Sunday 31 August 2014

RPG A Day August 2014

To celebrate the end of August's RPG A Day here are my 31 entries.

Many thanks to Dave Chapman for setting up this excellent month's worth of fun. It's been very informative!


First RPG played, Red Box D&D in 1984. It was my first foray into tabletop gaming after spending more than a year playing Fighting Fantasy ganebooks and it was something of a revelation. Instant creativity, storytelling, fun and excitement.


First RPG Gamemastered - Fighting Fantasy, the introductory RPG. I didn't have the confidence to run a game as complicated as Basic D&D, so I chose a simple game system. The FF rules were so simple anyone could run it, and I remember running a game set in Port Blacksand - at the time Allansia was my favourite gameworld and it was fun to run.


First RPG Purchased - that'll be the red box Basic D&D in 1984, from the toyshop up our town precinct that had a wall full of games, miniatures and dice. I'd been playing Fighting Fantasy for a year and that's a kind of RPG, but Basic D&D was the first dedicated group tabletop game I bought.


 Most Recent RPG purchase - Ars Magica 4th Edition. It was at a gaming convention and it was cheap, so how could I say no?


Most Old School RPG owned - D&D Cyclopedia. Not my favourite system but full of nostalgic goodness.


Favourite RPG never get to play - Warhammer FRP 1st Edition. Played this to death in the 1990s but nobody wants to play 1st Edition days.


Most 'Intellectual' RPG owned - Blimey, that's a tough one. Probably Call of Cthulhu as that asks for a bit more from gamers than just hack n' slash.


Favourite Character - Tere Swordsong of MERP. He had a simple beginning, had a proper run of adventures with great NPCs and ended up married and owning the inn in which his adventures started. He was a great character.


Favourite Die / Dice Set - my original pair of D6s from my early 1980s Fighting Fantasy days. They're in a lined miniature chest on my desk. No, really.


Favourite tie-in novel/game fiction - that'll be a toss-up between RA Salvatore's Icewind Dale books, and the Warhammer Gotrek and Felix books. I'll go with Gotrek and Felix.


Weirdest RPG owned – That has to be Task Force Games’ Prime Directive. I know that Star Fleet Battles went off on another timeline from the official Paramount course but it’s peculiar to see Star Trek almost ‘militarised’. I ended up using the character sheet and some elements of the game in a post-Dominion War campaign using the D6 system.


Old RPG you still play/read – Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, 1st Edition. It’s really full of flavour and atmosphere and always gives me ideas for campaigns.


Most Memorable Character Death – Zeke Greyfellow, Shadowrun 1st Edition. Unmodified and with no magic, Zeke met with a Dragon to cut a deal. When it went south, the rest of the group ran for it and Zeke stuck around to fight it, riding at it on his Yamaha Rapier and blazing with his SMG. One round later; dead.


Best Convention RPG Purchase – The 25th Anniversary edition of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, because I met Jackson and Livingstone and got it signed.


Favourite Convention Game – Pathfinder. Always a great game with some great convention GMs.


Game you wished you owned – Anything to do with Dune.


Funniest Game you’ve played – Paranoia, by far. There’s nothing quite like double crossing other players and appreciating being nailed in the process.


Favourite Game System – The D6 System. Versatile and easy to use, I love it as I enjoy more cinematic games with plenty of action adventure.


Favourite Published Adventure – Mask of Nyarlathotep. Pure genius from start to end, and a great read to boot.


Will still play in 20 years time… - Star Wars D6. Because it’s the D6 System and Star Wars.


Favourite Licensed RPG – Tough one. I’d say Star Wars or the FASERIP Marvel game, but I have very fond memories of MERP. I’ll go with MERP.


Best Secondhand RPG Purchase – Ars Magica. Great game, and very, very cheap.


Coolest looking RPG product/book – Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition. I’ll probably never play it again, but it’s a beautiful book.


Most Complicated RPG Owned – MERP, for the obvious Rolemaster reasons.


Favourite RPG no one else wants to play – That’s easy: Dragon Warriors. From the flavour of the text to the excellent Johnny Hodgson artwork this game is a little quirky but very playable. It’s the setting more than anything and I got one excellent campaign out of it, but sadly it’s no longer top of my group’s list.


Coolest character sheet – It’s not so much cool but clean and functional; red box Basic D&D sheet. It’s nice and simple and easy to use. If it’s sparkly cool you’re looking for then I’d say Icar, the free game from the talented Rob Lang. It’s a good system and the character sheet helps enhance the atmosphere.


Game You’d like to see a new/improved edition of… - Wow – I’ve never been a lover of new editions because to me, the liquid nature of a roleplaying game means that if there’s something you don’t like about a system you change it best you can. That’s why a lot of the games I play are still first edition versions. I’d like to see a new Star Frontiers, though – that’d be a great open setting D&D-esque sci-fi RPG.


Scariest Game you’ve played – Call of Cthulhu. Without question. It introduced me to Lovecraft’s works and gave me some of the most intense games I’ve ever run or been involved in, and some of the adventure plots I came up with, and the NPCs I played, made me very uncomfortable.


Most memorable encounter – MERP, 1990. ‘So… it surely can’t be a real dragon, can it?’


Rarest RPG owned – Sadly, thanks to real life, I was forced to part with my collectable games, but I used to have an original copy of Boot Hill, that I never even read but sold for a lot of money many moons ago. I think now, the only game I have that I don’t really see anywhere else is the first edition Star Trek RPG, but it’s unboxed and in bad condition.


Favourite RPG of all time – Oof. Wow. Erm… because I’ve gamed in just about every genre and I’m able to change my attitude and creative angle to suit each of those genres, I think my favourite RPG of all time is the hobby itself. Is that answer even allowed?

Saturday 23 August 2014

NOMCAST Episode 4 - The 'STAR WARS' Special


Nerds On Mic

Episode 4 - 18th August 2014

The 'STAR WARS' Special

Be advised that there is some colourful adult language in this week's episode.

(c) 2014 Newbold/Hicks Productions

A podcast in which we talk about random nerd stuff.

In this episode -

Star Wars, Star Wars, and some more Star Wars. And some Star Trek.

Of course, these are things we wanted to talk about, but there's plenty of digression.

Thank you to Britain's Got Talent's Stu Arnold for the incredible Arnie introduction!


Jonathan Hicks

Mark Newbold

Lisa Hicks

Nancy Petru

Sunday 17 August 2014

Review - 13th Age Bestiary

13a_Bestiary_30013th Age Bestiary

Lead Designer and Developer: Rob Heinsoo
Developer: Kenneth Hite, Cal Moore
Art Direction: Rob Heinsoo, Kenneth Hite
Interior Art: Rich Longmore
Monster Tiles: Lee Moyer
Editor: Cal Moore
Authors: Ryven Cedrylle, Rob Heinsoo, Kenneth Hite, Kevin Kulp, ASH LAW, Cal Moore, Steve Townshend, Rob Watkins, Rob Wieland

I’ll admit this up front - the 13th Age roleplaying game gets a lot of love in my house. The game’s clean, simple rules and innovative extras have gone down really well with my D&D group and we’ve already got one great campaign out of it. I managed to get through the entire adventure with just the core rulebook but now that I’ve got my hands on the new 13th Age Bestiary I feel like I can take the adventure further.

The 13th Age Bestiary is a full-colour and beautifully presented 240-page book filled with 52 monsters to throw at your players during their travels across whatever gameworld you’ve decided to run around in. It covers plenty of classic monsters such as the instantly recognisable Dragons, Bugbears and Drow, so veterans of the D&D game will recognise many of the creatures straight away, which also means that the possible campaign worlds that the 13th Age core rulebook can cover is expanded. I ran a successful 13th Age campaign in the Forgotten Realms and now that I have this book, with plenty of recognisable monsters and races, I feel I can expand on that campaign with new creatures and adventure hooks.

The opening of the book gets you instantly geared up and introduces you to other concepts other than simply using the stats within as a combat encounter for adventurers to overcome. There are routes to take with these creatures beyond battles, including reasoning, possible treaties, creatures that might do something other than kill you… the book tries to make sure that the creature serves the story, or at least gives the GM plenty of plot hooks and story choices. There are monster entries that give you enough detail to create three of four entire adventures around, as well as use the manual as a simple grab-a-critter tome. This gives the book plenty of scope.

That’s not to say that the book is just a volume of potential adventure hooks. The book is, at its heart, a tome of monsters to throw against your players and there’s a handy section on how to build battles and encounters to truly test your group. The types of attacks, the dynamic of the gaming group, the nature of the creature itself; all these elements and others are taken into account to help the GM create memorable encounters.

These elements are taken further for each of the creatures in the 13th Age Bestiary. Each entry has plenty of details regarding statistics and what level they are, how to use the monster in independent campaigns, how to build battles around them, their interaction with the 13th Age Icons (although using Icons is not necessary), the nature of the creature and adventure hooks to get the most out of the beast, changing it from a simple stat block into an entire game of its own. With different variants of each creature in each entry this gives a possible 202 unique encounters in the book.

Each entry comes with an excellent illustration of the creature and this is something I like to see in bestiaries of this kind. Instead of going into long-winded descriptions of the creature I like to hold up the book and say ‘there it is’ and then get on with the action. The illustrations are dynamic and evocative and are excellent visual examples of the monsters for any campaign setting.

As well as all this the book also gives you guidelines on how to re-task the creatures, create your own creatures, how to mix them up and, fundamentally, create hybrids – effectively giving GMs the option of creating an endless list of strange unpredictable monsters - and there’s a handy index of all the monsters in this book as well as the 13th Age core rulebook.

All these factors make the book pretty much invaluable as a 13th Age resource. Not only is it expanding on the creatures you can use in the 13th Age world, as well as any other campaign setting of the group’s choice, it’s expanding the scope of the campaign by introducing adventures, story ideas and unpredictable encounters. I’m usually reticent about allowing my gaming group to read bestiaries and manuals of this kind as it may give them an angle on how to defeat the foe, but in this case I don’t think I’d be too bothered if they perused the pages of this book as the variants still make the monsters somewhat unpredictable, both in a combat and a roleplaying sense. I think a player reading this book won’t be fully prepared; I think they’d actually be concerned about what was to come because they could never be sure what was gong to be thrown at them, or in what context.

I can find very little to criticise about the 13th Age Bestiary. It has taken the monster stat book idea and added extra elements such as the nature of encounters and adventure hooks and this means the book is a fantastic resource not just for monsters but for plot, adventure and even campaign ideas. This means the book will stretch out your 13th Age campaigns beyond the simple encounters the book can offer. Of course, GMs who just want a book of stat blocks to put into their own 13th Age campaigns get just that, too, and the details can be used as flavour. I can’t imagine many GMs using the book just for creatures for the party to fight, though; there’s far too much material in here to be left to the wayside.

Well written, well presented and well realised, the 13th Age Bestiary is an invaluable resource for any and all 13th Age GMs. Highly recommended.

Saturday 16 August 2014

A L I E N : Isolation

I've covered a few console and PC games after they were released but I don't usually big them up beforehand, but there's a game coming out that I am incredibly excited about and my impatience for it is starting to make me dribble.

A L I E N: Isolation is coming.

My disappointment with the incredibly lacking ALIENS: Colonial Marines is well known and upon hearing about a new ALIEN game in the works I wasn't exactly enamoured. But, after reading and watching the developer diaries and trailers I've slowly come to realise one thing; this could be the ALIEN game I've been waiting for.

The developers have gone back to an analog, pre-sleek n' swish flatscreen future and made everything clunky, grimy and dirty, and that element alone makes me more than excited for this game. The entire game reeks of the original Ridley Scott movie so there's no 10mm explosive-tipped standard light armour piercing rounds being blasted from a M41a Pulse Rifle here - just a single killing machine and a space station full of twitchy, terrified people... and very few resources. It's survival horror at it's best.

Oh, and if you get it on pre-order you can play on the Nostromo. As one of the original crew. I shit you not.

Everything you'll need to get you in the mood for some classic sci-fi horror is below. Knock yourself out, and keep October free in your gaming diary.

Announcing the 2014 ENnie Award winners

The Gen Con EN World RPG Awards (the “ENnies”) are an annual fan-based celebration of excellence in tabletop roleplaying gaming. The ENnies give game designers, writers and artists the recognition they deserve. It is a peoples’ choice award, and the final winners are voted upon online by the gaming public.

Best Adventure
Best Aid/Accessory
Best Art, Interior
Best Art, Cover
Best Blog
Best Cartography
Best Electronic Book
Best Family Game
Best Free Product
Best Game
Best Miniatures Product
Best Monster/Adversary
Best Podcast
Best Production Values
Best RPG Related Product
Best Rules
Best Setting
Best Supplement
Best Software
Best Writing
Best Website
Product of the Year
2015 Judges
  • Annah Madrinan
  • Jakub Nowosad
  • Kayra Keri Kupcu
  • Kurt Wiegel
  • Stacy Muth
2014 Judges’ Spotlight Winners

Sunday 10 August 2014

Review - Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set

D&D Starter SetLike the rest of the roleplaying community I’ve been waiting for quite a while for this next version of Dungeons and Dragons.

After my less than stellar relationship with D&D 4th Edition I reacted to the news of D&D 5th with indifference, and then I was a little dismissive after reading the playtest rules and after pretty much ignoring the development of the game my attention was finally hooked by the art, release schedule and the snippets of news I was reading on the internet. I have to admit, once I started to take more notice I began to get more excited about the prospect of a new D&D game. This is, after all, the flagship of the tabletop RPG hobby and, no matter what I personally thought of it, I wanted to see it do well.


The game is a sturdy boxset containing the books and tools a gaming group will need. The cover art is very nice, as is the artwork in the books themselves, but design-wise the actual product doesn’t really grab hold of me and scream ‘YOU MUST PLAY ME!’ The presentation is, for want of a better description, bland. The booklets are staple stitched in full colour with glossy pages but they have the cover image and the contents on the front page so they look like books that have had their covers taken off, and the interior, while well laid out, have some but not a lot of art and pages of simple, uninspiring text. For a game that’s supposed to be getting new gamers into the hobby it’s simply not that exciting, and although the artwork is very good and evocative – they appear to have moved away from the improbable high-fantasy design of the previous two editions for something a little more grounded in reality – none of it makes my imagination spark into life. That may be more my issue than the game as I have a long history with the genre and there’s no doubt a ‘been there, seen that’ thing going on in my head. Regardless, as a starter set designed for new gamers I expected a few more fireworks and I simply do not feel that here.

The game itself comes in a box with the following contents:

64-page adventure book – it says that this comes ‘with everything the Dungeon Master needs to get started’, and that’s quite accurate. The adventure book is actually a mini campaign in the Forgotten Realms world called ‘Lost Mine of Phandelver’ that’ll take the players from level 1 to level 5, and there’s plenty to do in this campaign. It’s a good introductory adventure and includes what amounts to a small bestiary and magic item list, so there’s material you can use here in future games as well as stage other adventures in the campaign area. You’ll get a good 4 to 6 weeks worth of gaming out of this book - assuming you game once per week for about three hours – so that in itself makes the game a great purchase.

The adventure is aimed at making sure that DMs new to the hobby have everything they need to get through their first campaign. It’s a nice little guide to running adventures as well as playing in them and first-time groups will find it a great guide to the hobby. However, as with the rulebook – which I’ll get to in a moment – it doesn’t feel like there’s enough in here to fully explain the hobby to new blood. It feels like an expanded DM section of any roleplaying game in so much as you’d get this information in any RPG rulebook worth it’s salt. It’s good that it takes DMs and gaming groups through a campaign in steps and new gamers will find this very helpful, but I can’t see a group of new gamers who know absolutely nothing about tabletop RPGs understanding everything about the hobby; I think it’ll still take an experienced gamer to play with the group for them to fully grasp the concept and what’s required of them.

32-page rulebook – this is where I expected to find the driving explanations that got to the meat of the gaming hobby, but sadly it’s not there. It does explain the game in a few pages but, like I mentioned before, it’s nothing you wouldn’t find in any core rulebook for any other roleplaying game. I just do not feel it’s doing enough to be a true beginner’s starter set. If you know the hobby but you’re new to D&D then you’re fine, but if you already know RPGing then that kind of makes this whole boxset redundant.

5 pre-generated characters with character sheet – clean, nice and functional. I like the new character sheets, they’re laid out well and very clear.

6 dice – which are blue and do the trick. Another ten-sided ‘10s’ die would have been nice.


Readers expecting me to give a blow-by-blow description of changes to the game based on previous editions are going to be disappointed. That’s not how I write my reviews as I prefer to talk about what the game did for me and how it made me feel.

Moving away from my somewhat negative opinions of the presentation and my view on the new gamer approach the game takes, I’m glad to say that the game system is excellent. I’m a huge fan of Basic D&D and certain elements of the other editions and this game seems to have taken into account tat many D&D players will come from at least one of those backgrounds. It’s still the same system we all know and enjoy and the basics are definitive D&D. There are no power cards, no overbearing lists of talents and no reliance on grids or battle mats but there’s still plenty of options to flesh out a character and give each one their own identity and purpose.

The thing is, the Starter Set has no character creation rules. You are given the choice of five pre-generated characters of different classes – you’ll find these characters suit the ‘Lost Mine of Phandelver’ adventure well, of course – but there are no character creation rules at all. This not a problem, however – if you go to the Wizards of the Coast D&D page you’ll find a handy downloadable 100 plus page document that has character creation rules, expanded system rules and plenty more magic. What’s more, it’s a free PDF. So, with the Starter Set and these rules, gamers can get plenty of gaming out of the system and get all the way up to level 20. This is where the seasoned players get to experience D&D proper, and they get to use the ruleset to pretty much it’s full potential.

There are a lot of simple changes to the game but by far my favourite is the Advantage/Disadvantage rule. If you have a, Advantage in a skill, then you roll 2 D20s and keep the higher score. A Disadvantage means you roll 2 D20s and you have to use the lower score. It’s quick, neat and adds a great dynamic to the game.

The rules feel very stripped back and simple which is what you want in a starter set, but because of this the game feels incredibly playable – the kind of games I run are very fast and free flowing and I don’t want to get bogged down with rules and tables and page-flipping, especially when I’m running a combat encounter, and this allows me to do that. You still have to watch your book-keeping but battles don’t feel like a lesson in mathematics and you don’t have to worry too much about powers and abilities. You choose your skill and roll your die and that’s that. It’s nice to run a D&D game in which the players will only need the single-page character sheet in front of them and their dice. Other than a pad for adventure notes, the character sheet is all a player should need to play in the game

Of course, the Players Handbook might change this and add plenty of extra options and abilities, and part of me thinks that’s a shame. I do hope that this simple, quick and easy system is what I hoped for and I hope it gets plenty of support.

All in all, I really like this new D&D. My initial sceptisism has been cleaned away and I really like this quick and easy to use game system. It runs and feels like the D&D I remember - a lot more than 4th Edition ever did, in my opinion – and it’s a welcome return to the simple game I used to play in my youth.

It’s the presentation that lets it down for me. I wanted a bit more whiz-bang to really get me excited for the game but, other than the rules, I never really got any flavour from the design of the box, books and extras. Get past that, though, and you’ve got the beginnings of what is going to be a great game, and the system reminds me of what us older gamers loved about D&D in the first place.

It’s a great game system. I’m really looking forward to running more games of this and, looking past the presentation, I hope this is a return to what I love about D&D.

Review - Dragons: Riders of Berk - Dragon Down

A review of the new title from Titan Comics 
'Dragons: Riders of Berk - Dragon Down'

With Jonathan and Bruce Hicks

Snotlout's dragon, Hookfang, is shedding scales - and that's causing fires in Berk! When an upset Hookfang flies off and disappears, the gang set up a search party. Unfortunately, Alvin the Treacherous is also on the hunt for Hookfang...Who will get to Hookfang first - the Riders or Alvin? 

Find out in the first exciting Dragons Riders of Berk graphic novel, written by Simon Furman (Transformers, Matt Hatter Chronicles) with incredible art by rising star Iwan Nazif!

Thursday 7 August 2014

NOMCAST Episode 3

Nerds On Mic

Episode 3 - 4th August 2014

(c) 2014 Newbold/Hicks Productions

A podcast in which we talk about random nerd stuff.

In this episode -

Computer Games - No Man's Sky
Bringing the disparate Marvel movies back together
Growing up a nerd
Post-apocalyptic: is it still doable?
And a massive unplanned Star Wars free-for-all!

Of course, these are things we wanted to talk about, but there's plenty of digression.

Thank you to Britain's Got Talent's Stu Arnold for the incredible Arnie introduction!


Jonathan Hicks

Mark Newbold

Lisa Hicks

Nancy Petru

Friday 1 August 2014

#RPGaDAY in August

And now for a word from Autocratik - AKA Dave Chapman - about this month little escapade that would be great for every enthusiast to get involved in and share across the internet.

'In August 2014 we want you to fill the internet with your memories, favourites and most enjoyable thoughts about tabletop roleplaying games.

Simply download the image from the site

Look to see what the topic of the day is, and then join in the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, etc. Just remember to use the #RPGaDAY - and let's get the world talking about our favourite hobby!'