FARSIGHT GAMES

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Equipment design in RPGs

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

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

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

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

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

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

STRIKING THE BALANCE AS A PLAYER

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

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

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

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

Or:

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

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

STRIKING THE BALANCE AS A GAMESMASTER

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

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

NEW STUFF

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

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

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

And then work out the bonuses and drawbacks.

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Cryptic old game design files

I do a lot of writing and designing for games and sometimes I'll have an idea for something, type down some notes really quickly so that I don't forget the idea I had, and then promptly forget that I had the idea in the first place.

There are dozens of files on my computer regarding these types of things, to rules ideas, skirmish game designs, adventure notes and general random thoughts on gaming. I've found entire unfinished articles, long detailed world histories and brief character designs, some of which mean nothing to me now but were no doubt incredibly important when I wrote them.

This is both a great thing and a bad thing; great because I've got loads of material I can look back on and mine for ideas, bad because most of it I can't even remotely remember why I wrote the stuff and how it was going to be used. It was obviously important at the time, but not so important that I remember the details five, ten or even twenty years down the line.

Below is an example - I'm sure that I wrote this small D&D conversion to use the red box basic D&D material with elements of the D&D 3rd Edition design. I remember that at one point that I wanted to capture what I loved about old D&D and use the modules but do away with THAC0 and some of the elements of Saving Throws, as well as simplify the experience method. The terrible thing is that not only do I not remember writing this, but I'm even doubting that I wrote it at all, and that these notes are someone else's work that somehow ended up on my computer. However, I do remember creating the character sheet.

If this is of any use to you then go ahead and use it, although there are plenty of OD&D and OSR games that do this already. I have not corrected any abbreviations or errors and this is how it was on my computer.

-oOo-

WHAT YOU WILL NEED FOR THIS GAME:

Basic, red box D&D was the basis for this game, but any old OSR along those lines will do. Bear in mind that the attack rolls do not use THAC0 but the roll target number of 10+AC from 3rd Edition onwards.

ATTRIBUTE ROLLS

You can use the standard 3D6 roll for each attribute, or you can roll 4D6 and discard the lowest number. Add up the remaining three numbers and that is the score you can put in an attribute. Do this six times, once for each attribute. You can then decide which attribute receives which score based on the kind of role you want to play.

Attribute bonuses apply using the following chart:

Attribute Score / Adjustment
3 / -3
4-5 / -2
6-8 / -1
9-12 / 0
13-15 / +1
16-17 / +2
18 / +3

Roll 1D8 for hit points, or 1D4 + 4 if you want better odds.

ADJUSTMENT SCORES:

STRENGTH – bonus to CQ to-hit and damage rolls
INTELLIGENCE – for each +1, choose an extra skill
WISDOM – bonus to WILL saving throw
DEXTERITY – bonus to Rng to-hit score, bonus to REFLEX saving throw
CONSTITUTION – bonus to hit point score, bonus to FORTITUDE saving throw
CHARISMA -

SAVING THROWS

The saving throws 'Fortitude', 'Reflex' and 'Will' are scored at 10 plus the applicable attribute bonus. Fortitude uses the Constitution bonus, Reflex the Dexterity bonus, Will the Wisdom bonus. A successful saving throw is a D20, scoring less than the saving throw score.


COMBAT

Attack rolls are D20 plus the relevant Attack Bonus. Rolling high, the initial target number is 10 or the target’s Reflex saving throw for a successful hit. This is modified by armour, raising the target number, making it more difficult to hit.

The STRENGTH adjustment score modifies hand-to-hand to-hit and damage rolls.

The DEXTERITY adjustment score modifies ranged to-hit scores.

Armour class is based on normal armour in the book but reversed:

Leather: 3
Chain: 5
Plate: 7
Shield: +1 AC

SKILLS

Each player is given three points. They can use a single point to raise an 'Attack Type', this being either Ranged (Rng) for pistols and thrown weapons or Close Quarters (CQ) for fists and hand weapons. Each point spent gives a +1 bonus to their attack roll.


CHARACTER ADVANCMENT

Characters start at level 0 and they must complete the same number of adventures for the level they want to attain. So, when they complete one adventure they go to level one. When they complete two more adventures they go to level two, when they complete three more adventures they go to level three and so on. (or, you can use the experience point system as normal).

For every level the character attains they get another single point to do ONE of the following:

Spend on either one of the attack bonuses
Roll another 1D8 for more hit points.
Add one point to a saving throw score (every 5 levels)


Monday, 5 November 2018

[Interview] Joseph A. McCullough and 'Rangers of Shadow Deep'

Joseph A. McCullough bought us the excellent 'Frostgrave' and 'Ghost Archipelago' skirmish games, and now he delves into dark fantasy with 'Rangers of Shadow Deep'.

I had a quick chat with Joseph about the new game.

'A kingdom stands on the brink of destruction, as the vast realm called the Shadow Deep slowly swallows everything in its path. As the army fights to contain the tide of evil creatures teeming up out of the black clouds, the kingdom’s best soldiers, the rangers, must venture down into the shadows to gather information, rescue prisoners, and ambush enemy supply lines. It is a desperate fight against overwhelming odds, but every little victory brings another day of hope.

Rangers of Shadow Deep is a solo and co-operative tabletop miniatures game, in which players create their ranger, gather companions, and play through a series of missions in their fight to hold back the darkness. If their rangers survive, they will grow in power and ability, and be sent on more difficult, dangerous and intricate assignments.

This book also includes the first supplement for the game, Burning Light. In this mission, the rangers must venture to ruined convent, searching for an ancient artefact. As they choose what order to explore the ruins, and thus the order in which scenarios are played, they must gather clues to the artefact’s location. But they must be quick, for the longer they remain, the more the forces of the Shadow Deep become aware of their presence.'

'Rangers of Shadow Deep' is now available at RPGnow.com and is already making a splash. What was the genesis of the game?

It really started with the words ‘Shadow Deep’. It just popped into my head one day, and then I started wondering what it was. Once I started to realize what a dangerous place it was, I started to wonder who would go down there…hence the rangers. For a while now, I’ve been interested in seeing if I could push wargaming a bit closer to role-playing and to see if I could write a game that really worked for solo and cooperative play. While I could have done this with one of the games I’ve already created, I thought it would be easier to build such a game from scratch than to tack it onto an existing game. So, it was just a case of putting my new setting idea with my game design ambitions.

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You describe it as a 'solo and co-operative tabletop miniatures game'; what makes 'Rangers of Shadow Deep' different from all the other miniature games available?

I think Rangers really is a hybrid wargame/rpg. You still play the game by pushing figures around on the table, but it isn’t all just about fighting. Some missions are about gathering information, solving little puzzles, rescuing people, and exploring the Shadow Deep. Skills play a big role in the game, and some of the missions use hidden information, so that players really are forced to explore.

Also, the game has a real narrative to it. This is reflected in how the characters grow and develop during the campaign, but also that the world is growing with them. Each mission pushes the whole narrative a little further.

Your previous games are the award winning 'Frostgrave' and the fun 'Ghost Archipelago'. They were very focused player vs player games, so how did you approach the design of this co-operative game?

I have used those games to experiment with solo and cooperative, and those experiments taught me a lot. However, in both of those games, the protagonists can use their powers an unlimited number of times. I think for solo play, it is much more interesting to give the heroes limited powers, than can only be used once each scenario. This brings a lot more decision-making into the game. Do I cast this spell now, or do I save it for later? Also, by adding skills to the system, it means there are a lot more ways to interact with the table. Want to go into that house – you need to make a Pick Lock Roll to open the door, or a Strength Roll to break it down. It forces the player to really think about which figures he is going to send to which areas of the table.

Finally, I wanted to make sure that each game is really telling a story, and that the players feel like they are part of that story. Rangers of Shadow Deep is about a war, and the player have a real chance to effect the outcome of that war.

The game leans much further towards defined characters, making them more than just a playing piece on the tabletop. How can 'Rangers of Shadow Deep' be used as an RPG?

In truth, I think Rangers sits right on that line where RPGs and Wargames meet. You could actually discard the miniatures and I think you would still have a pretty robust set of RPG rules. If you added a games master you could easy expand the game to include what happens between the specific missions. The ‘world’ is a little bit lite at the moment compared to most RPGs, but that will change.

Is there a larger world to explore? Will there be supplements and additions in the future to expand on the kingdom and the lore?

Absolutely. I’ve nearly finished the first supplement, Temple of Madness, which expands some of the magic rules and includes a 4-scenario mission. We learn a little bit more about the Kingdom of Alladore in it, and a bit more about the Shadow Deep as well. And that’s how I plan to approach it - little by little. That way the players get to learn more about the world in the same time that their characters will be learning about it as well.

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The background to the game is really intriguing and somewhat dark; is the game solely for use in the world you have created or can it be used in other ways?

I think the world would be a great setting for an anthology of sword and sorcery or dark fantasy short stories. And, as we talked about above, it would be very easy to convert the game over to a true RPG. I have even spoken with a couple of people about using it as the basis for a board game. I think there are a lot of directions it could go, but for the moment, I want to finish up work on the core game. We are still working on getting the print-on-demand set-up, and getting Temple of Madness ready to go.

Images used with permission

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Killzone as a tabletop game

Image result for killzone ps2I've been a fan of Guerilla's 'Killzone' franchise since it's debut on the Playstation 2. It's heady mix of science fiction warfare, tense combat and memorable moments hit all the right notes for me in both gameplay and setting. I wasn't hot on Killzone: Shadowfall, as beautiful as the game was, but it was still a good game and really added another level of depth to the setting.

You can read more about the game and the setting on Wikipedia here.

I think Killzone would make for a great tabletop game, be it a wargame or RPG. It would probably work better as a wargame, of course, and there'd be some amazing miniatures to be made, what with Helghast troops, ISA soldiers and all the drones, vehicles and specialists in between. The grim war the game portrays would look great on a table.

A roleplaying game may be a little harder as the fact that the game is pretty much all-out war may limit varied scenarios or campaigns, but there's plenty of scope for missions, special diplomatic sessions, and even subterfuge adventures both pre- and post-invasion Vekta, as well as on Helghast itself.

The fast action of the game would require a system with a quick action resolution and fluid dynamic so that the game can flow along at a decent rate. The great thing about Killzone was that it didn't mess around between the excellent cutscenes and got you stuck into the action. The wonderful rich backstory - penned by none other than 'Lone Wolf's' Joe Dever - has a truckload of potential and source material to inspire, drive and enrich whole campaigns. The characters are excellent, especially the main villain of the first two games Scolar Visari and the protagnist Jan Templar. It gives a fantastic taste of what can be done with the setting and the kind of character-driven action games you could run in both a wargame and a roleplaying game. Hell, there's no reason why a single system couldn't do both.

What do you say Guerilla Games? Have you got something else planned for the Killzone franchise as a video game? Because I think it'd work bloody well as a tabletop game.

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All images (c) Guerilla Games


Sunday, 21 October 2018

Blade Runner Roleplaying

Image result for blade runnerI watched Blade Runner 2049 again recently; I was going to have it as background noise while I worked but I ended up being drawn into it again, which resulted in me wanting to run a RPG session in a future Los Angeles. Of course.

Blade Runner was one of those movies that made a huge impact on me when I was younger, even though I didn't like it that much when I first saw it because, I feel, I was too young to appreciate it. While 2049 doesn't inspire and enthrall me the way the original film does - the world in Scott's original is something to marvel at - it does an amazing job of creating it's own reality that can be just as amazing.

Image result for blade runner 2049I think that's why I love 2049 - it really is its own movie and it took its cues from the original without playing the old 'nod-nod-wink-wink to the audience' homage/reference game. Denis made the film his own and I think he did an amazing job. I'm pretty sure my sigh of relief at the end when I realised they hadn't screwed it up was audible across the theatre.

I explored the roleplaying game aspects of this a long time ago and I've already shared these opinions on this blog. I used my SKETCH system at the time (there's a new edition of SKETCH coming out soon, so there's a quick plug) and I ran a couple of games; it worked just fine but it had more to do with the atmosphere, and that's something that the simple rules helped with. There was no stalling over rulings and the players were able to get their teeth into a flowing, emotionally charged adventure.

There were three players - one was a Blade Runner, one was a police detective, and the other was a private detective working under contract with the police (a bit of an Adrian Monk character). The story revolved around a powerful and influential - but very, very lonely - businesswoman in her sixties trying to hide a replicant by pretending it is her long-lost daughter. The London PD (the city was partially flooded so a lot of people got about in motor boats and spinners) knew there was a replicant in her company but, because the woman had contacts in the police (namely the Police Chief) they were limited as to who they could use the Voight-Kampff machine on.

The businesswoman kept trying to convince them that the replicant was a boy who worked in the post room, but he failed the Voight-Kampff test because he was partially mentally retarded. Once the players realised this - after chasing the boy through the building and taking a couple of shots and almost killing him - they had to go after the buisnesswoman.

They fought through her heavies (the private investigator was unfortunately killed) and forced the false daughter to take the Voight-Kampff test. She failed after the first ten questions and accepted her fate. The Blade Runner retired her. The police detective tried to arrest the businesswoman but the Police Chief interceded and she got away with it. Now she has sworn revenge on the Blade Runner and the police detective.

It was all done with minimal dicerolls (except for the firefight, of course). The simple rules did not slow the game or interrupt the emotionally tense moments, and that was perfect. We agreed that the best way to run a Blade Runner game was with a simple, flexible system that would allow GMs to add their own twists and moral/ethical dilemmas.

The world of Blade Runner can be so much more if you want it to be. Not just because of the central theme regarding what makes a human being, but also dozens of other moral dilemmas. What are the ethics of human cloning? The moral implications of genetic engineering? Do you agree with euthanasia? Where do you draw the line on human testing for new pharmaceuticals? Do the less fortunate have the same rights as those in power? Does power truly corrupt?

Here's some other ideas I've had for general Blade Runner themes:

The Hunt: A general chase-the-Replicant adventure. One or more Replicants have landed on Earth and the PCs must track them down and retire them, or at least inform the authorities so that they can be retired. As the Replicants have hidden themselves away in human society, the idea of the game is to follow clues, possibly use the Voight-Kampff machine, and then confront the Replicants. How will the PCs react to how the Replicants react to being found out? Could they shoot a machine begging for it’s life, or whilst it lies curled up on the floor, totally defenceless?

The Railroad: Fully human Replicant sympathisers are helping escapees get out of the city, hiding them away until they can be smuggled out. Once they discover this, do the PCs stop them? Hinder them? Or ignore them?

The Fake: Not all the people trying to stay out of the sight of the authorities are Replicants, but how can you tell who is real and who is not? If a Blade Runner made the mistake of retiring a human, even of that human was masquerading as a Replicant for their own ends – perhaps they were doing it for rich kid laughs or a party - what lengths would they go to cover it up to save their own hide? How would a Replicant react to a human who acts like them?

The Vengeance: Sometimes even the people on the right side of the law are pushed too far – how would the PCs handle a Blade Runner gone rogue? A Blade Runner who would do anything to retire Replicants because of a pain they suffered at their hands? Who would they go through the get their target, and who would they make suffer to achieve their vengeance?

The Passion: Like all living things, Replicants want to live. If only they could show the humans hunting them that they feel emotions the same way they do. What lengths would they go to convince humans of their humanity? Would they befriend them? Seduce them? Love them?

I think there could be a lot of mileage in this.

Along with ALIEN, Blade Runner is very special to me and I think a game in this world could work wonders. There are so many games inspired by the setting - that their design and feel is so close to what Blade Runner gave us - that they were the world in every essence but the name itself.

I think a Blade Runner game, giving you not only the setting but a chance to game in many other Philip K Dick worlds, would work just great. To be honest, I'd love a chance to explore the off-world colonies and run some Outland-inspired scenarios. There's a lot that can be done with it.

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Monday, 15 October 2018

[Book review] Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History


By Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, Sam Witwer

Published by Ten Speed Press

When I hit the D&D hobby in 1984 there was one image that burned into my brain, an image that called out to my imagination and set the tone for my fantasy tabletop gaming for years to come. It was the Larry Elmore cover of the Red Box D&D Basic Set. The warrior lunging forward as the dragon protected its hoard; it was colourful, dynamic and inspirational.

The interior art of the game was just as good, with Elmore and Jeff Easley adding flavour to the content. I read the books over and over again and the artwork as well as the game itself became a huge part of my first few steps into the larger gaming hobby.

As I progressed through the game, moving on to 2nd edition rules, the artwork was always fluid and dynamic. I played in the worlds of Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft and Spelljammer and the art style changed with the settings. Even during my incredibly long hiatus from D&D I still purchased Dragon magazine to keep myself updated and inspired as even in these pages the artwork shone. The rules and the worlds were the driving force behind the game but it was the art that bought it to life.

From the early small books to the colourful volumes on gaming store shelves today, the artwork of Dungeons & Dragons has always been dominant and the images that graced the covers of many of the products have become iconic in the hobby. It changed and morphed over the years with many different artists bringing their own style and imagination to the mix, changing as the game did over the decades.

Obviously, there was a story to tell.


Enter writer Michael Witwer (Empire of Imagination), director Kyle Newman (Fanboys), writer Jon Peterson (Playing at the World) and actor Sam Witwer (Battlestar Galactica). They all have a history with and a love for the game, so what happens when you get four D&D fans with a passion for the father of all RPGs together?

You get Art & Arcana: A Visual History. A glorious coffee-table tome detailing the history of the artwork of the game, the game itself, and the people, products and points if interest that pepper it’s long illustrious reign.

After a heartfelt and eager forward from actor Joe Manganiello, the book begins with a brief description of the hobby, a quick guide to what the book covers and how it will cover it, and then it dives straight into the action with the original edition books, how they came about and the artwork that went into them. Did you read the books and wonder why certain drawings seemed familiar? This book answers those questions and more, you find out about the artists and their art, and you discover more details about the history and the creation of the game as you drink in the visuals.

And this is where the book shines; it’s not just a pages of random artwork with notes about where they appeared, who created them and maybe an anecdote or two. Within every section of the book, from the original editions to 5th edition and everything in between (including computer games, novels and the even the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon), Art & Arcana illuminates the reader with facts and details about the development of the game, the routes it took during it’s life, the decisions that were made and the effect it had on the companies that produced the work. While it’s not a biographical story with touches of drama as per Michael Witwer’s book ‘Empire of Imagination’, it tells a story about the drive, passion, high moments and pitfalls the game and the company endured over the decades. So, while you’re marvelling at the artwork and getting all misty-eyed and nostaligic over images from your childhood – or even experiencing the art for the first time if you’re new to the hobby – there’s an amazing story being told that puts everything into context. The artwork changes with the fortunes of the company as well as the times, and it’s all here to see.


There are some incredible images in the book, some I have never seen before myself, and no matter which edition you used to enter the hobby there’s something here for everyone. Are you an old grognard who remembers the glory years of the 1970s? There’s something in here for you. 2nd edition player? This book has got you covered. Perhaps you just like the peripheral products like the novels and other games? There’s material in here for you, as well as an insight as to how it all came about. Paintings, sketches, photographs, old advertisements, posters, covers… it’s all here and it’s quite, quite glorious to behold. With the accompanying story detailing a history with just as much adventure as the game itself, this is an excellent read with plenty to offer time and time again.

Whether you’re an old-school gamer or you’ve just hit the hobby with 5th edition, Art & Arcana: A Visual History is a book that any player of D&D can’t do without. If you want to relive your passion for the game’s art or experience it for the first time it doesn’t matter; this is a must-have book for any fan of D&D or even the roleplaying hobby in general.

Very highly recommended.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Gaming in the Strontium Dog universe

Cover of Boxed SetI keep thinking about the games of 2000AD's Strontium Dog I used to run using the original GW Judge Dredd RPG rules (I had the hardback book reprint and not the boxset). I split the Combat Skill into Weapon Skill and Ballistic Skill and from there it was plain sailing.

The games were fast and exciting and I really played on the sci-fi western theme, using drama and motifs from Sergio Leone, even going as far as using the soundtracks. It's a regret of mine that I parted with my Dredd game; I'd love to write up what I did as a conversion.

There were plenty of tables on the back of the book so that we could  roll for random mutations; the tables had been designed for characters who had come from the Cursed Earth, or for those who lived close to the walls that seperated Mega-City One from the blasted wasteland. While we played games that were primarily set in the fabled city in our own sector, 'Sector 101', a place where gangs ruled and strange powers manifested themselves, we soon created our own sector in Brit-Cit and eventually started to run games set in deep space as the gaming group pursued the magic-using crimelord 'Doctor Normal' off-world.

However, after the epic Dredd story 'Judgement Day' hit the pages of 2000AD in 1992 and Johnny Alpha made an appearance (and resulting in one of the best ever full-page images to grace the pages of the Galaxy's Greatest Comic - see below) I turned my attention to Strontium Dog and, with very few changes to the rules other that what has already been mentioned above, I set about running a game for a group of Stronts - who called themselves the 'Brecon Crew' - who set about the galaxy hunting down some very nasty people including a high-ranking Kreeler officer named Captain Captain, a mutant serial killer called Eddie Scalpelfingers and an alien drug runner called Powder Kegg. Gunfights, standoffs, even a starship battle filled the adventures and we ended up having more fun in the world of the Stronts than we ever did in the Mega-cities because there was so much to do, so many more options due to the vastness of the galaxy and much more action-packed adventures as the players didn't feel as constrained by 'The Law' as they did in the Judge Dredd games.

Apart from adding stats for the Westinghouse Variable Cartridge Blaster and a few other items such as the time weapons and the odd weapon function I came across in the comics (I bought 2000AD every week from 1984 to 2002) there was very little else for me to do. The conversion notes were probably less than 500 words and as some of my players were well versed in Strontium Dog lore there was next to no worldbuilding to be done. It's an easy world to explain. 'It's a Star Wars-ey western-themed action game where you play mutated bounty hunters'. Boom.

I tried the Traveller-based Strontium Dog game a few years ago but I much preferred the simplicity of the GW Dredd rules, and now that EN Publishing is working on a Stront setting for their 'Judge Dredd & the Worlds of 2000AD' game I'm looking forward to a new version. I'll give it a try for sure, but I'm not sure anything will replace the thrill-power of those early games.

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Friday, 5 October 2018

[Press release] Free League and Järnringen Become One

I'm a big Fria Ligan fan and I have had amazing games with 'Coriolis' and 'Tales from the Loop'. This news is going to create a gaming powerhouse filled with great talent who already have a proven track record. There's amazing things ahead.

The full press release:

Free League Publishing - Oct 05, 2018 10:38 BST


Free League Publishing and Team Järnringen, two of Sweden's leading publishers of tabletop roleplaying games on the international market, will become one. The merger of these publishers of acclaimed RPGs such as Tales from the Loop, Symbaroum and Mutant: Year Zero, is underway. The combined company, to be named Free League Publishing, is planning several major game launches in the year to come.

"We're very happy that the merger is finally happening," says Free League co-founder Tomas Härenstam. "We have a long history with Järnringen, great respect for their work, and we share similar philosophies on game design. Together we will be stronger, better, and have a greater international reach. And we'll have even more fun at work."

The two teams are already working together, with former Järnringen members involved in current Free League projects, and vice versa. To the combined company, Järnringen brings the acclaimed fantasy RPG Symbaroum, which will now become part of Free League's line-up of award-winning games such as Mutant: Year Zero, Coriolis - The Third Horizon, and Tales from the Loop, as well as the upcoming RPG Forbidden Lands and Crusader Kings - The Board Game.

Free League was initially created ten years ago, as a group of freelancers writing supplements for earlier (Swedish) versions of Mutant and Coriolis, published by a previous incarnation of Järnringen. The fact that these two game franchises are still part of the Free League RPG lineup today is appreciated by the members of Team Järnringen.

"There are many benefits of this merger," say's Järnringen co-founder Mattias Johnsson Haake. "But of course, the idea of working on Mutant and Coriolis again is especially appealing. Coriolis was created by us, and is in a way like a child we never got to see grow up. Mutant also has a special place in our hearts."

The joint company will be named Free League Publishing, a decision made in full agreement between both companies. Free League Publishing has had a longer presence on the international market and a bigger reach among both gamers and sales partners. In addition, the name Free League is taken from a faction in the Coriolis RPG.
Fans and gamers of Free League and Järnringen games should not experience any immediate impact from this merger. All existing game lines will continue as planned. In addition, a number of new game projects are being planned for 2019. More information on these will be revealed at a later date.


Free League Publishing is a Swedish publisher dedicated to speculative fiction. We have published several award-winning tabletop role-playing games and critically acclaimed art books set in strange and wondrous worlds.

Our first game, the post-apocalyptic Mutant: Year Zero was awarded a Silver ENnie for Best Rules 2015. The sci-fi adventure Coriolis - The Third Horizon, was awarded a Judge's Spotlight Award at Gencon. And we are proud to say that our latest roleplaying game Tales from the Loop RPG based on Simon Stålenhags iconic artbooks made a grand slam at the ENnie Awards 2017, winning five Gold ENnies - among them Best Game.

Our upcoming fantasy RPG is Forbidden Lands, with art by critically acclaimed artist Simon Stålenhag and iconic Swedish fantasy artist Nils Gulliksson, lore by fantasy author Erik Granström and game design by the team that created Mutant: Year Zero, Coriolis: The Third Horizon and Tales from the Loop RPG. Forbidden Lands was the third most successful RPG Kickstarter in the world 2017 and was recently named one of the most anticipated RPGs of 2018 by EN World.

We have also released the critically acclaimed art books Things from the Flood and Tales from the Loop by artist Simon Stålenhag. His third book The Electric State has been released by Free League Publishing exclusively to the backers of the kickstarter campaign.

Website: www.freeleaguepublishing.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/FriaLigan
Instagram:http://instagram.com/frialigan/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/FriaLigan

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Normal service will resume... at some point

Farsight Blogger will be on hiatus for a short time. It seems that designing, writing and illustrating RPG products takes up more time than I thought!

See you soon.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

[Video] Sandy Petersen talks about writing horror scenarios

I don't usually post videos but this one was incredibly interesting and gave me a few things to think about as I work on 'A Dream of Dead Gods', a campaign I'm designing for the new Eldritch Tales game using the Swords & Wizardry White Box rules.

It's Sandy Petersen's fault that I got into Lovecraft, Call of Cthulhu and this kind of horror gaming in the first place, so it kind of makes sense that I'm taking some cues from the man himself.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Computer game strategy guides as sourcebooks

I've picked up some very cheap strategy guides for computer games recently, namely 'Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning' and 'Dragon Age II', and even though I've played both games I never bought them for the help they'd give me.

What I got in the books were detailed maps, characters, weapon ideas, adventure and quest ideas, illustrations and a whole slew of new ideas. The books are like system-generic sourcebooks and, even though I won't be using them in the settings they were intended for, there are plenty of bits and bobs in there I can use for my current games.

Once games have been out for a long time and the strategy guides become pretty useless you can find them in all kinds of places - charity shops, second-hand bookshops, discount bookstores and the like. They might not be an accurate fit for your game but there's bound to be something in there that you can cannibalise. I think I'll be seeking out more cheap books like this in the future to help flesh out my home-made roleplaying campaign settings.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

My kind of Fantasy Adventure

Adventurer by jpneokI enjoy the stories of high adventure, huge magic and exotic locations. They're fun, fast and exciting, and I get plenty of entertainment from a plethora of creatures threatening the heroes in alien landscapes as wizards blast a multitude of fireworks from their fingertips while chanting and gesticulating, and warriors wear impossible suits of armour and wield their two-handed swords one-handed.

But this isn't the kind of fantasy world I would like to live in.

In the 1980s I had two fantasy loves; the television show 'Robin of Sherwood' and the books and radio play of JRR Tolkien.

Robin of Sherwood was a low-fantasy take on the classic legend, with Herne the Hunter, and ancient pagan God of the forests, proclaiming that Robin was his son and that he was here to protect the innocent. There was very low-key magic, mysticism and adventure, a heady mix of pseudo history and fantasy, like the 'one God had come to drive out the many' (as Merlin in the movie 'Excalibur' quite correctly put it). It was quite excellent and the adventures that Robin and his companions had were complemented by the excellent characters in the ensemble and the great writing of Richard Carpenter. This was my kind of fantasy, and my kind of gaming setup; a small band of connected friends fighting against the odds.

Then there was my favourite thing in the world; Middle-earth. The stories of Tolkien, in particular The Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings and the tale of the Children of Hurin, was exactly the kind of stuff I liked best about the fantasy genre. The history of Middle-earth is an explosion of high fantasy, with Gods at war in heaven and tragic high adventure on the surface of the world, but I was more interested in the events of the second and third ages, where the action was centered around a smaller selections of heroes and the grand exploits of history were stories and myths. This gave the setting depth and a realism I have never come across in any other fantasy work. I wanted my own creations to adventure in the low-magic world of the Third and Fourth ages as this felt like a place I could explore and learn about, and old ruins existed for much more involved reasons than simply a place for characters to have a bit of an adventure in.

As with Robin of Sherwood, Middle-earth had a reality to it that was tangible and this was primarily thanks to the movies of Peter Jackson, which gave it a look and atmosphere so real that everything had a place. Robin of Sherwood had the reality of history to frame it.

This is my kind of fantasy. Low-magic, character-driven adventure in which the story and the decisions the characters make drives the fun and frolics. High fantasy magical fireworks and improbable armour is window dressing. When you can tell a superb story with a sword, a run-down castle and a few curious friends then you've got real substance.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

'Triskelion Space' - an interview with Jacob Ross

Project image for Triskelion Space Tabletop RPG'Triskelion Space' is a new RPG on it's way using the Exodus System. As of this interview the game is running on Kickstarter so get over there and have a look at what it has to offer.

I had a brief chat with creator Jacob Ross about his gaming and his games.

Welcome to Farsight Blogger! Please introduce yourself and tell us how you got yourself embroiled in the wonderful world of roleplaying games.

My name is Jacob Ross, I write as Jacob DC Ross to differentiate myself from the award-winning writer from Grenada. The first RPG that I ever owned was WEG's The D6 System: The Customizable Roleplaying Game, by George Strayton. I got it in 1997 from a regular big-box bookstore. From there I found LUG's Star Trek RPG and Legend of the Five Rings.

I fell in love with L5R so hard that 2009 I ended up begging Shawn Carman for a shot at writing for the game line, and bless his heart, he gave me a spot on Enemies of the Empire. I got to write about badgers, sharks, apes and such while the veterans were telling tales about ninja and naga. I didn't care. I was a WRITER now! I got a bigger assignment for the next book, The Great Clans, before branching out. I've written for the first edition of Mongoose Traveller, Modiphius' Star Trek Adventures and other game lines.

Your best known for the best-selling Exodus System RPG rules. What was the genesis of the game?

I see what you did there. Side note, the game was originally called "The Genesis System", before someone informed me that FFG had announced their own "Genesys System" a few weeks earlier. The game system came about because I was having issues at the game table. My absolute favorite RPG campaign of all time is Pirates of Drinax for Traveler. My wife and our friend wanted to play, but because of how long character generation took them, they decided not to go forward.

I decided that I needed to come up with my own system, something that checked off all of my boxes:

- Fast character generation that retains mechanical depth and diversity of abilities
- Spotlight balance, or no situations where wizards are always better at everything than warriors
- Easy GM prep, having generators that allow the GM to prep a scenario after getting home from work and before the rest of the party comes home
- Simple NPC stat blocks since I hate nothing more than finding a system that looks fun, going to write up a scenario for publishing and then seeing that I have to list how many ranks that the starfighter pilot has in "Handle Animals".

I got to work, blended some of my favorite elements from different games and tried it out, then refined things. I am a fan of how Numenera lets you make your own character class, so I adapted the principles behind that design into something that would allow you to have these Pathfinder-like ability tracks but without having to plan out your character build from rank 1. All you have to do is pick which stat to upgrade during character creation, choose a Combat Role, a Party Role and two Flavors for your powers.

Long story short, I wanted something that was easier to customize, both for gameplay and publishing.

You have a Kickstarter running as of this interview, 'Triskelion Space'. What can you tell us about this game that helps recreate 'old-school space opera stories'?

The atmosphere of the setting is oriented towards sci-fantasy space opera in many ways. The Southern Arm of the Triskelion Galaxy is embroiled in war, with the main factions diametrically opposed to one another's philosophy. Grand stories of freedom versus order and all that.

I want to avoid a single faction being seen as a monolith of evil, though. In Star Wars I'd say that the Empire fans are probably equal to the Rebellion fans. In Triskelion Space the Supremacy dominates the northern half of the Southern Arm of space,but it's composed of multiple feuding houses. While they're obligated to support the overall military, each Supreme House fields their own navy and army, too, and is at odds with one or more of their peers. This allows PCs to support a faction that they like without having to join an army that might be liberating a world from alien incursion one day and then slaughtering a village of innocents the next.

Planets in Triskelion Space are not concerned about things like which trade goods are available for purchase, or the percentage of helium in the atmosphere, but by what types of adventures that they facilitate. The spotlight planets have their own encounter tables and problem tables that are geared towards getting into trouble or overcoming heroic opposition.

Alien races are iconic, and include broad stereotypes like the Foi "Elder Aliens" or the various beastmen-inspired uplift-type species. A humanoid rabbit piloting a starfighter through a ridiculously packed asteroid field is my idea of old-school space opera, and that's there. Enormous capital ships disgorging waves of wasp-like strike craft against hapless freedom fighters is my idea of old-school space opera, and that's there, too.

The galaxy is under threat from more than one source, so i's perfectly plausible that members of the Insurgency and Supremacy might even team up for the greater good. Or they might allow their nemeses to face the "Assimilation Bugs from Beyond the Stars" or the tyrannical Flux Mages' secret infiltrators on their own. The one constant, wherever you go, is that every world is in peril, and it is up to idealistic, action-oriented folks to save the day.

The book is also going to be filled with gorgeous artwork, including several interior pictures from Matt Bulahao, who painted the starships fighting on the KS page's banner. Dean Spencer is doing the cover, and his work is unbelievable. Both of these artists and others help to create a visual sense of epic scale.
A Flux-wielding Star Mystic- Daniel Comerci
A Flux-wielding Star Mystic- Daniel Comerci
'Triskelion Space' is using your Exodus System. What changes have you had to make for the science fiction genre?

The first Exodus System book is designed for hacking by GMs or publishers. That's why I present both target number-based skill rolls and opposed skill rolls. The first book is also very abstract on vehicle and equipment systems to be easier to adapt to any genre.

Since I wanted more of a two-fisted, pulpy feel, virtually all rolls in Triskelion Space are opposed. Climbing that cliff face isn't a TN of 12, it's your d10 Agility versus the cliff's d8 AD (Action Die). This increases tension because you never know exactly what you have to beat for each roll.

Writing up the sci-fi book, I had requests from readers for, in their words "guns, guns, lots of GUNS". The new equipment system allows you to customize your equipment in thousands of different ways. I also further detailed the starship and vehicle system, plus space combat, commerce, item crafting and more. You can even create ships and mecha to use as PCs instead of human characters. This process is fast and takes only a minute or two per ship.

Space combat now is more cinematic. There are crew positions for virtually any party member so everybody has something to do during a fight. I refined the concept of Scale for this game, making the captical ships an enormous threat, but leaving fighter craft with options to save the day.

What kind of support will 'Triskelion Space' receive in the future?

We're working on a ships and space encounters book with dozens of premade ships and space monsters (beyond those in the core book) and options for ship creation. Think High Guard for Traveller, but it doesn't take an hour to make a vessel. There's also a series of gazeteers in the works, which expand on the non-spotlight planets from the core books and introduce new ones. I also want to introduce competitive, PVP starship battle rules for players who just want to sling missiles and disruptor beams at one another all day long. James Spahn, who wrote White Star, is contributing material, too. I'm really excited to have him aboard!

Forest Villager Settlement- Windfall
Forest Villager Settlement- Windfall

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Roleplaying Game Magazines

There are many RPG books I regret parting with during the Great Nerd Purge of 2006, but as much as I miss certain games I also miss the magazines I had.

I had all the Valkyrie and Arcane magazines, which were favourites of mine but I also had a lot of Imagine, early White Dwarf when they supported other games, years and years of Dragon magazine (I kept one issue because I loved the cover) even though I'd stopped playing D&D in 1989.

These were my main ones. I had some GM International and two issues of the Fighting Fantasy magazine Warlock which I STUPIDLY gave away. I also had two issues of Proteus, which was a fun mag but couldn't take the place of my beloved FF.

I miss all those magazines. I've picked up Tabletop Gaming magazine a few times and it's a great publication but I'm not into board and war games as much as I am into RPGs, so I miss the focused magazines of old. The material that's in them you can find quite easily on the internet now so a dedicated printed RPG magazine just wouldn't work now, I don't think, unless DeAgoistini created a collectible version with monthly figures and models.

Yeah. I really regret parting with my gaming mags.

cover
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Monday, 3 September 2018

'Phaunt's Tower' available now

Available now from DrivethruRPG and RPGNow.


'Welcome to Wherwest!

This is a town full of opportunities at every corner, adventure through every door and danger at every turn. Glory and gold awaits! That is, if you can get past your first night here.

Phaunt’s Tower is an OSR adventure for Swords & Wizardry White Box, although it can be easily adapted for most classic OSR systems. The adventure is designed for a party of four adventurers of any race and class, and can be inserted into your existing campaign quite easily, no matter what world you’re gaming in.

Wherwest is a small town of around a thousand souls, and from here most adventurers can strike out into the surrounding countryside on their travels. It is famous for its hardy defences against the outside world and the great tower that dominates the top of the hill the town is built around. This is the Tower of Phaunt the Eager, a well-respected wizard who is also the Lord of Wherwest. From here he conducts business, holds council and researches his magic. In fact, the blue light that constantly glows at the very top of the tower that juts from the roof is a beacon of solace to travellers far and wide...'

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Eldritch Tales: Lovecraftian White Box Role-Playing

I knew virtually nothing about 'Eldritch Tales' until recently - you'd think a Lovecraft fan like myself would have realised that this was out there, but my Lovecraft roleplaying was focused on Chaosium's 'Call of Cthulhu', so anything else was kind of eclipsed by that.

Recently I got hooked on Swords & Wizardry White Box and I was so enamoured by it that I decided that this was going to be the RPG system I was going to use to write my own material. I had looked at a lot of OGL products but this one in particular excited me as it appealed to my sense of nostalgia; it reminded me of my original days of D&D roleplaying in the 1980s. In fact, I have my first adventure 'Phaunt's Tower' on release now at DrivethruRPG and RPGNow.

So, as I investigated more about Swords & Wizardry products, such as White Star and WWII: Operation WhiteBox, I came across Eldritch Tales and as soon as I saw that striking image of Cthulhu itself looming over that poor boat my Lovecraftometer went off the scale.

I promised myself that I'd wait for POD as I have White Box and White Star in the printed format but my excitement got the better of me and I purchased the PDF. At 10 bucks for 218 pages it was quite the bargain, and the contents of the book did not disappoint.

I will save a full description of the game for my full review once I've had a chance to play it, but suffice to say that after decades of 'Call of Cthulhu' I think I may have found a new version that I'm not only excited to play but excited to write my own OGL material for. I read the whole book in one sitting - I only finished about an hour before writing this blog entry - and it is such a great game. It's so good! It captures the Mythos really well and the writer, Joseph D. Salvador, obviously has a passion for the genre and the writer. Even though it adds a few extra rules and ideas so that you can get a truly great Lovecraftian nightmare played out it manages to retain the simplicity that attracted me to Swords & Wizardry in the first place. It even manages to make sure that the game suits your playstyle; not interested in going mad and dying? Then play it as pulp adventurers and throw some punches at the nearest Mi-Go.

As I said, I will have a full review out for it in the near future but rest assured that if you're a fan of Lovecraft, horror, and even the original 'Call of Cthulhu' game, then this is something well worth checking out.

'Eldritch Tales: Lovecraftian White Box Role-Playing in an OSR rule set with its roots in the Original version of the world's favorite RPG, but instead of exploring musty dungeons, characters in Eldritch Tales investigate Mythos horrors in the 1920s! The setting and background are based on the cosmic horror tales of Howard Phillips Lovecraft and other members of his writing circle. 

Within the pages of Eldritch Tales you will find four character classes representing many classic pulp archetypes, occupations, rules for insanity, spells, monsters, esoteric tomes, artifacts, a starting scenario, and setting material, as well as advice on using Eldritch Tales with other White Box games. This game is compatible with Swords & Wizardry White Box and other OSR games.

To accomodate all devices, the PDF purchase includes versions in both high resolution and low resolution. PDF has a bookmarked Table of Contents, as well as linked terms throughout the book.

Eldritch Tales offers a Compatibility License to third-party publishers interested in creating material to support the game, find it here on RPGNow or DriveThruRPG!'

Friday, 31 August 2018

Phaunt's Tower - an OSR adventure for Swords & Wizardry

All being well, my first OST adventure 'Phaunt's Tower' will be available from RPGNow and DrivethruRPG on Monday 3rd September. I just have two or three tweaks to make and it will be live on Monday afternoon (GMT).

It's been hard work to get to this point and there are a lot of people I'd like to thank, but I'd like to extend a special thank you to Kevin Watson of Dark Naga Adventures for his help and advice.

'Welcome to Wherwest!

This is a town full of opportunities at every corner, adventure through every door and danger at every turn. Glory and gold awaits! That is, if you can get past your first night here.

Phaunt’s Tower is an OSR adventure for Swords & Wizardry White Box, although it can be easily adapted for most classic OSR systems. The adventure is designed for a party of four adventurers of any race and class, and can be inserted into your existing campaign quite easily, no matter what world you’re gaming in.

Wherwest is a small town of around a thousand souls, and from here most adventurers can strike out into the surrounding countryside on their travels. It is famous for its hardy defences against the outside world and the great tower that dominates the top of the hill the town is built around. This is the Tower of Phaunt the Eager, a well-respected wizard who is also the Lord of Wherwest. From here he conducts business, holds council and researches his magic. In fact, the blue light that constantly glows at the very top of the tower that juts from the roof is a beacon of solace to travellers far and wide...'

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

A whole new adventure - having a go at the RPG industry

So, I'm taking a dive into the tabletop RPG industry - I've written for Fighting Fantasy but that was for a publisher, and what I want to do is something completely of my own design.

I'm hitting the OSR circuit and using Swords & Wizardry (primarily Whitebox) as my chosen system as it appeals to me creatively, and right now it covers all three of my favourite genres; fantasy (S&W), science fiction (White Star) and horror (Eldritch Tales).

I'll have my first adventure out soon, 'Phaunt's Tower', and I'll follow that up with another fantasy one called 'The Battle of Halfpass'. I'll have a sci-fi one done soon called 'The White Worlds', and I've started a Cthulhu horror one for Eldritch Tales which is going to be much larger and more epic, called 'The Dream of Dead Gods'. I've been working on these on and off since March but now I'm going to hit them hard.

It'll also be good to stretch my artistic abilities and really challenge myself with drawings. I'm not a professional artist but I really enjoy illustrating my own work and I have a soft spot for the old-school black and white art from the 1980s.

A Balor trying to squeeze through a portal - fun times ahead

One day, perhaps I could make a living out of it!

Friday, 24 August 2018

I'm writing an OSR adventure

I've decided to write, illustrate and release an OSR adventure and to try and stay with that old-school feel I had a play at an old-style print-mag inspired advertisement.

I tried to make the ad look as retro as I could so I used whatever Word tools were to hand, then copied it to Paint. I'm quite pleased with it.


The adventure itself will be released soon.

No automatic alt text available.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

D&D as a team building tool

Every year on Christmas Eve the company department my wife worked would hold a morning of team-building exercises. This can take the form of crafts, boardgames, or anything else that takes their fancy, anything that makes them work together.

One year, my wife convinced them to play D&D.

The original  plan was for me to show her a few pointers and for her to run the game, but as I wasn't working on Christmas Eve it was decided that it would be easier for me to DM. It was going to be a quick two-hour blast through a simple dungeon, and I figured it would keep them entertained for a while.

Now, these guys have virtually no experience with the tabletop hobby, let alone pen n' paper RPGs, so I was shocked when they really got into certain elements of the game even before I arrived on the scene. Characters had been created with detailed backgrounds, their role in the adventuring party had been worked out and they'd even made their own swords and weapons out of cardboard. At first, I had this feeling that it was going to be a bit of a piss-take game, and because they weren't gamers they wouldn't take it seriously.

Well, didn't I feel like the prat when we started.


They got well into it. A few minutes into the game and we were fighting giant rats in a cellar, which lead to a secret entrance to an abandoned dwarven tomb. There were conversations about tactics, shouts of encouragement, and the first victory of the game got a cheer. Then there was caution, questions, exploration, some encounters that created some real tension and fun moments, and a final confrontation that created some excitement and a satisfying climax.


It was the energy from the players more than my abilities as a DM; there was nervous expectation and some trepidation, but once I showed them that they could be as relaxed as I was and that there were no expectations from them they settled in to the game quickly. It was great fun and I think some did it again, outside of work.

I learned some valuable lessons with this session; for starters, don't pre-judge the game and the players. I expected some fun and a dismissive playstyle, a casual game of no real significance, but they seemed to enjoy the game and I had a great time with new players. Secondly, D&D is a great team-building game. They started out a little disparate but soon came together as a group to defeat the (hugely underpowered) dragon at the end. It was a great ending.

Finally, always listen to your wife when she says 'you should do this'. You never know what you might miss out on.