’s productions values live up to what we expect from Free League, the box is sturdy and the contents are a lot of fun and, even though the books may be laid out in an old-school style, it’s a really attractive package.

The setting is dark and forbidding, but there’s enough room to create your own take and the system is flexible enough to create your own worlds.

The nostalgia is heavy for us older gamers and the story-driven world is attractive to newer players, but the game cannot exist on nostalgia alone so it remains to be seen how the game is supported by following material.

There’s something in here for almost every type of player. Enjoy your dungeon bashes? Love your exploration? Like to get involved in deep narratives? Forbidden Lands has you covered on pretty much every approach.

Forbidden Lands is a heady mix of old-school adventure and grim, dangerous journeys. Players can create three-dimensional characters with plenty of choices to make them unique, and the GM has plenty of room to inject their own material into the mix. There really is something in here for everyone, and gaming groups old and new will get a lot of satisfying gaming out of it.

Friday, 21 December 2018

Have a great Holiday, everyone

Farsight Blogger is on a break now until 2019, so have a great holiday and a Happy New Year!

Image result for cthulhu christmas
Image by Les Edwards

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Greg Stafford's King Arthur Pendragon RPG returns to Chaosium ownership

Greg Stafford's King Arthur Pendragon RPG returns to Chaosium ownership: Tuesday, December 11, 2018 – For immediate releaseChaosium Inc, original publishers of Greg Stafford's King Arthur Pendragon roleplaying game, will once again become the owners and publishers of the game, it was announced today.All rights to KAP and the Prince Valiant story-telling game have been transferred from the ownership of Nocturnal Media to Chaosium.Greg Stafford, founder of Chaosium and creator of both games, passed away in October this year. The return of these titles to Chaosium has the blessing of Greg Stafford's wife Suzanne and his children. Steve Wieck speaking for Nocturnal Media on the transition of Pendragon back to Chaosium:

'There’s a story behind this story. In the early 1990’s, the staff of Chaosium were celebrating with a feast at Mader’s Restaurant in Milwaukee after a successful Gen Con. At the table next to them, the White Wolf staff also feasted on haunches of meat and steins of beer. My brother Stewart and Mark Rein Hagen, founders of White Wolf, stood and toasted Greg Stafford and the Chaosium crew, “Hail to Chaosium, the pioneers, the seers, the shamans, who ignited the flame of storytelling in our roleplaying hobby”, and the White Wolf table cheered their respect.Naturally, one cannot possibly out-do Greg Stafford, the creator of Pendragon, in matters of feasting etiquette. Thus Greg rose and toasted back with supreme humility, “We were merely keeping the fire lit through the cold... "

Jon Hodgson Launches Handiwork Games

This is great news - Jon Hodgson has created and helped create some amazing things over the years.

Jon Hodgson Launches Handiwork Games

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Cryptic old game design files #2

Once again, as I go through my old work, I find an unmarked file with a page of rules that I obviously designed as a simple skirmish game using a D6. A game I designed recently also uses a single D6, but it's not as simple as this and does not use a square grid for movement.

I think I designed this after playing D&D 4th Edition and enjoying the square grid layout. I can't remember, to be honest. I have a lot of love for single D6 games so this is probably one of many I dreamed up.

It's incomplete - I don't know how the special skills in the classes work, or how defensive combat works - but it seems usable. I might revisit this at some point in the future.

The last time I did anything with this file was Sun, 21 Apr 2013 at 21:46. I can't imagine what that would be for as I don't remember playtesting this at all. Perhaps it's something I could write up as two-page fantasy skirmish game. That might be fun.



MOVE (How many squares they can move per round)

Each ability score has 3 points, can be changed by lowering one score to increase another, max score 5 min 1.

Roll 1D6 + Ability score

Ability Target number is always 6
Ranged target number is always number of squares, max 6.
Combat target number is opponents Combat score + 1D6

Each hit does 1 point of damage, reduced from STRENGTH score, reaching 0 means death.


Each class has a special skill that helps them with certain problems. Special skills are automatically at score 3.

SOLDIER - Breakdown
ROGUE – Trap mastery
PRIEST – Defeat undead
RANGER – Precision aim

Each character has 5 equipment slots – if they go over this then MOVEMENT, COMBAT and RANGED are reduced by 1 point for every extra item.

Characters can take:

SHIELD (gives +1 to defensive COMBAT rolls)
ARMOUR (first point of armour uses one slot every 1 point of armour over that reduces MOVEMENT, COMBAT and RANGED by one point and uses up a slot - gives +1 to defensive COMBAT rolls)

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

[Preview] 'Forbidden Lands' from Fria Ligan

I have been perusing the new Forbidden Lands roleplaying game by Fria Ligan, a fantasy game where you play 'raiders and rogues bent on making your own mark on a cursed world'.

I have played two other Fria Ligan products, the amazing 'Coriolis' and the wonderful 'Tales from the Loop', and both games left quite an impression on me. The quality of Fria Ligan's products and the presentation in their games is of an incredibly high standard, and this game is no different.

After the beautiful full-colour illustrations and dynamic layout of the the two previous games I have played, the thing that strikes me with this game is the black and white interiors and the stark, black and white illustrations. In fact, the book has a very old-school feel about it which I find very appealing, being the *ahem* age that I am, and makes the game very clear and easy on the eye. The artwork is excellent and very stylised, and really helps to capture a unique atmosphere that helps to make the game stand out.

And the system? It's a variation of the six-sided die system we've seen in previous games but there's the addition of a D8, a D10 and a D12. There is also a custom card deck available that helps theg ame run more smoothly, but apparently these are not needed for play.

This has been a general read-through of the book and I'm impressed. There's not a lot of detail I want to go into right now as I'll be doing a full review of the game once I've played it, and I don't want to make assumptions without playing thegame properly. However, I think this will be an easy sell to my gaming group as it has the normal fantasy tropes - you can play the standard different races as well as a couple of new ones, and there are classes to choose from, too - but there's a dark twist to the setting that appeals to me as a GM.

Look out for my full review in the future.

'In Forbidden Lands, you and your friends will be playing raiders and rogues bent on making your own mark on a cursed world. Discover lost tombs, fight horrifying monsters, wander the wilderness and, if you live long enough, build your own stronghold to defend.

Forbidden Lands is a legacy game, in which your actions will permanently change the game map, turning it into a living chronicle of your adventures. The unique rules for exploration, survival, base building and campaign in Forbidden lands play can easily be ported to any other game world.

The tabletop RPG Forbidden Lands was named one of the most anticipated RPGs of 2018 by EN World. The crowdfunding campaign raised over a quarter of a million dollars and was the third most successful RPG Kickstarter in the world 2017.

The game is the fourth English tabletop RPG from the Swedish developers Free League Publishing. With art by the internationally acclaimed artist Simon Stålenhag and iconic fantasy artist Nils Gulliksson, lore by fantasy author Erik Granström, scenarios by esteemed game writers such as Patrick Stuart, Ben Milton and Chris McDowall and game design by Free League that created the award-winning RPGs Mutant: Year Zero, Coriolis: The Third Horizon, Symbaroum and Tales from the Loop.

The core boxed game set includes the Player's Handbook and the Gamemaster's Guide - two hardcover books with leather and gold covers, totaling over 450 pages - along with a large full-color map, a sheet of map stickers, and a booklet of tables.'

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Equipment design in RPGs

Two-edged Sword by D4v1d
This is a few thoughts I've had on equipment design in RPGs over the years, and how Player and GM designs can change a game. I wasn't interested in specific equipment design as that's a discussion that will vary from group to group and game to game, but I was more interested in how designs can either unbalance a game, give unfair advantages or simply decide situations from the outset, making incidents and encounters dull and predictable.

Roleplaying games wouldn’t be where they are today without players. Players wouldn’t be where they are today without their characters. Characters wouldn’t be where they are today without their equipment because, let’s face it, walking into a scenario with nothing to hand is usually a no-no. You need the tools of your trade to do your job, and without tools there’s not much of a chance of success. Or maybe even survival.

Equipment is a major part of a roleplaying game. Just look at the equipment available in any game and in various sourcebooks and game packs – there’s whole lists of bits and bobs that’ll help the average character get through the day.

One of the bonuses of many games is that it allows GMs to design all kinds of stuff to suit their campaign and gaming group. There’s always going to be situations where the GM or even the players come up with an idea for a new gadget – the problem facing the game is ‘will this gadget make things too easy for them?’

The last thing you want is for a specialised piece of equipment to ruin the balance of a well-designed scenario or campaign. Having the players run into a situation where the swing of a magical sword or the toss of a special grenade gets them out of it in no time at all will not only ruin the pace of the story but it will soon make things dull and unexciting.

‘Twenty Stormtroopers! What shall we do?’ 
‘Don’t worry! I’ll use my never-failing multi-target-repeat-hand blaster to stop them all!’ 
‘Oh. Great.’


Each and every GM and player have their own idea about what would make a handy piece of equipment. You could design a top blaster or a magical axe; everyone has their own ideas as to what will help them get through an adventure. Most will have more than one idea.

As overall referee of a game, the GM must take into consideration what effects a special piece of kit would do. If they’ve designed an incredible security kit that pretty much adds amazing bonuses to a character’s roll and gets them into anything, that might be fine for a couple of adventures. But what about later on down the campaign trail, when the story might call for the players to stay out of certain areas or help them get out of tight situations too easily? What the GM and players have to realise is there has to be a balance between what the item is capable of and what its limitations are. For every bonus it gives a character it must have a flaw  or drawback somewhere, which may make the player loathe to use it or it doesn’t work as well in certain situations. This will make the items special but also keep the game in balance so that the characters don’t breeze through every situation they’re placed in.

For example, let’s say that Brian, a regular player in Bob’s Star Wars D6 games, decides that he wants his character to have a special targeting system that wires from his blaster’s scope to a pair of goggles he wears.

‘Good idea,’ says Bob, ‘what kind of bonus were you thinking of?’
Brian: ‘I’m thinking of additions to my weapon skill.’
Bob: ‘That’s fine. You can either have a high addition but it doesn’t work well against moving targets, or you can have a lower addition which can only be used with one type of blaster.’
Brian: ‘Fair enough. I’ll go for the higher addition, which is only effective against static targets. What about range?’
Bob: ‘Low range at no penalties, or high range at… let’s say…’
Brian: ‘Every time I shoot there’s a one in six chance of the system failing?’
Bob: ‘Sounds good. It’ll cost you three times the value of your blaster.’
Brian: ‘I’ll take it.’


Belinda decides she wants to purchase a special type of medical unit. She sits down with Bob and they go over the details.

Belinda: ‘What I want is a medical pack that can be used several times and add bonuses to my medical skills.’
Bob: ‘No problem. We’ll say it’s like any other medpac but can be used six times. It can only be used on certain types of species, mind you. We’ll say four different kinds, so that will cover the other players and one NPC.’
Belinda: ‘What about the size of it?’
Bob: ‘It’ll have to be quite large, like a field pack.’
Belinda: ‘I was hoping it could be smaller.’
Bob: ‘Okay… how about it’s the size of a small pack, but because it’s small and delicate it’s prone to damage, say, a two in six chance of it being damaged every time you fall or whatever.’
Belinda: ‘Good.’


Balancing what the character’s equipment can and can’t do, along with it’s usefulness in a game and it’s chances of failure is something best discussed with the players so that you can get an idea of exactly what they want. Of course, you won’t be discussing these things with the players all the time – what if there’s an NPC you’re designing who you want to have a specially designed item?

The first instinct is to design an item that gives the NPC a bonus and then presents a challenge to the players, and that’s fine. A long-range blaster with a great scope, a small tracking device that tracks the players movements, a special grenade that damages organic material and not inorganic – these things would make a great challenge. The only thing is, if they use these items the players will be wise to them, which also means that when and if they defeat the NPC, the special item will fall into the hands of the players! The same bonus-drawback balance has to be reached with NPCs as with PCs – don’t be tempted to simply throw in an extra-special piece of equipment just to make things difficult for the players. It may backfire (so to speak).


This doesn’t just apply to modified equipment that exists within the game system. There may be items the players want to create from other sources or from scratch to help their characters out.

Brian: ‘I want a wrist unit to shoot a sticky web-like substance so I can swing about like Spidey’.
Bob: ‘What the…!’

Don’t panic – simply figure out how that item will fit into the game system and then apply any rules that you see fit and that the player won’t feel cheated on. The pros and cons system still applies so make sure that whatever is designed is, at first, even possible.

And then work out the bonuses and drawbacks.

Bob: ‘Okay, the wrist unit can shoot a long stream of synthetic liquid, like a synthrope but more elastic, up to a range of fifty meters, and can lift up to five hundred pounds.’
Brian: ‘Sounds good.’
Bob: ‘But… it dissolves in water, so it’ll be useless in rain. It’ll cost double the cost of a normal synthrope and launcher.’
Brian: ‘That’s fine.’

But there will be some things that will have to refused straight off the bat;

Brian: ‘I also want some shrug-off-short-range-heavy-blaster-bolts armour’.
Bob: ‘Don’t count on it, bub’.

So, as long as you remember what equipment you give out must balance with both performance and the game you have designed then you shouldn’t have any problems. There will be times in a game when an item will save the day – this is unavoidable and, let’s face it, it’s probably what the item was designed for - but if this item saves the day every time then it may be time to reconsider it's inclusion.

You could even make a campaign out of it; if the equipment is so incredibly good, what will NPCs do to acquire it from the player characters? What will the players do to get it back?