RPG I Love You: Cold Shadows

WILL RAMBLES

Hey folks! It’s been a while. I’ve been avoiding writing “reviews” since I officially joined the indie publisher club. This is not an RPG Review (although I’ve had one queued up for Cold Shadows for a while). I’m doing a new thing I’ll call an RPG I Love You where I’ll point out games I love and the reasons I love them. Honestly, I’ve never reviewed an RPG I actively dislike… it’s not really how I roll. Maybe there’ll be some mention about the things I DON’T love in an RPG I Love You, but that’s not the focus. Oh, and one more thing, the rating system I’ve done in the past is gone. Kaput. Finito.

Now that we’re done with the meta stuff, let’s see if I can still do this…

Cold Shadows is one of the games whose Kickstarter ran while Gallant Knight Games was an imprint of Nocturnal Media. Sadly, the death of RPG industry legend and luminary Stewart Wieck of Nocturnal came before the final product delivered. As fans of role-playing games, we are all in debt to Stewart on a level similar to that of Gary Gygax and Greg Stafford and the other progenitors of our favorite hobby. Mr. Wieck’s contributions are multitude, and when he was at White Wolf, he changed the industry forever with the World of Darkness line of games.

This RPG I Love You is dedicated to Stewart.

ColdShadows

I LOVE YOU, COLD SHADOW

Today I’m looking back on the Kickstarter edition of Cold Shadows, the narrative Cold War spy roleplaying game by Gallant Knight Games.

Cold Shadows enables groups to tell John LeCarre-style spy stories full of tense scenarios where agencies are the greater whole and agents serve the agency’s purposes– mostly.

It’s based on the Blood and Honor ruleset by John Wick Presents. I’ve played that one as well, and I’d recommend it for groups looking to tell narrative samurai stories. If your tastes run more toward samurai noir during the industrialization of Japan, you should also check out World of Dew by Woerner’s Wonderworks. Ben Woerner was heavily involved in Cold Shadows as well.

This game, like its predecessors makes certain assumptions about both the group and the GM and their capability to narratively describe things on the fly. Additionally, its focus on Agency first and above all is not just lip service, it’s driven both mechanically and thematically throughout the game.

If your game group likes a realistic spy stories and a good roleplaying good challenge, you’re in the right place!


Size and Production Quality 

Very nice book with quality semigloss paper and good binding. It’s not the biggest RPG in my collection, but there is plenty of content between the core book and the additional goodies (Cities in Shadow and The Black Book). Probably approaching couple hundred pages total in digest size format. Additionally, the page layouts are very thematic and aesthetically pleasing.

Art

The cover art you seen. Interior art is mainly photographic and thematic. It fits the style well. I’m a big fan.

Content and Rules

The theme of the content is very nice, although it can be challenging to find what you’re looking for in the book. Luckily, it’s not huge, so a little page flipping won’t be too painful. As previously mentioned, the rules are based on Blood and Honor. It’s a roll and keep system I haven’t seen in any games besides this line.

The gist is this, you have a pool of D6s for a given task based on your character’s setup. You’re going to choose how many you want to roll to try to hit your target. The remainder you keep, and each one allows you to say true things about your success (provided you did succeed). It can be a lot of fun when the group gets into this.

There are also subsystems for all sorts of assets spies might have access to in and around their bases of operation. This is a lot of fun to peruse and set up.

Overall, I think the system is extremely cool, but I’ll also allow that it may require an adjustment period for some players. Dropping a group of murder hobos into Cold Shadows probably won’t lead to a satisfying experience.

GM Tools and/or Pre-made Adventure

There’s a ton here, and I’m sure to miss something. Between Cold Shadows, Cities in Shadow, and The Black Book, there is plenty of content and information to run a game set all over the world and in varying time periods. I won’t go too into depth, but I will say if you have a historical campaign based in this world, there’s a ton of good content here written by some very talented folks. For the game itself, there are lots of fully realized agencies and cities you can put on the “board” for your players to explore.


Final Thoughts

I’m happy I was a backer of Cold Shadows. I even had the opportunity to do a bit of writing for The Black Book. It’s an excellent game (the best spy game on my shelves, and yes, I have a few). I had a chance to play a short campaign run by one of my teammates at work. Super fun time.

If you’re having trouble finding a copy, Cold Shadows and its supplements can be found on DriveThruRPG.

TOR No More

I can’t write this without the feels.

The One Ring Roleplaying Game (and its 5e ruled companion, Adventures in Middle Earth) by Cubicle 7 are soon to be no more. TOR 2e was fast approaching, and is cancelled. We’ll never see the glorious Moria boxed set we were promised.

I am heartbroken. Some of you may remember the review I wrote for TOR. It’s one of my favorite games of all time. https://liamwrites.com/2018/01/10/rpg-review-the-one-ring/

This is all apparently due to some licensing dispute whose details remain wrapped in shadow. https://www.cubicle7games.com/unexpected-tor2-update/

The elves (Cubicle 7) are leaving Middle Earth.

It’s taken me nearly a full day to recover enough to react. Now it’s Thanksgiving in the US, so I’ll try to end on a positive note.

Everything TOR and AiME is on sale via the Cubicle 7 website at a steep discount, and this is the last chance to own it. The game line is fantastic, and I already own everything in it. Maybe you could too? https://www.cubicle7games.com/?s=The+One+Ring&post_type=product

The What and Why of Crowdfunding A Roleplaying Game

Crowdfunding is new in the grand scheme of things, and completely new to many of my family/friends. I’m going to do my best to explain it, and why spreading the word to anyone you know who likes roleplaying games (RPGs) can be a huge help in our Zorro campaign.

Zorro: The Roleplaying Game is crowdfunded on Kickstarter (we get the money we need to make the game from people who want to see it made) AND funded (we have the minimum amount of money we need to publish the book). This is great! People love both Zorro and RPGs!

However, we have quite a few additional things we’d like to add to our game book if we had a little more money for economies of scale (printing books is considerably cheaper the more copies you make and we are making a gorgeous full-color hardbound 200-page book).

These crowdfunding campaigns fail or succeed based on the interest of a few people who want to see them made. Right now we have about 500 people backing for an eBook or hardcover copy. Every additional person who backs puts us that much closer to our stretch goals.

So, what would help?
Spreading the word to anyone you know who likes RPGs.
Being patient with my continuing crowdfunding posts for a few more days until we are done with the Zorro Kickstarter campaign.

For those playing the home game, here is a nice link you can share!

It’s Alive! Zorro Kickstarter

Zorro: The Roleplaying Game Kickstarter
A swashbuckling and heroic roleplaying game using the
brand new West End Games D6 2nd Edition system!

I’ve been working with Alan Bahr and Gallant Knight Games on getting Zorro to Kickstarter for nearly a year. It’s there now. Thought I’d post here just in case anyone missed all my crazy blasting of every social media platform known to people on the planet earth.

In short:
I AM EXTREMELY EXCITED.
WE ARE FUNDED.
HAPPY DANCE.
EXCLAMATION POINTS.

Zorro funded on the first day, and we have TONS of awesome stretch goals lined up. If you know anyone who likes tabletop RPGs or Zorro, I’ll love you forever if you tell them about it. Who am I kidding? I’ll love you forever anyway. You’re wonderful people.

Here it is on Kickstarter.

Kickstarter – Zorro: The Roleplaying Game

Here’s the blog post I wrote about it, in case you missed it. Blogged – Zorro: the Roleplaying Game

Zorro: the Roleplaying Game

Hi friends! More announcements rolling in. Please bear with me. This is why I’ve been so quiet recently. I’ve been working on top secret stuff!

I’m a co-producer and writer for the upcoming Zorro: the Roleplaying Game by Gallant Knight Games. Zorro Kickstarts starting this Wednesday at 10AM Mountain. Expect my social media feeds to be full of Zorro news for a while. I APOLOGIZE FOR NOTHING. Bringing this spectacular game to life during the 100th anniversary of Zorro is a once-in-a-lifetime gig, and I’m gonna be talking about it. A lot.

Truth is, when Alan Bahr told me he was getting the rights to make a Zorro RPG, I was ecstatic for him and GKG, and I knew I had to work on the project. Zorro was the first true North American vigilante hero and one I’ve loved since I was a kid playing with stick swords in rural Oregon. My dad always loved old shows and movies of daring do, and we watched the greats together whenever we could tune in on our old console TV. It’s one of my favorite memories of him.

It’s a delight and an honor to be a part of bringing a complete Zorro RPG to the tabletop for the first time ever! I’m over the moon to be working with Gallant Knight Games and the fantastic team lined up for Zorro. I’m excited to up my participation in the game industry and learn from the experienced folks I’m getting to work with!

The Kickstarter is live now! Check it out!

Adept Icarus Launch

It’s been a spell. I’m not ignoring you, loyal readers. I’ve been busy working on something I think many of you will enjoy.

I launched an indie tabletop game company!

You can read more about the company and such at https://adepticarus.com and the press release of the launch is HERE.

For those who may be wondering what this means for liamwrites.com, I’ll lay it out plain and simple.

  1. I’m still going to post here. This is a place where I talk in my own voice and keep it pretty informal. You won’t see duplicate press releases from Adept Icarus.
  2. I won’t be writing “reviews” per se of products that compete directly with Adept Icarus. I’ll probably still gush about stuff I love. You can’t stop the love!
  3. I think that’s it? Please check out Adept Icarus, and watch for new game announcements in the coming months. We have quite a few things in development!

-Will

RPG Review – WEG Star Wars 30th Anniversary Edition

WILL RAMBLES

Here’s a fun one. Star Wars The Roleplaying Game by West End Games was one of the first non-TSR games I played. It was so long ago, and I was so young and broke, I never even owned a copy.

Some very fortuitous circumstance came about to make this project a reality. West End Games was purchased by Nocturnal Media, but they no longer held the license to produce RPGs based on the Star Wars intellectual property. Fantasy Flight Games is the current license holder (after a stop at Wizards of the Coast). At any rate, Nocturnal, FFG, and LucasFilm all collaborated to bring this 30th Anniversary Edition to light. The core book has a lovely posthumous dedication to Stewart Weick as it would not have been made without his efforts.

As a fan of both the game itself and of anything Nocturnal Media was involved in, SW:tRPG30AE was a no-brainer purchase for me.

SWTRPG_30th_2

THE REVIEW

Today I’m reviewing Star Wars The Roleplaying Game 30th Anniversary Edition by West End Games. This is a reissue of the classic RPG in a slipcase with the quintessential Star Wars Sourcebook. The review will cover the entire product as a whole.

1.) Size and Production Quality 

Sitting on my desk next to Star Wars Edge of the Empire, a modern game I’ll likely never review because I don’t love the dice system, SW:tRPG30AE is similar in size and weight. However, in terms of pages, SWEotE is 400 pages and change, while both 30th Anniversary Edition books combine for just under 300 pages. This isn’t to say the reissue isn’t packed with content, the font is smaller, and in the style of most older games, there isn’t a ton of graphic design taking up space.

Where I’m just a bit disappointed is with the paper. I’d hoped Fantasy Flight would have sprung for nice smooth semi-gloss pages, but instead, we get the same type of paper the original game was printed on: flat white paper slightly rough to the touch. Yes, the same twelve full-color glossy pages are sprinkled throughout the core book that were in the original. The Sourcebook has none, although it’s pages are the same iconic black+blue of the original.

That said, for the price, you’re getting two hardbound books in a gorgeous slipcase. I’m not that upset.

I recommend picking it up at your friendly local game store. Retail price is $59.95 (or a few bucks less on Amazon).

8/10


2.) Art

By modern standards, the art is still decent. It was fantastic for its time. I love those twelve glossy full-color pages so much. Everything else is black and white, and high quality. There’s also quite a lot by the standards of the time. As I flipped through SWEotE, a game with the gorgeous art Fantasy Flight is known for, I didn’t see a significant amount more than these books have.

7/10


3.) Content and Rules

Here’s a neat thing about SWtRPG30AE if you don’t already have a copy, it’s entirely rooted in the original trilogy. If episodes IV-VI are your jam, this is magnificent news. The Sourcebook is jam-packed with details about ships and other vehicles, locations, creatures, enemies, and info about your favorite characters.

And THEN, there are the rules. WEG D6 system was developed for the original Ghostbusters RPG and adapted for Star Wars. These rules hit a note I love and something you’ll see me talk about when discussing TinyD6 games. They are simple, not stupid. The rules have been remarked by some as having a bit of a scaling problem at higher levels, making it difficult for GMs to challenge their players. I can see that being partly true, but a good GM should be able to deal with it. Hopefully with WEG D6 2e is released, it will deal with those issues because I love this system and would love to see more games developed with it.

8/10

4.) Game Master Section

The book is laid out a bit funny. The “Gamemaster Section” is really just the game rules with GM tips and some fairly prescriptive guidance sprinkled throughout. The “Adventure Section” has some additional thoughts on running and creating adventures. Overall, meh.

5/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

There is an iconic, four-episode adventure included in the book. It’s pretty good, and I’d run it as an intro to the game if you have four sessions or an all-day affair. Also, there are ten “adventure starters” that show some of the variances of the Star Wars universe. Most of these would make fine one-shots or additions to an ongoing campaign.

On the toolkit side of things, the SWRPG Sourcebook has all kinds of good stuff you can use to put together a long-running campaign.

8/10


Total Score: 36/50

If I were adding points for nostalgia, Star Wars The Roleplaying Game would get an extra five at least. It’s a solid game.

You made it to the end! Have a fun pic of Harry, Carrie, and Mark with some stormtroopers as a reward.

harrycarriemark


A Final Note About My Reviews

RPG reviews are among the highest viewed articles I write, and I’m glad people seem to like ’em. I stick to games I enjoy, have played, and usually have run at least once. I avoid reviewing RPGs I’d score low because frankly, I can’t care enough about a game I don’t dig to write a full review of it. Life is too short.

I don’t accept review copies, but for full disclosure, I do use affiliate marketing tags on my links to DriveThruRpg and Amazon. Thanks for reading. See you again soon for another review!