Friday, 15 December 2017

A Frostgrave Scenario - Market Raiders

Seller by FirkinAnother scenario I created for Frostgrave - However, it can be used as an encounter for most roleplaying games, especially if you enjoy using miniatures. If you’d like to see more of these one-shot encounters just let me know.

I read the excellent Frostgrave novel 'Second Chances' and it gave me the desire to plunge back in to the Frozen City again. There are no games near me at the moment, so to scratch that itch I've been designing small scenarios. They've been playtested on a very basic level, so feel free to mess about with the ideas.

'From what can be gleaned from the stone tables that remain, deep in the Frozen City there once were market places where wizards and spellchurners used to buy and trade ingredients and reagents.

The market was a series of huge stone tables; it was thought that the traders used these tables to sell their wares in case there were any unfortunate spillages. Stone is strong and resilient, and could suffer all but the harshest accidents.

Market are still there, but all that remains are the stone tables. It is thought that some traders and wizards hid money and items under these tables, so when warbands come across them it's a race to find any treasures hidden under the tables!'

SET UP

This was designed for a 3 by 3 table, but should there be more than two players then increase the size as necessary. There should be several 2-inch by 1-inch tables placed on the board, with no less than a 3 inch gap between them. There should be at least nine, but you can add more as you see fit. In the very center there needs to be a single table marked as special by a treasure token.

The best thing to do is to cut out several pieces of paper or card to size to help represent the tables, and keep then held down with weights or putty. Add more as the number of players allows.

SPECIAL RULES

Other than the special table in the very center, every table has a 25% chance of having a treasure underneath it. When a figure is adjacent to a table they can roll a D20 - should the score be five or less, they have found a treasure and may head to the edge of the board as per the normal rules.

However, should they reach the central table they will be able to pick up the treasure token there, and this treasure token is worth 3 rolls on the treasure table! This should be made clear to all the players before the game begins. Will they try their luck with the other tables, or head straight for the prize in the center?

TREASURE AND EXPERIENCE

Treasure and experience is as standard Frostgrave rules, but with an extra 10 points for every table where a treasure is found (but not the central table).

Image result for frostgrave logo

Disclaimer: This is a fan-created scenario designed for fun. It is in no way endorsed or supported by Osprey Publishing. Frostgrave is copyrighted by the relevant owners and no infringement is intended.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Interview - Mike Tenebrae, freelance illustrator

Please welcome to Farsight Blogger Mike Tenebrae, a freelance illustrator working out of his studio in Cape Town, South Africa. He's done work for such firms as Fantasy Flight Games, Pinnacle Entertainment and Modiphius amongst many others.

His unique style covers all kinds of things but the fantasy and horror genres stand out the most. You can view his work at Tenebrae Studios.

Hello Mike! Welcome to Farsight Blogger. Can you introduce yourself, and tell us something of your history with gaming?

Hello and thank you for this opportunity! I have always had a fascination with roleplaying games. Growing up in South Africa in the 80s, the only D&D related product we seemed to get here was the moral panic. Otherwise I used to just pore over the adverts in my DC and Marvel comics. I guess I cut my teeth in roleplaying with Fighting Fantasy books and later the early Ultima games and Adventuresoft's 'Elvira' horror RPG titles, all of which had a huge influence on me.

What was it that got you into illustration?

I always loved drawing. I come from a family of artists as my aunt and uncle are/were both gallery artists who specialise in realism (my uncle used to paint for the natural history museum) so on my mother's side there was always an encouragement of the artistic pursuits. Both my parents loved books and I was fortunate to always be surrounded by them. I just wanted to so badly create my own worlds and monsters like the ones I grew up reading about.


Who’s work inspires you the most?

Wow, what  loaded question! I am influenced by so many great artists. I think the big 3 that got me into wondering about art as a career would be Denis Loubet, Iain McCaig and Malcolm Barter. Thanks to the internet I am able to call Malcolm a close friend, something I am thankful for everyday. His ink work, specifically in 'Forest of Doom', left a lasting impression on me. Denis' work for Origin, specifically the Ultima manuals fascinated me and Iain McCaig's illustrations drew me into 'The City of Thieves' completely in that I felt I actually lived in the city itself.

The old concept art site, before it died, was a life changing place. Thanks to Facebook I am still able to glean knowledge from industry legends such as Tristan Elwell, Armand Cabrera and Jeff "Wild Bill" Fennel. Those guys are amazing resources, although they will never admit it.

Your RPG work includes art for the big names in the gaming industry. How do you approach projects for such huge publishers? How do you plan your projects?

It's never easy and a continual learning process. I worked with some amazing art directors during some very difficult and transitionary stages of my life. Being a jobber I would go through periods where I would be chasing down one gig after the other, working multiple jobs at once and pulling all nighters. You submit the work, hope for the best and get critiqued. You then chip away and refine it and do your best to bring their vision to life. It's not always easy or an easy thing to hear, but it's part of the industry.

I wish I could go back and redo a lot of my earlier work...while working you are also always studying and trying new things to hone your craft and sometimes you learn so many things so fast through studies and returning to the basics that your old work becomes difficult to look at. I hope any of my past employers who may happen to read this will know how much I learnt from working with them and how much I appreciated the breaks they gave me in this demanding industry.


Do you have a genre that inspires you? What do you like illustrating the most?

I will always love horror, cyberpunk and fantasy and especially combining those in some way. Eerie fantasy like the kind of images found in 'Tasks of Tantalon' and 'Faeries' really sucks me in. I don't like too much exposition at times. I don't need to know why a bunch of dwarves would be running a pub in the depths of a dungeon, the fact that it's there and in the next room is a vampire lends the setting a surreal dream-like quality which is my favorite kind of fantasy setting. Things don't need to make sense or be logical all the time and I love throwing things like that into my pictures.

What was the longest, most intricate project you’ve ever worked on?

One I am still working on... or two rather. I am working on a core rulebook and bestiary for Greywood and am doing all the interior illustrations in traditional ink. Literally hundreds of different monsters. A dream project, but can be daunting at times. Sometimes having an open slate can be very intimidating. I am also doing several long term personal projects, such as bestiaries of different categories (forests, dungeons, graveyards etc) as well as my own pixel art driven ideas... which I still don't know exactly what I'm going to do with.

What’s your favourite piece of personal work?

Artwise? Nothing really! It's all so fleeting but whenever a client tells me how happy they are, it moves me deeply. The best thing I ever made is definitely my daughter. Though to be fair, that was a collaboration piece.


If you could sit down and illustrate something of your choosing right now, what would it be and why?

A room by room haunted house map...like those Star Wars cut aways, but more close up and with more detail. With lots of hidden monsters and weird things all over the place for the viewer to find.
Why? I guess because I'm always in the mood for a monster...there's just not enough hours in the day... sigh.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

Much more traditional work. While the PC is fantastic for speed and ease of use, especially in publishing. Nothing can beat the feel and experience of traditional work for me, I'm always trying to do more traditional work and hope one day to be doing that all the time... but having said that. I'm becoming terrible addicted to pixel art and working purely in pixels. Making sprites and isometric scenes is something I cannot get enough of now that I've taken the plunge.  I love making pixel cheeses and rolls and red apples... mugs of beer and jars of honey. If only I could eat them.



Tuesday, 12 December 2017

WFRP News - Shadows Over Bögenhafen released in PDF

As I said before, I don't usually post news items but this is my favourite roleplaying game ever.

Cubicle 7 are releasing the classic adventure Shadows Over Bogenhäfen, and this is the Hogshead version that rolls the first two parts into one volume. Sweet!

“And at the appointed time we shall rise from our secret places and throw down the towns ans cities of the Empire. Our brethren shall pour forth from the forests to slay and burn. Chaos will cover the land and we, the chosen servants, shall be exalted in His eyes. Hail to Tzeench, Changer of the Ways – Njawrr’thakh ‘Lzimbarr Tzeentch!”
Excerpt from The Book of Transmutation

The Empire. Perhaps the greatest nation of the Old World, it has stood for two and a half millenia as a bulwark against the threat of Chaos. Down the ages – from the time of legend when Sigmar Heldenhammer ruled, to the peaceful days it now enjoys – the Empire has endured. Within its borders, the Emperor’s armies keep the peace. The Empire stands firm against the enemy without.

But what of The Enemy Within?

The Enemy Within: Shadows Over Bögenhafen is the first volume in an epic campaign for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. It is the definitive guide to the mighty Empire of the Warhammer Old World, full of background information covering the history, geography, politics and religions of the Empire, as well as invaluable material on starting and running the campaign.

And you can begin straight away with an intriguing and chilling adventure which introduces the players to the Empire, sets them on a hunt to seek out and destroy the heart of a demonic conspiracy, and brings them face to face with the corruption threatening the very foundations of their world.

This PDF combines material originally published separately as The Enemy Within and Shadows Over Bögenhafen, revised into a clear, easy to use format, as published in print in 1995 by Hogshead Publishing. We’ve painstakingly scanned every page, and created a PDF that maintains the appearance of the original. This does make for a slightly larger file than we’d normally produce, but on this occasion, we think it’s worth it for all the great First Edition feel! The PDF is also extensively bookmarked for ease of reference.

We'll be bringing the entirety of The Enemy Within Campaign to PDF in the coming weeks.

Grab Part One, Shadows Over Bögenhafen at DrivethruRPG now!

Monday, 11 December 2017

The Core Rules and 'The Hiding Death', another free adventure for 'To The Stars, Stellar Cadets!'

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.

In fact, if you have any feedback on the system then feel free to let me know as I'm working on a more involved game using the same rules. This free game is a great way to get it out there into the hands of gamers who know what they're doing with it so any thoughts would be appreciated. You can email me at farsightgames (at) yahoo (dot) co (dot) uk.

The core game 'To The Stars, Stellar Cadets!' is available from dropbox here, and the first adventure, 'Danger on Bakk-Alpha-Four', is available here.

So, here's another adventure to be used with the game. 'The Hiding Death' is an adventure in a mysterious asteroid field!

Download the adventure here

'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...'

I've also included some extra rules in the adventure 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!


Saturday, 9 December 2017

Story trumps rules

The Gamers: Dorkness Rising—Special Edition DVD
DVD cover to
Dorkness Rising
I was watching 'The Gamers: Dorkness Rising' (top movie, if you've not seen it) this week and this line sticks in my head - 'Story trumps rules'.

I agree with this to a certain extent, as in allowing the rules to get in the way of fun or immersion can yank a person out of the emotional involvement a game, but to ignore the rules too much takes away any sense of achievement and can make some people feel that they're just wandering through someone else's story. I thought about it more as I read some D&D forums as they talked about 5th edition, and a lot of the posters are very focused on how the rules work and how they interact with each other. In some cases I get the impression that the rules are considered as not just guidelines but strict, definitive instructions on what the players (and GM) can and can't do.

As a GM I've fudged a few rolls here and there for dramatic licence but I do try and at least stick to the rules in as much as the players don't feel like they're being led around by the nose, or that they feel that their rolls don't mean much in the grand scheme of things. If a GM has a definite idea of where he wants a story to go then the rules can get in the way so no doubt will be more inclined to fudge or ignore. I guess it depends on the kind of game that's being played, or the rules system being used.

Does story trump rules, or is it the other way around? Is there happy balance?

Originally posted January 2012

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition PDF goes on sale today


I don't usually post news items, but this is my favourite roleplaying game ever.

If you're a WFRP fan then you'll be aware that Cubicle 7 included a version of WFRP 1st Edition in their recent 2nd Edition Humble Bundle, which raised $150,000 for charity.

Well, now a full-on Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition PDF goes on sale today. This version is a very clean scan and is fully bookmarked. It also includes the colour plates from the Games Workshop edition. There are other PDFs in the works with a regular release schedule, but there'll be more details of those in the future.

On to the Cubicle 7 announcement -

We’re delighted to be able to bring the much loved First Edition of WFRP to PDF!

We’ve painstakingly scanned every page, and created a PDF that maintains the appearance of the original. This does make for a slightly larger file than we’d normally produce, but on this occasion, we think it’s worth it for all the great First Edition feel! The PDF is also extensively bookmarked for ease of reference.

We released a version earlier in the year via Humble Bundle that did not have the colour plates of the Games Workshop edition, but this new PDF does have all those glorious colour plates we know so well.

Grab it now at DrivethruRPG and re-enter a grim world of perilous adventure!

Stay tuned because we'll be bringing more WFRP First Edition titles to PDF in the coming weeks, including the seminal The Enemy Within Campaign.


Why I began to shy away from complicated RPG systems

Tabletop RPG Dice Set II by jpneok
I began to get annoyed with complicated systems years ago when I had to spend six hours creating a character for Rolemaster under the watchful eye of the GM. When the game started I was killed in the first twenty minutes - I was backstabbed by the GMs damn NPC assassin! All that time in character creation, wading through books and choices and complicated rubbish that would make no difference to who the character was anyway and I don't even get to experience the very reason why I'm in the hobby; playing an RPG.

After that I was loathe to spend any longer than half an hour in character creation. That spread on to the rules themselves. Now, when I run a game, I just want simplicity. I want to be able to sit at the table for a four hour session and be able to have the characters ready in the first 20 minutes, spend the next few minutes making sure everyone is up to speed on the basics of the mechanics and then the next three and a half hours playing an actual game. Then we're sorted for the campaign.

I don't want complicated character advancement, either. Got points to spend? Levelled up? Right, end of session, ten minutes to spend/choose. That's that, ready for the next game. In fact, I'm not that bothered about advancement and would be perfectly happy to continue a game with what we have. Of course, that may not suit all players; after all, part of the attraction for some gamers is the ability to improve their characters over the course of a campaign so I'd have to be sure that my group were on the same page as me.

These days I'm much more focused on the story and you could say that any RPG system could handle that, but there's another factor that works against me: time. These days, with a demanding full-time job and a family, as well as other gaming projects, I just don't have the time to spend getting to grips with rules and creating adventures, let alone whole campaigns. A simple system gives me the freedom I need to not only get to grips with the rules at a moment's notice, but to be able to create a game without having to peruse rulebooks or agonise over statistics or balance. I can sit down for half an hour and have an adventure designed and statted and ready to go. I can even create a whole campaign in a couple of hours depending on the setting and group. That suits me just fine.

I do like my complicated systems as the detail can add so many levels to a game, but these days I tend to play in those games and not run them. Perhaps, when I have more time, I'll one day return to the realm of rulebooks with more than 32 pages.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Dice Men: Games Workshop 1975 to 1985

'A grey day in 1974. Three games geeks are thinking about sinking everything they have into their dream of starting a games company. They go for it, but in less than a year one of them leaves. The remaining two carry on and end up living out the back of a van as they can't afford to pay rent for both an office and accommodation.'

So here's a new book on it's way to us gaming fans - it's about the early years of Games Workshop and it sounds like a blast. It's 'A history of Games Workshop, not just the business narrative but the story of its founders and their journey, along with all the people they picked up along the way.

How did Ian and Steve do it? How did they get to that first Workshop store? What's the story behind Dungeons & Dragons coming to the UK, starting a whole new hobby? How did Games Workshop grow after that? It's now so big that it spans the globe. And along the way they invented an entirely new book publishing genre, too!'

There's a glimpse at Chapter 7 here, so you'll get an idea of what the book is going to be like. It's still funding, so get on over there now and get pledging!

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Sometimes I panic with my world building

travel map by vectorsmeHow to design a world that is, you know… different? I started to build a campaign world a long time ago for an aborted fantasy game, and I realised (about two weeks into it) that the world was simply boring. Boring, as in I had seen it all before. Reclusive forest-dwelling elves, grumpy mountain-dwelling dwarves, the usual stereotypes and clichés.

So I decided to mix it up – angry, dangerous elves, friendly outgoing dwarves, a greenskin race that’s not evil, just misunderstood. That’s original, right? Right?

Not, it’s not! It’s rubbish! I’ve simply flipped the standard views of the primary races on their heads and slapped them onto a geographically improbable land, based on a western temperate zone! And gave it a silly name! ‘Esumanara’, or some such rubbish. That’s what I called it. What does that even mean? It doesn’t mean anything! It’s a made-up word that’s supposed to be slightly mysterious and has been created to sound a bit like a fantasy word, or a snippet of a long-dead language I have no idea about. It’s a complete waste of time and doesn’t offer anything new other than some mountains might get in the way at some point; instead of serving vanilla in a cone I’ve served it in a bowl, and threw on some chocolate sauce in the vain hope that people wouldn’t notice that IT’S STILL VANILLA!

So where to begin? How do I make my world new and original? Can I even do that? Has every possible fantasy combination been covered by every game old and new? What races do I want to use? Do I even want to use established races? Why don’t I create my own? But won’t my own creations just be the same as established races but with different skins? What about cultures? Do I take the easy way out and base them on historical cultures, or try to create my own? But will my own have the sense of depth and realism as one based on an existing culture? What about the land? Temperate? Desert? Arctic? Do I want one kind of climate or a mixture? But then that’d be a huge place, right? The size of a planet? So how big do I want to make it? A country, a continent or a world? How big do I need to make it? How big do I want to make it? What age is it in? Antiquity? Middle-Ages? Renaissance? How about a magical steampunk era? How about all of them, all on a huge planet? Or a big country, maybe? How about magic? Is it Gods-sent, psychic, earth-power? Is there a lot or a little? Is it hated or trusted? What races can use magic? How many monsters? Locations? Cities? Towns? Islands? Mountains? Lakes? Rivers? Hidden locations that only one of the races that I haven’t created yet with a history I have no idea about can find with magic I have no idea even works?

What the hell am I doing?

Originally posted February 2012

Friday, 1 December 2017

A free adventure for 'To The Stars, Stellar Cadets!'

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.

The core game is available from dropbox here.

It was pretty good fun, I thought, so I've adapted an old adventure of mine to be used with the game. 'Danger on Bakk-Alpha-Four' is an all-action adventure across a war-torn city. It's a bit of a railroad adventure - I originally wrote it back in 1997, so I like to think my design skills have improved somewhat since then.

'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?'

I've also included some extra rules in the adventure 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.

Download the adventure here

And tune in next time for another thrilling adventure

'THE HIDING DEATH'!

More Warhammer FRP news from Cubicle 7

Hot on the heels of yesterday's announcement we have further news about the upcoming Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay game, out next next year.

I don't usually post news items, but this is my favourite roleplaying game ever and not only are Cubicle 7 teasing us with some gorgeous covers, they've also got Graeme Davis on board for a 'Director's Cut' of 'The Enemy Within' campaign.

WHAT?!?

Next to a certain horror roleplaying game mega campaign involving a mask, 'The Enemy Within' was my favourite RPG campaign, especially 'Empire in Flames' which was simply epic. Now, I'm not hot on reprints or restatted campaigns from ages past - they've already had their limelight, after all - and I'd love to see more original material coming out of the Cubicle 7 offices. However, calling it a 'Director's Cut' certainly hints at something extra to an already amazing campaign, so colour me interested/excited/curious about that sliver of information.

They've also got a cool interview with Tabletop Gaming magazine - you can see more details on their Facebook page here.

On to the announcement!

Yesterday we talked about the planned release for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Fourth Edition in mid-2018, and gave you the first look at the covers of the initial products. Today we’ve got some news about some old favourites.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay First Edition 

We’ve been working on bringing more of WFRP First Edition to PDF. We all love First Edition, and there’s just so much brilliant material that we want to make available in electronic format. The “colour plates” version of the WFRP 1st Edition core rulebook will go on sale this week!

Just like we did for the Hogshead Edition offered as part of the Humble Bundle, we’ve made a very crisp, clean, fully bookmarked PDF. It’s been a joy to revisit the game where our core team began their adventuring careers!

Fourth Edition design lead Dominic McDowall said, “WFRP First Edition was my first ever roleplaying game. Everyone working on the new edition has a deep well of affection for First Edition, and it’s great to be bringing it back!

“But we’re not stopping there. We’re creating some beautiful PDFs of the original WFRP super-campaign: the Enemy Within. Keep an eye on our newsletter, website and social media for more news!”

The Enemy Within – Director’s Cut 

This brings us neatly round to yet another exciting piece of news. To celebrate the 30th Anniversary of The Enemy Within Campaign we’re going to be releasing an updated deluxe, “Directors Cut” edition of The Enemy Within Campaign for Fourth Edition!

The mighty Graeme Davis has joined the team to steer this ship (or should that be river barge?). The Enemy Within was one of the best-loved RPG campaigns ever made, and we want to give the shiny new anniversary edition it deserves!

We’ll have lots of news over the coming weeks and months, so make sure you subscribe to the newsletter and keep an eye on our website and social media!

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay news from Cubicle 7!

This isn't rumour or conjecture - this is full-on press release goodness from Cubicle 7!

My favourite game of all time is Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition, unbalanced rules and clunky magic system and all, and even though the 2nd Edition had much tighter and, frankly, better rules I always fell back into 1st Edition; the atmosphere, the completeness of the rulebook, it was a wonderful game that I played religiously.

So, now we have the first announcement from Cubicle 7 about the game and the first thing that punches me in the gut is the cover - just look at that! Not only have we got the glossy Warhammer logo based on the original, we've got a whole new bunch of heroes nailing some Skaven. And say hello to the mohican dwarf, the character that sold me on the original game in the first place. John Sibbick's original cover gets some love, and Ralph Horsley is an excellent choice.

Okay - you can mark me down as officially excited and terrified. Excited because this is a great image to get me all excited about Warhammer FRP again, terrified because I can't wait to see what's between the covers so that I know what changes have been made.

Anyway, enough of my excited dribbling - on to the meat.

From Cubicle 7:

We’ve been hard at work on the new edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and this week we’re going to be sharing the first big slices of news with you!

Release Date

There has been an amazing amount of excitement around Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Fourth Edition – we’re at the beginning of the journey but it’s already been a tremendous project thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of all the Warhammer fans we’ve been talking to since the project was announced. Thanks to you all for being awesome, and thanks for your patience waiting for news!

Design lead Dominic McDowall is on hand to tell us about the game’s development:

“The initial plan was to make some small updates to the awesome second edition, and that would mean we would be able to release the game in 2017. We’re all huge fans of the first and second editions of WFRP, and we wanted to take the game back to those roots. 

“When I got into the guts of the game I started seeing more opportunities to add in some of the things we’ve learned over the years. This more creative direction meant a longer development phase. Games Workshop are extremely supportive of us taking the time we need to make WFRP Fourth Edition the very best game it can be, and so that’s what we did. I’m very excited about the way things have come together! 

“The release date of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Fourth Edition will be set for mid-2018, with a specific date to be set in a few months. Thank you for your patience while we invest the time to make the best game we can.”

We have some exciting events planned around the release date, so stay tuned for the latest new on those!

Covers

The initial releases for WFRP Fourth Edition will be a core rulebook and a boxed starter set. We’ve commissioned Ralph Horsley to paint a pair of covers for these which we’re very excited to share today! As you can see our desperate band have been enjoying some good times in Ubersreik, (or at least some of them have) before a familiar scene unfolds!

We’ll have more to share tomorrow, including news of the return of a multi-part campaign favourite from first edition, so keep an eye on our website and social media!




Over-eager players at the table

Jumper Silhouette by dmenestHaving eager players at the table is great. Players that get right into their character and drive the story forward is brilliant. But is there such a thing as too much of a driving force?

I had this player once – let’s call him Brian – and he loved to get right into the game. He planned, he roleplayed, he played the setting to the hilt and he delved both into the characters he created as well as the adventure he was playing in. In most respects he was the perfect player, a GM’s dream. He made you feel like all the hard work you’d put into creating the adventure was more than worth it as he was excited to experience what you had created. The one-on-one games we used to have were intense and very exciting.

But not all players, or GMs, appreciated this level of involvement. Because he was so driven he always wanted to be sure that the game was progressing, so that his PC could experience what was going to happen next, to keep the game moving forward. It could be exhausting at times; I’d take a breather for five minutes and next thing I know I’m being pushed for narrative and descriptions of the next location and encounter. He’d also be the self-appointed ‘voice of the group’ and take actions that would pretty much help decide what direction the game would go in.

I could handle this. I knew the guy well, I knew his intentions and the way he did things and I could react to it with little to no detriment to the gaming group. There were, however, GMs who couldn’t handle it and I fully understand why. When Brian was on form he’d push the game in all kinds of different directions and as long as you were a seat-of-the-pants GM, fully adept at winging it, you were okay. In fact, he’d make sure that you as a GM would have a great time and keep you on your toes. But, if you were the kind of GM who had carefully structured a game and you knew where it was going and the order in which things were going to happen – railroading, some people call it - you were going to be in deep trouble. Brian didn’t want a selection of options, he wanted the world. If he could think of a sensible way to get around or through something that made sense in the gameworld he would give it a go and woe betide the GM who wasn’t prepared for his out-of-the-box thinking. Double woe betide if the GM was a rules lawyer and the things that Brian wanted to do weren’t really covered in the rulebook. This created all kinds of problems at the table, and Brian, being Brian, wasn’t the most patient of players when there was, as he put it, ‘An unrealistic action-stopping pause’ while the GM tried to work out how to adjudicate the actions he’d declared. More often than not, just to keep the game going, he’d drop the action and do the obvious because his impatience got the better of him.

Other players would sometimes get a little stressed with him, too. He was loud - not annoyingly loud but loud enough to be sure that his was the dominant voice at the table – and they felt that he was overriding their decisions by simply drowning them out. Sometimes, if the group was taking too long to decide on the next course of action, he’d declare an action that would force the other players to react immediately and therefore keep the game flowing. He’d make meticulous plans, sure, but at the first sign of failure he’d just jump in feet first and push on as best he could, dragging the other players with him even though they were calling for a retreat and regroup to try another plan. Some players felt marginalised by his way of gaming and, as one gamer indelicately put it after one session, ‘Honestly, it’s the bloody Brian Show’. They had a good point, it’s true. To be fair, Brian’s way of gaming sometimes forced other players to raise their game and the sessions where they were all energetic and driving the game were simply incredible. Still, if you think you’re gaming in somebody else’s shadow it can be frustrating.

The gaming group broke up after a couple of years – I can categorically say that it wasn’t Brian’s fault that it did – and we went on to one-on-one gaming for a while in which he positively revelled. We had some great games and as he was the focus of attention and he could fully indulge in what he wanted out of gaming we had some of the best games I’ve ever run in my long gaming history. He was most definitely suited to these kinds of games, or maybe with one or two other players who understood the way he gamed, and it was a massive shame when real life took him away from it all. I still hope that we can bring him back into the gaming fold at some point as he was definitely one of the best gamers I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing with.

These kind of players are a dream for the right kind of GM and group. They’re a nightmare (throws cloak open) for others! (disappears)*.

*Bonus points if you get the reference.

Originally posted February 2012

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Interview - Brett M. Bernstein of Precis Intermedia

Please welcome to Farsight Blogger Brett M. Bernstein of Precis Intermedia.

As well as bringing back classic RPGs such as Shatterzone and Bloodshadows, Precis Intermedia also has a few original roleplaying and war games under it's belt as well as some fun paper miniatures and accessories. I caught up with Brett to see what's up with Precis these days.

Welcome to the site, Brett – how’s life in the RPG publishing industry?

Ever-evolving. Every time I turn around, there is some new fad or trend, or even more expensive product that people can't wait to get, yet I fail to even find remotely interesting. I'll never understand it.

What’s your history with tabletop gaming?

I started playing D&D back in the 80s, followed by Star Frontiers, RuneQuest, Marvel Superheroes, and then tons more.

What is it about gaming that attracts you? What is it about the hobby that makes you want to write, produce and play games?

I like that it draws out people's creativity. It does mine, so that's why I like to create new settings or at least put my own spin on existing ones.

Do you still get time to play? What are you playing at the moment?

I don't get time to do much these days, so I don't really play much anymore.

How did you, or what drove you to, get involved in producing roleplaying games?

I've always wanted to create things. And when you pick up skills during your life experience, it sometimes puts things into perspective, so that you can motivate yourself to get the job done. It's easy to start a project, but hard to complete one.

You have a long list of games in your catalogue; I don’t want you to pick a favoured of your children, but what do you enjoy working on the most? Which one is most personal to you?

It's hard to say which I like working on most or which is most personal. It changes with my mood, but they all become very personal to me -- otherwise, I wouldn't work on them. Bloodshadows 3E is fun, because it can be pretty whacky, as can EarthAD to a degree. HardNova and Ghostories are easy to write for. I'm really digging working on Supergame 3E right now too!

My favourite is the ENnie Award-winning Ancient Odysseys: Treasure Awaits! You’ve already released the core rules and the wilderness expansion, will we see any further releases?

Treasure Awaits! is a favorite of mine too. Apart from adventures, I don't foresee any future books. It does what I set out for it to do, so that's it. The supplement license lets anyone create their own material, so new settings and adventures can be done by others too.

Older titles such as Shatterzone and Bloodshadows also make an appearance on your list; are these games personal projects of your love for the games, or did you see a market for them out there? What made you want to get them back in the market?

I've always liked Bloodshadows and Shatterzone. The MasterBook system is a perfect fit for Shatterzone (though this is an earlier version of the system), but I never felt that it fit Bloodshadows. That's why I created the third edition of Bloodshadows, which is a stand-alone game (unlike previous editions, which were just setting guides). I definitely love these games, but there is clearly a market as well. They are very popular. I don't like to see old games fall by the wayside, so when I see something abandoned to which I have some sort of connection, whether out of nostalgia or appreciation, it makes me want to snap them up and get them available for more people to check out. I sometimes reprint them or redesign them (or both). The two oldest games I have acquired are Supergame (1980) and A Fistfull of Miniatures (1986).

You’ve got some other nice tabletop games and accessories as well, such as the miniatures games Warcosm and Brutes, and the Disposable Heroes paper minis. Will we see any more of these?

There are a few tabletop games in the works, but nothing I can announce at the moment. They have been in development for some time, but haven't reached a final stage that makes me want to release them just yet. I am also working on adding a basic dungeon-mapping system to the existing Disposable Tilescapes+Starmaps™ app for Mac, but not sure when that will be ready.

What else does Precis Intermedia have planned? What’s on the horizon?

You can expect Supergame 3E and Two-Fisted Tales 2E within the next few months. Supergame 3E is a low-cost superhero roleplaying game, designed to be very quick and easy, yet with the details needed to simulate heroes from the comics. Two-Fisted Tales is more refined, focusing on gritty to cinematic pulp heroes, as well as golden age supers -- it has been called "the definitive pulp RPG." Beyond that, there's also Brutes, a stand-alone fantasy game using an updated version the MasterBook rules. Also look for a re-release of Crosshairs, a supplement for Shatterzone, plus new supplements for Bloodshadows 3E. You can check out my blog ( rpg.deals/blog ) or Precis Intermedia web site (www.pigames.net) for the latest info on these projects.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

A physical copy of my free game 'To The Stars, Stellar Cadets!'

A while ago I put out a free roleplaying game called 'To The Stars, Stellar Cadets!', a game that I conceived, designed and wrote in about five and a half hours, all based on some free images I found on the internet. It was a challenge I set for myself as a bit of fun to see if I could get a game written and laid out in six hours.

You can download it here:

'TO THE STARS, STELLAR CADETS!'

I'll have a free adventure out for it in the next few days called 'Danger on Bakk-Alpha-Four', with some extra rules to help groups be a lot more heroic and daring. In the meantime check out this printed copy that a cool dude called Jon Salway produced. It's on A5, 120g paper with a 170g shiny cover.

It's always cool to see your work in print, but it's even better to know that someone went to the trouble to not only download the game but print it out, as well.

Nice one, Jon.





Wargame Review - Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago

Frostgrave: Ghost ArchipelagoBy Joseph A. McCullough

Published by Osprey Games

‘The Ghost Archipelago has returned. A vast island chain, covered in the ruins of ancient civilizations, the Archipelago appears every few centuries, far out in the southern ocean. At such times, pirates, adventurers, wizards, and legendary heroes all descend upon the islands in the hopes of finding lost treasures and powerful artefacts. A few, drawn by the blood of their ancestors, search for the fabled Crystal Pool, whose waters grant abilities far beyond those of normal men. It is only the bravest, however, who venture into the islands, for they are filled with numerous deadly threats. Cannibal tribes, sorcerous snake-men, and poisonous water-beasts all inhabit the island ruins, guarding their treasure hordes and setting traps for the unwary.

In this new wargame, set in the world of Frostgrave, players take on the role of Heritors, mighty warriors whose ancestors drank from the Crystal Pool. These Heritors lead their small, handpicked teams of spellcasters, rogues, and treasure hunters into the ever-shifting labyrinth of the Ghost Archipelago. Using the same rules system as Frostgrave, this standalone wargame focuses on heroes who draw on the power in their blood to perform nigh-impossible feats of strength and agility. This game also includes 30 spells drawn from five schools of magic, a host of soldier types, challenging scenarios, treasure tables, and a full bestiary of the most common creatures that inhabit the Lost Isles.’

I’m a fan of the original award-winning wargame Frostgrave and part of my love of the game stems from my fascination with Felstad, the city of the setting. The frozen ruins, the shadowed history, the sheer mystery surrounding the place made for some compelling games and – and this is something I will say over and over again – it made for an excellent setting not just for a wargame but also for a roleplaying game. The stories that could be told there call out for dungeon delving and melodrama.
When I first heard of Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago I was both excited and wary. Here was a new Frostgrave game for me to battle through but it was far removed from one of the things I loved about the original. Gone were the cold, snow-covered ruins from ages past to be replaced by the jungle-rich islands and clear blue waters of a tropical paradise. Would the game carry over? What would it bring to the games, other than a change of location?

The rulebook is a gorgeously illustrated 144-page hardback. It’s sturdy and well put together, and the excellent art by Dmitry and Kate Burmak is of the high standard and quality of the original rulebook, which is something that really sold the setting of the game to me, and the snows of Felstad have now been replaced by the sun of the Ghost Archipelago. The images are wonderful and capture the atmosphere beautifully. It also contains some great miniature photography, so there’s plenty of ideas for modelers.

This book is a stand-alone rulebook – you don’t need the original Frostgrave to play it – and as with Frostgrave the system uses a 20-sided die and 28mm miniatures. It is based around a small party of adventurers, crewmen supported by a Warden led by a Heritor. Each character has a Stat-Line, a series of numbers that define a single character. Movement (M) determines how far a character can move. Fight (F) and Shoot (S) are an indication of a character's prowess in man-to-man and ranged combat. Armour (A) is what they are wearing and how much damage they can absorb. Will (W) determines a character’s determination and how much they can resist certain spells and Health (H) is how much damage they can take before incapacitation or death. As with Frostgrave’s Warbands, a Crew cannot number more than 10.

Heritors are the primary characters, akin to a Frostgrave Wizard, and these are the descendants of those who drank from the Crystal Pool more than 200 years previously. This means they have special abilities they can bring into play, such as Crushing Blow (doing extra damage), Leap (jumping pretty much where you want to) and Death Strike (I’ll let you figure that one out, but ouch). These make the Heritor almost super-human, and they are by far the most important figure on the board. You see, there is an end game to the Heritor’s quest across the islands; each player is trying to locate ‘Map Stones’ that lead them to the Crystal Pool. There is a chance you can get a Map Stone at the end of the game, and once you have all ten then your Heritor has found the Pool, and the campaign is won. This is all decided randomly and, make note, it is not easy and will take a long, long time to collect all the stones.

The Heritor is supported by a Warden, wizards capable of influencing the natural order of things. Dismissed by the wizards of the north as hedge-wizards and animists (nice!), they have come south to use their powers. Each warden has a different branch, a set of skills they can utilize; there are Beast Wardens, Earth Wardens, Storm Wardens, Vine Wardens and Wave Wardens, all able to manipulate their chosen titles. Each branch has a number of spells to choose from.

Finally, we have the crewmen. These are split into two groups; standard crewmen and specialist crewmen. The standard crewmen take up arms and are there to fight, whereas the specialists have much more focused abilities such as Archer, Pearl Diver or Scout. They also have specific equipment that you may find helpful during a fight.

The die mechanic is the same as the original game. Want to cast a spell? Roll 1D20 and score higher than the spell's target number. Want to hit someone? Both of you roll 1D20, add your Fight or Shoot skill and whoever rolls the highest wins, and the roll also determines damage.

There are some additional rules for moving, fighting in and boarding small boats - which is a lot of fun – and the Heritors have a special rule called ‘Blood Burn’. This is a drawback of using Heritor abilities; you can literally take damage by using them. It makes for some rather intense ‘do I/don’t I’ tactical choices, especially in the later stages of a fight.

On top of all this, we have some treasure tables, a bestiary to give players something to worry about, and eight scenarios to play through.

So… how did I get on with it?

Well, I’ll get this out the way; I still prefer the original Frostgrave; the frozen roads of Felstad appeal to me much more than the islands of the Ghost Archipelago, but that’s just a preference of setting and does not reflect at all on the book I have here. I think Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago is an excellent book and game, and I’ve already had some great fun with it.

I created a Heritor and I named her Sorsha. Yes, I named her after that character from that film, but the model that had been loaned to me had a shock of red hair so it seemed suitable. Her Beast Warden friend Dar (please don’t judge me) and her crew headed into the first scenario ‘X Marks the Spot’ and got completely trounced. It was a sad day. It was my own fault for misusing her abilities and not taking the effects of Blood Burn into account. I also shouldn’t have sent her off with four of the crew, and Dar off with the others. Never split the party.

However, she returned for the second scenario ‘Drichean Cages’ and did much better. In fact, she did quite well over the next few games and, even though I got very little in the way of treasure and Map Stones, I was pleased with her progress.

Then the fun started. We decided to have an encounter with three boats. Me and my opponent had a vessel each, and the third was much larger and in the centre… and full of treasure. We started at opposite corners of the board and had to sail up, board, fight, grab what we could, and get off again.
It was great. We both ended up leaving some crew in our boats to slug it out ship-to-ship while other members got on the deck of the big ship and fought it out there. With undead on the ship and sharks in the water, it made for an intense game.

Sadly, Sorsha did not survive. She rolled a 1 on the survival table after the game. She already had a permanent injury from a previous battle, ‘Lost Fingers’, and this was to lead to her undoing two games down the line. It was a huge shame, but straight away I was ready to create another Heritor and get back on the trail. I really wanted to get those Map Stones and that’s the driving force behind the game; there’s a goal to reach, a payoff that changed from being the target of a game to the determined drive of a character; that’s where the roleplayer in me takes over. I gave my Heritor a name, a personality, and instead of being a playing piece she had a purpose in life. She also kicked someone in the face, so her namesake lived on.

And that’s what makes this game so much fun. Just like Frostgrave, there’s something of an emotional investment in the game as you’re creating personalities that have a goal, abilities and sometimes drawbacks. Things happen to them and I not only measured it in statistics and how it affected the game, but also how it changed the character. That, to me, makes for a fantastic experience.

And do you know what else? Both the games – Frostgrave and Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago – are interchangeable. For example, Heritors could travel to Felstad to follow clues, or magical items might only be usable at the Ghost Archipelago, meaning a wizard could travel south. We haven’t created a game where the two worlds meet yet but it’s going to be fantastic, especially when Sorsha’s best friend Brania travels south to find out what happened to her…

Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago is an excellent game and a wonderful addition to the series. The new rules make for a unique experience and there’s enough material in here to satisfy Frostgrave fans and wargamers alike. It’s new-gamer friendly, easy on the eye and easy to follow. The setting doesn’t appeal to me as much as the original game but the games are just as much fun and the new additions are something I can’t wait to try out in Felstad, just to see how a Heritor and a Warden matches up against a Wizard and Apprentice.

The world of Frostgrave is a bit bigger and a whole lot more fun.

Highly recommended.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Post apocalyptic games

Bomb, Explosion, Explosive, NuclearHere’s a genre I haven’t really spent much time in at the roleplaying table; the post-apocalytic. I wrote a SKETCH game called ‘The 13th Year’ a few years ago after a long stint playing Fallout 3. It was a game about an alternative atomic-ravaged world after World War 2, but even after playtesting and running a few short games I never got a full campaign on the go, and that surprises me because the post-apocalyptic setting is rich with opportunities for drama, adventure, combat and inventory management.

And I think that could be the core of a post-apocalyptic game; inventory management. Yes, let’s worry about the wild animals, the supermutants and the nuclear fire-breathing ants, but let’s also remember that this is a world after a huge disaster, and we’ve been thrown a thousand years back from our comfortable internet-enabled lives into what could be the end of the world where very little is available. Where’s the next meal coming from? Is that six-legged cat okay to eat? Is the water poisonous, dirty, infected? When will I next be able to change my underwear? Do I use these last three bullets for hunting, or will I need to protect myself? Can that man on the horizon be trusted? Yes, I know they just ate my mates but maybe they’ll trade for some of that spam?

Keeping the players constantly guessing is a must for a game like this, not knowing what threats are around the corner in a possibly morally ambiguous world is a great impetus and almost forces a group to band together, but having them make sure that they write down everything they own, have scavenged and are able to carry or hide is a game in itself. Every drop of water becomes precious, every bullet is something to be treasured and food is a commodity as well as a source of life. You’ll be amazed at how the equipment and inventory lists become the most important thing on the character sheet after a short while in the wastes, and every item on that list can be an adventure in itself. When they need a replacement item, ammunition or fresh supplies, that’s a quest. A mission. An adventure hook that already has the goal and the rewards set up – continued survival.

And what is beyond simply surviving? Building a new community, with new philosophies and laws? How big do want to make it? How will you treat your lawbreakers? Are people with two heads allowed? What would you do, how low would you stoop, to protect the things you own and the places you have built?

The post-apocalyptic setting has so many possibilities far beyond the window dressing and the reasons why the world has ended. Nuclear war, asteroid impacts, natural upheavals, resulting in mutants, insane petrolheads, zombies or crazy psychic magic powers are the visual and world-building cues and can help create amazing adventures filled with tense, blood-pumping moments of high adventure, but inventory management… that’s where the heart of the post-apocalyptic game lies, and characters can die from a badly managed equipment list just as easily as from a blow to the head from a missile covered in barbed wire.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Interview - Scott A Woodard of Pinnacle Entertainment Group

Scott WoodardPlease welcome to the site Scott A Woodard of Pinnacle Entertainment Group, brand manager and lead writer of THE SAVAGE WORLD OF FLASH GORDON, running on Kickstarter as of this interview.

This is all pretty exciting for me as I'm a huge Flash Gordon fan, especially the Buster Crabbe serials - my prize possessions are a Big Little book from 1937, a Flash limited edition action figure set from SDCC 2015 and a hearty handshake from Sam Jones. I was forced to wash the hand, sadly.

Please introduce yourself and tell us about your gaming history.

Hi guys! My name is Scott Woodard and I have what many might consider to be a pretty wide and varied CV!

Not only have I worked as both brand manager and writer on The Savage World of Flash Gordon for Pinnacle Entertainment Group (currently on Kickstarter as I write this), I previously adapted The Sixth Gun comic series from Oni Press into a Savage Worlds RPG (also for Pinnacle) back in 2015. 2016 saw the publication of my ENnie Award-nominated book, Cinema and Sorcery: The Comprehensive Guide to Fantasy Film co-authored with my friend, Arnold T. Blumberg and published by Green Ronin Publishing. Prior to that, I edited well over 70 RPG products for a variety of publishers including Modiphius, Crafty Games, Triple Ace Games, Reality Blurs, and a few others.

Before working in the game industry, I did a fair amount of professional voice work, I wrote audio dramas for Big Finish Productions including Doctor Who and Dark Shadows, I worked as an award-winning promo writer/producer for network television (Warner Bros. and Disney), and I built and puppeteered animatronic puppets for movies and TV (you can check out my IMDb record for more information about that).

Beyond all that work stuff, I have been into tabletop roleplaying games since (cough-cough) about 1978 when my parents gave my older brother and me a copy of the Holmes edition of Dungeons & Dragons for Christmas. In other words, I’ve been dabbling in RPGs for a very long time!

What’s the attraction to tabletop roleplaying games?

Since tabletop roleplaying games have been a part of my life for a VERY long time, I feel like I’ve grown to really appreciate and respect them. To me, RPGs are the pinnacle of the gaming experience. The collaborative story-telling aspects thrill me to this day. Also, as a life-long bibliophile, I just adore RPG books and I have a pretty decent sized collection that I dip into often.

All that said, I have never been one to don the grognard cap and crunch numbers to maximize my games. As long as everyone is having fun around that game table, I’m happy. This is why I often open my games (whether at a convention or with a group of friends) announcing that I run my games “fast and loose.”

Lastly, I’m a bit of a ham, so I like RPGs because they give me the chance to do a few voices and characters, even if I’m just doing them to get some laughs from my players.

So, Flash Gordon. What drew you to this particular franchise?

Flash was an important part of my childhood. As a kid, I was watching the original serials with Buster Crabbe on TV and a little later, I became a huge fan of the Filmation Saturday morning cartoon (even occasionally wishing that I could somehow transform into Thun the Lion Man from that series and beat up all the bullies in my school). At the same time, I was also tracking down comic books, toys, and pretty much anything else that had Flash in it.

When the offer came my way to work on the official Flash Gordon RPG for Pinnacle, it was a bit of a childhood dream come true. There was absolutely no way I could say “no.”


There’s been a lot of Flash Gordon over the years; the Alex Raymond originals, The Amazing Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon radio serial, the Buster Crabbe serials, the Steve Holland TV show, the Filmation cartoon, the Dino De Laurentiis movie, the not-so-recent TV series and all the other shows and comics and novels… you’ve got a lot to choose from which means a lot of fans will be coming at Flash with different visual cues or attitudes. The artwork hints at the classic strips and serials so what era of Flash Gordon are you getting most of your inspiration from? What elements of the world of Flash Gordon do you hope to emulate?

Yeah, there is a LOT of material out there and from the very beginning of this project, I wanted to figure out if there was a way that I could somehow incorporate ALL of it. Not necessarily to take notes on every single serial, comic, novel, etc., but as I did my research (which involved a LOT of reading, listening, and watching), any time something cool or unique popped up, I tried to figure out a way to make it fit into my vision. There is a LOT of crossover (the 1980 movie, for example, features a number of extremely faithful scenes, images, and even bits of dialogue lifted right out of Alex Raymond’s strips), so in the end, it wasn’t as difficult as it might sound.

If a character in a serial or novel mentioned some sort of bird in Arboria that never popped up in the original strip, I often dragged that creature into the manuscript. It might only be an aside (a list of unusual Arborian birds), or it might actually be one of the new monsters in our bestiary!

In other words, in many ways, it is ALL in there, though there’s no denying that our primary source material was the original strips (both Sundays and dailies).

Will you be giving us in-depth details of Mongo, or will adventures enable players to travel further afield?

At this point, it is ALL about Mongo. There’s a ton of material in the core book and we are also releasing a 192-page sourcebook titled “Kingdoms of Mongo” that, obviously, focuses on several noteworthy Mongonian kingdoms, but not ALL!

There is definitely more that we can explore down the line! There are moons in the skies over Mongo that we have not explored in the current material… Flash’s Earth, especially after they begin adapting Mongonian tech for their war machines, is certainly something we could play with… And there is certainly the possibility for adventures beyond both worlds!

Savage Worlds is a good choice for this pulp-style adventure setting, so what kind of changes or additions are you making to the system?

One of the biggest additions we’ve made is The Cliffhanger. You can actually read about it in depth in Update 1 of the Kickstarter. Apart from that, you’ll find new Edges, new Hindrances, a few new Powers, nine playable races, and an extensive bestiary of new monsters!

You’ve annihilated your Kickstarter target in an amazingly short amount of time so there’s a huge demand for Flash; what kind of support will the game receive in the future?

See my answer to the Mongo question... At the very least, you can count on new Flash content to appear in future issues of the Savage Worlds Explorer magazine from Pinnacle Entertainment Group.

What else are you working on? What else can we expect to see from you in the future?

Once Flash wraps up (at least for the time being), I’ll be working on some new material for The Sixth Gun Roleplaying Game to appear in the back of the next hardcover deluxe graphic novel collection coming from Oni Press. I’m also writing an adventure for the Kids On Bikes RPG from Hunters Books titled “Between the Cracks.” My adventure and involvement was the $6500 Stretch Goal for that game’s Kickstarter. I’ve also been working with the Table Titans gang on a few upcoming projects including a 25,000 word adventure for Dungeons & Dragons 5E.

Beyond that, there are a couple other tentative projects on the wall here in my office, but time will tell on those! I’m certainly keeping busy!

Friday, 24 November 2017

Interview - Francesca Baerald, Freelance Artist & Cartographer

Francesca BaeraldFreelance Artist and Cartographer Francesca Baerald has a professional background working on published games, book covers, CD covers, videogames, maps, RPGs, trading card games and children’s illustrations.

I first heard of Francesca when I came across a glorious map she created for Game of Thrones. I wanted to learn more about her talent so I got in touch and, happily, she agreed to answer a few questions.

Hello, Francesca, and welcome to the site. Can you introduce yourself, and tell us something of your history with gaming?

Hello Jonathan and thank you very much for this interview. I'm a freelance artist that has recently discovered to be also a cartographer. My love for gaming started when I was 16 and Diablo had just been published. I still remember filling Tristram with piles of gold and trying to kill the Butcher by shooting arrows from behind a window with bars. From that moment on I have discovered the existence of RPGs, boardgames and other videogames and never stopped playing.

What was it that got you into illustration?

Games for sure. I loved to draw dungeon maps during lessons at school. But also looking at some beautiful CD covers inspired me to start drawing. I have always loved music and learnt to play quite a few instruments along the years. Black and death metal bands have always had the most interesting covers and I enjoyed trying to draw my own covers in my spare time.

Who’s work inspires you the most?

This is a hard question. I'm not influenced and inspired by only one artist. I have an ever growing big library full of artbooks and comics of every kind that I love to browse searching for inspiration. If I have to list a couple of names I would say Brom and Beksinski.

I first became aware of your work via your maps; they’re wonderful illustrations that belong in frames on walls. What’s the attraction to creating these, and what kind of work goes into them?

Thank you for your kind words. I have a passion for details and maps are so full of them! I like to think that when I'm creating a map I'm also giving life to an actual world and each one is very different from the other. So every map has its own personality.

I don't like to call it 'work' but I must admit that there's a lot of effort behind every map. From the hours spent inking them to the time required to create a good balanced composition. It takes me from two to four weeks to complete a map and I treasure every moment of this process. I know the passion and dedication that my clients put into creating their fictional worlds and I want to dedicate  them the best work that I can.

Game of Thrones Map
Westeros
Image used with permission

Your RPG work includes art for the big names; Fantasy Flight Games, Paizo and Modiphius, to name just three. How do you approach projects for such huge publishers?

Each project for me is important but I must admit that working for such great companies always makes me a bit nervous and shaky. However fear is the engine that drives me to do better and improve myself, also... I like challenges!

Your other work encompasses covers for most things; books, CDs and Videogames. What’s your favourite media to work on?

A part from inks and watercolours, my favourite media is oil on wooden board. It's a time-consuming technique so it's not often my first work choice for economical and time reasons. That's why I usually choose acrylics for my covers. Anyway I always exult when a good oil painting commission comes in.

Do you have a preferred genre? What do you like illustrating the most?

I'm a female artist so people often assume that I'm good at painting romantic stuff. The truth is that I love intense scenes, dark settings, heroic situations and warriors/knights/barbarians. When some freedom is given to me I usually tend to paint strong characters with interesting background images.

What was the longest, most intricate project you’ve ever worked on? How do you plan your projects?

Actually I'm still working on the most intricate project, for Square Enix. It's the in-game map for Project Octopath Traveller videogame. I don't like to give space to chance so first of all I plan every step of my work process very thoroughly. Deadlines must be respected and I always make sure that my client is kept updated on the work in progress.

What’s your favourite piece of personal work?

You probably know that every time an artist completes an illustration he's never happy with it, right? There's always space for improvement so I really can't say which one is my favourite piece of personal work. From an emotional point of view I'm attached to every single piece of work I have done. From a critique point of view there's still so much work to do!

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

Certainly more maps! But also Character Sheets, Covers, Boards,...whenever a project represents a good challenge, I'm ready.

St.George´s Remorse
St.George’s Remorse
Image used with permission

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Free roleplaying game design challenge GO!

I set myself a challenge - could I write and format a game in less than six hours?

I managed to do it in five and a half, and now it's done I'm giving it away for free. The images have been sourced from the public domain, and the game itself harks back to the serial science fiction shows from the 1930s to the 1950s. The system uses a single six-sided die and I've called it the ODDS (One Die Determines Success) System. It's not perfect, but it's just a bit of fun.

'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!'

You can download it for free from Dropbox

Let me know what you think. I might knock up a simple background and adapt an adventure for it.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Book Review - Frostgrave: Second Chances

Frostgrave: Second Chances by Matthew WardBy Matthew Ward

Published by Osprey Publishing

‘Time is running out for Yelen and Mirika Semova. Though the sisters have earned an enviable reputation amongst their fellow explorers of the Frozen City, their lives are haunted by a curse - the more Yelen uses her magic, the closer the demon Azzanar comes to claiming her, body and soul. But Azzanar is not the only one manipulating Yelen and Mirika...

When catastrophe separates the Semova sisters, it falls to Yelen to save them both. But in a city shrouded in deceit, who can she turn to for help... and what price will she pay to get it?’

I’ve interviewed Frostgrave’s Joseph A. McCullough, the creator, designer and writer of the Frostgrave miniatures game this book is based on. He’s told me in no uncertain terms that the wider world of the fabled city of Felstad, and the newer game Frostgrave: Ghost Archipelago, will remain undefined and unexplored. There will be no larger map, of the city or the land it inhabits, and no definitive realms, kings, queens or kingdoms, and that the phrase ‘here be dragons’ applies to the rest of the world as it’s Terra Incognita.

So where does that leave writers who have been asked to write a novel-length tale about the city, it’s people and the dangers within? If you’re writing the first book about people in the world of Frostgrave and you need to draw new readers - and possibly players – into the setting, where does that leave you?

It leaves you with an unenviable task. Thankfully, Matthew Ward has taken the route of making the characters the centre of the story, not the world itself. And at that, I feel, he’s succeeded.

The story gets off to an action-packed start in the Temple of Draconostra, where the Semova sisters are trying to recover a reliquiary for their master Torik; Mirika is a Chronomancer and can play with time, but her younger sister Yelen has little magical talent except for that gifted to her by the demon Azzanar. The more Yelen uses the power the closer Azzanar comes to taking her body and using it for her own nefarious ends.

The relationship between the two sisters is palpable and you really feel for their plight as the story progresses. All they want is for Yelen to be rid of this demon and their delves into the dungeons and catacombs of Felstad are to realise that end. Mirika, the eldest sister, is hotheaded and rash, confident in her power and ability. Yelen, however, is jealous of her older sister’s abilities but loves her regardless, and this creates a very complicated relationship underlined by the simple fact that they love each other dearly. This leads to dramatic moments in the book where you feel for their plight, and there are times during conflicts where you find yourself really drawn in. It’s the characters and relationships of this book that really shine, and the two primary antagonists are likeable, interesting and enjoyable to read.

The secondary characters are also well defined and interesting so much so that when something happens to them - for good or ill – you do feel it. There are a couple of throwaway characters that are stereotypes to make a scene work, but they don’t last long and are there to serve the encounter. The secondary characters, especially the Knight Kain with her harsh attitude and Cavril Magnis the dashing if somewhat untrustworthy leader of a band called the Gilded Rose, really work and add a layer of depth to the story.

The story itself is a long chase – from the start to safety, then from safety back into danger as every character is given a reason to chase, flee or otherwise make haste away from or towards friends, wealth or salvation. There are plenty of plot twists and turns and sometimes you’re never too sure where the story is going to go, or even who’s side you’re on, and that adds a sense of excitement to the proceedings, pulling you into a ‘just one more page’ situation that may result in a late night or two.

In many books I read I like to feel that the world the protagonists inhabit is a character in itself, defined and with form and structure to make it feel real. With the ‘here be dragons’ proviso and not having a full idea of the larger world I can imagine that defining that world would be quite hard. I did get a feel for Felstad but could never really visualise it, not the way it has been visualised by the excellent artist Dmitry Burmak in this book or in the main game itself. There were descriptions of the locations and the city but more detail was lavished on the characters than the setting; the barrows, the tombs, the settlement they rested at, it was all there on the page but I never really felt it, or could conjure up a proper mental image. It was definitely the characters that held this book together for sure.

It’s a great book with a twisting plot, well-defined characters and great scenes of dangerous/exciting encounters, and although it ends rather abruptly the climax of the story is satisfactory and leaves it open for further adventures – and I, for one, will be in line for that.

And for the Frostgrave players out there, there’s a nice scenario at the back of the book to use in your next wargame session called ‘Corpsefire’. I don’t want to go into detail as it references a part of the book, but it’s a cool encounter with plenty of special rules.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Interview - Russell Morrissey of EN World

'Xenomorphs' Cover
The WOIN supplement Xenomorphs: The Fall of  Somerset Landing has had a very successful Kickstarter campaign and promises plenty of dark action-packed sci-fi grimness.

I got in touch with Russell Morrissey who, along with Darren Pearce and Angus Abranson, is bringing us this tale of terror and I asked him about the WOIN system and this eagerly anticipated book.

I'm going to assume that the first answer isn't entirely accurate...

Welcome to the site! Please introduce yourself.

I am Captain Kirk, and was the first man on Mars. I also invented the sea, and built Australia.

Give us some background on you and the tabletop roleplaying hobby - what got you involved and what is it that you love about it?

I started playing RPGs when I was about 10, way back in the 1980s. At the time we played at school - AD&D, mainly, but a whole slew of 80s games including FASA's Star Trek RPG, Golden Heroes, the Games Workshop Judge Dredd RPG, and tons more. I've pretty much played ever since, including all editions of D&D, and a whole slew of other games. Right now I'm in a long Call of Cthulhu campaign, and a sci-fi WOIN campaign, and recently finished running Curse of Strahd for D&D 5E. So I'm a lifelong tabletop game hobbyist!

In 1999 I started working in the tabletop RPG industry, initially as a blogger/games reporter, and branching out into publishing. I run EN World, a tabletop RPG news and reviews website, and I also co-founded, and own, the ENnies, which are the premier tabletop RPG awards program. I've published over 300 RPG products over the last 20 years!

WOIN (What Is Old Is New) is a popular system based around the humble D6. How did this come about?

It was a gradual evolution, inspired both by the many games I played in the 1980s, and by many modern game design sensibilities. Initially, my goal was to publish my ideal sci-fi RPG; however, the fantasy themes of D&D (especially older D&D) always drew me back, so I ended up designing two fully compatible games which use the same system.

There have been other D6 dice pool systems before - what makes WOIN different?

I've played a lot of different dice systems over the years, and in truth there aren't many I don't like. I think I fell in love with dice pools way back when I played the WEG Ghostbusters RPG, which was the first dice pool game; that system evolved into WEG's Star Wars d6 system. My goal when designing WOIN wasn't to be super innovative or experimental, but to do something I knew, enjoyed, and do it well. It's not the same as any other d6 dice pool system, but it definitely shares DNA with some.

WOIN includes a life-path character creation system, which I simply adore. I've always enjoyed life-path character creation systems; they feel immersive and organic to me, and the very process of creating our character also creates their background.

The dice pool system is an additive one which pools dice from your attribute (natural talent), skill (training), and equipment (higher quality equipment gives you more dice). You can then "spend" some of those dice on enhancements to your roll, and then roll to beat a target number. It's very simple and intuitive, and that core mechanic drives the entire game. What I enjoy about it is that there is not direct link between attributes and skills - you can build a pool from any attribute, any skill, and any equipment, as long as your GM agrees it's relevant. So if you're climbing the side of a building, you might use AGILITY plus climbing, or architecture, or whatever skill you have that you think will help you climb this building.

I'm also very fond of the Countdown mechanic, which can be used to create tension when you need a duration but you don't want the players to know when it's up. Each turn, the Countdown pool of d6s is rolled, and any 6s are removed. When the last die is removed, the bomb goes off, or the building collapses, or the disease reaches its natural conclusion, or what-have-you. It's a very simple, but effective mechanic.

The magic system gets a lot of attention. It's a verb-noun system (like you may have seen in some other games), so you would combine a verb ( a skill you know) with a noun (a thing you know the "secret" of) to, say, create fire, or abjure ice, or summon beasts, or compel undead. You spend magic points to power your spell, adding enhancements at-will. It's very freeform!

Xenomorphs: The Fall of  Somerset Landing was a very successful Kickstarter and looks to be delving into some serious dark sci-fi action, something that WOIN seems suited to. Inspirations aside, what was the draw to the dark horrific side of science fiction?

Oh, man! I adore those movies! My wife can rattle off the names of all the Colonial Marines (which makes me envious).

We were brainstorming ways to show off what WOIN can do. The core system is very much a "toolkit", and so it (by deign) lacks the setting elements which can draw people to the game. That's both a strength and a weakness - it means it does its "here's the sandbox; now build your universe!" approach to running a roleplaying game really, really well; but it does make it more difficult to market. So with that in mind, we discussed a range of different "settings" we could use to showcase the game. I can't talk about all of them yet, but here's some words associated with some of them: Manhattan, lower decks, exorcism, road rage....

Anyway, Xenomorphs was always going to be first. It's just SO atmospheric, all that gritty sci-fi survival horror. And WOIN can lend itself so well to both heroic sic-fantasy or gritty, darker pieces. It has the tools to "dial" to either. Suffice it to say that in Xenomorphs, we took a bit of a cue from Call of Cthulhu: don't necessarily expect to survive. Don't worry; we have backup characters you can hot-swap into!

Is there a larger world that Xenomorphs could explore? Are you producing any further supplements for the setting?

Our book is about 60 pages long. The first half describes the setting - explored space, the United Marines, the Chen Zua corporation, adventure ideas and plot seeds, equipment, and so on.

So we have a 15-page adventure, which features the PCs arriving at Somerset Landing as colonists - miners, scientists, engineers, maybe a marine. It's a dark, rain-soaked terraforming colony. And pretty soon, all hell breaks loose. The PCs won't be having many stand-up fights (or if they do, they'll be switching to new PCs pretty quick!)

That's the plan - one book, one setting. We plan to release a few of these, covering different genres, really showing off the WOIN system and showing our love for certain archetypes of the silver screen. Any which prove really popular, we might consider for a bigger treatment, but right now that's not a thing. Not yet, anyway.

What more can we expect to see from WOIN in the future?

So our biggest upcoming thing is the official Judge Dredd & The Worlds of 2000 AD RPG. That will be out this winter. It's a gorgeous full-colour hardcover book. We have the license not just for Judge Dredd, but for the entire range of 2000 AD properties, which provides us with a massive amount of completely different sci-fi and fantasy settings. We're starting with Dredd, of course, but you can expect to see all sorts of 2000 AD goodness over the coming months and years.

We have N.O.W. the Modern Action roleplaying game coming out this winter, too. That's all about superspies and action heroes, talking cars, and soldiers-of-fortune. Those who love those 80s TV shows will love that one. It even includes rules for Mutants!

Interior excerpt from 'Xenomorphs'
Used with permission